Battles, Direction and God

If you haven’t noticed, I have been studying the life of David lately. If you don’t know, I am a Paul lady. Like hard-core crushing on him fandom. I have been for years. But the more I dig into David’s life I see why he was the man after God’s own heart. I see not so much the perfection of kingship, the shepherd turned victor.

I see the imperfect. I see the man. I see a man who went hard to be in wait for God’s promise, who was humbled in worship of God because he saw glimpses of the glory of God, promises fulfilled by only Him. I connect to the intimacy David sought with God. But the biggest piece I am learning in David’s life is that he went to inquire of God. Not of others, not of his own mind. He went to God before anyone or anything else early in his life (we aren’t to Bathsheba yet y’all).

Before engaging in a battle, he went to God.

game-thrones-battle-bastards.jpg

I mean c’mon y’all. Do you do that? I’ll own that I do not. I let worry, fret and anxiety rule my mind and heart rather than going into intimate time before God to seek His will and direction in it. I either avoid battle or bear down straight into it a la Jon Snow at the Battle of the Bastards in season 6 (you know what I mean). I let emotions rule, or compartmentalize them away into avoidance.

Yet David, the great warrior and king in the Old Testament stops to convene with God, to seek God above all else. Because that’s what God desires of us, to seek Him out and be in intimate relationship with Him. To be the first we run to in times of worry and anxiety, not the very last.

It means instead of running through best and worst case scenarios, we run to His feet. Instead of searching through our friend list to text out for prayers, we search our hearts and minds for the lies that have shaken our foundation in Him. Instead of posting to social media vague diatribes for commentary, we sit in silence with God, listening for Him.

My life, my heart, could do with more of God and less with worry. Could yours? When the worries come, and they will, can we cling to God alone, taking them to Him and then listening for Him? Can we still our anxious hearts in the firm foundation of Christ, and allow our sense of control to be relinquished to God?  Can we turn to songs of praise in the midst because the Lord of all has given us a place of refuge and is in control of it all?


Psalm 34 is not only a song of David but a battle cry of facing anxiety and worry. It’s one that I have found to bring me back to intimacy to God instead of running after the fear misplaced in this world and circumstances. Recently I stumbled upon the Psalms album from Shane and Shane with their version of Psalm 34 as well.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalm 34: 1-8 (ESV))

Rings, Babies and a Steadfast Spirit

Ever have one of those times where you know you are being utterly ridiculous and yet you find that you just dive head first into it? Just me? Oh good.

9fdc122dc2de2dd09e55c2c0b7f97beb--funny-engagement-quotes-engagement-announcement-funnyI have a multitude of friends who are currently pregnant right now, like it’s crazy how many women I know expecting in the next three months. It’s that stage of my life where the weddings have subsided and the pregnancies have come flooding in. And I am so overjoyed for each one, to see God use my friends to raise up the next generation. Unfortunately I found that feelings and emotions of being left out, a reminder of the lie that I am alone kept bubbling up at times.

When I saw a woman I was distant friends with post that she was now engaged it caused all the emotions of being left out and doubting God to just flood out of nowhere. I am truly happy for her, but in that moment, I made it about me. I made it about the lies that are fed to us over and over again, to doubt God and to step outside of His promise for our lives. I was shocked at how suddenly it felt like a tide of just utter bitterness, jealousy and outright frustration with God Himself came pouring out of me. Y’all, it wasn’t pretty and it definitely wasn’t the marker of a  friend or a guarded heart.

It was a flashing warning light that an area of my heart had been breached and was undergoing attack. That I had allowed it to go unmaintained and unchecked because so easily I slip into this comfort zone of life and put myself on autopilot. For a bit I sat in that mood, in that temperament of just irritation and doubt. As I turned to the consoling nature that social media likes to tell us it is, a verse was at the very top of a post and it dug right into the real issue-a clean heart and a steadfast spirit.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 

Jealousy and doubt had wormed in and shaken my spirit. I had allowed them in because I wasn’t resting in the steadfast spirit God establishes. Nope, I was resting in the comfort of my own strength (which is just weakness with an ego in the flesh) and my own way. I was deliberately choosing to doubt instead of trust in what I know to be true. To trust in WHO I know to be true.

