The Good Gifts of Summer

Sunday, June 11, 2017  ::   2 important comments

Remember when I said I would draw a winner for the book and $30 Amazon gift card in a week and then almost a month passed? Oops. Time-shmime. Am I right? Anyone? Well, sorry 'bout that.

THE WINNER IS...

Congrats, friend. And it works out so well since it's your birthday month! Happy birthday and here's your prize!

Since you clicked over here to see who won, I thought I'd share some of my summer favorites. I like when my friends like things I like, so I'm happy to give you my not so secret secrets.

Floating in my back yard pool is a must for me during the summer. I've explained it before, but in case you haven't heard, my pool has an invisible force field around it that blocks out my ability to analyze, problem solve, and overthink about life, ministry, family, future, and all things overwhelming. It is glorious. Now, I am a responsible, hang-out in the sun floater so I wear sunscreen. My friend, Janice, gave me Sun Bum for my birthday a couple of years ago and I've never looked back. It's worth the extra bucks to not feel coated with glue. Do you know what I'm saying?

Cheap sunscreen = greasy glue = no thanks

Go get you some at any drugstore or just order it from Amazon.

Next, I drink too much cold brew coffee (otherwise known as toddy) during the summer. Chad makes it for me because he loves me. You can make your own cheaper than you can get it at coffee shops. Duh. I prefer when he uses lighter roasts because to me, dark roast coffee tastes like your licking a tire. Oh man. My bitter palate can only handle so much. Do you like lighter or darker roasts?
Order it or go to World Market and pick one up. Instructions are in the box. Also, why is the woman on the box of a cold brew system acting like she's drinking a cup of hot coffee. Design/marketing mess up if you ask me.

Next, the new Zach Brown Band album is playing on repeat for me this summer. The title hooked me instantaneously: Welcome Home. Gives me good vibes just typing it out. My family teases me by saying all their music sounds the same, but WHATEVER, because it all sounds awesome the same! The song, Family Table, put a giant lump in my throat and possibly even squeezed out a couple of tears. If you like good country music (not like that Florida Georgia Line crap. Gag.) then buy this album. Good, good, good. What band can you listen to on repeat?


Finally, I'm determined to make this a summer of reading. Good news for me, Carah's swim meets are on Tuesday and Thursday nights and last 3+ hours. She only swims a little more than 2 minutes of that time. I'm not great at math, but that's way more sitting than watching. To make use of all. that. time, I'm making my way through my reading list. What are you reading?

I'm reading top to bottom. My goal/hope is to get through five more before school starts. We shall see!

For me, summer is a time to grill out, watch movies, and slow down. When my kids were younger we played Skip-Bo, swam, read, watched shows, and played and played and played. This year, I'm being forced to learn a new summer rhythm because teenage activities amp up in summer more than they slow down. However, determination drives me to continue to use this season to think about being a finite human. I can't keep the sprint pace of most months even though sometimes I try. The Sonoran Desert swelter reminds me to slow down or suffocate. A break from school for my kids provides consistent opportunity to engage them in conversation so that the tiny screens in their pockets don't suck away their time, minds, and hearts. Later evenings create space for more laughter with friends, more time for books, and the familiarity of movies we've watched over and over. My family only has three more traditional school summers and then Chad and my arrows will all be launched. In the future I know I'll find new ways to revel in my favorite season, but for now I'm taking deep deliberate breaths, burning as many images in my mind as I can, and resting in the good gifts of family, friends, and summer.

Who We Are in Light of Who He Is :: And a Giveaway

Tuesday, May 23, 2017  ::   23 important comments

Through the years I've grown in self-awareness and understanding. I believe it is good, wise, and honorable to know your strengths and weaknesses so you can better serve God and love people. For example, how can I love people in the way they need love if I'm not aware that I can be an 'energetic' nurturer? (Some say smother, but I say mother.) Or if I am unaware of the intensity of my faith, maybe I sound like a raving lunatic instead of a compassionate, bold Jesus-follower? Knowing who we are and what we believe increases our ability to love and serve.

