Category Archives: Testimonies

“Come to His Table”- Theme 2018!

By | Be Brave Series, Bible, Missions, Personal, Studying Scripture, Suffering, Testimonies | No Comments

Remember the Alamo!” It was the statement that was shouted in the middle of the iconic battle in San Antonio, Texas. Those words gave a reason to fight. A focus-point when all around them was crumbling. Battle cries are important. They become fuel for the fight.

Every January (since 2014) God has given me a theme to live by. A mantra for the year. A focus-point for the next twelve months. Some of them I’ve loved…and most have stretched me beyond myself.

In 2014: Do Hard Things

In 2015: Reflect the Son

In 2016: God Writes my Story

In 2017: Be Brave

Each year has perfectly mirrored what might go through your head when you read the above statements. I did hard some things in 2014. I learned that it wasn’t all about me in 2015…that I was only to be mirroring Jesus. In 2016 I had to learn to surrender my life story to Him and that He would write it better (not easier, but BETTER) than me.

This past year was a game-changer for me. I literally emerged from the other side of 2017 a completely different gal than the one who started it. It was truly, my year to BE BRAVE. For the record, it seemed like everything I did in 2017 was out of my comfort zone. My friend once commented that last year was like being inside a violent clothes dryer. You get out feeling sore, disoriented and a little out of sorts. Sometimes God calls us to seasons of “being in a dryer” for His glory and our good.

Which brings me to the year 2018. Anybody else wincing? Signal the drumroll, please…because my new battle cry is about to debut!

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I have felt the finger of God on my heart for the year 2018. His heart for broken and needy people has suddenly come to life for me. It’s His will that none would perish. That all would gather at His table. I’ve seen hungry women. I’ve been desperate for His living water myself. Time and again. So it only made sense when I felt Him drop this year’s theme for me…

COME TO HIS TABLE.

Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift. (Revelation 22:17 HCSB)

Come to His table. This means a variety of things for me. The table is a place of bonding and discussion. It’s a place to be filled…both your stomach and your heart. Mentoring happens at the table. Homework questions are answered. Family conversation is plentiful. Even more so at the Table of the Lord.

Come to His Table.

First, coming myself to receive nourishment from Him. I cannot persuade others to come to His table if I haven’t been there myself. I’ve seen women (and men) who are so FILLED with Jesus that you feel like talking with them is touching the hem of His garment. You know what I mean? You KNOW that she/he has been at His Table. They have been fed by His Word. They have received freely of Him and His truth. Somehow, every conversation points you to His Table…because their life is inviting you to go there.

Next, I need to be running to the dark and dying world and bringing others to His table. If I’m being fed at His table, I will naturally want to share His saving nourishment with others. I want to be a woman who invites others to His Table.

Saving a seat for my neighbor. For the gal in the grocery check-out line. For the girls I lead home Bible study with. For the little people at church I have in the nursery. For the women I minister to in prison.

Come to His Table.

His Table means healing. His Table means wholeness. His Table means restoration and redemption. Thirst quenched. Hunger filled. Worry erased. Fear melted and replaced with FAITH. Perspectives are radically changed. At the table, weariness is replaced with strength…HIS strength. I don’t know about you, but His Table is where I want to be.

My battle cry for the year 2018? COME TO HIS TABLE!

You’re invited, friend. Come to His Table.

 

(This post was originally published on Faith’s blog Living Brave and Courageous on January 1st, 2018. PCM will be adopting the same theme this year: “Come to HIs Table”.)

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 Book on Singleness?

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Hello friends! Wanted to share a little snippet of what’s been on my heart lately and ask YOU for your help. If you’re single and graduated…I need your questions and testimonies. If you’re married or still in school…would you pray for me? This is one of the most scary and exciting times in my life and I’d be grateful for your prayers on this journey.

Bench Talk

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“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22 (HCSB)

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Guest post by Charity Walker

