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Lifesound

– a journey of pursuit & progress –

The Absence and the Hollow

I’ve been absent from my writing for some time now. Absent, not to be mistaken for thoughtless. I don’t enjoy this absence. There’s rarely an hour that goes by where something isn’t churning around in my heart to share or taking note of said topic’s continual resurfacing. There’s been many a time I feel as if I’m swimming in a sea of words, some words creating works better than others, yet their development never comes to fruition and thus, these works are scrapped. Some of these writings were better than others, and some were ill- formulated. Some were heartbreaking; grievous to toss, but I had to, so away they went.

For a long while now it’s been difficult for me to publish something I know will be somewhat, if not completely incomprehensible for my reader. It’s not that my reader won’t have any understanding, but rather in my relation of facts, story, insight and so forth, I am beginning to see quite a lot is lost in translation. I can’t afford that. My heart, perspective, and victories won’t ever fully be understood because well, they are mine. This isn’t my concern. My concern lies in the framework of the reader’s ability to understand the intricacies I attempt to relay through these personal happenings; my attempt to impart encouragement, hope, and other similar things to you. This is difficult. I can’t make you feel, change, or grow. I can only challenge, encourage, and believe the Holy Spirit is working through my words.

I pray for understanding and translation to your world, but that’s not on me or is it? Should you, my audience fail to comprehend what I’ve been empowered to say, are my words not full, but empty? I’m a glass half full, benefit of the doubt person, so I would say, heavens no! That said, the potential I see for those words seems void and it rather pains me to let them be written at all. To be swallowed. For these words were paid for on bended knee, most likely in the middle of the night, and in the currency of weighty tears. These words were expensive. A life lived in fire is expensive. I forbid them be tossed to the wind.

So here I’ve found myself, caught in the middle of this great passion; the deep desire to express the teachings of my Father through written form, while in the same breath, flirting with the idea of putting the pen aside for good.

Should the words I write not penetrate the very heart of who I’m writing for? I’ve leaned toward their withholding as valuable coins are preserved in hopes of their value increasing at a later time. This is my great dilemma and my great silence.

I have poured over nearly finished works of my own doing just to realize they have no place in my collection. I often question why I spent my time writing these in the first place. For me, writing is simply vain if the subject matter is void the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of God-so I chucked those too.

Then there’s the last and final category, which is mostly what this is all about. Because of the previously mentioned items, I would find myself tailoring my “voice” to accommodate the understanding of those I’m writing for. This is obviously a, “no-no” in the writing world, but so very easily done and only months ago began realizing the severity of the scribal detour I had taken. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like my new voice. I would write and write with no avail, no works completed in months. I would near the end of what I believed to be a powerful revelation worthy of written expression only to toss them aside as a dirty rag. It pains me to think I was actually recreating the voice the Lord had placed in me to deliver others by. If I try to alter this after its discovery, I am both a wash and a fool for I have squandered the very gift of God He set within me to appease the crowd.

Shameful.

I wish I could take even a smidge of credit for this revelation, but in that I too would be a fool. I will always believe God’s richest blessings come in the form of people. That said, one of the most incredible, sincere, and warm individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing shared this truth with me. I’m sure you can probably attest what it feels like when a revelatory moment comes? It can change your life. This was much of that. Cue light switch.

Finally! It was as if my darker shades were lightened and my frustration of my former works, blotted away in a seamless motion. Illumination in a moment of vocalized truth.

“It’s important that you never lose your voice.” Those words are fastened strong within my heart as if only spoken moments ago. I hear the tone they were spoken in, their weight each time my pen hits a page and my thoughts start tracking back toward that ill-formed way.

Here’s to keeping your voice-

Cheers!

My thoughts are filled with beautiful words for the King, and I will use my voice as a writer would use pen and ink. (Psalm 45:1)

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This Priceless Investment

My time at the Dalit Freedom Network this past year and a half has been some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. As a big picture person, if you would have asked me if I’d be working with a non-profit whose main focus was narrowed to a specific people group within India, I would’ve said no. It wasn’t because I couldn’t ever see it as a possibility, but rather a location that I hadn’t viewed myself in. HoIMG_3114wever, the moment I truly step back and take inventory, I can genuinely say my life’s been watermarked with the nation of India, and more specifically, its beautiful people.