However, a main point of contention I have with those who seek self-help, self-improvement, and even self-awareness is what or who is your plumb line? If I only grow and measure myself against myself, my awareness is nebulous and/or self-serving. If I grow and measure myself against others then I always succeed or always fail, and the measurements result in self-gratification or self-loathing. 

What are we to do? 

Theology, the study of the nature of God, is the answer. In the last 20 years, I've surrendered to the fact that knowing who God is enables me to know who I am. His grace to us tells us in his Word that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that he will complete the good work he started in us, and that he is transforming us into his very image. Whether we seek to know what this means or not, he will work in us because he is faithful and he doesn't break his promises. But, if the Creator of the universe is changing you into his image, don't you think it would help to know who he is? Hence, theology. 

Here's the truth, friends. I'm not an intellectual. But, I am a learner, child-like when I get excited about a new to me concept, and a reader (a slow reader, but a reader nonetheless.) I am not someone who can sit around and debate theology. Heck, I can't really debate anything. I feel deeply about God, life, and love. I can most certainly tell you what I believe and why I believe it. However, I continue to need help in learning deep truths about God in my head and heart. I've read quite a few theology books all the while weighing what I'm learning with scripture and talking them out with Chad and friends. 

Good theology books will be full of scripture, and not just one off verses to support their claims. I'm continually on the search for strong-willed, intelligent, fierce women who love God and his word. You all know I love Beth Moore. I recently finished Entrusted, her study on 2 Timothy and it blew my mind. If you choose to do this study, please, please go through the video teachings, too. Many of you also know mentoring relationships for women in Second Mile begin with Wendy Alsup's book Practical Theology for Women. (I have copies in my office if you'd like to buy one.) I read her blog regularly. The woman knows her Bible. 

A year or two ago, I discovered Jen Wilkin. She's quickly become a woman I respect and wish I could know personally. Two of her books were on my shelf for awhile, but my reading list was so long I never got to them. At my suggestion, Morgan, Carah, and their friend, Nevaeh, recently started reading None Like Him with their youth leader, Corrie. I wanted to know what they were reading and be able to discuss with them as they read, so I picked it up, too. Jen had me at the first sentence of the introduction: 

"If you had told me five years ago that I would one day write a book for Christian women that led off with a quote from Proverbs 31, I probably would have punched you in the face." 

Doesn't that sound like someone who could be my bestie?

In the book, Jen describes ten attributes that only belong to God and shows how we humans seek to mimic these attributes. I'm reading this book slowly, devotional style, so I can take it all in. As I read each chapter, my awe of who he is increases and my own conviction grows as I see how I try to put myself in his place. Do you want to truly know yourself? Then get to know God! Do you want to find comfort in his magnificence? Then know how to name these attributes and what they actually mean!

I had no idea how much I would love this book, but I certainly do. Also, it's super easy to read so that's a bonus. Jen takes deep concepts and writes about them in a way that isn't alienating and/or frustrating. This book is for everyone. Men, it's for you, too. I recently read a comment by a pastor who is taking his whole staff through it. Jen also had this to say about a different book she wrote, but it applies here, as well: "FAQ: "Is there a book like Women of the Word aimed at men?" Not that I'm aware, but the concepts aren't "pink". Just rip off the cover, bro." Wisdom and sass make me so happy. 

Do you need a fresh perspective on who God is and who you are in light of him? Do you need to freshen up your time with your mentee? Are you wanting a good summer read? Would you like to go through a good book with some friends or your community group? Are you curious because I keep telling you it's that good? I've got some good news for you! I believe in this book so much that I bought 20 of them. For eight bucks, you can pick one up this Sunday or make arrangements to stop by my office to pick one up during the week. (I'll order more when the time comes. I plan to keep these on hand.)
I would love for many of us to be mulling over these ten characteristics that only belong to our great God. It will deepen our faith which will deepen our conversations which will deepen our relationships which will deepen our church which will deepen our desire to talk about him to people who don't yet know him. Beautiful. 