I had already bought my things. I don’t drive yet, so I sat and waited on a bench near the checkout. I’m not really a talk-to-everybody kind of person so I put my head down “looking” in my bag (this shows my lack of knowledge…I bought that stuff, I should know what’s in it!). Out of the corner of my eye I see him. He’s in his seventies, hunched over his walker and slowly making his way over. I take my bag off the seat making room for him. It’s not that I wanted to, but I was always taught manners and respect for older people. He asked to sit, I nodded and smiled. His face was rough and lined with wrinkles. As he sat hunched and breathing hard, I saw it. It was on his face and in his eyes…loneliness. He started a conversion, telling me this and that…”oh, he’s lonely, no doubt”,  I thought as he chatted away. I thought about how this looked in the eyes of other people in the store. A picture of an old man and a fourteen year old sitting side by side on a bench startled me.  So I pushed myself and my timid ways away and engaged him in conversion. As I walked away I felt guilty…not for talking to him…but for NOT talking to all those people that are lonely and lost. It doesn’t HAVE to be a person in Wal-Mart…OR a homeless person, even though that’s a good thing. It could be that girl in school by herself in the corner…or an older person that’s struggling with their bags…or that little kid, swinging by themselves. These all have the same problem…God is waiting for YOU to make that out-of-the-box step. He wants you to be brave and help those people see Jesus through you. So to make this cool and exciting, I’m challenging you to do the “12 days of Christmas” challenge. Do Things that make other people feel the love of Jesus. And to help I’ve put together a list of ideas:

  • Make a Christmas card for an older person.
  • Buy coffee for a co-worker.
  • Make a point to write to your Aunt that you don’t see.
  • Ring bells for Salvation Army.
  • Work the soup kitchen this Christmas.
  • Comment on how wonderful someone’s kids are in the store.
  • Visit a nursing home. (Joyfully PLEASE!)
  • Ask a young mom to help with her kids sometime.
  • Sweep and mop a room your mom hates to do.
  • Make cookies (or buy) for someone who is not-so-festive.
  • Ask to help backstage for the children’s play.
  • Help a little one with “that super hard” math problem.

But of course please make your own list…these are just ideas. The main thing is to show JOY and JESUS when you do them. 1 John 4:7 says “Dear friends, we should love each other, because love comes from God. The person who loves has become God’s child and knows God.” If you have a relationship with Christ…YOU SHOULD SHOW IT!  When you help someone you are helping further the kingdom of God. Share this with your friends and ask them to do the challenge with you!

Jonah and Me

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“Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3

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Years ago, I used to read those verses and think…what is this guy’s problem? Does he really think that he can run from the Lord? That was then. This is now…and NOW I have realized something: Jonah and me….we have this problem. We are in the same boat. Sometimes literally. I am quite sure that Jonah is somewhere in my family lineage way back. I’m just way too much like him to not be related.

You see, the more I walk with Jesus, the more I realize that He sometimes calls us to do uncomfortable things. Crazy things. Hard things. Ridiculous things. Awkward things. Radical things. Way-outside-our-box things. All for His glory.

That being said, I have a major confession to make. I have to tell you an inside story to a recent weekend event…

There is a wonderful sweet lady in my community named Pam, that I know and we have come to do ministry together. About a year ago, she came and asked me to speak at a womens conference. She wanted a “warm up speaker” for an annual Christian women’s event in February 2016 called Ladies Day Away.

I said NO.

She asked me again.

I said NO.

Third time is a charm, right? So she asked me again. I decided to get spiritual and say “I will pray about it”.

How many of you know that when you pray about something you better be ready to get the green light if He gives that as an answer? I fought with God. Actually, I FOUGHT WITH GOD. I argued. I pleaded. I tried to convince Him that I wasn’t the one. The more I begged, the more He gave me counsel through His Word that He wanted me. I felt stuck. I knew better than to say NO to God, but this is one of those times that I seriously debated jumping on a boat headed for Tarshish. Or one heading anywhere but speaking to this group in February 2016.

Jonah and me. We have issues.

Lots of conversations with my parents followed…they know me better than anyone, but most importantly, they know my Jesus and they could see the struggle in me. They prayed for me, with me, and encouraged me to obey and trust God for the details. I was stuck. Everywhere I turned I heard my name called. Every verse I turned to was telling me to go. Every song I heard was about obedience. Every voice was telling me to listen to my Heavenly Father. The sky seemed to spell out neon signs: “GO AND SPEAK”. I was caught…scared to death to disobey God’s leading and equally as frightened to walk in the path the Lord was asking me to.

Pam is a sweet and patient woman. She wouldn’t take NO for an answer. She kept telling me that she felt God wanted me to speak. She also asked me on several occasions: “do you ever feel like you have a whale on your tail?” I knew what she meant…she was calling me a Jonah. Wow, did she ever know me, or what?

Jonah and the whale became our standing joke. Whenever we talked about it, there was some sort of exchange about Jonah or a whale. Comments like “well, I don’t want to be swallowed by a whale” were common. We weren’t just laughing though, we knew it was serious business to disobey our all-powerful God.

