I have a penchant for wild colors, bold tastes, & an unquenched curiosity for cultures. I have called 6 countries on 4 continents home & am driven towards adventure, speaking in accents, & following the voice of God into the unknowns of life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about puzzles. Not because I love them. In fact, they frustrate me.
I’m thinking about them because I feel like I’m IN THE MIDDLE of a puzzle. A puzzle with 2000 or more tiny little pieces with bright colors, but jagged edges.
There are bulk sections where the pieces fit snuggly together, and even a confident frame of edge pieces, but there are definitely sections – gaps – that are begging to be completed. At least that’s how it feels.
There are puzzle pieces strewn about all across the table, and some rebellious pieces on the floor.
And I feel like this puzzle is my life. And perhaps it’s yours, too.
When you have a glimpse of the bigger picture, it’s just a matter of time and diligence to methodically place the pieces together. It takes time. Patience. Effort. Trial and error. Missing pieces. Pieces that get stuck under the chair leg. Losing the box top at times because a toddler runs through the room and decides to use it as a drum.
In life, I think one of the most challenging places to be is “in the middle.”
In the middle of waiting for a dream to be fulfilled.
In the middle of waiting on loose ends to tie together so you have clarity.
In the middle of a storm waiting for it to pass.
In the middle of the desert knowing that if you just keep walking, you’ll reach that oasis.
In the middle of waiting for that doctor’s report.
In the middle of trying with everything you’ve got to see if you can salvage that relationship.
In the middle of giving all you have to build your dream and hoping that one day it pans out financially.
In the middle of begging for God to heal your body or your marriage.
Whatever that “in the middle” place is for you, remember this: God is right there with You. In fact, more than that, He created the image on the box. He created that image – His – within you.
So today, if you feel the frustration – the overwhelm – the disappointment – the anxiety – of being “in the middle,” speak this over your heart: He is with me. He will never leave me or forsake me. And because of that I can trust His planeven when I don’t see how it will all come together.
“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6 (MSG)
The middle won’t last forever. It won’t. It can’t. Because God is always at work… even when You can’t see or believe that He is. He’s working.
And you see, not only did He create the image on the box – the same one He’s put within you – but He also puts the pieces together. One by one. He knows exactly where they fit. He’s the Master Puzzle Maker. He never leaves the gaps. He never loses a piece. He’s never confused. He’s never frustrated. He’s working on His timeframe to complete the puzzle with you, for you.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28 (NIV)
One day, you’ll look with joy and surprise and realize that through all the frustrations and waiting and gaps, the pieces have finally come together. And the gift is two-fold: you now see a beautiful puzzle and you’ve learned so much by watching the Master Puzzle Maker work His craft and glory within you.
Thoughts on John MacArthur’s Words About Beth Moore
There are a lot of things in modern culture that make my blood boil or rend my heart into pieces. As a practice, I take these things inward – pray & process – but then usually keep my mouth shut unless prompted to speak up & out. I choose my battles, as it were.
As a woman that feels called not just to speak, but to actually preach (*gasp!), I’m choosing this battle.
After seeing articles flash across my social media feeds regarding John MacArthur’s stinging words about Beth Moore over the last couple of days, I decided to actually listen to the audio myself.
Let me give a little context to that first. I braced myself for a personal sting. I knew I’d be walking in to something that feels very personal, something that would potentially trigger hurt & pain & oppressive “upper hands” memories from my past in regards to using my voice for His purposes.
What I discovered, unfortunately, was exactly that. Several things struck me about this whole situation:
The audio I listened to had a picture attached. It was a shot of all white, grey-haired men watching a stage of all white, grey-haired men talking on a stage. It felt like being a fly on the wall to a special men’s (only) club where the laughter is coarse & the jokes are demeaning. The tone in the room punched me in the gut. Not the good kind of punch when truth strikes you, but the kind where you feel devalued just because you’re you.
Before John MacArthur answers the question fielded by Todd Friel, he says “I feel like I’m being set up.” Maybe he was. But here’s the thing – he bantered back & forth & then took a long pause before he uttered two graceless words that triggered a charged reaction from the crowd when he spoke his pithy response to the name Beth Moore: “Go Home.” His words were chosen. Selective. And felt all too similar to the antiquated demand to women: “Go back to the kitchen.”
This all happened at a conference called “Truth Matters” by Grace to You at Grace Community Church. Do you notice the repetition of the word “grace” here & the fact that in the snippet of this panel discussion, that “grace” was obsolete? I did.
