Category Archives: Faith

Quit Shoulding Yourself!

I was keeping the nursery at church last Sunday and one of the guys that volunteers with me said something that made me laugh, but also made me ponder. He said it jokingly after his wife made a comment about something she should do. He said, “Stop shoulding yourself!” If you say the phrase out loud it may make you chuckle, but it made me think, “Man, isn’t that the truth?”

Want to know what the word “should” does? It’s a good intention that carries a backpack full of shame.

“I should really take them dinner. They’ve been through a lot lately.”

“I should do a bible study.”

“I should really start to work out more.”

“I should start eating healthy so I can lose some weight.”

“I should really call ________ and catch up.”

“I should start memorizing Bible verses.”

“I should volunteer.”

“I should learn a new skill.”

“I should be more intentional about spending time with my husband.”

“I should ________________…”

The list could go on for infinity, am I right?

When did we start living lives of “should dos”? I have a feeling it’s when we started comparing ourselves to other people; so basically it’s been going on forever, but social media has really amped it up. We see pictures of people starting amazing organizations. We see couples going on dates. We see people organizing their lives. We see people growing their businesses. We see parents doing fun things with their kids. We see people having quiet times. We see people in yoga poses. We see it all. The best of every person. Everything. And none of it is bad, but when we start thinking our lives are supposed to look like someone else’s, or really everyone else’s, that’s when it gets sticky. And shouldy. When we consider what we should do, it’s normally based on what someone said we should do or saw someone else doing. Don’t you love it when you tell someone something and they say back, “Well, you know what you should do is….” It’s like unsolicited advice on how to live your life. As if they’re some sort of expert on you. But dangit if I don’t do it too. We have good intentions, we really do, but sometimes people don’t want to be fixed; they’d rather someone just listen. Sometimes we just want to be loved for who we are not what we do. Social media has led us to believe if we’re not doing something amazing with our lives for all the world to see, then our lives must not be post worthy. This is crap.

To be completely honest, I’m not exactly sure what I should be doing with my life. Anyone else live with that uncertainty? Does it consume your thoughts on the daily? Or is it only there when you get quiet right before you go to sleep? It can send you into a tailspin quick as a whip. Many of us just block/busy it out all together so we don’t have to go to that part of our soul. The shoulds can weigh us down and make us feel inadequate in so many parts of our lives that I get why we don’t want to address it. But if we don’t address it, we risk living a life where we don’t value ourselves and how God made us.

I don’t know much, but one thing I’ve learned in the last few months is living underneath “shoulding shame” is not living at all. It’s a life sucking existence. If we ever want to know what God wants us to do, I can guarantee it’s not live with a backpack full of shame bricks. That is not the life He has called us to. He did not send Jesus to the cross so we could spend our lives living in shame.

“But you don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know my thought life. You don’t know my past sins. I try to be a good person but I keep screwing it up. I’ve never done anything with my life. I’m just a regular person; a nobody, really.”

Maybe these statements are how you feel about yourself. We say nastier things to ourselves than we do our worst enemies. We are so unkind to ourselves. We know God loves us but we have a hard time believing that don’t we?

We know the gospel is: Jesus died to forgive our sins and if we believe in Him we have eternal life.

But we live like: Jesus died to forgive our sins and if we believe in Him and do a lot of good things and are really good Christians, we have eternal life.

Nope. Not the gospel.

The beauty of the gospel is it leaves out all the shoulds. And do you know what happens when you live without the shoulds? You’re free. You are free to live, knowing you’re beloved by the God who created you. And guess what:  He loves you for no other reason than He created you.

In Psalms 139:14, it says:

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

God made us wonderfully from the beginning. He knew us. He hemmed us in. He saw our unformed substance. He laid His hand upon us. He is a good Father who loves His kids. Our souls know it very well.

Quit shoulding yourself. Live with the knowledge that you are loved. When we live like we’re loved, we can begin living a life of want to, instead of should do.

When’s the last time you just sat and let God love on you? If you don’t know how to let God love on you, go read Psalm 139. I pray it leaves you feeling loved, known, and near to the Father.

-Courtney

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How do we increase our faith?

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(Old Testament trash talk)

You know when God teaches you something in his Word and you just want to share it? This is one of those posts because it’s my blog and I can do what I want to.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel lately because it’s one of my favorite books of the Bible because, well, David. I can’t help but love the guy. Anyway, I get to the story of David and Goliath and God showed me something in that story that I never knew. Don’t you love when God does that? He takes a story you’ve heard since childhood and makes you see it in a completely new way.