To make things interesting I'm going to do a little giveaway. Leave a comment below with a chance to win a copy of this book AND a $30 gift card to Amazon. Obviously, if you win I don't want you to use the $30 on a new swimsuit or cardamom, but I can't control your purchases. Just remember, I love books. I can easily recommend ways for you to spend $30 on great books if you don't know where to start. Leave a comment and I'll choose a winner in a week or so. 

Let's spend the upcoming summer slowing down a bit, reading a good book or two, and getting to know God more and more so he can show us who we are in him. Self-awareness at it's finest. 

Tripping around the Sun

Thursday, April 20, 2017  ::   3 important comments

The gray wings above my temples continue to spread like no one cares. But secretly I care. Some days they look like wisdom to me and some days they look like the dirty pigeons that hang out on my fence I want to pop with a BB gun.

The laugh lines around my eyes prove I'm experientially learning what it means to be clothed with strength and dignity and to laugh without fear of the future. Last year I didn't feel much like laughing, but the depth of learning that took place in my heart certainly wrapped my drooping shoulders in unknown strength. Maybe the gray wings and laugh lines visibly expose the depth of dignity God sows into my life with each trip around the sun. 
The photos in this post were taken on the various hikes I took over this last year. 
Thankfully and humbly, God wired me to perceive the needs of others. Sometimes he even allows me to see ways in which I can help. My love for God and for people runs like a raging river. In times past, I've been able to stay on the Holy Spirit raft with a few trusted people who help me navigate the relational rapids. Unbeknownst to me, my raft had taken on too much water of meeting all the needs of all the people in all the world. 

Last year at this time I bailed out of the flooding raft with an angry vengeance. Expectations plagued me. Of myself. Of family's. Of other people's, perceived and/or real. Even of God's, or at least, the case I had built on his behalf

Words can't express the suffocation I felt. (I know some of you know the feeling.) Not only could I not meet all the expectations, I resented everyone, who I believed, thought I was failing. 

My false perceptions were thick, but what kept me under water was my inability to perceive they were false. 

I couldn't keep up with Chad's ministry pace.  

I couldn't help women understand God's love for them, let alone my love for them. 

I couldn't change people's wrong perceptions of me in "having it all together."  

I couldn't meet my own expectations of what I thought I should be able to do. 

I couldn't even meet your expectations, whoever you are. Believe me, I thought about it. 

All the things I knew to do in "counseling" myself seemed to fail.  
In a last ditch effort to gain some perspective so that I didn't torch my life and all my relationships, I went to see an actual counselor. I spent much of the year pouring over scripture, asking God to help me believe. I hiked many miles in solitude and silence, pondering expectations, shoulds, woulds, and coulds. Chad and I had long, crucial conversations. I forced myself to bail water out of my raft, and in humility, gave a bucket to a few people because I needed help. 

It actually began to work. Honestly, I was shocked because I had tried to fix it all by myself, but couldn't... the ugly, revolving door of self-expectations. But, He didn't lie when he told us that he will be faithful to complete the work started in us. What a relief! 

Through pruning and abiding in Christ, my 43rd year of life took me on a journey to a deeper understanding of what I already knew to be true. I am finitely finite, unable to meet my own or other's expectations. To walk in it is freeing. To trust the people closest to me when they say their expectations of me are to love God, to laugh, and to have fun with them: Easy. To let go of the expectations people have of me that I can't meet is also freeing, but it is a difficult choice I continually ask God to help me make. 
I've discovered a few things: 

Chad doesn't want me to keep up with his ministry pace, whatever that means. He wants me to love God with my whole heart and to be his companion. He cheers for me as we live out our lives side by side. He's secure so he never feels threatened by me when I'm full throttle zealous and passionate. He's kind and compassionate so he encourages me to rest, disengage, and even take naps. We make a crazy good team. 

