it’s not christmas yet

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(Cartoon is purely for humor. Please don’t slap people when they mention Christmas.)

It’s not Christmas.

You probably know this, but I thought I’d just remind the rest of America, because they seem to be confused right now.

Just the other day, I was walking through Walmart, when I saw Christmas lights and trees, ornaments and tinsel, Christmas cards and tree toppers everywhere.

Then, JC Penny informed me via email that it was time to start stuffing my (imaginary) children’s stockings.

And next thing I know, I’m listening to an advertisement for the Christmas Radio on Pandora.

One girl told me the other day that it would be amazing to have Christmas for six months. I would die. I would crawl under the tree and cry.

It would be the official Nightmare of Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong… I love Christmas just as much as the next person. White lights on the tree, extended and close family everywhere, stuffed stockings, the nativity scenes, the carols, Christmas Eve church, the smell of gingerbread, etc. I’m a Christmas-enthusiast.

The day after Thanksgiving, it’s time to deck the halls and have a Micheal Buble Christmas concert.

Even if we are singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” in 75-degree Mississippi.

But I do NOT want Christmas for a whole three months, a whole one-fourth of my year, a whole 92 days.

Why?

Because there is a season and time for everything.

“O every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There is a season for everything, and once we indulge too much in a good thing, it loses it’s specialness. I don’t want to miss out on the specialness of Christmas.

In order to fully embrace the goodness of the seasons we must enjoy them at the proper time.

It’s also said like this:

“Lord, let us be focused on the least, a people balancing a fasting with the feast.”

(The focusing on the least part is SUPER important, but that’s another thing for another post.)

Do you feel good after you eat five cookies? Probably not. Do you feel satisfied when you work straight for nine days, non-stop? I’m guessing you don’t. Do you want to dress up in a formal gown every morning when you wake up? I know I don’t.

Cookies are yummy. Work is satisfying. Formal gowns are fun.

But when we over-do these great things, they lose their luster.

Humanity seems to think that joy only awaits us in the feast, but there is so much to bask in during the fast.

The fast is a time of pruning. It’s the part where we grow.

The fast is when we learn more about ourselves and about God.

The fast is where God is faithful, even when the days seem dull.

The fast is when the mundane routines are comforting, calling us to practical service.

The fast is when we experience God in our day-to-day lives, growing closer to Him with every desperate prayer and plea.

The fast is just as intimate as the feast.

We can’t enjoy the fast without the feast, and we can’t enjoy the feast without the fast.

So, to America, and other eager Christmasers, thank you for your enthusiasm. I really do love it! I love a soul that’s ready to celebrate our Jesus coming to redeem us.

I also am super excited to celebrate Christ’s birth with the rest of the world.

But I am also very content in this season of fasting.

And I invite you also not to miss the magic of the fasting.

Or you just might miss out on the feast.

In Him,

Mary Madeline

“harsh” love

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My time in the Word has been so fruitful lately. God has really answered my prayers with understanding of His Word that often seems too much like a scholarly article and a workout for my brain. Recently, He has given me insight into verses, and I better understanding of so many aspects of the Bible. There has been a specific discovery that has really spoken to me, and I thought it would be good to share. I pray that this enriches your time in His Word also!

One of the challenges that I have always faced when reading some parts of the Bible is that at times it seems so…. well…. harsh.

I’m sure you’ve felt the same way. We often skip over the parts we don’t like or understand.

But today, we are going to read a few of them: the parts we like and the parts we don’t like.

And I hope after reading this, you can have the boldness and wisdom to understand those verses that never seemed loving or likable before.

“The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness” – Psalm 10:15

“But because of your stubborn and your unrepentant hearts, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” – Romans 2:5

“Then they will call to me, and I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated the knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.” – Proverbs 1:31

“For, as I often have told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.” – Philippians 3:19-20

Now, some of you might be like “Umm… God is just doing justice here.”

And you are right. He is. He is punishing the wicked for their sins.

But as for me, I think, “Man… what about the wicked? I mean, I was the wicked once. Don’t they get shown love also?”

And the answer is yes.

They are being shown love right then and there; we just can’t seem to grasp that most of the time. Our brains think:

punishment = hatred

destruction = hatred

letting them eat the fruit of their ways = hatred

And we must get out of this mindset; it’s causing us to view God as a “hater” and not our one true lover.

Because He is being loving towards the wicked in this situation.

