o come emmanuel

o come Emmanuel

I’ve had a lot of conversations over the last couple of weeks about Christmas. Shocker, right?! I’ve shared many words with friends (not the game) about not missing Jesus in the midst of this season.

Which kinda makes me want to barf just saying that. Cause I despise clichés. And hanging a banner of “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” makes the blood run cold in my body.

I have some things to work through.

But. My point remains.

It is so easy to speed through the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, hitting up all the parties, wrapping all the gifts, making all the cookies. It is so easy to miss Emmanuel – God with us – during this time of year.

I very vividly remember the first time I didn’t have a “major” gift on my Christmas list. When I say “major,” I basically mean that I grew out of wanting the kewlest toy of the year. I had books and movies on my wish list and some people didn’t think that was enough. They thought they had to spend so much money and make sure I had the exact same number of gifts as my sister so we would know they loved us equally.

It breaks my heart to think that we can’t be content with celebrating the coming of the Messiah – the long-awaited One descending to His people. And to know that I am not always content with the greatest gift of all – King Jesus.
That in this time of advent – of longing for the One who will come and set all things right – we spend much of our longing on ripping paper off of a box to find a gift that we will probably forget about in 4 months.

What my friend and I have been talking about is this: how do we not miss Jesus? How do we express gratitude and faithfulness to the God who came to be with His people?

My sweet friend Emily recently shared the song O Come O Come Emmanuel on Facebook, which also happens to be my all time favorite Christmas song (that I wish we sang all year long). It truly makes me weepy:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

I think this is how we don’t miss Him.

We sing songs with one another that remind us of the great anticipation that comes with Christmas morning – Jesus has come and death’s dark shadows have been put to flight.
We put priority on relationships over materials.
We have dinners and go to parties and make cookies with real live humans and thank God for the gifts He has given in friendship.

We remember that God has been faithful to send His Son Jesus to His people.
We worship the One who has come to thee.
We rejoice in the confident hope that Emmanuel shall come once again – just as He said He would – to set all things right and ransom His people back unto Himself once and for all.

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living my truth

truth.png

So, I gotta be honest. This phrase drives me bonkers.

Like, legitimately might be my biggest pet peeve with people these days.

“Living my truth” seems to be the kool kid phrase of our culture right now. When celebrities/public figures/people with influence are asked questions in interviews about an.y.thing. that could have a moral standard attached to it, they typically respond with something along the lines of, “Well, I just think it’s really important for us to find our truth and live that out. Ya know, just, living in your own truth can bring you so much happiness and freedom.”

anna-kendrick-giphy.gif

Yes, Anna. Stop that. Stop that right now.

Although, she’s probably said it too…sigh…

ANYWAYS. Back to my rant.

My issue with this whole “find your truth and live it thing” is that we can’t ALL decide what truth is. I don’t get to decide the 100% actuality of a thing.

And I think my biggest hangup with the whole dang thang is that we pick and choose what we want to be true in order to serve our own selfish desires and fleeting pleasures.

If I decide that the truest truth is that Mexican food is the truest form of good food and that you are a demon-spawn if you don’t like it, and you disagree with me, who is right? Does your inability to realize truth in its highest form (my truth, that is) remove your rights/value/dignity as a human?

(I mean, in this case probably because Mexican food is delicious)

NO. Absolutely not.

Because guess what…that isn’t truth. It isn’t an indisputable fact.

Chinese food is good.
Pizza is good.
Queso is…wait….queso is Mexican. Never mind.

My point is, I cannot be the final decision maker when it comes to truth. Nor do I WANT to be the final decision maker. I feel like we are all so inadequate at deciding ANYTHING, especially what truth is. Mainly because we are all so fickle and selfish and just…well…ill equipped.

We were made by the only arbiter of truth, and that is God Himself.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things (including truth) were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing (including truth) made that was made.

