“If only…”

If OnlyWe’re a backwards facing people. The average person lives their life walking backwards. We pay far more attention to the past than we do to the present or the future. Let’s just admit it. We’re backwards.

At this point in my life, I’m keenly aware that I am prone to be fixated with the rear view mirror. I very often catch myself thinking about what happened a half hour ago, a day ago, a week ago, several years ago. And I admit that when I do, I think “If only…” thoughts. “If I had only said that.” “If I had only done that.” “If I had only planned better.” “If I had only kept my mouth shut.”  Can you relate?

There’s a well known story in the bible of a man named Lazarus who was sick. His sisters Mary and Martha were there with him, but Jesus wasn’t. We know however that Jesus “loved Lazarus” so they sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick (and presumably near death) and eventually Jesus made his way to Bethany where Lazarus and his sisters lived. (You can read the whole story in John 11.)

But Jesus was too late. In fact, when he got word that Lazarus was sick, He even said, “This sickness will not end in death.”  And Jesus was wrong.  Lazarus died soon after.

Jesus stayed where he was for a couple more days before heading to Bethany where Lazarus had lived. On his way, He told His disciples that Lazarus had in fact died.

So many things in this story are baffling to me, but something was said in the context of this story that I think epitomizes how I live and maybe…just maybe…how you live too.

Okay, so let’s picture Jesus and His entourage entering the town of Bethany. Lazarus had died and mourners had gathered. We soon find out that Lazarus had died 4 days prior to Jesus’ arrival. And as he arrives, Martha goes out to meet him and says the words I want to focus on:

“Lord, if only you had been here my brother would not have died.”

That statement speaks so loudly of two of Martha’s convictions: 1) that Jesus had the power to heal her brother, and 2) that Jesus let her down by not being there.

“If only” is how a lot of us live our lives. We continually evaluate what was and all too often allow it to tell us what will be. “If only” keeps us imprisoned in past events, past mistakes, past missed opportunities.

I look back a lot and wonder about when I took that right instead of that left. When I had that chance and I didn’t take it. When it seemed like a door stood in front of me and I just stared at it.

Satan will use “If only…” if you let him. Given his way, he’d prefer that you aren’t ever a forward-facing person again. As long as you’re facing backwards and making “If only” statements, you’re not facing forward and being led by God in what IS and into what will be.

So, how do we turn around? How do we live a life that gives the past its due, but not more than it deserves? A few things come to mind…

  1. Recognize that you’re powerless to change what was. And I know that stinks.
  2. Make any and all amends and reconciliations that you can with whoever lives in those “If only” thoughts with you. If you wronged someone, speak to them. It doesn’t have to be eloquent or polished, but it does have to happen.
  3. Stand on the power of Jesus’ forgiveness; it wipes away the “If onlys” of our past. Nothing else can, so until you know you’re forgiven, you won’t be able to face forward.

I know there’s a lot more to this story (Martha’s next words are so powerful), so read it sometime. And as you do, recognize that the same Jesus who’s with you in this moment sees your past and yet desires most to lead you forward.

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When Jesus Stands

 

Throne

I was reading the book of Acts recently. I have read it before, but as I went along and read about the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, I noticed a detail that had escaped me before…

“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Acts 7:56

These were the words of Stephen as the religious leaders and mob around him had begun to hurl stones at him in order to kill him for the “blasphemous” words he had spoken. And just between you and me, it wasn’t blasphemous. It was true. But as it turns out, they couldn’t handle the truth.

But do you see it? Did it jump out at you like it did at me?

“I see…the Son of Man standing…”

Hold on just one ever-lovin’ minute here.  Jesus is standing.

So what? Who cares?

We learn from Hebrews 1:3 and other references that once Jesus finished His redemptive work on earth He sat down at the right hand of God.  Jesus SAT down.

As in, “have a seat.”  As in “job well done.”  As in “mission accomplished.”  As in “take a load off.” Jesus sat down because quite frankly, He earned it. He was seated comfortably on His throne.

So why would Stephen see Jesus standing? What would cause Jesus to stand up?

File this under “partially substantiated speculation”, but let me share a couple thoughts.

What if Jesus stood knowing Stephen were only moments away from entering his eternal rest; entering Jesus’ very presence? What if Jesus were standing in preparation to “receive” Stephen home with a warm embrace, knowing Stephen were just barely on the other side of the threshold of heaven? Cool thought, right?

