The Beauty of Simplicity? (and the beauty of change)

Sunrise over the Galilee

“Living life and loving Jesus in the beauty of simplicity.”

That sounds good, doesn’t it? It used to be the tagline for this blog. I thought it sounded good when I first put it up and I still think it sounds good now.

Unfortunately, it is also a little hard to live up to.

The surprising thing is as I have intentionally simplified my life, I’ve simultaneously discovered just how “unsimple” parts of it still are. Not only that, over the years, things I thought were simple, have taken on new layers of complexity and depth.

But that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey. It’s all part of the paradox of life and faith.  And one of the major  paradoxes in my life right now is that life has never been more complicated …

Or more simple.

“Many things in life are complicated, but our faith doesn’t need to be one of them.”

Another quote from this blog (on the Why Simple Faith page). This is a truth I cling to like a lifeline. On one hand, I’ve learned to enjoy the simplicity and beauty of being present in God’s presence every day. (Just posted on this very topic over on the Live Brave blog a couple days ago.)  On the other hand, taking a bit of personal ownership and responsibility for some of the very complex and devastating issues currently facing humanity also weighs heavily upon my heart and soul.

For the record, I’m not talking about being weighed down by these issues, but I do feel the weight of his love and compassion over the injustices rampant in our world …

And I can’t ignore that fact.

So here I stand. A simple girl, with simple faith, in the midst of a complex world. A simple girl, with simple faith, compelled by the love of Christ to make a difference–somehow someway–in the complicated issues of our time.

A simple girl, with simple faith, who must shine the profound but simple truth of his love on–and into–the darkness.

I’m not entirely sure what that will mean for this blog. I’ve been chewing on this question for awhile. All I do know is I’ll be making some changes. I’ve hinted at that before. Hint is all I can do at this point because I haven’t completely landed. For now,  I will be focusing a bit more on my blog over at Deeper Waters  (if you are a not a subscriber over there, please consider signing up).   I’ll be making a few tweaks  and using that blog as the primary place I focus on the simple beauty and pleasure of loving–and being loved by–God (which, for the record, will ALWAYS be my favorite topic).

As for Simple Faith? I’ll always need–and hopefully will always have–simple faith, but  I’m not sure I need a blog to share it anymore. In fact, that isn’t what I have been sharing most often on this blog in recent months. It’s run its course. Not sure when I’ll mix things up–could be weeks, could be months … who knows. But whenever and however I change things, I plan to leave all the existing content right where it is. I’ll just change the theme and focus whenever I’m ready to move forward.

This is bittersweet for me. There have been times I’ve needed this place to express myself. I’m SO grateful to those of you who have been regular readers. You have enriched my life greatly. Those of you who have encouraged me along this journey will forever be in my heart. I hope most of you will continue to stay in touch through Deeper Waters or, in the future, through whatever form this blog ultimately takes.  I sincerely hope that many of you have found encouragement here along the way–that has always been my desire and prayer.  And for all of us,  I pray we will ultimately learn to live life and love Jesus …

In the beauty of simplicity.

The Elevator Speech – a recap on my recent trip

“Hey, how was your vacation?”

I heard the question a dozen times a day the first week I returned from Thailand and Cambodia. Even though most people knew I wasn’t exactly going on vacation, that still seemed to be the word a lot of people used once I returned.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

In truth, the trip was anything but a vacation. It was one of the most intense, exhausting, emotionally draining and spiritually provoking two week periods of my life.

But that wasn’t the answer most people were looking for—so I had a dilemma. How could I satisfy casual curiosity (or just plain social nicety) and still answer honestly?

Enter the elevator speech.

Anyone who has had any exposure to marketing is familiar with the concept of an elevator speech. An elevator speech is a quick, pre-rehearsed snippet designed to communicate information about your … (product, organization, service…or, er, vacation) in the approximately 30 seconds or so you would have in a random connection with someone on an elevator. The idea is to give an accurate and intriguing synopsis that will satisfy the merely polite while simultaneously identifying and drawing in the truly interested.

So here is my elevator speech:

This trip was an intense and impactful time of entering some of the darkest areas on the planet–areas where human trafficking and sex tourism are rampant–and discovering the priceless treasures hidden in the dark. My eyes were opened to see things I could never have fathomed and I was forever changed by the things I saw.  I believe God ordained this trip for a specific purpose and my challenge now is to determine how to best use my individual gifts and resources in a long-term way that will help bring these hidden treasures into the light.

So that’s my elevator speech. My three sentence recap on what the trip meant to me personally. Probably still more info than a completely casual inquirer really wants to hear, but at least it’s honest. If you want the Reader’s Digest condensed version–there it is.

Does this really tell the story? No. Not even close. I’m not sure I can tell the whole story at this point. Even though I’m home, much of the story that prompted this trip is still being written. There’s also a long back story that gives context. There are parts of the story that still need to be discovered. Other portions require more thought, more prayer before releasing details.

But this I do know–the One who is the Author and Finisher of my individual story, is also the Author and Finisher of this story–the story of these cities and these people. The story of these treasures hidden in darkeness. And he sees the whole picture. He sees far beyond elevator speeches and sanitized, condensed recaps. He sees the end from the beginning. He is the Light in the darkness, the Hope to the hopeless, the Voice for the voiceless, and the only One who can (and will) ultimately write a happy ending to the story.

Although there is much to unfold, I have glimpsed the final outcome. I know the end of the story and I know it’s good. But there is a lot right now that isn’t good. There is a lot of suffering. A lot of heartache–heartache so deep and desperate that a mere word can’t begin to convey the reality of the nightmare.  There is real evil and real depravity that has crept into many, many dark crevices of the story. There is an incredible amount of devastating pain and tragic loss.

