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No Fear In Love

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“Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want. Inside the will of God there’s nothing I fear.” –A.W. Tozer

This past weekend I faced enemies that were both familiar and new. How does one measure success? Some might say in numbers. Others might say in fulfillment. Still others might say in the level of our obedience to God.

One thing I am sure of: God called me to South America for two and a half years. I came, I have served, and the time is coming to an end. Our church has grown, we have solid leaders who are capable of taking over the ministry, and best of all, those in the church have captured the vision that God wants EVERYONE to know Him. They will take the Word of God to every corner of the city and the nation. I pray that God keeps their passion alive.

So why, when looking back over the past two and a half years, do I feel the pangs of failure? Why, in the midst of so much “success” do I sense that I have somehow not fulfilled my part? I see so many holes; the aspects that I did not handle with maturity. I let down my arms and wonder how I could rise to the challenge of the next job that is actually in the area of my gifts. What if I can’t do it?

Normally, I would chastise myself for thinking such things. How insecure of me. However, instead of passively dismissing these thoughts, I decided to press deeper. After all, these ponderings aren’t normal for me anymore. I truly do walk in joy and peace. Rather than an attack, they seem more like a call to grow.

When I read the quote by Tozer, I could agree with all my heart on the first point. “Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want.” True story. God has shown me that I can trust Him with the desires of my heart, and I do. Believing Him for the journey is not nearly the struggle that it used to be. I am walking forward in faith.

However, the second part has me reeling, “Inside the will of God there’s nothing I fear.” As God expands my understanding and my vision for how He will use me, I feel more and more inadequate. Instead of looking at people who inspire me and thinking, “Wow, I am going to live a life with that kind of passion!” I find myself falling on my face before God and wondering how my life could amount to anything. I have nothing of real significance to offer.

Believe it or not, through this brokenness I believe that God is moving me to the next level in my relationship with Him. He is showing me that my realization of my incapability and inadequacy is not a sign of insecurity, but rather is an awareness of reality. I am truly incapable of fulfilling what God has planned for me. It’s a new emptying of self, so that He might fill me more with Himself.

I studied Isaiah 6:1-8 in my retreat, and I was taken back by the reaction of Isaiah when he saw the King on the throne. “Then I said, ‘It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!’” What was the seraphim’s response? A cleansing coal. Forgiveness. A new calling.

As God lifted my head and renewed my passion, a new peace flowed over me. God can work with a laid-down lover. He can use an empty, willing vessel. What He can’t work with as freely is an instrument that keeps trying to find significance and fulfillment. One who needs to feel like it matters.

I have learned that the only place my fulfillment can come from is in my private time with God. My success is in my emptiness and humility before Him. There is nothing that I can achieve that holds a candle to my time spent there. It is a great feeling to know that God has used us, that He has brought fruit from an obedient life. However, if it were to all fall apart tomorrow; if in a few moments all the fruit died and I was left alone facing the criticism of those who really don’t know my heart, could I stand? No…may they find me in the same position, rain or shine, success or failure: on my face before my King.

Maybe that’s what the second part of that quote means: that my peace is secure only in my emptiness before Him. The Bible says that there is no fear in love. What if my entire being was consumed with keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Him? In this dance, I stumble so. However, as the music plays, I am not the lead. With my hand securely in His, I feel each movement, gentle and slow. He breathes; I breathe. He sways, and I am carried away. I lay my head on his chest and I can feel His heartbeat. Lord, let me stay here. Just let me stay here.

I have learned that emotions really give us a choice. We can choose to feel them and grow weary, or feel them and allow the awareness of our humanity to make more room for Christ’s rich love. I choose to dance. In this love, I am safe and secure.

This is my prayer:

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Every. Single. Day.

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Revival, if it is to take place through me, it must begin IN me.

I took off this weekend on a two-day spiritual retreat in a hostel across town. I locked myself in a room with my Bible, a journal, worship music, Holy-Spirit filled books, and a jug of water. My goal? To encounter Jesus. The hostel owners were so confused.

To be honest, the time was a challenge. I had never fasted and prayed for two days straight before. The first day held great revelations about my immediate future, and I made the final decision that I will be moving to Idaho this coming summer to continue working with Extreme Nazarene Ministries and growing in my gifts as a photographer and videographer. I have SO MUCH to learn!

However, there was a part of me that was still very deeply frustrated. I was hearing from God. I was in His presence, but I still was ready to throw in the towel with everything. I was done with Ecuador. I was done with ministry for a while. I wasn’t angry, and nothing was going wrong. I was just emotionally exhausted. I saw that I had nothing left to give. I felt like a failure in many areas of ministry, and I was ready for a good long break.