And it’s hard y’all. It’s hard not to live in that jealousy and doubt, to not just walk away and do it in my own way, but He’s shown again and again He is faithful to what He has promised-which is my good. Not what I define as my good, but the very best that He knows there is for me. But I have to make the choice, over and over again, to seek Him to create that clean heart in me and to renew that spirit of steadfastness. I have to be dutifully firm in the spirit He has created in me. Unwavering when so many things seek to buffet me about.

It doesn’t mean I don’t get excited when friends share their news of an engagement or an expected arrival of a baby, or the purchase of a new car or a thousand other things. Because that is God’s goodness for them in their lives, and He’s got some pretty amazing things planned for me as well if I but remain steadfast in spirit. It means I deliberately choose to not doubt in those moments, but take them to Him with an honest heart.

Getting Taught

My first year of college I was a double major in history and math, with a secondary education emphasis. I wanted to teach. In my high school years I was heavily influenced by math teachers and an English teacher. I fell in love with history thanks to my dad and AP History class. Even at 18 I saw how impactful teachers could be on the life of a bratty teen like myself and felt I owed them more than just an A in class, but to turn and give back myself.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, the Great Teacher went in the temple to teach. Christ, during His time here on earth, often taught through the lens of parables, illustrating an idea through story in order to bring about revelation on the hearts of those who hear. He took the harder lessons to be learned and brought them to the people who most needed to hear them.

But here we sit looking at Mark 11-13, and the hard words of Christ teaching and the Pharisees interrupting, to try to trap Him or ensnare Him. They bring lofty legalistic views, with religion carried on their shoulders rather than trusting in Christ, the God-man Himself right before them, teaching and preaching, pointing to the time of redemption.

They doubt His authority, seeking to be their own authority. I have to say, we all are alike in that vein. We prefer to use ourselves more often to rule than allowing Christ to rule in and through us. As one writer states, “We are not really interested in surrendering that rule to anyone else.” We see further on that they fear others more than they fear God, when they make decisions based upon the crowd’s opinion instead of the words of Christ before them. They chose the safe route, the expedient one rather than what was true, right.

Sounds a bit like me some days, alot of days. Choosing for myself based upon the opinion of others often instead of what Christ commands of me. When I look at this text I cannot help but ask myself, “Does what others will think of me hinder me from moving more towards Jesus?” Do the lessons He teaches me alter me in a way that moves me more towards His likeness or more towards the crowd’s opinion?

In many ways I am just as they were, questioning whether this Teacher has authority and influence in my life, whether I would allow the opinions of others to bare weight over His command. So on this Tuesday as I sit and look at the Teacher and His teachings that day thousands of years ago, I have to seek to know how much of all this is a reason to mask my own fear of what faith might cost me socially, relationally, and culturally. Whether I will be taught or continue to think I am the teacher.

Early Mornings, Fear and Encouragement

I greeted Friday with a dose of early morning reading…and by early I mean 3:30am.

I know, right?

I have been both actively and passively avoiding my own passion this year if I am honest, and what are Fridays good for if not honesty? Do you ever do that?

You know deep down you are passionate about a thing, a calling, a hobby, a goal, something. You keep getting pulled right back to it even when you think you’re over it. Yes I have been writing here, but I have neglected the book I have outlined and worked on chapters sporadically on for years.

I told myself 2017 would be the year it got finished, that no matter what came from it and where my heart and God’s will aligned on it, it would be finished. It would get shipped, as Seth Godin likes to say.

But that’s not been the case. I actively chose other projects that led me further from working on it. I pursued excuses of living situation, computer malfunctions and further research. I pointed to my complete lack of experience and place at the table. I know I have talked about disobedience and the like over the last few weeks, but honestly it’s like choosing to not parent. To sit idly by on the phone, the computer, the tv or any number of other things instead of tending to a child.

So at 4am this morning I ran across this quote in a book I recently received (and y’all if you have one person who says “GO DO THIS.” you are far more blessed than you realize…and I am super thankful for the quiet encouragement of a person when I haven’t really believed I had it in me to do this)…it’s from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles: 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Y’all….when we play small we tell others it’s okay to be small, to live in excuses and be okay with being less than. OUCH. and WOW.

