Re-Discovering the Awe

My 7-year-old daughter has this thing for toy unwrap videos. In case you’re wondering, toy unwrap videos are where people unpackage toys on YouTube while providing commentary throughout the process. (Confession: Sometimes, it is strangely satisfying to watch.) A few months back my wife and I noticed a shift in her behavior. Multiple times a day she would ask for various toys. More than usual it was, “Daddy will you get me this? Can I have one of those? Hey, I want that!” I know kids love toys, but this was uncharacteristic of her. After some conversation and investigation, we noticed her fascination with these videos and thus, traced her change in behavior back to these clips.

Then, in an unexpected way, God began to use this scenario to deal with me, graciously chastising me for the many things that compete for the affections of my own heart.

Photo by:  J. Diego

Photo by: J. Diego

I became more aware of how this horizontal world can consume us. It could be a new job, a promotion, a fresh, new pair of kicks, or, perhaps it’s an unhealthy relationship, money, porn, revenge, etc. When our love is not aligned vertically, we chase after the horizontal. We aim to fill our affections with the objects of our obsession.

We seem so easily compelled to settle for a very human “second best,” when what God offers us is so much more. The temptation being to exchange the Creator’s glory for something created.

It’s in our nature to conform to the likeness of what we behold. In time, we come to care for the thing(s) we give our time, energy and attention to. Like a combustion engine, we have the capacity to fuel our tastes and motivations for life.

For Israel, God miraculously delivered them from Egypt. After which, He instructed them to craft a temple worthy of His glory (Exodus 24-31). Moments and chapters later (Exodus 32), God’s chosen people are crafting a golden idol, a god of their own making, to worship while Moses talks to God on the mountain.

Like this moment, our entire human dilemma comes down to one thing: worship.

As John Piper once said, “Missions exist because worship does not.” As creatures with sin in our DNA, we are not inclined to pursue God, only to seek self-satisfaction until we eventually destroy ourselves. Sin leads to death (Romans 6:23). This is the disease of the human heart.

But our hearts are made to worship, not things, but God. I challenge you to study the lives of those around you. Look closely and you will find everyone serving and loving something. Our worship is good, the things we worship, not so much. But only the one true God is worthy of being worshiped. Only God can absorb our praise. And in this, He uses it to turn our affections towards Him. It is His goodness that draws us to repentance (Romans 2:4). This captivation found in our creator has a name. We call it awe­­ - a complete and total captivation, an amazed wonder at the brilliance of who God is.

Worship begins with discovering the awe.

For the Christian, our daily pursuit is to re-discover the awe, where once again we revel in the majesty of our beautiful savior.

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
— Romans 11:34-36

God has made us so that our affections will flow to and through Him. He wants to epitomize our worship. Since He made us to worship, our primary end is to uplift Him in our lives.

When God is not the ultimate aim of our affection, a problem arises. When He fails to imbue the fullness of our desires, our joy is short-lived. And so, as a human race, we find ourselves unhappy, chasing things, when all along it was God calling at our desires bidding us to come and find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).  

But think about it…only an eternal being (God) can handle the human heart’s deep yearning for joy and satisfaction. It’s only when our desires are set upon Him that we are truly satisfied. In Him, our contentment is certain, since only God can manage what He made - our hearts.

Do you see? Outside of God’s grace, when we steward the human heart, we destroy it. God completes it.

Application to the Believer & the Artist

Worship is equally central to the creative life. To be a creator is to share an element of the beauty we’ve beheld - to tell its story. When that most awe-inspiring thing or person is God, the creative works to translate these aspects of His revealed greatness through their gifts for His infinite glory.

This response (to God’s revealed glory) is what we call worship.

In other words, worship is our adoring response to the revealed glory of God.

When we behold the Creator, our hearts long to share the transcendence we experience. We long to capture these elements of the sublime and put them in front of the viewer as if to say, “Come look what I’ve found. Come see the glory and majesty of what I’ve discovered.”

Look around and you will quickly discover how God has crafted the world to reflect His greatness (Romans 1).

Is it any wonder that when we gaze upon God’s beauty, we long to do the same - reflect His greatness?

