A few things I’ve learned along the way …

Like anyone, I have my ups and downs. There are (a few) things I’m good at, and a lot of things I’m not-so-good at. Since I’m usually harder on myself than I am on anyone else, I’ve realized that I often focus on the many areas I feel I need improvement rather than on the areas where I’ve actually done well.

For a while now, Jesus has been trying to convince me to be a bit kinder to myself. As a result, I’ve been trying to identify and think about things that are good about me. When I consider the things I like best about me, the very, very, very best thing is the richness and ease of my relationship with the Lord.

There was a Christian country song (yes there is such a thing) some years back that had a line in it that profoundly resonated in my heart. I don’t remember the song itself, or even who sang, it but I do remember this one line:

“You’re the one thing I do right.”

The “one thing” the singer was referring to was his relationship with the Lord. It stuck because I’ve always felt the same way. I’ve often joked that I don’t “do life” particularly well, but through the years, somehow, I have managed to stay the course–to keep moving onward and upward spiritually. Somehow I’ve managed to fall more in love with Him year after year. Somehow I’ve come to believe more, not less, through the years–despite some huge discouragements, disappointments, and losses. Somehow His grace has always been sufficient for me.

Somehow, no matter how often I fail–His love never fails.

His love never fails me. I know this in a way that goes so far beyond words that it makes them seem pretty much useless at times. And because I do know this, somehow, I’ve always been able to press deeper into Him no matter the circumstances or seasons of life.

It sounds weird to put it this way, but I guess you could say this is one of the main things I’m “good at” in life. I struggle with many things, but my relationship with the Lord has never been one of them.

We’re all wired differently and I realize that just because this is true for me, it’s not true for everyone. That’s why I feel like He’s been challenging me to share some of the things I can put into words. Some of the things that have made a difference. Some of the things I’ve gotten right along the way. Some of the things I’ve learned on the journey …

1.I’ve learned that intimacy with God is never, ever, based on performance. Never. Ever.

2. (Because of #1) I’ve learned to run to Him in my brokenness, failures, frustrations and disappointments, rather than away from Him in shame, regret, confusion or anger.

3. I’ve learned that my feelings are valid and very important to Him, but my feelings sometimes lie.

4. I’ve learned to let go (again and again and again).

5. I’ve learned to embrace mystery–I will never come close to understanding it all and I’m okay with that.

6. I’ve learned to be content in all things, but not to be content with all things.

7. I’ve learned that in this world we will have tribulation, but in the end … Love wins.

There are others, of course, but these are the things that come to mind as being the things that have made the biggest difference in my personal journey of faith. You could probably write a book on each of these concepts. I was going to at least fill in a bit of detail under each one, but I didn’t get very far before I realized this post could get really long, really quickly.

Instead, I think I’ve stumbled upon a bit of a series. Over the next several weeks, I’ll plan to write a short post elaborating–just a bit–on each of these seven principles. They’re all interrelated, but I’ll do my best to make some sense out of each one as a stand alone.

In the meantime I plan to keep pressing into His heart …incredibly grateful for what I have managed to learn along the way.

Because, thankfully, He’s still the one thing I do right.

In Secret

In secret
In the quiet stillness
Before the dawn of a new day
You work

Your hands
Those of a skilled Master Potter
Form
And transform
My heart

I couldn’t resist if I tried
Helpless without You
I surrender
To Your touch
And
To Your relentless love

I know You’re answering my prayers
I know Your work is always good
But I never expected it to look ~
Like this
Or to feel ~
Like this

So I let go
Of my expectations
My desires
My demands
Again and again
And again
I let go
Of everything …
Everything but You

And I rest
I rest in the stillness
I rest in the quiet
Most of all
I rest in You

In secret
I feel as though
I’m being born again …
Again
What was before
Will never be again
What was once clear and simple
Will never again make sense
But Your grace is sufficient
Always
Still
Forever
Your grace is sufficient
For me

I’ve often wondered how I came to this place
This place of uncertainty
This place of such pain
But then I remember …
I asked for this
I volunteered

I said yes

I asked You to open my eyes
And You did
To darkness beyond comprehension
To pain beyond imagination