As the conversation continues, Phil Johnson calls Beth Moore narcissistic. He says, “This is what it looks like to preach yourself rather than Christ.” He then goes on to say that “She has said, ‘I read the Bible & put myself in the narrative.'” I don’t know about you, but when I meet with God on the pages of His Holy Word, I often find myself in the narrative as well. That doesn’t take away from the original meaning, it enhances it & gives me a practical way to live out my life of sanctification with & before Him.
I could go on with more thoughts on this, but my intent is not to bash these men. It’s really not. I recognize that they actually believe what they are saying & that’s why they are so passionate.
My intent here is to speak on behalf of women called by God – to partner with Him in building His kingdom – who’ve lived under this level of ridiculous oppression in the Christian world over & over again.
This isn’t about women wanting to be at the same table as the men. It’s not about gender equality or even egalitarianism. It’s not about submission. It’s not about feminism in the burning bras kind of way or the “I am woman, hear me roar” kind of way. It’s about freedom to be who God called us to be as women on a mission with Him… for His purposes of building His kingdom (not ours) on earth as it is in heaven. And sometimes that means using our voices to speak His truth… to women AND men. (Again, *gasp.)
A friend of mine actually posted this on Facebook yesterday – “Church: The only place I feel like a feminist.” It’s funny &… sad.
For me, being a woman called to use my voice starts here with Him:
“But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” ~ Jeremiah 20:9
I’m choosing to speak out as a woman, called by my Father & Maker, because I know where my identity lies. In Him. And I can’t hold it in. It’s like a fire shut up in my bones. And I know that He called me & He values me as a woman called to preach & to speak & to shout His name from the rooftops & to whisper it in the quiet. Wherever that is, whatever it looks like. He invited me to partner with Him & He values me (& you!)… radically.
But guess what? I’m tired. We’re tired. We’re exhausted from this battle. Our hands are weary, our bodies bruised. We’re over fighting to be heard. We’re done with being stomped on & overlooked because of our gender. And not because we “need” the eyes of man on our lives & our calling to empower us, because we actually KNOW that we’re empowered & championed by Jesus (who also happened to be a man), “The Great Equalizer” (as Cara Meredith calls him here in her article on this John MacArthur hoo-ha).
But here’s where it lands for me. As I’ve listened to the words of these men & their chaffing tone in the way they’ve presented their thoughts, I’ve ruminated relentlessly on those two pointed words: Go Home.
And here’s what I say: I will go Home. Gladly. Because for me, the true definition of “Home” is the Presence of God.
Where He is, that is Home. I long for that place. Every day. I can’t live or be or breathe without being at Home with Him.
That longing leads me to sit at His feet, pouring out the oil of my heart to my Best Friend. It leads me to adorn Him with worship & songs, deep breaths & silence. It leads me to meet Him in that secret place, to soak-in every Word He infuses into my heart… To let Him sing His poetry over me. Day by day. Moment by moment. Word by Word. Breath by breath.
So this is not about theological conviction or opinion. It’s not about learnedness or a mastery of Greek & Hebrew. It’s not about holding a fancy degree or certificate of completion in specialized Biblical training (though I have a few of those). It’s about presence, engagement with Him as He is with us. It’s about leaning in to the fact that Jesus values women (always did), just as He values all people – black, white, slave, free, male, female, etc. He values you. He values me. And we find our true Home in Him.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3:28 (NIV)
So, to John MacArthur, I simply say: I will go Home. But my question is, will you?
Because then & only then, can we have a constructive conversation about a woman’s true place & a man’s true place: at Home.
The “fear of missing out” is real. For an Enneagram Type 7 like myself, it taunts and teases me, pushing me into a corner, where I feel like a toddler puffy-cheek pouting in timeout.
You see, I want to taste and touch and experience every aspect of life. Because of that, choices overwhelm me.
What should I wear today? (Ultimately it’s based on comfort and color and practicality.)
What do I want to eat? (It’s better not to ask. I usually don’t know, although I’ll never say no to chips and salsa.)
How should I prioritize my day? (There are 8000 things I want to do in one day, so I eventually – somewhat painfully – just pick one.)
These choices are small. But what about the bigger decisions of life?
This past week, on the heels of July, which was split with a ministry adventure to West Virginia (Camp ROYAL) and family vacation in Colorado, I landed in August with 7 (yes, S-E-V-E-N) big decisions on my plate.
Ugh. The exhaustion of constantly having to prioritize what’s most important or what’s best to put aside for a season. Does this resonate with you? (Shall we pause and enjoy a cup of tea instead?!)
