He Is Faithful and Good

For whatever reason, the blog has been getting a lot of views lately – both on the wordpress site and on Facebook. As you may have noticed, nothing has been written in quite some time. Well, nothing blog worthy anyway. With all the looks, though, I’m guessing that it means I might need to write something.

“Something.”   😉

Truth be told, it’s been a very trying and difficult season. None of which I will go into now 3e28307761b240f34c56bdf91cd6ea31– I do love my transparency with things, but most of this isn’t mine to share and some of it I’m just trying to process still. Sometimes, writing can be part of the process, but other times, we just need to be still and find answers and peace in His solitude.

And that’s exactly where I’m at right now. Sitting at His feet, thanking Him for the little things, praying for big things, and doing my best to stay in His presence despite the enemy’s desire to pull me away.

When times like this come, and they will and do come, please please please – find Him and find the people
whom He has put in your path to help hold you up. Life is not about doing it all by ourselves. It’s about leaning into Him and His people.

The good news is that He is faithful and I am seeing the fruits of consistent prayer in this challenging season. Prayer really does change things, friends. Not just the things for which we’re praying, but it changes us.

My head is above the wave, the tides are changing, and He is good. All the time.

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Stepping into the War Room

By now, many of us have seen the movie War Room. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I would be seeing it. First because it’s Priscilla Shirer, and anyone who knows me, knows that’s enough. Secondly, I wanted to see it because it’s about prayer. I love prayer. I love to pray. I burden for others and that’s a gift that I love having. Usually. =]

My problem, sometimes, with movies like this is the perfectly wrapped ending. By the end of the two hour movie, life is almost perfect and the War Room has done exactly what it’s supposed to do.

What about those times when there isn’t a perfectly wrapped ending? What about those times our prayers aren’t answered in the way we hoped or expected? How do we continue without being angry with God or doubting that He ever hears us?

Just. Keep. Going.

That’s my only answer. I’ve had some prayers that have gone unanswered for years and I have others that get answered in ways I didn’t expect and some that get answered immediately. I can’t understand why.

The idea that we have a perfect God who is always willing to listen to us when we cry out to Him is something that still amazes me. I wanted to share some of my own war room scriptures and quotes with you.

10385309_10204173332271968_7915259727223994481_nEphesians 3:20 – 21. My friend created this for me as a going away gift when I left my last workplace. It’s probably my most cherished gift. It’s my favorite scripture, handmade into this beautiful design and then placed in a frame.  (let me know if you’re interested in seeing more of her work! I’ll direct you to her FB page.)

Joshua 1:9 (NLT) This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

“You own the skies and still want my heart.” – a quote from a Hillsong United song – Up In Arms.

“You make me brave.”

“Oh, men and women, pray through; pray through! Do not just begin to pray and pray a little while and throw up your hands and quit; but pray and pray and pray until God bends the heavens and comes down.” ~ R. A. Torrey

“Try a little harder to be a little better.” ~ Gordon B. Hickley

“You can’t save people, you can only love them.” ~ Anais Nin

Sometimes, I will pick up that thing You’ve asked me to lay down. I’m thankful for Your grace. I ask for your forgiveness.

Surrender.

“You see the depths of my heart and love me the same.” ~ Chris Tomlin – Indescribable

2 Timothy 4:17 (NKJV) 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me

Psalm 116:2 (NLT)Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!

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I used to be really scared to pray. I don’t know why – shame? Guilt? I’m sure it was both.

Let me encourage you – we can’t all have a “war room”, but we can all have a time and place in which we can wage our war on our knees (or on our butts, or face, or driving down the road…). Please don’t let *rules* stand in the way of having a conversation with our Creator. He really, really wants us to talk to Him. He is relentless for us. For you. For me.

It’s hard to be honest with Him and ourselves, putting all of our hopes, dreams, despairs, struggles, heart for others, etc… out there. It is. I get it. Trust me when I tell you, it doesn’t always have a happy ending like in the movies. But when we listen, when we’re still, and when we faithfully step into that war room with Him – it will always be right.

