Being a Christian: What Does That Look Like? – Guest Post

Being a Christian: What Does That Look Like? – Guest Post

Happy Monday, all!

Today’s post was written by my role model, counselor, fellow jokester, debater, and one of my very best friends: my brother Peyton.

I’m laughing here as I see him saying he’s not a good writer… because I’m of the absolute opposite opinion. Some of the things I love most about him are his hard honesty and unwavering devotion to the people and causes he loves. Here he displays those qualities perfectly.

Without further ado… here he is.:)

My name is Peyton Luehmann. I am Laurel’s younger brother and I will begin by warning you: I am not a blogger! I am actually not even a good author, so it was incredible that she let me do this.

I told her I would write an overview on what it means to be a Christian because that is, to me, the most important element of our lives. I find my purpose, identity, and fulfillment in the sacrifice made at Calvary, and feel that all Christians are called to that perspective. I have put this post together in the form of answers to the title.

It means that Christ becomes everything to us.

This is really the biggest point. The reality is that we are criminals convicted (by a just God) of infidelity and hostility towards Him, and that instead of having to bear the death penalty for sin (without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin) we are met with the news that someone has taken our penalty for us, and we can go free! What news indeed!

Now I pose the question: would not this person who took the penalty for us be deserving of some form of gratitude? The answer is absolutely. A perfect Being came as a real live human and suffered an unthinkable death to pay our fine. Such a Being would be more than deserving of simple “gratitude”! He would deserve our very lives.

Therefore, we come to a place of realization that we are forever indebted to this God, this Christ, this Holy Spirit. Our only just response can be the complete surrender of our will to His, the reverence-filled obedience to His instructions, and the act of losing ourselves in His love; this is a perfect and holy love, unparalleled by human feeling.

It means that we must lose sight of all trivial matters.

2 Timothy 2:4 says, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life. . .”. Our relationship with this world must become wary and untrusting; we must view the surrounding world as a net that threatens to entangle us. It is true that we were put here by our God, but in light of the fact that He is now all to us, we have no choice but to abandon our flesh and march after our King.

We are also told that all of mankind will hate us for our connection with Christ. Our journey will be that of despised outcasts if we are living in accordance with the instructions given us. But our home is in a better country; we have the promise of a perfect land where sin and death have no power. This world is simply a preparation for Eternity.

It means that we must become oblivious to the opinion of others in our pursuit of Christ.

This is one that I really wrestle with a lot. I read stories in the Bible (and elsewhere) of real people who, in their devotion to God, ignored what surrounding people might think in their obedience to perform His will. People like Noah, Abraham, Daniel, Mary, and countless others. Our culture today especially is constantly concerned with their reputation, other people’s perception of them, etc. It is all a disgusting swamp to me. We are letting our connections with the world (which should be completely severed at our union with Christ) hold us back from living delightfully all for Him. The concept of a mind freed from concern of status is a beautiful image to me, and one that I puzzle over constantly.

I hope that this gave you a renewed view of Christianity, and that you would either claim this unspeakable gift if you have not already done so, or that, if you have, what you just read would spur you on to a deeper, fuller, and more amazing relationship with Jesus. Again, this life is all about Him and the promise of what is to come. Keep living for Christ!

Stones and Souls – Flash Fiction

Stones and Souls – Flash Fiction

Rolling, plunging, falling, pounding… the roaring of the falls gave voice to the storm raging inside.

He stared at the white foam that billowed where the water hit the rocks. Veiled by mist though they were, they were there all the same… bare, silent, cold. They sat in helpless immobility, the rushing waters stripping them of life.

He felt a strange affinity.

Crouching, he let his fingers brush the thick and thriving moss that clung to a nearby boulder.

Perhaps someday…

Photo by Kyle Cesmat on Unsplash

I Hit 25,000 Words!!!

I Hit 25,000 Words!!!

Yes, yes, yes! My novel-in-progress is fleshing out… and it now weighs in at over 25,000 words/17+ chapters!!!

I can hardly believe it…

I should be bouncing off the walls, right? Yet somehow my brain remains in a state of dazed paralysis. Yes, I have written over 25,000 words… but I have at least another 25,000 to go. And then the editing stage. Oh, help. My little girl idea of “Yes, I’ll be a writer because I love to write and I see so many benefits to the writing life” has had a rather rude awakening. Actually forcing yourself to write when you don’t feel like it is part of this deal?