True confession: I’m terrible at editing… not just in writing, but, more importantly… in life.
So last week (and part of this week), I’ve been discerning decisions about two part-time job offers or running full speed ahead with vision I have through freelance ministry endeavors as well as whether or not to attend two work conferences, one spiritual retreat, and a 40th birthday trip for a friend.
Here’s the problem: it ALL seems thrilling. And guess what? I DON’T WANT TO MISS OUT.
On Sunday in the aftermath of some of that decision-making, the sermon at my church was about fear because, as my pastor said, “It’s a form of focus.” I sat through the sermon and jotted lots of notes, per norm, feeling slightly high and mighty and grateful that fear isn’t something I really struggle with. And then, after the sermon, during worship and a time of reflection, I got the gentle Jesus slap to the face.
IT HIT ME. THE FEAR OF “MISSING OUT” IS A REAL FEAR. And it carries too much weight in my life. So it IS a struggle. Sheesh.
As I sat there wide-eyed in self-analysis mode, running my brainwaves through the trails of all the events and conversations and questions of last week, I realized that the fear of missing out was hindering my ability to make wise decisions. Somehow it had floated itself to the top of the surface as a PRIORITY in my decision-making processes.
NO NO NO. NO MORE!
Here’s why: Because in that moment, standing in total shock of this revelation and in a response of dazed surrender, I realized that WHEN I’M WITH GOD, I CANNOT BE MISSING OUT.
See, if my goal is to be in His will, to be WITH HIM, aware of His Presence… that requires that I go where He is… where He is leading, guiding, directing, releasing.
And even more than that. HE IS IN ME.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. ~ Psalm 139:7-12
So I literally cannot be missing out… because if I am with Him, and He is with me, I am missing nothing. The opportunity to my right or left is NOT better if He is not leading me there. It’s not more fun. It doesn’t have nicer people or ideas that will bring clarity or revelation. It’s not better than where I am right now.
It CANNOT be if He is NOT with me there. And because He is with me, because He resides in me, where I am is where I need to be.
There is no missing out for you or me… except on one thing: the fear of missing out. I’m happy to bid that one adieu.
Last Monday, April 15th, I went for a drive to clear my head before recording my podcast. When I got into my car, my phone started blowing up. People were texting me from all over the place saying, “Bethany, have you seen what’s happening in Paris?”
I stopped and scrolled the news and found that Notre Dame was on fire, and I literally just started crying. I know it’s just a building, but the reality is that it’s so much more than that.
I had people texting me because they were saying, “Bethany, when I think of Paris, I think of you.” And the reason is because I used to live in Paris, and when I lived in neighboring Switzerland, I traveled to my beloved city of Paris as frequently as possible. It was only a three and a half hour train ride from Geneva where I lived for about five years, and I would get on a train as much as possible just to spend the weekend there. So, anytime there’s any world news about Paris, my heart is stirred because I’m drawn to that city more than any other city in the world.
On that Monday, I just was really struck. I was moved by the fact that the world paused and everything was put on hold.
When beauty burns, something within us changes. I don’t know about you, but when I see an animal that’s dead, it really affects me. I remember when I lived in Australia, I used to walk down this path to school and church on a regular basis and it was just a sidewalk in a neighborhood. Nothing special about it. But I remember one spring, there were these beautiful butterflies that I had never seen in my life. It’s not the kind of species that we have in Texas anyway, and they had these really clear wings with like beautiful specs of rainbow colors and big polka dots. They were shimmery and shiny. They almost looked like an art project with glue and glitter and sparkly bits. And I remember walking down the sidewalk and I saw this butterfly lying on the ground. It was so beautiful, but there was no more life in it. I stepped onto the grass to get out of the way of passers by. And I just wept.
I don’t know what it was about beauty that made me pause. I don’t know why. When I go to the mountains or when I stare at the ocean, sometimes I’m just captivated. My breath seems to disappear. It catches in my throat and in my chest and I just cry. Beauty is one of the things that we are created to live with and not created to live without.
God Himself, His is beauty. And He is the Master Creator. One of my favorite things is creating and one of the times in which I feel most like God. That may sound kind of weird, I don’t mean that in a prideful way. I just mean one of the most connected times I have with God is when I’m creating. He is the creator and when I’m creating I feel like I’m following in His footsteps and I’m mimicking His pattern. And to me this all ties back into beauty.
