Fighting the Storm

Sunset from window

Sometimes a picture can communicate more of what you want to say than words.

It felt like the darkness, the clouds were trying to swallow up the sun as a late afternoon storm rolled in on Monday. The sun kept fighting back the clouds and the storm and I could see it’s fight through a window at the gym.

The sight got at my heart because that’s where I’ve been recently. Unsure of the clouds creeping in and the storm that seems to be forming. I had been wrestling for a couple of weeks on a good thing, a decision that was good and confirming where my heart was leading but that ultimately was not the best thing. Over the weekend I was affirmed in what I felt was where God was leading. Once I voiced it to one person, just one person, I could feel this darkness creep in and a storm brewing. I could feel myself bristle up for a fight because I was choosing the best God has intended and not this very good thing that isn’t for me.

To see that play out visually just hours after I’d started to get that notion was just for me. But maybe it’s for you too. Maybe God needed you to hear, to see, to read that the thing you decided on and now feel the darkness creeping in is what He wants for you. He wants that very best thing, and not the really good thing you said “no” to right now. He wants that obedience in what He has long been calling you towards, reminding you of. The darkness doesn’t want that, Satan doesn’t want you going hard after obedience because it scares him when you are in God’s will, in relationship and fellowship with Him pursuing after what He’d have for you.

May this bring you hope, affirmation, confidence in the fight ahead. The sun always fights back against the encroaching storm. The Son already fought it off so that you could be in Him in all things. When the storm comes. When the clouds creep in. When the devil would have you doubt and fear the very best God has for you.

The Ping of Death

I heard the ping, ping, ping of a nail going into a piece of wood echo in the room. Words, lies, hurt, anger, things carried by women for far longer than they should of, and some since childhood, getting nailed to a cross. If I am still long enough, a week later, I can still hear it.

And there’s part of me that knows the devil does not want me to remember that. He likes me hearing words, believing lies he’s fed me and living in a place of hopeless regret and bitterness, turning to gossip and envy rather than pouring out love and support, encouragement and joy.

Y’all. I know without a doubt God has given me a desire to work in women’s ministry. To write about faith, singleness, dating, community. To put together studies and gather women to uplift one another. I know that without a single doubt in my mind. But here’s the kicker I have wrestled so hard and for so long with: I don’t do relationships with my fellow ladies well.

That’s the reminder I get when I start writing, when I sign up to lead a small group, when I step out to engage other women. You don’t do it well. Who are you to do this? Your circle is small. It’s like he knows what my downfall is, what will make me stumble and run back to my hiding place. Where I circle up with my self and vow that I won’t put myself out there, to look ridiculous and be known. I’d rather stay to the outskirts and not be hurt or mocked.

Even writing all of this has been a difficult step for me over this last week. Because I’ve had to admit to myself that I would prefer to live in the lie and doubt God rather than trust Him fully with the work He’s doing all along. And so last Monday I sat sobbing…ladies around me not understanding why or knowing what I wrote on that sheet of paper and put down on that cross-knowing Jesus Himself took care of it so long ago so that I wouldn’t carry it anymore, that I should have never carried it to begin with. But I had taken to living in James 3:16, choosing envy of others living out what I believed God had given me and seeking my own selfish ambition in my own strength…I was leaning into words and perceived slights of others as a means of willful disobedience and mistrust of God.

Y’all it’s an ugly place to be in, where you point the finger of judgement and unmet/unreasonable expectations of others, seeking to gossip and cut down fellow believers instead of building each other up through encouragement and support. It’s not mine to define how someone should be a friend to me, nor should I choose to sin against them when they don’t meet expectations I have falsely established for them. My life should look more like verses 17 and 18 of James 3-peace loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, bearing out the good fruit of righteousness.

And so a work God had long since started in me, came bearing out in the pings of a nail and a hammer onto the cross Monday night. Surrounded by women from across the church, fighting to let go and put the lies, the hurt, the doubt, the anger, all of it. That view was intended specifically for me. That sound. That moment. Because God knew only that would get me to wake up to what He’d been aiming straight at my heart with for months…that the desire of His heart was calling to mine if I would but listen, lay everything else down and pick up the cross instead.