Haha… you dear ignorant little girl.:)

So… you might be wondering about this novel-in-progress. What it’s about, why I haven’t talked about it very much…

The reason I’ve kept (mostly) quiet about it recently is because I don’t plan to publish it in the near future. I want to write a novel or two and get some experience with the whole novel-writing process before I attempt to publish one. I don’t want to be talking about my novel all the time on here, making you think that I’m prepping for publication, only to remain unpublished for years.

But…

If you would like, I can share a little bit about this project… with the understanding that it definitely won’t be hitting the bookshelves anytime soon.:) If you’re interested in hearing about what’s been going on with my novel-in-progress, let me know… and I would love to share some juicy tidbits with you.:)

-Laurel

Straight from the Journal – Tough Gentle Love

Straight from the Journal – Tough Gentle Love

Hey, friends! Here’s an unedited taste of this week’s journaling.

For months the topic of Christian love and how I need to be living it out has been on my heart… and that’s what this entry is all about.:)

True love is to walk according to God’s commandments. “be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;” (1 Peter 3:8)

I want this tough gentle love for others, Lord.

of one mind – clear up misunderstandings, talk through things, don’t hold grudges, pray for understanding, argue to find the truth, not advance your own interests, fight to understand one another.

have compassion for one another – go out of your way to make someone’s load lighter, be sensitive to the feelings of others and act on what you see, speak in a way that induces others to be compassionate rather than judgemental.

love as brothers – strong, deep, committed love. Easy to understand, but hard to put into practice.

be tenderhearted – be sensitive and act on it, love others as you love yourself, be understanding and patient with the emotions of others, even if you don’t understand.

be courteous – look out for others the way you look out for yourself, consider how a decision will affect everyone before making it, ask for opinions, consider the feelings of others.

This indeed is tough gentle love, Lord. Help me to put it into practice in all of my relationships.

Eighteen – My Mid-Term Reflections

Eighteen – My Mid-Term Reflections

I’ve hit the half-way mark in my eighteenth year.

Did it meet my expectations?

Uh, no. Big no. My little-kid self assumed that when one turns eighteen, one magically becomes an adult, assumes adult responsibilities with ease, has everything figured out in life, and does big things.

Maybe that happens to everyone else… but it sure didn’t happen to me.

Looking back, I see that much of this slice of life was spent just trying to get the hang of life as a graduated adult with work instead of school, and a whole lot of things to figure out. I did a lot of journaling. And crying. And laughing. And praying. And thinking. And writing. And smiling. And farming. Lots of little things filled my life – and joy – to overflowing.

I had big plans to write my novel, take writing classes, and probably stop mixing feed for the cows on the family farm. (No offense, cows…) I wanted an orderly lifestyle with few or no complications. Ha.

Instead, I grew to love the crazy diversity that defines this season of my life. I fell mostly in love with my job on the farm and decided to keep it. I got to take on some babysitting. I didn’t take many writing classes. I didn’t make as much progress on my novel as I had naively planned. I got shoved into situations that stretched me…

But am I happy with how the last six months have panned out?

Absolutely.

They most certainly did not go according to my tidy, boring little plans. Oh, no. Instead, they gave me the opportunity to experience a huge, crazy mash-up of joy, pain, humor, irony, sacrifice, stumbling, disappointment, failure…

And fulfilment beyond my wildest dreams.

When God starts to change my plans, my first response is to wail, No, God. You don’t understand. This is how it’s supposed to go. Really.

To which He gently, but firmly, responds, Ah, but this is how it must go. Just wait and see… and soon you’ll know why.

I’m not at the end of my story, but I can already see some of the blessings that have come because God turned my plans upside down. I’m not holding so tightly to the security offered by things, plans, circumstances, or even people anymore. I’m not as scared of trying new things. I want Him more.

And I’m actually excited to hand Him the pen for these next six months – for the rest of my life – and to watch in breathless anticipation as He continues to write my story for me.

What are some things that you learned in your eighteenth year of life? Or are learning? Or wish to learn?