That day as I was driving around the countryside, just thinking about my love for Paris and thinking about all my personal memories at Notre Dame, I thought about the people. I thought about the beauty of the stories of centuries and centuries of people. I thought about the beauty of the craftsmanship of those who built that wonderful ancient place. I thought about what offering people brought, what expression of their own heart and spirit that went into the work of that Cathedral. And not only that, I started thinking about every moment of sacrifice and praise and heartbreak, every moment of joy and triumph and celebration that’s happened within those walls. Every proposal, every first kiss, every breakup, everything that’s happened on the outside of those walls. Every moment of strangers meeting for the first time, every moment of reunions and meetings after a separation of years.
I thought about all of those things and how rich those stories are and that the reality is this burning of Notre Dame is not about a building. It’s about the hearts of humanity. It’s about people. It’s just a symbol. It’s a symbol of the beauty in our world and when beauty burns, something in us feels lost. Something in us feels like we’re dying; there’s loss and there’s mourning, and though, that’s a hard place to be in and we don’t always want to face that, it’s exactly what we have to do.
I got home from my country drive just and I went over to my shelf of really detailed and organized journals in my room. I have about 30 journals on my shelf and they are all dated from 1995 all the way to current. I picked up my journal from 2003 when I was an au pair living in Switzerland. And I started just randomly flipping through the pages of this journal and no less than five times did I see the words, Notre Dame, scribbled on the pages.
As I mentioned, I have so many memories there and one of my favorite ones is when I met one of my American college friends in Paris. We made our rendez-vous point Notre Dame – it’s in the middle of the city. It’s easy to get to. You can see it from far away. And I remember I hadn’t seen her in a long time and we met there and we hugged wildly and then we went on an adventure for the day. We went to Centre Pompidou. We went to the Louvre. We went and had crepes with Nutella and banana under the Eiffel Tower, and in a turn of events, we stumbled upon Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France. We didn’t even know it was happening and it was on both of our bucket list. How crazy is that?
One thing I reflected on that Monday of Holy Week was that more than Notre Dame – a symbol of history and the stories of a nation on fire – there was Jesus. It made me think of Jesus because He is the most beautiful and divine human this earth has ever known – beautiful because He is a physical, tangible representation of the Father and the Father’s heart.
I thought about being there on that Palm Sunday and ushering in the King of Kings. I put myself in the shoes of a person who thought that king was going to come and save everyone from this evil empire. I thought about the disappointment that they must have faced when they realized He came to be beaten and to be put on a cross because He was coming for a different kingdom. He was coming for a different purpose.
And the people couldn’t see that. They didn’t have eyes to see that, but those who did have eyes to see saw him on that cross beaten and bruised with His flesh torn apart. His body ripped to shreds. Jesus struggling on that cross to lift himself and breathe. They saw him bleeding and sweating and in agony, and I wonder if they looked at Him and thought, this beauty before us is dying.He’s going down. He’s being defeated.
Beauty feels personal. It’s like we own it. We hold onto it, we possess it, and when there’s an attack against it, we feel like we have to protect it. I see someone throw trash into the ocean and it really bothers me. Or someone leaving garbage on a beautiful mountain trail. Why? Because it’s pure beauty that they’re messing with and it feels untouchable. And I think that’s how the people must’ve felt about Jesus. He’s the beautiful representation of God. He is other worldly. He is the King of Kings and you’re messing with beauty.
Even so, He gave Himself up to die on a cross.
But we all know that’s not where the story ends. The resurrection is coming. It HAS come!
The purpose of the pain is around the corner. The beauty will rise again in a more beautiful way than we can conceive or believe. But this – this is the plan of God.
Here’s what I know to be true. In those moments when I feel like beauty is burning in my own life, there is always purpose in the pain. There is always redemption on the other side. We do ourselves an injustice if we just move past the pain into the resurrection, per se. If we move past the pain into the light and the beauty again, so quickly… we miss something. We miss the importance of sitting in that place and knowing who God is with us in that place.H
My hope for you today, as we pause to reflect on the journey of Jesus from Calgary and the cross where He died to the moments of the empty tomb, is that you would stop and reflect on who He is to you, what He’s done for you.
He is the one and only true beauty.
I pray your hearts would be stirred by Him this week. But I also pray that you would sit in that place and linger longer in that place of pain… BECAUSE PURPOSE IS COMING.
Let me pray for you.