But those details of my “vacation” are for another time. Maybe even for another place–I’m not sure yet. If you are amongst those who are intrigued and do want to hear more–I will definitely  share more info in some format at some point in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.  But for right now, the  elevator speech will have to suffice. Because honestly …

It’s about all my heart can bear at the moment.

Tuning out … to tune in

Everyone has a voice.

That’s a good thing. We all need an authentic means of expressing ourselves. We all have something worthwhile to share with the world around us. We are all worthy of having someone care and having someone listen to the things we write and say.

Many of us do care and do want to listen to those around us. That’s a good thing as well.

But when you start hearing too many voices at one time–a good thing can quickly turn into a not-so-good thing.

When everyone starts speaking at once – when everyone wants to be heard – when everyone has an opinion–a favorite principle to live by, a favorite scripture to quote, a favorite issue they’re passionate about, a favorite soapbox, etc.–well, it can all become a little overwhelming. It can become a little chaotic. And if you let it go too far,  it can even become a little confusing.

So I’m tuning out for a bit. I’m tuning out the extra noise.

But I’m not tuning out to check out

I’m tuning out to tune in. 

I’m tuning in to the Voice.

His voice

…the voice of my Beloved.

…the voice of the One who loves me.

…the voice of the One who knows me.

…the voice of the One who knows what need to hear.

…the voice of the One who orders my steps.

Because, his is the only voice I will ultimately answer to for the choices I make in life.

I’m so grateful for all the amazing voices in my life. Whether they be personal friends, family, spiritual leaders, fellow bloggers/authors, or many, many others–my life has been greatly enriched by the voices of others.  But there are times when you need to be very intentional about avoiding an overload of input. There are times when the only voice you really need to hear is his.

That’s where I’m at. I’ve taken in a lot lately. I need time to sift through it. I need time to pray through it. I need him to show me what to do with it all. I need him to show me how to respond.

Really, I’m in this place where I’m so keenly aware of the fact that one day I will stand before his throne and I will give an account for my life. And on that day, there is only one voice and one opinion that will matter …

His.

So I’m turning the volume way down on all the other amazing and well-meaning but not-always-so-relevant-to-me-right-now voices.  I’m sharpening my focus. I’m adjusting the tuner and dialing in to 

…his voice

…his word

…his heart

And as I take the time to really listen …

I know I’ll hear everything I really need to hear.

Treasures Hidden in Darkness

This world is full of secret treasure. Treasures swallowed up by shadows. Treasures shrouded by obscurity. Treasures buried in pain.

Treasures hidden in darkness.

These treasures don’t  look the way you might expect them to look. And they’re not found where you might expect them to be found.

But make no mistake, the treasure is there. Often hiding in plain sight. Waiting to be seen by those with eyes to see. Waiting to be heard by those with ears to hear.

Waiting for true worth to be revealed.

These treasures have names.

They have faces.

They have stories.

And their stories need to be told. 

Because they’re worth it.

Despite all this world has stolen from them, they have value. Despite the darkness they’ve endured, they have dignity. Despite the shame that has ensnared them, they are honored …

In His eyes.

Because they’re His treasures. 

I’ve met some of these treasures …  refugees … street kids … children sold into sex slavery by their own parents … young women lured into the trap of prostitution because they have no other means of supporting their desperately needy families.

Their circumstances and stories are as unique as each individual, but the common thread is their great value. Their great worth. Even in a world that uses them up and tosses them away, they are priceless in the eyes of their Creator.

And they are known by Him.

You need to know them, too.

Because Jesus never forgets them. They are never out of His sight. They are never out of His thoughts. Not one of them. Ever. They are His treasures …

His treasures hidden in darkness.

I wish I had more time with them. I wish I had learned enough about each one to share their stories.  Their real stories. The inconvenient stories. The no-so-nice stories. The stories that may leave you feeling more sick than inspired. Even the shocking and horrifying stories.

Because each of us has a real story. And the real stories of these priceless treasures hidden in the darkness …

Need to be brought into the light. 

I’ll be honest, I don’t really have a clue how to do that. I’m not at all sure I can do that. But I need to do something, because their stories have gripped my soul. Their stories have broken my heart.  I’ve looked into their eyes and I’ve seen them. My heart has been pierced by their silent cries and I’ve heard them.

Their stories have invaded my nice tidy little world and I simply can’t allow it to remain the same.  I can’t go back to pretending I don’ t see or hear. 

Will you pray with me? Will you hope with me? And as He moves on your heart, will you respond with me?

Together we can tell the world. Together we can discover and share their stories. And together we can finally bring these treasures hidden in darkness  …

Into the light. 

*******

I’ve just returned from an intense and impactful trip to SE Asia. There are many things God is stirring in my heart and, at this moment, I’m not sure what shape they will take. As a result, I’m not sure what direction blogging will take in the future. I just know I need to do something and part of that “something” will very likely involve writing. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten at the moment. I very much appreciate your prayers for clarity and focus in the days ahead.

For more information on how you can take a stand against modern-day slavery, check out this post from a few months back. I hope to be compiling even more info and setting it up as a permanent page on this site in the near future.

For the Sake of the World

I originally wrote this almost a year ago. Since I am currently away doing some of the very things mentioned in the post, I thought it was a good time to re-post. I am in awe of God’s faithfulness!

For the sake of the world burn like a fire in me
Light a flame in my soul for every eye to see
For the sake of the world burn like a fire in me …
(From the song “For the Sake of the World” by Brian Johnson)

This was a hard post for me to write. I’ve been sitting on it for a while now. But I know I need to take a step of faith and “put it out there.”

