It’s 2017. December 2017. I can remember when I was writing 1997 on my school papers. It seems like yesterday: jumping off the shed roof with my brothers, painting my face with dandelions and mulberries, and trying to do wheelies with my bike. Then just like that… twenty years is gone and with it some of my more daring tendencies! Trust me, I have to talk myself into a water slide nowadays.
A few months ago I turned 29 years old. Y’all…I’m around the corner from 30. (Remember when 30 seemed old?) What happened? Where did the time go?
There was a time when I had my whole life planned out. I would be married by 20 (or at least by 22!) and have a bunch of kids. We’d live in a house with shutters and a white picket fence. By 29 my life was supposed to look a lot different…according to my own blueprint.
Then life actually happened. Somehow all my plans went out the window and it turned out way more beautiful than I had planned…not that marriage and children aren’t beautiful…I’d love to be married and be a mommy! But God’s plan for ME at this stage of life was FAR MORE beautiful than my plan.
They say hind-sight is 20/20. We can see where we’ve been easier than where we are going. My life has certainly proved that theory.
Singleness is sometimes that way. Some people aren’t single very long. Some marry right out of high school, unlike me. Eleven years ago I graduated and began my single life. I had plans. I had dreams. I had ambitions.
Then there is Jesus. He had other plans. We had very different ideas about how my life would go down. Surprise!
I’ve totally become THAT Single Girl. You know what I’m talking about…the single gals that are just downright strange. They have car seats in their cars for children they don’t even have…or better yet, a minivan. They insert themselves into nearly any or all of the Sunday school classes…because hey, there’s really no special spot for them anyway! Or they hang out with fourth-graders because it’s just simply fun…or the teens because, why not? I have embarrassed my siblings more than once on my singleness weirdo-ness. I have threatened to wear pig-tails and chomp gum at Walmart…but they’re sure I’ll never do it. Or so they hope.
Looking back, I can see some of the WHYS of my singleness up to this point…and it’s not the chomping gum or pigtails either. I could never see it ahead of time, but there have been obvious moments when I have understood God’s plan to be beautiful.
The last few years have been full of those “AHA, that’s why I’m single!” moments. I’ll tell you about five of my biggest ones…
Life isn’t always as we plan. Sometimes God takes an unmarked course (at least from our perspective) that is far different than we’d like. Things don’t always work out like we think they should. But in the end…in the end, they are much better than we could have imagined.
In the end, cancer doesn’t win. In the end, there isn’t suffering or sickness or pain. In the end, there isn’t brokenness. There is only Jesus.
Can I just say this? Where there is Jesus, that’s home to me. White picket fences are pretty, but they’re overrated. I’ll take singleness and Jesus any day if that’s where He wants me. I’ll be THAT Single Girl. The one whose eyes sparkle with the love of her heavenly Bridegroom.
White flour poofing in the air. Sugar all gritty on the counter tops. Empty egg shells and measuring cups everywhere. The hum of mixers, Pandora Christmas music and laughter in the kitchen. It was cookie making day at our house today.
We decided to gather all the gals of the family (and the four littlest boys) for a day of baking cookies…in six different varieties. It was a full, all-day event. The older boys/dads floated in and out for meals and random cookie tastings. Two meals and 22 dozen cookies later, we were tired but happy. Short-lived as it may be, sprinkles and frosting can give you a beautiful sugar high that can double as happiness. Memories were made today. Three generations of ladies in the kitchen…including a three-year-old little girl with sparkling eyes. What could be better than that?
Family. They see all of our corks, don’t they? Our family see our good days and our bad. Our weepy times and our mountain-top experiences. They are there for our sour attitudes and our glee-filled surprises. I’m sometimes amazed mine still loves me through it all!
I’m grateful for my family. I have awesome parents, great brothers and sisters…plus two amazing sisters who I gained through my brothers getting married. (Who, by the way, feel every bit my blood sisters as ever could be!) Then five little people who call me “Aunt Faith”, and baby #6 on the way in March! I’ve been blessed in the family department.
What ingredients make a BRAVE sister, daughter, auntie, cousin, niece and granddaughter? As I stirred cookie dough, washed greasy spatulas, and retrieved toddlers from hot ovens…this was the question on my mind. How do I live BRAVE at home?
The truth is, home is where it’s sometimes the hardest for me to live courageously. This is where people know me the best. They have seen every angle of who I am. They know when I’m faking it, when I’m depressed, when I have something up my sleeve, or when I’m struggling with one of them. When I think of being brave at home…it usually amounts to apologizing.
I’m a work in progress, y’all. I say stupid things that hurt people. Sometimes those things are said in innocence and my statements or questions get perceived otherwise…and then things spin out of control and I’m left with picking up the pieces of World War 3. Why on earth don’t I THINK before I speak?
Other times I just say crazy, mindless things…caring little or nothing about the other person’s feelings. Then I see the pain on the faces of my family members and I wonder— how did I get here? What makes me be so ugly or inconsiderate? I’ve cried many times over the senseless words I’ve spoken to the people I love most.
“If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 (HCSB) “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14 (HCSB)
It takes a brave heart to ask forgiveness to those we wound. Believe me, I know…I’ve had to eat a lot of humble pie. Way more than I’d care to admit.
Maybe you know how it is. You feel that little prick in your spirit and you know Jesus is telling you to fess up and repent for your wrong words or attitude. On the way to apologize, you can think of a thousand reasons why you really weren’t wrong after all. You feel justified in your sin. I’ve probably tried on all the same excuses. I’m a pro at trying to get out of apologizing.
There have been times I’ve turned around and decided to walk in my own justification. Can I just tell you…those where among the worst decisions I’ve ever made? I took the easy way out. The coward’s road. It costs to take the path of least resistance.