I always assumed David was afraid, even though I knew he volunteered to fight Goliath. Like he was shaking in his sandals and no armor, but God gave him the courage to slay the giant. After reading the text, I’m not so sure that was the case.

“When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.” 1 Sam. 17:48 ESV (emphasis mine)

He RAN QUICKLY. Basically he sprinted to meet Goliath, A GIANT, at the battle line. Scared people don’t sprint to meet their enemies. People who are fearful enter into battle carefully, with a well thought out plan. They may have summoned the courage to fight but they’re still sweating bullets when they enter onto the battlefield. No one shows up for a fight with a slingshot and a few little rocks and no armor to fight his opponent who is fully armed.

No one but David.

Was he just young and naïve? Rebel without a cause? Was he a teenager that thought he was going to live forever? Nope.

He was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would deliver the people of Israel. He was betting his very life on it. See, we have to back up a little in the story to understand why David would have such confidence. Earlier in the passage, Saul is trying to talk David out of fighting Goliath, reminding him he’s just a boy and Goliath is a man trained for war.

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Sam. 17:34-37 ESV)

Oh, I’m sorry, did it say LIONS and BEARS? When hearing this story as a child I’m envisioning cartoon lions and bears. Like Simba and Baloo. It didn’t even seem real at the time. As an adult, if you told me my teenage son would be fighting off lions and bears to protect our families’ sheep, I would have a heart attack. Literally. I would also tell him to go ahead and say goodbye to sweet lamby because his mama ain’t gonna let him fight no wild animal. What kind of person fights lions and bears to save one little lamb? The person who has something to protect and, in this case, a person who knows he cannot lose.

David goes on to say:

“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37)

Whoop there it is. David remembered.

How did David know God would help him defeat Goliath? Because He had done it before against lions and bears. David remembered God’s faithfulness to him in the past, which gave David faith for the present. David was certain of God’s faithfulness to him. He knew he was beloved by the Father and that the Father would protect him and deliver the people of Israel out of the hands of the Philistines. Oh to have that kind of faith! The kind that assures me that I can do the hard, scary things and God will show up. He always shows up for His kids.

Want to increase your faith? Remember a time when God has been faithful to you. Recall a time He came to your rescue. God is always faithful even when we are not. We are his beloved sheep that He gave His own Son’s life to save…before we even knew him.

We would do well to face our giants like David.

RUN QUICKLY to the battle line.

REMEMBER God’s past faithfulness.

BE CERTAIN of victory.

This is how we face our fears. This is how we move mountains. We may not win the battle every time. We may very well crash and burn. This doesn’t mean God didn’t show up. It just means He has other plans. There is much to learn when we feel we’ve been defeated and we take that with us as we go into our next battle. My internal victories are far more significant than my outward successes by a long shot. I think when God spoke of the “work He has planned for us” (Eph. 2:10), much of it was on ourselves, in our hearts. And rest easy, God has already slain the enemy. Victory is oursWhat’s the mountain facing you?

-Courtney

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“Lord, help”

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(image cred:: Pinterest)

Lord, help. This is how the writing is starting off today. Seems like a good, desperate place to start, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed this prayer. I pray this a lot. It’s basically my Hail Mary/last ditch prayer when I don’t know what to pray.

Lord, help.

When life gives me unexpected news, unexpected frustrations, unexpected pitfalls—Lord, help.

Lots of times I feel bad about praying this. I mean, I’m a writer, shouldn’t I come up with something more eloquent to say to the God of the universe? Something more writery? (Writery…it’s a word. Trust me, I’m a writer ;)) Shouldn’t my prayers be something more, I don’t know, lengthy? Lord, help. Sometimes I just say it over and over wishing I had more words but failing to find them.

