The One

Today I found myself in Little India.  It was just a quick stop before heading over to the prayer room.  There’s this little shop I get where I get my eyebrows and upper lip threaded.  No pain no gain with that apparently.  Anyways, I was rushing to leave that bustling and somewhat chaotic part of town when I flew right by a man on crutches who was begging.

Honestly, I barely looked at him and told him no, even when he continued to call out to me, and continued to rush away.  I rounded the corner, hidden by an oversized truck and about a half block from my parked car, and came to a stop.  In that moment of decision I had a question come to mind.  “Am I willing to stop for “the one?”  I had 5 ringgit in change from the recent beauty venture.  Should I give it to him?  Instead of taking too much time to overthink it, I went back around the corner and approached him.  He eagerly received me back.

His left foot and calf are turning black.  He’s a diabetic.  From his broken English I gather he has no family and sleeps on the streets.  I gave him the money and asked him if I could pray for him.  He readily agreed.  As I prayed and asked Jesus to fill him with His love and bring healing to his body, I was stunned when I saw a tear fall to the ground out of the corner of my eye.  This man is real flesh and blood, full of emotions and needs.  Beaten down and broken like all of us.

I looked at him more closely as I prayed, trying to see him more as the Father sees him.  When I finished, he thanked me, with a peaceful and grateful look on his face.  I told him that God has not forgotten about him, that Jesus loves him.  He mentioned that he goes to the homeless drop in center a few streets over, and I excitedly tell him that I have friends that help there.  We exchanged some thank yous and God bless yous, and then I was back on my way.

The entire episode took me less than 10 minutes, and I almost missed that opportunity because I was too busy rushing to “ministry.”  How does that even make sense?

I recently listed to a sermon from Bethel about how our “ministry” is meaningless if we’re not willing to stop for “the one.”  This is why this question and them was fresh on my mind and heart.  If the gospel is only relevant in Christian worship circles or mass conferences but doesn’t apply to every individual then something is seriously missing.

These opportunities to minister the love of Jesus and the love of the Father are everywhere, but we must be sensitive to stop and respond.  We must be willing to be inconvenienced, to be in awkward situations.  Loving people isn’t always easy and fun and convenient.  How many of these moments have I missed over the years because I’m consumed with MY plan, MY agenda, MY schedule, what’s convenient for ME?  It was a convicting moment for me.  I easily brushed by him, avoided eye contact, actually said no and initially felt no compassion for this man.  Where was the heart of the Father in me at that moment?

Oh, how I need the love of Jesus to wreck my heart once again and give me His eyes and heart for the hurting and broken!  Lead me to the cross, that place of blood-stained, selfless sacrificial love.  May my eyes always be on the lookout for “the one” and my heart filled with love to pour out.

We can change the world just by loving on one person at a time.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

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Feeling all the Feels

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Recently a friend and I were catching up over FaceTime.  Sharing what was happening in our lives.  Both of us had some pretty big changes just happen or that were about to begin.

With changing seasons and fresh paths most likely comes a roller coaster of potential emotions so how do we move forward and be fully present when the “past” is only a half-step behind us with it’s dirt still clinging to our boots?

How can live in the present with vision for our future and the next generation in a healthy way?  How can we transition well or even brace ourselves for upcoming changes when we’re still in the trenches of our current seasons of life?

As we were discussing the future and challenges and emotions my friend encouraged me to “feel all the feels.”  

Translation: Don’t stifle and stuff.

Grieve as you go.  

Live fully in the moments and take nothing for granted.  Bawl your eyes out when you’re feeling sad.  Pause and take in the scenery and soak up all the warm fuzzies when they come.

Embrace the pain.

That’s the really icky part, but when you realize that you cannot selectively shut down  your emotions, then you’ll learn not to numb the painful ones.  As excruciating as it is, we must allow ourselves to grieve and to feel  the pain of loss and transition.  I believe that to the depth that we experience pain we will also be able to experience joy and peace.  We cannot selectively numb and be whole and present simultaneously.  

We need to “feel all the feels” no matter how uncomfortable some of them may be.  

Sure, we may temporarily feel better about not being a mess at the time, but we know that when we look back we’ll be disappointed that we shut down, disengaged and removed ourselves from the present in order to self-protect and avoid.
It may seem silly to cry over a spatula, but I’ve done it. You can read about that one here.

And the thing is, if  we’re ever going to live abundantly and fully in our lives then we’re going to need to deal with our demons and face off with our emotions and the deep corners of our hearts that we want to pretend aren’t there.  Sooner or later as most of you know, they will find us.  