John 1:1-3

If we submit to God as the Creator of all that we see and know, we have to submit to Him as the Creator of truth as well.

We don’t get to only submit to parts of God’s commands and character. His Word was not given as a mere suggestion on how to live your best life now.

No. His Word was/is given as the truest form of truth we can know. Jesus was given as the complete embodiment of Truth – so that we might have a Savior from our sinful ways and an Example of how to submit to the One whose truth gives life and freedom.

Submission to God and His actual truth does not lay heavy bondage on my life.
Living in a world (even if it’s my own world in my head) where I get to choose truth and it changes all of the time — that is what causes bondage, and anxiety, and heartbreak, and disillusionment, and, well, a lost and weary soul.

Submission to God, instead, frees us up to rest in knowing His truth will lead to life everlasting, it never changes, and that it is for my good and His glory. Living in God’s truth frees me from living a lie of working my way into His grace.

I’d rather live in the truth of the Creator who has been faithful throughout history than try to figure out my own truth every morning.

Man. What a friggin burden to bear. I’ll let Someone else tell me what truth is.

It just seems easier — more life-giving — that way.

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psalm 31 – the wrap up

psalm 31 pt3

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand. (v14)

Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! (v16)

O Lord, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon you (v17)

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you (v19)

Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful and abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! (v23-24)

It has been a long time since I’ve sat down at a keyboard to write a blog. Having been away for so long, it can feel a bit overwhelming to start back up again — the task can seem a little daunting.

And that’s sometimes what it can feel like when I’ve been away from Jesus for too long.

Looking back over my life I see the ebb-and-flows of my relationship with Christ. I can reminisce about my adolescence, college years, and early adulthood and recall times where I intentionally stayed far from Jesus because it just seemed too overwhelming to show up with Him again. The task was unsettling. Mainly because I twisted the whole “saved by grace through faith alone” thing and turned it in to “saved by making sure I’ve got my crap together, and then present myself as clean and whole before this righteous, holy God.”

I made redemption my game rather than receiving it as Christ’s finished work.

As my dad would say, that is so bass akwards.

If I don’t start writing again, then I’ll never write again.
If we don’t just come back to Jesus, then we’ll never come back to Jesus.

The doing of the thing is the thing.

Oh how thankful I am that our God does not turn His back on those He loves. How gracious is the One who preserves the faithful!

What I love about the back half of this psalm is that the writer is not afraid to enter in to the overwhelming, daunting task of presenting himself as…well…himself, to God. He just does. With beauty and honesty and humanity.

And God is faithful.

He is faithful to look beyond our feeble attempts to work our way into salvation and accept us because of what Christ did on the cross.
He is faithful to see how overwhelming this life can be for us, and so He enters in the only way the Savior and Redeemer of the world can — He shows up for us and with us in great, unimaginable ways.
He is faithful to shine His light upon us and save us with His steadfast love.

It might be overwhelming and seem a little unnerving, but the good news is that Jesus doesn’t wait at the end of the road for us. He meets us where we are, takes us by the hand, and walks the road with us — defeating any enemy that gets in our way, presenting us in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that we might be holy and without blemish before God.

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psalm 31 – pt. 2

psalm 31 pt2

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.

vs. 6-10

Ever heard the phrase, misery loves company?

Well, often, my misery finds great company with people like David.
Yeah, we know, Kayla. You’ve mentioned that about a million times before.

But for real.
To have someone like David – a “hero” of the faith – write words like those above bring me great relief.
To have the, “Wait, you too?” realization is such a comfort – whether in Scripture or with friends.

You know the distress of my soul…

We even find the, “Wait, you too?” with God.

He knows the distress of my soul.

What a weird space it is to be in with the Creator and Sustainer of all that we see and know, knowing the very distresses of my soul.

He knows all of the dirty little corners of who I am, and instead of handing me over to the enemy, He draws me even closer to Himself, convincing my heart that He sees me and still loves me.