Jesus, my heart is broken for the city of Paris, for the people who are hurting because they are watching a symbol of their history, of their freedom, of their triumph, of their deep years of faith come burning to the ground in ashes. And yet I’m thankful for the perspective to know that You are with us in the fire and You are with us in the flames. John Wesley said, “Catch on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”
I think about that with Notre Dame. The whole world has its gaze locked on the city. And I pray that You, God, would make Your presence known in peoples’ hearts – that You would be so real and so present in they’re suffering and in their confusion and in our suffering and in our confusion, in our places of pain where we feel like beauty is burning right before our eyes.
God, I’m thankful that that is not where the story ends, that the sun is rising metaphorically and literally the Son, Jesus Christ, has risen. Tomorrow’s a new day, but may we not miss You in this moment in this pain. May we see You with us and know Your goodness and know Your touch and know You’re nearness. We love you so much. We give You all the glory in Your mighty name, Jesus.
Do you ever get to the end of a journey (which is really just the beginning) and wonder how you got there? I’m in that place right now and the only-sometimes-obvious answer is, “by taking one step at a time.”
Really that’s the only way we can do it. And I’m thankful, because otherwise, life would be too overwhelming!
But speaking of journeys and beginnings… I want to announce to you that I launched my podcast today! It’s called The Hope Adventure and is a place where we’ll explore the truth that The Greatest Adventure is His Presence.
I travel a lot. When I do, my parents always bid me adieu at the airport or in the driveway with the same encouragement, “Go find another story.”
This podcast is a culmination of those stories and the deep spiritual meaning that can be found in a simple story.
I believe that God is always speaking to us if we would just tune our hearts and ears to listen. My prayer is that this podcast helps us do that together.
And if nothing else, if you just want someone to pray over you weekly. Listen in. There will always be a moment for that.
[To listen, click on the link above or visit iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, or Stitcher, and search The Hope Adventure.]
Please subscribe and leave a review so that more people can join us as well!
In January of 2018, I was traveling back from serving with refugees in Athens, Greece when the plane I was on flew directly over Brandon, Canada. I was currently discerning a job offer and my would-be boss was named Brandon so it caught my attention like a shimmery light on the horizon.
Let me pause here and insert a small caveat: I love words. I love their double, triple layers and believe that meaning can be found anywhere that we take time and space to dig deep. I believe this not because of some weird, airy-fairy thing, but because one of the deepest convictions of my heart is that God is ALWAYS speaking. We just have to train ourselves to shut out the noise – the non-stop thoughts about our to-do list, how to wisely navigate that relationship, what to eat, what to wear to that event, when to make that decision, etc. – and STILL our hearts long enough to wonder.
So when that shimmery light of a word, “Brandon,” caught my attention, curiosity struck. So I researched that blip on the map and stumbled across some important words. The city’s motto is from the Latin: VIRES AQUIRIT EUNDO –> It gains strength by going as it goes.
Fast-forward to January of this year  and as I was reflecting on what God might have for me this year, He kept whispering the same phrase into my spirit: It gains strength by going as it goes.
2018 was a whirlwind, in regards to my work. I took that job as an event coordinator for an action sports ministry [ROYAL] and spent my entire summer in West Virginia working with young athletes, published my first book [Kiss My Fish: Tales of Chasing God Around the World] as well as my first e-devotional [Give My Heart], and completed a 6-piece commissioned art project for a friend. Those twelve months flew by!
I was geared up and ready to hit the ground running in 2019. I had days marked on the calendar for goal-planning and dream sessions. I had a list of to-dos longer than my forearm and I was motivated to take it all on with the focus of a horse with blinders on.
And then, it happened. I woke up on December 26th with a full-blown cold/sinus/headache/allergy thing that knocked the wind, energy, and all my motivation sideways. For two weeks straight, I fought that monster. I tried to hit my to-do list. I tried to sit down and plan my goals. But I could never get past the throbbing headache or debilitating fatigue.
I could feel myself rapidly spiraling downwards into a dark hole. I had been in places like that before and I wanted to do everything in my power to thwart being thrown completely off-track at the start of a new year.
Eventually, my body healed, but the feeling that I was already way behind lingered on repeat in my mind. In the middle of that fast-paced descent downwards, God came alongside me with gentleness. He said over and over again to me, “It gains strength by going as it goes.” I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but it gave me enough oomph to do the next right thing.
And so, I did. The next right thing was taking it a day at a time, breathing in-between, and continually asking Him, “What’s on Your heart today, Father?”
And now, here it is – the end of February, which I deemed as my “official” [re]start of 2019. And I’m excited to announce that exactly one week from today [on March 5th!] I will be launching my podcast – The Hope Adventure, a place for us to explore the beautiful truth that “The Greatest Adventure is His Presence.”
