What are you most afraid of?

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“What are you most afraid of?” The question kind of took me back a little. I was sitting across the table from my friend, Liza, who had listened to me pour out my heart. My emotions were raw. Tears welled up in my eyes and my heart felt like it was bursting. There was a lot going on and I was overwhelmed by life. She listened intently and then she gently asked the question that rocked me…

What are you most afraid of?

I guess I should clarify…the biggest ministry season was straight ahead, I was having best friend issues, relationship struggles, and I had just lost a close friend to cancer. I was weary. Broken. Life was shaking my faith. It seemed like on every side there was some major change or shift. What was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to spend my energy? Why was everything coming so hard and all of life falling apart? I had a million questions for God.

In the middle of all of the chaos, God had asked me to open my heart up. To say yes to a relationship that was way outside anything I wanted at the moment. I felt so raw and broken and helpless at the time and starting a relationship with someone seemed…strange. Wrong, actually. I could barely survive each day without an emotional volcano and I was pretty sure that meant I was a bad representation of the real Faith Walker.

I was digging my heels in. Of course, God has the blueprint…but this time? This time I knew better. Or so I thought. I wanted to trust His plan, but I was so spent emotionally. I can’t do this! Don’t ask me to jump into something that will make me give of myself…not now. Not yet.

What are you most afraid of?

There I sat at Liza’s kitchen table, tears rolling down my cheeks and mascara ruined. It was becoming the ugly cry. The question echoed in my ears like a thundering voice. It rattled my insides. It awakened my spirit. This demanded an answer. A heart-search. It was a gauge of my trust level.

I needed that question. To verbalize what was going on inside of me. I had to stop and think. It hung in the air. And the silence was almost palpable. I sighed and bit my lip.

“I’m afraid of heartbreak.” My voice warbled. I felt the knot tightening in my throat. I was truly afraid that in the end, there would be another broken piece of me…and I felt too messy to invite something new into the mix. Why sign up for failure?

My friend, Liza, is an excellent listener. She is wise and gentle and caring. So she sat there and heard my heart. She saw my tears and cried a little with me. She validated my concerns…and then she quoted Charles Spurgeon: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” That sunk in for a moment.

“Faith, God isn’t gonna lead you anywhere that He isn’t going with you. He is good and He has good plans for you.” I cried some more. I knew she was right and I was scared.

I could feel the white-knuckled grip of my soul trying to hang on to anything that would prevent me from what was ahead. I wanted to just curl up and shut out the new…I just wanted everything to go back to what was “normal”. Whatever that was. I hurt deep. The pain affected everything…my eating, my sleep patterns, my attitudes, and my sanity. The world around me was swirling in craziness and I didn’t know how to get it all to stop. Depression hung over me like a cloud.

What are you most afraid of?

For days, the question gripped my heart. I heard it over and over. It haunted me in a totally holy and righteous, God-pursuing way. I needed to answer it again and again. I needed to face my fears. Acknowledge them so I could deal with them.

Somehow, that question became a balm of sorts. A way to face my realities and speak truth to my heart. If I knew what I was afraid of and could verbalize it…then I could counter-attack with the truth of His Word. The solid rock certainty is that even in my toughest times, most grueling moments and hardest circumstances, HE IS WITH ME. Liza is right: He won’t leave me to flounder in the pain alone. He won’t lead me astray.

Despite the unknowns and uncertainties of life, the Word is never changing. When everything else in the world is crumbling around you, count on it: Jesus is there. He will walk with you. He with hold you.

My theme verse this year is Joshua 1:9, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (HCSB)

Isn’t that where the real answer lies? Here I am…broken, scared and confused. He will never leave me…and that is where my strength and courage really are: IN HIM. He is here with me in the middle of my mess and He says, “I’ve got this”. Answering that question at times of uncertainty has helped me breathe. It puts handles on how to counterattack. It gives me strength to speak truth into my fears and boosts my faith.

So…What are YOU most afraid of?

Perhaps you need to answer that question yourself. What is holding you back from full potential with Jesus? Maybe it’s what someone else thinks of you. It’s plaguing you. The need for approval. The quest for more Facebook likes and sappy comments about the way you’re dressed. You’re afraid that someone won’t like you, they’ll unfriend you, or talk about you behind your back.

Perhaps you’re afraid of failure. You are just sure that you’ll never get that job promotion or that A+ grade in school. Inside you’re always comparing your life to your friends. You aren’t measuring up to their grade-point-average. You don’t have the skill set that they do. You are afraid you won’t be able to make it in life and you’ll just be one huge failure after another.