I finally said YES. Reluctantly. I stood on the brink of the unknown feeling terrified to move forward, but even more scared to death to turn back. God wanted my submission…my obedience. He wanted all of me. My fearful heart. My uncertain future. My inabilities and corks. He wanted me…FULLY and FREELY. He wanted 100% of Faith Walker.

I have to tell you, once I said YES, it did feel better inside. Obedience always gives way to freedom, but don’t think for one moment that I felt like I was out of the woods. No ma’am. I was now only at the beginning of a very long road that I felt would surely lead to my death. Crazy how our imaginations run wild, isn’t it?

For months, every time I prepared part of my message to share…God would tell me it was all wrong. I would crumble the paper and start over. I would try again. Cram it in the trash. This went on for months.

In the mean time, God was dealing with my fears. I’ll be honest here and tell you that I am not a fan of public speaking. Hate is a strong word, but I might even use that word in conjunction with speaking. Speaking for Bible study sessions on video even nerve me up (little plug for our online Bible studies!). I’m totally serious. I’ve had meetings with three people that make me squirm. No joke. I’m just not the limelight-lover. So everything about this event made me want to throw up.

Added to that was the fact that the majority of these ladies would be moms and grandmas…neither one of which I am. Teen girls I get. Children, babies and toddlers I can handle. But women? Why does that make me worm in my seat? I honestly felt God had made a horrible mistake. Pam kept me well informed of the registration numbers coming in and every time I wanted to barf. I would go right to God and remind Him of what a mess I was going to make for Him in February if He didn’t do something.

So He did. Instead of fixing the event or letting me off the hook, He opened His Word one morning. It hit me between the eyes…or at gut level.

“The word of the Lord came to me: I chose you before I formed you in the womb;
I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.” Then the Lord said to me: Do not say, “I am only a youth,”
for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. This is the Lord’s declaration.

“Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: I have now filled your mouth with My words. See, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and demolish,
to build and plant.”  Jeremiah 1:4-10 (HCSB)

HE was speaking in February. I was just the mouth piece with which He was going to do it through. And who was I to question His abilities to use a weak, young, blubbering, scared-to-death girl from a little town in Southern Michigan to complete His work? I kept thinking about Jonah.

Jonah and me have doubting problems. We have better ideas. More qualified friends. We have more comfortable plans for our future. Ones that don’t involve dangerous or unpleasant things. Like telling others about Jesus when they don’t want to hear about it…forget that they are facing judgment…Jonah and me value our safety!

Time and again, God convicted me of my UNBELIEF. He is the Author and Finisher of my faith (no pun intended). He is my soul’s Anchor and the King of kings. He is Creator of all and Keeper of eternity. Why do I doubt His ability to use a fragile person…when He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and has breathed the stars into existence?

I have a puny view of God…so I view impossible situations like that- impossible. Forgetting that my Jesus is the God of the impossible. The Lord of everything. He is Love. He is Life. And He is the Writer of my life story…how dare I grab the pen and tell Him He is writing it all wrong?

The day arrived and I could feel a peaceful rest fall on me. Inside I felt waves of nervousness and uncertainty, but each time I felt incompetent, I reminded myself that this was His ball game…I was just along for the ride! There were dozens of prayer warriors scattered across the United States praying for me. I read the two passages of Scripture that God had given me over and over, quieting my turbulent heart. The section in Jeremiah and also a part in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

“For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

I prayed as I’ve never prayed before. Putting on the headset microphone and staring at the stage, I thought…this has got to be a dream (or a nightmare!). Jonah and me. I told you we have trust issues. I kept hearing God’s voice…asking me to lean like I had never leaned before. They announced my name. One foot in front of the other, Faith. Just don’t barf. 20 minutes and it will be over. I stepped foot on the platform…and a miracle happened. All fear vanished. All the butterflies in my stomach, the shaky hands, the dry mouth, GONE. So this is what it means to ride with Jesus!? I’m all in.

After I spoke that Saturday, I felt filled to the brim with joy unspeakable. Obedience does that, doesn’t it? It makes us full as we follow the path of Jesus, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may seem at the time. I was standing at our Polished Cornerstones booth during one of the first breaks in the conference when lovely Miss Pam walked up. She was holding a box. “This is for you darlin!” She handed it to me. It was heavy and I was curious. As I unwrapped the paper, I smiled.

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There in all the tissue, was a beautiful glass whale. I laughed. Then I teared up. I’ve been given a lot of gifts over the years, but few have meant as much to me as this little glass whale. Why? Because it has a story. A story that beckons me to follow Jesus…or else. Jonah and me…we sometimes learn the hard way.