Photo credit: Jonna @thru.t.h.e.lens

God and Current Events – My Thoughts

God and Current Events – My Thoughts

If my emotions depended just on the news…

You probably don’t want to know.:)

But honestly… I think that no matter where a person stands on politics, coronavirus-related policies, etc., every single one of us has a fairly legitimate reason for being sickened/depressed/frustrated by the news. America just left an epic year of division and unrest in the dust… and by the looks of it, 2021 isn’t looking promising, either.

Honestly, I’m pretty frustrated.

I want my nation to be indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Most of all, I want America to be one nation under God… but she’s not. She’s broken and hurting and sinful, spitting in the face of the One who has been so patient with her.

This wasn’t my plan, God.

In the past year, the one truth keeping me at peace with what’s going on in our nation is this:

God retains complete control over everything.

When I find myself getting worked up about what’s happening, I come back to this and calm down. There is nothing else that brings me more peace than this fact – that the One who loves me more than I can fathom is the One with whom nothing is impossible. The One who has all of what I see as a mess ordered in His perfect will.

I wanted to remind you of this today… just in case life has you in the dumps. Come on out of there, friend. God’s got this. He’s working all things out for His glory and the good of those who love Him. Rest in Him. ❤

-Laurel

In Love – a Poem

In Love – a Poem

Happy Monday, all!

Please know that this story – this incredible love – is absolutely real, and extended to you. God loves you more than you can fathom.:)

How He can think

I’m

Lovely

Is a

Mystery to me.

That He would

Choose

This

Wobbly soul

To fight for

Him and

His

Seems like an act of…

What?

He knows I’m not

Enough.

He knows that I’m not

Strong.

He knows the

Winds

That pound this

Heart

Near steal its beat

Some days

And yet

He chooses me.

Seems like an act of…

What?

He feels each

Hurt

More deeply than

My own heart

Ever will.

He weeps

When

Self-love

Steals

My heart

And yet…

He wants me still.

Clothes catching on the

Brambles

That are tearing at His

Skin

He fights

For me

And takes me as

His own.

He stays.

This is an act of…

Love.

It leaves me

Breathless

Tearful and

Completely forever

In love.

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of December 2020

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets,  + Highlights of December 2020

The last day of December. The last day of 2020. Whoa. I’m going to fully enjoy the final hours of this historic year.:)

Highlights of the Month

  • Reading!!!
  • Christmas shopping as a family… or shopping with various fragments of family, climbing in and out of different vehicles and trying to hide certain things from certain people because, you know, Christmas secrets.
  • Walks – alone or with crazy sisters
  • Sneaking peeks and too many pics of gorgeous sunrises
  • Chatting with friends
  • Decorating my bullet journal
  • Writing about a spunky new character in my fantasy novel
  • Making crash potatoes
  • Christmas cookie creation time
  • Playing Balderdash with creative siblings
  • A journal-reading session with my brother

What I’ve Been Reading

Devotedly: the Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot – Valerie Elliot Shepard

Okay, I am loving this one! I’ve always appreciated the story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot’s relationship, so it’s been amazing to read more about it in this book. Also, it is crammed full of journals and letters – something that makes my heart happy.:)

Shadow of the Almighty – Elisabeth Elliot

Best. Biography. Ever. The end.

June Bug – Chris Fabry

It’s been awhile since a book kept me turning page after page way too late into the night (or early morning) but this book is doing that to me. It’s written so well… but due to certain things mentioned/implied in the book, I don’t recommend it for younger readers.

The Prodigal’s Sister – John Piper

This twist on the parable of the prodigal son is beautiful, poetic, and delightful to read.

Journal Snippets

Oh, God, put Your love in my heart. For my family. For my friends. For those I don’t want to call friends. For Your body. For the down-trodden. For those with whom I disagree. For You.

Oh, Lord, may I ever hear Your words, forsake the counsel of my own heart, and turn my eyes from idols, looking only to You. I don’t want to be “profitable for nothing”. (Jeremiah 13)

When I make my goals, Lord, let them not be according to the dictates of my own evil heart [Jeremiah reference], but according to Your pure plan.

I feel battered but sure of God’s goodness and hold on my life. I hurt. I don’t understand… but I trust. And that is enough. God leads me on day by day, faithfully.

Remember… life is not about you.

