Hosanna! {Now and Forevermore}

palm branches

He came as predicted. (Matthew 21:4-5)

And still they did not see. For their hopes were not set high enough. Wrapped tightly in political bondage, they were simply asking for a new leader. One to overthrow the Romans.

So when they shouted “Hosanna,” they were taking it literally. “Save us now.” Now. From the Romans. Not from forever. Not the world. Just us from the now.

But God knew.

God saw their need. And He promised to fulfill it.

Through Jesus.

Friends, Jesus took ‘Hosanna’ to a whole new level.

I’m sharing more about it this over at my 2nd home: 5 Minutes for Faith. Won’t you join me? Simply click on the button below!

The time is coming…Can you feel it?I hope to see you over there so I can hear how you are preparing…

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Lent on Purpose {and The Mystery of Grace}

GRACE

Have you ever tried to explain grace to a 5 year-old?

Has a five year-old ever taught you a thing or two about grace?

Have you ever considered if grace could exist without love?

These are some things I’m pondering over at 5 Minutes for Faith today as I contemplate this Lenten season. I’d love to have you join in the conversation. Simply click the button below!

 

And friends, I still haven’t forgotten this place and my utter desire to update all of you. Thank you for your patience as I try to find my new groove and figure out where blogging (and the time it takes) fits. I am determined to make room somewhere…soon.

For now, will you join me over at 5 Minutes for Faith? I’d love to see you there…

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

When Christ is In You {Who Am I, Anyway?}

Lenten Journey

Lent wasn’t what I expected. And yet, it was everything I had hoped. For He met me in my darkest state and didn’t look away. Then He proved what He’s capable of…for He took loving me ’till death do us part to a whole new level.

Wow, does He love me. And my goodness, does He ever pursue me.

There was one night in particular. Shortly after Lent began. I went to bed too late, utterly exhausted…still I couldn’t sleep.

Friend, do you ever get that desperate, parched feeling? Just a dire need to read The Word? I hope you say no for the only good reason–you get your fill every day. And that was the thing. I had been in The Word every day. More than normal, in fact. And yet, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling. I have no idea how to describe the urgency I felt…but, friends, I HAD to read James.

I snuck out of bed and I told God (I’m so embarrassed at how many times I say that…) I did, I told God I would read the first chapter only and the rest tomorrow when my mind wasn’t hazy. I promised Him at the first crack of light, I’d read the entire Book. Oh, and I gave Him the obvious reasons–so I could hear Him better and apply it deeper. Yada, yada…

Some day, friends, some day I’ll learn this lesson He repeatedly tries to teach me: I don’t know better…ever.

You have figured this out already, but still I can’t believe how hard the Book of James hit me. How much I needed those words. Right then. I was sobbing by the end of the first chapter. And there was no stopping me. I had to go on. Twice.

For the remainder of Lent, the Book of James showed up and walked me through. Friends, I can’t even make this stuff up. I would find it in a blog post here, in a tweet there. Twice it was the Bible verse chosen for my Sunday School class to memorize. It was also in the very books I was reading. James was everywhere.

Because of God…Because God…He knew better.

A great portion of Lent for me was spent in self-reflection. And this year was different from last. For last year, I couldn’t get beyond my own sin and unworthiness. This year, I was desperate to figure out who I really am for Him. What I can be. do. live. I know I’m His child, but which one? Where’s my place?

Would you believe I found every answer I was looking for in James? It took me weeks of reading it daily. Over and over. It took flat-on-my-face prayer time to soften this heart of mine and hear what He had for me.

I’m still trying to figure out how and what to share. And I’m not even done learning, that I know. But we’ve gone this far together, friends. I have to share a bit of it with you. Do you mind just one example now?

Holey Wholly Holy -- LIFE

It’s been an excuse of mine for decades. And I struggle with this in my own parenting, trying hard not to do the same for my son. For He deserves what God has to offer, not me. And friends, God never puts us in a box. Ever. We’re too valuable for that. So who am I to say what my son is capable of…

Still, I’ve convinced myself what I’m capable of. I’ve labeled my own limitations and have accepted my place low in the ranks of God’s army. What’s worse…I’ve been okay with this for quite a while.