In the midst of my heated outpouring of frustration and anger, He’s there.
When I’m acting petty and selfish, He’s there.
When I slander His creation, He is still there.

We’ve been asking a version of this question at my church for quite a while now: Can Jesus love even me?

And the answer, every.dang.time, is an overwhelming: YES.

He sees me, knows me, and loves me – because of His faithfulness. Because of His love.

And so, even in the midst of my affliction, I can – and will – rejoice and be glad in His steadfast love.

 

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psalm 31 – pt. 1

psalm 31

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me; a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

v.1-5

I’ve been staring at these five verses for the last 20 minutes.

Well…staring at them, checking Instagram, staring at them, opening my email, staring at them…just…well…avoiding the work.

You see, writing is sacred space for me. It’s holy ground that God has invited me to stand on with Him, exploring who He is, who I am, and discovering how we’re going to live this life together.

And sometimes I have nothing.
No place to start.
No words to write.
No sentences to form.

And tonight has been one of those nights.

I didn’t think I had anything to offer, so I avoided the sacred arena God has invited me in to.

And underneath that, I think there’s a strange hint of shame – believing the lie that this time will be the time I have nothing to offer. This time will be the time people read and think, “Welp, she’s lost her stuff, so never gonna read that again!”
A tinge of unworthiness creeps in and starts to close the door.

But then I come back to these 5 verses I’ve been staring at, and shame gets a nice slap in the face.

It is the LORD that I take refuge in – not myself or my words or my real good sentences that have perfect structure and never run on and on without purpose.  🙂

It is God who delivers me by His righteousness, for His name’s sake, not allowing shame to take over.

The snares and traps that are hidden by the enemy, well, He plucks me up right out of them – because of His great love for me. He is my rock and my fortress – nothing can overtake me when Yahweh is the guardian of my life.

I love that the beginning of this psalm is all declaration – who God is, what He has done, and what the writer needs Him to continue to be. There is a lot of confidence in this God we believe in, the One whom all of our hope and faith relies on.

So, when I’m afraid of the sacred, holy arena God extends the invite to join Him in, I hope to take a page from this psalmist and demand the He rescue me speedily. Because He is a redemptive, faithful God, and I’d rather commit myself to no-one else.

Whatever your sacred space is, step in to it this week, knowing that the Faithful One is and will forever be your refuge and comfort, and shame has no bearing when He is the rock on which you stand.

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jealous in the best of ways

jealous blog

This summer my church is going through a series on the attributes of God. And a fun thing we’re doing along with this attributes series is sharing videos of members’ experiences with who God is to them, specific to the attribute being covered that week.

So, Tiffany talks about God as Father.
Rich talks about God’s glory.
Emily talks about God’s goodness.
Sally talks about God’s faithfulness.

And Kayla…well…Kayla talks about God’s jealousy.

When I first learned we were going to go through this series, my little heart grew 3 sizes too big.

I love love love learning and talking about the character and attributes of God.
I love discussing with my friends what God is like, who He is to them, how His character is reflected in us and how we reflect Him to the world around us. It’s one of my favorite pastimes to sit across a table or porch or living room from someone near to my heart and talk about our Creator.

But when I was asked to talk about God’s jealousy…well…my heart went back to normal person sized.

The term “jealous” doesn’t carry a very godly feeling with most of us.
I tend to think of my high school boyfriend that got upset when I wanted to spend Friday night with my gal pals.
I think of my college friend that got mad at me because I chose something else over time with her.
I think of myself when I get upset because yet another person has gotten engaged while I’m over here eating leftover shrimp fajitas for the next 1.7 weeks because I don’t know how to cook for 1.

So, as I started to look in to God’s jealousy – thinking I was going to blow the whole gig – I realized that it fits just about as perfectly into my story as Michael Jackson’s hand fit into that white glove.