Last February, I had the remarkable opportunity of traveling to India in order to visit a few of the schools I had been working with throughout the previous year. From the very first step into the very first classroom, I was absolutely captivated. Upon our arrival we were lavished with dense, flowering neck garments and given a processional fit for royalty, where a measurable depth of petals surrounded our feet. Every student was beaming; singing songs they’d memorized and quoting their English lessons verbatim. Within a fraction of a moment, I realized two things; the enormity of my responsibility to these children and the power of education.20150220-IMG_0745

Senses overwhelmed, my heart gave silent thanks as I was finally able–with my own eyes–to see the numerous donations of our partners tangibly displayed in colorful classrooms, fully equipped computer labs, and brilliant uniforms of blue and white. The translation of our day-to-day operations effectively reaching those on the ground was nothing short of inspirational. Every difficult and tedious task paid such a high dividend upon stepping foot in these children’s world.

These same schools, I first visited became the same schools I would find and sponsor a sweet little boy from, a boy with eyes of gold and a heart full of dreams. I remember lying in my room that same evening with a combination of bittersweet emotions. Joyful I had found this particular child yet also sad because of having to part ways so quickly. William Wilberforce once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.” It has rung so true and while I couldn’t remove my child from his circumstances, I could provide an education, a haven, and a place for him to simply be a child. Even though I was aware of the effectiveness of sponsorship through my role at DFN, something erupted in my heart. As I stood in the auditorium listening to the daring ambitions IMG_8223-1024x682of a group of sixteen-year-old students, I felt tremendously responsible for the outcome of their lives. I saw the need, how could I not be a part of the answer?

It’s been a year since I touched Indian soil, but it always feels like yesterday. The sights, smells, and smiles linger in my thoughts with great affection. Within that year, I had the honor of sponsoring another child (a girl, also from one of the schools I visited) and look forward to all the great things they’ll accomplish throughout their lives. Giving a child the ability to simply dream in their present establishes a foundation for amazing opportunity in their future.

Change a Life > http://www.dalitnetwork.org

 

The Treasure of Vulnerability

This past year has been a whirlwind of epic proportions. Now, I can’t exactly remember the last time I actually said the word epic, so hopefully that paints a pretty clear picture as to the craziness that’s ensued. When speaking of craziness in the current context, I’m not referring to the description of commotion as much as I am the perplexities of life and the flow of God moving in and through us, (if we’ll let Him) truly bringing us from glory to glory; out of the mire and onto the mountain.

I’ve heard it said that at some point, “All of us have tried and failed, that we’ve all gone for broke and become broke. We’ve played the game and lost, but that doesn’t mean we’re finished, not at all. We get back up, get back in, and get back to work.”

20141118192423-brave-enough-vulnerableI grew up playing a myriad of sports and loved them all. The competition, the life lessons, the athleticism and of course the fun. I’ve always loved winning and giving my absolute best; striving for excellence even if that did mean, ‘going for broke’. I’d rather risk it all than forever live with the questions that begin with, shoulda, coulda, woulda. I made a pact with myself when I was younger that I’d never spend my final breaths speaking wishing words or regretting a ‘safe’ life.

That pact, those words, have been stamped upon the canvas of my heart; sealed in a subsequent measure that’s affected everything I do and how I love. Years ago, I remember being incredibly closed off, individualistic and somewhat of a recluse. I wasn’t afraid of being hurt or rejected as much as I was (unbeknownst to me at the time) selfishly withholding precious love the Lord so graciously bestowed on me rather than passing it along to others. So a few years back, after my dad passed away, the thick, Jericho-like walls that I’d erected so judiciously crumbled within an instant. I can’t explain the feeling other than it being a numbing mixture of pure devastation and spontaneous internal rage. In a single moment all my fortresses were vanquished, ripped away, and destroyed and there I stood; emotionally naked, cold, and alone. It’s in that same moment though that love finally began reaching out.