Then I read this:

Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!
James 5:17

To think…Elijah. The one we hear about as a child in Sunday School and stand in awe at the very thought of him. He was just like me: Fully human. Fully His.

Who am I to say what God will or won’t do through me, friends? Who am I to think “Fully His” isn’t enough?

That part alone took me days to sort through. Then, He hit me with this:

Who am I to think my time isn’t best spent in prayer?

Elijah…just a guy…prayed earnestly. He asked God to show up with His power. Not with Elijah-power. No. He fully believed God showing up would be enough to prove who reigns. And God did. In rain. Show up.

Who am I to think God won’t show up and use me or use me up for His glory?

Friends, I can tell you now. This Lent, God showed up. What’s even more mind-boggling is He simply showed up for me. Just me. Not to impress an audience or give me something blog-worthy to share. No. He was focused on me.

Who am I to not love Him back like that? Fully His…

I catch myself now, looking in the mirror, asking myself the same question: Who am I? And I answer it with ease:

I’m fully His. And I know enough to believe that’s more than enough for Him. For He knows better…

This is the last post of my Lenten series using Holey, Wholly, Holy by Kris Camealy as a guide. You may check out the entire series HERE.

Friend, if you need to talk about refinement more, please email me at simplystriving (at) gmail (dot) com.

NOTE: If you have not read this book, I highly recommend you click HERE.

How about you, friend? How did God show up for you this Lent? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

The Cost of Much Forgiveness {Fed Up With Flat Faith}

drift-wood-Courtesy of Greg Abel Photography

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown Me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 7:47-48

This “sinful woman” had no right…who was she to invade on such a respected home and its elders. Yet nothing could stop her from loving on Him. All else faded into the backdrop. It might as well have been just the two of them.

“She did not care what her actions looked like to others.
Her love for Jesus made that inconsequential.”
~Kathy Howard, Fed Up With Flat Faith

I’ve fallen that hard before. I remember the very moment I fell flat for my now-husband and made the conscious choice to stay smitten. How I could tune out everything in the room but him–when I could calm down the pounding of my own heart that is. I’d often have to remind myself to simply breathe…

Yes, I want that. Again. With Jesus…my First Love.

Friends, I want to be able to drown out this world and focus on the Home I’ll have with Him… I want to recall the nicest thing He’s ever done for me…and hear His voice saying, “Father, forgive her…she didn’t know…”

I want to gasp for air at the very thought of Him.

“We must remember. We must go back to the beginning of our salvation, contemplate our sin, and once again consider Christ’s saving act for us. Then we must not forget.”
~Kathy Howard, Fed Up With Flat Faith

The tearful woman in Luke…the one who drowned her sorrows right on the very feet of her Savior. The one who didn’t let the expectations of this world stop her from pursuing Him. The one who didn’t deserve a response from Him let alone a pardon.

That woman…who gave all, shed all, bore all, confessed all… The one who held no position of authority or decent resumé…I aspire to be her. She got it. And because of it, she got Him.

I’ve been reading this book lately, Fed Up With Flat Faith by Kathy Howard, and I have to tell you, friends, the author–she gets me. Some of you might know my One Word I chose for this year. I haven’t talked about it much, as I couldn’t wrap my mind around how I was going to achieve it yet, but now I see I don’t have to…this book covers it all.

“No substitute will ever permanently  quench our spiritual longing for God. Only an intimate, passionate relationship with our Creator can fully and completely fill us up to overflowing.”
~Kathy Howard, Fed Up With Flat Faith

  • You see, I want to live out a vibrant relationship, not practice religion.
  • Forget less of me and more of Him, I want NONE of me and ALL of Him.
  • I want Him to use me or use me up for His glory.
  • I don’t want to watch what He’s doing, I want to be involved in it.
  • Temporal activities overwhelm, I want to focus on eternal matters.
  • I don’t need more once-in-a-lifetime memories. I want moments that impact eternity.
  • I don’t want to read the Bible, I want to absorb it.

Which are exactly some of the things Kathy talks about on pages 40, 55, 64, 81, 90, 97, and 104.

