Why Can We Be Thankful?

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I’ve been reflecting on what gives life meaning. I suppose it’s different for everyone, but I feel God showing me why we -as Christians- can be thankful at all times.

I’ve heard many use comparison to explain thankfulness. For example: “I don’t have much, but then I think of the kids in Africa and I realize how well-off I am.”

I believe God wants us to be thankful people, but comparison is not the way to achieve this. In the Bible, thankfulness is not an effect of envying his/her neighbors. Thankfulness was based on God’s provision for them, which was not put up against anyone else’s gifts.

When we get into the habit of thanking God based -in any way- on what our neighbor has, we fall into the trap of short-sightedness, EVEN if we land on the ‘blessed’ side of the comparison. We fail to see how God works uniquely in every person’s life. We limit God’s faithfulness and tell Him it has to resemble our neighbor’s blessings or we will not be grateful.

Sadly, by using comparison to explain thankfulness, we can all too easily use comparison to explain discontent. If my gratefulness comes from the thought that God is blessing me more than someone, are we also going to grieve that we don’t have as much as the movie stars and CEOs?

So, while being thankful for our blessings is valuable because we acknowledge God’s provision, I feel Him encouraging us to get out of the comparison game. Many times, we rank our status based on the status of others without thinking. We think we are poor because we have a car from the 90s. Meanwhile, in Haiti, having that car from the 90s may make you rich. Blessings, when defined by comparison, are subjective and completely reliant on the culture around us. I do not think God wants us to rely on culture or comparison to recognize our blessings. In fact, I see that as limiting ourselves in seeing God in our lives.

So, why should we be thankful?

We can be thankful for things that happen to be in culture- like our homes and cars and families. But let’s not be thankful because culture defines something as good. There is a difference. One way relies on culture and comparison to give worth and one way relies on God, and simply recognizes blessings that happen to be in culture.

Mostly, everything is meaningless in comparison to the grace and mercy we have received through Christ. His blessings in our lives are worth celebrating. He provides for us, mostly through his love for us, but also through food and homes and friends and family. We can celebrate those things, but I hope we can stop celebrating them because others have worse. Instead, I hope we can trust that God sees us and is providing for us, as He loves us greatly. Thank you, Jesus for what you have given to us.

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Building Muscle

I must be getting old. It seems like lately I just don’t fit with people my age, or relate to the general outlook the world has now. Things like justice, goals, success, express yourself, and general human virtues are just a few of the things I’ve seen changing over the past few years. And I’m trying to find my place, as someone raised with hometown virtues, but also someone who was taught to always seek out bigger and better.

Not that I’m complaining about any of this. These past two or three years have been completely transformative to my character and who I want to be—or rather, who God has created me to be in pursuit of his Kingdom. Probably in part because I’m in my mid twenties now, and most of us do most of our growing during that phase of our lives.

But also because I think I’ve finally understood what it is God has put me here for…what he has put all of us here for.

Impressing people, touting my achievements and experiences, combing out my personality for someone has become way less important since my teenage years. (Thank goodness). I would rather somebody learn about who I am by hanging out with me and experiencing what I experience. Exchanging viewpoints and going through good and bad times together. The pattern of my life has changed from proving myself to letting my character prove itself. Letting who God has created me to be shine brighter than what I could be on my own.

We aren’t put here just to live a life, even if that life involves philanthropy or relationships with others. There’s even more than that. The ultimate purpose of every day on Earth is to bring us into a closer relationship with God. To learn more about him, and to let His character impart itself onto ours.

For the part few months, this topic has been on my mind more than any other; learning more about who God is and letting that influence me more than any other voice in hopes that other may see it.

It seems obvious, and we’re told this since our Sunday school days, but we lose it. Especially in a world with so many voices to listen to.

In addition to getting quiet with God and listening more closely to His wisdom, not just thinking about Him, I’ve been focusing on the health of my physical body. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I’d put on a few inches, and just didn’t like the way I felt or fit into my clothes anymore. It’s a cosmetic issue, but cutting back has taught me a lot. In particularly, it has taught me that discovery is the best part of any journey.

Since I’ve been cutting back on sugar and sweets, I can look at cupcakes, but I don’t have to eat them. And guess what? I’m not dead! I can eat late and not snack, and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t starve! I learned that indulgence is a mindset that can be broken, and denying yourself is often the better option in the long run.

But denying means straining. It means exchanging something for something else. Would we be willing to do that if it meant relying on the advise of an unseen God rather the advise of a friend? Or even a family member? Or a church leader? Would we listen to the voice of God to guide us in speaking truth when others need it instead of staying silent? Would we allow God to dictate even what we put into our bodies, and how we spend our time rather than making our own schedules and plans?

I have prayed over the past few months that God be a voice louder than the others. That the Holy Spirit be clear and sharp at the forefront of my thoughts. It wastes no time to listen and act with God. It wastes no time to live a lifestyle of connection to God, even in the simplest of times.

We aren’t made for a destination. We are made to come to know the Creator of that destination as we journey with Him to that place. There are challenges and plenty to learn before going home. And we should consider the challenges an honor if we come out better for them.

