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Delight

I am learning that God deeply delights in each one of us, in our uniqueness; in our beauty and personality. He enjoys spending time with us and He loves to love us.

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My greatest prayer is that God would teach me to love people more; that He would make me perfect in love. I so desire to have His heart.

There are moments when I realize that my love is not perfect, when my comfort zone is stretched or I am surrounded by a genre of people that I am not normally with. My tendency is to shift my focus from the people to my feelings about the situation. “Is it ok for me to be here? Around THESE people who are doing THESE things?”

However, the more I read the Bible and understand the character of Jesus, I realize that this is ugly and needs to be broken in me. Jesus constantly put Himself in questionable circumstances, surrounded by “questionable” people. He was not worried about getting “dirty” by being with people doing dirty things. He knew who He was and He deeply loved these people. In fact, He defended them to the church leaders when they questioned His actions.

God has been opening my eyes to His heart as I meet with people every day. It doesn’t matter who that person is or what they have done; I have been able to sense a growing wonder in each one I spend time with. I am learning that God deeply delights in each one of us, in our uniqueness; in our beauty and personality. He enjoys spending time with us and He loves to love us.

If God feels that way about each person, how should I feel about them? How should that change the way I interact with them? How much should that call me to step out of my comfort zone and GO to them where they are, just like Jesus stepped out of heaven to come and DIE for us? The call is the same for me and for you: to give all, to literally DIE to ourselves for the sake of love. The point is: if we truly understood how very much God loves the people that surround us every day, it would drastically change the manner in which we interact with them.

It doesn’t matter what may be going on in society or in the immediate situation surrounding me; I am called to reflect God’s heart. I pray as David prayed in Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” I pray that I would in no way, in word, thought, or deed, online or in person, be a stumbling block to someone knowing Jesus as He really is and His powerful love in all its transforming beauty. I want my life to be another avenue that God uses to draw the hearts of His people whom He loves so much to Himself.

And I pray that as I have lunch with people, visit their restaurants, walk by their schools, and step into their places of business that I would genuinely delight in people as God delights in them. May people find in me something real. May they find Jesus in me.

Who are YOU?

God didn’t respond with a gushy answer like, “You have specific gifts and skills for this task and I chose you because of your leadership qualities.” He responded with, “I will be with you.”

True story: I often battle insecurity. Whenever God reveals to me more of His plan for my life, that evil voice comes from around the corner: “Who are YOU to do that? Who are YOU to have that kind of influence, to think that YOU could go to those places and say those things?” You could call it fear. You could call it shame. You could call it Satan. I challenge you today to call it MUTE.

When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush and revealed to him the calling that He had placed on Moses’ life, the first reaction was not astonishment, but this simple question, “Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)” Like, seriously, God…wrong address. However, God didn’t respond with a gushy answer like, “You have specific gifts and skills for this task and I chose you because of your leadership qualities.” He responded with, “I will be with you.”

And God says the same thing to you and me today. We were not chosen because of our qualifications; we were chosen by grace. Our lives have one purpose: that our relationship with our Creator would bring Him glory and honor. When we lead people to Christ, it is not because we are attractive, but because He is truly beautiful. When we see real success in our work or ministry, it is not because we are so gifted, but because He is with us. This whole thing is really about HIM.

Decide today to mute the voice that says, “Who are YOU to do this?”. You are loved and chosen by God for this. He knew what He was doing, and He is with you. Story complete.

To Walk With Jesus

And that’s what I want my daily legacy to be, not only what people say about me at the end of my life. I want people to step away with the impression that this is what it’s like to be with Him, to know Him, and to be loved by Him.

Tonight I had the opportunity to be a part of a home Bible study for law school students and had an amazing time. During the study, we watched a Francis Chan video on the church, and he told a story that really impacted me about a man named Vaughn.

Francis had a missionary speaker at his church, and this missionary talked about how his life was deeply impacted by a youth pastor named Vaughn. The next week they had another speaker who talked about how his life was impacted by this same youth pastor named Vaughn.

Finally Francis went to a friend and told him about how crazy he thought it was that both these people knew the same youth pastor, and his friend said, “Oh yeah, I know Vaughn! I was in Mexico with him one time and watched how the children on the street flocked to him because they knew that he would take care of them. He was always giving them clothes and food and just loving them.”

Then the man said something that totally rocked my world. “In walking with Vaughn that day, I think that’s what it would have felt like to walk with Jesus.”

Like, really….wow!?!?

My first reaction was: I want people to say that about me! I want that to be their take away from hanging out with me, that they could say, “Hanging out with Chelsea is what I imagine it would be like to hang out with Jesus.”