The biggest thing I see standing in my way is… a disenchantment with the Lover of my soul. Soul, love Him! Desire Him! Stir yourself up to answer His call. Break up your fallow ground – seek and serve Him in the mundane. Though mists of uncertainty veil the way, do something. Stay in shape so that when God throws you into a crisis, you will be fit for the task. Don’t waste a moment.

And there it is… the last post of 2020. What will this coming year bring?

I want to thank you for sticking with me and reading what’s on my heart… I am so blessed to have such amazing support. I hope that this year is simply wonderful for you… that God would bless you through the trials, be your joy in the mundane, and draw you ever closer to Himself in the coming year and each year to come.

-Laurel

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of the links I share in this post, I receive a small commission… at no extra cost to you.:)

The Liebster Award!!!

The Liebster Award!!!

I was recently nominated for The Liebster Award by Grace over at Don’t You Know I’m Singing! Thank you so much, Grace… I’m super excited about this one.

First of all, here are the rules:

  1. First, thank the person who nominated you, include a link to their blog, and add the Liebster Award badge to your blog and/or post.
  2. Next answer the eleven questions from the person who nominated you.
  3. Give eleven random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 fellow bloggers with less than 200 followers.
  5. Notify your nominees that you nominated them for the Liebster Award.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, ask your nominees eleven questions.

Okay… here we go! Here are my answers to Grace’s questions (which, by the way, were extremely thought-provoking!).

What is one line/verse from one song that you really love, and why?

You can’t know how torturous it is to have to pick only one… but here it is:

“I don’t need to recognize the man in the mirror – and I don’t wanna trade Your plan for something familiar – I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same, I wanna be different.” – from Different by Micah Tyler Begnaud and Kyle Lee

This line is from one of my current favorite songs… and it really reminds me of the importance of following and pursuing God when it means going beyond the status quo – or even standing out and looking weird or ridiculous to those around me. Ultimately, God’s opinion is the only one that matters.

What is a song you absolutely hate, and why?

Is this even possible? Haha… I don’t know if I absolutely hate any song… I’m not really familiar with any I strongly dislike.

What are your thoughts on politics, and a Christian’s role in that realm?

Ooh… do you have time for a three-hour discussion???

In a nutshell, I’m very passionate about politics. I am definitely in the conservative category, although I don’t tie myself down too much to specific parties or ideologies. My goal is to weigh each political issue against what I find in the Scriptures, and firmly take my stand based on that.

I believe that Christians are indeed headed to a heavenly country… but that in no way negates the reality and importance of our participation in the government of our earthly country! God desires that His people do justly (Micah 6:8), and I see involvement in politics and government as one way of living that out.

Who, aside from your parents, siblings, and relatives, has been a role model in your life, and how/why did they become a role model to you?

Jim Elliot is one of my role models… I received Shadow of the Almighty, his biography, for my sixteenth birthday, and I’ve been learning from him ever since. I love his fiery passion for the Lord, his honesty, and his complete surrender of his life to God. I don’t agree with the stance he took on everything, but I have learned so much from his legacy. His journals also inspired me to journal more frequently and passionately. I am definitely looking forward to meeting him one day!

Do you celebrate Christmas in your family? Why or why not?

Yes! We have always celebrated Christmas… so partially because of tradition. But I really love all the little things in celebrating the Christmas season that point me to God, His love for me, and the incredible story He has written. And the extra time with family is amazing.:)

What’s your favorite aspect of creation?

Another hard one… can I say every aspect??? To narrow it down, though, the complexity of the human body puts me in complete awe of God… and I really love a good sunrise.:)

If there was one talent you could magically have, what would it be?

Being able to clear up misunderstandings between people every single time. Life would be so much simpler if miscommunications were eliminated!

Do you have any allergies/dietary restrictions? And what are they?

To my knowledge, none whatsoever… I count myself blessed!

If you could time travel into the future or the past, which way would you go? Forwards or backwards?

Backwards, backwards… I’m a history buff.

What movie/book character have you read/watched whose personality seemed to be exactly the same as yours, and who was the opposite?

Hmm… this is another hard one. I feel like I can identify with basically any character in one way or another, but I’ve always sympathized with Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – although now I’m more like her personality after she passed the tomboy stage.:) We both love writing, words, acting, and debates, have strong opinions (although she was much more vocal about them than I am) and love our families like crazy.