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Age of Wisdom

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Our generation has become notorious for being know-it-alls. With technology and information, and travel at our hands like no generation before, what would our elders have to offer us anyways? Unfortunately, we’ve got to face the facts that we all need a little advice sometimes, and realize that getting our information from a quick Google search is probably the epitome of pride.

In the information age, the art of wisdom has faded. Personally, I love listening to stories from my parents and grandparents. I love watching and observing those who are set in my life to be mentors. Because wisdom is not always about speaking, but acting through Godly character.

With so many choices and doors open to us, we lose sight of the value of things. The value of not just ‘doing life’ together as we are, but living together and pushing each other toward God. Of advancing who we are in order to grow instead of sitting back, satisfied with who we are today, taking in our share of grace.

Right now, I have several older people in my life who I absolutely look up to and feel that God has strategically placed in my life (even though they may not know). It is a little ironic that the biggest thing I learn from is watching them make mistakes. Watching them live through their shortcomings to change, to better themselves.

It is ok to mess up, to look stupid, to be awkward. These situations are where we grow from. Who better to watch still growing, still figuring things out, than the generation before us? It can give us a hope that we don’t have to say all the right things, make all the right moves to be successful or to even be happy.

As millennials, we have carved our own path and changed countless rituals of our society that we should not back down from. Though we’ve defined ourselves as know-it-alls, we’ve always defined ourselves as trailblazers who always want new. We are always on the watch for the latest, and consume knowledge like never before. What an excellent use of this thirst for knowledge and itch for new ideas than to watch those older than us. We learn who we want to follow, who we do not want to be, and what needs to change.

Let us not become complacent in furthering ourselves towards the character of God. Let us not become complacent in living as community; sharing ideas and opinions no matter how taboo, caring for each other as family not just as other humans who also happen to be here. Let us not forget the accomplishments of the generation before, and the faults that they learned from. It may be that we are more alike than we image.

Even in this age, there is the old adage that history repeats itself. Generations change, but their outlook on the world is cyclical. In a time where we have lost our farsightedness, our coming experience and challenges will eventually turn us back to each other.

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I Decided to Stop Talking About My Dreams and Did Them

talk less do more dreams

Not to sound too overly Disney here, but I’m just going to say it’s safe to assume that every single one of our readers has amazing dreams. We all have dreams and ideas, big ones, little ones, impossible ones. For every possibility in the world, there is someone out there with ideas on how to do it.

Here’s a revolutionary question: what happens when we talk less about our dreams and do more about them? One of the greatest challenges to creating an action is how we use our words. We can spend hours in brainstorming meetings writing out ideas but where do those ideas go when we close our notebooks?

See, we millennials, or really every young person ever, have a problem with commitment. Our generation is probably the most visible problem with our access to social media #activism. I’ve been to countless young adult meetings where we come up with some great ideas that often lead nowhere because we’re unwilling to sign the dotted line, put some credibility to our words and partner with others.

talk less do more dreams grafted magazine

www.johanna-grace.com

talk less and do more grafted magazine

Me and that friend, Rickus!

At the beginning of this year, I was leading a small group with a friend of mine. We decided that we were done talking about how to do big things and we were ready to just do it. So we spent the spring semester praying for opportunities to put our words into action and give an example to our group of how, yeah… 20 somethings can ACTUALLY follow through with their dreams and do really cool things.

We decided we wanted to lead a ministry outreach trip. Rickus and I both had no, or at least limited, experience in planning for a trip like this. We didn’t know all the “rules” or steps to take. We just decided to plan for what we knew and go for it. If you wait too long the dream can get stale, so we jumped on it the moment we could. In April we got the idea to go to Alaska, in July we were boarding a plane with four other people.

talk less do more dreams grafted magazine

www.johanna-grace.com

So what allowed us to take this step? Did we have great fundraisers and campaigns, and social media buzzing? We think we found the secret formula to ministry trips, and I’m going to share it with you.

  1. TRUST GOD
    We all decided just to buy our tickets with whatever money we had and trust that God would make sure we could pay our bills. Crazy, right? Yeah, very.
    We told people about our mission, sure. We had a few little fundraisers like a garage sale and t-shirts. But we all just pitched in to make sure every person we felt was supposed to be on this team could come. Don’t crush your dreams by putting a limit on how big God is by worrying about finances. If it’s his will, whatever you need will come through.
  2. MAKE CONNECTIONS
    Some of my team members are WONDERFUL at networking. Some of the greatest friends we made were because Cindy reached out through social media so people knew who we were before we even got there. If you don’t know how to do something, find the person who does and reach out.
  3. AVOID MAKING PLANS
    Details can make a dream fall apart really fast. Sit down and outline what exactly it is you must have to make your plans reality and focus on those things. Look at the big picture, and the little picture will come together.
  4. … BUT HAVE A PLAN
    I know this sounds counterintuitive but it really is important to know the plan you do have and know it well. If you’re going on a trip, every detail you do know needs to be memorized and engrained in the back of your mind. Phone numbers, addresses, costs. When you need these things, you REALLY need them.
  5. SET ASIDE TIME FOR YOURSELF
    This is true for any project but it’s especially true for a team on a mission. We made sure that everyone had time for themselves to work on their own things and spend time growing in their own relationship with Jesus. This is important for the pre-trip planning period and during the time itself.
  6. DON’T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY
    One of the greatest things we learned from this experience was how much joy Jesus gives us if we just choose to set out fears aside and go all in. I think it’s freeing to know that anything you can think of has been done before because then there’s never the stress of being the next Hudson Taylor or Steve Jobs. Our job as believers is simply to love, and love passionately. With that passion comes a lot of laughter and humility and enthusiasm that only God can provide.
talk less do more dreams grafted magazine