What about you, friend? Has God called you to do something dangerous or uncomfortable and you’re looking for a boat to Tarshish? Take it from someone who is a fellow whale-on-the-tail gal…He will not call you and then leave you unequipped. He will give you exactly what you need at the precise moment you need it (and probably not a moment sooner!). Why? Because He loves using weak people to showcase His glory! Your inabilities are a beautiful way for Him to shine through you! Riding with Jesus is always an adventure, friend. Why not say, YES…and then watch Him show up in a bigger way than you’ve ever imagined? You can do ALL THINGS through HIM who strengthens you!

I’ve had people ask me, will I speak again? I laugh…nervously. Can I be honest? I still feel like Jonah. If God asked me to stand on a stage again and speak to 400 women I would feel like running for Joppa (to find a ship to Tarshish) AND throwing up. That’s my knee-jerk reaction. Just because I’ve obeyed once doesn’t mean I will jump into speaking engagements or other uncomfortable situations every time God brings one around. No ma’am. I will be slow and deliberate and caucious. Really…because I KNOW that if Jesus isn’t in it, it will be a miserable failure. I’m not a public speaker. I’m just a child (along with Jeremiah), I’m a coward at times (like Gideon), I’m broken and scared (like Moses), and I’m for sure a runner (like Jonah). So…to answer that question: I hope that by God’s grace I will answer YES to whatever opportunities God asks me to fulfill. God doesn’t need my confidence, He just wants my obedience.

For all the uncertainty and fear and unknowns, it was a great day. I had fun. I learned a lot. I had many wonderful conversations. Actually, come to think of it and to quote my ever-smart mother, “we had a whale of a good time”!

Beautifully Different

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“But do not be conformed to this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that you may be prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2, NKJV (emphasis mine)

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Let’s face it girls. We all like to be “in the club”. No one likes to be the odd ball…to stick out or be different than the crowd. We are a culture of sameness. People don’t want to stand out. We all want to blend into our favorite click and be like everybody else. We want to look like, talk like, and be like whatever person is currently the image. We enjoy our clicks.

It’s sad really. We feel like if we can hide in the sea of normality that it’s better for us. It’s safer. Less dangerous.

Now I’m not a Bible scholar…but I do love the Word of God. It is hope and healing and redemption when our world is painfully short of these things. I’ve found my only solace in the pages of Scripture and in this amazing JESUS I’ve come to know and love…but…nowhere in the Bible can I find where God tells us to fit in. Actually I find the complete opposite.

Now before you click off this page and start looking for something else to read, let me give you some clarification here. I’m NOT saying that you need to purposely go in every opposite direction that the crowd is going. I’m NOT saying you need to dress wild and weird just because you want to be different. I’m NOT encouraging you to be rebellious or to act strange and justify it according to Scripture. What I am talking about here is the heart…and that will affect every area of your life.

You see, being a Christian is more than going to church and having John 3:16 memorized…and those are wonderful things. Being a Christian means you are a “Christ-follower” and that means you are to be set apart for His purposes. Jesus repeatedly tells you and I in Scripture to “take up your cross and follow Me”. Crosses are heavy. They are abnormal. If you carry a cross you are definitely different from the average Joe. Who wants to be uncomfortable, right? We’re all about being cozy…and carrying a cross is everything BUT cozy.

I was thinking about this whole concept of fitting in one day as I was driving to a meeting. The topic of standing up, standing alone and standing out was rolling around in my mind. It’s something that I deal with on a personal level but also as I talk to young ladies everywhere. It’s a common thread in all circles…fitting in is just the thing to do, or at least try to do.

I take the back roads when I’m going places because I Iove this beautiful time of year. As I turned one corner on this particular morning, I noticed that a corn field had recently been harvested and a fence row of trees now stood in full view. My jaw dropped open. I stopped my car.

There in front of me was a huge row of brown, crusty trees, dead from the autumn wind and mostly barren of leaves. Directly in the center was a big, beautiful tree in full color. It stared at me. It was so different from the others. So beautiful. It seemed to beckon me.

Sitting there on the side of the road, it was as if God spoke to my heart as I stared in disbelief at the beautiful sight.

Being different for the right reasons can be incredibly beautiful.

I sat there and thanked God for a word picture. (I really need those sometimes!) Suddenly, being different didn’t look so scary or weird…it looked beautifully alive and strangely wonderful. You see, our lives are to be so radically different that it beckons our dying world to take a look at our JESUS! We should look different so that those we come in contact with cannot help but hunger for the Bread of Life. We should make people thirst for the Living Water as we live purposely set apart.

When we follow Jesus fully, our lives are different…but they are beautifully so.