Or maybe your biggest fear is fear itself. It stares at you every day in the mirror. You are fearful of getting in a car accident or saying something stupid in front of your friends. You are afraid of a storm taking your house or your purse getting stolen. If you can be afraid about something…you’ve already been there done that.

What are you most afraid of?

I’m with you, friend. Life can present a hundred opportunities to choose between fear and faith. Honestly, I enjoy the feeling of control (although it’s a mirage at best) and hate when I lose my grasp. When my world feels it’s crumbling around me, my soul can feel like it’s coming unglued. All the “what if” questions run through my brain. Before I know it, I have myself alone on an island, without a boat, eating canned tuna and without any rescue in sight.

Living in fear stinks. In fact, it’s not even living. At best, it’s only surviving. We were made to THRIVE, and fear will hold us back. Every. Single. Time.

What are you most afraid of? This question has rerouted my heart many times over the last few months. When I feel the fear mounting up, I often stop and think of my friend’s question. It brings me back to earth and reminds me of the truth: HE IS WITH ME.

Now this is what the Lord says— the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 (HCSB)

Fear break-necks it out of the way when we cling to Jesus in faith. So name it, friend…what is your fear? Then speak the truth of Scripture over your soul and let His Word heal the brokenness. Walk in the Light. Rehearse His promises: He is with you. He loves you. He sings over you and delights in you. He does all things well. He will never leave or forsake you.

Now let those truths seep into your heart and take root. Let them turn your fear into rocket fuel…FAITH…that will move mountains. Name your fear and then find the antidote for it in His Word.

You were made to thrive in the wonder of His love and care. Breathe it in. Then go live like you believe it.

 

(Originally published on the Living Brave and Courageous blog, November 30th, 2017)

Contagious Courage

By | Be Brave Series, Missions, Personal, Testimonies | No Comments

“Get up, for the matter is your responsibility, and we support you. Be strong and take action!” Ezra 10:4 HCSB

Sitting in my room at fourteen years old and reading his story was the first I heard of him. The man I read about in those pages was a pastor in the Ukraine and had the faith of a giant. I read about the things he believed God for and it made me crave to have that kind of trust. I learned about the orphanage that God had miraculously built…when the funds didn’t exist on paper. His courage made me want to be brave too.

Here’s the thing. Courage is contagious. It spreads to the people who are with you or around you. It infects the people in the circle of your existence. Courage is a choice…of that we can be sure. But if you are Brave, it’s easier for me to be too. That’s the way it works.

It reminds me of yawning. Seriously. Have you ever watched someone yawn and then seen the chain reaction of the people closest to him or her? I’m even yawning right now just seeing the word on this page!

So it is with courage. If you see me living brave, or even read the story of a Christian who lives brave, it will be easier for you to step out in faith. There are hundreds of battle tales of rally cries and courageous chants that have spurred men and women to give everything they have in the face of death. Why? It’s easier to be brave if a friend is standing next to you. (Why else do you think that roller coasters are generally rode in pairs? Or flying for the first time is easier with a friend?)

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As a kid I loved dominoes. Not really for the game part, but because I loved to set them up in rows of twists and curves until I emptied the entire box of dominoes. Then, I’d nudge the first domino and watch the chain reaction. It was a thrilling five seconds.

Maybe we are a little like dominoes too.

Have you ever met someone who was so courageous that it spilled over onto everyone they bumped into? That’s the kind of woman I want to be. I want to start a chain reaction. Something that moves me to action for Jesus SO MUCH, that others can’t help but get excited and follow Jesus bravely too.

Now we all have different lives and gifts and talents…so our lives SHOULD look different. But the Bible says hundreds of times to have courage and not be afraid…and so I think God meant it to be noticed. As varied as our lives may be, we are all called to be Brave and courageous in our own ways. For you, it might be talking to people you don’t know at school or befriending the new girl at church. For me it will be a completely different set of knee-knocking assignments. But my assignments aren’t better or bigger..they’re just different because I’m a different person than you.

I’ve met girls who have looked me square in the eyes and told me they could never do what I do. Maybe they’re right… but it’s not because I’m a super Christian, it’s because I’m a different person. God has called me to a certain set of brave assignments. I have also been face to face with people who LOVE talking in front of large groups of people. That I don’t get. But they are beautiful daughters of the King called to a completely diverse set of courage-jobs. I’m also certain there are things you’re called to that I would find terrifying or a piece of cake…and visa-versa.

This is how God designed us. To need each other. To love each other. To cheer our friends and family on. He wants us to be a crowd of completely unique and gifted people unalike and dissimilar from each other…and yet beautifully fit together like a puzzle. Cookie-cutter sameness is WAY overrated, friend.