It may not seem like a big deal to anyone else. I’m okay with that. Even if there isn’t another soul on the planet who understands the battle I’ve fought to be able to publicly declare what’s burning in my heart–it’s totally okay. I need to do this for me.

So what’s the big deal? Simply this: My heart burns “for the sake of the world” ….

And I know I’m (still) called to go.

There’s a decades long back story to that statement. I’m not going to even attempt to share it here. But I needed to say it. I needed to own it. This is who I am. It’s who I’m (still) called to be and it’s what I’m (still) called to do. Years ago, in one of the most profound encounters I’ve ever had with the Lord, I not only said ‘yes’ to this specific call, I literally laid down my life for this purpose. And, although the years since haven’t exactly gone as expected …

I haven’t changed my mind.

No one will ever have to convince me that the local church serves a vitally important purpose. There are many, many issues and needs in our own backyard that desperately need our time and resources. I get that. I also get the concept of “blooming where you’re planted”–I’m not half bad at it. I’ve learned to enjoy the journey. I’ve learned to cheer for, pray for, and support others who have gone and are going. I’ve learned to “occupy”–and to make the most of the opportunities that are in front of me. I’ve found many ways to use the various gifts God’s given me right here and right now.

But that doesn’t take away the passion and longing that still burns in my heart.

I’ve had the opportunity–at several key intersections–to be involved in significant ministry in a local church setting. And sometimes, for a season, that has been the right thing to do. Many, many times I even convinced myself it was what I wanted. But each time something held me back. And whenever push came to shove and there was a choice to commit long-term or to press on for what really burns in my heart, I’ve ended up walking away …

Every. Single.Time.

I’ve beaten myself up plenty for that. A whole lot of other folks have joined that party and thrown plenty of punches, too. They have no idea how much I wanted to make it work. How hard I tried to make it work–but it just doesn’t. So I’ve walked away from things I could do — things that looked great on paper –things that seemed like they should fit –things I was gifted to do — for one simple reason:

I wasn’t called to do them.

My heart was elsewhere. My heart was …

  • Sitting with Jesus on the Mt of Olives, weeping over the city of Jerusalem
  • Reaching out in compassion and prayer to those trapped in the nightmare of sex slavery in the red light districts of Thailand and Cambodia
  • Leading small prayer teams in strategic and prophetic intercession in key geographical locations throughout the earth
  • Declaring destiny and hope over at-risk kids in some of the most hopeless places on the planet

I could add to that list, but you get the idea. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do all of those things and more–but not in a long-term sustainable way. Basically I ache to pray and go–and to go and pray. After all these years — my dream — my desire –what I burn for — really hasn’t changed all that much.

It’s what makes me come alive.

I have no clue what the future will bring. I do have some ideas of what it could look like on a long-term basis, but I have the distinct feeling God has his own ideas … and his own timing. Honestly I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever get to “go” long-term or that I’ll ever see the fruition of many things I’ve prayed into for years. But I’ll keep praying. I’ll keep believing. I’ll keep cheering, and I’ll keep supporting others who can go. I know what I have been able to do does make a difference. I don’t plan to stop.

And, despite the counsel of some to go out and “do something” to “make it happen” I’ll wait on the timing and leading of the Lord. As much as I want to go–I need to be sent.

I think I will be. I sense a shift. I feel like I’ve been 9 months pregnant (for years!) with a long overdue dream. “‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 66:9). Right now, he’s simply not allowing me to be less than honest about who I am and what I really want. In fact, he’s been doing a pretty darn good job lately of keeping me from walking through any door that would lock me in anywhere else. Let’s just say he definitely has my attention.

So I’m listening. I’m waiting. I’m watching. I’m ready. I’m hoping. And I’m praying.

In the end, whatever does or doesn’t happen, I’ll still have joy. I’ll still have peace. God will still be good. Above all, he is my passion and I can love and serve him anywhere. I’ll still be who I am right here. And I’ll still do what I can right here.

But my heart burns for the sake of the world.

I refuse to deny that fact any longer.

**********

What makes your heart burn? Have you been trying to “dumb down” your dreams to fit them into something that is more manageable; more feasible?  What really makes you come alive? Maybe it’s time to figure it out!

Leavin’ on a jet plane …

Thailand 2008 036I’m headed to the airport in just a couple hours. My bags are packed and, as much as possible, all the last minute details have been dealt with. Our little team will land in Bangkok at about 11am Saturday local time, which is still late Friday evening for most in the States. (For more info about our trip check here or here.) It will be my first time back in SE Asia since 2008.

I really don’t know what to expect.

The only thing I do know is that this is God’s trip … in God’s timing.

I actually tried pretty hard to get out of this little adventure–or at least postpone it–every which way I could (yep absolutely true, spiritual giant that I am) but that door just kept standing wide open.

Rarely have I  been so certain of a door He was opening.  I was pretty darn convinced already, but the icing on the cake was the unexpected prophetic words from complete strangers calling out not only one of the  nations I was headed to, but also the specific issue we were tackling, some of the specific gifts He’s calling me to exercise. And then,  just for fun, they threw in one of the most specific fears I was battling.

I told the Lord He was just showing off.

Showing off or not, after that kind of rather dramatic confirmation, it’s a bit hard to plead ignorance and say I’m still not quite sure I’m supposed to go.

That’s why I’ll be getting on a plane in just a few hours. I made a deal with Jesus years ago to never to shut any door He wasn’t shutting. Clearly He wasn’t shutting this one, so I’m walking through the door.

I know there are things that won’t be easy, but that isn’t why I tried to postpone the trip. I just didn’t feel ready. I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t think it was the right time. I really wasn’t even all that sure how I felt about the whole thing in general.

