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Faith

Faith

Your Weakness is a Gift

October 2, 2014

I’m convinced most needed these days is simple. Simple reminders that we are enough and He is enough and what we can do today is enough. That’s my hope for this post. A simple reminder for a Thursday morning.

 

A few weeks back I sat at a coffee shop and had a conversation with a wise man years ahead of me. He asked how I was doing and what was going on in my life. I replied honestly that I was wrestling to find security and confidence in this season. So much feels unknown that it leaves me more than a little uncertain in myself.

I talked with him about some of my weaknesses that I haven’t been able to overcome in a deeply satisfying way. No matter how many times I read or speak out truth, I still find myself fearing, doubting, or stressing about what is trivial or without purpose.

“I want to be free, confident, and secure,” I told him. My words echoed what I was believing. Namely, that if I could tap into those things, I would feel qualified for what’s ahead.

“That sounds a lot like perfection to me,” he replied back. He’s never been one to shy away from the truthful words, which I welcome. The more truth he gives, no matter the sting, the more I know he really loves me.  Though I definitely snarled up my nose and glared my eyes in a micro-expression of dislike over what he was digging into.

“God doesn’t want you apart from him, but dependent on him. Maybe those weaknesses are the gifts in this season to keep you closely tucked under God,” he said.

He kept speaking, but by then I was lost in the deep whisper of the Spirit. Like a swirling tunnel of wind around me, I kept hearing the same few words over and over. “Your weakness is my gift,” the voice spoke, with each repetition hammering its nail of truth deeper into my core.

Something happened in me in that moment. I began remembering.

6287147411_223a2f22ef_o[Photo Credit: Stephan Rosger]

So often it seems we confine the good gifts from God to what we publicly praise, celebrate, or proclaim as wonderful. That which others would long for is what we term as gifted. The gifts become what we testify to, encouraging those around us to petition and seek God for similar things.

But what if those good gifts include what keeps us deeply dependent on God, not what makes us independent from him? What if those defaults of our lives that leave us humble and low are actually the gifts of grace that keep us close?

I easily can look at weaknesses in my life as areas I need to overcome or eliminate. But maybe, instead of seeking to be free from such things, our place is actually to find God in the midst of what is weak within us. Then, instead of our story being about fixing, it becomes about finding.

To be weak isn’t to be far from God, but to remain as close as possible to him. And those struggles in us which birth deep dependence on him are grace.  The great gift God will offer to us in any season is a sustained need for him. It may be easy for us to despise our weaknesses, but they are, in fact, the gifts of grace in our present season, not letting us wander too far from home.

If you’re weak on this Thursday morning, you are in good company. The kingdom is full of weak ones who are ever-learning to depend on the great, living God for the strength to walk through the day at hand.  The kingdom will never be filled with the best, brightest, or most self-sustaining. So today is a good day to take a deep breath and let go of such expectations over yourself.

Instead, remember that no matter what weaknesses or thorns you may carry today, your journey is to find God.  Release yourself from trying to figure out how to fix what is weak in you. Because what is weak may in fact be the beautiful gift of a God who longs for you to draw fresh breath from him today.

Faith

Tapping Into Wild Hope

August 8, 2014

Promises may be tricky business, but so is hope. Because, if we’re honest, it’s one of the hardest things for us to live in without our fearful grip of control.

Most of our hope is built around man-made limitations and boundaries to be sure we don’t go crazy or get out of hand. We tell ourselves that while hoping is fine, we wouldn’t want to hurt ourselves by going overboard. Like a parent talking to her child holding a giant bucket of Halloween candy straight off the trick-or-treating streets, the motto is: partake in moderation.

Just a few weeks ago I was driving home to Atlanta from Charlotte, doing some of my thinking. In the midst of a previously busy school week, I had finished a book proposal that I longed for God to do something with.

Reflecting on the week, though, I realized how quick I was to tell people that “I’m good with whatever happens,” “it’s just for fun,” and “it’s okay if it’s not the right time.” While on one hand those words resonate with my deep desire to be surrendered in the process, on the other, I was clearly withholding my hope in a simple effort to self-preserve.

If you’re like me, we build this equation around the falsity that higher hope mixed with life’s uncertain outcomeswill always equal greater disappointment. And since we can’t control what comes our way in life, the only answer to lessen the sting is to diminish the hope.

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Photo Credit: Henry Burrows

As I was thinking through my protective reactions, my mind began drifting to a story of God opening a ridiculous door in the documentary “Father of Lights.” If you haven’t seen it, I so encourage you to watch it. In the film, God moves by His favor in this crazy, unlikely way. The outcome the world says couldn’t happen – that’s the door He opens.

Driving somewhere down I-85, this clash began to take place within me between my well-restrained hope for what is possible and my full belief in a God who moves far beyond the fenced walls of the world’s opportunities.