So if courage is contagious…you need to surround yourself with courageous people. Brave people. People who believe God is capable of using little-‘ole you for His plan. Read stories of great Christians who were valiant in the faith. Study God’s Word and rehearse the times He did CRAZY feats through ordinary people like you and me. (One of my personal favorites is Gideon!) When Jesus calls you to be brave, grab a friend’s hand and ask her to pray like mad for you. Or better yet, have her go WITH YOU on the adventure. You will be strengthened and you’ll make a ton of memories together…which will certainly include laughing and crying.

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That Ukrainian pastor? He’s still working hard for the Lord and when I was 20 years old (six whole years after I read about him) I met him in person. That will forever be one of the unforgettable events in my life. There’s something about meeting someone who has so affected the course of your life, and yet you’ve never even seen them before. It’s hard to describe what went through my head, but I knew that with the language barrier, I’d probably never be able to accurately say what his faith and courage had done to change my life. My 14 year old life.

Later during his few days visit to our area, I was able to sit with him and an interpreter at supper time. I wanted to ask him one question. When I finally mustered up the gumption, I spit it out. “I’ve heard about the incredible things you do in Ukraine and how God is working through you and your ministry. You are a great man of faith. What is your secret?” I’ll never forget his answer. Humble, but confident, he looked me straight in the eyes and said…

“I’m just a little man with a big God.”

There are a thousand things he could have probably said and been right. But he turned my focus from doing things to being…just being God’s daughter afforded me everything I needed. Knowing Who Jesus really is gives you faith. I was just a young gal…with a big God. And that was enough. Pastor Pavel probably knew that if I could grasp that truth, I’d have all the faith and courage I needed. And I think he’s right.

Courage is not pulling yourself up by your own boot straps. It’s not muscling your way through tough times and putting on a strong face. It’s not even having all the right Bible answers and sounding the part. True bravery and courage can only come from the Power-Source Himself: Jesus. He makes us brave. He gives us everything we need at just the right moment to be courageous.

Contagious courage is when a believer who knows of Jesus’ power rubs off on you. They somehow create a hunger in you to trust more. To see Jesus in full color. To have bigger faith that He. Can. Do. It. Mark Batterson said it like this: “Your ‘Brave’ is someone else’s breakthrough.” That kind of courage is beautiful….and I want to be so sure of my Jesus that my courage to follow Him spills over onto the people around me. Like Pastor Pavel did to me 15 years ago.

This Thanksgiving…who has changed your life by their courage? Now go and thank them. Let’s start a chain reaction of courage!

“Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust Him and not be afraid, for Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2 HCSB

 

Bravery that’s Bigger than Me

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It was March 2017. I had been through the ringer and I had no idea what was up the pike for me in life…just weeks away. In January God had given me the year’s theme: Be Brave. I could feel Him kneading the truth of His Word into my soul. I was praying for His Be Brave assignments. Now I know that praying for life missions is akin to praying for patience…but we live and learn.

A mere few months later, I was sitting across the dinner table from a good friend and prison chaplain, hearing his plea for more help. I could feel my spirit stirring. I knew that feeling…the Lord prodding me in a certain direction. “I need more female volunteers for our October trip. We will be going to several women’s correctional facilities and I’m short-handed. Would that be something you’d be interested in?” I sat there soaking it all in. I’d grown up around prison ministry my whole life. My dad had been involved in helping with this particular ministry, but this was a new angle. This was ME.

We asked some questions…what would that look like? What would I be doing? What were the dates and expenses? But it was pointless. I already knew the answer. I could sense the Lord moving me for weeks to something and I saw clearly: this was it. This was my missing puzzle piece.

I don’t remember everything I said that day, but I know at one point I leaned back in my chair, took a deep breath and said, “Uncle Bob, this terrifies me. So I’m pretty sure this is what I’m supposed to do.” And that was that.

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Courage is a funny thing. It never feels heroic. Or at least not to me.

Most times, courage feels down-right crazy. Scared-out-of-my-wits crazy. Roller-coaster crazy. Out-of-your-comfort-zone loco. Even foolish. Sometimes being brave looks like sticking my neck out and doing something I’ve never done before. Or being stretched way beyond human capabilities. It ALWAYS looks bigger than me. Braver than me. And generally speaking, there’s not a guarantee of the outcome.

That’s why it’s called courage. Faith. Brave Living. The “risk” factor is what makes us lean into the only One who really knows the outcome…Jesus. We feel like we’re jumping into the darkness blindfolded. But all we need is to trust our Guide…because He can see the whole path clearly.

