Mercy

 

We live in a merciless society.

That’s never been more evident in our world today. That’s not to say that we should excuse wrongdoing, but it’s pretty fair to assert that our lives and personal interactions could use a healthier dose of mercy (and grace). A little less than a year ago, I heard Mercy somewhere (probably Pandora), and since then, I’ve been listening to and pondering the words almost non-stop. Maybe the unusual tune drew me in at first, but what really made me stop and listen was the utter truth and power behind the words. The truth that the Lord’s been impressing on my heart through this song keeps resonating within me each day as heart-wrenching events around the world unfold without signs of stopping. I truly hope and pray that sharing all that God’s been showing me about His character, who He is as a merciful Father, and how to both graciously receive His mercy and show His mercy to others blesses you as much as it has blessed me.

My past embraced, my sin forgiven
I’m blameless in Your sight, my history rewritten

I could repeat this first part of the song over and over and over (and I have!). These four phrases overwhelm me in the best way. For starters, how awesome is it that God embraces our pasts? It seems like the simplest thing, but He doesn’t just accept them, He embraces them. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, embrace means “to accept something willingly and enthusiastically.” When we come to life in Christ, He embraces it all – our pasts, presents, and futures. It’s not begrudgingly, or out of obligation; He’s enthusiastic about us becoming His! He joyfully accepts our pasts as part of our journeys of growth, rather than disregarding them as something shameful to sweep under the rug. That action of lovingly embracing all that I am blows me away. It comforts me like that warm, fuzzy feeling one gets from running into a parent’s wide open arms when coming home to know that God sees all of me, and that no matter what, it doesn’t change how much He just wants me as His. Continue reading

Best Thing I Ever Learned From: Driving

I thought I’d do another quick Best Thing I Ever Learned From… edition, this time focused on driving. In the upcoming year, I’ll finally have to renew my license after six years (three yays for a new license picture…), which got me thinking about driving.

When I first learned how to drive, my excitement quickly gave way to nervousness. At first, I didn’t understand why people loved it so much. There’s a new sense of freedom, sure, but reversing and not hitting anything? Parallel parking? How about all the rules of the road? And the highway? Forget it. How was I supposed to remember it all? After one afternoon of driving practice with my dad, I remember parking in our driveway and with a frustrated huff, saying something along the lines of, “How do people do it? Driving is so hard! I can’t even reverse correctly – the car doesn’t go where I want it to go!”

I’ll forever remember this next part clear as day. My dad reached over from the passenger seat, held the steering wheel, and then turned to me and said, “Layo, you see this wheel? The car goes wherever you turn it. If you turn it right, it’ll go right. If you turn it left, it’ll go left.” For one, that was some pretty memorable advice for my reversing game (I’m a pro now). But more than that, those became some practical words of encouragement for me to remember at various times down the line in my life. And they’re words that I know will come in handy for 2017. Most people have goals they’d like to achieve for each new year; and most end up shucking those goals to the wayside by the time January comes to a close, due to distractions, procrastination, or hardship. But how much more successful we’d be with our goals if we remembered my dad’s poignant words! Continue reading

Hair & The Art of Letting Go

When I was younger, I used to be really attached to my hair. Not in a crazy obsessive way, but whenever I’d get trims, I may or may not have shed some tears (but let’s be honest, when the hairdresser says “I’ll give you a trim,” we all know they really mean “haircut”!). Since those days, my hair has radically transformed in so many ways, as has my attitude toward it. I’ve been on a “natural hair” kick for over three years now, and with the sometimes tedious wash days (yes… wash days), it’s been one of the best lessons in patience and perseverance I’ve had. But recently, it has also been a great teacher on the art of letting go.

About a month and a half ago, I stared in the mirror at my head of hair and huffed in annoyance. It was incredibly tangled, super dry, difficult to style, and always looked slightly matted to my eyes (thanks, dryness). I wasn’t sure what was going on… should I deep condition longer? Did I need to keep trying different hair moisturizers? I was frustrated – hair products are expensive, and nothing out of the multiple ones I had tried seemed to be working.

So I did a little research. Continue reading

Identity

This morning, I read a blog post written by an undergrad who’d been accused of plagiarism by her professor. She wrote on the obstacles she faces as a first-generation college student and U.S. citizen, and how superiors in her field of academia don’t expect her to be capable of achieving above and beyond the many accomplishments she’d already worked incredibly hard for. They assume she isn’t smart enough to grasp complex ideas, or to write scholarly and engagingly enough for her class assignments. This is, of course, a systemic problem with deep roots. But what struck me the most about her post was the fact that she felt “invalidated.”

How many of us have ever doubted “ourselves, our abilities, and our aspirations” based on other people’s opinions, as she did? I would guess that the number would include all of us. It is so ridiculously easy to let other voices infiltrate our emotions and influence our thought processes. We hear opinions from all sides, all the time: from friends, co-workers, employers, family, peers, society, media, and perhaps from what could be worst of all – ourselves. We allow the resulting doubt to fester in our minds until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We wonder, Wait… can I really do that? Am I really that capable? Do I really have that talent? Is this really what I’m supposed to do? Continue reading

Love v. Knowledge

“Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.”

I read this quote by John Wesley a few days ago, and admittedly, the first thing I thought was: Hm, so in that case, love is 16 times the worth of knowledge. (I chuckled to myself then… I have no shame in my love for science-y jokes). But aside from its technicalities, it struck me deeper than that as I thought a bit more on showing love versus showing knowledge. It’s interesting to me how Wesley equates a ton of knowledge with being “swallowed up” — is he saying that growing in knowledge suffocates us? Now, clearly he’s not speaking on necessary academic knowledge or common sense needed to succeed at daily ambitions. I really get the sense that he means the type of knowledge that leads to unsavory pride.

Have you ever met a person who has to be right above everything? No matter what, the person will not accept that sometimes, the most important thing is to lovingly listen, rather than to be right. For a lot of situations in life, people will not be swayed by knowledge. It’s love that really turns the tide. In Proverbs 13:10, it says, “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Okay, let’s be honest here. It is incredibly difficult to take advice – the unsolicited kind. But friends, I have to say that even my stubbornness quickly fades when I’m offered advice that comes from a place of love, rather than a place of prideful knowledge. It’s here where I realize that this quote works both ways: if I try to relate with someone on a know-it-all level, like Proverbs says, it’ll cause strife. And in the same way, if I retort with an I’ve-got-all-the-necessary-knowledge-I-need-to-know-on-this-topic kind of attitude (with a side of some rolled eyes, for effect) to family or friends who’ve been building me up in love, it’d be safe to say that those conversations may not end on the best note. I think of times when I’ve felt that I had to be right in certain situations, and truthfully, is IS a feeling of being swallowed up! It’s so easy to get sucked into a vicious cycle of proving that you’re right no matter what the other person responds with. These are the times when “an ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.”

When just a little bit of gracious love will calm quarrels.

When just a smidgen of love will help engage family and friends in meaningful conversations rather than push them away.

When just a helping of love will expose sincerity and tear down barriers dividing two sides.

Love versus knowledge. Which is greater? Which is better?

And yet I will show you the most excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31b)