The same goes for what we craft with our hands. We want it to reflect the beauty we’ve beheld in what we make.

Look circumspect and take note, whether you’re a custodian or a craftsman, an artist or a homemaker, a coach or a designer, a thinker, a teacher, a dad or an entrepreneur, your first priority is to worship our great and glorious King.

 

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Stewarding Grace

We are constantly trying to make sense of the world around us. Our lives are a journey of discovery. “Who am I?” is a question we’re consistently asking and this leaves us searching for our identity wherever it might be found.

When we stop and think about it we find that circumstances are perfect for us to adopt our gifts as our identity and to forget that we did nothing to merit them. But the gifts we’ve received are what God has called us to use to serve Him and to serve one another, not tell us who we are. 1 Peter 4 tells us they are a reflection of God’s multi- faceted grace. When we steward our gifts we are stewarding grace.

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As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
— 1 Peter 4:10 & 11

Because it’s so hard to determine sometimes where our gifts end and we begin it’s intensely personal to offer our gifts back to the One who entrusted them to us, as if to say, “These gifts are not my identity. My identity is found in You alone. You are the One who gives me value and worth. Therefore the grace I’ve receive is the grace I’ll extend with everything I have, with every gift You’ve given.”

Here are some signs that you’ve surrendered your gifts to the Gift-giver:

1. You’re happy for the success of others in your area of giftedness.

In other words, the success of others doesn’t intimidate you. It’s understandable to feel a tinge of frustration when you see people move ahead and you seem to be standing still, but reminding yourself Who you’re doing this for should realign your heart to the One who graciously gave you the gift in the first place.

2. You don’t dwell on past mistakes.

God has already seen where you’d fall short and He called you anyway. You have to give Him your failures and trust Him with them. He is the redeemer of every lost opportunity and every missed chance if we will let Him be.

3. You can surrender your idea of what using your gift means.

Our culture paints a very specific picture of what using our talents is supposed to look like and it has snuck it’s way into the church. Do you trust God enough to let Him lead you down whatever path He chooses, whether it looks like what you envisioned or not? We sometimes put a ceiling on how far God can take us because we think it needs to look a certain way.

4. You steward your gift faithfully no matter what.

Whether you’re having an opportunity to use your gift publicly or not, if God gave it to you He is telling you to steward it. You steward that gift for Him because He is ultimately the One you serve.

5. Jesus is enough.

If everything changed tomorrow and by the world’s standards you had amazing success, if God asked you to, would you leave it all behind because Jesus is enough? If you were called to disciple the people on the stage rather than be on the stage yourself would you do it because Jesus is enough? If God asked you to use your gift in a place where no one would ever know your name would you do it because Jesus is enough?

If you have a gift, use your gift. Walk it out in the fullest expression possible. God will make up where you lack because He’s to One who is glorified, even in our weakness. ALL the glory belongs to Him. He invites us to be partakers in that glory but not for one second are we intended to try to take it for ourselves. When we find ourselves deceived into thinking this might all be about us, the Holy Spirit mercifully reveals that no amount of achievement or notoriety will bring the kind of satisfaction that offering our gifts back to God could ever bring.

The satisfaction we all long for is found in the Gift-giver, not the gift itself.

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
— Psalm 145:16
 

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Partnership: The Joshua Blueprint

Over the past 6 months or so, God has been re-prioritizing some things for We Are The Vigilant. We’ve been in contact with our community, sharing the heart behind where God is directing us. Now, we want to share more of the story with you and anyone that would listen, really.

In short, We are the Vigilant exists to connect Kingdom-minded creatives who want to reach a hurting world with their unique resources.

We believe that as creatives, God has equipped us to give what we can. This means that even if we don’t have the dollars we can still offer our time and our talents to those who don’t have access to the opportunities we often take for granted.

We also feel strongly that as creatives, it is incumbent upon us to use our creativity to help people see things in new and challenging ways. We’ve been asking God to open our eyes so that we can, in turn, use creative means to help other people see. Calling ourselves “vigilant” is really a statement of faith. We’re asking God to help us stay awake and aware of what’s going on around us. 