There’s something about this little prayer that brings me to the place God always wants me: Surrender. When I choose surrender, it allows me to embrace the peace that comes with knowing God is in control. I so badly want to be in control of my life and everything that happens, but if God allowed that, there would be no room for Him. I spend so much of my life trying to make sure things go smoothly–for me, for Kyle, for my kids—I sometimes forget I’m not actually the one in charge. The thing is, when I’m in charge and ultimately fail, it’s all on me. The failure is mine and I get to carry the weight of it. This creates something toxic inside of me: shame. Not healthy shame. Toxic shame. The shame that tells me I can’t do anything right. I will never be good at ___________. I’m too forgetful. If only I were more like __________, then this wouldn’t happen. I’m the worst mom/wife/friend/________ ever. Ice cream. Ice cream would make me feel better. (After finishing ice cream) I’m so fat, why can’t I stop eating ice cream? Another failure. I’ll never be as thin as ___________. She’s probably the perfect mom/wife/friend. And down and down I go into the shame vortex. It’s crippling carrying all that shame. Lord, help.

The times that I can wrap my head around the fact that God is in control and I am not, something amazing happens. I am free. I’m free to screw up and let it roll off because I know my self-worth is not determined by my ability to get all the things done. I’m here to tell you surrender is where it’s at, friends. Knowing that your productivity/efficiency don’t hold your value and worth is freedom.

But what about the unexpected circumstance that is not necessarily “our fault?” You know the things I’m talking about: the sudden death, the diagnosis, the accident, the divorce, all those things we don’t see coming. What then? Lord, help. If I had my way, none of those things would be allowed to happen. Those are the hard things. But you wanna know something? Without those things, I may never see my need for Jesus. I might never come before His throne, on my knees, begging, “Lord, help!” I wouldn’t cry out. I wouldn’t plead. Life would be easy and I would never live a life any deeper than what you could see on the surface. I would never experience true joy because I had never endured sorrow. I would never experience grace because I wouldn’t have a need for it. This would be an obscene waste of a life because grace…sigh. Grace is the most pure, intoxicating, and overwhelming thing to receive. It breathes life into dead souls. It is a good gift from a good Father. God is constantly making beauty from ashes sometimes we just have to be patient and wait for it.

The truth is we need help. Whether it’s help to check off our to-do list or help to breath in and out after receiving devastating news, we just need help. Why not go before the One who is known for being a Helper (Ps. 54:4)?

While “Lord, help” may be short in length, I think it is more than sufficient at communicating what we need.

And if you’re from the South, sometimes it comes out, “Lawd, help.” This is also perfectly acceptable 😉

Is there any place in your life you could use a little help?

-Courtney

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What Anxiety and Fear tell me

 

Publishing a book and marketing it feels like I’m standing in a fire. To say it makes me “uncomfortable” would be the understatement of my life. Social media is easy; I can sit and hide behind my computer and promote the book all the livelong day. Doing a signing, or a reading, or most recently, a radio show, gives me the sweats and the gags. On my way to any of these events, I sweat and feel tingly all over and fear I might pass out. It’s in these moments that I pray as profusely as I sweat. Asking God for help, guidance, words, anything that will ease my current condition. I have never been more aware of my need for God’s presence and peace in my life. It has occurred to me over the last month that God will not lead us into a fire where He Himself will not go. Sometimes fire is where we find God. Growth in my faith has never happened when my life has been easy. I love easy, but my problem is that easy makes me real proud of myself. I get puffed up and think my life is working out this way because I did something to make it this way. No, you misguided little thing, you had nothing to do with it at all.

So as much as I love a cake life, it’s not where God is. God is in the hard places and if I want to be with Him, I’ve got to go there too. Right now, God, in my life, is sitting squished between Anxiety and Fear and He’s calling me to meet Him there. God is sitting smack dab in the middle of the 2 things in my life that tell me I CAN’T. I don’t like sitting in between Anxiety and Fear; they’re bullies and they lie. They tell me my nerves WILL get the best of me. They tell me I WILL screw it up. They tell me that no one wants to hear what I have to say. They tell me all the same things they’ve told me before. Their central message is: You aren’t good enough to do the things you want to do so you shouldn’t even try.

But God.

But God tells me in Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you.”

Then I’m reminded of what God’s word says about work in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

How can I believe the lies of Anxiety and Fear when God clearly tells me that He will help me? He’s also told me that I am His handiwork and He’s got stuff for me to do here. Who am I to say His handiwork, His creation, is not good enough to do His work? If He created me to do it, He must feel pretty confident that with His help, I can accomplish the task set before me.