It was during the second night that I began to read the book Learning to Love by Roland and Heidi Baker. This past year I have been so challenged by their lives, not because they are anything amazing, but because of their passionate love for Jesus and His presence, and their calling to work with orphans. As I read quickly through the book, I encountered a page that one of their leaders wrote about her vision to work with abandoned babies. The tears began to flow, my heart began to ache, and I started rocking back and forth uncontrollably. That has been my deepest desire since high school, and God awakened that calling once again. My heart was literally breaking at the thought that TODAY there are babies dying in dumpsters and in the streets because there is no more room in the orphanages. Even children growing up in orphanages do not have it much better most of the time. I just want to go and hold those babies. I want to tell the children that they are loved, that someone will watch them grow and hug them through the years, and that God has a beautiful purpose for their lives.

Probably the most depressing thought that came to me is that I have no idea how to get there, and for the first time I have literally no plan. For a strategic person, this is super frustrating. However, the biggest lesson that God has been speaking to me about these past two days is that He’s got it all planned out, and He won’t let me miss it. I feel totally and utterly useless right now. I feel that I have nothing to offer Him. It is such a helpless place to be. However, it is exactly where God wants me. It means that in the emptiness there is more space for His Spirit, and I realize now more than ever how much I desperately need Him. If I don’t have Him, I am drained and I have nothing to offer. However, I desire to be totally and utterly filled with His love, so that it might overflow to whoever is around me…whether that be in Ecuador, Idaho, Africa, Asia, Europe, etc. I have no idea what this journey will look like, but I am learning to trust that God does and that He will work it out…and that it will be absolutely amazing.

God told me this weekend that I have not been disobedient, but that He is and will always be asking for more. “God, I have nothing left to give you. I desire to obey You, but I can hardly lift my hands right now. How can I lead others in ministry and make a difference where You have placed me? How can I someday reach farther?” I cried.

Revelation? “Just place yourself here, in My presence, and I will take care of the rest.”

Encouragement to finish well in my present assignment came in the form of a quote from Heidi Baker: “God says to you today, ‘Finish your assignment.’ However much you think you should be somewhere else, and however bad it gets, even if you have to live on the edge when everything in you is telling you to run to safety, finish. He who began a good work in you and through you, will be faithful.”

Revival, if it is to take place through me, it must begin IN me. Right here. Every. Single. Day.

I Will Exalt

I am going through one of the most difficult seasons of my life right now. I find myself at a major life crossroads, and Satan is literally throwing everything at me that he can. If I thought I had fought him before, well, he has taken it to a new level. And so has God. As Satan throws his NASTY, NASTY lies and threats at me, God’s people are being moved to insert themselves in the fight too…in ways beyond what I have experienced before.

In this fight, I can’t do anything else but throw myself at the feet of Christ in worship. There is no other way I want to go but through this, because I know now more than ever that the plans God has for me are beyond my imagination. The ways He wants to use me are immense, but I must get low. I must allow this to break me in His hands. I want to be all His. I just want to be all His.

So I will scream and cry out this song…as long as it takes…I’m in this for the long haul. I’m ALL IN. Let’s do this thang.

Raindrops On My Windowsill

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There’s something about sadness that brings out the poetic. There’s something about darkness that brings out beauty. There’s something about raindrops on my windowsill that brings me peace.

The feeling always comes out of nowhere: loneliness. It hits like a mad bus and leaves the wreckage trailing behind. It’s the emotional reality of what I already knew: I’m single.

I’m not alone. I’m not hopeless. I’m not incomplete. However, my heart longs with every fiber of its being to share life with someone. It’s a natural desire. You might even call it a holy desire.

I’m not going to feel badly for feeling this way. The desire to share life with someone has nothing to do with whether or not I am content in God. I feel like something is missing…because it is. It’s not to say the timing of God is not perfect; it is to say that I am every bit as human as I ought to be.

I walk down the dark street as the rain pours down. I see the city lights on the mountainside and I look up to see the moon shining through the clouds. There is no one around. Just me and the silence, and I love it. I love the gentle stillness – the peacefulness of the dark. I’m not afraid. My heart is at rest.

How can two such extreme emotions dwell in my heart at the same time? Maybe if I am afraid of anything, I am afraid of falling in love with the silence. I am afraid of falling in love with the silence because I know that the loneliness will still be there too. I don’t need anyone, but I want someone. I am not dependent on anyone, but I want to love someone.

Sometimes my chest feels so heavy because inside I feel so full. There is so much in my soul that I want to lavish on someone…and it wants to spill out. But I must guard it. I must stuff it inside, for now. There is a gentle warning to never admit it is even there.

Why do we feel as Christians that we can’t be honest about this? Why do we feel as if we are immature if we feel the pangs of loneliness? I used to believe that God would bring someone into my life once I learned not to care; however, I don’t think I will ever cease to care. As insecurities have been stripped away, I have found that in some ways I care more. I no longer live devastated. I am happy. I am at peace. However, I want to share the beautiful moonlight, the peaceful dark streets, and the pouring rain.

