Such a great check on what my true filter is.
Am I seeking to please myself, others, the world’s standards and accolades...or God?
I often swing between two polar opposites: Clinging so tight to things, without even a thought to consult God, or worse yet, intentionally avoiding Him, lest He tell me my plans are all wrong. Or, feeling so scared, overwhelmed, ill-equipped, crushed that I want to turn it all over to Him and hide under the covers with earplugs and Oreos.
And neither get us where we need to be. God wants to be in control, but He also wants us in the race.
I think of a pace car. The dictionary defines it as a car that sets the pace and positions racers for a rolling start in a warm-up lap or laps before a race, or that returns to control the pace in temporarily hazardous conditions. Another definition says it is a car which limits the speed of competing cars on a racetrack in the case of a caution period such as an obstruction on the track or bad weather. The aim of the safety car is to enable the clearance of any obstruction under safer conditions, and/or await more favorable track conditions weather-wise. At the end of the caution period, the safety car leaves the track and the competitors resume normal racing. The pace car is always near, watching and waiting…ready to jump in when needed.
I want Jesus as the head of my team, my coach, and my pace car. He wants me in the race. He wants me prepared and fully equipped. But He won’t leave me. He is always there watching…seeing things I can’t see from my vantage point behind the wheel. He monitors conditions and obstacles and hazards. He sets the pace. And He lets me race. He lets me do what He has prepared me to do.
God, help me to always seek you as coach, leader, boss, and pace setter. Let me never get behind the wheel without your guidance. Let me always listen to your wisdom and never try to pass you or set my own speed. Thank you for always watching and jumping in. Thank you for always knowing the perfect speed to go given the conditions I find myself in. Give me the courage to stay in the race when I am way behind, dented up from a crash, and just not feeling it.
We hate the trials, but they make us strong and brave and compassionate. Both my kids have type 1 diabetes. It isn’t easy, but they are strong. They manage more as 13 and 16 year-old kids than most adults I know.
Hypotheticals will never show us how strong we are. Only living it will. Hard things stretch us beyond anything we would ever willingly bring upon ourselves. Sometimes God brings trials to us, and sometimes God cries through it happening to us, but always God uses it for good.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
God says, “let’s go...right now...right here...right where you are...the work, the experience, the suffering...it has purpose”
The devil says, “wait...you will be better equipped when you are more like them...when you get a little better...when you get out of that funk...when you reach that next goal...just keep waiting...”
Get into that college...
Be accepted in that group...
Pull it all together...
Get that job...
Not be so scared...
Find that guy...
Get that better job...
Marry that guy...
Leave that job...
Have that child...
Get financially stable...
Start that thing...
Stop that thing...
Time to say yes...
Guts to say no...
Skills to do that thing...
It is all a lie! A lie that keeps us forever on the sidelines. Though we are uncomfortable and scared and unqualified and have a million shiny distractions...still we have a calling. Right here, right now.
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In case anyone, like me, needs a little perspective shift tonight, a revisit of Mark 9 (Day 37 of 260 • #NTin2018)...
A pause on the stifling, constrictive, skin-wrapped humanity, the glory of God peeks through Jesus up on a mountain. It isn’t a reflection of light from another source, but a light within Jesus bursting forth, finally uncontained.
Moses – the recipient of the law -- is there. Elijah – the great prophet – is there. Jesus – the fulfillment of the law and the prophets – is there. A beautiful, holy encounter.
Roughly 1,400 years earlier Moses died on a mountain overlooking the earthly promised land God didn’t permit him to enter. This Moses, who was born a Hebrew, adopted into the house of Pharaoh, the mighty king of Egypt. This Moses, who after murdering an Egyptian for mistreating his people, fled to the desert; a shepherd for 40 years. This Moses, who was called by God from a burning bush to return to Egypt to usher the Israelites out of slavery. This Moses, who was entrusted by God with the law; the commandments for daily living. This Moses, who lead a grumbling, hard-hearted, stubborn, ungrateful nation of millions in the wilderness for 40 years en-route to the land God set aside for them. Forty years of living in temporary dwellings, unsettled, always prepared to pick up and move on when God instructs while living on manna provided daily by God for sustenance. But also, forty years of ongoing communion with God.
During one of the many instances of grumbling by the people, God instructs Moses to speak to a rock, which would pour out water for the people. Instead, Moses strikes the rock with his staff. God says because of this, Moses would not enter the land God had given them. All of his faithfulness, all of his obedience, all of his difficult shepherding, all of his communion with God, and this one act of disobedience prevents him from reaching the destination he spent his life traveling towards.
Our human nature feels a deep sting of disappointment for Moses, shouting, “unjust, unfair!”
But we are looking at it all wrong, and I think that is what this current mountaintop experience is showing us. We measure success in the world’s terms. In human accomplishments, achievements, arrivals. Perhaps Moses, in his constant nearness and communication with God, was able to grasp success through God’s eyes; in finally being near to Him in an even more excellent and more intimate way. We feel sad that Moses wasn’t able to step foot in this land, while Moses is rejoicing with God in the true promised land. Moses’ mission was accomplished. In him, God was pleased. Moses was exactly where he wanted to be.
Now all these years later, Moses is again on a mountaintop, this time with Elijah and Jesus. Moses, who died 1,400 years earlier, Elijah who died roughly 900 years earlier, and Jesus who is about to die on a cross…all talking with one another (oh, and Jesus is glowing). It doesn’t say what they are talking about, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the world-changing events that are about to take place. Events that according to worldly standards would be considered an utter failure, but according to God’s plan are the gateway to redemption; to the true and eternal promised land. Only a short time to go and the glory of Jesus would no longer be squeezed in human flesh; the sacrificial system no longer necessary; the sins of the people washed clean once and for all time; the pathway to righteousness before God in place. Perspective and God’s truth changes everything.