I can’t think of any characters who seem to be the opposite of me… I guess I never really thought about that!

What are your personal boundaries on what you can/shouldn’t watch or listen to in the area of entertainment as a Christian?

The apostle Paul’s words “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” comes to mind when I think about this topic. I don’t necessarily have a list of “dos and don’ts” when it comes to entertainment. My desire is to glorify God with the way that I live, and to have my focus on Him and His will for me. So if something I’m reading/watching/listening to is pulling me away from Him or blurring my vision, that’s a good sign that I shouldn’t keep reading/watching/listening, even if the entertainment itself isn’t inherently sinful. If the entertainment is inherently sinful, then that’s a definite no for me.

11 random facts about myself

  1. I love strong coffee.
  2. I passed out for the first and only time after watching the 2020 VP debate. (No, the two events were unrelated… but wouldn’t that have been exciting?)
  3. I am a firstborn and love it. POWER!!! Haha… that’s not the only reason I love it.:)
  4. I’ve never gotten stitches.
  5. I’m not a big fan of animals… but I do like worms. Go figure.
  6. I’ve only finished writing one long-ish story – a six chapter historical fiction piece. I wrote it as a tween, and it was awful.
  7. I love Romans 12:1-2.
  8. My favorite short story is “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. One of the sweetest Christmas stories ever!
  9. I used to be terrified of operating any piece of equipment larger than a dishwasher. Now I drive tractors and skid loaders for my job!
  10. I love fairy lights.
  11. Dickens is one of my favorite authors.

And I am going to nominate…

Brianna Harpel

JadeSky

Thomas

Abigail Rehmert

Makayla

And my questions for my nominees:

  1. How did you choose the name for your blog?
  2. If you could work any job for one week, what job would it be, and why?
  3. What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from blogging?
  4. What does your ideal weekend look like?
  5. Do you set goals for the New Year?
  6. What is the best book (aside from the Bible) that you’ve read, and why do you think so?
  7. What was the best thing that happened to you in 2020?
  8. Which historical figure do you most admire, and why?
  9. Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?
  10. If you knew that today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it?
  11. What is your favorite Bible verse, and why?

If you made it this far, good job and thank you.:) Would you like to answer any of these questions? Please do so in the comments!

Christmas Reflections… Am I Playing Herod?

Christmas Reflections… Am I Playing Herod?

A few days ago I was reading the Christmas story to my littlest sister… a story I’ve heard a thousand times over. Sadly, being so familiar with it sometimes hardens my perception of its wonder. But a new thought hit me as I read to her the part about Herod.

Am I being Herod?

You’re probably thinking, What an terrible thing to say. But hear me out. Herod was the king of Judea… and very comfortable in his position of authority. Even though Jesus was a baby, and destined to save His people in a far different way than anyone imagined, Herod saw Him as a serious threat to his authority.

When Jesus comes into our lives, He poses a very serious threat to our position of authority. It’s His nature ’cause He’s, well, God. Completely deserving of all authority.

So how do we respond to this? Do we accept His rule in our lives? Or do we follow Herod’s example and try to retain our own authority?

Obviously, our desperation to remain king of our own lives is manifested in a far different way than Herod’s was. We fight for our rights in tiny, subtle ways… and therein lies the danger.

Choice by choice, thought by thought, little deed by little deed, we cling to our authority in rebellion. Somehow we think that we’re wiser than God. That His ways are not the best ways… ours are.

We’re wrong, of course. But still we fight Him.

How foolish.

First of all, as Christians, we have been bought at a price. We belong to the Lord – we’ve given our lives to Him, and we have no right to take them back.

Second of all, it’s unreasonable. Romans 11:36 and 12:1 state, … of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Surrendering all that we are to God’s all-deserving authority is the only reasonable thing to do. Think about it – why wouldn’t we surrender our lives to the all-knowing, perfect God of love?

How can we look at history and see the way God has beautifully woven it together and not trust Him with the story of our own lives? How can we look at Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection – the ultimate proof of God’s love – and not trust that God will rule our lives in the most loving and perfect way possible?

Seriously… how?

Let’s not be fools. Let’s not be like Herod and resist the authority of the Lord. Let’s surrender everything we are to God this Christmas season… and every day until eternity.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash