All posts by Joe Sutherland

All I Want For Christmas Is You
by Joe Sutherland

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It’s December, the most bitter-sweet time of the year! December means colder weather and fun-tacky sweaters, final exams and Christmas break, the end of the year and the start of a new one! This time of year, I always find myself reflecting on all that I’ve done, experienced, accomplished, and missed out on.

At the last RiseUp event (Shout out to you if you were there!) our speaker Sarah Swafford dropped some hard knowledge and truth about dating and relationships for our generation. It was hilarious to hear her explain the dating thought process from both a girl’s and a boy’s perspective. One of my favorite ideas that Sarah shared with us was the “Altar Switch.” The idea that when it comes time to get married, to your perfect Bride or Groom, you process up the church aisle to the altar and hit the magic “Altar Switch.” POOF! You’re suddenly exactly the man or woman you have always wanted to be for your Bride or Groom. You’re the best version of yourself, you’re holy, and in good shape, and you’re selfless, and you don’t struggle with sin or lust or addiction, and you can play 17 different musical instruments and speak 3 and half languages.

I have definitely pictured the kind of man (that’s right, MAN, not boy) that I want to be for my bride. It is a good thing to know and envision who you want to be, but that alone isn’t good enough – because there is no Altar Switch! Instead we must “strive”,to use Sarah’s words, to be the person we hope to be. Not just for our future husband or wife (if that is your vocation), but for yourself, for God, for your family and those around you.

During this Advent season (the period of preparing and waiting for Christmas and Christ’s birth), we often talk about “preparing the way for the Lord.”
I think that one of the best ways that we can prepare the way to celebrate the birth of Jesus is by preparing ourselves! Jesus only wants one thing for His birthday and for Christmas (lucky us it’s the same day), he wants you! He longs for all of us, each individually, to be in a deeper relationship with Him. What if you were to be the best you for Him?

Picture an advent calendar – one of the cute wall hangings with little squares that you open everyday. Some families have a small gift that comes with each little day on the advent calendar. Imagine if you were to make a small gift of yourself to God everyday – like an advent calendar – by bettering yourself…by striving to be the best you that you can be…
I think that come Christmas, you will have successfully prepared the way for our Lord and Savior.

Transfigure the Ordinary

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This is a picture of me in Israel, “The Holy Land.” The mountains and valleys, the roads and cities that God Himself walked. Where Jesus was born and raised, lived and died and lived again.

I was there – in the settings of scripture – just last month. And now, I’m in Gainesville, Florida sweating off the summer heat and scraping by minute after minute in summer classes while day -dreaming of my adventurous and soul-inspiring travels last month. My God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Okay, that is a little dramatic. But have you ever caught that feeling? The post-church retreat, post-mission trip, post-pilgrimage, post-RiseUp blues? What time are you thinking back to? And now, how are you?

Maybe you’re facing the daily grind of seemingly meaningless responsibilities like me?

Or maybe the opposite? Maybe you have so much free time that you’re bored.

Why can’t I go back to this time, or this place, with these people?

What made those moments in the past so special anyways?

In math class a decent guess to a big question is usually 0 or 1. Talking about life and good things, a good guess is usually Jesus or Love. They happen to be one in the same.

Take a minute to reflect on whatever moment you thought of earlier. It was most likely a joyous and happy time.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” – James 1:17

Back to the picture of me. (Side Note: it’s hard not to smile when you remember Jesus is alive).

That mountain behind me is Mount Tabor. Mount Tabor is well known as the site of the Transfiguration of Christ.  (Mark 9:2-8) Peter, John, and James followed Jesus up the mountain, where he then revealed Himself and His glory to them. Imagine that! Jesus “became dazzling white.”  Peter says “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!”

Yeah, you better believe it was good to be there! Peter wanted to set up camp and stay forever. It sounds like those cherished moments in our own lives. “Can we just stay here forever?”

There are times and places when and where Christ reveals Himself and His love to us! He does so through our experiences and adventures, through our relationships with those around us.

It wasn’t long before Peter, John, and James had to return down the mountain and continue to love and serve God by loving and serving His people. We are called to look back to the times when Christ revealed Himself to us and to be inspired by our experiences with Him. He uses these high points, or “mountains,” in our lives to help encourage us through our low points, or “valleys.” So whether your valley today is the daily grind of work and responsibilities, or the struggle to motivate yourself to be productive, open your heart to the Transfiguration of Christ. He reveals the ordinary to be extraordinary. He makes all things new.

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