Some of the most pride-hurting moments in my life have turned out to give me great freedom. The burden lifting off my heart when I repent is worth the 2-3 minutes of discomfort.
Family. They can bring out the best and worst of you, can’t they? I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but I’d be lying to say that I always LIKE them. I love them dearly, but they can rub me wrong. They can push my buttons. They’ve seen Faith Walker in the bad and the ugly.
Family. They are my life. My reason for keeping on in the hard moments. I wouldn’t want to be without them. They make me laugh. They bring me some of the greatest joy and memories. Like today.
Today was a whisper from heaven about what really matters. I want to live courageous EVERYWHERE. Especially at home, with my family. I want to live full…with lots of frosting and sprinkles. I want to live free…free from a clouded conscience. I want my biggest cheerleaders to always be the people closest to me. The people who REALLY know me.
Family. They know what we’re really made of, don’t they? I’m grateful mine loves me anyway. I guess that’s Brave Family Love.
When I chose to go on a missions trip this past fall and serve the female inmates in prison, I got the same question over and over again before I left.
It’s a valid question. There are a thousand different places to minister in. A million needs in the world to meet. So why did I say YES to prison?
The simple answer is that I just felt called. I had begun to be drawn to broken people and hurting hearts like never before. I wanted to go where truth was hungered for. Most of all, I craved to be where Jesus was. I begged to see His face…to walk where He was walking. To go where He was moving.
It’s not every day that someone from the free world gets to visit prison…even for volunteering. So when I said yes to this crazy, amazing opportunity to serve behind bars, I had no idea what was ahead for me. We went through some training. We were briefed about some “what ifs”. In the back of my head, there was also a few pre-conceived ideas. The truth was, I walked into it naively. I just knew I was called…and I had spent too much of my year fighting Jesus. So I just wanted to BE WITH HIM.
Ever feel like God is calling you into deep waters? Waters so deep that even your tippy-toes can’t touch the bottom? That’s what I felt like. Nothing is worse than feeling unprepared. Unequipped. Small. Like you were picked by mistake.
I remember the feeling of tension in my heart. Why me, God? I don’t even know what I’m doing. I haven’t even ever visited someone in prison before so how can I possibly do this blindly?
The Thursday before our first week in prison, Maryellen and I had the evening off from work and training, so we decided to participate in an online prayer service with thousands of women all across the world. I could feel my emotions building up and I knew I needed to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Half way through the prayer service, one of the leaders got up and encouraged us to have a time of confession. We were supposed to share with the friend next to us and pray to confess our sin.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. God put His finger right into my heart and exposed my disbelief. My tears flowed freely. I turned to Maryellen and shook my head, trying to regain my composure. “I’ve been going through this whole trip thinking God picked the wrong girl.”
Ever been there? You simply can’t be courageous without belief. You can’t live brave without faith in Jesus and His overall plan. He’s got this.
Confessing my sin of disbelief and fear to my friend was the first step to living brave and FREE. She prayed for me, as I sat there and cried bucket loads. Then I went before Jesus myself. He is full of forgiveness and compassion. Forgive me Lord for my disbelief. For my heart of fear. Thank you, Father for picking me. You’ve got this.
“I keep the Lord in my mind always, Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8, HCSB)
I walked into that first prison still naïve. No doubt I looked like a cow at a new gate walking through all those fences that first day. I had the newbie look in my eyes.
What I didn’t have was debilitating fear. Disbelief in God’s power. I didn’t walk in doubt. I walked in boldness, not in my abilities…but because HE IS ABLE. He’s got this.
Courageous people don’t feel invincible. They just trust Jesus enough to know: what He calls us to, He will equip us for. Consider it done, friend.
He’s got this.
Sitting in my room at fourteen years old and reading his story was the first I heard of him. The man I read about in those pages was a pastor in the Ukraine and had the faith of a giant. I read about the things he believed God for and it made me crave to have that kind of trust. I learned about the orphanage that God had miraculously built…when the funds didn’t exist on paper. His courage made me want to be brave too.
Here’s the thing. Courage is contagious. It spreads to the people who are with you or around you. It infects the people in the circle of your existence. Courage is a choice…of that we can be sure. But if you are Brave, it’s easier for me to be too. That’s the way it works.
It reminds me of yawning. Seriously. Have you ever watched someone yawn and then seen the chain reaction of the people closest to him or her? I’m even yawning right now just seeing the word on this page!
So it is with courage. If you see me living brave, or even read the story of a Christian who lives brave, it will be easier for you to step out in faith. There are hundreds of battle tales of rally cries and courageous chants that have spurred men and women to give everything they have in the face of death. Why? It’s easier to be brave if a friend is standing next to you. (Why else do you think that roller coasters are generally rode in pairs? Or flying for the first time is easier with a friend?)
As a kid I loved dominoes. Not really for the game part, but because I loved to set them up in rows of twists and curves until I emptied the entire box of dominoes. Then, I’d nudge the first domino and watch the chain reaction. It was a thrilling five seconds.
Maybe we are a little like dominoes too.
Have you ever met someone who was so courageous that it spilled over onto everyone they bumped into? That’s the kind of woman I want to be. I want to start a chain reaction. Something that moves me to action for Jesus SO MUCH, that others can’t help but get excited and follow Jesus bravely too.
Now we all have different lives and gifts and talents…so our lives SHOULD look different. But the Bible says hundreds of times to have courage and not be afraid…and so I think God meant it to be noticed. As varied as our lives may be, we are all called to be Brave and courageous in our own ways. For you, it might be talking to people you don’t know at school or befriending the new girl at church. For me it will be a completely different set of knee-knocking assignments. But my assignments aren’t better or bigger…they’re just different because I’m a different person than you.