Someone will rip off that bandaid to reveal a gaping wound that you never attended to.  That inflatable beach ball will pop up out of nowhere and blast you unexpectedly.  You’ll end up being in a new season or a fresh relationship with so much of that old undealt with stuff that you’ll miss out on the joy of the moment and being fully invested right where you are.

It’s not easy and there’s no magic recipe for soul tending and transitioning well.  I think the main thing is to pay attention to our hearts, be kind to ourselves and to live a courageously intentional life.  We shouldn’t compare or set a bar for how we should be feeling.  We must allow ourselves to grieve.  We must admit when we’re afraid.  We shouldn’t try to gloss over those sad feelings.  We mustn’t take the joy of the moment for granted.  I believe we should pause and feel and be right where we’re at.

A big part of this for me has been to start being more honest with God and shift the way that I pray.  I’ve been uncertain if it’s okay to tell God what I actually want, afraid that somehow this means that I’m being disobedient or believing that I’ll taint the grand plan and miss the mark because of my desires.  That has left me with abandoned pieces of my soul that for the longest time felt like a graveyard instead of a garden.

I didn’t want to touch those place because it felt too painful and dry and revealed areas of hopelessness that were messy and easier left unattended to.  I didn’t want to “feel all the feels.”  But I’m come to the point where I want to be whole.  I want to be fully alive.  And that means embracing all of who I am and trusting God with all of me. 

The Father, my Father, doesn’t want a canned prayer of submission without an ounce of faith in it.  I’m coming to believe that He actually cares about the desires of my heart and wants me to share them with Him.  Not in a “genie in a bottle” sort of way, but in a Father/daughter type of way.  Where I’m real and raw and honest.  Where I’m cracking my fragile heart open and trusting Him to handle it with the utmost care.

Sure, it’s way easier to live an ankle deep life instead of diving into unknown depths.  But after wading around in the shallows for too long, life gets boring and predictable and down right unfulfilling because in our gut we know that we’re made for more.  That gnawing feeling (the Holy Spirit, perhaps) is trying to tell us something.
We must embrace all of who we are and who He is.

Do you ever think about that verse, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

There is a joy set before us.  We must endure the hard things.  We can’t skip them.  Jesus didn’t skip the cross and go straight to the right hand of the Father.  He felt those nails in his hands.  He looked Peter in the eyes and felt the stabbing pain of denial.

Jesus could filter all of these emotions through the truth that was rooted and grounded in Him and by the security of His relationship with the Father.  He also had long-term vision.  In the midst of the physical pain and rejection and mockery and being misunderstood by the masses He knew who He was and the greater plan far outweighed His current circumstances.

If you’re in transition or a changing of seasons, don’t let the waves of emotions drown you or callouses to cover your heart.

Be in your life.  All day every day.  
Let the dry bones come to life and let faith replace fear and doubt. 

Let’s have vision for eternity now.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him,”  Philippians 3:8 

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Standing in the Gap

What does it mean to “stand in the gap” for someone?

Biblically, there are physical and spiritual examples of this concept.  (Ps. 106:23; Ezek 13:5, 22:30, Nehemiah 4:16, Isaiah 58:12, I Timothy 2:1)

When the Israelites were rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah 4, half of the people literally stood by the ones working, with weapons in hand, in order in order to keep the enemy out and the men protected so that the wall could be rebuilt.

Many other avenues pertain to interceding for one another, waging spiritual war for our brothers and sisters and government officials, etc.

The thing is, we really can’t do it all on our on.  Sometimes we desperately need people to intercede for us or even to physically stand between us and an enemy.  When we are weak and vulnerable in specific areas, we may need someone stronger than us at the moment to help cover us from the lies and of the enemy while we “rebuild our walls” with truth.

At one point or another there will be areas of our lives that we kind of lose hope for.  There will seem to be a deficit of faith for God to show up or break in.  There will be a sphere where we are not strong or hopeful or courageous in.

If you’re like me, then you probably try not to focus on it.  You put it on the backburner and try your best to keep your eyes on Jesus, avoiding the pain of hope deferred and addressing the lie that God just won’t come through for you in that area.  Maybe even, like me, you pretty much stop praying about it altogether.

At some point, you will be confronted with the sin of unbelief.  The Father’s love will gently touch that tender area of your heart and you will have to choose whether or not to repent and have faith and believe that God is who He says He is and that He is for you OR to continue in your unbelief and deny the Holy Spirit access to change things.