You see, when we hear jealous, the emotion we mere mortals typically attach to it is actually envy. Envy, according to Webster, is: the feeling of wanting to have what someone else has; painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.

Jealousy is different.
Jealousy is: intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness.

So, by definition, if you are jealous of me, you are not willing to accept or allow my unfaithfulness.

So, when God is jealous, He is really jealous for me. He will not tolerate my worship of other gods. He will not tolerate anything that rivals Him in my heart. He will not accept my chasing after other gods that never have and never will satisfy.

After really thinking on that, I started to get all weepy.

So, wait a second…you’re telling me that GOD loves me SO MUCH that He is unwilling to let my heart and my affections turn toward something other than Him?
So, you’re saying that, much like Gomer in the book of Hosea, He loves me in such a way that He is going to take me out into the wilderness where it’s just Him and me, and we’re gonna figure this crap out for as long as it takes because my very soul is worth it?
You’re saying that, because He loves me and is jealous for me, He’s not going to let me die by whoring my heart out to things that cannot save or redeem me?

YES?

YES!

Flipping YES.

Can you imagine?! What kind of God is this?! This God that sticks with His people!? This God that, instead of throwing us off to the side, He steps in and sets our hearts right again!?

You see, God isn’t envious of that which His creation has.
He is jealous for our very souls.
He is unwilling to let us die without stepping in, drawing us close, cleansing us of all unrighteousness, bearing the penalty of our sin, dying in our place, and rising again on the third day – defeating sin and satan and the grave once and for all.

His jealousy is beyond my comprehension. But man, oh man, am I’m so thankful for it.

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psalm 30

psalm 30

I don’t think I’ll ever stop fist-bumping David for the way he approaches God and sings prayers to the Lord.

As I’ve mentioned at least 29 times before, I just have to give a huge YES & AMEN to all that is said in this book of psalms.

I’m consistently reminded that God doesn’t desire empty words or phrases that seem pious and super-Christian. He just desires our heart. He desire to hear from His children, no matter how choppy, or dramatic, or full of feelings and heartache and joy and weirdness our words may be.

And here I am again, saying YES & AMEN to David and what he writes in the 30th psalm:

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

No matter how many times I read the psalms, I’m always freshly encouraged by the pattern and themes found inside the words – that God’s people cry out (don’t just causally have a conversation with Him), that God hears His people and draws near to them, that He is their Helper and pulls them up from whatever pit they are in, that He brings joy, that weeping & mourning are okay.

Weeping may tarry, the valley may be deep, but the Lord your God hears His people – hears you – and will turn your mourning in to dancing. He will bring joy with the dawn.

I need that today. I need that everyday. I need to be reminded of and encouraged by the truth that my God is a God of goodness & redemption & healing for those that love Him and trust Him.

I need to know that He is merciful to me & will help me all the days of my life.

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psalm 29

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It’s been 24 days since I’ve written anything.
24 days since internet pen has met internet paper.

I’ve definitely felt a bit of a void by letting this discipline go by the wayside. And I really didn’t have a discernible reason outside of I just didn’t feel like it.

I felt used up.
Inadequate.
Voiceless.
Tired.

I was just kinda done. Why keep reading through the psalms and writing about what they’re saying to me when it seems to be the same thing week after week after week. Won’t people realize that I’m just repeating myself? Won’t they get tired of the stale nature of what I have to say? Am I even relevant, bro?

But tonight, I picked the laptop back up and flipped to psalm 29:

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Siren like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

I come to God’s precious word and I’m reminded, yet again, that this whole endeavor is not about me. Who CARES if people get tired of hearing the same thing over and over? The more I learn about God and His gospel, the more I’m realizing I’ve just scratched the surface, and that I need this simplistic truth beaten into my head every.single.day.

I need to be reminded of who God is – that He is powerful, full of majesty, that He breaks the cedars, He sits enthroned as king forever.