Though it is all fair and right, that day is not today. So I will turn on a beautiful song, listen to the traffic rush by outside my window, and smell the rain as it falls. I will give thanks to my God, who has taught me peace, who has lavished His love on me every day of my life, and who has opened my eyes to see that it’s ok…it’s ok to feel pain…it’s ok to experience loneliness…because it is a sign that the best is yet to come.

God’s Real Estate

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This morning I woke up to see fear staring me in the face. He used to be so familiar to me. He’d moved away, and I wasn’t happy for the visit. I hadn’t missed him at all. In fact, I took him to God and we had our own little fist fight in His presence.

It wasn’t a fight that ended easily or quickly. However, what finally put the doubts to rest and gave me peace was the assurance that God has my future in His hands. He is directing my paths, and I can trust Him to redirect me if need be. I realized that in Him there is freedom to dream, even if it seems like those dreams might never come to pass. He loves a dreamer.

Often what keeps me paralyzed, however, is having too much of my focus on the big picture and how overwhelming the dreams of God for my life are. There is something inside of me that believes that I have to somehow “make it happen”, and all the how’s leave my head spinning. I am starting to realize in the midst of all this, that my peace lies in trusting God to figure out the how’s and learning how to ENJOY God’s dreams for me instead of letting them stress me out. I am learning to dance through life like a little child, totally at peace that my Daddy has it all figured out.

Trusting God to make something happen with my life doesn’t mean that I just sit back and wait for things to happen. There is an active part that I must play, and God has been speaking strongly to me about this. He wants us to learn the value of working hard for something. He wants us to be artists with our lives that create with excellence. God told me this week, “I want you to dive in completely and not worry about whether or not you have what it takes.” That’s faith.

I listened to a preacher this morning, and he said, “We’ve gotta give God more real estate.”

God spoke to my heart and said, “I can’t bless the book you haven’t written.”

Sometimes we drag our feet. Our intention is to be obedient, but we make the process more drawn out and complicated than it needs to be. Then we wonder why we aren’t seeing the blessing of God being poured out in our lives. What if I truly “dove in”? Living in partnership with God means that we both contribute.

I believe that God has a grand purpose for each of our lives. I believe that the more space we give God to work in our lives, the more He can and will do. I believe that the more opportunities we give God to move, the more He will. I believe that the more open doors we walk through in obedience to God, the more people God can touch with our lives. It has nothing to do with us making something happen; it has everything to do with responding to the initiation of God. And lest we think that we can out-give, out-work, or out-dream God – we need to think again.

This morning I am challenged to give God more real estate. I want to give Him more obedience to work with. I want to give Him more space in my life to move. I want to take advantage of the opportunities that He clearly presents, so that He might shine more brightly through me. What about you? What is He saying to you today?

In My Hands

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Be careful what You promise God. Watch carefully Your words when You tell Him that He can have everything…do anything…ask anything. Because He will. Did you really say you would go ANYWHERE? Did you truly promise obedience to WHATEVER He would ask of you? Are you ready for the answer should He respond right now? Are your shoes on?

We dream of doing big things with God; a grand future and a great name. However, He is saying to you today: what is in your hands?

One of the greatest joys I have right now as a missionary is watching our leaders find their places of ministry where they fit. I watch musicians play with passion. I see those who are great with kids come alive as new ideas are put in their lap. I see those who are passionate about youth take to the stage with confidence and fire.

God sent one of my greatest challenges to me while at the hair salon. As I watched my friend execute with absolute excellence her gifts as a beautician, God said to me, “Look at what is in your hands.” Do I perform with absolute excellence the gifts that I have been given?

Surely, such excellence is obtained through the simple method of hard work. Yet, so few of us are willing to invest the time and energy it takes.

As I stood in the humid air of San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, surrounded by people burning with passion for the Kingdom, I found myself asking God, “How can I be a part of this? How can I be a blessing to these wonderful people?” He simply responded, “Look at what is in your hands.”

God’s plan for your life doesn’t start “someday”; it starts TODAY. Your calling isn’t out there years from now; it is in the here and now. God wants to do something in you RIGHT NOW. Do you get it? He wants to use you RIGHT NOW. So stop dreaming about the grand person that you could be one day if things were different…if you were different…and open your eyes to the great treasure that has already been placed in your hands.

Lord, I’m sorry for the skills that I have been afraid of, for the open doors that I have neglected, and for the callings that I have ignored. I choose to be faithful with what You have placed in my hands TODAY and in what You have asked me to do TODAY, knowing that You are shaping my future…knowing that the story you are writing is better than anything I could have written for myself.

Take the paintbrush. I’m all Yours.

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{ he asks himself the same }

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