Oh Praise His Name

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas, y'all!

It's a widely known fact that today is the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who came to earth to live of perfect submission to God and His will so that He could take our place and die. Even if you're not a Christian, you've probably heard the story: no room in the inn, shepherds watching their flocks by night, three wise men bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The story of Jesus' birth has been Americanized throughout all its years. To some, it's no more than a cool story that children can act out every year. Some really do celebrate His birth, but only during Christmastime. All the rest of the year, we live our lives like we want to, except maybe when we go to summer camp; then we really appear on fire for Jesus.

American "Christianity" has been so de-radicalized. We've become lukewarm and indifferent. We throw around God's name like it's something so everyday, so lacking of awe. Jesus Christ's name is so often used as an expression of annoyance. When did we start tolerating this? When did we let our God's name become so dumbed-down?

To completely understand the awe we should feel at the mention of God's name isn't possible because that would require completely understanding just how great our God is. But if we can begin to grasp the wonder in the story of the Incarnation, our appreciation and love of God increases so much.

We must try to grasp the holiness, the omnipotence, the true greatness and awesomeness of God. When we use the word awesome, we're using a slang term that can be replaced by impressive or cool. Awesome is defined as "causing or inducing awe" or "inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear."

God truly is awesome. Just think about the wonder-filled mystery of the Incarnation, that God would take on a body of the fallen human race, but never sin; that He chose to be born in a stable filled with filthy, stinking animals; that He chose to live a life of obscurity and finally be spit at, mocked, and nailed to piece of wood.Our perfect God, without one blemish, someone too great to fathom, chose to humble Himself to the likeness of the creation He made so that He could save us from death. And we rejected Him still.

I love this part of a song by Sidewalk Prophets called You Love Me Anyway:

See now, I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then I turned away with the smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life...

But You love me anyway

Not only this Christmas season, but every season, every day, would you all join me in celebrating the true awesomeness of our God? Meditate on this today, and I pray that it will increase your love for the Father and inspire you to share His Good News with everyone you meet. All glory to Him.

Merry Christmas, y'all. 

best dressed

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It was Christmas Eve, and rain poured.

It wasn't snow, not anywhere close. The car thermometer read seventy-three degrees Fahrenheit. She sat on the left side of the car, as she always did, but her legs were crossed in an unusual fashion due to minimal leg room and the dress she wore. 

Her camera sat in her lap, and she held it with both hands, guarding it almost. The way the streetlight made the raindrops glisten fascinated her, and she tried to capture it through the lens. Her friends often laughed at her. You take that thing everywhere. 

They laughed now; she heard them distantly, detached. She clung to her camera, holding it, remembering.

Best dressed.

She had walked into the party with three inch heels. They gave her extra height, extra confidence. A fifty dollar necklace hung around her neck. She hadn't bought it herself; it was a gift, but she didn't tell them that. Her dress came one about an inch from the top of her knee, school dress code, but somehow people still stared. Perhaps it was a good kind of staring -- she hadn't yet learned the difference.

She didn't dance, only hiding behind her lens. It was her solitude, her break from the stares. Were they good stares? Was a stare ever good? She would never know. By the end of the night, she was named best dressed. 

Funny. Best dressed, and she couldn't even manage a smile. She hid behind gray eyeliner and cherry blossom blush. Falsely whitened teeth tried to smile at the people she never had enough guts to talk to. And that was that. 

Best dressed.

Now she sat in her car, her father and mother in the front seat. They talked about her grandparents visiting the next day, Christmas day. A rain-filled, seventy-five degree Christmas day.

Her house wasn't far. She took off her heels before climbing out of the car and into her room. There lie two weeks of dirty laundry, and unfinished thank-you note, and now, her paper plate award: best dressed. She still clung to her camera, flipping through the pictures. Best dressed.

She found a picture someone had taken of her. She was smiling. She didn't remember ever feeling happy. She would post it, she thought, and perhaps the gullible public would fall under the spell they so often did. That her life was perfect, that she never cried, never had a free Friday night, always had seats to the football game.

She looked at her paper plate award once more, holding it up in the mirror and flashing her winner smile. 

Best dressed.

It seemed that, in reality, that was all she ever amounted to. 


Hi, all! So, I know this is a little heavy for a season that is supposed to be so joyful, but it's fictional, I promise :)

 I got to thinking about this the other day. Sometimes, I think we look at people on social media or even in person and we think that their lives look so put together. They always look nice, always have perfectly whitened teeth, always seem to top every other girl. I think we forget that no one's life is perfect, and the pictures posted on social media are just the good side. 