I asked You to break my heart
With the things that break Your own
And You did
Into a million tiny pieces

So here I am
Here I am with You
You’ve hidden me
In the palm of Your hand
You’ve hidden me
Under the shadow of Your wings
And here
In secret
You’re putting me back together

It doesn’t look very pretty from the outside
I feel so weak
Yet somehow I’m stronger
My heart has been shattered
Yet somehow I’m more whole
I tremble before You
Sometimes immobilized by fear
Yet somehow braver than ever
And absolutely
Completely
Unflinchingly
Resolute in the knowledge
That darkness
Will never, ever
Win

So in secret
You work
My body is tired
My soul is weary
But my spirit is alive
Awake
Alert
And ready

Because I haven’t changed my mind
I won’t change my mind
And when You say it’s time
I’ll leave this cocoon
And once again …

I’ll go

Persevering … in rest

“Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you.” – Matt. 7:7 (Amp)

“…men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” –Luke 18:1 (NKJV)

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” –James 5:16 (NKJV)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. ” –Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

” So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” –Hebrews 10:36-36 (NLT)

Are you struggling to lay hold of the promises of God? Could it be that you’re focusing your energy on the wrong thing?

“This is the work of God, that you believe …” –John 6:29 (NKJV)

“For only those who believe can enter his rest.” –Hebrews 4:3 (NLT)

“For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.  So let us do our best to enter that rest.” –Hebrews 4:10-11 (NLT)

In striving, we struggle and strain to lay hold of promises that are already ours. In rest, His promises lay hold of us.

And when that happens …

Quitting is never an option.

What If?

Note: I originally posted this about a year ago but a recent conversation with a friend brought it to mind. I think I needed to ask “What if?” again. Maybe you do too …


What if?

It’s a question we’ve all asked. It’s a question that taunts and torments many in the dark of night …

What if it doesn’t work out? What if the unthinkable happens? What if I don’t get that job? What if my marriage doesn’t survive? What if we lose the house? What if the test results confirm a bad diagnosis? What if the kids really aren’t okay? What if I never get through this overwhelming grief and disappointment? What if I end up alone? What if I never overcome this addiction?

What if things never change and this is as good as it gets?

And those are just a few of them. There are others. There are “what if’s” so deep — so dark — so scary — that we dare not give them words. We dare not speak them out. Haunting “what if’s” that lurk in the deep recesses of our hearts and minds, barely touching the surface of our consciousness.

But they’re there. They’re there waiting for the first sign of trouble to pop up and scream “I told you so!” They’re the hidden joy-killers. The silent peace-snatchers. The diabolical hope-destroyers.

What if … ?

The Lord has been confronting some of my “what if’s” lately. Some I didn’t know were there. Some I thought I’d dealt with. Or I thought I knew better than to think such things in the first place. But in the dark–in the quiet–the reality of a few lingering fears have surfaced. My heart has betrayed me–revealing secret places of unrest and bringing light to the very issue the One who sees all knew all along …

I still don’t trust him as completely as I’d like to think I do.

I still don’t trust him as much as I want to.

But he is eternally patient with me. He is unfathomably kind. And in his patience and kindness, he has been challenging my “what if’s” with a few of his own …

What if he really is as good as he says he is?

What if I’ve heard only the faintest whispers of his greatness and glimpsed only the tiniest glimmers of his glory?

What if my eyes have not seen, my ears have not heard, and my mind has not conceived what he has prepared for me–and for all those who love him?

What if his grace is sufficient and he wins with any hand?

What if he restores double for all my losses and brings something more beautiful than I can fathom out of the ashes of every disappointment and failure?

What if he opens the storehouses of heaven and pours out such blessing I really can’t contain it?

What if I really am as blessed and highly favored as he says I am?

What if the God of Angel Armies is always for me and with me–and nothing is too hard for him?

What if despite discouraging circumstances and apparent detours, all his promises are still yes and amen?

What if goodness and mercy really will follow me all the days of my life?

What if suddenly I see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?

What if the “Master Potter” is fashioning me into a vessel of honor for the display of his glory?