“Jesus willingly gave His life so we could be forgiven, but we hesitate to give ours to Him. If we have truly received forgiveness of our sin through the blood of Christ, then how can we have any response other than surrender to Him?”
~Kathy Howard, Fed Up With Flat Faith

Friends, when I started reading this book, I desired to be this woman in Luke Kathy talks about a couple chapters in. Now that I finished the book, I realize…I am that woman.

For my sins are many. I don’t deserve a second glance let alone a pardon. And yet…my First Love proved otherwise.

I’m starting to see how my word “Radiate” could look on me, friends. I invite you to stick around and join me on the journey.

And by the way– this book, Fed Up With Flat Faith by Kathy Howard, I recommend.

How about you? Are you fed up with flat faith? How do you remember what He’s done for you? How do you pursue Him? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: I jumped on the chance to get this book for free when offered in exchange of a review of some kind. But please know, this post above comes straight from my own heart. No coercion necessary.

When Pain’s Worth It {Beyond the Cross}

FOG09- Courtesey of Greg Abel Photography

“A great many times in our Christian life we will endure hard times.
Those times are always a preparation for the next thing. The unseen.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

She slides the charm on her necklace just like I do…when I’m tugging for more room to breathe. Her eyes focus on my left shoulder and I want to hug her for making it that far. After one last gulp she releases the confession weighing heavy on her chest and she was right…it’s a big one.

One might think it’s not a big deal and a part of me wonders if she’s hoping I will slather on the salve of complacency. But she deserves more than that. For I know one gust of life will remove it all and leave her skin cracked underneath. What I long for most is to hold her and have a good cry. Simply because I know she’ll need it later.

After asking the obvious “Are you sure you never have?” I lovingly ask her the hard question I know has been keeping her up at night.

“Are you ready for refinement–to go through something hard? Is your heart prepared enough to ask for it? Because you could, friend…you could ask Him for those growing pains…”

That’s the thing. In this upside down Kingdom of Grace, the growing love affair often hurts. Cupid’s arrow does not make your heart flutter–it penetrates leaving you forever changed. And you soon realize this lover’s road is not paved in gold. No.

You have to
cross many
lashes, thorns,
nails and hammers,
vinegar stained lips and downright bloodshed…
You have to stare death down and face the very
murder in your heart
to get wrapped
in His warm,
eternal embrace.

“This journey through Lent is a journey that doesn’t end at the cross. No!
This journey ends at the empty tomb…in the victory of grace for sinners and
redemption for those who believe.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

And she mentions the what ifs we all fear. The ones that affect more than ourselves and possibly include an unbearable trial–even a death. As if dealing with one death isn’t enough. Surely she can’t ask for that kind of hard journey. Can’t she just ask for your everyday, basic trial? For even those are hard to come by in her near 3 decades…

“How can we serve and love and reflect Christ
when we begin and end with ourselves?”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

I search her green eyes and wait for the light within to calm before I whisper what she already knows. For only He does…only He…only. And I remind her what waits on the other side. How glory holds no constriction of time and what we see as important now is confined to the present…these temporal joys–they seem to pull us away from eternal glory.

Holey Wholly Holy -- Glory

We read the words of Jesus’ brother. For surely he knows what he’s talking about. And she makes note right then that it’s the most important thing he wanted his loved ones to know…for it’s the first thing he wrote in his Letter…

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4

I then confess how, last Lent, I had to ask for the hard. I had to pray that prayer. And there were brief moments when I regretted it. Because. It. Hurt. This year, I didn’t ask. I was expecting a road worn down smooth from the scars only to realize those had merely scratched the surface…

“The call to refinement for the Christian is not about making us look better,
it’s about us reflecting Christ better.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

She starts naming the scars of trial she’s seen on me. And as she’s listing, I see it…what James was trying to share. I grab both of her hands as I proclaim it for me more than her:

It’s true! Joy can be found during faith-building. I’m living proof.

In this upside down Kingdom of Grace, the love affair often hurts. Cupid’s arrow pierces through Christ, then you, leaving you forever changed. And you soon realize this lover’s road is paved in hard-won glory.