It's important for us as high school students to remember that everyone has struggles. No one is perfect, so to compare ourselves to others is ridiculous. The lesson is this: girls, stop comparing yourselves to other girls and be content in the way God made you. We're all unique, all made for a different purpose. 

Psalm 139:13-16 says this: 
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

You know what this communicates to me? That God spent a whole lot of time making you you. To be discontent in the way God made you is to be discontent with His works. Take care of the body God gabe you, and be content with it. I promise that God is using you and your story for His glory right now.

Merry Christmas, y'all! 

Hope in the Air

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Reids are staying home for Christmas this year, as we always have done since before I was born. Our Christmas tree sits in front of our large living room window, welcoming all who drive or walk by. Christmas carols can be heard at any given time coming from the piano, guitar, someone's phone, or someone's mouth.Our house is unusually clean because of the free time we are all left with, and in general, everyone is happy. It has always been this way. Every Christmas brings a certain indescribable joy that hangs in the air for two whole weeks.

And, as a blogger, it seems customary to write a Christmas-themed post about the true meaning of Christmas and how, as Christians, we should live like it's Christmas every single day. This year, though, before I get into any of that, I must communicate a realization that has come over me.

Yesterday, my wonderful grandmother turned twenty-one. She's a beautiful human being inside and out, and we are beyond blessed to have her just fifteen minutes down the road. She came over last night for an extravagant dinner of some sort of bacon-wrapped venison, stuffed potato casserole, sauteed green beans, rolls, and chocolate cake. The rest of the evening was accompanied by lots of Christmas carols. We had our own band, including Jackson's snare drum, a triangle, a tambourine, a woodblock, maracas,  and, of course, the guitar and piano. We had a blast singing all twelve verses of The Twelve Days of Christmas and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. In the midst of it all, I couldn't help getting out my camera to try and document the moment. There we were, three adults and four young adults dancing around the living room, singing at the top of our lungs. If there ever was such a thing as Christmas magic, it was with us last night.

I realized something as the chords of O Holy Night echoed in my ears. This Christmas, when I thought about what would await me in my stocking, I wasn't nearly as satisfied as I was ten years ago. When I thought about all the stuff that came along with Christmas and my birthday soon afterwards, it seemed like nothing. In fact, it brought a kind of dread with it, thinking that for so many, that stuff was all they would get this Christmas.

But as I saw the look on my dog's face as we played our abstract instruments to the rhythm of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, I slid to the floor laughing, tears forming in the corner of my eyes and running down my face. Tears of joy, for this Christmas I wasn't getting stuff, I was getting this precious time with the people I loved most, and it was so much more important than fancy clothes and new electronics. 

Some are not as blessed, though. Some wake up Christmas morning without the smell of brewing coffee and the laughing to family members.Some wake up alone in a small apartment, heading straight to work because they couldn't afford to take the day off. It is for times like this that the real meaning of Christmas comes into play.

Two thousand years ago, God incarnate came into the world in the most humiliating way possible., born of a virgin and conceived by the Holy Spirit, but suspected by the public to be born out of sexual immorality. He was born into a stable with filthy, smelly animals, then laid in their feeding trough because no one could provide for Him a real bed. The King of everything, God incarnate, Jesus Christ the Messiah, was born into obscurity in the stench of cattle. He would live a perfect life, preaching the Gospel message, and eventually would be murdered on a torture instrument used for a common criminal.And then, miraculously, three days later, He rose, giving us the opportunity to become children of the Most High God. His life and death gave us the opportunity for new life in Him, a life not plagued by guilt and sin. 

To those whose Christmases will never as family-filled as mine, Jesus bore the burden for you, so now you can live a life free from guilt, knowing that all the evil you've committed is already paid for. This mindset is what makes Christmas at the Reid house so seemingly perfect. Yes, sometimes the cinnamon rolls get slightly browner than they should; sometimes we lash out at each other because of  all the stress building up; sometimes, I forget to get someone a Christmas present. And you know what? That's okay, because we Reids are new creations, living a life in Christ and for Christ. And when we mess up, we know that because of what Jesus did, those sins are not held against us. So we use this Christmas season, and hopefully every season, to communicate the miracle of God incarnate walking the earth as a man, tempted but never sinning, hated but never hating anyone, and dying but rising again so that we, mere sinners, may experience life, and life to the full. 

So the nights when we grab everything in the house that could possibly qualify as an instrument and sing at the top of our lungs, I believe that God Himself smiles down on us, because this little dance party in the Reid living room is a little, tiny piece of heaven brought down to earth. We're celebrating His gift and the new life He has given us, and one day, we'll all stand before His throne and worship Him forevermore. That is our joy this Christmas season and every other time of year, the mystery of this Baby born in a manger, living, dying, and rising for His creation so that they can be given new life and glorify Him.

