Be Strong and Courageous

Joshua 1:9 says:  “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I have struggled my whole life with fear.  Talking with someone a while back, I discovered that I have been afraid of everything except…butterflies.  Butterflies?  Is that really what I came up with?  Well, maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not too much.  I have a tendency to be a very timid person.

Maybe that’s why I like the story of Joshua so much.  I think Joshua was a lot like me.  God had to tell Him at least three times in a row to be courageous and to not be afraid.  Why would He do that?  Well, as far as I can tell, you don’t tell a brave person to be courageous.  You tell someone who is shaking uncontrollably to be courageous.  Yet in spite of all his fears, God chose HIM to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land.

It’s also incredible to me that God commands Joshua to be courageous.  So many times I pray, “Lord, give me courage,” as if courage is like a cup of sugar passed around from one person to the next.  It’s as if God is saying to Joshua, “Choose courage, not fear.”  I wonder what it would mean in my life if I were to choose to be courageous more, and decided not to be afraid as often.  When you think about it, we as followers of Christ have placed our lives in the Almighty’s hands.  We are no longer our own, and we do not stand alone.  Nothing can touch us apart from the will of God.  If we have fully surrendered ourselves to whatever it is that God would ask of us or that He allows to come our way, then we have no reason to stay afraid of anything.  The only choice we have is to take the emotion of fear and choose courage instead.

One of my favorite lines in the Britt Nicole song “Walk on the Water” is this one:  You don’t have to be afraid.  That line rocked my world.  When we are afraid of something, it seems to us that we have no other option but to be afraid.  However, God speaks a different truth into our lives:  you don’t have to be afraid.  It is His desire for us that we grow in our trust in His sovereignty to the point that we can see fear for what it is:  powerless in the presence of God.  I want to live my life courageously.

What have you been facing recently that has left you trembling and afraid?  Be encouraged by this command from God:  “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Pray for Me

So many things have been racing through my head lately.  There are so many thoughts invading.  Some might mistake these preoccupations with worry or a lack of peace, but I wouldn’t call it that.  I would call it an awareness of the molding and shaping that is going on in my heart.

 It seems that over the past two or three days right and left God has been revealing to me and reminding me of the things that He has planned for my life.  It is a bit overwhelming in a good way to know that my Creator believes in the woman He created me to be.  On the other hand, reality is starting to hit that I am no longer a child looking dreamily into the sunset.  Obedience is easy when it is somewhere in the future, and anything is possible when it is not happening right now.  When the rubber hits the road and it comes time to muster the courage I imagined somewhere deep inside, I discover that I cannot do all this alone.

I was listening to Francis Chan the other day, and he was talking about how much every Christian needs the body of Christ to encourage and strengthen  him.  Even the apostle Paul who was known for his fearlessness in the face of preaching, torture, and death asked the churches in his letters to pray for him that he might have sufficient courage to preach the Word of God with boldness.  It’s hard to imagine someone like him ever being afraid.  I have a hard time picturing Paul weak.  However, I have come to understand that even the most outstanding people of faith have moments when they crumble, things that they are afraid of, and obstacles that they must overcome.

There are some things coming up in my life that are going to be very challenging.  Even this is only a step in the journey, and there are many more to come.  As these things draw closer, my heart has been beating a little faster.  I am incredibly excited because I know that I am following God’s leading.  However, I am also terrified because I know that I am in over my head.  I desperately need the encouragement of my brothers and sisters in Christ in order to follow through with all that is being asked of me.  I need help to trust Him.  I need to know that those around me believe in the woman that God is creating me to be.

I am so good at being alone.  I grew up as an only child.  I am an introvert.  I have perfected the art of doing things by myself.  I am incredibly independent and self-sufficient when it comes to most things in life.  I think this is why it is so difficult for me to grab hold of this lesson that I need other people in my life.  I don’t know how to ask for it.  I don’t know how to be open with other people.  It doesn’t feel natural to me, yet it is something I long for constantly.