I honestly don’t know if words even exist to convey these past seven years and wouldn’t wish the content on the worst of mankind. It’s been full of raging storms and seemingly incessant waves. Through it all, I cannot fathom what I would’ve done without both the presence of God or His Word–well I do, I wouldn’t have made it. Walking away from the Lord has never been an option though. He’d never leave me and faithfulness to grow any relationship is a non-negotiable. When I had nothing left, I still had the Word and so I clung with all my might. The entirety and truth of the Word saved my life, and the following scripture was one of many in Psalm 40:1-4 calmed my heart on repeated occasions. “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust.”

girl+runningVulnerability is indeed a treasure. My world as I knew it was falling apart, and I quickly learned the need for solid, Christ-centered friendships in order to regain strength and move forward in the things God still had in store for my life. I knew I had to return to a childlike state of vulnerability and leave my individualistic living at the cross if I was ever going to do anything more than merely exist.

So in this whirlwind of a year, when I lost a few additional things that were closest to my heart, the Lord again reminded me of this simple lesson of vulnerability and reiterated the importance of it’s ‘treasure nature’. I’m more inquisitive than I’ve ever been and asked why He (The Lord) chose to use that particular word in its description. His reply of, “be a forger” has changed my life, not because He answered my question interestingly enough, but because of the depth that He’s shown me through viewing vulnerability in such a way–as if pursuing treasure. Almost immediately things that were buried by struggles, hardship and daily monotony became exposed with the joy, peace, and love through others that only the Father could expend at such disposal during such a delicate time (Ezekiel 36:26).

kiss_this_thing_goodbyeEven though I’ve lost a lot in the natural, I’ve had the privilege of seeing many a dream restored rapidly. I often think of Joel when he speaks of restoration after years of pestilence and plague in Joel, chapter 2, verses 26-27. The life I thought I lost was replaced with the life I’d been crying out for. The person I was, became the person I always wanted to be.
The joy, peace, patience, hope and overflowing love of Christ I so desperately wanted to exude suddenly welled up on the inside of me. I know it’s always been there, but the revelation finally penetrated my heart. The Lord used those moments of vulnerability with godly friendships to strengthen and speak life to my weary bones and walked me right out of the tomb I’d laid myself in.

When I think about God’s goodness through this season I can’t help but thank Him for graciously rescuing and restoring my life in a way that’s far above anything could have imagined and unfortunately, asked for myself. His beautiful leading, constant patience and generous love brings me to my knees. I pray whatever you may be walking through, that you too would witness His sweet restoration power through vulnerability and, “ be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8)

That Glow

I saw that glow today; that radiant twinkle children get in their eyes when they just have to do something to help others. It’s a beautiful combination of pure excitement and complete selflessness that’s quite uncommon these days and so, when I happened upon it, I was both deeply moved and grateful to be a witness.

Last week, I had the honor of being at a sponsorship event held by Crossroads Church in Georgia with some of the most pleasant people I’ve had the privilege of meeting. Georgia is indeed the definition of top-notch hospitality and southern comfort (and the best biscuits in existence).

firefliesAfter one of the services, a mom and her two girls came to the table to pick out a little girl to sponsor. You would have thought it was Christmas morning. I couldn’t believe my eyes. These girls were excitedly jumping up and down with pleas of, “Can we, can we?” and after their mother’s nod, many stretches of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” proceeded from their sweet little faces amidst their eager, beaming smiles – and glowing eyes. I was stunned. My first thought? Wow, this is love – then I heard their story.

These two sisters have been making and selling crafts for some time in order to raise enough money to start sponsoring their precious little girl from India. So today was the day. They had raised enough and had already, excitedly, started listing off ways they could continue to raise more funds.

On the verge of tears, I don’t think I moved for a couple minutes in an attempt to soak in the sweetness of what I had just experienced. Their sacrifice of time and gift of all they had for a precious little one on the other side of the world that they had never met? Incredible. I can still see the joyous glow in their eyes when they selected their little girl’s profile, almost as if to say, “You will be alright now, we’ll take care of you.” I’m so humbled to have witnessed such a moment, a beautiful moment that slowed time and quieted the hustle of life. To witness this love was to witness a miracle.

Tumbling Down

“We cannot surround our lives or hearts with impenetrable barriers, for those fortresses of protection quickly turn into walls of resistance. Nothing paints a better picture then the fortress walls of Jericho; an impenetrable city that had to crumble for God’s promises to come to pass. You’ve built walls so high and so thick that nothing’s been allowed in or out.”