Whether your Christmas is big or small, warm or cold, remember the Reason not only for the season, but for life itself. And God bless us, every one. 

when your best doesn't seem good enough

Friday, December 18, 2015

I got a B this week. And a C, and for me, that's not really that great. In fact, my family has a long history of expecting A's. We strive for excellence in everything we do, and this time around, it seems that I didn't measure up. It's not like I didn't study. I did, and maybe even a little too much. At the end of the day, though, I made a C, and a low one at that. I'm still not all that happy about it, but I know that it's things like this that make us press on and work harder. (If you're looking for a post that addresses why we should work hard in everything we do, check it out here.)

Frankly, this week, from Monday to Friday, has been nothing short of disastrous. Weeks like this come with a name, a name that carries so much disgust and hatred that I shudder as I type this: exam week. And with exam week came three emotional breakdowns, a thousand gallons of coffee, oily hair, and writer's block, all to my apparent demise.

Life only gets harder, Mary Shelley. My mom told me that this week, probably during emotional break down number one.

But how can it?

And now, I'm through with being overly dramatic, because the truth is that with God, there is always hope. And, like usual, He taught me something big this week, something I should have learned a long time ago.

A bad grade is not the end of the world.

While you sit there, staring at your chemistry test wondering how you could have gotten a seventy-six percent when you studied harder than you ever have before in your life, the world is still spinning at the same speed it was before you got your test. The clock hands are still valiantly turning clockwise, like they always do, and God is still there, loving you the same amount He did the minute before,  not even a smidgen less.

No matter whether this is a final or a midterm, life still goes on. I promise that unless God wants you to work at McDonald's your whole life, that is not your fate. Do you best, and do it for God's glory, and things will always turn out the way they're supposed to. It might not seem that way now, but I promise you, He promises you, that glorious joy awaits.

We all fail sometimes.

I mean, yeah, there's that one guy who seems to make one-hundreds on every paper he's ever written, and who thinks he failed his math test but then gets over one-hundred. But I bet if you ask that guy how many bad grades he has received over the years, he'd probably reply with something like, "Too many to count." Because that's how we tend to think of ourselves, and I don't think that is entirely unhealthy.

At some point we have to come to terms with ourselves and realize that in the long run, we're all equal, and without Jesus, we're all beyond hope. He made a sacrifice for us, though, one bigger than anyone in human history. If God can love me through a million times of rejecting Him and failing to see His grace for so long when I should have seen it right in front of me, He can love anybody through a C on their report card.

Do your best; it might sound cliche, but really, it's what God asks of us. Depend on Him to do your best, and when you excel, give Him the glory. It's harder than it sounds, but I promise that depending on God is the most freeing experience ever offered to mankind.

These numbers don't define you.

Hey, Christian, let me let you in on a little secret: God does not love you based on your performance.

We use the term unconditional a little too much, so I think its meaning has been lessened over the years. God's love is unconditional, and only He can truly personify that love.

I'm blessed to have Christian parents who depend on God to love me like He loves me. I have to admit, when I received my chemistry test back, the first thing I thought was what will my dad think? I backed myself into the corner of thinking that the percentage on my paper was something like a price tag: 76%, 0.76, 76 cents. God doesn't love you any less if you make a bad grade, and if your parents are striving to be like Him, neither do they. Let it go; you did your best, remember?

The truth is, after my mom gave me the usual, "You did your best; that's all you can do," I didn't really feel any better. I did do what I thought was my best, but it was only seventy-six percent worth it. When the kid across the room's best is an a hundred and four and yours is a seventy six, it's hard to feel good about yourself. "Letting it go" is just not possible on our own strength. We get down on ourselves; it's natural. You tell yourself that you'll never be good enough to get into that school, you'll never be the CEO of that company you've always dreamed of, that no one will ever read your books that you spent half your life on because they're just not good enough.

This mindset is absurd for a Christian, because God tells us, so many times that He will always love us no matter the circumstances. He will always forgive you, even when you think that He couldn't possibly forgive you anymore. Come, fall at the feet of Jesus and taste this sweet grace. It never disappoints, and neither does He.

This is what God says about you:

Isaiah 43:4 // You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you...
Jeremiah 6:16 // Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. 
Jeremiah 31:3 // I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Isaiah 1:18 // Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

So what? You made a seventy-six percent. That does not mean that you're only seventy six percent human, that you're only seventy-six percent loved, that you're only seventy-six percent worth it. As a born-again Christian, your worth does not come from somewhere within you; it comes from Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. God knew we could never measure up, so He provided a substitute to live out His law perfectly and to pay the price we owed. So next time you study harder than you ever have and get a less than glamorous grade, don't think for one moment that you're not worth it anymore. Jesus' worth has been transferred to you, so you will always be worth it.