 

 

 

One Word 2016

By now you guys know that I don’t do New Years resolutions and instead choose a word to help guide me through the year – or I should say, I pray about a word and, eventually, God will lay a word on my heart with so much gusto that I couldn’t shake it if I tried.

I’ve struggled through 2015, definitely not leaving it behind feeling very “victorious” and that was my word for 2015. I didn’t know if God wanted me to redo the word or start over. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t want to even talk to Him about it. I felt a little bit bruised about the whole thing. We’ve all been there.

Finally, I relented and just spent some time with him on New Years Eve and so many things became clear. I realized that I might have still been riding my high of the new life/move transition when choosing my word last year, without taking into consideration a lot of different factors. So while last year didn’t seem victorious, I felt victorious on NYE for figuring some things out. And if that’s what I have to take away from my 2015 word for the year, then I’m happy.

On to 2016…

OneWordCommit

One of the problems I’ve been having is my inability to commit to anything since I’ve moved. It’s weird for me – I’m the queen of overcommitting myself. I will commit to everything and do my best to do it all. I will say “Yes” and volunteer for everything! However, nowadays, I can’t even commit to a knitting project. I’ve become consumed with circumstances around me and I’ve allowed that to make me hesitant to commit to other things in my life that are important.

So, 2016 – the year to live out my word by choosing to commit to things, outside of my present circumstances, in ways that are fulfilling to the path God has called me to walk.

How about you? What’s your word?

I find that sharing my word is helpful and it keeps me accountable. Let me know your word and I’ll poke and prod you all year, I promise. =]

 

 

 

 

Broken For His People

Choosing to step out and try to write about something controversial is difficult. Through the written word, intent isn’t always known and body language is non-existent.

Yet…

I still feel compelled to share some thoughts about recent events. I will get some kickback, I already know and I’ve seen it happening to other people who feel similarly to how I feel; though not all completely the same.

Recent attacks on Paris are heart-breaking and devastating. We’ve felt that kind of terror on our own soil and we know firsthand how it feels.  Sadly, lots of countries know how it feels…

Being who I am – a pacifist and a peacemaker – I struggle. Can I just be honest about that?

“Kill them all!” ~ a sentiment read over and over on social media.

“Close the borders and don’t let anyone in!” ~ another read sentiment throughout social media.

“Let’s deal with our own homeless before we help everyone else!” ~ another widely read thought.

And so begins my struggle… as a believer and a Christ follower… “kill them all…” huh… What? Here’s the thing, in our minds we can believe any truth that is pounded into us for a long enough period of time. It doesn’t mean that that truth is actual truth, it means that it’s the truth we believe. So, if someone tells a young woman that she isn’t worthy, or beautiful, or smart she will begin to believe that truth after a period of time. In order to reset that truth inside of her mind, she needs people to rally around her, support her, and speak the real truth over her time and time again. After some time, and some prayer, she will begin to see the real truth – love.

Now, imagine living in a culture and society that for years – generations, really — tells us that so and so are evil people. From the time we’re born, that’s our whole understanding of those particular people – think pre-civil rights era. That is the truth those people know, their truth. We know it isn’t true or right, but they believe it to be true. In our own country, when we fought for civil rights, it meant standing up for the real truth and teaching people that what they’ve heard for their whole lives is wrong and untrue. We prayed for our nation, we walked in love with our brothers and sisters, and eventually the real truth emerged – love.

Friends, it’s radical to think we can love a culture of people who have a mission to kill and destroy us, but in my heart, I sincerely feel like that’s what we’re supposed to do. The radical extremists, NOT all Muslims, have been lied to for their whole life. They’ve been given a truth that isn’t real. They’ve been poured into with evil intentions. I sincerely feel that the only way to overcome that darkness is with light. Can we “kill them all!” I mean, I guess so… that isn’t what I want, though. God wants not one to perish without knowing Him. Not one. Not even them. How do we speak truth to those who want to kill us? I have no clue. None. I know there is a priest currently serving in the Middle East who opens his home and dinner table for people he knows are terrorists. He knows the risk, yet he does it anyway.  When he invited ISIS into his home, they refused and said if they came, they would leave with his head. Needless to say, he didn’t invite ISIS again. The fact that he’s doing his very best to speak truth, even if just one person hears it, is amazing.

