James, the Brother of Jesus

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote the New Testament book of James. It’s an incredible call of obedience written from a very humble voice. This fascinates me! When we contemplate the childhood of Jesus and James, we can very quickly realize that the book of James may be the most intimate reflection of our Savior. Out of all the books of the Bible, the author of this book knew more about Jesus than other writers. Sure, Jesus was tight with all his disciples, but no one else knew what Jesus looked like first thing in the morning when He rolled out of bed. No one shared family chores and other household responsibilities. No other author went to the same family reunion year after year, hearing the same story from Aunt Elizabeth… not that they had an Aunt Elizabeth, but you get my drift.

I am blessed by having two older brothers. Both of them I love tremendously, one of which I admire and wanted to emulate. There was a time in my life that I did everything my older brother did. He played an instrument, so I played that same instrument. He shopped at a particular store, so I shopped at that same store. He went to a certain college to study a particular subject, so I went to that same college and considered a subject very similar. This is the case for many siblings.

The other side of the spectrum are siblings who can’t stand being in the same room with one another. They’re always fighting over toys, attention, etc. They work hard to get the other in trouble. They make fun of one another. There’s little connection and there’s little desire to be like the other.

Which scenario is most likely the case between Jesus and James? We don’t know. But, in either case. These boys grew up with one another – either following or fighting. In either situation, you know your sibling intimately. You know their likes or their dislikes. You know what drives them, or what drives them crazy. You know how to lift them up or pull them down. You’ve fought over the bathroom in the morning, you’ve had late night conversations about the meaning of life, you’ve supported each other by going to one another’s sports games, you’ve ate at the same table for years.

Due to the sibling relationship between Jesus and James, we can conclude that James knew Jesus more intimately that any other disciple or New Testament writer. That certainly makes this book very appealing. If we want to know Jesus intimately, we need to read the entire book of the Bible, but a great place to start might be with his brother.

Trust Your Relationship with the Lord

A mother of four teenagers was speaking with me at church and mentioned how her daughter was struggling with knowing what God wanted her to do with her life. The teenager was asking her mother for advice and her mom responded, “What is God telling you to do?” The daughter than proceeded to tell her mom what she felt like she was being called to do. She then continued to talk about how that probably wasn’t what her mom thought was best, nor was it what she thought her mom probably believed the Lord wanted her to do. The mother quickly quieted her daughter by saying, “I trust the relationship you have with the Lord.”

The daughter was in shock. Her mom was okay with what she felt like the Lord was calling her to do. As the daughter continued to think about her mom’s comment, she realized how blessed she was to have such a supportive mom. Not because her mom supported her decision, but because her mom trusted the relationship she had with the Lord.

Lots of teens rely on their parents’ relationship with the Lord. Plenty of teens don’t even have a relationship with the Lord because they haven’t been given the opportunity to build a personal relationship with Him, or they haven’t taken the opportunity to establish that relationship because it’s been defined for them by their family, church or community.

NMI_2010_FashionYear_00755A-2-791x1024For as long as this teen daughter could remember, her mom had nurtured her relationship with the Lord.  Her mom regularly encouraged her to connect with the Lord, challenged her to grow in the Lord and most importantly provided an active example of what it looks like to have a relationship with God.  Her mom has an incredibly strong relationship with her maker, therefore, it was easy for her to teach and train her children to do the same.

As I reflected on this story, I thought to myself, “There probably isn’t anything more encouraging or powerful than your parent trusting the decisions you make because you reflect your relationship with God.” What a blessing to have a solid grip on reality because you have a firm grasp on your identity in the Lord.

I pray this for every Christian teen and their parent.

Cosmetic Consumerism

Play on nostalgia to gain purchase

The cosmetic industry has taken a step toward indulging our senses. Scientists are now actually creating cosmetics to tailor to your sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. This may seem like it’s always been the case, but in recent years, the industry has taken things a little further.

This is actually very delightful. As you put on your makeup, your senses are going to gauge more going on than just getting ready in the morning. Your foundation may spike a certain feeling of luxury. Your body wash may remind you of a particular spring moment that you never want to forget. The color of your lipstick might remind you of something in your grandmother’s house.

pexels-photo-354962 copyNostalgia and sensual connections are good and can provide a great opportunity to remember the beauty of the world in a way that is unique to you.  However, it can also provide an opportunity to empty your pocketbook if you aren’t careful. The cosmetic industry is hopeful of the later. They want to play on your nostalgia and your personal interpretation of the world to entice you to purchase more. Certainly, if a product does make you feel good, why not buy it?  That’s what society is convincing you, and well, we do that as well to a certain degree.

But, buyer beware. Take a moment to check in and ask yourself if the product is necessary, if it’s really worth it and if it really does what you think it does. Remind yourself of all the products you already have that are similar, or perform a similar function. Consider how the money you would spend on this one item could be used differently. You could set it aside for an item you’ve been saving for, you could spend it on someone you love or someone in need, or possibly spend the money on something more helpful to you. Perhaps it’s best to walk away from a purchase for a few moments or days and return only if your heart is really set on it.  That is a helpful habit that should be practiced anyway.