We are prone today to preserve ourselves at all costs from disappointment, believing it could be the end of us if it comes on too strong or suddenly. We plan and predict for disappointment’s attack because we are fearfully certain it will come. Instead of embracing it as a teacher on the journey, we decide we would rather withhold hope than fall into its trap.

But what would it look like to live with hope that comes by us surrendering our self-preservation tactics and allowing vulnerability to be our companion on the journey?

We have the option to live closed off from hoping in exciting potentials and impossibilities. We can easily walk around with buoys and fences surrounding us to control the hope we invest out of fear we may feel the depths of disappointment.

Or, we can go against the grain and risk allowing our hearts to beat for what is true of us and the dreams of the Father within us. For us to become less concerned by what may come, and more excited by what very well could be. We can choose to tap into what is live in this moment, no matter the unknown outcome.

That is wild hope.

We miss something important in life when we put up walls around our hope. We miss the celebration when things come and we miss the disappointments when they fall. We miss being alive and vulnerable and plain human. When we proclaim to the world that we’re living abundant and free, it must come with us willing to carry wild hope even in the face of possible disappointment and discouragement.

So today, this is my story: I have this dream of a book and it has legs and a backbone and form – but it needs open doors. And I’m willing to hope in what can’t be seen (and what the world says likely doesn’t match up) because I can’t get out of my head that I love a wild and extravagant God.

So I wait. And as uncertain as it may all be, I hope.

Faith

When Dreams Become Our Identity

July 24, 2014

There can be a danger to dreaming. If we’re not careful, what we hope for becomes what we rightfully await. And when a dream shifts to a right, then we’re in trouble. Because there, in that place, expectations get built around what was always meant by grace. To be gifted.

Dreaming with God is about soaring high above the confines of the world, feeling the air of freedom as we hope and believe for that which the world tells us cannot and will not. But overhead the chaotic chatter of doubt and defeat, we find wind for our wings as we tap into His dreams over our lives.

To dream with God is to fly. And oh, how we are meant to soar high.

Dreams come because of who He is and who He sees us to be. They are prophetic gifts of grace. They arrive by way of Heaven’s voice leaning down and whispering deep into our soul’s ears, “You see that way up there where it’s impossibly high? That’s exactly where I want to take you.

But if we’re not careful, we can hear those words, dream those dreams, and meld them into our identity as if part of us, a place they were never meant to occupy. Dreams affirm who we are, speaking to our identity in God, but never are they to validate us. They aren’t created to complete or satisfy, no matter our subconscious efforts to prove otherwise.

When our dreams become our identity, the once found freedom in hoping for what’s ahead becomes a weighted demand for our performance, image, and success. What was freeing now becomes suffocating. We feel the dream’s impossibility not as exhilarating and an opportunity for God to do what man never could, but as terrifying – our hearts racing from fear it will never happen unless we push harder.

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So we grip tighter and cling with every bit of ourselves to those dreams. They no longer feel as gifts, but rights and demands upon our lives. We don’t wait in anticipation; we advance in panic.

The longer those dreams keep from manifesting, the more despair, discontent, and anxiety we have over all that isn’t in our lives. We look at our today and cry out in frustration over what is missing. Our dreams become the measuring stick for the present, our eyes so focused on getting to that place that today is never enough.

This isn’t what life is supposed to look like, we cry. And today becomes all but lost by our unmoving picture of how it’s all supposed to look. We are no longer attached to the Giver, but to the gifted dream itself. And here, we are wholly unaligned and out of sorts.

Our own efforts to seek to earn what has been gifted is one of the most exhausting, unending, never satisfying pursuits to life. Because we will never obtain what cannot be won.

The truth is that the more we push, the less anything moves. God waits for us to rest back into who we are in Him, while we press on out of need to validate, leaving ourselves tirelessly undone by the demands. But the rhythm of our lives doesn’t have to be centered on our efforts to press harder to perform better to become more.

The freedom of our dreams is always found in His rest and breath. When we sit deep again into our identity seat as His – as known, whispered to, fought for, and believed in – we find His spirit of life which exhales upon what was slain by our own sword.

The impossibilities of our dreams are meant to be our inheritance, but the road forward is marked by intimacy. When we find our identity tangled in our dreams, it’s time to hear His whisper, inhale deep His breath, and settle back into God’s restful presence.

I will put breath in you, and you will come to life…and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it.’” [Ezekiel 37]

Faith

Why We Can’t Forget to Remember

July 3, 2014

I do my best thinking at night, always in that silent spot after the light is turned off and I’ve said goodnight to my husband. I roll over to my typical right side, arm under pillow under head, legs curled up, and eyes shut. And in that space, I remember.

I start venturing on this wild ride of maybes, ifs, and could-bes. I remember words spoken, dreams deposited, and promises given. I imagine myself years from now in the furthest hoped-for place, doing what I love and living what I dream. That’s always what my thoughts are in that safe, nighttime space.

I find, though, that my dreams and courage fade about the time my alarm goes off hours later declaring a new day. As I fall out of bed and shuffle my feet to the bathroom to start getting ready, my valiant thoughts of the night before become a soft hum as though we suddenly are miles from each other.