I have a pen pal in Indiana.  She is a lady in her early 60’s that I met a few years ago working at one of my ministry excursions.  We have kept in contact through mail all these years, encouraging each other in the faith and sharing the things that we are learning and discovering in our journeys.  Today I received a letter from her, and it wasn’t ten minutes later that I was writing her back.  There was one thing that I desperately needed to ask her.  It was the very thing that Paul asked the churches:  “please pray for me that I might have sufficient courage to do all that God is asking of me with boldness.”  I have come to realize the past couple days that this is all too much for me to handle alone.  And I am so tired of being alone.

So, my brothers and sisters in Christ that are reading this right now, I would ask the same of you:  please pray for me.  Pray that God would give me sufficient courage.  Pray that He would grant me boldness.  Pray that I would not back down to the great fear I fight every day.  Pray that the attacks of the Enemy won’t leave me defeated.  It feels so selfish to write that, but I have come to realize that I am not strong enough.  I am not brave enough.  I tremble like jell-o in the face of God’s plan.  I melt like Flubber when I think about what is to come.  Bad analogy, I know…but you know what I’m talking about.  I need the encouragement.  I need the support.  I need you.

What is it in your life that you cannot face alone?  Ask your brothers and sisters in faith to pray for you.  Ask them to stand by you in encouragement.  What if the Body of Christ really can be all that it is meant to be?  Each one of us is a part of it.  When one part suffers, we all suffer.  When one part rejoices, we all rejoice.  Let’s support each other and let’s do this thing…together!

God’s Glitter

This evening I stood along the road and watched fireflies dance under a beautiful sky.  The sun was setting and the clouds were pink.  Birds glided to and fro through the air.  There was no breeze.  Piano and cello music played in my headphones.  What a perfect moment.  What perfect peace.

I walked along the side of the pond and watched the fountain spray droplets into the air.  I observed the ripples in the water as they floated away from this great disturbance.  In the midst of all this beauty, I felt a distant pain in my heart.  It was as if I was homesick for a place I’d never been.  I wanted to cry, but I was held back by two feelings:  one that I had already cried all my tears and the other that I had so sealed my emotions that none could possibly get through.  It was a moment where I found myself hungry and thirsty for something that I could not put my finger on.  The heaviness weighed greatly on my heart.

I find myself afraid to become anything but paralyzed by the fear that I will not amount to anything at the same time.  These dueling emotions leave me stuck somewhere in the middle.  I wonder what I have been afraid of all my life.  I wonder why my heart endlessly resists this peace.  Why can’t I dance like the fireflies under the great tree?  There is something magical that happens when God’s glitter fills the night air with small flashes of light.  You can’t see them coming and you can’t see where they went.  Just a small glimpse and they’re gone.  If their lights stayed on any longer, perhaps the moment wouldn’t be quite so filled with magic.

Maybe it’s the child-like wonder that I still have from time to time that keeps me here in this moment.  As I sit down to describe to God the deep longings of my heart and the ways I desire to know that He believes in me, He stops me and says, “What if you are like one of those fireflies?  What if you never did anything for me but scatter my glitter through the night air?  Would I love you any less?”  I dismiss the statement as irrelevant and continue with my ramblings as He once again whispers, “What about the fireflies?”

People must have thought I was a little nuts standing still on the side of the road staring at what seemed to be nothing.  After all, moving cars wouldn’t notice the little flashes of light.  They slowed down as they passed me to try to figure out what it was I was looking at before they continued on their way.  I was mesmerized.  Most of me didn’t want to waste time staring at fireflies.  Even though I had nowhere to go, it was against everything inside of me to stop what I could be doing and just enjoy.  Surely I should be reading my Bible or something.  There, that must be more productive.

“What if you are like one of those fireflies?”  What if I have no other purpose?  What if my life is just that meaningless?  Could I be at peace simply dancing through the night for the few short days I have?  Is it possible that my life could have more meaning as the firefly than as a popular activist, or a world-renowned humanitarian, or even as a missionary?  How could that be?  Well, if I were any of these things outside of my Creator’s design, it wouldn’t matter what I accomplished in all my pet projects or all that I sacrificed in my years of service.  For if God wanted me to be a firefly, then what does anything else matter?

