Three ways to “Live Free”: Open heart, open eyes, open hands.

I’ve spent a lot of time in conversation with God this week.

 

I don’t want to say I’ve spent a lot of “quiet time” with Him. Why? Because our chats have become rather continuous throughout the day and, well, when you’re talking to God while braving NYC traffic, that’s not usually quiet. It’s far beyond “devotionals” and it isn’t always “study” in the truest sense of the word—it’s really been a back-and-forth dialogue with the King.

 

It’s taught me even more how to invite Him into my everyday.

 

Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk who worked in his monastery’s kitchen, started his prayers with, “Lord of pots and pans and things…(The Practice of the Presence of God).”

 

In the last few weeks, Brother Lawrence’s prayer has triggered a profound revelation in my life. My God is not just the God of the big things or the immediate crises, but rather, He’s also the God of taxis and subways and things, of meetings and coffee and views and Pilates and air conditioning and oh so much more.

 

One of the most frequent mistakes we make as Christians isn’t something we’ve committed-rather, it’s something we’ve omitted: we forget to invite God to infuse our natural with His supernatural and make our ordinary, extraordinary.

 

How do we live life with this Kingdom perspective? Here’s the checklist He’s been revealing to me:

 

1. Open your heart to God’s plans for you.

We serve a God who despises “religion” and desperately desires relationship. He offers us the opportunity to live a life of freedom and joy, knowing that our soul craves connection with its Creator—and that He’s created us to fulfill and be fulfilled by a customized purpose in His Kingdom. It’s all there, in Matthew 11:28-30: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (MSG).”

 

2. Open your eyes, to see and steward His blessings.

God has given us the gift of wisdom and discernment, and living life in freedom does not mean living a life that squanders what He has given to us. This discernment is a tool to navigate the Christian life. In Philippians 1:9-10, Paul says, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so you may approve what is excellent and be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (ESV).”

 

 

3. Open your hands to live freely and lightly.

We are stewards of God’s resources, not owners (Hebrews 2:10, “Everything belongs to God, and all things were created by His power [CEV].”). These resources include our money, our apartments, our cars, our relationships—everything we’ve been given is a gift. And, if we open our hands to give these resources back to Him, He has promised to withhold no good thing (Psalm 84:11). Just look at the story of Job, who God blessed with twice as much because Job understood the steward / owner relationship. Isn’t that great news? We serve a God who desires relationship with us, wants to show us how to live freely, and who we can trust will not withhold any good thing from His children!

 

Hopefully this is an inspiration to you, too, as you start this week.

 

Grace and peace, friends!

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Live Epic: One Night Standard

If you’ve been in NYC for a hot minute, you’ve heard of the Standard—the super-hip hotel that’s also one of NY’s most popular nightclub destinations, where the caliber of clientele is surpassed only by the cost.

 

Yes, you can look up at it from the Highline. You may get a glimpse of the hotel’s inhabitants through the floor-to-ceiling windows. You may drool while thinking about the great views when you Google them online…

 

…alright alright, enough. I’m your insider connection to get a room on the other side of the glass. I can get you one TONIGHT even.

 

Actually, this app is your hook-up. It’s called One Night Standard, and currently available on iTunes and Google Play.

 

What: One Night Standard offers “same-night reservations at incredible rates for spontaneous stays.”

 

How it works: Between 3p and 2a every day, you can book a same-night room through the app for an exclusive rate that’s between $129 and $179, depending on the day.

 

Too good to be true? IT’S TRUE. And, it’s as stellar as you could imagine.

 

This is the ultimate staycation / vacation trick. For New Yorkers, it will make you fall in love with the City all over again. For visitors, it will make you want to become a New Yorker.

 

Why?

 

  • The location. 
    • The Standard Hotel literally arches above the Highline Park in Meatpacking; in fact, you can actually look at the tourists / jealous native walking along the Park below outside of your window. Also, featured from your “room with a view”—sweeping scenes of both the City and the Hudson. Take in both sunrise and sunset—even better, do it while taking a bath! (Baths in the rooms sit alongside clear panels, so you can take in an unmatched view while submerged in a sea of bubbles.)
    • An added perk—our room offered a stunning, unobstructed view of the Empire State Building (visible from both bath and bed) with the Freedom Tower reflecting in the shiny glass exterior of the building facing us. Quite spectacular.
    • The Standard also boasts a nightclub, Le Bain (casual attire), and rooftop bar, The Top of the Standard (formal attire) – all just an elevator ride away.