But the truth is, I really do know how I feel and that’s what scares me. I wasn’t  hesitant because I don’t care. That’s not the problem at all. Really, I was trying to weasel out for one simple reason. I was trying to protect my heart …

Because I care too much.

And that does make it hard. But He knows that. Which is why He has been so incredibly gracious and kind to reassure my heart that we’re in this together. I feel incredibly weak and foolish, but in Him I am strong.

So off I go. Maybe I’ll have lots to say when I return. Maybe I won’t. Maybe something very significant will change. Maybe things will look exactly the same.

I don’t know.

I only know this …

I’ am getting on that plane.

And I’m glad.

Stepping Out (Again)

Sometimes you just need to step out of the boat … again.

It’s not always easy. It doesn’t always feel like the right time. Sometimes it may not even seem like it’s the right thing to do.

But when you see Him — when you see the delight and expectation in His eyes — when you hear Him calling you — when you feel Him drawing you –well, what else can you do?

So you get out of the boat. Again. And that’s exactly what I find myself doing in this season …

I’m stepping out
I’m stepping out of the boat
I’m stepping into the unknown …

Read the rest of Stepping Out over on the Live Brave blog.

Audacious, Bold … and Content

Sometimes I’m just not sure where to land.

One day I’ll be earnestly grappling with places of disconnect between what I say I believe and what my life actually demonstrates. The very next day (or even the very next moment) I’m resting in the amazing reality of the finished work of the cross.

It’s been this way for a while now. There was a time I lived more on the side of contending–praying audacious, bold prayers. Constantly seeking the “more” of God. I was never very confident in outward things, but in the unseen realm, I had great confidence. And I did  pray big prayers.  I believed–really believed–my prayers could shape the course of nations. I believed there were no hindrances to what God could do in and through my life. Well, I believed for awhile …

Until I didn’t.

It was a subtle thing. A little disappointment here. A little burn-out there. A little revelation of how some religious habits and thinking had worked themselves into my mostly pure prayers. And before I knew it, disillusionment began to dim down the fire in my heart.

But it wasn’t all bad.

Some of it was a much needed redirection to a place of rest. To a place of refreshing and relaxing. To a place of letting go. To a place of simply enjoying the presence of God without the frustration of desperately wanting to see certain things happen. I’d always loved just being with him and I began to connect with the simple joys of daily life with him on a much deeper level.

Really, I finally learned to be content.

Until contentment began to look a lot like complacency.

Until the Holy Spirit began stirring and awakening my heart. Until he began reminding me of those bold, audacious prayers I used to pray. Until he leaned over and whispered ever-so-gently and lovingly into my ear that he liked those prayers. 

Until he asked me to–please–pray them again.

And when it comes down to it,  I’ve never really been able to tell him no.

So here I am …

~contending, yet content

~wrestling, yet resting

~hungry for more, yet fully satisfied

For a long time I thought these concepts were mutually exclusive. But it turns out they’re not. And I’m glad. Because this is a good place to be. A really good place. Probably the best place I’ve ever been. It’s the place of learning to be …

audacious

bold …

and content

In fact, it’s so good here that I’ve decided it’s quite alright that I don’t have a clue where to land.

It just means I’ll have to learn to keep soaring.

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. –Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

What about you? Are there prayers–maybe even bold and audacious prayers–you no longer pray? Is it time to start again? Is it time to learn to be  audacious , bold … and content?

Shine the Light (on Slavery)

Walking Street in Pattaya–center of the red light district

“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” ― William Wilberforce

I was only eight so the drive seemed long.

We were driving from Bangkok, where we lived at the time, to Pattaya, a beach resort less than two hours away. My favorite part of the drive was the monkeys in the trees we would pass along the way.

When we arrived, I loved being on the beach. As a Southern California girl I always loved the beach. Any beach. Although this beach was literally a world away from the Pacific Coast I grew up near, it still reminded me– just a little bit–of home.

What I liked even better was the chance to get away together as a family. None of us were particularly thrilled to be living in Thailand (my dad’s job took us there), so there always seemed to be a lot of tension. There were good things about living overseas, but a lot of hard things too.

Pattaya was one of my favorite good things.

My mom and dad seemed more relaxed there. Even though we were already out of the country, my dad still traveled a lot so we didn’t always have that much time together. But in Pattaya, we had fun. I learned to water ski on a “granny ski” (two ski’s sort of fused together in the front for greater stability). We rode horses on the beach. We laughed and we played.

That was my experience of Pattaya—a place of innocence and childhood fun. A place of escape from the daily pressures of life.

In a few weeks I’ll be back in Pattaya for the first time in over 40 years. Although I’ve been back to Thailand several times in recent years, I’ve haven’t been to Pattaya since I was a child.

Let’s just say it’s not a place of innocence and childhood fun any more.

Today, many eight-year-olds in Pattaya are bought and sold multiple times a night–trapped in the horrors of sex slavery. It’s a place many long to escape from.

It’s a place where innocence is stolen.

AND IT’S NOT OKAY.

Will our little praying team of Jesus-believing, freedom-loving, justice-seeking, incurable fanatics really be able to make much of a difference in the midst of such deep darkness?

I don’t know.

But I do know we can’t possibly make a difference if we do nothing.

So we’re taking a stand. We’re praying. We’re giving. We’re going. We’re speaking out. We’re shining a light on the very real and very heartbreaking issue of slavery that exists today in staggering numbers.

Will you join us?

The END IT Movement has designated Feb. 27th (which just happens to be the day we leave for SE Asia) as the international “Shine a Light on Slavery Day.”