Does the firefly ever wonder if he isn’t everything he was created to be?  Does he ever sit on the ground too afraid to flash his beautiful light?  I don’t know.  I used to think that I cared too much about things that didn’t matter.  Sometimes I wonder what really does matter.  If God is perfectly happy to let the firefly be the firefly He brilliantly designed her to be, then maybe I need to reevaluate what I think is important.  As I watched the lights dance through the air, it was like I was closer to God’s heart than I have been in a while.  I could feel Him delighting in all that He saw.  He had everything in the world to be concerned about, yet He stood next to me to watch the fireflies dance.  If I had not been sick today, I probably would have missed this simple wonder.

What if I never accomplished anything in my life?  Would that make me a failure?  I guess that depends.  And what if God asks one person to be a world-renowned humanitarian, such as Mother Teresa or Amy Carmichael and asks another person to be a firefly?  What if both become exactly what they are meant to be?  One person changes the world; the other flashes her light under a simple tree that no one sees.  Which one is greater to God?  Which one fulfilled her purpose more?  Could I believe that it is neither?

Could I be content to be the firefly?  Would I dream of one day doing great things and be disappointed when my life amounted to a brief flash of light?  What if no one saw it?  What if for my entire life I faithfully flickered my light for God alone?  Was it all a waste?

Perhaps it is the sparkle in the Creator’s eye that makes it worth it.  As He stands along the roadside mesmerized like a child by His creation, His heart delights in what He sees.  Surely it is not the endless striving of a weary and wandering heart that brings Him joy, but rather a shameless dance in the night.  Like a little girl jumps on the coffee table to twirl for her daddy, I want to drop my pride to the ground and let my heart dance before Him.  I want for Him to delight in me.  I doubt that anything else matters.  I’d like to believe that so many other things do, but what about the fireflies?

I’m tired of trying harder every day only to discover that I am not enough.  I’m tired of falling at God’s feet in tears, begging for His strength to carry on.  I’m tired of trying to change the world only to fail.  I’m tired of trying to prove my worth to my Creator in an effort to earn a love that He has already given me.  I’m tired of believing that His love for me is proportional to the usefulness that I can offer Him.  My heart knows the truth.  The problem is that I don’t stop long enough to hear His whispers along the roadside.  I don’t notice God’s glitter filling the night air.  I can’t get past myself.  I glance at the girl in the hoodie staring at a tree and think to myself, “What a waste of time.”

What if I am wasting my time trying to become something that I was never meant to be?  What if I am not ready to become who God created me to be until I learn to accept my pure uselessness to Him?  What if from God’s perspective, we are all just fireflies dancing in the night?  One thing I have come to understand:  there is no greater nor is there a lesser in the Kingdom of God.  There is only love, grace, and obedience.  More than anything else, I want to be my Creator’s delight.  I want to look into His eyes and see that sparkle as He looks at me.  And I will dance for Him all my days.

Who I Am

I recently discovered that I’ve been hiding.  Today I had two different coworkers tell me that I am shy.  Perhaps this is true, to a certain extent.  I can appear shy, and I may have a million surface fears and insecurities, but when it comes down to the core of me…the me that I truly am and desire for you to know, there is so much more to me.

I moved to Nashville almost nine months ago.  That’s hard to believe.  Time passes so quickly.  This move was huge for me.  I needed to take a step away from college town.  I needed to go on an adventure with God and discover confidence and a deeper level of faith.  All of this happened, and it has been an amazing journey.  I have grown in so many ways in my personal life:  I am more content in who I am, I am discovering how to express my creativity and personality, and I am not nearly as afraid of independence and risks as I used to be.  I feel that, however, so much of this change has been internal and a bad side effect as taken place:  I have retreated so much inward that I have come across more as a shy and timid person than I really am.