And this is how:

#1) He is warning them.

God must show justice. He is a just God, and sin deserves punishment.

But God isn’t threatening them—threats come from a place of insecurity and hatred. No, God is warning them. Warning from a place of love, in hopes that they will change their actions.

This is like when you were small and your mom yelled at you “Don’t you touch that oven young lady/man! It will BURN you!”

She loves you too much to let you burn yourself, so she harshly warned you. She knew you wouldn’t listen otherwise.

God is warning the sinful that “the wages of sin is death.” He is telling them, “Hey, listen up! You better watch out. This life is not fruitful! This is not how children of the light live. The life you live leads to destruction! Actually, it’s going to kill you if you don’t turn to Me.”

#2) He punishes them. 

But sometimes you don’t get the message with the “Young lady/man” yelling, even after twenty sessions of scream-warning.

And so your mom lets you touch the stove.

God is does the same thing. After a while, He lets the wicked touch the stove. He is showing them they the way they are choosing is not the way of life. It’s death. Sometimes we must experience our failures just to know that we were wrong in the first place. God recognizes that, and He lets us suffer so that we turn to Him. He lets us “be filled with the fruit of our schemes” in hopes that we will turn from them.

God’s warnings and punishment come from a place of deep love. They come from a place rooted in wisdom and compassion: He is begging the wicked to turn to Him, but their faith is weak, so sometimes they must see for themselves that the fruit of their labor is rotten.

Love comes in so many forms.

So next time you read when God is rebuking the wicked and such, relish in it.

I know, it sounds weird to me too. Relish in punishment or sin? But yes, please do. It shows that we have a God who cares. He cares enough to show us that our way is not the way we really want. We are relishing a God that loves them so much that he lets us them touch stove in hopes that they will see their ways and turn to Him who offers more life than they can imagine.

Know that God knows what He says in the Bible and He means it. If at times things don’t seem to line up with the characteristics of God, realize that you need to ask for wisdom, and He will grant you a new understanding. Look at the context. Talk to a friend about it. Pray about it. Wrestle with it. We will find Him when we seek Him with all of our hearts (Jer. 29:13). Don’t ever stop searching for the love of God in the Bible—it’s in every word, even those that seem so harsh.

So, if you leave this page with anything, just know that He is faithful when we ask for understanding of the Bible and that He is who He says He is. He is love. I asked for understanding, and He has slowly been giving it to me, and piece by piece, I am discovering more of His unconditional love.

In Him,

Mary Madeline

dear me

ravens

“Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.” – Luke 12:24, The Message

In three days, I will pack up my joyful, sun-filled, relaxing summer, and head to senior year at RNHS (Residential Nerd High School, duh).

And I am SUPER excited…. but I am also nervous.

Let me tell you why:

I have this thing that I do… and you might do it too.

It’s like, when things aren’t going the way I plan, I get upset. When there’s scheduled a meeting at 4:00 for Future Physician’s of America, but swim practice is at 4:30, and it’s already 4:12:37, yet the speaker isn’t there yet, my day has crashed and burn right then and there. Or say that I ran out of stay-in conditioner (#curlyhairprobs), and I JUST went to the store yesterday, only to find out I that I don’t even have time to pee today, much less run to the store, so frizzy hair will be my crown for the next six days. Or that the quiz I studied 2.78 hours for returns to me with a 46, and I’m like that’s out of 50, right? (Wrong.) In these moments, I just want to scream “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE WORLD WHY NOT MY WAY AGHHHH!?” (If that makes sense…)

Yeah, basically I just get stressed out often.

And so, with the up coming year, I want that to change. I want to be the Mary Madeline that trusts her time is in Jesus’s hands. I want to be the MM that spends more time praying than worrying. I want to care more about how I am serving God and my neighbor than how I am serving my GPA.

So, in the spirit of preparation, I have decided to write my future college-application-writing, work-service-doing, Campus-Crusade-running self a letter to read during those moments where I am trying to choose between pulling my hair out or sobbing into my pillow. And maybe you’ll find it a good idea to write the future (fill-in-your-name) a letter for those moments too.


Dearest Stressed-Out Mary Madeline,

Firstly, I need you to take a big, deep yoga breath.

That’s right, fill those lungs up with O2, baby. And let that CO2 go.

And again.

There you go, that’s better. Breathe.

What is that I hear? Oh, yeah. That’s your blood pressure and forehead wrinkles thanking me.

Right now, the world is not turning the way you desire. There are 241 things packed into one 24-hour period when you only have room for 103 things plus four hours of sleep.

Or maybe the ACT is tomorrow and heaven knows that four #2 pencils and six erasers will never be enough for all the bubbles and mistakes.

Or perhaps your dorm room looks like Dorothy’s twister just came through, and you are wishing it would come back and take you to Not In Kansas Anymore because anything would be better than this physics test tomorrow.

I’ve been there. I know that feeling.

But let me make a suggestion:

Maybe an FPA meeting isn’t worth valuable time in prayer.

It could be possible that instead of the extra 30 minutes of cram-study-review, you need 30 minutes of Jesus.

God could be whispering that your plan for today isn’t as good as His.

It’s even probable that right now, in giving in to all this madness, you are missing out on His opportunity to love someone else today.

So let go. Unclench your fist from the control.

Because you are holding on to nothing but air, darling.

Don’t buy into the Enemy’s lie. Jesus pays little attention to the events scribbled into your planner. He is looking for the time spent with Him and serving Him.

He does not measure us by the commitment to our club meetings.

His love isn’t dependent on the ACT score on your college application.

Your Jesus doesn’t care if your hair is a mop or a spitting image of Taylor Swift curls.

Don’t sacrifice great communion with Him for adultery with the world.

Because your strivings are not enough, and they won’t ever be.

You were made to live in a thriving romance with a loving God, but you have a choice to either join God in your purpose of communion or to reject a day at the beach for making mud pies of your plans.

So take another yoga breath and decide:

Who will you serve today?

The false god of control, stress, anxiety, and worry that won’t change a thing

or

the God of peace, hope, and love that is in control?

Who will I serve?

Make the right decision, love.

(Literally) yours,

Mary Madeline

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

– Luke 12: 29-34

Set apart.

Really needed to be reminded of this today. It’s crazy how I have had all the same thoughts before, and you have put them into words. Thank you for being authentic! It means more than you know.

grace upon grace

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Sorry dear friends, it has been so long since my last post!  With senior year coming to a close (I graduate two weeks from today!), the days have been filled to the brim with deadlines, papers, tests, and trying to leave time for God to work in the middle of the chaos.  I really do miss talking to you guys though; I promise to attempt sitting down and making time to update you on the happenings of my life and all the ways I am learning to live in step with Jesus. Speaking of senior year, last night was none other than prom.  It’s the day so many girls look forward to, a right of passage if you will.  However, I will not remember last night for the glamorous evening that it was, but more for the lessons it taught me.

To give you a picture of my personality, I woke…

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he held me

October 28, 2014

I am weak.

I wanted to let you know… not that I expected you to think otherwise.

See, the thing is, today was great. I hung out with friends, ate chocolate ice cream, watched little snotty kindergarteners screech with excitement at science.

But now I sit in my dorm room, and I’m trying to be strong and hold back homesick tears. And I don’t want anyone to see me crying, but I don’t want to be alone because I fall to pieces when I’m alone.

But I have to face the pain because holding back only makes it worse.

Because now the tears fall onto my cheeks, and my nose sniffles.

I miss home. I miss my family and friends and knowing people.

I miss saying “hey, I know so-and-so!” and “Look, there’s so-and-so; they got married last month!”

I miss my hometown and my people.

This world is big, and I miss the small simplicity of hometown, Mississippi. I miss having a backyard and a kitchen. I miss singing to my dog and making my little brother dinner.

And that’s okay. Because the thing is, I have to remind myself that it’s like going college a year early, and I can’t expect to be strong every single day when I feel alone.

So today, as I pray that Jesus uses this time to prune my sinful heart, I am reminded that He felt this pain.

He knows alone. He knows longing. He knows desperation. He knows heartache. He knows sickness. He knows weeping. He knows oppression. He knows persecution. He even knows those pains that I do not know.

He knows the pain of being human.

And He will use moments like these to bring me closer to holiness and closer to His heart, which is closer to joy. Because I am completely dependent on Him, He is using this moment to remind me that I am weak. I am more than weak, and He is more than strong.

And, really, I don’t face it alone. Because He knows pain, and He will use this pain to bring me closer to His heart.


I wrote this a few months back, during a series of weeks when the world seemed so dim and lifeless. And homesickness (more like security-sickness) might not seem so hard to some, but for me, it was definitely difficult, more than I let people know.  I had moved towns, schools, and what seems like lives in some ways. As a result, I missed security and familiarity. (Apparently I don’t do change very well.)

And here I am, six months later, thanking Jesus for letting me experience the pain of homesickness and the sinking feeling of seventeen years of familiar faces and places out of sight.

I thank Him. Because without knowing that pain, I could not comfort next year’s juniors, who come to me, glassy-eyed and homesick. I could not appreciate the place I came from and the childhood Jesus blessed me with. I could not be as thankful and joyful as I am in this moment. I would not be able to say “He held me during that time.”

And, guys, that is part of this joy. Not just to say, “Today I am okay” but to say “I am okay because He held me during that time.”

He held me during that time. And He will continue to hold me.

And I am so thankful.

– Mary Madeline

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. – Romans 5:4

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. – Isaiah 41:17-18

it’s okay to dream

Inspired by a Delta car ride home and a post shared on my favorite blog, Phylicia Delta.

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March 6, 2014

Spring break began today, and I must say that I am very excited to be home.

One the ride here, I watched the fields– dark mounds of mud in extreme contrast to the bright glaze of ice– and I could not help but marvel at the magnitude of beauty. Beauty is too overused– the word is meant for moments when the mind has no ability to describe what the eyes and heart behold.

The view stirred my heart. As I watched flocks of geese glide through the baby blue sky, and I saw why poets are a little obsessed at times. Nature is more than art; it’s a tangible masterpiece.

As I observe the small wooden country houses with wrap-around porches and dogs chasing children, who giggle until they can’t breathe, I imagine the what lies ahead. Imagining might be my favorite pastime.

I dream of a white wooden wrap-around-porch home with a family of my own. I wake up, work a hard day as an engineer or doctor or missionary or mother or whatever else Jesus is calling me to be. I imagine being a good steward of every blessing He pours out, giving gifts to family, and investing in the church. I dream of sunny afternoons and teaching little ones to ride bikes and blow bubbles. I imagine adopting children and making them my own. I imagine telling my children about all that Jesus has done for all of humanity. I tell them that He died because He loved each and every one of us that much– and that He is coming again, and that one day we will be fully separated from every evil and completely surrounded by His love and grace. I imagine describing to them how we get to participate in bringing Heaven to Earth, how He is reconciling all of creation to Himself at this very moment, how we have the honor of being a tiny part of His great masterpiece. I imagine caring, cooking, cleaning, caressing, and all that comes with careers and homes and such. I imagine a house with guitars, laughter, love, a welcoming spirit, and hope of life through Christ.

And it all sounds a little silly and fairy-tale-like, but does it not seem so wonderful?

I have realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting these things. God created humans to imitate His glory, and His glory includes loving and laughing and hoping and singing and praising and building and imagining good things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with desire for more of God’s blessings. He wants us to embrace his miracles. We were made to enjoy companionship with God and others.

It’s so freeing to know that we were made to enjoy his blessings and what He has in store. 

It’s okay to dream.

There’s nothing wrong with desire and hope.

But I can’t sit around just waiting to be a career woman or for a family or a house; I have to live and embrace life now as well!

I can also be joyful in and grateful for my current, numerous blessings!

I have a loving family, a wonderful education, amazing friends, a cozy dorm room, a million precious memories, plenty of laughter to go around, and a God who calls me His own. He rejoices over me with singing and gladness.

My heart is presently full with His many blessings, and my cup overflows with abundance.

But there will always be a natural longing for more, more, more as long as we are on this Earth because we were made for perfect communion with the Father, without separation from His love.

Don’t be quick to worry: a day is coming soon where every thirst for something more, more, more will be quenched far beyond our imagination.

So yes, I long for future blessings.

But I am also so very content with my present treasures. I am at peace with the beauty of now and dreams of the future because I have hope in a Jesus who will fulfill His promises of this life and a world to come.

It’s okay to be joyful now.

And it’s okay to dream.

” I will exalt you, my God the King.

I will praise Your name for ever and ever.

Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worth of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

One generation will commend your works to another;  they will tell of your mighty acts.

They will speak of the glorious splendor of you majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.

They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds.

They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.

All You have made will praise You, O Lord; Your saints will extol You.

They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of Your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is faithful to all His promises, and loving toward all He has made.

The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.

You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made.

The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.

He fullfills the desires of those who fear Him; he hears their cry and saves them.

The Lord watches over all who love him, but the wicked He will destroy.

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.

Let every living creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.

– Psalm 145

worshipping while working

(Shout-out to my dad, who shared the family data plan with me, which allowed me to post this blog from my dorm room. 🙂 )

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Have you ever felt guilty?

Ha ha— psych! I know that answer to that already.

It’s cool, me too.

And particularity for Christians, we feel the constant guilt of not doing, being, reading, or praying enough.

So the other day I realized something:

Every day life can be worship.

I mean, I’ve heard it a lot, but it just hit home, you know?

So this has been my resolution for this new year (and all the years to follow!): to view every aspect of life as an opportunity for worship.

Even my slumbering and hustling and bustling are worship if I allow them to be. A constant reminder that boring pieces of the day can be used to fulfill a greater purpose gives me reason to offer my heart and circumstances to God in whatever part of my day.

Viewing everyday life as worship produces passion, purpose, and freedom in the mundane.

Example:

I am sitting in class listening to Dr. Mustache preach on chemiosmosis through the fancy-smancy lipid-bilayer of some cellular membrane of a eukaryotic cell.

Fun, right?

So I’m about to give up, because really.

But then I remind myself: listening to my teacher, and working hard in this class is worship. Because as I give Dr. Mustache my attention, the minute decision to respect my teacher glorifies God.

I think that’s pretty cool. I’m worshipping God by simply choosing to respect my teacher.

That gives me purpose in everyday life! Sometimes we just need that, ya know? There is a sense of purpose behind everything we put the slightest effort into.

And when I take out the trash, console a crying friend, or help Bobby with the lab report, it’s all for Jesus!

And that makes me pretty passionate about this whole living thing. Because Jesus is a pretty cool guy to live for.

My personal favorite part, though, is freedom.

I often feel guilty because I have only “given God” maybe fifteen minutes of devotional one day.

Or maybe I completely forget about my devotional.

Or maybe the day is packed, because you have so many responsibilities, and we are called to be in constant prayer and continuous glorification to God, but it’s just hard to fit all of that glorification into only day. 

I know how that feels. God says He is pleased with his “good and faithful servant” but I don’t feel so good and faithful today. I feel like a failure and defeated by the clock and responsibilities today. In fact, I really feel like a failure thinking about last (almost) eighteen years if I realize how much I “haven’t given.”

But that’s a lie, and the truth sets us free, guys.

The truth says that yes, God calls us to be in His word everyday (Psalm 1:2), pray endlessly (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and glorify Him in everything (1 Corinthians 10:31).

And the truth says that it is possible, and you might have done it when you didn’t even realize!

When we realize that everyday life is worship, we don’t have to life in shame or guilt because “we can’t give enough of our lives to God.”

When we realize worship is the purpose of everyday life, we are motivated to live like Christ.

When we realize that we make choices everyday to glorify our Father in the mundane, we don’t have to live with the burden of “not giving enough.”

We give Him our lives and hearts by making the decision to choose to love through small actions such as washing dishes, signing checks, packing the lunches, working out, listening to a friend, etc.

If we only allow ourselves to constantly praise God, then it is possible.

The opportunity for daily worship is there.

God promised us He will provide, and He has provided this life.

We just must allow worship to be a part of it all. We must choose it. We aim to must remember the reason we walk our dogs and go to work or school. We must aim to remember that worship is not confined to a sanctuary or chapel.

And I pray that we realize this!

I believe that if we realize that every piece of every day is worship when we choose to love and not grumble, then our lives will be filled with passion, purpose, and freedom. And a result of this, we will look a little more like Christ with every decision.

And that’s the goal, right? To look more like Christ everyday?

That’s my new year’s resolution, and I pray that it’s the same for you.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1

“Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which ‘comes upon you,’ but it is vital that we understand that it is rooted in a conscious act of the will, to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Graham Kendrick

“My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.” Psalm 71:8

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

To clarify: I’m not saying that every single second of every single day that we are going to bring glory to God. We are going fail and sin—a lot! And that’s okay! Otherwise, we would have no need for Him. But aiming to look more like Him and live free of shame and guilt is Christianity lived out.

 I’m also not denoting the importance of corporate worship, daily meditation, or prayer. Those practices are very vital (1 Timothy 4:13, 1 Thes. 5:17, Joshua 1:8), and they fuel and guide us in daily worship! However, it is important that we remember worship is not confined to only hymns and publicly speaking the Word.

– Mary Madeline