You can check their website for details, but the premise is simple: On February 27th draw a red X on your hand as a message to the world that slavery still exists and you won’t stand for it.

Again, will a bunch of people drawing big red X’s on their hands actually do anything to save the eight-year-olds (and twenty-year-olds, and five-year-olds, and thirty-two-year-olds-if-they-live-that-long, etc.) being bought and sold on a daily, if not hourly, basis?

Probably not in the short run.

But it WILL shine a light.

And maybe, just maybe, if enough people stand together and say enough is enough …

We will END IT.

And when that happens, maybe one day Pattaya (and scores of other places like it around the globe) will once again be a place of childhood innocence and fun.

***********

PLEASE spread the word among your own spheres of influence–your schools, workplaces, churches, community groups, etc–if we stand together we will make a difference.

I’m attaching a link to Chris Tomlin’s version of the song “God of This City.” The song was written by an Irish band called Bluetree while on outreach in Pattaya:

The Substance of Grace

Have you ever noticed a disconnect between the things you say you believe and what you consistently live?

Me too.

Although I have always had a very high value for  authenticity and tend to be very transparent about my own weaknesses and struggles, there are many values and beliefs I hold dear in my heart that do not (yet) seem to be consistently manifested in the reality of my life. I desperately want to live the substance of my words. Really, I want to live what I say I believe.

Fortunately, while I’m still working things out (sometimes, like the Apostle Paul, with “fear and trembling”) I can rest in the very real substance of grace. Because even though I’m working things out on this side, from Heaven’s perspective, it’s already finished. And for that, I am so very, very grateful.

I started pondering this concept over on the Live Brave blog today with this post on the Substance of Grace.

May your heart be strengthened again today in His might grip of grace!

From His Heart to Yours: February 3, 2014

Cindy Powell:

Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is let go and allow Love to work.

Originally posted on Deeper Waters:

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

—1 John 4:18 (NIV)

I see your heart, beloved oneand I see the hearts of the ones you long to protect. I see the ones you long to speak up for and the ones you want to defend, but have you forgotten I love them more than you do? Have you forgotten I am with them and for them in ways you can never be? Yes, I’ve called you to be a voice for the voiceless—your voice matters, your prayers matter, your tears matter—but the weight of the battle is Mine. Although your intentions are good, at times you are motivated more by fear than love. Let My perfect love cast out all of your fear. Bring the…

View original 332 more words

Until I Know

As I’ve already shared, I’ve committed to posting a couple times a month over on the Live Brave blog. My first post over there was this short poem. I like to get my head around things in simple terms and I wrote that first poem to do just that. I wanted to answer the question (for me) of what it means to live brave. The last part of the poem goes like this:

Living brave -
It’s not a life style
It’s living life …
Right here, right now,
Fully alive,
Gripped by grace
Compelled by love
Unwilling to settle for anything less
Than ALL you were created to be

Sounds good, right?

But what does that really mean?

We writer types are good with words. I can write, say, and even pray lots and lots of pretty words.

But I’m not content to merely use certain words and phrases—I want to consistently live them.

The night before the poem posted, I saw the tail end of a new documentary called “Compelled by Love” (I’ve since seen the whole film—it is awesome). In that short glimpse, I was ruined. I was ruined because in that moment I wasn’t at all sure I understood what it really means to live my life “compelled by Love.”

But I want to know—desperately.

So I started writing again …

Compelled by Love~
What does it mean?
How can I be …
Compelled by Love?

Gripped by grace~
What does it mean?
How can I be …
Gripped by grace?

Fully alive~
What does it mean?
How can I be …
Fully alive?

Right now I have more questions than answers. But I get the sense it’s a good thing to be willing to pause and ponder – to be willing to ask hard questions – to be willing to say …

I really don’t know.

Because I know the One who does know. (Or at least, I’m on a journey of getting to know Him.)

And as I remain in Him, I pray I really will be …

Compelled by Love

Gripped by grace

And fully alive

And while I’m still praying it through and working it out, I pray I will remain brave enough to admit I really don’t know …

Until I know.

When Silence Isn’t an Option

It has always perplexed me that I can post some inane random thought on Facebook and immediately receive a slew of “likes” and comments, but then post something on a serious issue, such as human trafficking, and things go eerily silent.

It happens in other forums too–even in the wonderful world of blogging. I’ve often thought that maybe it’s just me. Maybe I don’t have the right words, or skill, or credibility, or whatever it is, to shine any real light on such a dark issue. Maybe I should just back off and leave it to others who do. Maybe I should offer support in quieter, less noticeable ways.

Maybe I should just be silent.

Sad to say, I’ve often done just that. But sometimes God grips your heart in such a way that staying silent is no longer an option. So even if I do it awkwardly, ineffectively, inconsistently–or even just plain badly–I’m going to speak out.

I spoke out on the issue of trafficking yesterday on the Live Brave blog with a post that began with this poem:

I See You

I see you hidden in the shadows
Silenced by your shame
I see you trapped in darkness
Locked in a prison of pain

I see you victimized by perversion
Forced to serve the lust of man
I see the tears you cry each night
Over innocence lost at their hands

I see you cast into a pit of despair
Heartache your closest friend
I see you battling demons alone
Unsure the nightmare will ever end

I see the torment you’ve endured
Your humanity, they stole
I see the scars of injustice
Now carved upon your soul

I see you, little one, I see you
I have since your days began
I see what’s been done to you—
It was never part of My plan

I see, but so must others
My eyes search to and fro
For those who will hear My heart
And shake the status quo

I see, now will you?
Can you hear her crying still?
Will you do what you can to help?
If not you … who will?

That really is the question … if those who see are silenced, how will others hear and see? If those who see are silenced, who will be left to do something?