What does that look like…to be set apart from the world. We want to be in the world, but not of it….so (practically speaking) what does that look like?

Let me ask you- does your facebook look any different than your non Christian friends? Is it selfie-focused or others-oriented? No…I’m not saying you can only post Bible verses and sermon videos! I’m saying…does it speak of your different-ness? What about presenting an accurate picture of who you are…not always making your life seem like a fairy tale and stretching the truth to seem more glamorous. Everybody knows it’s not girls, you live in a broken world like the rest of us…so just be honest. If you don’t have something nice to say on there…don’t say anything! Do you partake in gossip and slanderous talk or do you speak with kindness and make them wonder about your JESUS?

What about your speech? Do you talk with the same language that everyone else uses? Do you refrain from profanity, or do you struggle to not fit in…so maybe you curse sometimes to be cool?

Do you do things and go places that you know you shouldn’t, but it just feels awkward to go against the flow so you do it anyway?

Do you only choose to befriend people who are like you or do you have lots of age groups and personalities in your circles? Look at people through Jesus’s eyes…It’s different, but it’s beautiful.

What about the way you look…the way you carry yourself…your attitude…how you treat your parents and siblings…what activities you spend your free time on? Being different is our call to bring others to the Cross…because let’s get real…who wants to follow Jesus when there’s nothing different about His followers?

I think about that big, bold and beautiful autumn tree a lot. That’s what I want to look like. I’m a tree…a person like everyone else…but what’s inside of me is what changes how I look, act and speak. I do stick out from some of my fellow trees…but I hope and pray it’s the kind of difference that makes people long for my JESUS. I want my life to beckon others to look toward the God of the universe and be willing to follow Him as well. I want to be Beautifully Different.

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What about you? I’d love to hear from you, friend. What are some ways you can be Beautifully Different and reflect JESUS in your daily life? Leave your comments below or shoot me an email!

New Mercies Every Morning

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Do you ever have those moments when your wonder of God’s greatness gets exploded and you stand in awe of His power? I have. Last week, in fact.

I was standing in my kitchen and listening to the narrative of God’s power and grace on the life of my brother. I’ll spare you all the details, but it’s more than safe to say that my younger brother came within literal feet and inches of death…and lives to tell about it. He drives a semi truck and was fully loaded with logs when he came face to face with a big county truck fully loaded with salt. It’s slick outside. Brakes don’t work this time of year in Michigan…. especially for a semi or other heavy trucks. Police at the sight later shook their heads in disbelief. Both drivers should have died. Instead, both walked away without a single scratch.

As my brother told the story, I stood there amazed at God’s mercy. My skin tingled. Shivers ran down my spine. His mercies are new every morning Lamentations tells us. “Great is Thy faithfulness!” The accident happened right in front of our local school. It was around 2pm…school was letting out….and not one child was anywhere near when the accident took place. Now I call that God’s finger print!!!

Miracles are happening every day, all around us. Problem is, I don’t often stop and notice them. The million things that God graces us with daily…and we walk by without a thought. The air we breathe. The water we drink. The seasons. The baby that curls up in your arms and sleeps like an angel. The fireflies in the summer sky. These are all small miracles. Graces He gives us every day.

As I was thinking of the accident and reflecting on God’s mercy, my brother’s seven-month-old daughter was sitting near me as I played the piano. She loves music and was humming in her sweet baby way. Then (as if I were in “It’s a wonderful life” with Clarence, the angel) my mind flashed to a world without my brother. Morbid, I know. But it was as if God have me a picture of His mercy in a bigger way.

I imagined a funeral instead of joyful relief and gratefulness. A young widow and her seven-month-old daughter. A farm without a farmer. A hole in our family. Shock. Grief. Heart ache. The moment was awful…staring into what could have been a tragic loss.

And then…a miracle instead! God’s mercy. He chose to give life. To grant protection. To dispatch hundreds of angels for that specific moment. To steer those trucks perfectly and spare the lives of two young men…and countless school children. Mercy like that makes you want to sing! So I did. With my little niece humming her own tune, we sang worship songs and praise anthems to Jesus. His mercy! He has chosen mercy and love and protection. Thank you Jesus!

A miracle. That’s what we are. Human wonders that God has created to tell the world His story. He loves us. He cares for us. Even when we don’t see His hand, His fingerprints dot our very being. I stand amazed in His presence. I am in awe of His power. The prophet Jeremiah said so well in Lamentations 3:22-24, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” And it all made me wonder. Standing in awe…What miracle have I failed to see? What else have I missed?