And when you
get there,
He wraps you
in His warm,
loving embrace
adorning your garments of salvation with
an eternal robe of holy righteousness…
For beyond shame
and pride,
beyond death,
humbleness
is found
Grace
is accepted
Joy
is obtained
Glory
is revealed.

We let it sink in, praying it takes root as we stand there in the comfort of silence. Our eyes meet and we hug tight, knowing it’s only the beginning. And as I work my way home, walking around the puddles of thawing snow, I can’t help but smile as the street light’s reflection glitters my path…

Father, I’m but a shadow…but thank You…Thank You for letting me dance in Your Light…

This is a part of my Lenten series using Holey, Wholly, Holy by Kris Camealy as a guide. You may check out the entire series HERE. I’ll be back next Wednesday to finish up the series.

If you do not have this book yet, Kris is giving away FREE PDF COPIES HERE for just a few more days! Or you may purchase a kindle or hard copy (highly recommend) HERE.

How about you, friend? Have you discovered the joy found in refinement? How has your faith grown this Lenten season? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: This story was told with permission. Her name was withheld out of love. But if you think of it, please pray for her…for her painful, refining journey has begun…

Jesus Loves Us Where We’re At {And How I Want to Love Him Back}

Agape

There are some things the English language can not explain thoroughly. John 21 is one of them for no matter which English translation you read, you don’t get the full story.

It’s the only passage I can think of where the word LOVE does not do justice.

You know the one–where Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves Him. Three times (Read HERE).

But the story changed for me when I read the original Greek (and by that, I mean a commentary which explained it to me*). You see there are a few levels of love. This portion of scripture uses two, and it’s what makes the story applicable to you and I.

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Jesus used the form of agapao (agape) love. The selfless, sacrificial kind of love. The same kind of love we find here:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Peter responded that yes, he did love Him, in the phileo sense. The friendly, brotherly kind of love. Which, at first glance, I get because let’s face it — I don’t hear too many men confessing love for each other — a radical kind of love at that.

So Jesus asked again. Giving him a second chance…

A part of me thinks Peter was simply being honest with where he was at the time. For he had failed Jesus. He had shown doubt. He had proof he hadn’t given his all — the way agapao love requires.

But Jesus…in grace-like fashion…steps down to the level we’re Peter’s at. And accepts us him where he is as He asks Peter a third time:

“Peter, do you phileo love me?”

Jesus didn’t belittle him like He could have. He didn’t scold him for failing.

Still it hurt Peter. Maybe because it was the truth. I’m expecting he felt guilty. I feel like I get Peter, so I’d even be willing to bet there was a bit of pride blocking the way of him fully surrendering.

This is where love takes hold as Jesus reminds Peter of where he’s been and where he’s going. He showed Peter he had agapao love in him –he displayed it as a child. And He prophesied Peter would achieve it once again, even in his own death. (READ HERE).

Friends, a part of me wonders if Jesus was asking one of His closest friends — would he do the same thing Jesus was planning on doing for him?…and Peter couldn’t, at the time, say he would.

I get Peter. I really do.

Yet that didn’t stop Jesus…from loving him us that way. In agapao form–sacrificial. selfless. relentless love.

I adore how Jesus encouraged Peter by showing he is capable of such love. For, friends, it’s how God’s designed us.

This is the very kind of love we’re made of.

For he chose us in Him before the creation of the world
to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
Ephesians 1:4

God’s been revealing this Lent what’s been standing in my way of giving agapao love. He’s been peeling back layers of pride, self-doubt and guilt I’ve been harboring for years. And I’m guessing soon, in Peter-like fashion, I’ll be ready to do something about it. In fact, I’ve already begun taking steps the way Jesus suggested in this very passage:

“Then feed my lambs…take care of my sheep…follow Me”

Okay, Jesus. You’ve got a deal. You keep working on me and I’ll keep sharing about You. I’ll feed Your sheep with my story. I’ll stretch myself to help those who need it. I’ll search for the lost ones and show them the way as I follow You Home.

Because, Jesus, I love You, too. I really do. I just need Your help of taking away everything in me that doesn’t.