And that’s what I want my daily legacy to be, not only what people say about me at the end of my life. I want people to step away with the impression that this is what it’s like to be with Him, to know Him, and to be loved by Him.

What a way to live!

The Journal

I want to love people THAT much, that I might be so disciplined to pray for them and care for them every day.

I don’t remember my great-uncle Dennis very well. I remember watching a home video of him and me talking when I was maybe two years old. He passed away when I was ten. Although I don’t remember him much when he was alive, he made a huge impact on me when he died.

You see, they found this journal among his things, and I am not sure how many people even knew that it existed. Inside it were hundreds of pages of his writing. Each line was filled with tiny words and numbers, holding the name of someone on his heart and a list of dates on which he prayed for them. Sometimes he didn’t know the name of the person, but saw them walk to the altar on a Sunday morning and God laid him or her on his heart. He would simply write, “Lady in red dress” or “man being called” and it would be followed with many dates on which he prayed for them. Many countries and world areas were listed with the dates, and often he wrote, “My faith” as he prayed for his already mighty faith to grow. At the funeral, every family member found his or her name in the book with their list of dates. What an impact this prayer warrior had on so many people!

A few days ago, I was sitting and talking with my great-aunt, and I suddenly remembered this prayer journal. I asked her about it, and she jumped up to bring it to me. The rest of the evening conversation was shot, because I couldn’t take my eyes off the pages of this journal for at least an hour. The pages were so full that they were mesmerizing, and I felt frozen by the reality of the volume of prayer that came out of this journal. There was one thought in my heart as I flipped every page, one by one: I want to love people THAT much, that I might be so disciplined to pray for them and care for them every day.

Then I found my name. I don’t know what I was going through around the time that I turned four years old, but he prayed for me every day for months. Whatever trial I was facing, or might have faced had he not prayed for me, he and God got me through it. I am so thankful for the legacy of my great-uncle, the gentle prayer warrior in every sense of the sentiment.

I am moved to pray now more than ever. I am moved to love others now more than ever, and I want to leave a legacy of faith for my friends and family. How will you do that in your life? That’s a worthy question to ask.

The Younger Me

One thing I have noticed in looking back, is that I didn’t do it all wrong by any stretch of the imagination.

“What would you go back and say to the younger you in college?”

Oh conversations over Korean food and Baskin Robbins ice cream. Today has been a blast from the past. I spent the morning with one of my closest friends from college and the afternoon wandering around my college campus, reminiscing over old memories and talking to faculty members that I hadn’t seen in years. I have had the opportunity to spend the past couple nights with one of my best friends from college, and as we talked, we remembered that time….that awkward time called college.

And what would I say to myself back then? So many things. I was so ignorant then, but I will probably have a few words for myself again a few years down the road. Thank goodness we can keep on learning and growing. Thank goodness that in some ways I am not the girl I was in college. So here are some things that I would tell the younger me if I could:

  1. Focus your energy on becoming an awesome woman, and spend way less energy on boys.
  2. You’re worthy of the right kind of attention. You don’t need to beg for it from people who…how else do I put this? Don’t deserve it.
  3. Lighten up, dude.
  4. Hang out with your friends instead of always being alone in your room feeling sorry for yourself. Stop being lame.
  5. You should probably do your homework. Actually reading the material makes the test much easier.

However, one thing I have noticed in looking back, is that I didn’t do it all wrong by any stretch of the imagination. I definitely don’t look back with total regret, or even mostly regret. It is a temptation to think that I was all ignorant back then and that I am so much wiser now, but I have to give myself credit for doing the best I knew how with what I had. So, despite all those negative “pieces of advice” I would give myself, I would also say this:

  1. I’m proud of you for being brave in so many ways when you wanted to shrink back in fear. You chased after what was important to you 100% of the time, and you were pretty darn courageous.
  2. I’m proud of how you sought the heart of Jesus with everything you had and how you wanted His will, even when it made you mad. You never refused to do anything you knew He wanted you to do.
  3. You were a good and loyal friend…you always did the best you could for your friends, even when it hurt. You always wanted people to feel loved.
  4. You were a hard worker. You held down three jobs while going to college full-time, traveling part-time with a music group and carrying an internship in a neighboring town.
  5. You made some really good connections with some stellar people. You had good taste in mentors and godly role models.

What a strange thing it is to look back and to truly take a look at things as they were, or at least how I remember they were. For me, this day has been a great experience. So I’m curious…what would you say to the younger you? What advice would you give? What compliments would you give? Please comment!