I can't take women by the face and force them to look at Jesus' love. It may surprise you but this is an ineffective strategy for mentoring and discipleship. I can point to scripture, but I can't make anyone read it. I can tell you I love you and I'm doing the best I know how, but it may still hurt us both from time to time. Whether or not women I lead allow me to fail sometimes is not mine to hold. Because I'm surely going to fail, but it doesn't mean I don't love. 

I can't make anyone believe or accept my apologies when I screw up as a leader. I can't make people stay and work out relational reconciliation. All I can do is walk humbly, love wholly, and apologize when necessary. People's expectations can be fair and unfair, but I can't bend either way. I must keep on my raft with scripture, truth, and love. Right, wrong, or crazy. I will be all three on any given day. It's not about me or you. 

Here is one of the hardest lessons of all for me: It's not always my fault. Do you know how easy it is for me to get out of conflict by simply taking the blame so we can move on? I'm asking God to grow true humility in me which means getting rid of the false humility of being the relational doormat. 
The heavens declaring the glory of God. Psalm 19
The deeper sense of strength and dignity with which I am starting out my 44th year feels content, joyful, and hopeful. My gray wings and laugh lines point to a journey up some serious mountains. I have a better understanding of who I am. God truly wired me to intuit people's emotions, needs, and sometimes even their motives. I'm grateful for this gift. With this gift, I'm surrendering with greater trust that he is the Need Meeter, the Life Fixer, the People Lover. I'm a jar of clay that carries around his all surpassing power in my life through the Holy Spirit. I used to say that I know it is his power and not mine. After this year, I know this more fully. I'm believing next year I'll know it even more. And the next year. And the next year. And the next year... 

I laugh at the days to come with courage. 

With each trip around the sun, deeper still, faith, hope, and love. 
The sky above proclaiming his handiwork. Psalm 19 
 What are you learning? How are you being pruned as you abide? What is your favorite passage of scripture right now? Can you guess mine?

Preparation and Expectation

Wednesday, January 11, 2017  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

My good friend, Nate, gave the message during Second Mile's weekly gathering this week and challenged us all to prepare our hearts for the coming Week of Prayer and Fasting (January 22-29.) I wanted to cheer when he read Proverbs 24:27, saying he was asking God to build a house of prayer out of our body.

"Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house." Proverbs 24:27 (emphasis added)

I hunger for God to build our church into a house of prayer, and I also want to be a watchman waiting and ready for him to do what he will do. If I am going to be ready, then I must prepare and strengthen my weak knees and drooping hands.

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:12-13

All of Hebrews chapter 12 is worth a read in terms of preparation. Here are a few highlights:

  • We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that have run before us. 
  • Throw off sin so you can run with perseverance. 
  • Look to Jesus who is perfecting our faith. 
  • Consider Jesus so you do not grow faint or weary. 
  • Discipline produces endurance to pursue holiness.  
  • God's kingdom can't be shaken.
  • Offer God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. 
  • He is a consuming fire. 

Apart from reading Hebrews chapter 12, let me share a few more ways I'm preparing for the coming week of prayer and fasting with the hope of helping and challenging you. Sometimes I'm practical to a fault, so when leaders tell us to do this or that, I'm often left wanting someone to tell me how. Let this encourage you in the how. 

Here is a list of ways I'm preparing my heart for the week of prayer and fasting: 

~ I'm regularly reading Isaiah 58 to remind myself about the type of fast that God desires. If you aren't sure where to start, use this passage. It shouldn't surprise you much that I'm telling you to start with God's word. Why in the world would we ever begin with our own thoughts or someone else's thoughts? 

~ Nate talked about spending time searching our hearts to "get rid of our junk" which is necessary. I know I'm only scratching the surface of my heart at this point. In the past, going without food inevitably makes me more hungry for God which makes me more open to hear from him which is when the inner scum really comes to the surface. I consider these next few days the tidying up of my heart so I can be ready for the deep cleaning I don't even know I need. I promise it's way better than it sounds. Even in a deep heart cleaning, his kindness leads us to repentance. 