I’ve met girls who have looked me square in the eyes and told me they could never do what I do. Maybe they’re right… but it’s not because I’m a super Christian, it’s because I’m a different person. God has called me to a certain set of brave assignments. I have also been face to face with people who LOVE talking in front of large groups of people. That I don’t get. But they are beautiful daughters of the King called to a completely diverse set of courage-jobs. I’m also certain there are things you’re called to that I would find terrifying or a piece of cake…and visa-versa.
This is how God designed us. To need each other. To love each other. To cheer our friends and family on. He wants us to be a crowd of completely unique and gifted people unalike and dissimilar from each other…and yet beautifully fit together like a puzzle. Cookie-cutter sameness is WAY overrated, friend.
So if courage is contagious…you need to surround yourself with courageous people. Brave people. People who believe God is capable of using little-‘ole you for His plan. Read stories of great Christians who were valiant in the faith. Study God’s Word and rehearse the times He did CRAZY feats through ordinary people like you and me. (One of my personal favorites is Gideon!) When Jesus calls you to be brave, grab a friend’s hand and ask her to pray like mad for you. Or better yet, have her go WITH YOU on the adventure. You will be strengthened and you’ll make a ton of memories together…which will certainly include laughing and crying.
That Ukrainian pastor? He’s still working hard for the Lord and when I was 20 years old (six whole years after I read about him) I met him in person. That will forever be one of the unforgettable events in my life. There’s something about meeting someone who has so affected the course of your life, and yet you’ve never even seen them before. It’s hard to describe what went through my head, but I knew that with the language barrier, I’d probably never be able to accurately say what his faith and courage had done to change my life. My 14 year old life.
Later during his few days visit to our area, I was able to sit with him and an interpreter at supper time. I wanted to ask him one question. When I finally mustered up the gumption, I spit it out. “I’ve heard about the incredible things you do in Ukraine and how God is working through you and your ministry. You are a great man of faith. What is your secret?” I’ll never forget his answer. Humble, but confident, he looked me straight in the eyes and said…
There are a thousand things he could have probably said and been right. But he turned my focus from doing things to being…just being God’s daughter afforded me everything I needed. Knowing Who Jesus really is gives you faith. I was just a young gal…with a big God. And that was enough. Pastor Pavel probably knew that if I could grasp that truth, I’d have all the faith and courage I needed. And I think he’s right.
Courage is not pulling yourself up by your own boot straps. It’s not muscling your way through tough times and putting on a strong face. It’s not even having all the right Bible answers and sounding the part. True bravery and courage can only come from the Power-Source Himself: Jesus. He makes us brave. He gives us everything we need at just the right moment to be courageous.
Contagious courage is when a believer who knows of Jesus’ power rubs off on you. They somehow create a hunger in you to trust more. To see Jesus in full color. To have bigger faith that He. Can. Do. It. Mark Batterson said it like this: “Your ‘Brave’ is someone else’s breakthrough.” That kind of courage is beautiful….and I want to be so sure of my Jesus that my courage to follow Him spills over onto the people around me. Like Pastor Pavel did to me 15 years ago.
Think about it…who has changed your life by their courage? Now go and thank them. Let’s start a chain reaction of courage!
“Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust Him and not be afraid, for Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2 HCSB
“Get up, for the matter is your responsibility, and we support you. Be strong and take action!” Ezra 10:4 HCSB
(This post was originally published for the Polished Cornerstones blog, November 21st, 2017)
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 HCSB
It was March 2017. I had been through the ringer and I had no idea what was up the pike for me in life…just weeks away. In January God had given me the year’s theme: Be Brave. I could feel Him kneading the truth of His Word into my soul. I was praying for His Be Brave assignments. Now I know that praying for life missions is akin to praying for patience…but we live and learn.
A mere few months later, I was sitting across the dinner table from a good friend and prison chaplain, hearing his plea for more help. I could feel my spirit stirring. I knew that feeling…the Lord prodding me in a certain direction. “I need more female volunteers for our October trip. We will be going to several women’s correctional facilities and I’m short-handed. Would that be something you’d be interested in?” I sat there soaking it all in. I’d grown up around prison ministry my whole life. My dad had been involved in helping with this particular ministry, but this was a new angle. This was ME.
We asked some questions…what would that look like? What would I be doing? What were the dates and expenses? But it was pointless. I already knew the answer. I could sense the Lord moving me for weeks to something and I saw clearly: this was it. This was my missing puzzle piece.
I don’t remember everything I said that day, but I know at one point I leaned back in my chair, took a deep breath and said, “Uncle Bob, this terrifies me. So I’m pretty sure this is what I’m supposed to do.” And that was that.
Courage is a funny thing. It never feels heroic. Or at least not to me.
Most times, courage feels down-right crazy. Scared-out-of-my-wits crazy. Roller-coaster crazy. Out-of-your-comfort-zone loco. Even foolish. Sometimes being brave looks like sticking my neck out and doing something I’ve never done before. Or being stretched way beyond human capabilities. It ALWAYS looks bigger than me. Braver than me. And generally speaking, there’s not a guarantee of the outcome.
That’s why it’s called courage. Faith. Brave Living. The “risk” factor is what makes us lean into the only One who really knows the outcome…Jesus. We feel like we’re jumping into the darkness blindfolded. But all we need is to trust our Guide…because He can see the whole path clearly.
Yes, prison ministry wasn’t on my radar for the year…but it was apparently in His blueprint.
Fast-forward six months and I was standing in the airport security line with MaryEllen. We were heading out for three weeks of prison ministry and adventure with Jesus. I was walking in obedience. Nothing more. I didn’t feel brave. Or ready. I just knew I was called to walk through the door and I prayed like a mad-woman that He would go with me. I remember whispering under my breath as the plane took off… “God, You know this is a one-time-deal, right?” I’m sure He smiled.