Yes, prison ministry wasn’t on my radar for the year…but it was apparently in His blueprint.

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Fast-forward six months and I was standing in the airport security line with MaryEllen. We were heading out for three weeks of prison ministry and adventure with Jesus. I was walking in obedience. Nothing more. I didn’t feel brave. Or ready. I just knew I was called to walk through the door and I prayed like a mad-woman that He would go with me. I remember whispering under my breath as the plane took off… “God, You know this is a one-time-deal, right?” I’m sure He smiled.

Words are inadequate to express what happened to me in the next few weeks. Radical changes occurred in my heart. I saw the world in a new light. I saw the previous months of pain I had went through as a stage to show-case His glory and connect with the broken people around me. I saw Jesus in a beautiful way…as the One Who came and rescued me from myself. My Sin-bearer and the Lover of my soul. Emmanuel. God with me. God with us.

Redemption is a beautiful thing…but sometimes when we grow up knowing “Christian-ese” and hearing all the lingo…we miss the awe of it all. Being able to get involved in prison ministry was like stepping into a place where Jesus was showcased in full-color. Prison is a broken place…and He thrives in our brokenness.

I remember one day when I had a conversation with a middle-aged woman who was feeling out of hope. She had made some pretty big mistakes that landed her in prison. She was feeling hopeless and unwanted…and I could see all the pain and uncertainty etched in her face. She was crying and telling me her story. My heart broke for her. The pain of feeling overwhelmed by sin and guilt. I knelt down by her chair and tried to speak words of encouragement and truth to her. I’m not sure what all I said, but I remember telling her, “I just want you to know that our Jesus is a God of REDEMPTION. He loves writing the last chapter. And maybe He’s brought you here so He can start something new. There is always hope with Jesus.” With tears running down her face, she responded, “Thank you for saying that. I needed to hear that.”

The next morning, the same lady came in for class and was clearly looking for me. She seemed timid, but I knew she wanted to say something so I walked over to her. Immediately she put her head down and nervously said… “I couldn’t sleep all night. And I even hesitate to ask you this because you’re so much younger than me…but yesterday you kept mentioning the word redemption…and…I don’t even know what that word means.”

If she could have seen into my heart in that moment it would have been full of amazement and excitement. I was getting to share Jesus and the Gospel with this woman! What a treasure to lead someone to the Throne and introduce them to Jesus.

We take it for granted, don’t we? The lingo many of us have grown up learning and speaking since we were toddlers…and yet some people never hear. Some never hear the truth of the Word until they’re adults. It’s humbling to stand in front of a group of women who have lived way more life than you…and yet are asking you simple questions about Jesus and the Word. It makes you grateful. It challenges you to dig deeper. To savor the beauty of the Bible. To stand in awe of the incredible gift: the knowledge of Jesus. Why would He give me such a privilege?

In case you’re wondering, this lovely lady became my sister-in-Christ that warm Florida day. She listened with rapt attention as I explained that Redemption means “bought back”…that Jesus chose to buy her back when she was in sin and He wanted her to be His forever. With tears streaming down her face, she surrendered that day. And I’ll never forget her radiant smile when she graduated from the program and shook my hand… “Thank you SO MUCH for coming here,” she said. I responded with “It was my pleasure,” amid the tears rolling down my cheeks and the lump in my throat.

I was the one blessed. I left changed.

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There are a thousand things I learned in those three weeks of prison ministry…and I could blog about it for ages. There are parts about the trip I’m still processing. Questions that are currently unanswered. But suffice it to say, I am a different woman than the one who flew out of the airport in late September 2017.

It was the longest I’ve ever been away from home without any family. It was scary. Big stuff. Crazy, mind-boggling, what-was-I-thinking stuff. This was a wild roller-coaster that I was both terrified and excited about. I’ll always be thankful that God allowed MaryEllen and I to go together…it gave us one point of familiarity among a thousand unfamiliar. We were able to encourage one another and pray for each other. On our off days, we were able to enjoy the ocean and talk through the stories and experiences.

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What brave living is God calling you to? It’s probably the scariest thing on the horizon. Friend, if I could say one thing to you…you there, standing on the edge of your future, it’s this. Trust Him and step out in Faith. He has an incredible plan for you and it will require getting outside of yourself. That’s where He is. He will make you brave. In the beginning, I had no idea what those three weeks of prison ministry would hold…but I knew one thing, and I was clinging to that promise with everything in me.