One thing I know for certain is that in those moments when I felt zero motivation and was stuck in analysis-paralysis due to clouded thinking, confusion about which option to pursue, and an overall pause to my momentum, I kept the mantra in front of me and personalized it.
I gain strength by going as I go.
I gain strength by going as I go.
I gain strength by going as I go.
And I figured for that to be true, I just needed to keep going. And maybe you do, too…
Back in November, I had two unforgettable bird encounters.
After a morning of leading worship at church, I headed back to the campus to connect with a friend. When I arrived at the church, the door was locked. I stood outside debating how I was going to get in, and a flicker of yellow caught my attention on the cold concrete below my feet. It was an odd sight to behold. There, one foot from me, sat a precious little Chickadee bird. I stared at it, pondering how I could help this helpless creature.
I knew I couldn’t pick it up off the ground with my bare hands, but I had to do something for this bird. It was suffering, and my heart was breaking.
In a moment of “oh yeah,” I dug into my Whataburger sack and pulled out a pile of napkins. I gently wrapped them around my bird friend, who was now opening and closing its beak as a sign of distress. I carefully carried the bird up the steps and placed him on a pile of leaves at the base of a tree. I felt this was a safe spot for the bird to recover since there were several other birds flying in the trees nearby, which outlined the parking lot.
As silly as it may sound, with tears streaming down my face, I leaned down and asked Jesus to help this struggling bird.
When I was driving later that afternoon, Matthew 6:25-24 came to mind:
“Do not be anxious about your life… look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”
In that moment, I realized I am the bird. God’s love is all-encompassing and His heart breaks when I am suffering. In that pain and suffering, He loves me and provides for me.
My drive took me to the house where I was petsitting two dogs and one tropical bird. As is habit when I’m there, I fed Kiwi and then let her out of her cage to fly around the kitchen while I fed the dogs.
At one point, I left the kitchen to walk down the hall and she flew from her perch and landed on my shoulder. She rode there as I went about doing other things through the house. I realized she was being very quiet and still, which isn’t always her “norm,” so I looked into the mirror to see what she was doing on my shoulder.
The scene caught me by surprise. She had nestled her miniature green body into my hair, just behind my ear, and was sleeping peacefully. She can be a very finicky bird, but she clearly felt safe enough with me in that moment to relax in my presence. I had fed her, and now she rested with me.
Then it hit me again:I am the bird. God feeds me and cares for me, and because of that, I can nestle into Him and rest in His Presence.
I am the bird, friend. And so are you.
God’s heart breaks in your suffering, but He loves you and will provide.
God feeds you and cares for you, and because of that, you can nestle into Him and rest in His Presence.
I sat with a new friend over coffee and listened to her heart as she poured out her story before me. She delved into the depths of everything that had gone wrong in her life, but finished with the strong crescendo of everything that God had made right.
I stared into her eyes from across the other end of the fingerprint-smeared glass table, and could hardly keep my tears locked in the cages of my eyes.
After bringing me along on the journey of the ups and downs, trials and tribulations of her story, she said something really simple that caught my attention. She told me of a moment when she felt compelled to hug the person that had brought so much pain into her life. She walked up to this person, who was uninterested in emotion at that moment in that place, and wrapped her arms of unconditional love around him. In that moment, in that embrace, he broke.
The walls came down. The truth lay bare before them both.
I had a similar encounter with a homeless man in Brazil once. I was leading a mission team, and we were asked to go and pray for the people there. I had already had the most stirring God-encounter with two homeless meth addicts, and seen God work His power through prayer. I thought God was finished with me that day as I strolled towards the other end of the park with tear-stained cheeks to meet up with the rest of our group.
As I turned the corner, though, my eyes caught hold of a stoic, dark figure leaning against the wall. I was drawn to him immediately and made my way to him, asking if I could pray for him. His response was apathetic at best, but he gave a slight nod, so I ran with it.
After learning his name was Jaime, I stretched out my hands and laid them on the top of his shoulders and began to call on the God of the Universe to intervene in this man’s life and situation. As I was praying over him, God downloaded image after image that gave glimpses of what He was doing in this young man’s life. I began to speak those out over him in faith. Jaime tilted his head upwards and peered into my eyes, his weak with shame. Then I asked something strange: Can I hug you?
His expression gave me permission so I embraced this cold man, and in that very moment, the walls came crashing down. He wept buckets of tears down my back as he laid his head on my shoulder like a worn-out toddler. His body shook with the aftershocks of pain and bitterness; he wept and wept and wept, until there were no more tears to fall.