I had to hear that specific ping of death, the death nail of the lies and sin I had chosen repeatedly to finally see the weight of it all…to know He long took it from me, if I’d but put it there for good.

Worshiping Today

“I worship at the altar of today’s circumstances, thinking they’re the most important and most pressing of all.”

-Lore Wilbert

I just came upon that quote this week and the magnitude of it struck me pretty deep. You see I think that’s become the norm for our lives, myself included. I cast aside the reminders of faithfulness, obedience and truth for today’s stuff. It may be a home renovation, encounter with a coworker (or your boss) or the lack of evening plans.

Whatever it may be, today’s calendar and the circumstances those don’t often capture become our intent focus. We lay every bit of it at the altar to those, all of ourselves, our emotions, our thoughts and our focus right there in front of today. We have slowly but very easily given up the long-run for the short-sighted of now, right this minute and immediacy.

As believers, we know a different time frame. One that looks at the long run, the marathon, the eternal. Our hearts yearn for it but our culture, our lives rush to be at the feet of today. It leads to doubting God, not taking Him into every circumstance and instead asking Him to rubber stamp our plans, actions and words. We rush to judgement, to pickup lines and to dinner. Instead we are called to be in presence with Him, to fully engage in relationship and conversation, to consultation and discernment, to the holy of each moment.

Y’all, I cannot tell you how I long for the holy of each morning, of time spent breathing in Him, His goodness and truth so that I can then breathe out His love, mercy and grace. The holy of time spent seeking His direction and will rather than my own, time engaging with people rather than ticking them off my to-do/to-meet list, to seeing the heart of the eternal in each and every person I interact with daily, from coworkers to strangers to my roommate.

Just for today. Maybe this weekend or even through the remainder of Lent can we lay down the idol worship of today for the invitation of the eternal into the present? Can we choose to give up the immediacy of our lives for the ever-guiding will of God in each circumstance?

Just for today, y’all.

Bandages and Temptations, Oh My!

Confession time.

00381371046539_a1c1When I was a kid I stole Little Mermaid bandages from a store. I was around 8 or 9 at the time and I asked my mom for them. We already had bandages at home and these were not needed. I kept swirling about that endcap full of them wanting them so badly. Finally I opened a box dumped them in my little purse, closed the box and put it back on the shelf.

I was quite the little thief at a young age. And to my own detriment, sneaky as well.

In doing research on another topic in 1 Corinthians, I couldn’t help but recall my Little Mermaid caper when I came to 10:13:

No temptation has overcome you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (NKJV)

The reason being that I think we put our own twist onto this verse and knowingly engage in temptation to test God. Temptations do overcome us, they are common. He gives us a way of escape so that we can bear out the temptation and not giving in to it. Here’s the rub…we have to choose the way of escape and then lean fully into bearing it out with God. For us though, we keep circling the temptation much like I did those boxes of bandages, dwelling on my desire rather than on the words of my mother, rather than walking away and choosing obedience.

We like to circle the temptation because we allow the desire to give much more voice to us than the obedient and faithful call of God. He is faithful to provide that way of escape if we but take heed to listen, to choose to turn and walk away from it, not engage in lingering or even second-guessing. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be these big huge temptations that we often like to play out when we read this (or maybe it’s just been me). It doesn’t have to get to adultery, pornography, thievery, alcoholism…it can be something that we feel is so insignificant and don’t recognize as tempting us.

One that I have been wrestling with is the temptation of wasted time, of being lured by the “well I need this” rest of television-watching or scrolling through feeds rather than pursuing a God-given dream to write. If I am truly transparent with y’all, I wrestled with it even on this very post today. I was knocked by the topic, sat it aside and then walked back by where I had the Bible and notes open and thought “Well I could catch up on the DVR instead.” It’s not often glamorous or celebrated when we choose obedience over temptation. Doing the obedient thing isn’t sexy or even fun, (it can be, don’t get me wrong) but it’s what our hearts call us to more than our desires…it pushes us to a deeper relationship with Him and in Him, honoring His faithfulness to provide it to us and then faithfulness reflected back to Him in turning from it, choosing that escape route.

