Window-Shopping Faith

Over the holidays, I was struck by the parallels of window-shopping to our spiritual lives.  Window-shopping is when we walk through all that’s available for purchase, but don’t pay the price to get it.  How often do we wish we had greater faith, saw miracles more often, or had a stronger prayer life, but don’t want to put in the work to get it? How many times do we worry about something and hope it gets better but never put in the work to get down on our knees and petition the gates of Heaven for a miracle?

I think, in my own life especially, we fear and avoid the process of growth because we fear the pain that comes with it.  We want what we see displayed in the window but don’t want to sacrifice anything to get it.  We become content to listen to praise music but don’t sing the words from our own hearts.  We don’t mind praying over a meal but aren’t praying about what keeps us up at night.  We want a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, etc, but don’t want to improve who we are.  We feel good enough about ourselves because we see what we want all around us and think it’ll still be there whenever we decide to sacrifice what we have to get it.

But what if our time is now? What if God is calling you to trade in everything of value to you in order to receive everything He has in store for you? What are we waiting for? Isn’t what God has for us much more precious than what we have stored up for ourselves?

May we boldly approach the throne of God with faith enough to believe that what God started in us, He will carry on until the day of completion, and may we give up anything that would hold us back.

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Called By Name Pt. 3

Okay, so if you’ve been following my blog for the past couple of months you may notice a theme keep popping up: being called by name.  In part 1 of this mini-series, I talked about being called, and in part 2, about names.  Well, here we are in part 3 and I’m still caught up on this idea that names are really important.

I went to Passion Conference for the first three days of this new year and one of the things that really struck me was how many people attended.  We filled three huge arenas across the Southeast with students, and had more people streaming the conference online.  The magnitude of people coming together in agreement to worship with one heart and one mind was staggering.  I went with my best friend and her church, which meant I only knew two people out of all those thousands of students.  Getting lost would have been so easy! The crowds could get chaotic what with all the going through security, finding seats for everyone, and just trying to stick together.  The amount of groups trying to stay together naturally created hustle and bustle that comes along with crowds of that size.

Our group would always plan to stick together through the lines of people, but getting separated from the group would happen naturally if you didn’t purpose to keep an eye on the group leader.  Even if you got lost, there was still hope.  We always sat in the same area together, so if you lost sight of the leader along the way, you knew to go to the place where you were sure to meet with him again.  You could listen for the people in your group to call your name as they searched for you.  Whether you intentionally got separated from the group to go off and look at what people were selling at the conference, or unintentionally lost sight of the leader, there was hope that you would be found again.

But with the hope came responsibility.  If you became lost, it now depended on you to listen for the voice of your leader calling your name, or to go to the place where you would sit and wait for him to join you.

And right there, in the middle of the chaos and joy of the Passion Conference, it struck me how that parallels to our spiritual life.  We are going through life following God, hopefully with other people alongside us, in the confidence that soon we will reach Heaven, a place filled with countless people who are all worshipping God.  Sometimes along the way, we get our eyes off of our leader; sometimes we get distracted by what the world is selling us and walk away, but sometimes somebody just bumps into us and we lose sight of Him.  Getting our eyes back on God isn’t a hopeless endeavor.  We just have to listen for Him calling our name, and sometimes that means going and sitting in the place where He has promised to meet us.

But how often do we get distracted by the things of the world and then think there is no hope for us? How often do we get our eyes off our Father when someone else bumps into us and our focus shifts to them? We blame and fight with others and let our focus go to those who have “bumped into our happy”, as Lysa TerKerust puts it, and then we are so focused on their offense we lose sight of where God was leading us.  We may even follow after voices calling names at us, thinking that responding to whatever names we hear will lead us back to the One Who Named Us.

Have you lost sight of God and been responding to the first names you hear? Worthless, unqualified, unloved, rejected, lost, hopeless? That’s not your name! If you respond to and follow the wrong names you’ll go to the wrong place.  God is calling you to Himself and He’s calling out to you by name (Is. 43:1)

If you’ve lost sight of God and can’t hear Him calling your name, you can still go to the place where He’s promised to meet you.  Get away from the crowds and go to your secret place (Ps. 91:1; 81:7).  Make a point to get away from the crowd and chaos and go to meet with God.