Is God stirring your heart to help? January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month. Conservative estimates place the number of individuals trafficked at approximately 27 million. Nearly 80 percent of those are victims of sexual exploitation; 20 percent are children.

27 Million.

Can you even conceive the magnitude of that number?

Neither can I. It’s mind boggling and it’s heart breaking. I can’t conceive of 27 million, let alone personally do something to help 27 million. But I can do what I can for one (or two, or three, or four, or …?).

So can you.

Educate yourself. Open your eyes. Pray. Give. Go. Do what you can do to help. Most of all …

Speak out.

Because sometimes silence is no longer an option.

************

I will be going with a small team of four to Cambodia and Thailand from February 17 through March 14th. We’ll be supporting and connecting with several organizations in both countries that help provide a way out of the nightmare of sex slavery. If you’d like more information or an opportunity to partner with us, email me at: simplefaith247@gmail.com.

If you’d like more general info on this issue, I listed some helpful links on this post from a couple months back.

With much grace for the journey,

Cindy

Let Love Begin With Me

I woke up today feeling like a baby elephant was sitting on my chest. I started crying the moment I got out of bed.

Sometimes you just need to do that … cry.

This world will break your heart. There is so much injustice. So much pain. Some of it is personal. Some of it comes from being touched by the pain of others.

This was both.

Pain is an inevitable part of life. But what really discourages my heart is avoidable pain–especially the pain that comes from the body of Christ devouring its own. We want to build big churches, but tear down people in our desperate attempts to get there. We cast big visions, but fail to see the one standing right in front of us. We preach big sermons with big ideals, but live out something very, very different.

Hypocrisy in the church isn’t new. It’s been around from the beginning. And it’s a HUGE distraction from what we are really called to do …

Which is love. 

And because are called to love, that means I must love. To be honest, I’m struggling with that today. I tend to forgive pretty quickly when I’m the only one who has been wronged, but when it involves other people sometimes the “mama bear” in me gets stirred up and, well, lets just say it’s a little harder.

But  … Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 

His love never fails. 

And once again, that’s where I land. His love never fails.  My love fails. Others fail me and those I love. We do hurt each other. But His love never fails.

As I’m writing this, it’s Martin Luther King Day. I think of Dr. King’s famous speech … I have a dream.  Well, I have a dream too. I have a dream that one day love will drive out the fear that leads to manipulation and control and a whole host of other not-so-wonderful things within the body of Christ.  And I pray we will finally stop trying to build “a church” and instead become “the church” so we can take love outside the walls with authenticity and authority.

Because there are real problems out there. Love is the real solution. And if I really believe that, then I also need to believe this …

Love must begin with me. 

I’m not there yet. Not by a long shot. If anything I’ve been seeing much evidence of the areas where my love is sorely lacking. But I’m willing. I’m seeking. I’m forgiving and I’m letting go. As best as I’m able right here and right now. And even where I’m not able, I know he is–because his love never fails.

So please, Lord, let love begin with me.

Selah …

cropped-sunset-on-the-galilee-1.jpg

Selah.

Pause.

Ponder.

Think about it. Take it in.

Consider carefully.

That’s what I’ve been doing. Pausing. Pondering. Thinking about stuff. Taking it in. Carefully considering the things stirring in my heart.

I’ve started writing a couple of things, but I’m not getting very far. I’m not focused. There’s no flow. When that happens more than a time or two, I start to pay attention. So instead of trying to force something, I’m pausing and pondering. I’m stepping back and giving myself a moment or two to breathe — a moment or two to reflect — a moment or two to rest.

A moment or two to collect my thoughts.

I’m sure the words will start flowing again in a few days, but even if they don’t that’s okay. In fact, that’s one of the things I’ve been pondering. I’ve been pondering what it means to go with the flow …

Even when the “flow” is standing still.

And right now, that’s what’s happening. So I’m standing still too. I’m standing still and taking just a moment. I’m taking just a moment to …

Selah.

What about you–is there an area in your life where you need to take a little break to “selah”?

New Year, New Season … and New Opportunities!

I just love the fresh start of a new year. I am especially looking forward to  this new year. It seems like I’m not the only one–there is an almost palpable sense of excitement in the air.

Obviously, I don’t know what all this year will hold — watching it unfold is half the fun — but I do want to share a few things that are already on the horizon:

Brave PoetLive Brave

For the next year, I am blessed to be part of the newly formed creative team–comprised of writers, poets, and artists–for the Live Brave blog.  Lesley Glenn, the founder of the Live Brave movement (and also a dear friend) has put together an AMAZING team from all over the country. These ladies are incredible and I am honored to be in their company. You will want to check out ALL of their posts!

I will be posting a couple times a month–primarily poetry. I’ve written poems and songs since I was a kid, but in recent years that form of creative expression has taken a back seat to many other types of writing projects. I’m really excited about this opportunity to go back to my writing “roots.” Here is my first post–really just a few simple thoughts about what it means to live brave.

Head over and join the movement by subscribing to the blog or by liking us on FB!  This is the year to live brave!

Deeper Waters – Encounters and Study Guidedeeper waters

I started the Deeper Waters blog a couple months back as a site dedicated to intimacy with God and to content with more of a  “vertical” focus. The blog is still a work in progress, but as I’ve prayed more about the whole concept, I’ve come to realize the blog was only a very small part of something that has been stirring in my heart for several years now.

A couple years ago I outlined a series of classes focused on going deeper into intimacy with Jesus called Deeper Waters (that is where the name for the blog came from) but,  for various reasons, I never got any further than the outline. I’m not entirely sure how it will work, but I’m sensing it’s time to step out in faith and try to take it beyond that.