Fleeing Ninevah

-Guest post by Andrew Ross

The description for Jonah 1 says, “Jonah flees the Presence of the Lord”. Why is this the first kicker? It seems a bit harsh, to some degree, to jump right to that. However, Jesus always got to the heart of the matter. He asked the questions that mattered, not the ones people wanted to hear. My pastor recently stated, “If you aren’t going where Jesus is going, then you are not following Him.” Ugh. Punch to the gut.

In the last year, I’ve known that the music industry is where God is directing me to go, but I haven’t wanted it. It was my Ninevah. I have a really hard time going where I don’t see how it would be beneficial. “I’m just me, there’s nothing I can do that will make an impact on the music industry”, this is where my head and heart were at. Honestly, that’s true. There is nothing that I can do in my own power to change or reach the music industry. However, I’m not going alone. He is leading me and preparing the way.

Looking back on this past year, He has been teaching me to recognize when He is in the midst of a situation. As I have learned this, I have become more aware to His presence in this opportunity.

I won’t even try to sugar coat it, this year has been tough. Not bad, just tough. I’ve grown a lot, and “growing pains” is a phrase for a reason. I’ve been stretched and challenged in my thoughts, beliefs, and actions. In order to put in something new, you have to get rid of the old. The old has held me down for quite some time, but I’ve been letting go. As I let go, God keeps speaking identity and vision into where there was once only fear and doubt. It’s a process. I’m not perfect, but I’m being perfected. I am the book and He is the author bringing me from glory to glory.

God gave me a few words to speak over a few friends recently. I never knew they were intended for me as much as they were for them. This was one of them. “God has proven His faithfulness over and over again, anchoring our faith in Him. Every time He proves His faithfulness, it’s as if the anchor gets larger, making the anchor sink deeper into its place of rest and it becomes more stable.” He has revealed His faithfulness to me more than ever recently, to prepare me. I don’t know what’s in this, but if He’s asking me to walk it out, I’ll go. My eyes may be full of tears and my heart full of questions, but I’ll go, because I know where my hope lies and that He is faithful.

anchor

As I have started to follow where He leads with the making of this first album, it has brought me on so many adventures. Most recently, while I was recording in Eisley’s studio in Tyler, TX (***WHAT?! Yeah, God is hysterical), God showed me the why behind the what. He showed me the purpose of me going into the music industry; to minister to those who don’t know Jesus and to edify those who do. Divine appointments popped up left and right, and I realized these were the moments He was calling me to. This short trip changed my heart more than I could have ever anticipated. It shifted my heart and mind to His, because, once again, He proved Himself faithful.

As I’ve accepted where He wants to go, I’ve had more joy than I have had in a long while. Even as I look to the future and know that some major transitions are coming in my life, I know who He is. A friend spoke over me recently, “I see God with you, like a thundercloud. Where you go, the power of God follows.” Wherever God is calling you, you are not alone. The power of God is going with you and has already gone before you. Be not afraid.

I want to be in His Presence but I can’t if I won’t go where He leads, so, I’m no longer fleeing Ninevah. I’m running to it; to be ever near to Him.

Where is your Ninevah and what is keeping you from it? God is bigger than your fear. Just remember, with the obedience of Jonah, God spared and rescued an entire city. Follow where He leads.

You are not alone.

***Eisley has been a band I’ve loved since I was 15. The opportunity was ridiculous and super humbling.

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Andrew Ross is from Kansas City and is a budding musician with his group Noble Giant. He loves to cook and often pretends he has his own cooking show while making the food, describing in great detail the steps. For more information on him and his band, visit his blog at: http://andersross.com/noblegiant/

Master of None

If I have given God my life, I want Him to have something fantastic to work with. I want Him to have the best of me. If God has given me talents, I should seek to multiply them and not hide them in the dirt.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to a photographer friend of mine who graciously gave up a big chunk of time to advise me on the in’s and out’s of having a photography business. Although we only scratched the surface, I learned a lot and gleamed a lot of helpful information as I pray about how I should delve into those waters. In the course of the conversation, he brought up the eventual dilemma of specialization, and he made a comment that jumped out at me: “You’re going to have to decide, do you want to be a Jack of all trades and a Master of none? Or do you want to be known as the “go-to” person for a certain type of photography?”

If there is a comment that fits my struggle right now, it is THAT comment. I’ve been thinking over my life as I am applying for jobs, and I realize that I have done a lot of random things. However, if you asked me what I am expert in, I would have to say, “Nothing.” I also realize that I don’t like that, at all.

So this next year, I am taking advantage of the amazing opportunity I have to find my voice in the careers I have chosen. I will be on staff at a church and working with outreach and discipleship. I have done this for the past few years in Ecuador, but have so much more to learn and discover, especially in doing this apart from my team. I am also working on finishing and publishing my book. I am getting my name out to the world and building my audience. And I am figuring out how to not only start a photography business, but also grow exponentially in my skills as a photographer. On top of another full-time job (hopefully), is that enough for a year?