Words are inadequate to express what happened to me in the next few weeks. Radical changes occurred in my heart. I saw the world in a new light. I saw the previous months of pain I had went through as a stage to show-case His glory and connect with the broken people around me. I saw Jesus in a beautiful way…as the One Who came and rescued me from myself. My Sin-bearer and the Lover of my soul. Emmanuel. God with me. God with us.
Redemption is a beautiful thing…but sometimes when we grow up knowing “Christian-ese” and hearing all the lingo…we miss the awe of it all. Being able to get involved in prison ministry was like stepping into a place where Jesus was showcased in full-color. Prison is a broken place…and He thrives in our brokenness.
I remember one day when I had a conversation with a middle-aged woman who was feeling out of hope. She had made some pretty big mistakes that landed her in prison. She was feeling hopeless and unwanted…and I could see all the pain and uncertainty etched in her face. She was crying and telling me her story. My heart broke for her. The pain of feeling overwhelmed by sin and guilt. I knelt down by her chair and tried to speak words of encouragement and truth to her. I’m not sure what all I said, but I remember telling her, “I just want you to know that our Jesus is a God of REDEMPTION. He loves writing the last chapter. And maybe He’s brought you here so He can start something new. There is always hope with Jesus.” With tears running down her face, she responded, “Thank you for saying that. I needed to hear that.”
The next morning, the same lady came in for class and was clearly looking for me. She seemed timid, but I knew she wanted to say something so I walked over to her. Immediately she put her head down and nervously said… “I couldn’t sleep all night. And I even hesitate to ask you this because you’re so much younger than me…but yesterday you kept mentioning the word redemption…and…I don’t even know what that word means.”
If she could have seen into my heart in that moment it would have been full of amazement and excitement. I was getting to share Jesus and the Gospel with this woman! What a treasure to lead someone to the Throne and introduce them to Jesus.
We take it for granted, don’t we? The lingo many of us have grown up learning and speaking since we were toddlers…and yet some people never hear. Some never hear the truth of the Word until they’re adults. It’s humbling to stand in front of a group of women who have lived way more life than you…and yet are asking you simple questions about Jesus and the Word. It makes you grateful. It challenges you to dig deeper. To savor the beauty of the Bible. To stand in awe of the incredible gift: the knowledge of Jesus. Why would He give me such a privilege?
In case you’re wondering, this lovely lady became my sister-in-Christ that warm Florida day. She listened with rapt attention as I explained that Redemption means “bought back”…that Jesus chose to buy her back when she was in sin and He wanted her to be His forever. With tears streaming down her face, she surrendered that day. And I’ll never forget her radiant smile when she graduated from the program and shook my hand… “Thank you SO MUCH for coming here,” she said. I responded with “It was my pleasure,” amid the tears rolling down my cheeks and the lump in my throat.
I was the one blessed. I left changed.
There are a thousand things I learned in those three weeks of prison ministry…and I could blog about it for ages. There are parts about the trip I’m still processing. Questions that are currently unanswered. But suffice it to say, I am a different woman than the one who flew out of the airport in late September 2017.
It was the longest I’ve ever been away from home without any family. It was scary. Big stuff. Crazy, mind-boggling, what-was-I-thinking stuff. This was a wild roller-coaster that I was both terrified and excited about. I’ll always be thankful that God allowed MaryEllen and I to go together…it gave us one point of familiarity among a thousand unfamiliar. We were able to encourage one another and pray for each other. On our off days, we were able to enjoy the ocean and talk through the stories and experiences.
What brave living is God calling you to? It’s probably the scariest thing on the horizon. Friend, if I could say one thing to you…you there, standing on the edge of your future, it’s this. Trust Him and step out in Faith. He has an incredible plan for you and it will require getting outside of yourself. That’s where He is. He will make you brave. In the beginning, I had no idea what those three weeks of prison ministry would hold…but I knew one thing, and I was clinging to that promise with everything in me.
Jesus was going with me. Guaranteed. That’s the fool-proof plan, friends. Jesus leads and I follow Him. Would I do prison ministry again? Absolutely. Willingly. Enthusiastically! Bravery that’s bigger than me is the best kind…because that means Jesus is there. Sign me up, friend. I want to be wherever He is.
(This post was originally published on the Polished Cornerstones blog, November 17th, 2017.)
It was one of those moments. The kind that movies are made of….and I stood there wondering what I should do. For years I had heard the gentle whisper of God’s Spirit and had ignored it. Maybe even pushed it away forcefully. Stubbornly. This time, it was more than a gentle nudge.
God wanted me to get a passport. I was resistant, not because I didn’t want to go far away, but more for that fact that I didn’t have a scheduled missions trip. Why spend the money if I didn’t know if I really would ever go anywhere? I’m practical like that. One of my sister-in-laws once told me that I’m “way too practical”. She’s right when it comes to stuff like this. I’m a buy-only-it-if-you-need-it kind of girl. Over and over I had heard His call…to obey and get my passport.
Just. Because. He. Said. So. It’s called obedience.
For the better part of six years I had put Him off. SIX YEARS y’all. It’s embarrassing! This girl who writes and speaks on following Jesus whole-heartedly. This girl who wants to leave everything on the field. This girl who talks about loving Jesus. That girl…rebels. Makes excuses. Back-talks Jesus. Thinks she knows best for herself and holds herself back. That’s me. Practical to a fault, and not proud of it.
The thing is, Jesus is forever-in-a-day patient with me. Merciful and kind. Forgiving and lavish with grace. He kept prodding my heart. Pursuing might be a better word. It came up everywhere. Whenever someone would go on a missions trip I would hear the whisper “that could be you one day”. But I didn’t need a passport…yet.