My original outline had eight sessions. It may change significantly as it it takes shape, but for now I’m hoping to post a devotional type teaching  once a month, along with a few questions and tools for activation for those who want to go a little deeper. I’m also planning to host a monthly gathering locally. From that  group I will, perhaps, be able post an audio version to go along with each monthly session. (Jury is still out on this idea!)

Again, this is a work in progress, but  I want to explore the topic in a way that positions people for encounter as opposed to simply providing “instruction.” You don’t come to know God’s heart through teaching (at least not primarily), you learn to feel God’s heart by experiencing his presence. So much of the teaching I’ve run across on the subject of intimacy with Jesus is quite linear and left brained–which is kind of an amusing approach to a subject that is anything but linear! Not sure how, or if, I can take it “out of the box” and still make the content accessible and applicable, but I feel compelled to try. We’ll see where it lands! If it doesn’t work, at least I’ll have tried. :-)

Word of the Year: Go!

I’ve been seeing and hearing the word “go” everywhere lately. That little word means a lot of things to me–both in a local and global context.  More than anything I believe it signifies a shift in seasons.  But for now, one of the things it means to me specifically,  is that I will be headed to SE Asia at the end of next month. I’m sure I’ll write more about it at some point in the future, but for now if you’d like to learn more about what we’ll be doing, click on the picture below (although you may have to enlarge it to actually read it!):

Thailand Cambodia 2014

So yeah … new year, new season … and lots of new opportunities. I really believe it’s going to be a great year!  If you have a moment to share, I’d love to hear about some of the new things on the horizon in your world.

Here’s to a year of drawing closer to the heart of God and to all of his best and highest purposes in our lives!

From His Heart to Yours: January 2, 2014

Cindy Powell:

Praying that this year you remember you are always loved and always accepted by God. Always! Read the latest “Love Letter: From His Heart to Yours” over at Deeper Waters.

Originally posted on Deeper Waters:

“Those who look to him are radiant;  their faces are never covered with shame”

—Psalm 34:5(NIV)

Set your gaze above, beloved; fix your eyes on Me. Let the light of My love fill you and chase away all remnants of the night. The darkness is behind you, it truly is a new year and a new day! You are a new creation in Me; old things have passed away—all things have become new. This isn’t about what you feel; it’s about who you are—and you are Mine! Although you may, at times, feel shame over the things you’ve done in the past—or for the things you failed to do—I never look upon you with disappointment or regret. ALL of your sin and failures were washed away by the blood I shed on Calvary.  Whenever you fail or feel defeated—look up. You will always find acceptance and love in My…

View original 178 more words

Grateful … and Content

As 2013 ends and 2014 begins I find my heart overrun with one predominant emotion …

GRATITUDE.

Right now I am in a puddle of tears simply because I’m grateful.

I’m so, so grateful for this past year.

No, there weren’t any particularly spectacular events that took place this year. In fact, there was a lot of heartache. There was a lot of difficulty personally and for those I love. There was a lot of loss and a lot of disappointment. There were several unexpected detours–and more than a few delays.

But as I reflect back on the year, my focus isn’t on any of those things.

My focus is on his goodness.

My focus is on the abounding grace I had for the journey.

My focus is on the unshakable hope alive in my heart.

My focus is on him.

… the One who personifies goodness

… the One who is filled with grace

… the One who is the source of my hope

Yes, there were some losses this year–and they stung. I’m still mourning some of them. But this year wasn’t about what I lost, it was about what I found. And I found a lot of things this year.

… I found hope again

… I found rest (for real)

… I found faith at a whole new level

If you were to boil it down to just one word, I think what I really found was contentment.

I found contentment in a way that has eluded me in the past. Contentment that far transcends circumstances. I’d tasted it before, but there was always this little place in me that still felt like I was missing something. There was a little spot in my heart where I still felt like an orphan–where I still felt left out. There was still a little niggling thought that I really didn’t have all I needed.

But I do. And somehow, someway, somewhere along the way this year I’ve realized that.

And I’m so, so grateful.

No, I’m not walking in this new found contentment perfectly. I’m not there all the time. I wish! Like anything else I’ll have to just keep walking it out–step-by-step, day-by-day. But sometimes you just know something is different. And as I look a back over this past year I do know something is different … me.

And I’m so, so grateful.

Father, as we reflect on this past year and move into a new year, may it be with expectation and gratitude in our hearts. May you give us a right perspective and in that perspective, may we find peace. Thank you for the reality of your amazing grace that is always sufficient for all things. May hope overflow from your heart to ours as we walk hand-in-hand with you into a new day. You are always with us, always for us–and in you, we always have all we need. ~Amen

Joyful and Triumphant

O’ come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. O’ come ye, o’ come ye, to Bethlehem …

Christmas is over, but I can’t stop thinking about these words. I can’t stop thinking about what it means to come – joyful and triumphant – to Bethlehem.

To small, forgotten Bethlehem. The least likely of all locations, yet a place of miracles. A place where new things are birthed. A place of life.

A place of hope.

The journey Joseph and Mary made to Bethlehem means more to me this year than ever before. I was in Bethlehem just over two months ago. Despite all the times I’ve been in Israel, this was only the second time I’d been in Bethlehem–and the first time I actually visited Manger Square.

We were compelled to go. We knew it was a must even before we left the States. But the journey wasn’t an easy one. Let’s just say we didn’t take the most direct route. Bethlehem isn’t all that far from where we were staying in Jerusalem, but we started off late and, due to some incomplete directions, promptly got on the wrong bus. We were dropped off far away from any familiar landmarks and ended up walking for way too long in the wrong direction.  Since I was already sick and we were both more than a little worn out, we were close to giving up. But we were sure we were supposed to go, so we decided to wait it out a little longer. Finally, with the help of a young Israeli man–who appeared out of nowhere at just the right time speaking impeccable English–we made it to our destination.