Try to recall what it is that is causing the nostalgia and create a new way to make that connection. If it’s a smell that reminds you of your Aunt, perhaps give her a call and ask if you can come over. If it’s a certain color that sparks a memory, wear a shirt you already have in that same color. If it’s the way the product feels on your skin, then allow yourself a little extra pampering this month.

When it comes to beauty, know that God created you unique and gorgeous. No one else sees the world the way you do and no one else has the same beautiful eyes, face, body, legs, torso, arms, nose, hair, etc. You are uniquely beautiful because you are uniquely loved. So, if you are going to partake in this new beauty trend, consider finding an item that reminds you of your own personal beauty as well as your creator. Find an eyeshadow that resembles the color of the ocean and reminds you of how mighty our Lord is. Look for a lotion that smells like the sweet flowers that God grows every Spring just to delight your senses. Discover a lip-gloss that reminds you of your favorite worship song because the name of the gloss speaks of heaven.

Your beauty is your own. How you enhance it is up to you. Chose to honor the Lord by not buying into your senses, but let your senses reveal your love for the Lord.

Organization Central

pexels-photo-670723 copyIt’s the New Year and I am feeling bombarded with the need to get my life organized. It’s time to declutter my house, set a schedule and tackle my “to do” list. Every store, magazine, blog and product seems to create a solution for how I can accomplish organization and balance in my life.

When you start digging into the barrage of information thrown at you, it’s easy to see that everything is telling you the same thing. niNe. magazine is guilty of this too: Keep what you like, Throw Away what can no longer be used, Donate or Recycle what you know longer want. The same goes with your schedule and “To Do” list: Keep what you like and wat to do, stop or don’t do what doesn’t benefit you and hand off tasks to other people that you don’t want anymore. This is a good approach, obviously, otherwise the ideas would have changed by now. That’s the problem though, we haven’t come up with anything new and every year, we all dig into the same routine: keep, throw out, pass along to someone else.

We always need to organize our lives after the holidays when we’ve received a ton of gifts and we’ve stuffed our schedules silly. But, what can we do to avoid this disheartening cycle? Perhaps, we need to consume less.

Now, it would be disrespectful and ridiculous to take all our presents back, but we can certainly change our mindset throughout the year. Rather than gather items all year long, perhaps we need to be more discerning about what we purchase and why. Instead of spending our money on things that just create more clutter, we need to spend our money on things that bring us joy or better yet, bring us the joy of the Lord. The Lord calls us to live a simple life.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” Living a simple life means not filling our space with unnecessary stuff. It means being at peace with our talents and what we’re able to do. To live simply means not to rush from one event to the next, but rather trust in the Lord and let Him guide you. Living simple means being responsible for what the Lord has called you to do and following through with your responsibility. It means relying on Him and making time with Him a priority. This means living life for Him and doing everything to honor Him. Yes, even doing your homework or washing the dishes can bring you and the Lord joy if you are doing your best and doing it unto Him.

To live simply means we aren’t trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” It means we aren’t seeking worldly possessions. We aren’t filling our time with unnecessary things just to feel busy. It means we aren’t finding or defining our worth through our possessions, our activities or our accomplishments. But, it also means that we aren’t supposed to live without. We are supposed to have a house, fashionable clothes, money, activities, talents, friends, food, etc. God has blessed us with all of this and He wants us to enjoy His blessings. We just don’t need to overindulge.

If we commit to living a simple life, then neither our closet nor our calendar will need to be decluttered. We won’t need to throw anything away because we will be utilizing everything we have for God’s glory. We won’t need to give used things to charity because we’ll be donating our unspent money and time to actually make a difference in someone’s life. It’s nice to donate our used stuff to those who are less fortunate, but there are other resources for them that could actually be more beneficial. If we spend time at the beginning of the year seeking God’s vision for our year, rather than sorting through the past, then we will be able to make incredible plans which will thrust us into a great year.

This is our organization challenge this year. Take every new moment, purchase, item and opportunity and give it to the Lord. What does He want you to do with it? Will it bless Him and you? If we can bring this process to our attention just once a day, overtime our intention will increase and we will have a very satisfying life. Soon, people will take note of how calm, balanced and organized your life is without having to go through the yearly “sort out” tradition.

Since we are following up the Christmas season when we do receive massive amounts of gifts, create a Christmas list. Then you will create a way to inform loved ones of your desires and you will receive things that you really want or need, therefore they will be used. Maintain your focus on what God wants you to have. You may be surprised by how much more He blesses you when your focus and intention is on Him rather than on stuff.

Take on this challenge and let the Lord delight you throughout the year, not just leading up to Christmas forcing you to decompress right after. This is another way to let His birth impact your life all the time, not just when we celebrate His coming.