In that moment, I saw the unrelenting pursuit of God the Father – our God who never leaves us, nor forsakes us. (Hebrews 13:5) Our God who runs, though never breathless, after us until we stop long enough to notice His Presence. I saw our God who uses the power of love and compassion to meet people exactly as they are.
There’s a story in Matthew 8 that tells about Jesus’ interaction with a leper. Lepers were enshrouded in shame because of their uncleanliness. They couldn’t enter the city gates; they couldn’t touch others. They couldn’t engage in the normal activities of life, family, and culture of the day. They lived in pain, isolation, and with an aching desperation.
The story goes…
When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.2 And behold, a lepercame to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”3
And Jesusstretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.”And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
I’m struck by this thought: “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.”
Jesus, the most holy, pure man to ever walk the face of the earth stretched out his hand and touched a LEPER. He chose to touch his uncleanliness. He chose to touch that which could infect him. He chose to touch the man’s pain.
And when Jesus touched the leper, “immediately, the leprosy was cleansed.” He was healed. The touch of Jesus healed him. It broke down the walls of isolation and being overlooked and cast to the outskirts of society. It broke down the inability to connect with others. It broke down the brick walls of emotional torture and confusion of years living with the label of “unclean.”
Jesus still does this today. He uses us, His hands and feet to break down walls through unconditional love. He does that in so many ways, but sometimes it’s through the power of simple touch.
He did it with my friend. He did it with Jaime. He’s done it with me.
He can do it now… in that person you are frustrated with, in that person who cut you off in traffic, in that person that has hurt you more than anyone will ever know, in that person who never smiles, in that person who always points out the worst, in that person who presses your buttons, in that person that speaks to you with ice in their voice.
Jesus can and will heal.
Maybe you have someone on your mind (I know I do!) who just needs the power of God’s touch, the power of a simple hug to usher in a warm tidal wave of God’s love that will wash away the grit and the grime, and the ice-encrusted layers of their heart, to break through to the truth that is lying dormant in their soul.
Because the truth is that God loves us. The power of that love breaks down walls to heal us and make us whole again.
Will you stretch out your hand or stretch out your arms in a loving embrace, and touch someone with the love of God?
Maybe, just maybe, a hug will change the trajectory of someone’s life and eternity today.
I’m not really sure the exact moment it happened. I just know, somewhere along the path of the past 2 years, it did. I woke up to reality. Sleepy-eyed, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “how did I get here?” This is NOT what we discussed, God.
I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve read articles & watched movies about this very thing… this “coming of age” moment when you realize that your life has already happened. And yes, it continues to happen. Every day. But when you have this wide-eyed realization that if you just keep letting life happen TO you, it might slip past your fingers and trap you in the grips of apathy & lethargy. I want to be more intentional than that.
I’ve spent the last decade of my life riding on the coat-tails of the Holy Spirit as He has paraded me across nations to experience life and culture and a broken world in need. And I relished every single moment of that. I thrived on the excitement of being a part of His bigger story for His bigger purposes. I had wild eyes and wild hair from all my travels.
And now, well now… life looks a little bit different. The years are catching up with me.
It’s been a really emotionally tough 2 years on many levels. This time in December of 2012, I was closing my suitcases on yet another adventure; my English jaunt had changed me & impacted me so deeply. I sowed tears of goodbye as I was prepping to leave such a relationally & spiritually rich season of life.
I came home to Texas ready for a new adventure, which headed south very quickly and turned very sour only after 3 1/2 months.
The rug was pulled out from under me. My dreams were caught-up in a tornado and taken away from me in an instant. Everything I knew for my future came to an ugly, painful halt.
If I’m completely honest, I’m still recovering from those pin-prick moments of pain. Every once in awhile I still feel the torment of that time & wonder if I’ll ever be the same after having gone through that hell.
This is NOT what we discussed, God.
And here’s the thing: God is still redeeming that season of my life… He’s slowly working to restore what I feel I lost during that time. He’s good like that. He takes the lost and brings restoration 10-fold.
And I would be a total ingrate if I didn’t recognize all the incredible blessings of the things I DO and have had in my life. These 2 years have been spent at home amongst friends, family, and loved ones. It’s been a time where I’ve experienced true love and learned so much about God’s grace and purposes. It’s been a time where I’ve learned that my every breath depends on Him, which has whittled away at my independent spirit. But that’s exactly what God wants to do. He wants to teach us dependency on Him. We think we got this; we think we can go it alone. He knows we can’t. He knows we need Him.
I desperately do.