This kicked my tail, and I keep coming back to it this morning over and over. Seeing just how much we fear how awesome we truly are instead of how lacking we are not. Maybe today you need to shine, just like I need to step fully into light that’s been cast, to finish and be fully who I have prayed and sought counsel on being-a writer with a finished book.

Let’s liberate the fear of who we think we aren’t and be who we truly are…AWESOME. And maybe that means wakeups at 4am, encouraging those you know who haven’t realized the fear they are living in, or it means putting all the excuses and distractions aside to do that thing.

Expectations, Fear and Obedience

Last week I shared about some disobedience I had been living in for the last bit. I will admit the struggle is very real in living an obedient life in Christ. To listen diligently for His voice, the Spirit’s prompting and digging daily into God’s Word to guide us. The tensions that therein lie against the world, our desires, and the pull of culture can almost be too much (and sometimes are) for this soul.

Over the course of the last two years I have faced some pulls I wasn’t expecting, coincide that with losing my job unexpectedly and launching into a whole new sphere of work has led to some self-assessment and a whole lot of self-pity. Most of the struggle has been in the realm of pride though if I’m honest. I like to list off (to myself and God mainly) that I have this list of accomplishments, these degrees, and yet here He’s put me, in this situation. I remind Him that’s He’s called me to more, all the while not really confessing my pride and willingness to be obedient in the wait, in the work I now feel led to fully.

I realized so very recently that I have been lining myself up with the world’s pulls of life, the world’s expectations of myself and my list of “to-dones” instead of falling flat on my face in repentance before God. I have pursued after jobs, locations that I felt I should be pursuing rather than what I knew without a shred of doubt He was leading me towards.

In all honesty, I wasn’t being brave in the face of false expectations.

I wasn’t being courageous to live in the wait He wants me in currently.

I am not being obedient to the fullness of life He has for me by filling my time with distraction of expectations and the need for approval.

When I turned the pages of a book in the early morning hours of the day I saw these words call out, God’s way of saying, “I’m talking to you right here, in this moment.What are you going to do with it?”

“There comes a moment for each of us wherein we must decide-will we be brave, or will we remain enslaved to fear? Will we be brave enough to confess? Will we be brave enough to walk into God’s calling?”

The calling terrifies me…because I am thinking it’s about me and my strength (and very present lack thereof). But when I bravely confess that I have relied too much on the world’s expectations and my own willingness I step into the area of obedience. I step out of my own lies and those that I have believed the world is telling me to see that I have to choose this for myself and not for the approval of others, or for anything short of God’s glory in obedience.

I am still walking in this tension of choosing bravery in the face of the world’s expectations of me and obedience to the calling He has given me. It means I have to choose trust in every single moment, in every single step even when I don’t know what that looks like or how long I will have to wait.

Fear will always tell me to not make a decision, it will always remind me of what others would think or say. But bravery in obedience and choice means my faith is bigger than my fears, my God is bigger than the world’s reminders of failure or expectations. Because I am already approved, already loved, and called to obedience in a sovereign God Who doesn’t leave me to figure this out alone but to have seasons of wait, rest, grief and freedom in Him.

Here’s to shirking off the fear of the world’s expectations and living fully in the freedom of bravery in Christ, knowing He went first so we wouldn’t have to be enslaved any more to it all.


The quote above is from Rebekah Lyons’ new book out this Tuesday, You are Free (pg. 198) Pick it up at your local LifeWay Christian Stores. 

Calling in the Unknown

What does vision and calling look like? What about the mission of your life?

For years I have wrestled with these questions, thinking about predetermined paths and expectations that were just never voiced. Once you are on a path, you have a logically laid out means of pursuing that path and you STAY.ON.IT.

A couple of years ago that mindset changed for me, first with Jon Acuff’s Do Over, where he said you can have a different path, one where you lived into what you felt drawn to rather than the one you had prepared for. But you gotta do the work, you gotta put in the hustle. (There’s alot more to that book, and I highly encourage you to grab it if this is resonating in the least with you).

The calling I had at 25 has changed, pursuits and interests have pushed me to consider options I had not seen before…and now a decade later I wrestle with letting that calling go and accepting the heart cry of obedience.

But what does that look like? 