But the explanation I like even more is that Jesus’ response to the stoning of Stephen was so strong, so pure, so powerful that He literally had to rise from his throne. Akin to a standing ovation or the type of response that communicates an incredible amount of attention, esteem, and appreciation. Can you imagine living (or dying) in such a way that Jesus rises to His feet to show His approval and love?

Again, this is speculation but I don’t think its without scriptural backing. In the book of Revelation, we see a very tender exchange between Jesus the Lamb and those who had been martyred for their testimony. He seems to have a soft spot in His heart for those who lay down their life for Him. After all, its what He did for them. And you. And me.

Whether a standing Jesus is reserved only for those who lay down their pulse for the gospel, or if we can stir the attention of the Savior by the way we live our daily surrendered lives, it challenges me to love him so fully and serve others so willingly and be prepared to sacrifice so unreservedly that our Savior takes notice.

The Cold Christmas Shoulder

Probably one of my favorite people in the Christmas story wasn’t even mentioned. They were more implied than they were identified.

Its the innkeeper. That mysteriously, almost mythical creature who gets an indirect passing glance in the Christmas story.  (Read Luke 2:7, but don’t blink or you’ll miss it.)

no roomThere is strong evidence that the “inn” was not an “inn” at all as we imagine it, but rather a “guest room”. Be that as it may, I like to imagine the chat that went on between Joseph and this shadowy “innkeeper”.

Joseph steps into the building, up to the counter, and rings the “ring bell for service” bell.

The innkeeper emerges from a back room with just a hint of egg salad perched on the corner of his mouth.

Innkeeper: “Can I help you?”

Joseph: “Yeah, I’d like to get a room if you have any.”

Innkeeper: “Sure thing. I got plenty of room. Thankfully I expanded in preparation for the crowds I knew the census would bring to town.”

Joseph: “Okay, great. My wife and I have been traveling all day and we’re dead on our feet. Ugh. We’re exhausted and those beds are going to feel so good. And the fact that she’s pregnant doesn’t help—”

Innkeeper (interrupting): “Wait. What?  Did you say she’s….pregnant?”

Joseph: “Yeah, so you might hear some blood-curdling screams coming from our room tonight. Don’t be alarmed. She’s just in labor and going to deliver a baby at any time. It’s fine though. I mean, the kid’s not mine but an angel told me who’s it is.”

Innkeeper: “You know what? Let me just check the computer again real quick… *clickclick-clickityclick*…. oh, you know what? I made a mistake. Turns out we DON’T have any rooms. Sorry.”

Joseph: “So, you don’t have any room for us?”

Innkeeper: “Nope. Sorry.  Next in line, please!”

Joseph: “Seriously, dude? Nothing? I got a very pregnant woman here and just like that you’re suddenly out of rooms?”

Innkeeper: “Yep. No room. You know what? There’s probably a crevice or a cave somewhere nearby. If you can shoo out the animals, you can probably make it work.”

Joseph: “That’s cold, dude.”

 

We treat Christmas like we treat a parade. We find our spot on the curb, we may even set up a chair to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, we wave at Jesus around Dec. 24th and 25th, and on the 26th we fold up our chair and head back to normal life.

And as we do, we are all innkeepers. We’re nondescript, non-committed bystanders who don’t have the time, space, energy, or interest in making room.

Now I know the whole humble stable thing was part of the plan, but each Christmas I can’t help but look at the clutteredness of my own heart and take stock of what I’ve allowed to take up time, space, and energy and in doing so crowding out the baby who’s birth is the centerpiece of time, space, and eternity.

Christmas is a good opportunity to take a look at the innkeeper and see if there are any remnants of that person lurking in my own heart.

The Launch

lift offI’ve recently been in several conversations and been swimming in my own thoughts about what I believe student ministry should be at its core. There are some differing views on this I’m sure, but after 22 years of full time student ministry (there is no other type, in fact) I’ve developed a conviction and now more than ever am committed to carrying it out.

We’re in the hiring season for our student ministry staff. Looking for that perfect fit of a new teammate that would join in what God is doing here in and through teenagers. I’ve spoken with several people and in many of those conversations have communicated my “philosophy” on effective student ministry. I’d invite you to share your thoughts–whatever they are–in the comment section below.