Because at the moment, I remain in this cycle where the world seems like it’s crashing down on me… so many areas of my life feel violently opposed to one another. So much in my heart and head. So much confusion. So much love. So much lost. So many areas of my life seem like they are spinning out of control!!!!!
This is NOT what we discussed… This is NOT what we discussed… This is NOT what we discussed, God!!!!!!!!!!!
And there it is… right there….
This is not what WE discussed, God.
EXACTLY. It’s not about what we discussed at all. Because wedidn’t discuss anything. I told Him everything.
In my 20s, I was very clear with God about what I wanted my life to look like. I want this excitement, I want that adventure. I want it at this time, in this way. I want this Promise fulfilled by such & such date; I want this dream to come to fruition by the time I’m 34. What a blatant effort to control things. I don’t know how NOT to try & control things.
Here’s my confession, today: I’m done. I’m weak. I’ve got no strength left to fight for what I think I want, for how I think my life should look, for when I think things should pan-out for me. I’m finished. I’m throwing in the towel.
I’m open to whatever He has for me, for however He wants my life to unfold. Whatever geography. Whatever purposes. Whatever He unveils.
I’m going to stop looking for greener grass on the other side of the fence. I’m going to stop looking for the next best thing and believe what’s in front of me IS the next best thing, because it’s God’s thing for me so it must be the best. I’m going to stop focusing on what I don’t have and choose gratefulness for what I do. And I’m going to let the raw emotions of today catalyze me into a fresh year of new strength, new vigor, new stamina, and new receptivity to His plans for my life.
Lord, help me loosen my grip on the reigns of my life. You are in control. Lead on.
This is NOT what we discussed. Thank You, God, because now I’m ready to hear what You have to say…
One of the circular patterns of learning in my life always happens around this little (yet violently powerful) thing called ‘control.’ I wouldn’t exactly label myself as a ‘control freak,’ but like many, I definitely have my major control ‘tendencies.’
The category of my ‘life/future’ is the biggest see-saw area, in regards to this topic of ‘control.’ Recently I was told that I’m like Mary Poppins, blowing in & out of people’s lives with the unpredictable change of the East Wind. So on one hand, I see myself as very easy breezy. But on the total opposite hand, I am magnetized towards that which I (think I) can control.
And here’s the striking thing; I repeatedly keep having to learn the SAME lesson: I AM NOT IN CONTROL.
So who is?
And though this may be a subtle revelation, it is by no means a small one. It actually affects every single beautiful & wretched fiber of my being.
Say it with me, “I AM NOT IN CONTROL.”
Something about this revelation thrills me. (Though, yes, that may sound opposite to what I should say.) I find it extremely freeing, releasing, & empowering.
Case in point, very recently I’ve been in a situation where all aspects of my life have stared me in the face like insurmountable tasks chuckling at my incompetencies & failures. My dreams have been dangled before my dazed gaze, taunting me with screams of “you’ll never accomplish me; you’ll always fail!” Questions of ‘what if’ have filled my ears resulting in unbearable noise.
All this to say, lately I’ve been trying to control my life yet again. I’ve put myself under loads of pressure to make decisions for my future, not because circumstances dictate them, but because my piddly little self needs to figure out a way to control something right now. And when everything around me seems like it’s spinning, I tighten my grasp and yank things into order.
Well, at least I try.
And after all the exhaustion this has caused in the last several months, I awoke today to a reminder that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.
You see, after a string of heavy conversations with those nearest & dearest to me recently, I decided to ‘throw in the towel’ of trying to control. I took a self-proclaimed hiatus from decision-making. I declared that I wanted to learn to live in the now & not worry about my tomorrows (dreams), learning to enjoy & be content with what I have.
It’s like a flip switched in me. All the blur in my head cleared away.
And this morning, I received a phone call from someone who represented the very dream that I had been trying to control.
So what’s my point? LET GO.
I finally came to the realization that I needed to ‘let go’… I needed to just live & be & love & enjoy life in the exact place that I am. My motive was simply to stop fighting to control, because I absolutely had no physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual strength left. I was compelled to stop grasping my dream so tightly because in reality, I was choking it. And I was choking the very breath out of my own life.
So I did. I let go.
And just 2 short days later, the dream presented itself again in an unexpected, unpredictable way.
I’m not saying that all my challenges at the moment are solved; I’m not even saying that my dream has now come true. I’m simply saying that when I ‘fessed up to the fact that I AM NOT IN CONTROL & when I finally let my stingy fingers loose of my dream, it came back.