Jesus was going with me. Guaranteed. That’s the fool-proof plan, friends. Jesus leads and I follow Him. Would I do prison ministry again? Absolutely. Willingly. Enthusiastically! Bravery that’s bigger than me is the best kind…because that means Jesus is there. Sign me up, friend. I want to be wherever He is.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.” Ezekiel 36:26-27 HCSB

God Meets You Wherever You Are

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As I entered the year 2017, someone ask me: “What do you see happening in your life this year?” My response was “I feel that the Lord is going to do something new”. I really had no idea what it would possibly be! Just a few days into the new year, the Lord brought this verse to me… “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture”, Psalm 100:3. I love this verse. It has such a special place in my heart now. I have gone back to it several times throughout the course of this year. It is such a beautiful reminder to me that I do not belong to myself. I am the Lord’s. He has made me.  So if I am His, shouldn’t I be living my life for Him?

In the previous months I had been staying fairly busy helping with different care-giving needs in the neighborhood, but when the new year arrived, they came to an abrupt stop. I wasn’t needed anymore. What was I to do now? The first six months I pretty much was at home helping out on the farm. At times, I asked the Lord, “Is this really the new thing you have for me in life?” I can now say that I am grateful for those six months. The Lord used that time to strengthen my relationship with Him in so many ways. I found a new love for His Word. A deeper desire to know more of His heart for me. I have seen the power of answered prayer and restored relationships. Honestly, I have seen more of who Jesus is! He is so amazing.

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God used that time to prepare me for these last 5 months. They have brought so many amazing opportunities to serve Him.  In March, Faith asked me about going to the Prisons in Florida in October with her. I thought this idea sounded so neat! I had heard so much about prison ministry and I wanted to experience it for myself. I ask my parents what they thought of me going on this missions trip. They encouraged me to seek the Lord about it, and that they would be seeking His direction as well. Within a few weeks the Lord had given me very clear direction through His Word that I was to go. I shared with my parents what the Lord had revealed to me. They weren’t as sure as I was! They told me they didn’t think they wanted me to go.

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I suddenly wondered “why Lord would you lead me and not my authorities?” But I trusted that my parents knew best and I was very content with their decision. I knew God must just have something else that He wants me to be doing with my life. It was completely out of my mind until one day in July, my Dad came to me and ask if I still would like to go serve in the prisons. Yes, I certainly did!  Then began the amazing journey that I would love to tell you about!

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Before going to prison, I had a formed idea in my mind of what all prisoners were like…Cold hearted, sad, lonely, unforgiving, only thinking of themselves, the list goes on…… How do you think of those behind prison walls?  I am here to tell you differently! During the two weeks I spent with the inmates, their lives taught me so much about genuine love for one another, joy, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, etc. Several of the women in the prison we were in the first week have personal relationships with Jesus Christ. It was an incredible sight to see when they all came together to study more about our KING and LORD! The way they live their lives has been an inspiration to me. If one of them was having a difficult day, she was not going to be going through it alone. She was going to be surrounded by loving ladies who would offer her encouragement and pray over her. When adversity would arise in the prison, you could see and hear women all over in our classroom praying and petitioning the Lord for His mercy on their behalf. I want to have this kind of dependence and faith in Jesus Christ!

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One morning as Faith and I were setting up and preparing for the day of teaching, two of the inmates came in early and we were visiting with them. Then they asked if they could pray for us right there on the spot. Wow! That was so amazing we were incredibly blessed. Even though these ladies are in prison, they are serving Jesus with all of their heart. What a beautiful example of Jesus working in and through our lives wherever we are… when we are yielded to Him.

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What did God show me during this time spent with these precious ladies? They are just like me and you. Some are younger and some older. They all have families and those they love. They all have interests, talents, and dreams for their future. They are no more sinful then me just because they are in prison… all sins are equal in that they separate us from God. (Romans 3:23). God meets with His children wherever we are. Praise the Lord for loving us so unconditionally! Please be praying with me for the lives of our brothers and sisters in prison all across the world. God loves them just as much as He loves you and the person sitting beside you in church on Sunday morning!

 

A Passport and a Backpack

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It was one of those moments. The kind that movies are made of….and I stood there wondering what I should do. For years I had heard the gentle whisper of God’s Spirit and had ignored it. Maybe even pushed it away forcefully. Stubbornly. This time, it was more than a gentle nudge.

God wanted me to get a passport. I was resistant, not because I didn’t want to go far away, but more for that fact that I didn’t have a scheduled missions trip. Why spend the money if I didn’t know if I really would ever go anywhere? I’m practical like that. One of my sister-in-laws once told me that I’m “way too practical”. She’s right when it comes to stuff like this. I’m a buy-only-it-if-you-need-it kind of girl. Over and over I had heard His call…to obey and get my passport.

