{As I proofread this post, I realized the irony of starting with a photograph that appears to have been taken through the window of a moving car. I just want to mention that the car was stopped, for those of you are wondering!}

Something I’ve given thought to recently is being mindful, not just the awareness and consciousness of the present but also the people around me and the circumstances God places in my life. 

Mindfulness is a buzzword in psychology, and though it tends toward relativistic thinking, I believe that being engaged in the present is something that our culture, myself included, isn’t spending enough time doing. With the many distractions and tuggings in a million shattered directions, we forget. 

Not just to-do lists and quizzes in class the next day. 
We forget to think. 
We redirect our thoughts. 
If there’s something we don’t want to think about, we don’t – there are countless other distractions. We try to ignore the unanswered questions and pain and hollowness inside, hoping that if we don’t notice it then maybe we can pretend it isn’t there. I’m not just talking about non-believers. Christ-followers experience the sweeping consequences of sin that leave the heart aching. 

But why? If you’ve given your life to Christ and are living in obedience to Him, why in the world is everything so broken? Bodies, families, relationships, trust, belief? Why in this world?

Why are the screaming crying prayers late at night, asking God for hope, seemingly answered with silence?

Didn’t a broken body hanging from a tree suffer enough for all of us?

Suffering for Christ’s sake, being burned at the stake for refusing to deny His name, this serves such a powerful purpose. A life sacrificed to the Lord is beautiful though laced with sorrow and pain. But the quiet suffering from day to day? A dying friend, a chronic illness, a broken marriage? 

What if a sacrificed life isn’t only martyrdom or dying for the sake of another? Could it be that living for the sake of others, enduring difficulties, and living for the sake of Another makes a sacrificed life? 

I came upon these berries a few weeks ago, nearly hurrying past on my way to class. If you don't stop now you never will, I told myself.  They are beautiful, the scarlet berries contrasting the green leaves. They make me think of bright red blood, and I suddenly remember Isaiah 53:5, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."I need to stay mindful of the Cross. Of the reason why my life has a purpose and is redeemed. Without the Cross, there is no remedy to the pain and suffering in the world. Without the Cross I am not reconciled to God. Without the Cross no hope exists. At the Cross there is forgiveness, overwhelming grace, unrelenting love. Jesus' redemptive sacrifice has canceled the sin-debt and brought us into fellowship with God. For this there is wonder and thankfulness and worship. I don't fully comprehend, and my life does not always reflect, but I rest in the truth that Jesus is more than enough. There is hope, not just at the time of the redemption but throughout all time including the present, and every drop of pain in this life does not compare to the glory to come.

Not only is there grace for every difficult circumstance, but there is also an opportunity to bring glory to God and grow closer to Him while growing in endurance and character. "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."  - 2 Corinthians 12:9