Then God reminds me of the most important thing: It’s not about me at all, it’s about Him. It’s my responsibility to obey. That’s it. The successes or failures of my pursuits in life aren’t measured by the world. My successes and failures are measured by whether or not I choose to follow His leading. The minute I judge success by the world’s standards is the minute my soul gets antsy and full of unrest. This is when I try to take over and make my pursuits just that—MY pursuits. When I assume all responsibility for a task, one of two things will happen. I will either get prideful because I’m experiencing some success or I will feel shame because I’m experiencing failure. Pride or shame. These are my options when I’m in charge.

When I take the time to remember that my only job is to say “yes” and He’ll take care of the rest, I’m able to breath. I still sweat of course, but I like to think of it as fear leaving my body. It’s really unfortunate I have so much fear leaving my underarms; I may never wear colored clothing again. It’s freeing to be able to hand the pressure over to God and say “Here, this is on you now.” Unlike us, God has never felt pressure in His entire existence. He’s not worried that we’re going to screw up His work. We don’t have the whole story so what may look like failure to us, may just be God writing humility, not shame, into our story. For the record, these are my least favorite writing segments from the Lord but they are awfully good teachers.

So that’s where I’m at, guys. Right in between Fear and Anxiety, waiting for God to quiet their shouting.

 

Where is God sitting in your life?

-Courtney

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Good Friday

It’s Good Friday. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I’ve been meditating all week on this coming weekend. That I’ve been pouring over Scripture and wearing sackcloth to commemorate this Holy Week. I have not been as intentional as I hoped I would be. But alas, it’s Good Friday.

I did happen to sit down this morning, with cartoons blaring in the background, to read about the night Jesus was taken, sentenced to death, and crucified. It was interrupted several times by kids with questions about the day, a dog that wanted to come in from outside, and stray thoughts that led me down rabbit trails. When I got to the part where Jesus said, “It is finished,” I was struck by the words that followed. I’ve read them many times before and never considered them the way the Holy Spirit revealed them to me today. The Word said:

“and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30

He GAVE UP his spirit.

I looked in the other gospels to see if they said the same thing. In Luke 23:46 it says: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’”

He COMMITTED his spirit.

In Mark, it says He “uttered a loud cry.” And in Matthew, it says: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.”

He YIELDED his spirit.

Gave. Committed. Yielded.

All of these words, in their action, are ones that require giving of something. It occurs to me that if you have the power to give, you also have the power to keep. I’ve always known Jesus gave His life for me and He chose that, but I guess I always thought that when you die it’s because death overtakes you. Death comes and you have no choice in the matter, it just takes you. These verses showed me that Jesus was in control even in death. He decided when He was going to die. He decided when to give up His spirit. He decided when enough was enough and not a second before. He chose to go into death; death did not steal Him away without His consent.

As I sat there mulling this over, the cartoons and kids and barking quieted in my mind and I was overcome. I sat there with tears in my eyes thinking about Jesus, the God Man, deciding the very moment He would die for me. He chose when to let darkness obliterate light. He chose when He would separate Himself completely from His Father. He could’ve kept His spirit and released Himself back up to Heaven if He wanted. But in His power, He was determined to go into Death for love of His people and obedience to His Father.

I hope I never get over the story of the Cross. The gospel still wrecks me after 25 years of believing it. It is the most powerful story in history. The greatest romance there ever was is God’s love for His people and the lengths He would go to for them. I’m so glad God knows how to write compelling stories that stand the test of time. His Word is full of surprises sometimes I just need to pay attention.

 

Now we just have to wait for Sunday…

-Courtney

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The One Thing I Want To Do In 2016

“I never knew how strong I was until I had to forgive someone who wasn’t sorry, and accept an apology I never received.”

I’m not sure if @pastorralexander actually came up with this or got it from someone else but it sums up in one sentence what would’ve taken me a thousand words to write. My brother showed me this quote the other day, not knowing that I had been writing about this very thing in my journal. It articulates everything I’d been trying to put into words the last month or so.

While we’re reminiscing over 2015 and thinking of goals/resolutions for 2016, this one’s mine: forgiveness. That’s my number one goal for 2016. Just like the quote says, the person I need to forgive isn’t sorry nor will I receive an apology from them. And that in itself is what makes forgiveness far more difficult. I want this person to be sorry. I want this person to want my forgiveness. They don’t. So what am I supposed to do with that? Why is it necessary that I forgive if the other person doesn’t feel they need it?