 

 

  • The digs.
    • The hotel elevator is a trip in itself. Step into a black cube, where psychedelic images spiral on screens and epic symphonies play as the elevator starts to transcend / descend floors. Then walk down a brightly-lit hallway to your room.
    • In short, the rooms are an Insta dream. They’re chic and minimalistic (#decor), yet designed for comfort (#relax). Our digs had floor-to-ceiling windows with a couch along the wall to take in the stunning City #views (like, real visual #views, not just Drake audible #views). Insider tip: The couch is a bit stiff (likely a result of the modular design), but the bed is super comfy and conducive to a great night’s sleep.
    • Also possible (and highly recommended)—sinking into a bubble bath (provided by the hotel) and taking in the same stunning #views, and sinking into bed afterward with—yep, you guessed it—that same spectacular visual. (Velvety-smooth robe with hood, as well as champagne / wine glasses are provided by the hotel.)

 

  • The eats.
    • You don’t need to go far…or leave the hotel, really. The Standard Grill offers everything from dinner to light fare, alongside an impressive drink list, in both indoor and outdoor settings.
    • Personally, I’d go for the outdoor—their al fresco bar offers a beachy-vibe, complete with white pebble “sand”, candle-lit tables, brightly-striped umbrellas and hanging lanterns. Perfect for feeling like you’re at a resort without ever leaving the City—especially if you get a table that swaps a street view for a hotel view. Their light bites menu offers pizza, small plates, and focaccia with (on the DL) options to fit any budget. Rumor has it the desserts are great too, but I can only vouch for the Pizza Bianca.

 

The Standard is stellar, and One Night Standard offers an experience (and price tag) that can’t be beat.

Happy weekend, loves!

 

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Royalty.

Once upon a time in a land far far away, there lived a young Princess. She had beautiful long hair, bright eyes, and a brilliant smile. She had a joyful laugh that filled the hallways, and her songs carried throughout the chambers of the palace. To her father, the King, she was the most lovely girl in the whole land. She was his world—he ensured she had all that she needed, and she grew up learning to trust him, his heart, and his plans. He would often read her stories while she sat on his knee, and would throw back his head and heartily laugh at all of her jokes. She felt safe in his arms, and protected within his palace.

 

But one day, the King received word that the enemy was attacking, and there was a battle raging on the far border of his Kingdom. Though his heart broke to leave his daughter, he knew he had to go and conquer the enemy to keep his kingdom—and his princess—safe. He also knew that his Princess would never be safe in the palace by herself—there were those would seek to harm her to get to him. So, he sent her into hiding with her trusted nurse in the village. He hugged her, kissed her on the head, and said, “My dear, I’ll be back as soon as I can. Until then, stay with your nurse—do what she tells you, learn as much as you can, and continue to bring joy to the village as you can. Though they may not know, always remember that you are my daughter—the daughter of the King—and I love you very, very much.” And, with tears in his eyes, he rode off to go win the battle.

 

The princess awoke the next morning in the upstairs apartment of a village bakery instead of the palace. She opened the window, and her nose was immediately bombarded with the smell of chickens and pigs and her ears heard the hustling and bustling of the village. “Let’s get ready for the day,” said the nurse.

 

“Alright,” said the princess. “But, who will tie my shoes?”

 

“You will, dear. You’ll need to learn how,” said the nurse, gently.

 

“But who will make my breakfast? And who will brush my hair?” the princess pressed.

 

“Dear one, while we’re away from the palace, you’ll need to learn to do these things for yourself,” said the nurse.

 

The first few days were a challenge for the princess. She had to acclimate to her new situation, and overcome new challenges—waking early, getting dressed, gathering eggs from the chickens, grain from the stable, and milk from the cows—and learn how to make bread for sale in the marketplace. The first few days she fell over her poorly tied shoe laces, burned the bread, and got pecked by a few chickens. But as time went on, she grew to master these tasks, and even find her song while doing them. She looked forward to singing with her nurse and making bread every morning, which she would then take to the customers. She became known as a girl who brightened the village.