Honestly, I know that on my own I can’t always seem to find the strength to muster up faith or belief.  Try as I might to renew my mind and stand on His promises, it doesn’t seem to revive my soul.

I know (head knowledge) that God is good, He is in control and I “trust” Him.  I was in Sparks and Bible Drills as kid.  I grew up Southern Baptist.  I know the Christianese things to say and do.  But you see I believe that sometimes we need the Body of Christ to come through for us in a very tangible way which will spur us on in our faith.

Sometimes I need a brother or sister to declare some life into dead areas of my life.  I need a reminder that He is the God that speaks life into dry bones and calls the things that are not as though they were (Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 4:17).

I need family to believe for me and spur me on to take hold of the goodness of God.  I need a friend to pray for breakthrough in seemingly hopeless situations.  I need a shoulder to cry on and an arm to lean on when I feel like I’m going to fall.  I need someone to lock arms with on the battlefield.

I need someone to stand in the gap for me.

What a powerful thing.

This past week I had someone do just that for me.

It took me by surprise.  It stirred my faith.  It gave me fresh hope.  It challenged me.  It wasn’t even something I was necessarily looking for to happen, but it did.

Then the aftermath:  I’m faced with my response to this invitation.

It’s a bit scary to have hope after rejection.  It takes risk and vulnerability to believe in something that seems impossible.

You see this wasn’t just a thing for the moment.  He actually left me with a challenge and invitation to press in for myself, to spend time in prayer, to specifically ask God for what I wanted and declare His Words true.  He challenged me to believe God for something greater than I could see at the moment, to “rebuild my walls” if I can put it that way.

He encouraged me just how I needed it in the moment and gave me a springboard to jump in afresh for myself.

Now it’s up to me to share with my close friends and have a team that can rally with me.  It’s my turn to spend time with the Lord fleshing things out.  It’s up to me to set aside time to pray and declare truth.  It’s up to me to expose the new little springs of life to sunshine so that they will grow and to pull up the weeds when they pop up.

What incredible opportunities we have to bless and strengthen one another!  Let’s open our eyes, see what God’s doing and be a part of the solution.

Who will you stand in the gap for today?

Who is the Lord putting in Your path to strengthen and encourage?  Who is God asking you to speak on His behalf for?  Who is He asking you to pray for regularly?

We may have to stop and take a little time to listen.  We may need to give up a few minutes of our day and tend to the needs of others.  It’s a part of serving and entering into one another’s sufferings.  It’s a part of being and active member of His Body.

How can we minister the love of God to each other and impart courage to raise up a generation of believers with unprecedented faith?

Friends, we are not  meant to journey alone.  We can’t do it on our own.

So who will you stand in the gap for today?

 

 

Waiting on “Real Life” to Start

Turning 30  has made me quite reflective as of late.  Probably in part because my life looks pretty much nothing like I thought it would at this stage.

My plans were to be married, already have my 5 children and probably have a little nook of a house in the country somewhere in the U.S., hopefully in the mountains and near a river.

Today I find myself living on an island near the equator in SE Asia.  Still childless.  Still single.  And living alone on the 13th floor of an apartment complex.

Apparently some things didn’t quite pan out like I’d hoped.

But I’m here to honestly, 100% say that I’m OKAY with that. I really am.

I’m actually THANKFUL that my life didn’t turn out like I planned.  And here’s part of the reason:

In my late teens and early 20s I somehow came came into agreement with a lie from the pits of hell that whenever I got married my real life would start.  That’s when life would begin.  That’s when I would be worth something.  I was waiting on a man to show me that I was valuable, and so at 18 years old I was already desperate to get married.  The thought of being alone would shake me to the core, and I had to push back that awful fear with extreme force because the possibility was just too much for me to even consider.

Now I don’t know when exactly I decided to believe these lies or precisely where they came from.

My parents never pushed me to date or told me that marriage was the highest goal.  My relationship with my father was solid so I didn’t have “daddy issues.”  My mom encouraged me to actually not be so focused on that.  But somewhere along the lines of daydreaming and struggling to find identity I believed the lies of the enemy.

Maybe it came from all the Disney movies that I was obsessed with as a child (and maybe still am…).  The prince comes in and rescues the damsel in distress and they live happily ever after.  One glance, one kiss, is all it all it would take and then BAM.  True love and happiness and security.