He hasn’t left you.  If circumstances, people, or things have gotten in the way and you can’t hear God calling your name anymore, there is still hope.  Like I said earlier though, that hope comes with responsibility.  You’ve got to seek God out, but rest assured, God promises that when you seek Him, you will find Him, when you seek Him with all your heart (Jer. 29:13).  He’s not hiding from you!

Isaiah 45:3, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of the secret place, that you may know that I, the Lord, who calls you by your name, am the God of Israel.”

Full Circle: A Letter to My Mentor

Thank you.

Those two simple words could never adequately reflect the depths of my gratitude to you.  I doubt anything ever could.

I wanted to take a moment and let you know that I would not be the same person if you had not come into my life.  I wonder if I would be here at all.  You were one of the few people whose eyes I looked into during that season of my life.

I was so worn.  So weary.  So tired.  But also so afraid.  I was afraid of letting anyone in because I was afraid of having to let them go.  I was too weary to cry for help, and most days too hopeless to lift my head and look around for it.

I would never wish those times on anybody, but I also would not trade them for the world.  They have made me into who I am today, but if it wasn’t for you (and the grace of God) I don’t know that I would have made it to today.

Thank you for listening to God and reaching out to me.  Thank you for inviting me into your home and showing me love.  I needed it so desperately.  To look into your kids’ faces and see how much they loved me, to be accepted and loved, unconditionally and fearlessly, was a precious gift.

I am eternally grateful for the time spent with you and your family.  I learned so much and was so refreshed by time away from my house.  There was a peace and a joy that I experienced with your family that gave my heart strength to keep going.

Saying “see you later” when you moved away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because it felt so much like “goodbye”.  And in a way, it was.  It was “goodbye” to sleepovers and park days, to random drop-in visits and to swinging on your front porch.  It was goodbye to being 10 minutes away, because it became over 10 hours away.  It was goodbye to the little things that meant everything.

There’s no denying that’s one of the most brutal goodbye’s I’ve ever said, but out of it I said a lot of new hellos.  They were scary hello’s, no doubt, but they were hello’s just the same.  They were hello’s to finding God’s love in places other than exclusively your family.  Those hello’s made me look for God, and when I did, I found Him in the most unlikely of places.

I found Him in people I didn’t even like.  I found Him in the new.  The new people that needed me to love them just as much as I had needed you to love me.  I didn’t like those people because they reminded me so much of me and what I went through, but as I came to realize that it meant what I went through wasn’t wasted, I also came to love them.

As I loved these people and helped them through their trials (which were eerily similar to mine!), I came to find out that one of them lived one street down from where you had moved from.

It was as if God was saying that not only did my heartache come full circle to heal someone else’s heartache, it was the next street onward.  Forward progress.  I wasn’t stuck in my pain and in missing you, but moving forward.

I still miss you like crazy.  It’ll sneak up on me at times and make me cry.  But I wanted to say thank you for being such a big part of my life, and thank you for following God when He told you it was time to move on.  I’m not the same without you, and I’m so thankful for the times we were together nearly everyday.  Now as we are apart, I’m thankful again, because it taught me to pick myself back up and love again.

God used you to give me hope, love, and life, and now I’m passing those things on to others too.  Thank you for your example to me.  I love you.

 

PS. Now that girl, the one that lives one street down from where you did, is rising up and loving fearlessly too.  She’s ministering to a group of girls and leading them in a study about living loved and overcoming rejection.  What God started with you loving me is still going as girls in my community are learning both how much they are loved by God and how to love others.