Life is kind of like traveling in a boat…you can live hanging over the side and trying to do your own thing, or you can get all in with Jesus and enjoy the journey. I sometimes visualize myself as the gal hanging over the side, trying to doggy paddle in the opposite direction. All the while, God is smiling and waiting on me to give in. No wonder I’m so tired. It’s seriously exhausting to be paddling against the will of God.
This year, God gave me a theme to live the year 2017 by. Be Brave. Since January I’ve seen glimpses of this theme all over the place. I’ve craved living brave. I’ve met courageous people and have been touched by how hard they follow Jesus. They leave nothing undone. I’ve learned from these men and women one thing: if Jesus tells you to do something, do it. No ifs, ands or buts. Just obey. Unfortunately, I don’t always live that way.
Last month my brother came in from work and mentioned (yet ANOTHER) mission trip opportunity…but this one was only two weeks away, so it was only open to those who already had their passports. BAM. Right between the eyes. Or maybe a gut shot? Either way, it hurt. I visibly winced.
All my excuses suddenly seemed futile. I was completely convicted. The years of my pushing off God’s request for me to get a passport flashed before my eyes. Why had I not said YES when He called?
That night, I wrote and processed the day. After years of rebellion, I realized that Jesus wanted ALL of me. He wanted to be able to ask me to do anything and go anywhere at the drop of a hat. Standing between me and the horizon of ministry possibility was my own selfish pride. I wanted to retain the right to say when and if I responded. My big obstacle was my ridiculous practicality.
Being practical has served me right in a thousand ways. I have learned to live on a shoestring. I can make the most of what I already have. Practicality has made me creative and given me plenty of chances to be content.
The flip side is this: sometimes Jesus isn’t practical…His plans don’t always make sense to the human brain. Often He will ask us to do things that seem unrealistic or even dumb. He asks us to take risks. To do things that no one has done before or to love people who are pretty unlikeable. He calls us to go to places where there aren’t any road maps. And sometimes He asks us to get a passport…just in case. So we can be ready at a moment’s notice to go on an adventure with Him.
Just because He can.
I sat there writing and praying that night and my heart shifted. It was if the whole future lay before me for a moment and I knew there would be places I could never go if I stayed firm in my practical disobedience. He wanted ALL of me. My future. My ability to travel. He wanted my passport. Now.
So surrender came. Offering up my life (again), I said YES to His plan for my future. Anything. Anywhere. Anytime. If you’ve walked long with Jesus, you know that saying YES to Him can be freeing. That’s what I felt in that moment as I tearfully gave myself over to Jesus…whatever that entailed. Even if it meant a passport WITHOUT a trip planned yet. He had me. All of me. I got all in the boat.
The next time I was in town, I picked up my passport application. Two days after that I got my passport pictures. Three days later I went down to our county’s big post office, signed my papers, swore that my info was correct and paid money to get the passport I didn’t need yet. (or did I?)
It’s funny how obedience can make you feel inside, especially when you’ve been holding out for six years. All the risks of looking stupid paled in comparison to the relief and joy that came from giving in to Jesus. As I stood on the massive steps of that old Post Office after signing the passport papers, I felt giddy. Excited. Terrified just a little, but thrilled to my core.
In that moment, standing there everything seemed new. The air. The colors. It was like the whole world was smiling. I know Jesus was, and that alone made me a happy camper.
Life is full of big and little choices. We must choose to follow Jesus, no matter how crazy, unpopular or weird it might seem. God calls us to courageous living. Brave decisions. Times of standing alone and stepping up…regardless of whether it makes sense. What is holding you back from following whole-heartedly? I sometimes wonder what kind of adventures with Jesus I missed in those six years I refused to get my passport. It’s a sobering and sad thought. One thing is for sure, I don’t want to miss out on any more opportunities.
It was less than a week after signing my passport papers when I heard His whisper again…buy a backpack. Really? A backpack.
This time, I responded a little faster. Maybe I rolled my eyes? However, this time no more six year waiting plans. I now have a backpack (thank you Amazon) and it’s the coolest thing you ever did see. It folds up into a little pouch and it’s a really neat green color. Would you believe it’s also got an emergency whistle on one of the straps? But that’s beside the point.
A passport and a backpack….and I’m sitting on the edge of my seat wondering: where will my adventures with Jesus take me? Ready or not, here I come! (Originally written for the Polished Cornerstones blog on April 16th, 2017.)
Joshua 1:9 (HCSB), “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Be Brave. Those are the words I used to think of when I was scared of the dark as a little girl. I used to lay flat on my back in bed and breathe slowly…trying not to over think the sounds coming from the closet or the shadows outside my window. Shivering under my covers, I would repeat those words to myself over and over. Be Brave.
What do you think of when you hear those words? I’m thinking of my two top fears on earth. They aren’t mice or snakes, either. Laugh if you want…but my top two fears are: Public Speaking and Canned Biscuits. Ironically, both I have to wrestle with often. I have been in places where God asks me to speak and present the Word from a stage. I have also had to open lots of canned biscuits in my years…and I still am afraid of it every time. What are your fears?
What does it mean to be brave? Is it super-hero work? Are some people brave and others are just “prone to being afraid”? I don’t think so. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize that’s it’s not enough to know the right answers and study the Bible for hours on end…if we don’t ACT and be doers of the Word. (Matthew 7:24-25) Unless you’re super-human, the acting part is probably the hardest part. That’s where Jesus-Courage comes in. That’s when you need to Be Brave.
Being Brave means:
• Moving with confidence in God’s power. Hebrews 4:16
• Owning your mistakes. Ben Franklin said, “How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.”
• Embracing my weaknesses as opportunity for God’s power. 2 Corinthians 12:9
• Living life with everything in you.