This song is my Lenten prayer.

Father, burn away the ropes that bind until only agapao love remains… (Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen in).

Only Love Remains

by JJ Heller

How about you, friend? Do you relate to Peter? Do you agapao love Jesus? How do you show it? How do you feed/take care of His sheep? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

* I wish I remembered which commentary I read this out of years ago so I could give them credit. I can not find it, but do have a book on my bookshelf that talks about this portion of scripture really well: Deeper into the Word New Testament by Keri Wyatt Kent (pg 116-118) found HERE.  (I’m not an affiliate)

All or Nothing {Living With Him in Our Scope}

Holey wholly holy

This portion of Kris’ book won’t leave me. I’ve spent weeks trying to figure out why.

When God kindly asks us to set down our bundle of wants, it’s not likely that we refuse Him outright. Rather, we’re often very good at pretending to submit while grabbing for the goods when we think He’s not looking…we live as if we can operate outside the scope of His vision. The truth is, He doesn’t just want our bag of dreams and longings. His desire is for us to be wholly His that He might make us holy for Him.
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

In typical Nikki fashion, I attempted to determine what was bothering me on my own, trying not to make it worse by “pestering Him” with it. For the record: this NEVER works. Ever. It wasn’t until I prayed about it that things started to unfold.

We’re going through the Book of Mark on Monday nights, all nestled cozy in an apartment living room, the 9 of us. It was already an hour into the discussion and still we were on these verses. You know the ones–the greatest commandments. The instruction to love Him, heart/body, mind, soul and strength. And then do the same to others, including yourself.

This sounds doable until you realize He’s talking agape love –the selfless kind of love, and not phileo–the friendly kind of love. And when I consider the scope of what He is asking for: My heart/body, mind, soul, strength…

Wow, friends. He wants ALL of me…a complete, loving surrender.

She got to the conclusion before the rest of us. On how this might or might never be achieved. And I do plan on sharing more about it in another post. But this is the most important lesson I’ve taken from it:

I’ve said it countless times, but it’s worth repeating:

Friends, God would never ask anything from us
He hasn’t already given to us.

And Jesus gave it all.
His heart/body, soul, mind, strength.
A complete, loving surrender.

Gazing upon the cross we find our own place in this story…We see that we are not mere spectators in His suffering and death, but in fact are the cause of it.
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

He did all that…for me. He had to do it because of me, but friends, He exhibited that kind of love for me. for you. Oh how He loves us.

The nine of us, we decided it might be easier to love Him back like that if we focused on how He loves us like that. Because, when you think about it, the reason I can love is because He first loved me. For He IS…love.

Chasing dreams, following the rules, doing the work–this distracted me from pursuing Him, and then I flat forgot exactly who He is.
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

So maybe if I use my mind to learn, discover His characteristics. His character. His mannerisms, my heart would naturally follow. Maybe if I treat my body like the gift it is, a gift from Him. Maybe if I use all my efforts, my strengths, on seeking Him out, my thoughts will naturally be consumed by the very hint of Him.

Maybe then will I achieve it. Live it. Experience agape love the way He wants us to.

Because let’s face it. He wouldn’t ask us to love Him with all heart, mind, soul, and strength if He hadn’t loved us that way first.

If I focus on how He loves me,
I won’t want to live outside of His scope of vision.
If I focus on living the way I shared earlier
like He’s in the room
with Him in my scope of vision,
I might actually see His desire
for me to be wholly His transform into being holy for Him.

I tell my 4 year-old all the time: “These rules are for your benefit.” And I’m starting to see…our Heavenly Father feels the same way.

NOTE: This is a part of my Lenten series based on my experience through Lent last year and my reading Holey, Wholly, Holy by Kris Camealy this year. You may check out the entire series HERE. I’ll be back next Wednesday. Please read through the “By His Strength” portion of this book as we will talk about Atonement.

If you do not have this book yet, Kris is giving away FREE PDF COPIES HERE for a limited time! Or you may purchase a kindle or hard copy (highly recommend) HERE.

How about you, friend? Have you figured out how to love Him with all your heart/body, mind, soul, and strength? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki