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“I’m going to ring you up quickly so that you can leave before they lock the doors,” the cashier told me as sirens wailed outside. “We do that when there’s a tornado warning.”

My thoughts began to circulate: What if someone I loved gets hurt? What if my house got destroyed? What if a tornado meets me on the road? In nearly poetic irony, I was buying — of all things — a new planner for the new year. As I got my agenda for my year, the weather reminded me that we never know what the next hour brings.

When I returned home, the only casualty was an overwatered lawn. …


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I didn’t expect feelings of unworthiness to inundate me in the candle aisle at Marshalls. But when I ran into an old acquaintance and exchanged life updates in the midst of Pumpkin Spice and Evergreen scents, a sinking thought came over me: I am not good enough. It had nothing to do with our conversation, which was pleasant — it was an old familiar stronghold of comparison flaring up the first chance it got.

When I returned home, I was brokenhearted by what had been revealed in my spirit.

I still don’t believe I’m good enough.

I didn’t understand how I could be even momentarily shaken, faux-scrambling for significance, when I believed the gospel. Although I knew it had no grounds Biblically, the feeling of not being good enough was like a cloud of defeat raining feelings of unworthiness on me. …


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When I was a junior in college, my church announced a need for small group leaders. I thought I might be a good fit, so I volunteered.

A few Sundays later, all of the new leaders and the people who wanted to join a small group gathered after church to be matched together. …


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I joined my church’s worship team in July. I’ve enjoyed my experience as a keys player, which has consisted of learning how to decipher lead sheets, navigate a futuristic keyboard and laptop setup, and play with in-ears and electric guitarists. At the same time, I found myself wanting to buttress my growing technical knowledge with a better understanding of Biblical worship, so I set out on a mini-study.

I learned that the definition of worship is simple but astonishing in scope. It is not limited to Sunday morning, but instead is a lifestyle that begins in a heart captivated by God. …


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For the past six years of my life, I was enveloped in what I’ve dubbed the “Career Crisis.” Over the course of this timeframe, what began as a struggle to find my calling morphed into a struggle to believe that God had a calling on my life. As I transitioned from one career trajectory to another, I felt like God was silent. I didn’t have a strong leaning toward any vocations I knew about, but I wanted to be obedient to the Lord with the career that I pursued. I was stuck — for six full years.

Yesterday, June 24, was supposed to be my first day of graduate school. I was supposed to show up for classes, armed with pastel-colored textbooks of British literature, probably a new black dress, and an eagerness to continue my search to figure out what God was calling me to do with my life. These things, though, would really mask my disappointment that I didn’t have any conviction about being there. Graduate school was the next thing on the journey to appear intellectual, and that was the only inkling I had. …


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Two years ago, I was finishing up my undergraduate thesis. My advisor was a suave Ivy League production, and his affirmation meant more to me than…almost everything. When he treated me as though I were his equal and took my ideas seriously, it made me feel as though I were jumping into another world that was exciting and new, where I was useful and had a place.

As the project drew to a close, one of my final questions was about the standard capitalization for the word god.

“If it’s just a general god,” my advisor explained, “then it’s lower case. But if it’s used as a name, then it’s capitalized. Like…” his voice trailed off as he tried to think of an example. …


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This week, I found myself more cognizant of my dependence on the grace of God than I have been in a long time. I was fearful and anxious instead of remembering that God knows me. I fell into familiar strongholds of my flesh, which shouts at me:

You act this way, and yet say you love God?

You’ll always be this way.

You’ll never change.

You have no future

I got weary of the battle. I got tired of fighting against my flesh, of disciplining and training my mind to think on God day in and day out, to run to him, to realize that he is my strength, my provider, my stronghold in times of trouble. …


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I got an email this morning, the first results of my graduate applications, and I was denied. I didn’t help that it wasn’t even among the most prestigious schools I’d applied for. Fear immediately set in: I’m not going to get into any of the others, I’m living in a dream world applying for the schools I did, I’m never going to move out of my town.

But these fears revealed a deeper problem: they all began with I. …


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When you love Jesus, you want other people to know him and walk in his love. You want other people to experience his grace, resting in him, having an identity that isn’t caught up in the confusion of this world. These are natural feelings, evidence of Jesus’ work in your life — if we know him, we want more people to know him!

At the same time, it’s very easy to get our roles in the salvific process mixed up with God’s, thinking that their salvation (choosing to know God and realizing his love for us) is our responsibility. …


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I’m Olivia, and thinking through the idea of God with clarity and conviction changed my life.

In 2013, I was a freshman in college and a long-committed Christian. As a part of an honors program, I was required to take a class titled “The Self and the Cosmos.” Required reading: Bertrand Russell’s Religion and Science, and from the first class it was obvious that my professor wasn’t a Christian. Sounds like the exposition of a corny “Christian” movie, I know.

I found myself facing a false dilemma (religion v. thinking), though I didn’t know it was false at the time. I could use my intellect to think about the god question, risking losing what I believed was a real and powerful relationship with God. Or, I could continue to ground my faith in lasting personal convictions, accepting my lingering doubts and questions about faith as perpetually irresolvable. …

About

Looking Upward

Growing spiritually is difficult. Looking Upward creates resources to encourage people to a life-giving relationship with Jesus.

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