Exactly the question I have spent months wrestling with. I need the template, the design and the future all mapped out to what that looks like for me. What it means to live fully into obedience in calling.

The scary thing is that there’s not a template, there’s no simple or easy map to lay out before me. My limited knowledge self wants that, but the obedient child of God knows that I don’t get that. Yes I get resources and tips, I research and prepare, but also know that stepping into an unknown is incredibly scary and racked with doubt. I have given excuses and ultimatums to God about what He’s been pressing in on me about…because I wanted the map all to myself. I want easy and comfortable, immediate affirmation and success.

One would think after 10 years of life lived I would know better than that. None of that comes immediately, or even before you step out into the unknown…and it may never come. So the human self makes the excuse, stays in the comfortable and keeps in line.

So living out a mission, a calling, a vision simply reflects who you are trusting, who you are obedient to, and how you prepare yourself each step of the way. It doesn’t look like the person next to you who is pursuing their dream, nor the person who has the platform you respect and admire. It looks like you…stepping out and pursuing what you feel is your calling now, in the hard and the ugly. In the days you simply just don’t want to and the days you really need to. It means pushing aside excuses and sometimes living in the doubt of it all for a time. It means both no schedule and freedom, and boundaries with a regimented plan.

This newness and shininess has long since worn-off, but the calling? Yep, still there. It’s still burning deep and leaving me hopeful and buoyant in expectation. But not the expectation of anything beyond simple rejoicing of obedience.

There are days ahead where counts and assessments will come, where the need will wane and I will wonder once again if this truly a calling and wonder what it all looks like lived out. Answers may come, but if they don’t I know that fully and completely that it’s not about what I get out of it, but what I give away.

All of it.

Every single bit.

The goodness of a calling, a mission of life is that it’s not to benefit me. and that’s the absolute beauty of it all. It’s never about me, ever.

 

 

A Single’s Reality

I am single.

No, there’s no fella.

Table for one, please.

 

Words I have to say at times. Awkward silences, even more awkward inner emotions. Then the reception of pitying eyes, or pats on the arm of “One day dear.” Oh friends, I wish for something else. I pray for something else. I work and read, I pray and I dig into who I am and what He desires for me.

But the sting of singleness happens. It hurts. Some days it’s fine, in fact there’s a joy to know that I am ruling my couch and my fridge that evening. But when you are in your mid-30s there comes a turn, at least from what I can attest personally and from friends. It’s a turn towards hopelessness, doubt and even fear.

We doubt we’ll find the one. We fear something is inherently wrong with us. We lose hope in there ever being kids, or even a spouse. We fear God’s best for us is several decades of loneliness or solitude in our homes. We fear being labeled “less-than” by those in our lives due to our marital status.

Frankly we are scared.

But we don’t admit it. At least I haven’t… until recently. Because to talk about singleness, and our state of mind in it would be to label ourselves as such. For years I have been told to live a full life and then some man would be attracted to that, rather than the laments of a heart desiring to be a wife. While I am not suggesting you run around with “Wife Material” emblazoned on every article of clothing, I think it’s time to shed a light on singleness and the hurts we face.

For too long we have been scared to say we are lonely, that we don’t like this single life, and that we fear facing the rest of our lives this way. Fear gives place to worry, anxiety and depression. It allows words of shame and regret to fill your life and cloud out all the rest. Fear tells you that you are alone in those feelings and that everyone will think you are unable to cope, and that is the real reason you are alone, that you just aren’t reliant enough on God.

I am here, right here, to say enough. There is no shame and no fear in admitting that being single is scary, when prospects are few or non-existent. Singleness is hard when the bills and the mortgage rely upon your work. Singleness hurts when you are alone on a Friday night but want so desperately to not be. It’s the cries to God that we get singleness is a good thing but is the loneliness and hurt too?

We hide behind veneers too often that tells everyone we are single and we love it, when in fact we grumble and hurt in it. We fear it. The platitudes no longer cajole or soothe us, in fact they wound us deeper. So let’s come to the table together in our single lives to face reality of fear and doubt. To be honest with one another and ourselves that singleness is often lonely but we are together in it. To look one another in the eye and face it all with hope, confident expectation, and understanding of the reality of our hearts longing.