What God Spoke to Me One Silent Night

*This is something God spoke to me late one night when I couldn’t sleep that I’ve shared with several people and wanted to share with you.  Because He spoke it to me, there are adjectives/pet names that are feminine, but I have put a unisex counterpart in parenthesis next to most of them because I want males to be able to relate also.  So if something is specifically a female name, adjust it to your gender. 🙂 Enjoy.*

 

I wandered alone

Clinging to things not my own

Placing my worth in them

Painting my future with brushes of past

Thinking that love would never last

Jumping from sin to sin

Thinking this was the end

But You

You think different thoughts toward me

Thoughts of peace and mercy

Thoughts to calm my soul

With plans to make me whole

Yes, You

You and Your thoughts towards me

Are good and slo-o-owly,

I will see

What You truly think of me

I turned Your temple

Into a place for me

But now I see

What You’re making me

A voice

Calling out into the void

Come, all who are weak

Come, rest before Me

Come, see what I do

Come, for I make all things new

And I am re-shaping you

Before you were hard clay

Until you gave everything that day

Now I will make you new

Because that is what I do

I siphon out the fear

I draw you near

I tell you I am enough

Even when your edges are rough

Sometimes I have to break you

To uniquely make you

Into what only I can see

But {BELOVED} baby girl, you’ve got to trust Me

I hold you tenderly

I hold you tenderly

I hold you tenderly

I hold you tenderly

You may not believe Me

But wait and see

I know what I’m doing

I’m shaping you like Me

Your design will be rare

People will turn and stare,

Asking how you become so strong

When it’s because you clung to Me all along

For that is the only way

You must learn to pray

Not my will, but Yours

Let go of all the impurities

You will not need them where I AM taking you

For I AM drawing you out

To a new place

A deep place

A place where My grace becomes all you see

Yes, then you will know you are in Me

For the plans I have for you are good

You will prosper

I am drawing you out,

Drawing you away,

From all the things telling you to stay

Oh lovely {CHILD} daughter and Bride

It is for You I died

You may have to go through the fire

But I will be with you

You may have to walk on deep waters

But I will be with you

You may be led to green pastures

But I will be with you

For I AM. And always will be. Surrender to Me;

It will open your destiny.

You cannot yet see the blessings that I have in store

Yet I will heap more and more.

For I AM with you

I will guide you

I have always led you

I will never leave you

Make Me your first choice

Listen above the noise

You will find that I speak

Have you been listening?

I know your flesh is weak

That’s okay

Surrender it to Me

I can handle it

I can hold it

I can take it

I have it

But I left it at the cross

Why have you picked it up again?

I love you

I will never leave you

I will hold you

I have you

I went to the cross for you

The stars praise My Name

I hold you in My hand

I’ve got you

You can stop holding on now

I’m not letting go

This is My job

I can do it

I’ve been in the restoration business since the beginning of time.

I’ve been building things in your life that you have yet to see, just as you cannot tell how a builder is going to fill in the empty spaces in the structure of a house.

I have plans to fill you.

I have not forgotten you.

I know you by name.

I love you. I am waiting for you. I have waited since the beginning of time–before that–to have a relationship with you. But there is not much time to wait now. You must decide. Who will you serve?

I have laid down everything for you. What will you do for Me? Will you turn your face back to Me, Beloved? I still care about you.

I saw everything you did. I watched as you were unfaithful to Me. Over and over one thousand times. But I have forgiven you. I have not forgotten you. I still have big plans for you. Come here so I can tell you about them.

I want you to know that I have not rejected you. And I have a plan to use every single crack in you to shine my glory through. If you keep trying to peer through those cracks and let that be all you ever see, you’ll never see the big picture. Come sit in My lap so I can show you how you look.

Do you see yourself in that mirror? In that red dress? That’s not how I see you. I see you in white. When My love comes in you, all of the red is drained–leeched–from you. And I clothe you in white. That’s redemption. I paid for you with My life. And I would do it again for you, but I don’t have to. No, I covered it all the first time. Don’t you believe Me?

Rest now, Beloved. I will not overwhelm you. I love you. I am singing over you as you sleep tonight. I’ve got you covered: with My feathers and My grace. Sleep well; I won’t let you go. I’m your anchor.