In my personal experience, courage isn’t the absence of fear. My brave moments have been times I’m scared to death and I say YES anyway. Sometimes people look at me and they tell me how brave I am…but inside, I’m a weak wimp. Believe me, I’m not a hero. I’m a wimp that God has called to warrior work. So I say YES, knowing that when He calls me He will come in and rescue me from myself and my fears in the nick of time!
I’ve thrown up right before speaking on stage. I’ve been nauseous before I lead Bible study in my living room. I’ve cried myself to sleep when I have to go the next morning to help my friend who is dying of cancer. All of this isn’t easy for me…but I’ve been called by Jesus to walk this road. It’s tough. It’s hard work. It means having the courage to say YES, even when inside I want to scream and hide under my bed.
Why do I say YES? Not because I think I’m capable…but because I know Jesus is. Being brave is about having Jesus-Courage. Having faith that HE can do what we can’t.
On my bedroom mirror I have a sticky note that says: “Fear is temporary. Regret is forever. Be Brave for Jesus!” This is a message I read every day in hopes that it will sink deeply into my heart and I will learn to live brave.
Live Brave. That’s what I want to do. Live so brave and free that others will see me and know that Jesus has to be real…because this girl? She’s not normally a risk taker. I love my comfort zone. I enjoy being in my cozy corner and not rocking the boat too much. Henry Venn said, “A feeble, nominal Christianity is the great obstacle to the conversion of the world.” I prefer safe living. But Jesus calls us to be bold. Bold as lions! Brave…not because we are super-human, but because we know our weaknesses and choose to lean into Jesus and His strengths. That’s Holy Spirit living, and it turns us into warriors.
The more I study the Word of God and spend time with Jesus, the more I realize that being brave and courageous isn’t limited to a few “super-Christians”. Being brave is how we are all called to live…in different ways, but brave just the same. For me, being brave means public speaking sometimes, or writing a book that is uncomfortable and extremely personal. It also means facing my fears and opening canned biscuits once in a while.
Being brave for you might look totally different. Maybe living courageous for you means starting a home Bible study or witnessing to someone in the grocery store. It could mean reaching out to the new girl at school or volunteering to help a young mom with her children. Sometimes living courageous is hard because no one sees…except God. What if it means praying faithfully for an unsaved family member? Or forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you? Or taking care of someone who is sick or elderly? Or folding laundry at home for your mom? Those unseen things take courage too.
The teenage boy who lives in Africa and works a full time job so he can feed his family of younger siblings? He lives brave.
The single gal who chooses to be content and make the most of her non-marriedness, despite the pressure around her? She lives brave.
The family who drops everything they know to go to a people far across the ocean who have never heard about Jesus? They live brave.
The couple who finds they can’t have children and they still volunteer to teach children’s Sunday School and love the kids around them? They live brave.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be brave. I want to LIVE BRAVE. To love Jesus so radically that I will risk everything to follow Him…even when it’s unpopular or doesn’t make sense. I’ll be the first to admit that these words seem heavy to me. The cost of following Jesus can be painful, but He is worth it! I want the year 2017 to be the Bravest year I’ve ever lived. Don’t you?
If ever we need to rise up and stand firm…it’s today. Our generation needs revival. We need to stand up and realize that Jesus wants ALL of us. Not just our Sundays. He wants all of us. He wants us to radically abandon ourselves to the Jesus that hung on a cross for us! In such a shadow, we can’t help but live brave and courageous for Him. Are you with me?
Psalm 31:24, “Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord.” (this post originally written for the Polished Cornerstones blog, February 21st, 2017)
Often, I am guilty of looking at people in Scripture as some kind of out-of-this-world picture of perfection. I look at the folks in the Bible as heroes. Super-human. Yet, when I take the time to really read their stories, I see something different…I see genuine people like you and me. They struggled. They failed. They were human…flesh and blood folks with emotions and skin and feelings. In those moments of truth, I am encouraged. It doesn’t matter how much my life seems like a disaster, or that my struggles in this world are giant-sized…He is able to use me in my weakness. And He can use you in yours too.
Take Gideon for instance. This guy had real fear issues! In all practical senses of the word, Gideon was a wimp! Chicken-hearted. The kids on the playground probably called him a sissy. He was a coward. He buckled to the pressure of the day.
Somehow I viewed him differently…like a war hero or something. Or was he?
When I read Scripture, I like to paraphase and imagine what it would be like to be there…in the middle of the story. I love to pretend that I am watching it all unfold. You can read the story of Gideon in Judges 6-7. But for a minute, imagine with me.
The stage for Gideon’s story is sad and depressing. The Children of Israel were being oppressed by the Midianites because of their disobedience to God. (They were doing wicked things that were against His laws…so He used a foreign country to discipline them and bring them back to Himself.) The Midianites were ruthless. They would go behind the Israelites when they planted their crops and destroy everything. They killed their animals. The Israelites were so afraid of the Midianites that they hid in caves. They were completely impoverished and frightened out of their wits.
This is where we find Gideon…threshing his wheat in hiding. He is afraid to do it in the open lest the Midianites take it or destroy it. I just imagine him…jumping at the slightest noise and totally freaked out at the smallest twig snap. He’s trying to make a living and put food in his family’s mouths…and he is completely scared to death in the process. I imagine him there, looking this way and that…trying to be quiet and calm his shaking hands.
Then the Angel of the Lord comes to him. Now this is just speculation…but if a guy is hiding to work, an angel is probably going to scare you worse than a man! What do you think his response is? Does he think about running away? What goes through Gideon’s wimpy heart?