As Jesus Christ hanged on the cross, He asked His Father to forgive His killers for they know not what they are doing. They were given a false truth and they acted on that deception and killed Jesus. Too many people walk around with a false truth and when we don’t take the time to teach the real truth… it’s sad and hard and scary…

“Close the borders and don’t let anyone in!” – uhm.. okay? So, suddenly we’re a country of heartless people who don’t have an iota of compassion for refugees? Look, friends, that nonsense that’s been making its rounds about all the refugees being 18-24 year old males is false. It isn’t true. Please don’t believe everything you see on Facebook – do your own research so that you can learn the truth (as well as we can being outsiders). People in Syria are fleeing for their lives. Hundreds of thousands have had to leave their homes to go find shelter in a refugee camp with thousands of other people. Have you looked into the conditions of some of these refugee camps? It’s devastating. I’m sad for people to live that way and so grateful for my own home and comfort and the fact that I don’t have to flee for my life because my country is being torn to shreds.

So what do we do? Close the borders and not care about those people? Open our borders and conduct better screening to try and be responsible for who is let in and who we refuse? I get it. We are called to love our neighbors – those running from Syria and those living next door. How can we say we love the ones next door if we’re willfully letting in our enemy? I get it. It’s complex. Way too complex for my wee little brain. My friend, Jeremiah Lorrig, wrote a great piece on this very topic and he says things way better than me because he’s way smarter than me. Please go read it…

The sentiment about dealing with our own homeless is one that really just boils my blood. I have a heart for homeless people, I just do. I work to consistently offer food, supplies, take them out to lunch or dinner – I have NO extra money or income to do this, yet I do it over and over. I’m not responsible about it. I acknowledge that about myself… My light bill will be late if it means that someone got that money for a hotel stay that night. I’m in need of shackles on my spending and I know it. My heart is bent and broken and all sorts of messy for that population of people. Even the scammers, liars, and tricksters… I’m a mess.

I say that not to brag or boast about what I’m doing, though. I say that because I watch countless people walk by as if our homeless don’t even exist. I watch people spit at, talk down to, and ridicule someone sleeping on the street. I say that because how we’ve been treated, stared at, and talked to while sitting in a restaurant. People wonder why so and so is washing herself in the bathroom, when someone was finally kind enough to offer her a meal and thus make her a patron and thus allowing her to use the restroom. Please don’t rely on the government to save our homeless or to take care of them. The government is already taking care of enough people, probably too many and some they shouldn’t be. That’s not my place to argue today, though. The government is jacked up and I can’t fix that. However, I can offer a room, a meal, some soap, some clothes, some toothpaste, some deodorant. That I can do. And so can you. Instead of griping about what the government isn’t doing for those people, I ask you to check what YOU are doing for those people.

This is a long post. A post created from my own broken heart for the lies, evil, and deception throughout the world. I don’t know what we should do because I simply don’t have all the answers. I wish I did. The truth I want to walk in is love. And faith that nothing in this world is beyond the grasp of our knowing, sovereign God. I want to pray for those who don’t know the truth. I want to ask God to forgive them for they know not what they do.

Mandy Smith writes:

Father of All Peoples,
Giver of All Life.

When the world is in turmoil, we confess that we feel afraid.
We want to fix it with words: “Us” and “Them.”
We want to fix it with weapons: anger and hatred, fire and steel.

But we are a people of love.
We want to believe that perfect love casts out fear.
And although it’s hard to believe,
We pray in faith that you can work in the hearts of terrorists.

We do not know where they are.
But you know.
We do not know what they plan.
But you know.

And so we will reach down deep for the truest thing we know.
And pray for love to seep into places filled with fear.

Wherever an extremist has joined ranks to find meaning,
Fill his dreams with your purposes.

Wherever one has joined from disillusionment with his parents,
Fill his dreams with your Fatherly love.

Wherever one has fled to fight because he’s a misfit in his community,
Give him dreams of belonging in Your family.

Wherever one has joined from loneliness,
Find his longing and let him dream of your longings.