What kind of life is this? What kind of love is this? But most importantly, what kind of example of our heavenly Father is this?”cracked_wall

The above paragraph has been resounding in my heart all day. God is so good and merciful. I’m so grateful that in my weakness, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9) and that when I make a mistake, He’s there to pick me up without question. I’ve always understood the concept of what’s written above, but only today did it penetrate my heart and revolutionize my life in a radical way. I saw each brick layered within the wall as an accepted lie of the enemy. I was helping him build it! No more! I’m thankful for the truth of the Word in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 where it says, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” What a scripture! Through the power of God in us, we can be free!

If you feel you’ve constructed walls of your own just simply talk to the Lord, repent, ask for help, build yourself up in the word and prayer and move forward. God has great things in store for you!

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

-2 Corinthians 12:9

EnJOYing Life.

Over the last year or so, the Lord’s really debunked a lot of my ‘godly’ perspectives and religious traditions. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the show, ‘Mythbusters,’ but that’s exactly the concept I’m talking about. Taking what is believed to be truth and uncovering it for what it really is: a myth, fable, tradition or tale. I used to have all these ideas of how life should go, what priorities were really priorities, what a “good” Christian really looked like and what a “good” Christian does or does not do. You get the idea, the list could go on and on. I lived in a box; made God and others live there too and one day, I just got tired of it. unraveling

As the Lord began to open my eyes toward numerous beliefs I’d had, I found many of them were full of judgement, rooted in tradition. It’s really hard to say when it all started happening, but it soon became as a ball of yarn unraveling and an unraveling ball of yarn is a mess. However, it’s in the mess that knots are able to be undone and the yarn is eventually–even if over a period of time–straightened out. Now previously I mentioned, “I got tired of it,” and by that I meant, I was finally able to see life as more than the rules and regulations that I had been strictly living by. I saw it hurting those I loved most and ultimately crippling my joy, strength and effectiveness. As I began seeing the inner workings and entanglements of the issues, I became more assured that these guidelines and this pressure of performance was nothing God intended for me or demanded from me.
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Where had I gotten the idea God requires so many church services a week in order to be His, that I’m not supposed to have too much fun or that to enjoy life is to not take seriously all He’s given me? How in the world did I start thinking that God’s up there rating my performance, weighing if what I’m doing is really ‘missions’ work, judging my faithfulness on whether I need to rest or questioning if I’m willing to sacrifice all for ministry.

I can’t say I remember the exact day this “myth busting” process started happening, but I do remember that from that point on I began enjoying life so much more and that’s the key. I began learning who God really was based on His Word, rather than on my perceptions; that it truly blessed Him when I enjoyed life. So many knots were undone and wrong mindsets untangled. I believe if we are to truly do something for God we’ve got to know His heart and operate from that standpoint rather than from conjured up imaginations, rigid guidelines or thought processes. During this period of time, I would hear a gentle, “Are your priorities, My priorities?” It was a punch to the gut. I so badly wanted to do something for the Lord, but I was missing His heart to do them.
"Priorities" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.
Whenever I initially heard that question, I of course said an emphatic, “YES,” but as the number of times I heard that phrase increased, my answer gradually grew into a broken, “Oh, Lord. Not at all.” I always thought my priorities were right because my answer was always in a careful order of God, family, others, but it was the heart behind my answer that was incorrect. I had a perspective that truly loving or serving God almost meant neglecting my family or other things at times. That’s not God though. Never was and never will be. He wants us to enjoy good things; enjoy our family, friends and life itself. Of course, God wants to be first and foremost in our lives, as loving Him first, is and has always been crucial. However, it’s out of that ‘first’ love that we minister to our families which is ultimately our number one priority and ministry. God would not give us the blessing of family first to neglect them for the blessing of a ministry He gives us later on. And lastly, if I’m not loving God first there’s no way I can rightly love my family, but if I am not able to love my family who I’m closest to, I probably can’t truly love a stranger (especially as God intended) whom I’ve never known or had any relationship with.
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All this said, ministry is important folks. Going to church isn’t an option. We need it, but we also have to recognize that ministry is everywhere, God needs us everywhere and no job is “below” that of a ministry position. In the grocery store, on the corner of a street, at the restaurant, on the elevator, on the phone, behind closed doors, in the home and in the office. Ministry is more than an organization or a place. Ministry’s how we raise our kids, talk to our spouse, encourage our family, honor others, treat those who hurt us, give selflessly and act when others aren’t looking. It’s being gracious, giving generously, forgiving easily and loving despite flaws. The list could go on and on, but the point I’m trying to make is that of priorities. They’re important and they’re important to God.