Check this out…the Angel’s greeting cracks me up! He says, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Ok. I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m pretty sure this message was given to the wrong guy! Gideon is hiding, for goodness sake. It’s not like he’s picketing for better rights or bucking against the system. What does Gideon say to this? Does he laugh? Does he look behind him and wonder if the Angel is talking to someone else?
Listen to Gideon’s response…again, not a tough-guy type of answer. I imagine a quiver in his voice as he says… “Oh, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ but now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” Even Gideon’s response is full-to-the-brim with fear. Somehow, the Angel completely ignores Gideon’s knocking-knees and says, “Go in this might of yours” (exuse me, what might?) “and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent you?”
Whenever I read this story, I find myself laughing at this point. What on earth does God see in Gideon? He stands there…white as a ghost, trembling, and making exuses and God says…”Yep, he’s the one.” Why Gideon? Why a wimp?
Gideon is still not convinced. He starts making excuses about his family tree and his weaknesses. He tells all his mess-ups and bad traits. Gideon tries to convince God that He chose the wrong guy! To be honest, I’m with Gideon…he’s not a mighty man of valor. He’s a fear-filled wimp. Weak. Afraid.
Aren’t we glad we don’t write the story of life? God sees past the fear, the knocking-knees, the quivering chin…and He notices strength that no one else can see. He sees a man with potiential. A man, who with the right tools and the right God can be a warrior. I think God saw Gideon as an opportunity to show the world His power…because Gideon was nothing special. He was an ordinary man with wimpy fears. He was the littlest, the last, the least.
So, God promises to be with Gideon and to defeat the Midianites through him. Gideon sacrifices to the Lord there. He’s willing at this point…but he’s not all in. Watch this…God tells him to destroy the false gods of Midian, tear down their altars, and to build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice to Him there. We can imagine Gideon wrestling at this point. He wants to obey God, but his faith and fear are colliding. So Gideon does what he knows how to do well…he hides. He does what God says…but under the cover of darkness. The men of the city wake up and come storming to Gideon’s family’s house to kill him.
You got to love this next part. Gideon’s dad comes out to meet the men and pleads for his son. I don’t know where Gideon was…maybe hiding?
Then it happens. A change of direction. A strengthening of his heart. Judges 6:34 says “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon.” Big difference! Welcome to the new Gideon! This warrior-Gideon is the one we all seem to remember. We are but empty vessels without the power and might of God’s Spirit. Here is Gideon…trying to obey in his own flesh and God fills him up. Holy Spirit-living equals powerful living. Gideon begins to change. Instantly. On the spot.
He still has his fearful moments. Times he wants to test God…like with the fleeces in the next chapter. Twice. But God isn’t intimidated by Gideon’s fears or concerns or worry-level. He’s concerned with his heart. Gideon’s heart is pure. Gideon had a warrior heart…he just needed backing. He needed a General worthy of his devotion. He needed a Captain who could handle the outcome. This is where Gideon is ready to give it his all. This is where he turns from wimp to warrior.
I sit sometimes and think about Gideon. What would it be like to sit and talk with him about the battles he fought? Defeating the entire Midian army with 300 men? Wonder what that was like. With clay pots, swords, and torches, no less! I find it interesting to note that when they did defeat them, the battle cry was this… “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” Wow.
I wonder…could I be a warrior? Are my wimpy fears holding me back from winning victories that will be spoke of for centuries? I love the story of Gideon, because it speaks to me…that normal, fearful, human, weak people can be used of God to be warriors. The change? His Spirit. And where His Spirit is there is victory and peace. Where His Spirit is there are wimps turned warriors.
Which one are you?
(This post originally written for the Polished Cornerstones blog February 19th, 2015)
“What are you most afraid of?” The question kind of took me back a little. I was sitting across the table from my friend, Liza, who had listened to me pour out my heart. My emotions were raw. Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart felt like it was bursting. There was a lot going on and I was overwhelmed by life. She listened intently and then she gently asked the question that rocked me…
What are you most afraid of?
I guess I should clarify…the biggest ministry season was straight ahead, I was having best friend issues, relationship struggles, and I had just lost a close friend to cancer. I was weary. Broken. Life was shaking my faith. It seemed like on every side there was some major change or shift. What was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to spend my energy? Why was everything coming so hard and all of life falling apart? I had a million questions for God.
In the middle of all of the chaos, God had asked me to open my heart up. To say yes to a relationship that was way outside anything I wanted at the moment. I felt so raw and broken and helpless at the time and starting a relationship with someone seemed…strange. Wrong, actually. I could barely survive each day without an emotional volcano and I was pretty sure that meant I was a bad representation of the real Faith Walker.
I was digging my heels in. Of course, God has the blueprint…but this time? This time I knew better. Or so I thought. I wanted to trust His plan, but I was so spent emotionally. I can’t do this! Don’t ask me to jump into something that will make me give of myself…not now. Not yet.
What are you most afraid of?
There I sat at Liza’s kitchen table, tears rolling down my cheeks and mascara ruined. It was becoming the ugly cry. The question echoed in my ears like a thundering voice. It rattled my insides. It awakened my spirit. This demanded an answer. A heart-search. It was a gauge of my trust level.
I needed that question. To verbalize what was going on inside of me. I had to stop and think. It hung in the air. And the silence was almost palpable. I sighed and bit my lip.
“I’m afraid of heartbreak.” My voice warbled. I felt the knot tightening in my throat. I was truly afraid that in the end, there would be another broken piece of me…and I felt too messy to invite something new into the mix. Why sign up for failure?
My friend, Liza, is an excellent listener. She is wise and gentle and caring. So she sat there and heard my heart. She saw my tears and cried a little with me. She validated my concerns…and then she quoted Charles Spurgeon: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” That sunk in for a moment.
“Faith, God isn’t gonna lead you anywhere that He isn’t going with you. He is good and He has good plans for you.” I cried some more. I knew she was right and I was scared.