One of the ways we intend to do this is by highlighting people and ministries who embody what it means to use their unique resources (or talents) to reach a hurting world.

Joshua Blueprint is the ministry of Ray and S’ambrosia Wasike.

I (Casey) met Sam in college. We were a part of the same campus ministry. While I was the worship leader for our group, I constantly made her play instruments she wasn’t all too comfortable with, like drums, for instance. Granted, as a leader I had no idea what I was doing, but she was willing to try whatever crazy thing I asked her to do and I loved her for it.

Me & Sam - edited.jpg

Sam and I would get together regularly to pray for our campus and anything else the Lord might lay on our hearts. She was a leader even when she didn’t know she was leading. Her heart for the Father and willingness to be vulnerable in order to show people Jesus are two of the most beautiful things about her and they feed her creativity in incredibly moving and meaningful ways.

Although I’ve never met her husband, Sam would only marry someone who is as in love with Jesus and creative as she is. Ray is from Kenya and from our brief interaction over the phone and Sam’s blog I feel like I know him already. 

Next week Sam is going to be sharing more about the heart of Joshua Blueprint. But please feel free to check out their website and GoFundMe.

For the whole month of October we’ll be highlighting their ministry and discussing some of our biblical convictions about the direction God is leading us. We hope that you’ll come along!

 

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Just to Inspire You

Not every moment of life is reeling with inspiration, but I live for the moments that lift me up. 

I wanted to share this with you...just to inspire you. Just to remind you that there's a gift in you that the world needs. 

I wanted to remind you that it's ok to make or share something simply because it's beautiful.

As a maker, a creator, or curator of created things, when you choose to create, you're furthering God's creation. When you respond to the call to create, you're maintaining in God's work to "fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28).

All that God has made is true, good, and beautiful and you have the honor of participating in it.

So, just in case you needed a reminder of how awe-inspiring God really is, look up, because it's all around you. 

Soak in the inspiration and share it as often as you can. 

It's the Little Choices

Little choices. I know that noticeable change comes with the little choices. 

Nothing big. Just keep going. Keep working. Do the little things and do them well. Even if it takes months or years. 

Because I will forget and you’ll forget, even if it’s just for a moment or a season of busyness. There are times where life will feel consumed with routine. Go to the park. Go to the store. Go to church. Go, go, go. 

Then one day while I’m getting the girls breakfast and sitting down for a moment of respite, I wonder if I’ve left something out. And all the dreams that were at one time so fresh, come flooding back – God-ordained, God-breathed. And, no matter how much my reasoning or the Enemy might try to convince me otherwise, it is not too late.

I have crossed the “thirties threshold”. But I feel like I’m just getting started. I still have something to say. Or maybe, it’s that I feel like there’s something God wants to say through me.

In the midst of struggling with anxiety and some incredibly dark moments over the past year, I’ve remembered a few things: one of the realities that seems to be more prevalent than ever before is that my time here is limited. In fact, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus that we need to be redeeming what time we have, and I intend to do just that. But first, I want to acknowledge a few time wasters that I know we are all susceptible to.

 

1. I don’t have time for insecurity.

What other people think about me (or what I imagine other people are thinking about me) cannot be the deciding factor regarding the things I love to do and am passionate about. 

2. I don’t have time to be consumed with “how."

We can get so distracted with how things are going to happen that it completely paralyzes us from doing anything at all. Instead, I have to take little steps of obedience. Write the blog, the song, the email. Doing something small to move you forward is better than doing nothing at all. Before you know it, you’ll be doing things you never thought possible. 

3. I don’t have time for comparison.

I can learn from other people’s journey. But mine is not going to look like theirs. And theirs won’t look like mine.  

4. I don’t have time for “pet sins." 

You know, the ones that we don’t think are a big deal. The little white lies, talking down to family, or choosing time on social media before time with God. Whatever it may be, it may not look like much at the time, but it’s sabotaging my effectiveness, and yours.  

5. I don’t have time to do things just because everyone else is.

The things that keep many of us bound to mediocrity often times present themselves in culturally acceptable packages with built-in excuses. 

 

As you’ve been reading this list you’ve probably thought of a few time-wasters yourself. Hold them up to the light of God’s Word and listen to the Spirit of God inside you.