Not Kayla.
Not Kayla’s blog.
Not anything I have ever done or ever hope to do can receive the glory that is ascribed to the Lord by the heavenly beings and His people.

And that gives me hope and strength to press on. Not just in writing, but in life.
The promise that the One who is due all the glory to His name will bless His people with peace – well…that’s enough to write about for years to come.

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what do i do when i don’t get the blessing?

blessing blog

I’ve been writing this one in my head for a few weeks, so it’s probably time to put it on internet paper.

With graduations and engagements and weddings and new seasons in general, I’ve seen a lot on social media about God being so good because people are so blessed.

I get really excited when people acknowledge that we serve and are known by a good, loving, gracious, merciful God who gives His children good things.
But I get pretty bummed out when we only acknowledge Him along with completing a degree, getting engaged, receiving a promotion, getting pregnant, starting a new relationship, get a new car…insert “good thing” here.

I believe those things are all good things, and again, it is of utmost importance to recognize that good gifts come from our good God. That, ultimately, we don’t earn or deserve what we have – it has all been given for us to steward and use for God’s glory.

But what happens when I don’t get the blessing?
Is God still good?

What happens when:
I fail a class and have to retake it, putting graduation off for another year…
My boyfriend breaks up with me because he’s just not feeling it anymore…
I receive a formal reprimand because of relational friction in the workplace…
I have miscarriage after miscarriage and just don’t understand why my body isn’t cooperating…
Both of my grandmas get cancer at the same time…
Friends that I thought would be by my side forever have now rejected me and I have no idea why…
My car gets totaled in a hail storm…

Is God still good?

Or have we become a people who condition His love for us, and dare I say, our love for Him, along with what He gives us?

Tonight I’m going to the church I grew up in to open up a youth rally with some worship time. I’m going to play a song that has these lyrics:

Though You slay me, yet I will praise You
Though You take from me, I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me, still I will worship
Sing a song to the One who’s all I need

I’m straight up nervous about this one because I know it will rock some worlds.

“Umm…nah…I’m not interested in that God.”
“If God is good, He wouldn’t take from me.”
“But doesn’t God just want us all to be happy and feel good all of the time?”

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Do you know what God’s Word says is perfect? God’s love & Jesus’ life.

Jesus is the perfect gift.
Jesus is the good gift.
Jesus is the blessing that none of us deserve but all of us can freely receive.

My blessing isn’t that I receive every material gift I’ve ever wanted and have no hardship in life.

My blessing is that the God of all creation sent His one and only Son to live a life that I cannot live – a life free from sin – die a death that I deserve to die because of my sin and rebellion against His perfection, and raise again on the third day so that I am now made spotless, whole, complete in Him.

I’d rather have that blessing than anything this world has to offer.

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psalm 28

psalm 28.png

Have I ever told you how much I love the psalms? How I adore David’s heart and his unabated laying-down of all of his hardships and delight in the Lord?

Often, in my prayers, I am nervous about telling God that He needs to listen to me – that when I cry for help, I need Him to answer me. Making demands of God seems to be risky business to me – and I’m not talking about the Tom Cruise kind.

Yet, I continue to read and read and read David’s pleas and prayers to the Lord. And the more I read them, the more I see that God is 100% okay with me telling Him exactly how I feel. He loves me so greatly – so scandalously – that He actually wants to work through my hurts, hardships, tragedies, and triumphs.

My view of how God sees me continues to become so personal and so delight-filled, yet, at the same time, there is so much more that I don’t know or understand.

I can’t fully understand how the God that created all that we see and know, made man & woman and breathed into them His breath of life – that God wants me to bring my heart to Him and commune in His presence. That God hears my pleas for mercy. That God is my saving refuge.

That God will be my shepherd and carry me forever.

I just can’t wrap my mind around it.
And I’m totally okay with living in that mysterious unknown.

To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.

Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts. Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the works of his hands, he will tear them down and build them up no more.

Blessed be the Lord!
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

 

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