It could be in part that I grew up in an environment where a good majority of people that I looked up to got married in their late teens/early 20s. Isn’t this what’s supposed to happen?  I’d also get comments like, “By the time I was your age I was married with 2 kids.”  They weren’t meant to put me down, but they were careless remarks that should’ve been left unsaid.

And let’s not even get caught up on all the books and tv shows and commercials and magazines that place women’s value in the hand’s of a man’s glance.

Wherever the lies came from, they were deeply ingrained in my heart and tell all of us what our 20s are supposed to be like.

I felt like the odd one out.  I was doing everything “right” as a good little Christian girl.  I was saving myself for marriage.  I was reading my Bible and going to church.  I was active in my youth group.

I went to college after high school because that’s what I was supposed to do.  I was really just biding my time until he came along, and I could start living my real life.

Because you see, that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up – a wife.  Even though I was a good student, I never had big career goals and had little interest in a Bachelor’s degree because I had no vision for it, therefore no drive to obtain it.

Things started shifting for me in my early 20s when my singles Sunday school class (of about 3/4 people) went through a study on singleness.  It was though this study that I realized my “real life” was NOW.  I couldn’t wait around for this prince charming guy to come along.  I mean, where in the world was he anyways?!  My life had to shift as this new perspective began to take over.

Things didn’t magically change in a second.  It actually has taken years to reveal the depth of the lies that I believed, to uproot them and replace them with His truth.

I had opportunities to be in relationships or at least explore towards that, but I just never had peace about it so I’d always bow out when the opportunity came up.  I felt like I was always trying to make it fit, but it was never right.  And I had determined long ago that I would never settle.

It wasn’t until I was almost 25 that I was able to trust the Lord with my singleness and let Him lift that weight off my shoulders.  Cue signing up for the World Race.

Something shifted when taking that leap and being okay with guaranteeing my singleness for yet another year of my life.  I finally felt the freedom in being single that I’d only heard people talk about.  It was real!  I really could be okay with being single.  Wow.

New chapter.

As the journey has continued it’s been quite the roller coaster.  There have been so many moments and experiences that I achingly wished I could share with my future husband.  Things I longed to talk with him about.

Through these difficult times of feeling left alone, I now realize that the Father was drawing me to Himself.  He has actually been showing me who I am, who He has created me to be.  It’s been a beautifully painful journey of discovery and healing and taking courageous steps when I had no courage of my own.

He’s shown me that I don’t need a prince to rescue me.  I don’t need attention from a man to have value.  I don’t need a husband to fulfill me or complete me.

The Father has taken me through a journey of actually coming to a place of liking myself, of finding my value in Him, of taking away the fear of being alone by filling me in my deepest parts with His extravagant love and showing me that He is trustworthy and dependable.

Thank God I didn’t get married 10 years ago!  I would’ve set some poor man up for complete failure.  He would’ve never been able to fill my insecurities the way that God does.

I still believe that I will be a wife and a mother one day, and I’m filled with joyful anticipation for that season.  It’s not the desperate need any longer, but it’s a deep desire in it’s proper place in my heart now.

But as a friend recently told me, now I will be more than just a wife.  My identity will not be rooted in being a wife or a mother because it’s firmly grounded in who He declares that I am.

He is making me whole.  He is making me free to love and be loved.  He’s inviting me to dream big dreams.

So I’ve learned that we absolutely CANNOT compare one life to another.

Single or married, we’re all on a unique journey.  Whether you’re a stay at home mom with children hanging off your limbs and dark circles under your eyes, or a lawyer living in a high rise in NYC or a woman traipsing around the world with Jesus – your life is important.

This season is purposeful.

Don’t skip today dreaming about tomorrow.

As the lovely and wise Betsy Garmon once admonished, “Be women of faith and not fantasy…Be in your life.”

So take heart dear ones.  Take courage all you single ladies and men.  Lift your eyes to Jesus.

It’s actually not so much about what we’re doing, but it’s all about who we’re becoming in the process.

I know it’s not easy.  There are still theses deep longings inside of us.  There will still be those lonely nights, those dateless weekends and those solo trips to the movies.  Let’s not avoid the pain, but let’s press into it and allow Him to form something valuable in us.

You are loved and valuable and capable because of Jesus, not because of anyone else.

He created us for eternity.  This life is just a breath.

Let’s live it to the fullest and not sit around and wait for someone else to tell us we’re okay before we start living fully.

Through the blood of Jesus we are enough, we are loved and we are valuable. 

Don’t wait another minute.

Live fully and joyfully today.