Just. Because. He. Said. So. It’s called obedience.

For the better part of six years I had put Him off. SIX YEARS y’all. It’s embarrassing! This girl who writes and speaks on following Jesus whole-heartedly. This girl who wants to leave everything on the field. This girl who talks about loving Jesus. That girl…rebels. Makes excuses. Back-talks Jesus. Thinks she knows best for herself and holds herself back. That’s me. Practical to a fault, and not proud of it.

The thing is, Jesus is forever-in-a-day patient with me. Merciful and kind. Forgiving and lavish with grace. He kept prodding my heart. Pursuing might be a better word. It came up everywhere. Whenever someone would go on a missions trip I would hear the whisper “that could be you one day”. But I didn’t need a passport…yet.

Life is kind of like traveling in a boat…you can live hanging over the side and trying to do your own thing, or you can get all in with Jesus and enjoy the journey. I sometimes visualize myself as the gal hanging over the side, trying to doggy paddle in the opposite direction. All the while, God is smiling and waiting on me to give in. No wonder I’m so tired. It’s seriously exhausting to be paddling against the will of God.

This year, God gave me a theme to live the year 2017 by. Be Brave. Since January I’ve seen glimpses of this theme all over the place. I’ve craved living brave. I’ve met courageous people and have been touched by how hard they follow Jesus. They leave nothing undone. I’ve learned from these men and women one thing: if Jesus tells you to do something, do it. No ifs, ands or buts. Just obey. Unfortunately, I don’t always live that way.

Last month my brother came in from work and mentioned (yet ANOTHER) mission trip opportunity…but this one was only two weeks away, so it was only open to those who already had their passports. BAM. Right between the eyes. Or maybe a gut shot? Either way, it hurt. I visibly winced.

All my excuses suddenly seemed futile. I was completely convicted. The years of my pushing off God’s request for me to get a passport flashed before my eyes. Why had I not said YES when He called?

That night, I wrote and processed the day. After years of rebellion, I realized that Jesus wanted ALL of me. He wanted to be able to ask me to do anything and go anywhere at the drop of a hat. Standing between me and the horizon of ministry possibility was my own selfish pride. I wanted to retain the right to say when and if I responded. My big obstacle was my ridiculous practicality.

Being practical has served me right in a thousand ways. I have learned to live on a shoestring. I can make the most of what I already have. Practicality has made me creative and given me plenty of chances to be content.

The flip side is this: sometimes Jesus isn’t practical…His plans don’t always make sense to the human brain. Often He will ask us to do things that seem unrealistic or even dumb. He asks us to take risks. To do things that no one has done before or to love people who are pretty unlikeable. He calls us to go to places where there aren’t any road maps. And sometimes He asks us to get a passport…just in case. So we can be ready at a moment’s notice to go on an adventure with Him.

Just because He can.

I sat there writing and praying that night and my heart shifted. It was if the whole future lay before me for a moment and I knew there would be places I could never go if I stayed firm in my practical disobedience. He wanted ALL of me. My future. My ability to travel. He wanted my passport. Now.
So surrender came. Offering up my life (again), I said YES to His plan for my future. Anything. Anywhere. Anytime. If you’ve walked long with Jesus, you know that saying YES to Him can be freeing. That’s what I felt in that moment as I tearfully gave myself over to Jesus…whatever that entailed. Even if it meant a passport WITHOUT a trip planned yet. He had me. All of me. I got all in the boat.

The next time I was in town, I picked up my passport application. Two days after that I got my passport pictures. Three days later I went down to our county’s big post office, signed my papers, swore that my info was correct and paid money to get the passport I didn’t need yet. (or did I?)
It’s funny how obedience can make you feel inside, especially when you’ve been holding out for six years. All the risks of looking stupid paled in comparison to the relief and joy that came from giving in to Jesus. As I stood on the massive steps of that old Post Office after signing the passport papers, I felt giddy. Excited. Terrified just a little, but thrilled to my core.

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In that moment, standing there everything seemed new. The air. The colors. It was like the whole world was smiling. I know Jesus was, and that alone made me a happy camper.
Life is full of big and little choices. We must choose to follow Jesus, no matter how crazy, unpopular or weird it might seem. God calls us to courageous living. Brave decisions. Times of standing alone and stepping up…regardless of whether it makes sense. What is holding you back from following whole-heartedly? I sometimes wonder what kind of adventures with Jesus I missed in those six years I refused to get my passport. It’s a sobering and sad thought. One thing is for sure, I don’t want to miss out on any more opportunities.