To The Boy That Loved Me Since He First Laid Eyes on Me

*The following post is the first in an upcoming series of posts about letting people go out of your life.  I’ve noticed that sometimes people are in your life just for a season, and you have to let them go gracefully or feel rejected.  I am in the process of learning how to let go, and wanted to share these anonymous letters with you in the hopes that if you are going through something similar, these can help you grieve the loss of the relationship and move forward into the next season freely.  I hope you can identify with and be blessed by these. (Also, thank you to my best friend over at missionforfaith.wordpress.com for designing the graphics for this post and the previous post.)*

 

I know you’ve never admitted that to my face, but I heard tell of it from members of both your family and mine.  I hate that you want me, because it means I have to hurt you.  You were the friend who made me forgot my troubles, the friend who I had some of my favorite adventures with.  You infuriated me, you annoyed me, you loved me.  As Marcus Zusack says in The Book Thief, “The only thing worse than a boy who hates you is a boy who loves you.”

I wanted us to remain the idyllic friends we were when we were nine.  I’d always had a crush on Peter Pan because I loved the idea of never growing up.  I didn’t ask for the hormones and heartbreak that came with being thirteen, and sixteen, and eighteen.  I wanted you and everyone to want to be around me, but I didn’t want you to want me.  I tried so hard to make you understand that.  I made fun of you, got you in trouble, embarrassed you.  I did all I could think of to make you my entertainment, to protect your pride but wound your ego enough to keep you from getting too close.

I saw right through your facade, from every angle.  I know you so dearly just wanted to be recognized and respected.  I didn’t know how to keep from hurting your feelings while keeping you at a distance.  I saw how your family hurt you and I didn’t want to repeat that.  I wanted to be a safe person but I didn’t want you running to me for shelter.

Can you see? Do you understand? I had my own troubles and pains, and yes, and ran to you to vent about several of them.  But I kept it light. I kept my heart out of it.  I showed you the cherry on top of the whipped cream on top of the ice cream on top of the tip of the iceberg.  You didn’t know the half of it.  You barely knew any.

But you knew enough to make you think I was running to you for shelter.  No, I ran to you because I knew you were there at my beck and call.  I ran to you because I knew I had you wrapped around my little finger.

You’ve never held my heart.  I let you admire me, but you weren’t the one I cried in anguish over the thought of leaving me.  You weren’t the one who I cried in the shower, into my pillow, staring out the window over.  You’re not the one who made me lose my mind at the thought of losing you.  You’re not the one who saved my life, then made me want to throw it away when you left.  You’re not the one who I couldn’t fathom living without.

That’s just not who you were for me.  But I know that you will be that for someone.

So please, please, let me hurt you now.  Let me let you down now, let me tell you there is no hope for us in the romantic sense.  I don’t love you like that.

I can’t pretend you don’t haunt me.  I see you around every corner, sense you with every slamming of a car door.  I haven’t forgotten you but I can’t stand to have you around.  You want things from me I just can’t give you, but you will get them from someone special one day.  It just won’t be me.  So please forgive me.  Please trust me that you will grow from this if you only allow yourself, and you will be a better person after me, a person you wouldn’t have been with me still around.  You have to stand on your own two feet; you have to find your identity, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s not in me.

I want you to succeed.  I want you to find a woman who loves you with wild abandon, a woman who will see and safeguard your tender, chivalrous, servant heart.  You have great love within you, and you deserve someone who will love you without hesitation.

I get sick every time I think of you, imagining you bitter and small.  I want to hear of the great things you’ve done.  I want you to find your dreams and chase them with everything in you.

You have not failed me.  I want you to know that.  You have never been not enough for me.  You have been a wonderful friend.  But there is better out there for you than me, and better out there for me than you.

So go after the One who is going after you.  Make Him your pursuit and chase Him with wild abandon.  That’s where you will find your freedom, your identity, and your love.  I’m cheering for you.

Born This Way

I was born backwards; I was breech.  I’ve often wondered at the significance of that.  I was breech, my mom was born breech.  Not only does it reach back up into previous generations, but also I had a dream last week that I was heavily pregnant, and that my baby was breech.  I felt God saying in that moment, “You have been set apart, a peculiar people, from the very beginning of your life.  Now I am birthing a new thing in you, and when it comes, people will say it’s all backwards and odd.  But what others call crazy, backwards, and scary, I call set apart and chosen.  Do not be afraid of appearing backwards to the world, as long as you have set your eyes forward on Me.”