 

Seven years later, the King returned victorious—yet weary—from his battle on the Eastern front. He was excited to see his daughter, so he sent out a message throughout the land with his heralds, saying, “The King has returned for his Princess. Will the Princess please come to the palace this afternoon to meet her father?”

 

That afternoon though, instead of one girl, many girls arrived. All were dressed in fine gowns with jewels and silks, tiaras and pearls. The King looked out over the ballroom full of girls and felt weary—where was his daughter?

 

“My soldiers are weary from a long journey,” he said. “Will one of you please sing them a song?”

 

“Let the servants do that. I’m a princess,” said one girl.

 

“I’m so parched from the journey, will any of you bring me a glass of water?” he tried again.

 

“I don’t do that—that’s for the kitchen staff. I’m a princess,” said another.

 

The King sighed heavily and shook his head. But, then, he looked up to see a girl dressed in a simple pink dress step through the crowd. She wasn’t dressed like a princess, but rather in clothes from the village.

 

“I’ll sing for your servants,” she said softly, “and I’ll bring you water after your long journey.”

 

In the grace, love, and beauty of her spirit, the King recognized his true daughter. He picked her up and swung her around, saying, “I love you more than anything else in my Kingdom. You’ve grown into a woman with a heart of grace, mercy and wisdom. You are my true daughter—my heir—and with that, you have access to anything you desire in all of my Kingdom.”

 

 

 

My mother used to read me this story of The True Princess (originally by Angela Hunt) every night when I was a child, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not a book for children. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to see that we live in a world where, as women, we’ve searched for worth and value in the wrong places, and those wrong places give us underwhelming and often hurtful answers. We settle and start to define ourselves by those reinforced perceptions. We can feel empty or materialized, or feel a need to strive to prove ourselves as though our value depends on what we can do.

 

We live in a world where the concept of royalty can be hard to grasp—but that’s just what we are: Royalty.

 

We are Princesses. Daughters of the King. Heirs to His Kingdom. A woman is made in God’s image, as a reflection of His beauty and peace (Genesis 1:27, Song of Solomon 4:7).

 

Here’s three things that it means to be royalty:

 

  • Your title gives you status.

You are a Princess. This means that you can walk with confidence and poise, with your head held high. You are not striving or seeking love, value, or position—you already have it in your King and His Kingdom. Being royal means that you don’t forfeit your dignity—that you don’t listen to voices that don’t recognize your status, and you don’t settle for those who don’t treat you with the respect you deserve. You don’t need validation or to reach out in desperation—you are protected. You are strong. You are secure.

  • Your position gives you power.

Being royalty means you have the right to step into the throne room any time of any day, and ask the King for exactly what you need. You can act in His name, and knowing that you have His power behind you. Not only that, but you can feel comfortable in the throne room because you have a King who loves you, wants to bless you, and put all the riches of His Kingdom at your disposal. You have a King who holds nothing back (Psalm 84:11).

  • Your duty gives you purpose.

As the King’s daughter, the furthering and protecting of His Kingdom becomes your purpose. You are called to be brave, and you will ride alongside Him into battle. It sounds like such a great idea, until you’re asked to wield a sword or face the lions. When those times come, you must remember that they are not a questioning of your position, but rather an attack against your position. The enemy knows your power, and the power of your Father, and will seek to tear you down. But we can go into each battle with the assurance that the victory has already been won (John 16:33). The King is the most powerful, and you are His child. He created you, and He chose you!

 

So, dear hearts, go out today and live like the royalty you are. Remember whose you are, and what you are. Act with the power of the King.

 

The meaning of life.

Stories comprise the thread that holds humanity together.

 

History reminds us of the past—giving context to our present and purpose to our future.

 

For centuries, people have gathered together to hear these stories—around a fire in the midst of a camp, around a hearth in a home, around steaming mugs of coffee in the corner café.