~ As a church we spent 41 weeks of the last year in 1 Corinthians. The prayer guide is being written with 1 Corinthians as a backbone, so I'm reading over my notes to remind myself of the richness of what we learned as a body and what I learned as an individual. 

~ I'm reading Prayer by Timothy Keller, an excellent book. I highly recommend it. In the book he refers to many psalms of prayer. I'm trying to read them and take them in as I go. 

~ This step is very practical. I've started to shrink my stomach. A friend of mine posted something about leaving "the eating season" which perfectly describes November and December for me. Instead of going cold turkey, I'm lessening portions and snacking which may not necessarily make it easier to not eat, but it is making me mindful of what it means to prepare. 

~ I'm also asking God how long he wants me to fast. Have you ever considered asking God point blank how many days he wants you to fast? What if you've fasted the whole week in the past, but this year he would like you to add a day or two? Or what if you are hell bent on the rules and status quo of a literal week and he would like you to fast for only part of the week? If you ask and don't hear a specific number, have no fear. Trust the leadership of Second Mile and fast for the set aside time. 

~ Finally, I'm asking God to prepare my heart. Simple as that. As I pray for preparation, I'm also asking him to fill me with hopeful expectation of his kingdom come and of eternity with him. Make no mistake, I'm not laying any demands in front of God. I'm simply asking him to come and commune with me, Chad, my kids, and my friends (you) in a beautiful, life-giving, himself glorifying way. This is all for him after all. It isn't about us, although, in his goodness, we certainly benefit. I pray he increases my hunger for him and his return above all things. 

Have you started the preparation process? Do you have any other ways you are preparing? I would love to learn from you. 

On your mark, get set... 

source

Deeper Still :: The Glory of Christmas

Wednesday, December 07, 2016  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

This year I asked God to give me fresh insight and deeper wisdom into the glory of Christmas. Many people know Christmas brings me joy, but only a few people truly see my giddy, overwhelmed heart and tears as I contemplate the awe and beauty of it all.

In the Old Testament God set forth his law for people to understand his holiness, for people to know how to approach him, and for people to pay for their transgressions through sacrifice. He mercifully revealed himself and showed his people that he is gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6) But to approach him took great care, ceremony, and permission. His presence was shown in a pillar of fire, or on a mountain, or so magnificent that one had to hide in a cleft of a rock and only see God's back because his presence was too rich, holy, and glorious for human consumption. He was and is good, but to approach him demanded sacrifice. *

Enters Jesus, a human, a baby, made for relationship.

Everything that was known about God changed the moment Jesus was conceived in Mary. Can you imagine the God of the universe in the womb of a young woman? He entered through a family line lowly enough to show his availability to everyone. The details and order of the prophecy and lineage for God to be born into the world at the perfect moment: profound.

It is difficult for me to fathom the radical shift in God's availability to humanity through relationship with Jesus. He meets me in my questions of doubt, and lovingly guides me to truth through his word. During Christmas I imagine myself worshipping a baby in a barn. He is the same God shining in glory on the mountain with Moses. As a baby he's defenseless, and yet that tiny baby came to crush the yoke of slavery and injustice with power and might on the cross. A thrill of hope, joy to the world, Word of the Father now in flesh appearing. Christmas, Emmanuel, God with us.

This week I read an important aspect of the birth of Christ that I had never heard, or at least had never paid attention to. Leviticus 25 maps out a significant detail of the law of Sabbath. It describes the Year of Jubilee, the last year of the seventh period of seven years, the forty-ninth year. "In that year, all slaves were to be freed and all debts were to be forgiven; all the land and all the people were to have rest from their weariness and from their burdens. The seventh seven, the Sabbath of Sabbaths." **

Matthew 1:17 says, "So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations." This makes Jesus the beginning of the seventh seven, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the True Jubilee! All true rest comes from Jesus Christ. He frees the slaves! Through him all debts are forgiven! He came to earth to have relationship with us, to allow us to rest in his love, mercy, and grace. He came as a baby so he could endure all the human pain and suffering we endure, to take it all to the cross, to show us he is indeed with us and for us. The seventh seven! The detail in scripture to show the Deity of Jesus is truly miraculous. My soul longs to know more.