We wove our way through the labyrinth of check points, barbed wire, and bullet proof barriers that led across the border and walked right into a frenzy of taxi drivers eagerly competing for the patronage of those with business in the city and for that of the few pilgrims who actually walk across the border on their own. (Almost anyone who visits Bethlehem as a tourist, comes into the city in the security of a large tour bus.)

Somehow we managed to escape the throng of  “persuasive” cabbies. We were on a mission and determined to navigate the two miles or so to Manger Square on our own.

It was a walk I’ll never forget. 

I’m not sure I can tell you why. All I know is that on that walk, I changed. Something in me changed. My friend Genevieve felt the same. Even more, we literally felt the atmosphere in the city change.

Can I prove that? No. But I don’t have to …

I was there.

There was next to nothing on that walk that would have been even remotely familiar to Mary and Joseph. We saw nothing that would have been familiar to the shepherds, or wise men or anyone else who made the journey so many years ago.

But in the unseen realm, I suspect there were many similarities.

We were unlikely candidates, on an unlikely journey,  headed to the most unlikely of places. We all came as weary travelers who had overcome many obstacles and endured many detours (and I’m not just talking about getting on the wrong bus here), yet we all ultimately arrived —  joyful and triumphant — in Bethlehem.

I think the real miracle of Bethlehem is that it’s a place where faith is birthed. I didn’t “see” much of anything out of the ordinary that day. But isn’t that what faith is all about? First you believe, then you see. In many ways, I’m sure even those who came to see Jesus that first Christmas could say the same. Sure there were some very compelling signs directing them along the way (there was, after all, that big splashy angel light show), but when they got to the manger–in the natural–all they saw was a baby.

But what they saw with eyes of faith was a different story. They saw a King. They saw the Messiah.

They saw hope.

So did we.

In case you’re wondering, we didn’t find hope in the Church of the Nativity. I’m not a big fan of most of the “holy” sites in Israel and quite honestly that’s why I hadn’t even bothered to go to the church before. I’ve been to many of them and they’re all pretty much the same. No, we didn’t find hope in a church …

We found hope on the journey.

And hope is joyful.

Hope is triumphant.

No matter where you are on the journey right now–keep going. Stay on the path. Stay on the road to Bethlehem. You’re meant to be there. You’re meant to journey to a place of miracles. A place where new things are birthed.  A place of life.

A place of hope.

A place of faith. And when you begin to walk in that place of joyful, triumphant faith …

Just wait and see what happens in the atmosphere around you.

My Heart to Yours

I’ve been trying too hard lately.

It’s kind of funny, really, because the concepts of rest and abiding in Christ are such deeply rooted core values for me. I always want to be led by his presence. I only want to do what I see him doing.

But, well, sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I miss him.

The Holy Spirit has been graciously unveiling my eyes to some areas where I’ve been “missing it” for a while now. It’s been hard, but also so good. It’s good because whenever he brings revelation, it’s always redemptive. As a result, my heart is pretty “sensitized” at the moment. So it didn’t take long when I realized I was doing it again …

I was trying too hard.

This time, I was trying too hard to write something meaningful.

Christmas is at hand. The end of the year is approaching. I wanted to end on a high note. I wanted to able to write something that really mattered. Because I tend to be pretty sensitive to the fact this time of year is difficult for many, I feel like my recent posts have been a little heavy. I wanted to write something different. Something inspirational. Something encouraging and uplifting.

Maybe even something just a little profound (well, one can hope).

It only took a few moments of heading down that path to start feeling the tension in my gut. It only took a few moments to realize …

I just left Peace behind.

So I turned around. I hid myself in him. I took a deep breath …

And let go.  

As I did, I felt myself relax immediately. The burden to “accomplish” something lifted. My mind became clear. With my focus back where it needed to be, I realized what was really on my heart. And what’s really on my heart is this …

Simply that you will get a fresh glimpse of his

Because his heart is so breathtakingly, amazingly, and stunningly beautiful. There is no way to ever apprehend too much of his heart. No way. Ever. It just isn’t possible.

With that in mind, I offer these simple prayers from my heart to yours:

~ I pray that you will be released from worry and weariness. The Child born to us is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father … and the Prince of Peace. He is the One who gives us rest. Find your life hidden in Christ and you will find rest for your soul.

~I pray that you will remember wonder.  No matter how amazing, or not so amazing, your days have been of late, there are untold wonders to behold in the miracle of Christmas. Discover them again (and again, and again, and again). Discover the wide-eyed, jaw-dropping, reason-defying reality of Immanuel–God with us. Now. Always. Forever. Wow.

~ I pray that you will become lost in worship. Worship in its purest sense is simply a response to his presence. In his presence is fullness of joy. In his presence grumbling turns to gratitude. In his presence chaos turns to calm. In his presence we are present–fully engaged and fully alive. May you glimpse the beauty of his holiness and be forever ruined by the sight.

~ I pray that you will feel the weight of your worth to him. Literally. That you will feel it. Some things can’t be taught or explained–they need to be experienced. So I pray for the experience of his love to invade your heart like never before. That you will know, really know, what you mean to him. He came for you. He stayed for you. He’s here–now–for you. And he’ll never leave.

That’s pretty much it. No new, exciting revelation. No rousing inspirational message. Certainly nothing terribly clever or profound. Just a few simple prayers …

From my heart to yours.

This Christmas may wonder and worship fill your heart as you stand in the presence of the One who loves you more than life!