It was less than a week after signing my passport papers when I heard His whisper again…buy a backpack. Really? A backpack.

This time, I responded a little faster. Maybe I rolled my eyes? However, this time no more six year waiting plans. I now have a backpack (thank you Amazon) and it’s the coolest thing you ever did see. It folds up into a little pouch and it’s a really neat green color. Would you believe it’s also got an emergency whistle on one of the straps? But that’s beside the point.

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A passport and a backpack….and I’m sitting on the edge of my seat wondering: where will my adventures with Jesus take me? Ready or not, here I come!

Live Brave and Courageous

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Joshua 1:9, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Be Brave. Those are the words I used to think of when I was scared of the dark as a little girl. I used to lay flat on my back in bed and breathe slowly…trying not to over think the sounds coming from the closet or the shadows outside my window. Shivering under my covers, I would repeat those words to myself over and over. Be Brave.

What do you think of when you hear those words? I’m thinking of my two top fears on earth. They aren’t mice or snakes, either. Laugh if you want…but my top two fears are: Public Speaking and Canned Biscuits. Ironically, both I have to wrestle with often. I have been in places where God asks me to speak and present the Word from a stage. I have also had to open lots of canned biscuits in my years…and I still am afraid of it every time. What are your fears?

What does it mean to be brave? Is it super-hero work? Are some people brave and others are just “prone to being afraid”? I don’t think so. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize that’s it’s not enough to know the right answers and study the Bible for hours on end…if we don’t ACT and be doers of the Word. (Matthew 7:24-25) Unless you’re super-human, the acting part is probably the hardest part. That’s where Jesus-Courage comes in. That’s when you need to Be Brave.

Being Brave means:
• Moving with confidence in God’s power. Hebrews 4:16
• Owning your mistakes. Ben Franklin said, “How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.”
• Embracing my weaknesses as opportunity for God’s power. 2 Corinthians 12:9
• Living life with everything in you.

In my personal experience, courage isn’t the absence of fear. My brave moments have been times I’m scared to death and I say YES anyway. Sometimes people look at me and they tell me how brave I am…but inside, I’m a weak wimp. Believe me, I’m not a hero. I’m a wimp that God has called to warrior work. So I say YES, knowing that when He calls me He will come in and rescue me from myself and my fears in the nick of time!

I’ve thrown up right before speaking on stage. I’ve been nauseous before I lead Bible study in my living room. I’ve cried myself to sleep when I have to go the next morning to help my friend who is dying of cancer. All of this isn’t easy for me…but I’ve been called by Jesus to walk this road. It’s tough. It’s hard work. It means having the courage to say YES, even when inside I want to scream and hide under my bed.

Why do I say YES? Not because I think I’m capable…but because I know Jesus is. Being brave is about having Jesus-Courage. Having faith that HE can do what we can’t.

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On my bedroom mirror I have a sticky note that says: “Fear is temporary. Regret is forever. Be Brave for Jesus!” This is a message I read every day in hopes that it will sink deeply into my heart and I will learn to live brave.

Live Brave. That’s what I want to do. Live so brave and free that others will see me and know that Jesus has to be real…because this girl? She’s not normally a risk taker. I love my comfort zone. I enjoy being in my cozy corner and not rocking the boat too much. Henry Venn said, “A feeble, nominal Christianity is the great obstacle to the conversion of the world.” I prefer safe living. But Jesus calls us to be bold. Bold as lions! Brave…not because we are super-human, but because we know our weaknesses and choose to lean into Jesus and His strengths. That’s Holy Spirit living, and it turns us into warriors.

The more I study the Word of God and spend time with Jesus, the more I realize that being brave and courageous isn’t limited to a few “super-Christians”. Being brave is how we are all called to live…in different ways, but brave just the same. For me, being brave means public speaking sometimes, or writing a book that is uncomfortable and extremely personal. It also means facing my fears and opening canned biscuits once in a while.

Being brave for you might look totally different. Maybe living courageous for you means starting a home Bible study or witnessing to someone in the grocery store. It could mean reaching out to the new girl at school or volunteering to help a young mom with her children. Sometimes living courageous is hard because no one sees…except God. What if it means praying faithfully for an unsaved family member? Or forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you? Or taking care of someone who is sick or elderly? Or folding laundry at home for your mom? Those unseen things take courage too.

The teenage boy who lives in Africa and works a full time job so he can feed his family of younger siblings? He lives brave.

The single gal who chooses to be content and make the most of her non-marriedness, despite the pressure around her? She lives brave.

The family who drops everything they know to go to a people far across the ocean who have never heard about Jesus? They live brave.