I’ll tell you exactly why it’s necessary: forgiveness will set me free. If I can choose to forgive then anger and hurt won’t control me anymore. I will hopefully be able to move on. There will be scars from the relationship but they won’t be open wounds anymore. Forgiveness will help me heal.

This might be the hardest act of love God has called me to do. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Forgiven people forgive people” like that’s some easy task. Then I remember what Christ went through to forgive me. He absorbed all the sin and darkness of the world into Himself then hung naked on a cross for hours before His soul was released to His Heavenly Father. This isn’t even telling of the brutality He went through on His way to the cross. Forgiveness isn’t easy. Forgiveness is like love; it’s a choice and sometimes, it’s a hard choice. It is an act that is performed in contradiction to how I’m feeling. In Romans 5:8 the Word says, “-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for us before He received an apology. He died for us when we weren’t sorry. He didn’t hold forgiveness in his fist waiting for us to earn it. He just gave it because that’s what God does. He doesn’t wait for us to come around; He opens His hands to offer us grace we don’t deserve nor do we earn.

So this year, I’m going to try to choose the hard thing every day. I’m going to choose to rise above my feelings. I’m going to ask God to take captive my angry thoughts. I’m going to try. Then when I’m weary from trying I’m going to have to go before the Lord and tell Him I can’t do this on my own and I need His strength to do it for me. I know there’s peace on the other side of forgiveness because I’ve experienced it before when I first believed in Jesus. 2016 may look a lot like God prying open my hands to share the gifts He’s graciously given to me.

I’ve got a lot of learning to do in 2016. What do you want God to teach you in the New Year?

-Courtney

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Draw Near

It’s taken me all day to write this post. I know I need to finish it but in order to do that I have to go somewhere I don’t want to go. I have to allow myself to sink into the dark place. I’d rather go on about my day and not think about it or pretend hard things don’t happen. It’s so much easier to write light and silly stories. They make me feel good and I hope they make you laugh even if it is at my expense. But several of you have told me you like this blog because it’s honest and real. The honest reality is that life on this side of heaven can be brutal.

There is a family in my community that just lost their 2 year old son. I don’t know them personally but we have mutual friends. The cause of his death was an accident that could’ve happened to anyone and he was gone in less than 2 days. It makes me sick to even think about it. I don’t even want to write about it. It’s too hard. It shakes around everything I believe and leaves me wondering. How does God choose our story? Why do some people get seemingly good ones and other people get tragic ones? What is He doing? Is He really good after all? I hate that when horrific events occur I hurl these questions at God as hard and as fast as I can. Faith is so much easier to explain when everything’s great. Ask me what I think about God when my kids are healthy, my marriage is good, and I’ve got money in the bank. But that’s not faith at all, is it?

This family has been so heavy on my heart this week I can barely give them a thought and the tears come. We’re not supposed to lose our children. Children are the light of our lives so it’s to be expected that when they are taken from us all we’re left with is darkness. I can’t imagine this kind of darkness. It’s unfathomable.

So many people are praying for the Heard family and I am among them. People are praying for all the things you pray for like strength, comfort, rest, peace, etc. and these are all amazing things that God says He offers us. I’ve even prayed those things for them too. But the more I let myself go to the dark place, the more my prayer for them has changed. I find myself praying 2 words: Draw near. The Word says God is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18) and I believe that’s true. I imagine it something like this:

Sitting in a dark closet, alone, completely devoid of light. Then God crawls under the door. Draw near. He doesn’t burst in because the light would be too blinding. He doesn’t want to hurt their eyes so He comes into their darkness. Draw near. He sits next to them in silence, just listening to them breath. Knowing this is all they’re capable of doing but it means they’re alive. Draw near. This may go on for a long time. Even if they don’t acknowledge Him, they find comfort knowing that He’s there. Draw near. Then at just the right moment, He lights a match. It’s a small flame, not too bright. They are finally able to see what’s around them. They’re finally able to see the door to leave the dark place. Draw near. They can choose to stay or they can choose to go, either way He’s with them.

 

I pray God is in the darkness with this family who’s endured so much loss. I pray He is cozied up next to them, listening to them breath. And I’m praying that in His time He will light a match so they can find their way out. I have no answers for this kind of tragedy. Many times I can sum up obscene heartbreak because it is the result of sin in our world. But this didn’t happen because of sin. It was an innocent accident. I can’t wrap this one up with a bow. I can’t tie up the loose ends. I’m only left to pray and trust His plan is bigger than my understanding. Some might say that sounds naïve. I say what else do I have? Faith in God is the only hope I’ve got in this world so I might as well cling to it with my everything.