To be sure, I love my family's Christmas traditions. Baking, decorating, hosting, all things red and green. My house feels cozy, warm, and lovely. I enjoy hearing my kids laugh and play as they work to solve the year's 1000 piece puzzle. These aspects of Christmas fill my heart. But I know they are temporary. As the years go by, the laughter will quiet, the decorations will fade, and the warmth in my home may grow cold. Of course I imagine I will deeply grieve the loss of days gone by as I'm sure many older people do, but O God, please allow my prayer to remain the same:

Give me fresh insight and deeper wisdom into the glory of Christmas. Keep my eyes away from worthless things, preserve my life according to your word. Fix my gaze on the eternal, not on the temporary. Allow my soul to feel your worth above all things. (Proverbs 2:3-5, Psalm 119:37, 2 Corinthians 4:18, Luke 2:19)

Merry Christmas isn't just a greeting for me. When I say Merry Christmas to you, it is as if I'm praying a short, small prayer for you, whether you want it or not. May God show himself to you this season no matter where you are... someone who doesn't believe, someone who is all alone, someone who is in a personal season of winter, someone filled with hope and joy, someone filled with despair, someone neck deep in doubt, someone who wears a Santa hat everyday, someone who hates me, someone who loves me... The prayer is the same: Merry Christmas, Emmanuel, God with us. Show yourself fresh and new, deeper still, the way you did in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago.

Thank you, Jesus, for coming.

He has come, he is here, he will return.

What does Christmas mean to you? Have you pondered the Incarnation? Believing in the resurrected Christ begins with believing God came to earth as a baby. How does this affect you personally? What are one or two things you can do to capture the wonder of Christmas this year? 



*Do yourself a favor. Go back and click the links to the passages in Exodus. Marvel and be amazed at the glory of God and how different relationship is with him because he sent his Son, Jesus Christ to earth. Ponder, mediate, engage your heart and mind in the glory of Christmas.

**Tim Keller's new book Hidden Christmas, page 38

Change Happens

Monday, August 22, 2016  ::   1 important comment

Even though my friend, Alysa, lives in a different state, I think she sensed my current heart struggle, so she re-posted a guest post I wrote for her blog a couple of years ago. When I read it again this morning, as if right on cue, the tears leaked out once again. Tears easily fall from my eyes these days. My kids say that I cry all the time which I think is a slight exaggeration, but I will admit it happens more frequently than it used to.

One of my parenting goals from the beginning has been to embrace each stage as better than the last. Let me tell you, this goal is really being put to the test in this current season. The launching kids out into the world stage does not feel better than the everyone sitting around the table eating, talking, and laughing season. My heart and mind feel confused often. Because God allows us to feel multiple emotions at one time, I can be excited for the adventure and maturity awaiting my kids outside of my home and feel sad about them not being down the hall at night safe and sound in their beds. Life keeps on moving. Even though people told me the days were long and the years were short I didn't really know just how short the years would be. I hear the years just keep getting shorter, too, so I must continue to work to discipline myself to be present, engaged, joy-filled, and purposeful. But it is stinking hard.

So do not fear, do not be dismayed. I will strengthen and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10

For I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ~Hebrews 13:8


Change happens, indeed. There are only three years between these two photos. We are all smiling, but if you could read the story through each and every moment between the lines you would see joy, pain, laughter, doubts, success, failure, hurt, apologies, time spent well, time wasted, family together time moved into launching them out time. All of it combined is the change that continues to lead all six of us to become who God intends for us to be as individuals and as family. Chad and I seek to be good, good parents as an example to them of God as the good, good Father. He never freaks out in the midst of all our human changes, so I'm on my knees asking him to help me not to freak out, to be steadfast in him, and overflow with thankfulness and security when it all seems quite wobbly. 