How often do we find ourselves in the mundane, unsettled, tedious wilderness surrounded by grumbling and feeling like a failure because we don't measure up to the world’s definition of success? Perhaps we too need a perspective change. There is so much more than what we see. There is so much God wants to give us and show us; a longer, eternal view. Success is obedience to God. Success is nearness to Him in the middle of the journey. Success is shepherding others to truth. Success is going where and when God tells us to. Success is constant communion with God until the glorious day we see Him face to face.
We sang this song at @coe22 Sunday and I have not been able to stop singing it.
So will I.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1
So will I.
I love Sundays. To slow down. Worship. Soak in God’s word. Be Still. Take a step back from the crazy to reflect, re-align, refocus, rejoice, remember, and re-commit.
Often things we saw as failures in the middle of the daily grind look different under a new lens. But we have to slow down and look from a fresh angle. Closed doors we were crushed over may have led us down a new path and through a better door. No’s that devastated us may be one of our greatest blessings and protection.
Take time to sit in it all...the good, hard, confusing, crushing. God’s timing and paths are perfect. As painful as it feels at the time, His vision far exceeds ours and we don’t always want what is best for us long term; we can’t see all the pieces yet like He can. The more we can take the time to see this truth play out, the bolder and less afraid we will be the next time.
If I’m honest, I spend far more time working and striving to do things for God than I do simply surrendering; simply laying down my ideas and plans and saying, “Here I am; use me.”
What might I have missed out on by stubbornly insisting on my way?
Lets face it, God doesn’t NEED our work. Things God could do with a word, He lets us roll up our sleeves and step into. Our wildest plans pale in comparison to what He has for us...if we would just be still; just surrender; just follow His lead.
The pressure is off. These are His plans. We don’t have to be perfect because Jesus is perfect for us. We simply have to say, “yes.”
I felt the Spirit say to me today, “You don’t need affirmation from others, you only need to take the steps I have given you.” Maybe someone here needs to hear that too tonight.
Sometimes the vision God has given you is so crazy others can’t see it yet. And sometimes it is a path of obedience for a completely different calling that won’t be visibly seen for some time. Just do it. Do the things He gives you. Don’t look for approval or worldly success measures.
Who else is just pushing on with where they think God has called them?
So many time I have pressed on with something God gave me to do that went nowhere. And then years later, it comes back as an input to something new not even on the radar back then.
There is something freeing about knowing success is not the measure or the prize. It is remaining obedient. It helps to keep pressing on. It allows us to not worry about the outcome. What a gift God has given us to do good work and let Him take it where He chooses. And to KNOW that the end result is in His hands, and is perfect.
A candle never loses any of its light while lighting up another candle.... instead, the world gets a little lighter.
Build each other up.
Collaboration > competition.
More than enough.
Abundance over scarcity.
Cheer each other on.
Love. One. Another.
Be the light.
We have everything we need to get up, get ready, and fulfill our purposes tomorrow. For some it may be big and terrifying. For some it may be making breakfast and finding cleats for our favorite little soccer player. For some it may be writing that first word. For some it may be closing one door and stepping into that narrow gate. For some it may be catching up on school or work. For some it may be finally making that phone call. For some it may be sitting with our ailing friend. A thousand little purposes make up our PURPOSE. We've got this! God's got this! Whatever your days look like, remember..."God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7
What makes life blurry for you?
Here are a few of my vision blurrers...
Too much social media.
Listening to gossip.
Too much news/political commentary.
Skipping quiet time.
Seeking glory for myself.
Saying yes to things I shouldn’t.
I’m sure there are so many more. These things blur my vision, giving me a skewed view of my surroundings and situation, leaving me stressed, depressed, and feeling a bit hopeless.
That’s when I know it is time to refocus. Zoom into God’s Word...God’s Truth...God’s view...people being God’s hands and feet.
It’s why I love following, sharing, and cheering on all these amazing orgs that are changing the lives of communities and individuals. It is hard to feel depressed or hopeless when you see the incredible work being done by ordinary people leaning into an extraordinary God. I’m always encouraged and inspired. I hope you are too.
I’m often too quick to quit.
Things get hard. The excitement wanes. The devil’s whispers get louder. Other people mock. Roadblocks are hit. Mistakes are made.
And I take the easy road...I quit. I miss out on what could have been.
But I know the hard things are often the good things. The devil speaks loudest when we are on the cusp of something big.
If you’re on the edge of quitting something good God has give you to do, maybe this will be the encouragement you need to stick with it one more day. Then another.
I’ve always thought a girl heading to college should be able to bring her loyal, trusted dog with her. I picture a rectangular dorm layout with rooms around the outside and a huge courtyard/dog park in the middle.
Our dogs always think we are amazing just the way we are. We are pure perfection in their eyes. When I walk in the door – no matter how long or short I have been gone – my dog greets me with endless joy. He jumps up and down and wags his tail and begs to be noticed. I’ve gotten in a habit of saying to him, “Chester, I see you and I love you.”
And I think this is what God is always saying to us. “[insert name], I SEE you and I LOVE you.” On our best days and our worst days, God sees us. He knows what we are going through. He knows what we have done and what has been done to us. And He loves us so much. Every. Single. Time.
(excerpt from TURN NORTH: A Jesus Girl's Guide to College... my new book for girls starting college...coming soon!)