Yours may be different, but when we begin to actively choose the escape He provides, when we can see it or hear it, then we begin to build relationship with Him to then hear Him in each and every thing we face, in the face of each temptation that comes (and they do come, in all shapes and sizes, at all times) so that we may choose turning rather than tempting.

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. 

Love, Silence and Refugees

Almost four months ago I sat at a small table in a refurbished warehouse/gym on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy. I was a foreigner in a land I didn’t speak the language, but was welcomed with open arms by a community as I sought to get to know them and how they served. At this table sat several members of our team, along with an Italian citizen and two refugees from Ethiopia.

That night we were assisting the home church with a fellowship time for the refugees, as they were in temporary housing adjacent to the church. Bologna had turned into a holding place for many refugees seeking asylum and assistance from Ethiopia mainly, and were seeking to work and provide in order to bring their families into the safe haven as well.

That night the refugee crisis came right up to me, not just on a tv screen or a story shared in social media. That night among the 11 men who were there only 2 spoke English, the other nine speaking French…but none speaking Italian. They had no means of supporting themselves while they waited for the paperwork and government red tape to clear them, they were simply there. And the church was seeking to honor them, their humanity and our love for our neighbors by opening up their doors and hearing their stories, giving them a place to be and feel like a human once more.

As I sat at that table, I wanted to run and do something else, be somewhere else because the stories were hard, they were real, and they were sitting right in front of me. One 17 years old, without family, sent out to escape to a better life outside of war and poverty, telling us about his favorite thing to eat-a stew his mother makes. I thought of my nephew, just four years younger, and how I pray he never knows that life but these do. The other man was 30, years of running and war were very apparent in how he talked and in his eyes.

For almost four months now I have thought back countless times to that cold night in Italy, sitting in that room with those men, and hearing their laughter as we played musical chairs…simply to take their mind off of the hard and into enjoyment for a time. I think about their feet, in flip flops that didn’t fit as Italy was heading into fall, and clothes that were a couple of sizes too big but all that they had. I think back to the smiles and frowns, the heartache and unsaid words of worry and despair.

I sit here this weekend and grieve for my country. A country of privilege that has decided to turn their hearts towards hate and doubt, to throw up arms and walls rather than choose to work through the fear-mongering to the root of the problem. A country that no longer sees the refugee as a person but something to hate and despise. That is not me, nor is it the God I love. When I love my neighbor as myself, I don’t get to define that neighbor nor how to love them. It does mean I welcome them, even when it hurts, even when I don’t want to do it and it means that I love instead of judge.

I am thankful that I live in a country which provides such profound freedoms, but I now begin to see that the things we have sat silent on, thinking that they’ll right themselves, have instead turned to ugliness and hate, to rhetoric and headlines. When you give refuge to the least of these, you are giving it to God Himself…regardless of belief or religion. We are called to love as He loves, to love those who don’t look like us, to love those that seek harm. Love doesn’t give boundaries or policies, it simply does.

Love means sitting in the hard and putting a face, a name, humanity to crisis. Love means standing when those around you call you to sit. It means stepping up for those who cannot, those who have been told to keep quiet. Love means filling the gap between it all to show His love for them, for us, for all.

For me, to hear the refugee and shrink back means that I am disobedient to the call to love that Christ Himself has given Himself for. The call to redeem the downtrodden, the outcast and the forgotten isn’t done through me but through Him, but when He calls me to love He calls me to be His love to them, for them. It means not being silent, not allowing the ugly to win and fear to see victory. To go beyond quoting the Scripture but living it out for those who do not know it, who need to see it as living Truth and for obedience to the One who first showed us how to love.

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.