God wants us to enjoy our lives! Simple as that. It took me a long time to come to the realization that enjoying life didn’t mean casting off responsibilities or that I wasn’t serious about serving the Lord, but rather by enjoying life, I was able to show gratitude for all the wonderful things the Lord had done. This same joy and freedom I’ve experienced can be yours. It’s worth it and I promise it will truly transform every area of your life!

“But, I Just Can’t”

“Lord, I’m so tired, I’m so exhausted, I just wanna throw in the towel, I just want to be done believing already. I just want to have a day where the promise is tangible.” Numerous times I’ve found myself weeping those words and in the very next breath heard my heart say, “but I just can’t, I just can’t give up.” I don’t exactly know how to explain the feeling itself, but it parallels similarly to being startled awake. It’s a, “wait, what in the world was I contemplating? I was going to give up? Where did that come from?” It comes out of nowhere and attempts thievery of your emotions, your dreams and your promises–and, if you’re not vigilant, will succeed.

long_drive_road

Have you ever been on a long journey before? Have you traveled for what seems an endless period of time only to find you still have half the trip to go? Have you ever become restless thinking you’re so close, then discover there’s still hours left until you reach your destination? Over the last several years I’ve made countless trips–long trips–to different cities, states and countries and have had many the opportunity to feel the described restlessness. I went to a university about eight hours from my home and had/have driven the route many times, but without fail there’s a point when I always believe my destination’s over the next hill and every time it’s the same “44 miles left” marker instead. This is the part of the journey that gets long for me; fatiguing, arduous and a bit mundane. That’s only half the story though, because that same “44 miles” marker that’s fatiguing, also invigorates me. It reminds me, I’m almost there. It breeds expectancy, excitement and hope. Although the drive’s been long, the wait’s almost over and the destination is really just ahead. Hallelujah for strength to finish!

How have you been waiting? Are you full of frustration or full of expectation? Do you see how long it’s taken or the distance that you’ve come and how much closer you actually are to the destination? How you wait really does matter. It not only affects you, but those around you. We can waste away divine moments and ministry opportunities; days and weeks, even months and years of our lives restlessly awaiting things that we know lie in front of us–even if they are promises of God–but they won’t come any faster. Let’s use our time wisely and start waiting well. Let’s be a people that not only have a tenacious “I just can’t give up” attitude when everything is truly falling apart, but also a people that rests in Him during those waiting times; that use the time to pray, develop character, and serve without question. I truly know that life can get really tumultuous and sincerely empathize, but those times aren’t for giving up, they’re for digging deep. If God’s given you a promise, a dream or whatever it may be, hold fast and hold on! If you feel crazy, praise God we don’t live by feelings! Cling tight to Him. If people say all manner of things against you and the vision, dream, or promise God’s put in your heart looks impossible, hold fast. In all the standing for these things that pertain to your life, don’t forget about others though. Love God and love people. Be a relentless “I just can’t” person; selfless, fully awake and stewarding well the time you’ve been given.

Hang-On-667

No matter where we go or what we’re doing, we can always find ourselves or someone else waiting on something. Small details or huge happenings, everyone has or will have to wait at some point. In any situation, I believe there’s two options, solely waiting or waiting well. I know there will come a time when those hopes, dreams and promises God’s put in my heart will come to pass and when they do, I want to be able to look back and know I redeemed the time rather than squandered it. I want to be a person who never gives up, who’s relentless about what God has promised, but also fully awake to the deceptive tactics of the enemy. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full, till it overflows -John 10:10.” Personally, I believe the faith we have toward a situation is a result of the value we’ve placed on what we’re believing for. When I think of giving up on those things that I care so deeply about, I’ve chosen to be an “I just can’t” person who also fully operates in waiting well. I can rest when the battle’s won. I believe it’s the way that God is challenging me to live and hope you’ll choose to do the same.