I grew up in Cape May New Jersey and graduated from Lower Cape May Regional High School in June of 1991. The school building was laid out with one main corridor that connected 4 separate halls, all running perpendicular to the main corridor. Think capital “E” with an extra horizontal line. But on those rare occasions when a fight would break out in any of those hallways, it would be milliseconds before news had spread to all the other hallways and if you were so inclined, you’d quickly make your way to said fight for some between-class entertainment. It always astounded me how quickly a crowd could gather. We are, by nature, spectators. We love the spectacle. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd, am I right?

But simply because a crowd had formed in the hallway didn’t mean that anything good was happening. So I have long since let go of the notion that successful ministry is always equivalent to a big crowd. Should we be growing spiritually? Of course. Does that equal growing numerically? Sure it does. But when we go for the second and skip the first, we’re no different than the hallway brawl of my high school days. Over as quickly as it begins.

No, I’ve developed a different angle and if you’ll tolerate the analogy, I think that the better view of student ministry views each teen moving along toward graduation as if they were on a conveyor belt that can’t be turned off. As pastors, we have a limited amount of time for deep impact and during that time, much like a worker on an assembly line, we need to see to it that certain things are “bolted on” and that when that student reaches the end of their time in middle school and high school; at the end of that conveyor belt, we understand that they will be set on a launch pad and lift off into what God has next for them. So, I don’t view my ministry as supplying students with spectacles to look at or events to fill their calendar during their 7 year belt ride. Rather, I am convicted that God helping us, we are to do all we can through the power God gives us to see that these rockets are ready when their countdown reaches zero.

When a student walks that platform, takes that diploma and wraps up their high school career, I, along with others on my team, want to have…

  1. …shown them God’s love; without bias, without judgment, without condemnation, without condition. I would never want to have spoken what I have not lived.
  2. …given them an atmosphere of acceptance and affection. It is when we know we are loved and accepted as we are, where we are that we are no longer preoccupied with fake, shallow living. We are set free to love others as God loves us.
  3. …helped in teaching them the “hand-in-hand with Jesus” life. Not religion and its cumbersome activities that lead nowhere, but the daily life of walking with the Savior and reveling in knowing that He is for them, in them, and working through them.
  4. …equipped them to discover THAT God is, WHO God is, who THEY are in Christ, HOW God has gifted them, and WHAT God is leading them to be and do.
  5. …shown and shared with them how to pray, how to love, how to share their story, how to invite someone to Jesus, and how to hear and follow God’s leading.

(I recognize this is a minuscule thumbnail of a much larger conversation.)

What about you? What would you add to this list? What do you think is important to share/show before students reach the launch pad?

 

The Spiritual Reset.

resetThe working title of this one might very well end up as the actual title. There are several contenders.  I won’t share them, lest you hate this one. That way you won’t know what might have been. I wonder if I overthink blog titles.

I’m just back from a weekend away with my bride. We’ve spent the last few days in a seclusion of sorts. She found and rented a cabin in the middle of a gigantic piece of property in Bluefield, VA. It was–in a word–sublime. When we weren’t doing nothing (a.k.a getting our fill of HGTV since we don’t have cable at home), we were only doing things that recharged both of us. We both needed it and from all indications the long-planned weekend did all it was intended and then some.

When I have the chance to get away I always seem to become even MORE evaluative than the normal, everyday, over-evaluative version of myself. No joke, I’m constantly in an evaluative mindset personally, relationally, spiritually, and ministerially.  (Hmmm. Look at that. You can’t see it, but as I type this blog the words “relationally” and “ministerially” have red squiggly lines under them. My computer wants me to revisit them and correct the spelling. It’s as if they’re unrecognized. Am I using them incorrectly or does this computer not understand the vital importance of both of them?)

Okay, let’s forget that and move on. Seriously, Jerry. Let it go. *Deep breath.*  Okay.

So, as I evaluate where I am, who I am, how I’m doing, what I’m doing, and what the ministry I lead is (or isn’t) doing, I find myself looking for a way to pull up the anchor, hoist the main sail, and set a course for new waters.

If you’ve been in ministry for more than a year or if you ever find yourself spiritually waning for any number of reasons, I’d like to walk you through some of my thoughts on how to reset.