What is He saying? How should you move forward? 

Well, let me share with you how I’m moving forward. 

There have been so many songs written that are sitting in notebooks and on random pieces of paper around my house. A couple years ago, (has it really been that long?!) a few friends and I shared some of those songs outside a coffee shop on a hot summer evening when I was about 6 months pregnant. It was a dream come true. A sweaty, uncomfortable dream come true. 

But I want those songs to last for more than just a moment. I want them to last beyond me. Because I don’t believe they are just for me. Even if they are for one other person, aren’t they worth sharing? Aren’t they worth the vulnerability that comes with creating?

A few months ago, I recorded my first song although, I wrote it close to 10 years ago. TEN years. 

So to you I say, never, never give up.

If it sticks with you, it’s for a reason. Maybe it’s not for the reason you might think. God has a purpose for that thing He’s placed in your heart, so give it back to Him. Yes, you have to take the steps. You have to move forward. But He will bring it full circle. Just because your dream may seem dormant does not mean it’s dead.

Abraham’s Song, in a way, walks hand-in-hand with this theme. God promised Abraham a son. But not just a son, He promised to make him a great nation. God was going to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that Abraham could ask or think. But then, He asked Abraham to give it all up and take his promised son up a mountain to be sacrificed. And Abraham complied, knowing that God would somehow provide. 

It seems like a contradiction. Why would God fulfill a promise only to ask Abraham to give it up? Was He being cruel? Nope. Not even close. God was foreshadowing the sacrifice of His own Son but He was also asking Abraham to obey beyond natural inclination. To lay everything down, simply because He asked. 

And so it is with our callings. We think, “God wouldn’t ask me to do that!” 

If what you believe God has called you to do is an idol, meaning you’ve prioritized it above Him, He absolutely would, and He is. He desires the obedience that is born out of unwavering trust for us more than anything He’s promised. Because from this place of trust He can do ANYTHING. He can do things that reach far beyond us into history, into eternity. 

This song was written from that perspective of unwavering trust. And I think it’s appropriate that it’s the first I’m sharing with you all. 

You can download Abraham’s song for free [[here]] (but also feel free to leave me a fat tip. Or not, whatevs.)

 

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Dear Self

Dear Self

Now you’re in it.

You've set a plan into play and you’re watching it grow.

Maybe it’s just a trickle for now, but it’s been enough to peak your interest.

It’s enough to determine that what you’ve began you should at least continue.

This is just a plug, a nod, a nudge to tell you to keep going.

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7 Ways to Ensure You Don't Self-Destruct

Have you ever shared something you’ve labored over for a long time? 

I mean, have you ever really extended yourself to show the fruits of your labor in a way that’s almost uncomfortable? 

For several months now, I’ve been working on a side project, and now, it’s finally ready.

Let’s talk for a second. 

So, you exposed your ideas to the entire world, but have you ever had a conversation with yourself that went something like:

“Okay, time to write this paper!”

You sit down to write the paper…nothing. Crickets. The thought train has derailed and the memory bank is closed. 

 

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Why Creativity Matters So Much

Why Creativity Matters So Much

Student: “You don’t want me to draw that.”

Professor: “Oh, really? Why’s that?”

Student: “Because I don’t know how.”

Professor: “Art isn’t about learning to draw, it’s about learning to see.”

 

I had a college professor share these words with me once, and now, I’m sharing with you.

Because art, or more appropriately creativity, is not about learning to draw, it’s about learning to see.

 

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The Gift of Failing Forward

The Gift of Failing Forward

Failure is the greatest educator I know.

Nothing sticks or stands out as much as missing the mark. Wins in life are good. But, for me, as an achiever, it’s not long after a high mark that I start looking for another moment to conquer.

Failure, however, reveals ways that I’ve missed the mark. It gives me a chance to get better.

 

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Take the Risk

Take the Risk

Here is something that scares me...when people don’t understand.

People won’t always understand our actions.

Why did I do that? Why did I say that? Why did I write that?

It’s seriously frightening. Hands sweating as I type these words, frightening.

There’s a risk we take when we put it all out there.

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