The couple who finds they can’t have children and they still volunteer to teach children’s Sunday School and love the kids around them? They live brave.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be brave. I want to LIVE BRAVE. To love Jesus so radically that I will risk everything to follow Him…even when it’s unpopular or doesn’t make sense. I’ll be the first to admit that these words seem heavy to me. The cost of following Jesus can be painful, but He is worth it! I want the year 2017 to be the Bravest year I’ve ever lived. Don’t you?
If ever we need to rise up and stand firm…it’s today. Our generation needs revival. We need to stand up and realize that Jesus wants ALL of us. Not just our Sundays. He wants all of us. He wants us to radically abandon ourselves to the Jesus that hung on a cross for us! In such a shadow, we can’t help but live brave and courageous for Him. Are you with me?

Psalm 31:24, “Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord.”

Part 4- Secrets to Home Bible Study

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We are already to Part 4 of this series on Home Bible Study…Prepare for God to Work! Today you’ll get to sneak into one of our home Bible studies as we talk about Gideon, being a brave warrior and stepping out in faith.

 

So this week take the first step. Make that phone call to your friend about starting a study in your home. Send an email. Start researching a Bible study series to begin with. Write out an invite list. Be intentional. Start TODAY. Don’t put it off!

This is a bitter-sweet moment for us as we realize that today is technically our last session in this 4-Part series…but it’s also EXCITING because we know that means you can hit the ground running towards Jesus and telling your friends about Him. We’d love to hear what you are going to DO with what you’ve learned that last several sessions. So comment below!

(And…drum roll please… we also have a Behind the Scenes video from this series which is absolutely sure to make you laugh!)

Be Brave

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My theme for this year (both personally and in ministry) is this: Be Brave. To live Courageously.

Today I hung out with a Brave woman. This Brave lady also happens to be my aunt. Aunt Chris is ten years older than me…my mama’s baby sister. I remember playing dress up in her clothes and watching her graduate from high school. I remember us building a tent from blankets and sleeping in it until the center post (aka: the vacuum cleaner) fell over in the middle of the night. I also remember shopping trips and iced cappuccinos and the countless letters she wrote me when I lived far away.

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This morning I sat across from her at our favorite coffee place (Tim Hortons!) and talked about life. We didn’t use the word Brave, but it was the complete body of our conversation. We talked about cancer. Her Hodgkins Lymphoma. And losing hair. And chemo treatments and ports and needles and wigs and being sick and tired. So really, we talked about living Brave.

When I think of Brave, I think of Aunt Chris. She is Brave. Everyday she gets up knowing she’s facing chemo and sickness and losing her hair and she fights with everything in her. She prays for healing. And I discovered something today: Brave is Beautiful. I saw the determination in her eyes. She is prepared for battle. She lives Brave. Does that mean she’s not nervous or is blowing off her diagnosis? No. But she is refusing to let it define her or crush her spirit. That’s living Brave.

It reminded me of 2 Corinthians 4:6-9, “For God who said, ‘Let the light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts to give light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.” (HCSB) We carry the Light of Jesus around inside of us…and this Light pushes us to hope. This Light shows up best in darkness. Darkness like cancer or broken relationships or deep hurt. We hope because of this Light of Jesus. We have faith in Him. We trust that He has it all in control. That’s why we can live Brave…because He shows up in our weakness. This extraordinary power of Jesus is available to us and that makes us be able to live Brave and be Brave.

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Today I saw Brave up close. I laughed with her and listened to the narrative of the life she is facing for the next several months. I hugged Brave. And you know what? It made me want to be Brave. To live Courageous everyday. Aunt Chris is one of my earthly heroes who points me to my Heavenly Hero. Brave is Beautiful, because Jesus is. And when we live Brave, He shows up.

Part 3- Secrets to Home Bible Study

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Part Three is here folks! Today we will focus on three things: the People, the Place, and the Plan. Pull up a chair and get ready to dig into the nitty-gritty details of starting your own study group…

This week, pray through the three points (the People, the Place, and the Plan) and ask God to outline some things to start with for you. We can’t wait to see how God blesses the work of your hands!

Let us know what you think of this series by commenting below…

Part 2- Secrets to Home Bible Study

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Here is Part 2 to this amazing series on stepping out and gathering around the Word in a home setting!

Part Two is on the PERSON leading and PRAYER.

This week we’d like you to pray through the four leadership points (mentioned in the video) and ask the Lord to help you grow in those areas.

We hope you are enjoying this series and encourage you to pass these videos on to your friends. What are you learning? We’d love to hear from you!