Before we do that, let me quickly make the differentiation between simple and easy. Much of what I’m sharing here is simple. All of it, actually. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.

Okay, first you’re going to need quiet. And I say that as a self-proclaimed noise addict. I find constant noise comforting, probably because its the most convenient distraction from the hard work of silence. And by silence I don’t simply mean no noise, I mean distractionless, deep thought and sabbatical type of mental work. That might not sound super refreshing right off the bat, but do the work of quieting life and you’ll be rewarded with next-level thoughts. The way God puts it is: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).  What this verse isn’t saying outright but is screaming nonetheless is that when we aren’t still, we don’t easily remember that He is God. And when I don’t declare in my life that God is God, then my default is to make myself (my own direction, ingenuity, ambition, or idea of success) the god in God’s place.  Big mistake.

Once you’re quiet, ask big questions. We all have big questions that we commonly suppress. We do this because we’ve bought that lie that the urgent trumps the important. We’ve thrown the most important questions in the trunk and put the daily grind of menial urgency in the driver’s seat. Is it any wonder that we drive a million miles an hour and still feel like we’ve gone nowhere? Big questions have a way of recalibrating us. You’d be wise to formulate (liberate really) your own big questions, but for grins and giggles I’m going to spill mine right here in no particular order:

  • Is who I am who I want to be?
  • Do I fully embrace the unconditional love of God shown through Jesus or do I still rely on any degree of religiosity or perform-based spirituality, therefore short-circuiting the lavish grace God wants to free me with?
  • In the ministry I lead, do I truly lead in a way that reflects a heart of following, humility, and servanthood?
  • What have I done in the past 3-6 months that I would label as ineffective, unhealthy, ambiguous, or misled?
  • And what have I done in the past 3-6 months that have grown me in the areas of intimacy, spiritual authenticity, ministry effectiveness, and personal testimony?
  • If I were my boss would I fire me and why?
  • If I were to imagine today as my first day at my job and I know the shortcomings of the last guy who got fired, what would I do differently in order to be more effective than he was?
  • Do my kids know me? Do they respect me? Do they like what they see? Will they want to emulate anything in my character in their own lives?
  • If every disciple of Jesus had my level of commitment to the grace of the gospel, what condition would the Kingdom be in?

Remember, I didn’t say “easy”, I said “simple”.  None of these questions are quantum physics level questions. But as I’ve sat here and rattled them off in short order, they each have a gut-punch quality to them. For me anyway.  You’ll likely need to get your own.

Next, as much as I hate to say it I need to confess my lack in adequate reading. An author I like a lot is a guy by the name of Jon Acuff. He’s currently blitzing through a list of books he lined up for 2017 and knocking them off like a madman. And while I fly through books like a—well…like a, I dunno. Like something slow. Man, if I had only read more books this year I would be able to fire off some analogous quip that just conveys my point.  The simple truth: Reading fuels my brain. And when my brain is running on empty, I know it.  Worse yet: YOU know it.

The next thing I think is necessary to reset is to go back in time. I’m not saying book a flight to Pennsylvania Dutch country (wait, are there airports in Pennsylvania Dutch country? That would seem odd and out-of-place.) And I’m not saying to regress into your past. Or maybe I am. Let’s dig in here for a sec. What is it in your past that you’ve left undone? What is it that’s eating at you because its undone? If there isn’t anything, these words are next to invisible. If there IS anything, these words are a brick wall that you’ve just hit.

What I really mean by “go back in time” is what the Bible (Jesus specifically) calls “first love” living. I mentioned that weekend away my wife and I just had. You know the one conclusion/agreement/commitment we both came away from that weekend with? “Kiss more.” We didn’t arrive at that for the obvious reasons, but rather because each kiss we share is a reset button that takes us back to what we need to remember in order to be in love and stay in love. Plus its fun.