“God’s ways are different from our ways.”  Have you ever heard that phrase? The more I pursue God’s ways, the more true I find it to be.  There are so many unusually bold moments I’ve had, where words pour out of my mouth and I know they came straight from the heart of God.  So many times I’ve “just got a feeling” that someone is struggling and when I ask them how they are, I can see in their eyes if they’re lying when they say they’re “fine”.

Have you had those moments of courage too? Does God ever tell you to go and pray for the broken-down car on the side of the road and offer them all the snacks and assistance you have to offer? Does He tell you to talk to the rough and tough guys coming from the streets and tell them how loved they are, how completely and utterly adored they are by their Father? Does He tell you to stand up and share your story to hundreds of people, or to just thirty kids who need to know it’s okay to struggle, that they’re not alone? Has He ever reminded you that He’s called you out of where you are and into the purposes and plans He has for you?

He’s been doing that to me lately.  And the longer I delay my obedience, the less courage I have.  I don’t want to mess up the rhythm of the movement of God by my hesitation to do what He says.  I want to go where He calls me, speak what He speaks to me, and love with the love He’s shown me.  It may seem backwards, crazy, or ridiculous, but I have full confidence that He who called me is faithful to bring His works through me to completion.  Even if it looks like it’s coming out backwards.

A Dangerous Legacy

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A Dangerous Legacy is the latest novel from Elizabeth Camden.  As of now it is a stand-alone, but a sequel is on its way.

One thing I love about Camden’s novels is the unique perspective on historical details that she centers on in each novel.  For instance, in A Dangerous Legacy Camden weaves in details about the race to string a telegraph wire across the Pacific, a Panama Canal versus a Nicaraguan canal, and getting running water in the upper floors of buildings.  These are the kinds of technological advancements that I don’t often think of or take time to appreciate, but that I enjoy when Camden brings to light in her novels.

As for characters and plot, this book includes the angsty romance typical of Camden’s works, where the characters don’t like each other but end up having to work together, then end up falling in love, the male character deciding that it just won’t work out, and then the heroine saving the day and the man falling head over heels for her all over again.

So, all in all, I’m a little disappointed that it’s just the same ol’, same ol’ with a new historical focus.  I do like the cover, however, and it was cool that it released on my birthday. 🙂

Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.  All opinions are my own and were not required to be positive.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention/review it on my blog. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion – which I’ve done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*

Called by Name Part 2

One thing I neglected to mention in the previous “Called by Name” post is the wordage at the end of Isaiah 43:1, where the Lord declares “I have called you by name; you are mine.”, is that the word used for “mine” is “Alpha”, the first letter of the Greek alphabet. The only other place this is used in the Bible is a couple of times in the book of Revelation, where God is referred to as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

So when God calls you by name, He is calling you by His name since you are His.  He’s not calling you by the name of “slave”, “failure”, “depressed”, “guilty”, “ashamed”, or any of those labels we ourselves claim.  No, when you put your trust and faith in Him, you become His child and the bride of Christ.  So when He calls you by name, it’s the very first name that existed in the universe.  It’s the name that’s been around before you were born, the eternal, saving, conquering name of Jesus.  Alpha and Omega.  First and the last.  Beginning and the end.  Enduring through all generations.  I AM in us.

Just Keep Asking

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

That has been the verse I’ve clung to and been guided by for the past year or so, but with every new challenge comes a fresh perspective on it.

CALL TO ME. That’s how the verse starts off, but a lot of times I skip right over that part and wait for God to tell me great and mighty things that I don’t know. But God doesn’t reveal things we aren’t seeking out. He waits for us to make that step, to ask Him for His plan before we chase our own.

So often I will ask God what His will is, for wisdom for the situation I’m in, and He will give it to me. He will illuminate the next step for me and I’ll take it, even if it’s scary.

But then, after I take that next step, I’ll stop. I’ll forgot to ask God again what’s next. I’ll stop and take a break, forgetting that this is a race where I have to keep taking the next step if I’m going to get anywhere. And with each step I have to ask God which direction it’s supposed to be in. And with each step He is faithful to give me a glimpse of the great and mighty things that He has for me.

I just have to keep asking, and listen, because God always answers.