Whoever falls asleep plotting, fill their dreams with uncanny peace.
Whoever falls asleep hateful, fill their dreams with inexplicable joy.

And when they awake, may they wonder why this all seemed so important
As they open their eyes, let them see anew
As they look to the day ahead, fill their minds with doubt
As they step from their beds, give their feet uncertainty
As they rise to face the day, go with them into that day
Haunt them all day with those dreams
Give them courage to whisper their dreams to each other
Disrupt their hate with visions of your love
Undermine their fear with visions of your love
Fill their hearts with visions of your love.

Amen.

 

 

No Passing Zone

I’ve been throwing this topic around in my head for weeks. I’m not sure that I even have enough of a cohesive thought about it to actually make something that sounds helpful or encouraging, but I’m ready for it to leave my brain.

Transition from one very safe place into a much unknown place can be mucky and murky and difficult. I’ve encountered more “trust issues” in the last year than I have in the last decade. It’s made me think back to the old me, the one who didn’t trust people, and I had to play this out carefully to not allow myself to slip back into that place of a consistently untrusting spirit.

The definition of trust is simple: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. The act of trusting is not quite so simple, though. It isn’t just the ability to be vulnerable with another human; it’s the conscious decision to believe your safety is of interest to another human; whether it’s emotional, physical, spiritual, etc…

In hindsight, because I allowed myself to try and run ahead of God and the plans He had for me, I felt like I was suddenly not under His armor or behind His shield or allowing Him to journey ahead of me in order to clear the path. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe for one hot second that God walked away from me and suddenly left me unprotected, but I did walk ahead of Him – with an unconscious flip of my hand saying, “thanks for getting me to this point, God … I got it from here.”

And now I have s6195593_origome consequences for that. I’ve been a little dinged up, a little bit damaged, and a little less trusting. Not because of anything He did, but because of what I thought I could do without Him leading the way. God does give us wisdom to make decisions and opportunities to spread our wings, but when we’re too busy running ahead, we’re running right by the things He has for us and we don’t even realize it.

The good news is that we have a God of mercy and grace. When we run ahead, we can turn back to Him and He’ll give us a proverbial pat on the head and say something like, “passing Me the baton now, eh?” and He’ll keep it pushin.. (maybe He just says that to me… :p )

So for those of us feeling a little battered, a little bruised, a little unsure of the people in our circle, or just plain unsure of ourselves – let’s take some time to check our placement. Are we under and behind His armor or are we walking ahead trying to “handle it” on our own. If it’s the latter, I’ll be praying with you (and myself) that we might be made aware when we’re trying to run ahead and that we fall back under His loving protection.

 

 

Removing Fences

As I was driving home from the grocery store today, I passed through one of the more affluent areas on the way to my apartment – far on the other side of the tracks. =]

I do appreciate beautiful homes with landscaping perfected for magazine covers. Some of these communities had brilliant water features with small ponds and lakes. When I was younger, my mom and I would wander through model homes just to marvel at how lovely they were; the floor plans, the kitchens, the bathrooms, etc…

But today, I saw something a little different. I saw barriers and fences. I saw restrictions and cages. I saw separation and exclusiveness.

The communities I drove by today were all gated. Access code needed. In other words, I wasn’t welcome there. Of course, I didn’t try, but even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to – unless, of course, I was given an invite from a specific person inside the community.

There was suddenly a separation. A me and them. A low people and a high people. A division in classes. It’s always been there, I know… but today I just saw it differently. It was eye-opening. Heart-opening.

I was suddenly aware about how we do this. How Christians do this. How we create a me and a them. A low people and a high people. The houses and the people who live in them didn’t make me sad, I was sad about us as people. As Christ lovers and followers. How many fences and barriers have we put up to keep out the riff raff? How many people feel like they can only approach us with a personal invite? How many people feel incapable to come to us because they fear judgement, harshness, and condemnation?

We are called to foster love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, on and on. And on and on. I wanna be a woman who envelopes the lost, who helps others find freedom, and who is always inclusive. I wanna be a woman who is approachable, unrestricted, and without fences of separation.