www.johanna-grace.com

When was a time when you decided just to step out and do something about your dreams? Share with us in the comments!

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Not Manly Enough- From a Christian Women’s Perspective

janie_102_not-manly-enough

“But why would he brag about that?” I asked.

My boyfriend had just finished educating me on a man’s tendency to boast on his sexual acts with multiple women in order to prove his manliness.

I must admit that I am often baffled by the ways of men- how they think and what they value. In learning about men’s culture, my most-used response is “Really?!”. My wise and straight-forward boyfriend informed me that many men see the ability to ‘get’ any girl as the ultimate mark of being a man. Therefore, sex, or any physical action, is sometimes used as a measure.

I immediately felt used by men of my (regretful) past. Were they trying to prove something to others by pressuring me? Was I the pawn- all while thinking I was the love-interest? Who knows? I don’t care to know, but what I DO want to know is how using women started to be seen as manly.

I tried googling it. I read a few different articles and I came up with some conclusions.

I think ‘getting’ lots of girls became ‘manly’ for a few reasons. For men- If you are interested in a girl and she likes another man instead, this man becomes someone you envy in a way. If a man is liked by 100 women, he also gains the envy of around 100 men.

Just as the school rich kid is seen as cool for the things he has, the school player is seen as cool for the girls he can ‘get.’ The envy turns him into an role model of sorts. The people around crowd him, because associating with him could mean getting more attention from girls for themselves.

Logically, it makes sense, BUT it has turned our society into an ugly distrustful mess. Because of this praise that many girl’s affection garners, men seem less focused on being attractive to the women they like, and more focused on being attractive to all.

Girls are not innocent in this. Taking direction from our own insecurities and lack of confidence, women have started to pursue men based on the quantity of other women who like them. When 50 girls all like the same boy, a girl will start to see him as more attractive. They become excited to show him off, knowing that other women wanted him too and their judgment will not be questioned. Therefore, men are sadly not delusional to think that getting attention from all will help them in gaining attention from the one they want.

With all things considered, being attractive to most women seems to be the way to be ‘cool’ and the way to get a girlfriend. In addition, it is logical for men to believe that physical acts will prove their desirability, because physical acts often do show desire.

BUT

Being a player is cheap and unworthy of your greatness. Also, it is undesirable to women in the long run. Biologically speaking, it benefits women most to know that her husband will stay by her, and will be able to be a one-woman man through parenthood and through tough times of provision. While having a multitude of women’s affections may be a turn-on at first, being a one-woman man has more staying power in attractiveness and trustworthiness.

Men- though getting ‘action’ may label you as cool, you are God’s sons. You do not need to be desirable to all women. The woman you want is attracted to the most authentic you, not the most popular you. While some women may be fooled by popularity, you can be confident in your desirability, even if 100 women are not there to encourage you.

In fact, as a Christian women, I see very different qualities as most manly. I see the ability to be true to your word, to be a man of conviction, and to be dedicated to your beliefs to be most manly. I see confidence as manly, but not confidence in your ability to gain attention. The confidence that is truly mature is confidence in yourself despite no ‘proof’ of your worth.

While getting attention from women, becoming enviable and cool, and being a player may seem to prove your worth as a man, those are fleeting. They will (and should) fade when you enter marriage. Therefore, they are based in people’s perception and are temporary.

The good news is that your worth does not need to be so fickle. As a Christian, you can trust in your unwavering worthiness. Believing you are excellent is an act of faith. We demonstrate faith when we hold firm to God’s words. After all, faith in Him includes faith in His words, and His words tell us that we are wonderfully made.

So, from my perspective, we are all at fault for this societal nonsense. We have all sought worth from fleeting things. There is a system in place where men hook up with women and document the experience in order to prove manliness. But for us, if we want to better care for each other and treat each other with love and respect, we can recognize that we do not need to buy into this idea of manliness.

So, men, despite the temporary (and sadly legitimate) gains of being a player or treating hookups with disregard, I believe those things are not manly enough for you. You are rather destined to defy the cultural standards/systems and be dedicated to acting honorably. And while you miss out on the title of “manly,” at times from your high school buddies, you will, in fact, be demonstrating the full picture of manliness because of your perseverance, confidence, and chivalry.

So, from a Christian woman, thank you. And don’t be fooled. You are manly.

 

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