If you have a minute, would you mind praying for the Heard family? They are dear to so many and their loss has affected more people than they know. Thank you in advance for going before the Lord on their behalf.

-Courtney

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A Note to Paris

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It was one of those days you never forget. Most everyone I know remembers exactly where he was when he heard the horrific news. I was on my way to the community showers of my dorm when a girl in my sorority said, “Did you see the news? A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!” I can’t remember what I said but I kept walking not really sure what to make of it or whether or not to believe her. When I got back to my room, I turned on the news and watched in terror as a plane flew into the other Twin Tower. The smoke, the people running around crazy, the news reporters taking cover, it all looked like a foreign country. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I couldn’t even really process it at the time.

A terrorist attack? In America? Surely not.

I remember walking around campus that day and looking at all the passersby. We all looked like zombies. Most teachers cancelled classes that day. The university was already setting up a vigil to be held that night for those that lost their lives in New York that day. I can’ t remember if I cried that day. I remember talking to my parents. I just remember feeling like my safe little bubble of a world had been burst wide open. It’s a terrifying feeling having your safety stripped away. Not knowing when or where the next attack will be. Not feeling like the government that’s supposed to protect your country is doing it’s job. No, none of these are good feelings.

Paris,

We will not soon forget what it’s like to have terrorists attack our country. We sympathize with you and pray for your healing. We understand what it’s like to see evil with our own eyes. We have been vulnerable to evil when it took people we love away from us. Evil wants to steal, kill, and destroy us. Evil has no idea what he’s up against. Evil will answer to a mighty God who doesn’t take sin lightly. Don’t be overcome by fear, dear friends, be confident that the God you serve is just and holy. He sees everything under the sun and in His timing He will somehow make something good come from these awful events.

The thing about evil and injustice is that while it takes away parts of us, other parts become stronger to compensate for the loss. I’ve never seen our country more united than after those terrorist attacks. I’ve never seen more people lifting up others in prayer than when 9/11 happened. Sweet Paris, I hope this is your story too. I hope the world is rallying around you in prayer and petition before the Lord. I know the people of America are. We stand with you, knowing that God can bring beauty from ashes. He loves you, Paris, and His Word says He is close to the brokenhearted. Draw near, Paris, He’s waiting for you. Trust that God will bring justice in His own time. Evil will pay for what it’s done. Love will win. This is not the end of you.

Love,

Your friends in America

 

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Stop Throwing Christians Under the Bus

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Red cups. Guys, I can’t even deal with this. I feel like in order for me to move on from this topic I have to get my feelings out. I apologize in advance for the soapbox. I typically don’t weigh in on current events like this but it’s just so ridiculous that it’s drawing me in. Again, my apologies.

First of all, when did we start putting expectations on our coffee cups to fill us with Christmas spirit? Is this really the job of a cup? We’ve never asked our coffee cups to wish us Happy Birthday or Happy Thanksgiving, why is this different? My expectation of my coffee cup is for it to hold coffee. That’s it.

Second, when did we start using our coffee cups to tell others Merry Christmas? Are people walking around holding up their coffee cups at one another rather than actually saying “Merry Christmas?” Did I miss this phenomenon? No more saying “Merry Christmas” just hold up your cup it’ll say it for you. This is absurd.

Third, we do realize Starbucks is a secular company, right? Why on earth would we expect a company that doesn’t necessarily believe in Jesus to wish Jesus “Happy Birthday” on their cups? There’s no Christmas without the birth of Jesus so why would we expect them to recognize it as such?

It’s beyond frustrating that we’ve allowed a couple of people with platforms speak for all of us “Christians.” Acting as if all the “Christians” are in an uproar over a red cup. Did any one of these people take a poll to find out if the “Christians” are actually offended by the plain red cup before shooting off their mouths? According to my Facebook feed, apparently not. No one cares about the cups. Get over it. Please stop giving the world more ammo to shoot down the Christians. We make enough mistakes and blunders on our own without you throwing in nonsensical issues.