That’s what we’re called to do and be. It isn’t always easy. We find comfort in our safe places and in our comfort zones. Gosh, I feel like I know this so much more now after being recently uprooted from my own safe, comfort zone. It’s important to be and stay in community with one another. Yes! We are critical to each other’s growth and we nurture one another. But it can’t stop there.

Can we examine our fences? Can we double check our invites and make sure they aren’t exclusive, but rather inclusive. Let’s gather with people on both sides of the fences. The mes and the thems. Let’s have communities with less separation and more invitation.

You Will Go Before Me

When I officially touched Texan soil, to become her permanent resident, I had big dreams, expectations, and ideas. I just knew that because God moved me here the way He did that things were gonna be fantastic!

I left a safe life, perhaps even a bit of a bubbled life. I surrounded myself with safe people. People who didn’t gossip, weren’t mean-spirited, who loved me deeply. I worked with the best people and served in a church with the best people. We had a common mission and goal to restore hope to the broken, lost souls. Ahh… the dream!

I knew that if God was calling me to leave all of that, it must be because He had something way bigger in store for me. I was excited to see where the wandering road would lead me and I was obedient enough to actually cut the cords and go.

Except… nothing BIG was panning out. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t land a job with one of the many ministries here in the DFW area. I couldn’t find a church that really needed me to serve. Even the volunteer opportunities I’ve taken have been pretty superficial and non-descript. I once received a “Thank You” card for an event that I missed. I signed up for it and then wasn’t able to go. Yet, I still received a thank you card, addressed to me, for all my hard work. To say I got a bit cynical at that point is an understatement.

It’s been a difficult summer. It’s been difficult at home, at work, at my non-existent church. I didn’t realize that leaving a life so wrapped up in ministry to come into the world at full throttle would be such a challenge. A friend told me the other day, “Stephanie, you’re not on the milk anymore. You are here for a reason and a purpose.” Of course, she’s right. I’ve been frantically searching for hands, like mine, to hold and walk this journey with me. Since I became a believer, 10 years ago, I always had a hand to hold.

As I said before, I knew when I came here that finding a church would be my first order of business. There are so many churches here it can make a person’s head spin. Big, small, world famous churches. I think I’ve tried them all. All the big ones that is. I was done with small churches – God was calling me to BIG things and because of that I needed a BIG church. The problem was that BIG church just wasn’t working for me. I did enjoy some of the extra things that were offered. But I also missed the personal connection – the lacking depth of human to human relationship. And yes, I was part of small groups, home groups, mom groups, single groups, groups of groups. Yes, I volunteered in the well-oiled machine of big church. Yet, I still wasn’t connecting.

So, today, I did what I probably should have done months ago, but I had to get to the point I was at to really receive the gift God was handing me. I walked, boldly and with God’s covering, into the small, little, only one service on Sunday, Grace Community Church – the only Foursquare church nearby – and felt God’s love all over me. It was like He wrapped a quilt around me and welcomed me home. The pastor, who actually took the time to talk with me before service, delivered a message that was directly pointing at me. “The peace of the Lord is there even when the plan seems counterintuitive.” I haven’t been feeling peace. I did feel peace today. “Sometimes the blessing of the Lord is in the midst of captivity.” The pastor was talking about when Jesus went to pray at Gethsemane and was seeking the Lord’s will and would be obedient even if it was counterintuitive to what Jesus thought the plan should be.

And that was my problem… I wasn’t really seeking the Lord’s will. I thought I knew His will already. I didn’t bother to stop and ask Him along the way what He wanted. I assumed that I knew and I carried on with what I thought was the plan. It wasn’t that I set out to be blatantly disobedient, but I also wasn’t lining myself up for obedience.

I’m a hardheaded woman. Ask my mom or anyone who’s ever tried to mentor me. It takes me a season of “learn this lesson the hard way” before it sinks in and I finally understand. Maybe you’re hardheaded too. Maybe, though, you’ll read this and then pray. Maybe you’ll ask God for clarity about His will over your life, and even if it seems counterintuitive, you’ll be obedient and move forward toward the things He has waiting for you. That’s where I wanna be today. Moving forward on the way to the things He has for me. Not the things I think He has for me.