I don’t want to be a Jack of all trades for the rest of my life; I want to work hard to be good at these three things that I really do love.

So here is the point I want to make: there is nothing wrong with ambition. In fact, it is a very godly concept. If I have given God my life, I want Him to have something fantastic to work with. I want Him to have the best of me. If God has given me talents, I should seek to multiply them and not hide them in the dirt (sound familiar?) If God has asked me to write and be a woman of great influence, there is nothing holy about living small. In fact, Hebrews says that we as people of faith are not a people who shrink back. We are called to be bold and courageous. We are called to be excellent at what we do.

So here is my question for you (and it is a challenge and conviction to me too): what has God called you to be excellent in? Are you giving it your all?

Hearing Voices

The secret, I have learned, comes down to the nature of the correction. Does it bring hope or discouragement? Does it foster an assurance of love or an attitude of despair?

Mental illness can be a tough topic to dive into. I remember first learning about schizophrenia through the movie A Beautiful Mind, and the idea that someone could have a totally different reality was scary. Someone with schizophrenia hears voices telling him to do or not do certain things that without the disease, he would never imagine himself doing. Suddenly he is defined by his disease, a man who is misjudged and labeled by something he cannot control. Generally if someone hears voices, we attribute this to mental illness and label that person as “crazy.”

Could I challenge that thinking a little bit and say that we all hear voices? Ok, maybe we don’t all literally HEAR voices, but we all have influences that have a voice in our lives. Experience, for example, is a voice. Often our understanding of reality and truth are wrapped up in our experiences. Another example would be that certain people who have had a pivotal influence in our lives have “voices” that often act as triggers. Throughout college, my dad’s voice was equal to my conscience. Whenever I would want to stay out late with friends doing something crazy or I was preparing to do something a little dangerous, I would hear his voice in the back of my head and it would snap me back to the straight and narrow.

In Ecuador, I taught a workshop called the Enemies of the Believer. So often we attribute Satan as the enemy, but he is not the only one. We are also held captive by our own physical desires, whether they are sexual, emotional, or dealing with lack of discipline in various areas. Another enemy is the world – the norms and accepted things in our society. We are immersed in it every single day. What is cool and acceptable is thrown into our faces all the time, and often we are swept away by the momentum of a generation running after who knows what.

As Christians, we often struggle with knowing the difference between the voice of an enemy and the voice of God. I have seen this in my own life and have talked to others with this same struggle. We know that God disciplines His children that He loves, and we long to respond appropriately to the ways in which we need to change. Before we really know Christ, our lives are filled with lies that we have believed about ourselves and about God. Then, when we come to know Christ, we enter a process of sifting through the lies and discerning truth – ultimately establishing for ourselves a different reality than the one through which we see the world. However, the process can be messy, especially when the said enemy’s voice sounds so much like what we think is the “convicting” voice of God.

Often when we dream about the person that we desire to be, or the person we know we “should” be when we read the Bible, we get depressed about how far we have to go. It is a temptation to let that be a cycle downward from false hope to disappointment to false hope to disappointment, etc. I have learned that Satan loves it when we enter that cycle, because we become the catalyst for our own demise. It is through this that I have learned a simple way of determining whether a voice comes from an enemy or comes from God.

The secret, I have learned, comes down to the nature of the correction. Does it bring hope or discouragement? Does it foster an assurance of love or an attitude of despair? Satan or any other enemy’s voice will magnify the struggle, focus on the impossibility or the distance yet to cover, and will leave the believer grasping for hope wherever he can find it. He is left feeling crushed beneath the weight of the challenge.

However, when God speaks to His child, restoration happens and life is brought from death. Even when God banished the people of Israel to captivity in Babylon as discipline for their infidelity, His purpose was to ultimately bring them closer to Himself. His voice is firm, but filled with hope. God and I fight all the time, mostly because I can be crazy stubborn. However, He has permission to win 100% of the time, and when I find myself being given to laziness or fear, I often hear His voice in my head like a firm but gentle warning, saying, “Chelsea, come on. Let’s go.”

When I am facing a challenging situation and I am trying to discern God’s voice amidst the other voices that I hear, I ask myself that simple question – does the correction leave me with hope or despair? From there, I know clearly how to see and hear God.

May you be encouraged today to focus in on ONE VOICE – the voice of the One who loves you passionately. Walk forward in truth!

Wherever Is Trevor

{ he asks himself the same }

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