Can we just love people and not stir up dust over things that really don’t matter? Our measure of compassion for others matters. Our measure of grace for others matters. Our loving our neighbor matters. Red cups, not so much. It’s no wonder people are so disillusioned with the church and Christians if this is what we’re putting out there for the world to see. Why are we letting the nitpickers have the microphone? They don’t represent the majority of Christians who think this a stupid issue to begin with.

Let’s not let the devil take our eye off the ball. This red cup controversy is a distraction. It is silly. Fight a battle worth fighting. If Starbucks said they wouldn’t serve you coffee because you were a Christian that might be a battle worth fighting. Or you could go to one of the other bazillion coffee shops that exist. Fight good fights. Stay focused. And for the love, say Merry Christmas to others, don’t sit back and expect a cup to say it for you. Ok, stepping off my soapbox, hopefully I won’t trip on the way down.

Does this issue have anyone else baffled?

-Courtney

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The Dreaded Question…

What is it that I do?

It’s a simple enough question, right. On the surface it seems harmless. “What do you do?” People ask this question all the time especially when meeting someone new. This question fills me with anxiety because I’m not sure how to answer. For me, when I’m not sure about something it leads to insecurity. Even more so when I feel like it’s something that, at 35, I should have figured out by now.

When I graduated college and passed the boards it was easy, I was a nurse. When I had my babies it was easy, I was a stay at home mom that worked as a nurse occasionally. Now that my kids have gone to school, it’s left me with a bit of a question mark. I usually say, “I’m a nurse” because that’s the safest response. Do we typically classify something we do once a week or less as our “job?” No, but it takes the least explanation on my part. If I told you I was a writer, let’s be honest, that sounds fake. The fake job that makes no money. If I told you I was a stay-at-home mom, well, then you’d ask how old my kids are and I’d tell you their ages and you’d deduce that they, in fact, are in school every day. Then I would get the same question with a side of passive aggressive judgment, “So what do you DO all day while they’re at school?” It’s subtle but it’s there. Or at least I think it’s there. It’s actually probably not there but I’m insecure so I misinterpret things all the time to be a dig at me.

So, what do I do?

The world places a lot of value on what we do. It’s how we identify people and put them into categories. Some jobs are important, others less so. We’ve made up things like “status” to go along with jobs. This way we can value/devalue each other depending on the importance of our jobs. We can puff up with pride when the world recognizes our job as important. Or we can cower in insecurity when it’s not, or at least we don’t think it is. Or we defend our jobs to the death so people will know how vital our jobs are to humanity.

I’ve believed the lie again. I was praying about this very thing the other day. Trying to get some kind of affirmation and clarity from God on what’s my purpose and what am I supposed to be doing with my life. You know, just a regular Tuesday for the introvert. And somewhere during the prayer, it happened. If I’m at home by myself I tend to pray aloud because it helps me work out my thoughts. It also helps me not fall asleep. So while I’m working out my request to God (because it’s all about me) He revealed something to me that I had never really considered before.

He calls me by name.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Is. 43:1

“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3

“And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Ex. 33:17

“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.” Rev. 3:5 (Emphasis is mine)

He calls me by name. He doesn’t call me by what I do. He doesn’t call me Nurse, or Mom, or Writer (because that sounds fake). When He thinks of me, He doesn’t associate me with my job, I’m just Courtney to Him. I also love in that last verse, that it’s only my name in the Book of Life, not my accomplishments or transgressions, just my name. My name gives me value, not my job. Though I don’t always think it’s in the form of a “job” for everyone, I do believe God has work for us to do here on earth. It says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” My mind tries to play tricks on me and tell me that it’s only “good work” if it has an important title. If I volunteer all my free time at a nonprofit, then it’s good work. If I support every cause for needy children, then it’s good work. If it gets recognition, if it helps a lot of people, if it requires a lot of money, THEN it will be good work.

I’m slowly figuring out that in the end, God is the only one I need to care about knowing my name. I’m here to make His name great, not mine. And “good work” may look like taking my kids to practice, or cooking dinner, or having a good attitude when I’m at my nursing job. Good work can look like watching someone’s kids while they go to an appointment. It can look like taking someone a meal. It can look like being a prayer warrior for someone during a hard time. These things don’t get a lot of recognition but they do matter.

So for those of you needing a reminder (me), God cares more about your name than your title. Maybe writing it down this time will help me remember.

Does anyone else struggle with this “what do you do?” question. I’d love to know!

-Courtney

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