I'm happy to announce that this afternoon, I took a much-needed three hour nap. Looking back on this week now, it wasn't that bad. Yeah, life only gets harder, but God is crazy about you, and He wants nothing more than for you to come to Him and depend on His grace for your everyday life. Life is hard, but God is always good.

May your Christmas season be filled with His love and grace, and may you never forget the Reason for the season. This Christmas will be one for the books; I can feel it.

You Are A-Okay // 3 Reasons to Rejoice in Trials

Saturday, December 5, 2015

I’m going to be honest: today hasn’t been the greatest day for me. In fact, it hasn’t been great at all. The bags under my eyes are realer than ever right now. I’m exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and I’ve got a million and one things to do.

Today is one of those days when you look into the mirror and feel inadequate and unwanted by everyone and everything. In times like these your emotions are pushed to the limit, and it seems that you don't have the energy to go on any longer.

I know we all have days like these. We're only human, after all. But we Christians have a whole lot of hope to hold onto. We can either sit in our sorrow and feel depleted and exhausted and inadequate, or we can look to God for our joy and our strength. He never disappoints, and for this reason I  would like to remind each of you today that as long as you have Jesus, you are a-okay.

Three Reasons You are Going to be Okay

As a little girl, my favorite, go-to phrase was "I'm okay, Daddy." I was accident prone (and still am), and after my many trips and falls, my dad would ask me, "Are you okay, Mary Shelley?" I would smile, nod, and give a confident, "Yes, I'm okay."  After a while, I wouldn't give my dad time to ask if I was okay. I would hop up from whatever tree root or obstacle I had happened to trip on and nearly shout, "I'm okay, Daddy." 

Then, it was my pride that let me say I was okay, even when I wasn't. Now, as a new creation, a born-again Christian, I have so many reasons that I can say that I'm okay. In fact, because of what Jesus has done, I am more than okay. And you are, too, Christian.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. God's power is made perfect in our weaknesses. 

The Apostle Paul writes these words in Second Corinthians 12:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul never tells the Corinthians what this "thorn in the flesh" is. And I think this is a good thing, because we can replace this phrase, thorn in the flesh, with whatever we happen to be going through to remind ourselves that God's grace is sufficient for us.

Are you struggling in school? Is one of your friends mad at you? Has a loved one recently passed? Are you going through relationship problems?

God's grace is sufficient, and He has put these problems in your life so you can realize this truth. These earthly problems are often so petty and insignificant when we step back and see the big picture. We must remember that "God would never permit evil if He could not bring good out of evil" (Thomas Watson). Whatever your thorn in the flesh happens to be, God can and will bring good out of it, and in the midst of this weakness, God's grace is more than sufficient. 

2. Every tear will be dried. 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4

Crying is awful. And if you're like me and tend to bottle up all your emotions, it's a real mess when you finally have to let them all out. Sometimes it's laughing, sometimes it's crying, and sometimes all it takes is a good run. But it never a pretty thing. I usually liken myself to Alice in Alice in Wonderland when she's stuck in that tiny room and it soon fills up with tears. That is by far the scariest part of that movie, and I imagine I look the same when I'm letting all my emotions out.

Psalm 56:8 tells us that God keeps track of all our sorrows and hold our tears in His bottle. I know sometimes it seems like no one cares, but if anyone does, it's God. God cares so much, too much for me to put into words. And He wants you to rejoice in His goodness and grace so that you are not sorrowful. "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning," (Psalm 30:5) and God is with you through the night, no matter how long it is. 

Someday, when all this mess is over, you will never again shed a tear or feel even one trace of sadness! And, oh, how glorious that day will be! Hold on, dear Christian.

3. None of this is for nothing.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

As dim as things look right now, I promise you that this trial will make you stronger, whatever it may be. Life is hard, but God is good, and He wants you to be "perfect and complete, lacking nothing." That perfection comes from Him and Him only, and God knows that. Rejoice in this trial, Christian, for it is times like these that bring you closer to your Maker. Each day you will learn to hold onto Him more and more, and even when you don't, He still holds onto you. How wonderful is that thought? 

A leader at my summer camp once said something like, "If all you have is Jesus, you are going to be more than okay." And he's right. Jesus is why those persecuted Christians all over the globe continue to hold on. He is so good and so worth it, and He never disappoints. Rest in that today.

"Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."
Hebrews 10:23