 

As humans, we’re drawn to stories. It’s a shared trait. We seek them out, spend money, and sacrifice time to hear them and watch them…

 

…but what about living them?

 

Stories resonate so strongly with us because they reflect two universal pursuits that drive every person:

  • The desire to uncover the unknown.
  • The pursuit and protection of love.

 

The desire to uncover the unknown: Mystery is what motivates us.

 

We all dislike movies where you can spot the outcome from a mile away. (It’s one of the reasons I will never watch the movie Titanic. I know the ship goes down and I’ve heard that there was a little extra room on that raft, Rose.) Mystery shows dominate primetime TV and our Netflix queues.

 

Our careers also thrive on mystery—uncovering the next major scientific discovery, predicting that next juggernaut stock investment, discovering a revolutionary way to reach consumers, or realizing ways to craft a better future. Whether or not we realize it, we actively take on the unknown every day.

 

The unknown is perhaps humanity’s greatest fear. We hedge against it. We do whatever we can to have contingency plans. For centuries, people have searched for the meaning of life—what they perceive to be one of the greatest uncertainties-and for the most part, they have been disappointed by their theories, speculation, and summation of their discoveries.

 

A moment of honesty here—I’ve been tackling the unknown in almost every part of my life for a few weeks now, personally and professionally. I’ve crafted contingency plans to watch them fall apart days—even moments—later. At first, I found myself paralyzed by these unknowns. To an extent, I even grew frustrated with God and blamed Him for tearing away my supports one by one until it felt like I was left teetering in the middle. I wanted to uncover my unknowns—to put my own plans in place so that I felt protected, to bring my future into the daylight so I could step with assurance.

 

Today, these unknowns have not yet been revealed; the lights have not yet come up on these future plans and certainties. At most, it’s a spotlight shining ahead of me, leading me on a step-by-step basis.

 

But, I have discovered the meaning of life with certainty. The mystery of life is only uncovered in the mystery of God. A God who loves us desperately. Leading us to our next pursuit…

 

The pursuit and protection of love.

 

Love is perhaps the most elusive pursuit to the majority of humans, and the acquisition and retention of love is one of the biggest mysteries we seek to solve as a society.

 

We seek acceptance, affection, and belonging—whether it’s through what we earn, the accomplishments we secure, the people we date or the trips we take. We all want to find someone who loves us, and be doing things that we love. We want our love to be reciprocated and we want to protect the love we’ve found, when we’ve found it.

 

What and who we love often gives us purpose. Many feel that somehow, it directly relates to the meaning of life—perhaps is the meaning of life. It takes us back to that mystery of life—that unknown that we seek to uncover.

 

Again, the mystery of life can only be discovered in the mystery of God.

 

What is this mystery? To me, it’s the love and beauty only found in the Gospel—that the almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of the universe cares so intimately about me. That He always has since the beginning of time. That He loved me so desperately that He didn’t want a future without me, so He came down to my world—took my shame, sin, and died in my place so that I can live with Him. Even if that were all He had done, it would be enough to merit my lifelong service and gratefulness. But, it’s not—He gives me purpose, He gives me freedom, He brings blessings I can’t begin to describe and guides my step through each storm. In this Great Mystery—one of how such a mighty God could love us this much—I find my meaning, I find my purpose.

 

He knows all of my unknowns, and He knows exactly how they will be worked out. Nothing is unknown to Him. There’s no point where He says, “Man, I didn’t see THAT coming. Don’t know how we’re going to get through this now.” Nothing is a surprise to Him. He loves us so much that He’s intimately concerned with the details of our lives (Matthew 6:25-34), and wants us to give our unknowns to Him so we can live life confidently, to the full, and with freedom instead of fear.

 

This is my story. His is my story.

 

 

 

“If I told you my story, you would hear hope that wouldn’t let go.

If I told you my story, you would hear love that never gave up.

If I told you my story, you would hear life, but it wasn’t mine.

If I told you my story, you would hear victory over the enemy.

If I told you my story, you would hear freedom that was won for me.

 

If I should speak, then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sins.

Of when justice was served, and when mercy wins.

Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.

To tell you my story is to tell of Him.

 

This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.”

 

~Big Daddy Weave, “My Story”