“We must continue to hold firmly (fast) to our declaration of faith (without wavering). The one who made the promise is faithful.” -Hebrews 10:23

If you’ve had the chance to read my ‘About the Author’ section or have kept up with my previous blogs you’re probably aware that I spent a few years in Oklahoma and returned home to Iowa after the passing of my father. In my previous writings I’ve mentioned many of the difficulties; some of the tough things I’ve walked through and what I’ve learned. If there’s anything that can help, encourage or strengthen another person, I’ve always believed that it was worth sharing even if it costs me my vulnerability. That said, this particular blog will let y’all in a little deeper. It’s my hope that you’ll again be greatly encouraged and ever strengthened in the Lord.

A couple months ago God very clearly told me I was to move back to Tulsa, the very place I’d left only a couple years earlier. It was December of 2010, a year after my dad’s passing that the Lord had been prompting me to move home. I knew many of the reasons why He was leading me in this direction but refused to believe He’d actually ask me to do such a thing. Can you smell the pride in that? After all, He was the one that’d blessed me with this place and had promised me things that hadn’t come to pass. He’d given me a great church and friendships that I’d prayed most of my life for. What in the world was He thinking? After weeks and weeks of these constant proddings, I finally surrendered–seriously angry, but surrendered–I threw all that I had grown to love on the altar and moved forward with what God had instructed of me. These past two years have been a serious furnace, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything and am forever thankful, that by the grace of God I can’t recognize that person I used to be. (That’s worth a huge AMEN!) Image

Throughout those weeks and months the Lord dealt with a myriad of heart issues and although there were numerous reasons for returning home, family was a huge one. Unfortunately, throughout my life I’ve taken my family for granted (or used to) and could hardly wait to leave. My relationship with my family was alright, but not great. I was blessed with wonderful parents and a great home-life. I loved them and they loved me, but my affection and appreciation for them was very surface, very cold and very unlike Christ.

During the timeframe when the Lord had been readying me for the move ahead, I immediately began thinking of my family and even became sorrowful at the thought of having to leave them. Wait what? Yeah, I was even surprised. Years ago this would’ve never been the case. The sadness wasn’t unhealthy though, but rather one that’s shows a significant heart change. In the days that followed, I can’t say I knew how to handle the emotions of it very well because I’d never experienced them before. This was a foreign place, but also a welcome change and I loved it.

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A few weeks before I was to leave, I was watching my two year old nephew and like every time we’re together, he loves walking and putting my dog Chelsea to bed or as he says, “night night.” I’ve always cherished this time with my sweet Joshua as he’d cling tight to my neck and offer kisses without prompting. Although we’d done this many times before, this night was very different. After sobbing most of the walk, I began telling him that I’d be leaving and told him I loved him very much. He immediately responded in his questionative tone, “Chelle bye bye?” His big blue eyes stared at me in perplexity and as if he knew what I needed, wrapped his loving arms tightly around my neck and gently patted my back. This moving thing was becoming increasingly difficult.

One evening though I heard that Lord gently say, “You know, this pain’s a blessing.” “Huh, are you kidding?” I jabbed back. He continued, “This is tangible evidence of a heart change, your prayers in manifestation.” I sat there dumbfounded for quite a while, those words ringing in my ears and through my heart. While I had never prayed for pain, I had constantly prayed for change. “God, I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to be rude, harsh, cold or angry. I don’t want to be an old hag with a nasty attitude. God I want to be like you, I want your heart, I want this hard heart to come alive again. I want to love without the walls or conditions.” Needless to say, God heard that prayer and into the furnace we went.

When the purification of precious metals begins, they’re immersed in an intense heat in order to give the impurities an opportunity to separate and rise to the top where they’re able to be ladled from the batch. David says it best in Psalm 66:10-12, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs, You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; but You have brought us out to rich fulfillment.” The furnace is an incredibly uncomfortable place where everything that’s in opposition to the life of Christ is revealed in order to gain a greater likeness of Him. It’s the burial grounds of pride, selfishness, wrong thoughts, wrong motives and even dreams. Praise God though, it’s also a place of redemption, restoration, mending, fulfillment and joy. It’s a place where God’s will becomes final authority and surrender becomes a lifestyle.