And as they fade, I so quickly forget.

From the first breath of the day, resistance seems to be a friendly companion, following me to each appointment, errand, and conversation, always ready to offer its pressing advice for how to give up, live defeated, and remain unsatisfied. Resistance is at every turn, exerting its strength and tactics to ensure that not one step more is taken towards those dreams.

If I’m not careful, resistance will be sure to keep me forgetting. Because when I do, my day becomes dictated not by the promises in my life, but my feelings in the moment.

See, when I wake up forgetting, emotions become the guiding force to my day. How I feel is the rudder that steers my course, keeping me in circles to eliminate forward progress. Before long, my own emotional teetering and wavering overflows my ship with water, forcing me to try to save what my feelings are sinking. By the end of the day, I did so much fighting with my emotions that I never actually moved anywhere.

Tomorrow, I say. I’ll get moving tomorrow.

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Photo Credit: Allison Johnston

But once again, resistance keeps me from remembering by using my emotions to sabotage my progress. And so it’s the same story on a new day. Trying to bail the ship I’m sinking myself by forgetting to remember.

This is why we must remember.

Because remembrance is like manna that keeps us sustained upon a course when we are not easily seeing or hearing.

Jesus once asked his guys, in the middle of their typical confusion, the question: “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” [Mark 8:18]

Sometimes (or mostly) in life, it is plain hard to see. No matter our best efforts and prayers, we simply cannot see what we long for or where in the world we are heading. And equally frustrating is when we also cannot hear. God may appear to be muted or distant. And in that place, when sight and sound don’t seem to be companions on the journey, the question is if we can remember the promises spoken over us, the dreams deep with us, and the truth of our identity and purpose.

In Hebrew, the word for remember is zakar. It means to keep in mind, to boast, to invoke. And its purpose then, in encounters like Moses to the Israelites or David in the desert, is the same as it is now: to affect present feeling, thought, and action.

Remembering changes what we think. And when we think different thoughts, we feel different emotions. And when we feel different emotions, we act and respond differently. Remembering fixes our eyes on what is true in the spirit, not what is before us in the natural.

Remembering keeps us moving forward when the course no longer has visual markers, emotional highs, or cheering crowds. When we cannot see and we cannot hear, it’s time to remember.

Faith

Revelation in Waiting’s Storm

June 26, 2014

So there’s this story, one of my very favorites, where Jesus heads out on the water with His people. Before they hop in the boat, He tells them where they’re heading. “To the other side,” He says. And then they leave, crammed together on a wooden boat with the winds whipping at their faces and their eyes looking ahead to their destination across the water.

Their process from here to there didn’t seem messy, hard or scary. The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake, and not a big one at that. I’m pretty sure it all seemed fairly straightforward.

But then the storm hit…in the middle of their journey…throwing an unfortunate spin on their rather easy trip across the lake. The wind was harsh, the rain was crazy hard, and the water was rising in such a way that they were scared this could be the end of them.

In the entrance of this unexpected storm – a very purposed one – that which was an easy here-to-there trip became a chaotic, swirling mess of a ride. And in the middle of it all, Jesus slept as the men went mad. He rested; they defaulted to fear, panic, and defeat.

For many of us, this looks a lot like the waiting journey towards our dreams. At first it may seem easy and straightforward, but soon the entrance of the unexpected and unknown cause all sorts of emotions, fears, and obstacles.

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Photo Credit: Daniel R. Thompson

When storms approach, we easily start looking for the first way out, judging our safety and comfort as more important than our development and progress. So we try to flee, running away at the first obstacle or whiplash from the swirling winds.

Yet the place where those men found themselves that night wasn’t meant to finish them; it was meant to change them. That storm was a chance for revelation in their lives, for them to catch hold of something not previously caught. For them, it was to understand the authority possible through them as they followed the One who was peacefully resting despite spinning circumstances.

It wasn’t time for them to hide or retreat. It was time for them to stay and rest.

Because revelation is gifted when we rest in the middle of waiting’s storm. When the destination of our dreams becomes clouded by howling winds and threatening circumstances, there appears for us a chance to catch fresh revelation that changes the core of us.  The storm becomes the teacher from a God who longs for the information that we know by our minds to become deeply planted in our hearts. And thus, to change the default of our lives by upgrading us out of fear, rejection, and fleeing into settled, rested, confident stances.

For in the swirl of the storm is found the revelation of God’s presence.

The unexpected storms in the middle of the process aren’t meant to negate the word of where we’re heading. Instead, they’re purposed to make our arrival possible by offering us what the easy and straightforward road could never provide. To turn away in the middle of the storm’s swirl is to turn away from the gift of fresh revelation that’s to be as bread for our journey ahead.

Instead of the waiting’s storm being the tortuous place where we are so quick to pray for exit from, it may in fact be the place of grace where we catch and receive the revelation needed for what’s on that other side. As we wait, stay, and rest.

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