I don’t think it would be responsible of me to talk about the need to “go back in time” and not address our full-blown addiction to mobile devices. I’m no front-porch-rocking-chair, get-off-my-lawn, fuddy-duddy either. But good Lord, are we addicted. You’ve seen it. Go anywhere there are people and watch. I’m fearful of what these small rectangles are doing to us for the long-haul. I’m not saying pitch your phone in the nearest body of water, but I am convicted that we are feigning connectedness while feeding isolation. We are giving ourselves poison disguised as medication. We are slowly handing the art of conversation–actual eye-to-eye verbal conversation–over to the shrine of counterfeit community. I know it’s 2017 and we’re global in our reach. I know that relationships look dramatically different than they did even 10-15 years ago. I know that many, especially young people will label me a codger and write me off. But by God if we don’t get a handle on our overuse of technology and using it as our pacifier, scorecard, and machine gun; and if we don’t temper it with self-control and common sense (remember that stuff?) I believe we’re headed to a land where no one knows how to human anymore.

Resetting our minds, hearts, and direction comes at a cost. For me it takes guts, it takes swagger (the good kind), it takes introspection, it takes releasing my own and others’ past opinions, and more than anything it takes a full reliance on the foundational truth that God is both unchanging and never not moving. I need His unchanging love because I’m going to fail or get prideful or drag my feet or let people down and that unchanging love will be the solid ground under me. And I need to know He’s never not moving because He has hardwired us to yearn. I’ll never stop grasping for the next handhold as I climb with Him. But by definition doing that means leaving what was right where it is. And resetting for what is to come.

 

Bonus: I sat and stewed for several minutes before clicking “publish” on this one. I just wasn’t sure if it was “done” or if it was going to help anyone.  Then I decided to let it fly as is. So, if you’ve read anything here that resonates or if you’ve got some of your own reset advice, I’d love to hear it. Email me and share. My email is on my contact page.

Pain.

I’m writing these words from the floor of my bedroom in the middle of the night. For over two weeks now I’ve been in pain in the lower half of my back. I don’t walk normally, sit for long, or lay down without a fair amount of pain. A little while ago I was awakened by pain. It’s pain that got me to the floor where I am and have been. I’ve been doing stretches and exercises, trying to relieve the pain.

[Several minutes spent rolling, moving, laying face down….]

Yesterday I did what I thought I would never do. Out of sheer desperation I went to a chiropractor. I’ll spare you the awkward details, but left there in much the same condition as I went in. Except with less money in my account.

For the two previous nights before tonight, I’ve slept on the floor very near to where I am right now, trying to find some comfort. I’ve blamed my mattress, my shoes, my office chair, my diet, dehydration, and even my bowels as culprits for this pain. I hereby absolve and apologize to all of those things because all evidence of their alleged wrongdoing is circumstantial  and inconclusive. 

But….still….the….pain……persists.

Pain. There are few words in our language so abhorred as this one. To say it is to wince, isn’t it? 

And man am I in it. 

But here’s the thing. Listen now. I’m not a victim. I’m a student. Pain is what I’m in, it’s not who I am. My experience doesn’t equal my identity. And call me crazy, but as I was writhing a while ago (still in the dead of night), I thought, “What am I learning?” Because if I’m going through this, I’m not going to be foolish enough to waste the experience on self pity and complaining. Yes sir, pain is a great teacher. And I’m all ears.

That Failing Feeling

This is not a cautionary tale. This is not some subversive or subconscious plea for affirmation or consolation. This is just me being gut-level honest. The kind of honest that I hope I always am, but this time with maybe a little more edge simply due to the visceral nature of my admission.

I’ve been in fulltime student ministry for nearly 22 years. And yet more often than not, I feel more like I’m failing than progressing.

There are a couple things that lean me toward that failing feeling. The first is outward. Its the sheer lack of visible evidence that ground is being gained. Most of what I see around me in students today is ambivalence and addiction in a myriad of distractions.

I know, I know. There’s nothing new under the Sun. I get it. But don’t write me off as some aged belly-acher just yet.

As a student ministry pastor, my fuel comes from the conviction that I’m called to be in student ministry. On days where I struggle to see light splitting through the fog, I rest on that conviction. You have to. Otherwise, its no wonder why student ministry has the revolving door it has. You step in, you’re used up, you crawl out. And round and round we go.

Another outward evidence I wrestle internally with is the fact that I can’t compete with the latest app.  What I mean is I can’t breakthrough the grip modern technology has on young people. And before you start with your tutorial on leveraging social platforms for Kingdom growth, I gotta say that I understand “how”, I just struggle with the “if”.  This is probably going to come across as double-speak, but I actually do use social media to a degree in the student ministry I lead. So, don’t think I’m over here sitting in my Cracker Barrel rocker next to my flannelgraph, shaking my fist at all you hipsters. Not at all.