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So on surrender’s note, the day finally came where the goodbyes became reality. It was all I could do to make it out the front door–and I’d even practiced–as if you can practice the pain away. This really was a moment of truth for me. A moment so different from the other times. I knew what the Lord had called me to do and without question knew I’d have to leave the very thing I’d grown to love so dearly. I don’t know if you’ve ever been cliff jumping or sky diving but it had that similar free-falling sensation. “God, I’m trusting you with everything,” I said standing at the front door. “I feel absolutely crazy, but You have yet to be unfaithful, so here we go.” My heart already aching and tears already flooding, I climbed into the car and pulled out of the driveway. It wasn’t moments later, I found myself rehearsing the words the Lord had spoken only a few days earlier. How sweet they truly were and soon amid my tears came laughs of joy; overwhelming gratitude that the Lord had given me a new heart, a second chance with my family and taught me what love really is. To love so deeply that it hurts, a true blessing indeed.

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” -Ezekiel 36:26

Wade A Little Deeper

“It’s time to get out of the boat, it’s time to wade a little deeper.” Whoa, where did that come from? I had just finished an interview when those words rose quickly within me. Immediately, I thought of Peter who’d gotten out of his boat as a leap of faith. I thought of the fishermen that waded back in after Jesus’ command, Abraham, Esther, Mary, Paul, Noah and many others who had done great things because of their trust in God. Day after day, those words have continually resonated in my spirit and I firmly believe it’s a word for others just the same. It’s a word for those who are at a crossroads; those trying to decide between staying safely in the boat or diving in. It’s about trusting God with great tenacity regardless of the natural circumstances that may surround (Matthew 14:22-23 NLT). Are you ready?  Let’s go!

When I was a child, I was put in swimming lessons every year starting at age 4 or so. The first year, I began in the kiddie pool and rightfully so, I was only four (complete with pigtails and arm floaties)! The following summer the floaties came off because I was now all of five! Big stuff you know, ask any five year old. With each passing year, I had to wade a little further in the water; a little deeper in the pool. I had different things expected of me now as the levels of instruction increased and years went by. Even though I started in the kiddie pool, I was eventually diving off the deep end. Can you imagine what would have happened though, if in my first lesson they would’ve thrown me off the high dive? On my own, I presume, I surely would’ve drowned. I believe a similar picture holds true in our spiritual lives. With each passing year, if submitted to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we’ll continue growing and developing into who He’s called us to be. It won’t always be easy–infact, it may often feel more like a furnace than not–and even though the Lord will be there as comforter, He’ll also be challenging you to take another step of faith and like any good instructor, challenging you to swim at another level. I can hear Him calling, “Come on in, won’t you wade a little deeper, won’t you trust me a little more?”

You know, when I said, “Whoa, where did that come from,” I had already known it was the Lord, but it was the urgency with which it was said that awakened me. The Lord has recently been dealing with me about taking some of these same steps of faith I’ve been talking about. Over and over again, He’s given me the picture of my swimming lessons and Peter stepping out of the boat. Even though I know what the Lord has said to do,  that doesn’t mean my soul (mind, will, emotions) hasn’t tried to reason it out with my spirit.  If you’ve had similar thoughts, you’re definitely not alone. Have I been scared? Absolutely. Do I know what to expect and how it will all work out? No, not in the least bit. Faith isn’t about not having any questions, it’s about knowing where to take them and Who to take them to. If I let these thoughts of fear, doubt and anxiety go unchecked though, they’ll waltz right through that open door, make themselves at home and keep me from doing anything (2 Corinthians 10:5). A family member put it this way, “faith steps over scary” and into victory. I love that. So let’s get stepping! On the other side of every obedient action is a great blessing created just for you (Deut. 28:1-14)!

Although the step may look overwhelming and everything might be looking grim, finances might be lacking or people may be laughing, I believe He’s saying, ” Trust me. Trust Me that I’ve been preparing you for this step, that it’s been in my plan since you first waded in, since you first let the floaties go, since you stood on the high dive. Trust Me that I wouldn’t let you drown.”  I believe some of you are standing at that crossroads. A crossroads of staying where you’re at or stepping into more of God’s plan for your life. What will you choose?

Resident on the inside of me is an, “I MUST do this. I HAVE to take this step. I HAVE to go all in. NOW is the time. It’s what I think about daily. I can’t shake it and I can’t ignore it. If you’re in a similar situation, I encourage you wholeheartedly to stand up and step out in the direction God is leading you. He’ll be right there wading in with you and while it won’t always be easy, comfortable or convenient, I can guarantee, it will always be worth it.

“You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” -Psalms 16:11

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