I especially notice this in two places:  at work and at church.  I work with a lot of outgoing people, and I am not one to compete for attention or try to be the loudest one, so I generally take on an observer’s role.  Because of my second job, I haven’t been to my church recently, but as a Sunday School class we still hang out and I notice that I tend to be very tired when we get together, and when I do talk, I am usually talking about some problem in my life.  It’s weird, because that’s not really who I am.  I can be annoyingly deep at times, this is true, but I can also be fun and crazy.

I could probably carry on about my social quirks for a while, but the real reason for this message is to share with my friends more of the person that I really am and the things that matter to me.  I realize that I don’t vocalize how I feel about things very often.  I seem unsure and a little fearful.  Honestly, those things about me are basically true, but when the top layers of myself are peeled away, those things aren’t there anymore.  The core of me is passionate, brave, confident, and carefree.

If you want to understand what matters most to me, then you must know that more than anything, I am so in love with Jesus.  I want to know Him more.  I want to give my life to Him.  I want others to know this incredible love that I know that has taken me on a journey from a very dark place years ago to where I am today and will continue to mold and shape me in the years to come.  There was a time in my life when I was suicidal.  I dealt with deep depression for ten years.  I dabbled a little with anorexia, allowed dangerous people into my life, and lost love because of fear and insecurity.  I battled chronic illness.  Guilt and shame paralyzed me and in many ways kept me from letting God’s love into my life.  Even though I served in ministry in several different capacities and places throughout the world, there was so much that I was holding onto that threatened the genuineness of my message.

I have a story, just like everyone else.  Mine is important, as is yours.  I am who I am in part because of what I have been through.  However, I believe that I am mainly who I am simply by the grace of God and in many ways in spite of what I have been through.  The pain I have experienced has caused me to become more tender toward others.  The bad decisions I have made in the past have caused me to be more cautious in certain situations and I am more wise and discerning today than I used to be.  My heart is hard to reach because I have come to understand how precious it really is.  I guard it fiercely.

Someday I want to take care of orphans.  It is my dream, and I think about it every day.  I am passionate about international work, and I am fascinated by different cultures and languages.  I enjoy the process of getting to know people, understanding the things that make them who they are, and sharing with them an excitement to see their dreams and desires for their lives come true.  I love a good challenge, and I’m a little competitive.  I am creative and artistic.  I’m highly disorganized and not very disciplined.  I work best under stress.  I hate generalizations and the idea of normal.  Put me in a box, and I will find a way out.  I will then make the box unrecognizable.  Tell me I can’t do something, and I will prove you wrong.  Show me a need, and I will do everything in my power to fix or fulfill it.  This is me.

This is who I am.  I may be insecure about something, but in the end I overcome it.  I may be afraid of something, but I always face it.  I may hesitate a moment when I feel God leading me, but with His strength I choose to obey.  I take life as it comes, and though I may dream ahead, my plans are flexible and subject to change.  When I get something in my head, I make it happen, especially when it’s crazy and nearly impossible.  I am loyal to Christ above all else, and at times this has disappointed people that are important to me.  This too I must be willing to give.

I long to see the world a better place, and I want more than anything to be a part of making that happen.  My faith in Christ has caused me to see people differently.  I am sad when I watch my friends live in unhealthy cycles of bad relationship after bad relationship or when they struggle to see themselves as worthy of love.  I know what that pain is like, and I want so badly for everyone to know and understand this fantastic love that God has given us and the incredible worth that we have in Christ.  We are the object of the Almighty’s tender affection.  We bear His image.  We have been pursued by His love even to the point of death.  What an amazing thing it is to have a relationship with Him…to talk to Him every day, to experience His strength in difficult situations and His peace and joy throughout any circumstance. 

If I had to express in just a few short words what I want my life to be about, I would say that I desire for others to know Jesus.  I want to tear away the facade of religion that has destroyed so many people’s understanding of God and show through my life transparently the truth about this divine and scandalous love.  I want others to see in me what God can do with a life that is fully committed to Him.  I want to be a part of His dream for the world.  I want love to come to life inside of me. 

Do with it what you will; this is who I am.
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