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Called Out

Then Jesus told his disciples, "if anymore would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16: 24-25 ESV).

These words have hit me on an entirely new level recently. I've been questioning all the choices that lay in front of me and trying to discern God's voice within all of it. I mean there's a lot of things to think about during one 24 hour stretch. Wake up, hit snooze, check the time, run through the mental list of "to do's" and rise with anticipation for another great, or hopefully good day. Or maybe anticipation isn't your word of choice. How does "rise with exhaustion" sound? "Rise with dread"? Am I getting any closer? I have to admit, I've faced a lot of those dreadful mornings in the past few months too. Thanking God for all the sunshine as of late. Sun just makes everything better doesn't it?

If you're anything like me you have been counting down the days to when spring would finally decide to stick around. I love watching the days get longer and the neighborhood come to life again. Flowers blooming, birds chirping, bbq smoke filling the air, green grass growing, families walking and children playing. I truly love all of it!

The spring to me is the time where God calls us out of hiding, out of the dark and in to the light. And for many this past winter probably felt darker than others. I know it did for me. I remember back in February telling my mom that I felt like the plant in our kitchen was my spirit plant. "Not thriving, but doing the bare minimum to stay alive." This plant was losing leaves faster than it was growing, and I often forgot to water it. When I said "bare minimum" I wasn't kidding. Plant update, it is now growing at a rapid rate. It didn't give up. And neither did I.

Now you might be wondering how this relates to that passage in Matthew. In all honesty I wasn't entirely sure where this blog would travel. I never anticipate where any of my writing will go. I just open my computer, start typing, and pray that the spirit will lead me where I need to go. And sure enough it comes together, word after word, God always exceeds my expectations.

I recently told my faith community that I'm done putting expectations on anything. Not on my job, my relationships, my finances, my future, or anything else in between. Rather, God has been teaching me that I must rise with anticipation again. Anticipation for God to exceed any expectation that I could ever make. The wildest thing is, God already has.

As soon as I stopped focusing on my "to do's" in the morning, I began seeing what has already been done. And sure enough God continues to unfold a plan bigger than any expectation I could have placed or plan I could have made.

This past winter season was one of the hardest ones I've ever faced. Read any of the last few blogs and you will get a little glimpse of that. You will see some of the pain and suffering I've faced, but you will also see a steadfast love pushing me through. Not only pushing, but calling me out. Calling me out of my head, out of the darkness, out of my own way. A wise friend spoke those words to me sometime last year. He said "get out of your own way," and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Man was he on to something. And God is on to something too. Something so much bigger than any human mind can fabricate.

Isn't that where most of our biggest struggles lie though? Inside the fabrications of our minds? Trapped in the dark? Running wild all over our unarmored soil? But that's also where Jesus does the most work. When we make the choice to take up our cross and follow Him we begin plowing through that dead soil, marking it with a new story, with a new light.

Without Jesus, dread becomes normal. And when we get trapped in the dread, in darkness, we begin grasping for control. We begin thinking that we can change the narrative inside out minds with something external, and we get trapped in a desperate cycle. Grasping at straws, gasping for air, drowning in the dark. It can be exhausting to live each day this way, but thankfully we don't have to. Jesus is calling us out! I used to wonder how so many people miss His call? Now I understand it's because His call goes against our natural human instinct. His call goes against our self-centered, me-mindset world because His call is aimed at our deepest needs. The world aims at the surface, but Jesus aims at our soul.

Then Jesus told his disciples, "if anymore would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16: 24-25 ESV).

All winter long I've been praying the words, "less of me, more of you Lord," over and over again. And this spring I've begun waking with anticipation again. Now I'm calling you to start praying these words too. I'm calling you out because Jesus has been calling us out for years. It's time we start changing the narrative. Yes, the choice is ours, but ultimately the plan is His.

Less of me, more of you Lord. Less external, this world needs something eternal.

Kerstan Cooper

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