 

 

This Crazy Little Thing Called Love

My perception of love gets blurred sometimes by romantic comedies, fairytales, country music and maybe even One Direction if I’m being honest.

In our highly sexual culture the meaning becomes watered down and about as deep and dirty as a mud puddle.

This past Valentine’s Day, the day that celebrates love, I was reminded of a few characteristics and expressions of authentic love.

Of course this isn’t all-inclusive. It’s just a bit of what I’ve drawn from my experiences and how I view it through my lens.

Love

Love is deeper and wider and higher than we can ever imagine it.

I believe it’s more than a fleeting feeling.

I know for certain that it’s more than infatuation.

Sincere love isn’t dependent on circumstances or behavior.

Enduring love, that deep kind that makes your heart ache with pain or joy, is willing to make sacrifices.

Love gives without agenda, expecting nothing in return.

Love is committed. Steady. Unfailing.

Love doesn’t have to understand.

I don’t think that love is blind. I believe when someone truly loves you it’s because they see your weaknesses and your strengths. They’ve seen you at your best and at your worst, and in the end they’ve decided that you’re worth it.

Love is considerate.

Love isn’t inconvenienced by sacrifices but is always seeking the good of the other person.

Love always forgives.

Love calls you out and up into the person you were created to be, even if when it’s uncomfortable.

Love is mysterious.

Love is always watching, always waiting, always longing for the wayward and lost to return.

Love doesn’t define you by your past but sees your story as a window to your soul.

Love never manipulates, condemns or tries to control.

Love works long hours and takes risks for the benefit of others.

Love doesn’t pacify for the sake of keeping a false peace.

Love is patient and kind.

Love holds back your hair when you’re throwing up in the middle of the night.

Love challenges you and spurs you on.

Love is an action verb.

Love listens.

Love slips a note in your suitcase before you leave.

Love always has your best interest at heart.

Love wakes you up while giving you a kiss goodbye before leaving for work in the morning.

Love is longsuffering and steadfast.

Love covers over a multitude of sins.

Love never fails.

Today I am more thankful than ever for the ways that my family and friends and my Creator Father have loved me & for what they’ve taught me about love.

As long as there is love, we have the inspiration and the strength we need to keep hoping and living abundantly.  As long as there is love there will be joy in this journey.

“And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”   ~  I Corinthians 13:3  ~

Broken

As I was walking along the beach recently I noticed a pretty shell in the sand and went to pick up, but then I realized that it was broken…Incomplete and imperfect.

My immediate reaction was that I didn’t want it because it wasn’t whole.

Right then and there I felt the Father whispering to my heart, “Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean it isn’t still beautiful.”

This struck me to the core because it is exactly like me and exactly like you.

We live in a fallen and broken world.  We often feel like we’re not worth anything because we’re not the picture of perfection.

Our bodies are imperfect.  We keep making the same mistakes over and over again.  We’re failing more than we’re succeeding at things.  Our flesh wins again leaving us feeling defeated.

I hate feeling this way.

I hate feeling like I’ll never measure up or be “good enough.”

I’m left feeling small and insignificant.

broken shell

And then Jesus speaks…

He tells me that yes, I am broken, but I’m still beautiful.  

He reminds me that His strength is made perfect in my weaknesses.

Through His perfect sacrifice the Father sees me as whole.

Right now I’m still a broken mess most of the time, but I’m beginning to see that we all are.

If we take off our masks and truly embrace intimacy and authenticity, we know that we don’t have it all together.

But I do know Someone who does.  It is in Him that I can boast.  It is in this man Jesus that I can find wholeness and peace and purpose for this life.

He loves me, and He loves you.  He knows that we’re broken, and yet He stills calls us His  beautiful beloved.

I cannot grasp this Love!  It is fierce.  It’s unconditional and abounding.  It is deeper and wider and higher than I can ever grasp.

It’s so steady.

And it keeps drawing me in…

Yes.  I’m broken.

I’m still going to fail.  I still have so much to learn about walking with Jesus, but I know that He’s holding my hand and my heart.

I’m humbled because of my brokenness and because of His love.  It leaves me in a vulnerable state of dependence, right at my Savior’s feet.

I’m discovering that more and more this is where I want to be, at the feet of Jesus.  Hanging on His every word.  Captivated by His presence.

This revelation has inspired me to keep a collection of broken shells.  It’s to serve as a reminder to me that my Father gathers broken things and makes them whole.  That He loves me always.

So let’s embrace today and who we are, a beautiful, broken and redeemed mess.