I could feel the white-knuckled grip of my soul trying to hang on to anything that would prevent me from what was ahead. I wanted to just curl up and shut out the new…I just wanted everything to go back to what was “normal”. Whatever that was. I hurt deep. The pain affected everything…my eating, my sleep patterns, my attitudes, and my sanity. The world around me was swirling in craziness and I didn’t know how to get it all to stop. Depression hung over me like a cloud.
What are you most afraid of?
For days, the question gripped my heart. I heard it over and over. It haunted me in a totally holy and righteous, God-pursuing way. I needed to answer it again and again. I needed to face my fears. Acknowledge them so I could deal with them.
Somehow, that question became a balm of sorts. A way to face my realities and speak truth to my heart. If I knew what I was afraid of and could verbalize it…then I could counter-attack with the truth of His Word. The solid rock certainty is that even in my toughest times, most grueling moments and hardest circumstances, HE IS WITH ME. Liza is right: He won’t leave me to flounder in the pain alone. He won’t lead me astray.
Despite the unknowns and uncertainties of life, the Word is never changing. When everything else in the world is crumbling around you, count on it: Jesus is there. He will walk with you. He with hold you.
My theme verse this year is Joshua 1:9, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (HCSB)
Isn’t that where the real answer lies? Here I am…broken, scared and confused. He will never leave me…and that is where my strength and courage really are: IN HIM. He is here with me in the middle of my mess and He says, “I’ve got this”. Answering that question at times of uncertainty has helped me breathe. It puts handles on how to counterattack. It gives me strength to speak truth into my fears and boosts my faith.
So…What are YOU most afraid of?
Perhaps you need to answer that question yourself. What is holding you back from full potential with Jesus? Maybe it’s what someone else thinks of you. It’s plaguing you. The need for approval. The quest for more Facebook likes and sappy comments about the way you’re dressed. You’re afraid that someone won’t like you, they’ll unfriend you, or talk about you behind your back.
Perhaps you’re afraid of failure. You are just sure that you’ll never get that job promotion or that A+ grade in school. Inside you’re always comparing your life to your friends. You aren’t measuring up to their grade-point-average. You don’t have the skill set that they do. You are afraid you won’t be able to make it in life and you’ll just be one huge failure after another.
Or maybe your biggest fear is fear itself. It stares at you every day in the mirror. You are fearful of getting in a car accident or saying something stupid in front of your friends. You are afraid of a storm taking your house or your purse getting stolen. If you can be afraid about something…you’ve already been there done that.
What are you most afraid of?
I’m with you, friend. Life can present a hundred opportunities to choose between fear and faith. Honestly, I enjoy the feeling of control (although it’s a mirage at best) and hate when I lose my grasp. When my world feels it’s crumbling around me, my soul can feel like it’s coming unglued. All the “what if” questions run through my brain. Before I know it, I have myself alone on an island, without a boat, eating canned tuna and without any rescue in sight.
Living in fear stinks. In fact, it’s not even living. At best, it’s only surviving. We were made to THRIVE, and fear will hold us back. Every. Single. Time.
What are you most afraid of? This question has rerouted my heart many times over the last few months. When I feel the fear mounting up, I often stop and think of my friend’s question. It brings me back to earth and reminds me of the truth: HE IS WITH ME.
Now this is what the Lord says— the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 (HCSB)
Fear break-necks it out of the way when we cling to Jesus in faith. So name it, friend…what is your fear? Then speak the truth of Scripture over your soul and let His Word heal the brokenness. Walk in the Light. Rehearse His promises: He is with you. He loves you. He sings over you and delights in you. He does all things well. He will never leave or forsake you.
Now let those truths seep into your heart and take root. Let them turn your fear into rocket fuel…FAITH…that will move mountains. Name your fear and then find the antidote for it in His Word.
You were made to thrive in the wonder of His love and care. Breathe it in. Then go live like you believe it.
It’s been a crazy year…to say the least. Courageous living isn’t my natural habitat. I don’t even like roller coasters. I’m just not the daring type. So when God pressed into my heart two words this past January that would be my life theme for the year 2017, I was a little nervous.
I cringed. “Savor the coffee and sunsets”, would have been more welcome. Bravery was not what I wanted to stare in the face for twelve whole months. I prefer the easy road. My comfort-zone is my safe place. It’s comfortable!
It would take a lot of paper to detail the last eleven months, but I can tell you this much: I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
I have never been so terrified…and loved. I’ve walked through unspeakable pain and found unbelievable healing. I’ve shook in my boots and felt the Spirit of God hovering over me. I’ve fought depression and felt incredible joy. I have seen Jesus in a beautiful way. I’ve been broken. Again and again and again. Broken and called to be brave anyway…that’s what He has asked of me.
This year has left me a completely different woman than I began. Courage isn’t what I thought it was. True bravery and courage is found when we know just how small we are and how BIG Jesus is. He is enough.
Yes, this blog is part of my brave living. Writing for Jesus. Out of obedience. If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be doing this…I would have laughed. God has a sense of humor. He really is an awesome God.
Writing is a part of me. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved paper and pencils and pens. I was actually a bit of a paper hoarder. Thanks to my wonderful mother, I navigated out of the selfish stock-piling stage…but I still love to type away on my laptop or handwrite a letter.
Writing is how I process what God is teaching me. Honestly, most of me would really like to not have all this out there for the world to see…but then there’s Jesus. He’s just so captivating that I can’t help not talk about Him!
Life is truly an adventure when you have a Guide as able and powerful as Him. So this is a small invitation to come along on a journey with me. I’m basically journaling here, and you’re welcome to join us. Jesus and me…as He leads me to Live Brave and Courageous.