I have two tattoos symbolizing my family. The one on my leg is a good representation of the family season. We are all stars surrounded by a swirl of community support and togetherness. The one on my arm represents Psalm 127, my quiver full of arrows. We spend intentional time to craft and hone each arrow to be unique, to love God, and to love people. When you shoot them off, you pray so hard they will fly straight. The permanent marks on my body represent the permanent prayers of my life. I pray my life demonstrates deep love for my family and the ability to launch them well. I long for them to continue to love God with all their hearts as he shows them how to love and serve people. May it be so, Jesus. 

The End of a Season

Thursday, February 04, 2016  ::   1 important comment

To be jolted out of my sleep when the pitch black night still lingered didn't surprise me even though the clock glared, "4:00am." When you set aside a significant amount of time to pray and fast strange things happen. I shivered with deep cold in my bones all week. My sleep had been restless. My muscles ached. But, my soul was still and listening.

Deep, resonating conviction thickened the atmosphere of the room, so I sat up and dangled my legs over the edge of the bed to listen. 

Immediately I knew my time on the Cord of Hope giving team was over. 

Have you ever fought a battle for so long that you actually gave up fighting? Within minutes of quiet listening, God established a resolved ordinance in my guts, and showed me how tired my soul had become through 11 years of visiting clubs and leading this ministry. 

"The time is now, Angel. Let it go." 

"But what if..." 

"What ifs are not yours to carry." 

Relief came instantaneously as I thought about releasing the going, releasing the burden, releasing the chaos. And then relief gave way to conviction. 

"You've been carrying such darkness in your heart and mind, Angel." 

"I know. I'm so tired and I don't know how to make it all go away." 

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." 

Tears streamed down my face as the Spirit of God used his own written word to ask me to share my deepest struggles with a friend who would pray over me. I so hoped he would give me someone who would/could just fix my brokenness, but all he asked me to do was confess so she could lay hands on me and pray. Recently I read that communal confession is a forgotten discipline. We go through the motions of confessing our sin to God, but we find no freedom because we are really only confessing to ourselves. True confession and repentance brings heart change. Isolated confession always allows for an out. Communal confession allows for prayer, accountability, and true healing. In a moment, God took knowledge which had puffed up my head, and asked me to work out authentic faith through action. 

Many times as a leader I find myself in conversations I would rather not have... confrontation, a call to holiness, pointing out scripture people would rather ignore, and conflict for too many reasons. It sucks actually. One of my biggest fears as a leader is pride. I regularly struggle with the "who do I think I am" question. In order to combat this fear in my leadership, I consistently ask God to purify my life, my thoughts, my heart, and my actions. I ask him to teach me to obey his word, to be my main affection, to help me delight in him above all else. At 4:00 on a Thursday morning during the week of prayer and fasting, he showed up to answer my prayers. 

His kindness leads me to repentance. (Romans 2:3-5)

His law is perfect and revives my soul. (Psalm 19:7)

He strengthens me in my weariness. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

He illuminates the dark in me. (Psalm 139:11-12)

His forgiveness allows me to stand. (Psalm 130:3-4)

Friends, there are days I simply want to give up. It's all too hard. I want to go to work, come home, put on stretchy pants, turn on the tv, and zone out.  But, I know deep in my bones it wouldn't lead to the full life God wants for me and my family. 

May I count everything a loss compared to knowing Jesus more and more and more. May his name be lifted higher in my life every single day. May I point people to him through truth and love. When I have done everything I can to do to stand against that which seeks to destroy, may I still stand firm on Jesus, the name that is above every name.  


What about you? What or who is your greatest affection? What is the evidence of your claims? What are you learning and how do you plan to put it into action and not just puff up your head?