And I also can’t compete with other ministries who are far more with-it than I. Those snappy filters, those high energy promos, those snapshots of your midweek with packed rooms, crazy cool lighting, polished flow, and apparent perfection in every direction. Of course I know we’re not in competition. I get that. I know you’re over there being you and I’m over here being me. But in the brutally comparative part of my gray matter, I wonder things that quietly chip away at my sense of certainty that I’m good enough. Or slick enough. Or organized enough. Or visionary enough. Or ______ enough.

These thoughts, and thoughts like them seem to inevitably lead me to a cerebral fence I seem to be standing inside of. And I wonder to myself: “Can I get there from here? Should I? Where is ‘there’, actually? What is it I’m pining for that I don’t sense I currently have?”

The answers don’t come easy, but those that do come straight from the gifts of experience God has given me over the many years I’ve been in student ministry. So, when I feel I’m failing, these are my go-to thoughts and truths that I fall into, stand on, and shout out. And typing them right now is likely going to be more therapeutic for me than you reading them will be for you.

First, I remember that I’m called.  By God, I’m called. I’ve given my entire “career” lifetime to meeting, leading, connecting with, relating to, influencing, welcoming, pushing, teaching, discipling, growing, equipping, listening to, laughing with, serving, praying for, encouraging, correcting, challenging, walking with, and loving students and their families. And for no other reason than that I believe with all I am that God told me to and He hasn’t yet told me not to.

The eternal is invisible. By definition, I can’t see most of the good God is doing. Because of my humanness, I’m tempted to forget what I can’t see. What I do see is teenagers absolutely drowning in information, completely addicted to a 3×5 screen; their window to fantasy, to hyper-connectedness, and an effective escape from their present surrounding, which often includes me.  Only history will be able to eventually show us the damage (or benefit) to how we currently live. But when that’s nearly all I can see, I’m prone to think that’s all there is. It isn’t.

Fruit is measured in seasons, not seconds.  I find that when I get that failing feeling I have lost sight of the long haul dividends of staying in one direction for the benefit of others. I can get a sinking feeling of non-progress when I forget to maintain an eternal perspective.

Drawing crowds doesn’t make disciples.  Now don’t think I’m against big crowds. The ministry I’m helping serve and lead is a larger-than-average student ministry. But I can’t convey to you how much I don’t care about that. Despite my tendency to gaze longingly at other student ministries that draw in crazy numbers, at the heart of it I don’t care.*  Jesus drew crowds, but never gave any indication that crowds were the point. I came to my current church nearly 13 years ago from a far smaller church. Honestly, there was a part of me that thought “Oooo, large church student ministry! It’s the big leagues now.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Do you want to know what I care about more than anything else in student ministry? That one teen. And that one. And that other one. And the one over there. The one in the middle of the sea of other teens, and the one who’s alone over in the corner. And that one that won’t ever even show up. My heart beats and breaks for students. All students. Especially that ONE.

(*I’ll save all my thoughts on why churches SHOULD be growing for another time.)

There’s one hand-crafted me.  Like many youth leaders who move about in the youth ministry stratosphere, I am tempted to compare myself with student ministry celebrities. But I’m confident in my heart that if we ever had the opportunity to sit down and speak face to face, I’d find that the pedestal I put them on is made up of my own insecurities, not their egos.  That being said, I also think we all have different skills sets, schedules, ambitions, giftedness, and visions. So, I’ll learn all I can from those who seem to do it better, but when all is said and done, we’re all on the same field on the same team working for the same outcome. So, being reminded that I’m made by God to be where I am and do what I’m doing isn’t about pride, its about humility. Because we’re ALL hand-crafted.

So, when I feel like I’m failing as a student ministry pastor, (or as a dad, as a friend, as a husband, as a child of God) I have to remember these things. But more than that, I need to rest. God, help me rest. Help me stop compulsively critiquing. Help me do away with thoughts of failure and overwhelm me with thoughts of freedom. Walk me past the wastefulness of comparative living and let me again find my identity in Jesus. Let me experience a renewed mind that is set on who You are, what You’ve said, and where You’re leading.

And as I do, I’ll pray the same for you.