What if the plans he has for me, and those I love, are always for good–to give us hope and a future?

What if he really will do immeasurably more than all I can hope or imagine?

What if his love really N.E.V.E.R (ever) fails?

What if … ?

Go ahead and ask. I dare you …

What if?

From His Heart to Yours: July 5, 2014

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. –Ps. 34:18

Come sit with Me, beloved. Crawl up into My lap and rest Your weary head on my chest. Let me hold your hand—and your heart—and let’s just be still, together, for a moment. Cry with Me for a while. I don’t mind at all. In fact, I love sharing the deep places of your heart. It especially moves Me that so much of your pain comes from sharing the deep places in Mine. The intimacy of our shared heartbreak and longing means so much more to Me than you will ever fathom. I know you’ve long understood that I draw near to you in your own heartbreak, but I also long for those who dare to draw near to Me in Mine. No, it’s not easyyou know I never promised it would bebut I did promise I would be with you. And I am. I’m here for you, beloved—now and always. Thank You for also being here with Me. Let’s weep together for just a moment. I know it often looks like the darkness is winning, but this isn’t the end of the story. Weeping endures for a night, butI promise—joy will come in the morning. 

♥♥♥

I’m so grateful for the tender loving heart of our Father. He really does draw near to the brokenhearted. He understands in a way no one else can. It is always so tempting to escape our sorrows in a myriad of unhealthy ways—but nothing beats crawling up into His lap and actually sharing them with Him. What’s even better—and often much harder—is sharing in His own sorrows. There is a deep intimacy that comes from the authentic fellowship of shared suffering—and it flows both ways. So wherever you’re at right now, and whatever is heavy on your heart, share your struggles with Him. He is nearer than you think. And after you’ve shared your heart with Him—take a moment to ask Him what He wants to share with you.

Lord, thank You for allowing me to share the deepest parts of my heart–and thank You for trusting me with the deep places in Yours.

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

“Love Letters” are simple messages from His heart to yours, posted at the beginning of each month. To read others, click here.

The Discipline of Tears

I’ve been a mess lately.

An inside-out, gutted-open, blubbering mess. I haven’t spent this much time crying in a long time–a long, long, looong time. I’m not talking about a few tears here and there slowly and gently gliding ever-so-delicately down my cheeks. No, I’m talking about ugly crying–really ugly–as in slobbery, snotty wailing. Basically heaving my guts out until there just isn’t anything left to heave out.

It’s not been pretty. It’s definitely not been fun. And I can’t particularly say I’ve whole-heartedly embraced the process. But I am learning from it.

I’m learning the discipline of tears.

Crying as a discipline is a strange thought. But that’s exactly where I find myself in this season. The truth is most of the time I don’t feel like crying. So I’ve found myself avoiding it. Which really means I’ve found myself avoiding Him.

And that’s never a good thing.

So instead of avoidance, I’m learning the discipline of tears. I’m learning to confront the rampant injustices in this world rather than stuffing them or ignoring them. I’m learning to face what I feel deep inside rather than settling for the momentary relief of distraction or denial.

Really I’m learning to feel His heart at a much deeper level.

And that’s always a good thing.

It’s not easy. I’m still not doing such a great job embracing the process. I still run–for a moment or two anyway–but I can’t stay away for long. Because while this just might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done …

It’s also one of the very best.

A funny thing happens when I take the time to cry … I’m stronger. I’m healthier on the inside. I’m even happier–MUCH happier. In taking the time to weep with Him–in taking the time to acknowledge the things that are that never should be, and the things that aren’t that should be–I’m taking the time to feel what He feels. I’m taking the time to grieve over what He grieves over. I’m taking the time to love those He loves. Really, I’m increasing my own capacity to love without fear. Because being with Him and feeling His heart is what leads to true relief. It’s what leads to true revelation

  • revelation of His love
  • revelation of His faithfulness
  • revelation of His absolute goodness and sufficiency

Here’s the deal … He wins. In fact, He’s already won. It’s just taking a while to play out in certain areas. Those are the areas that break my heart–and His. But the losses–as real and devastating as they may be–are temporary. When I release the grief in my heart from the very real pain of this age and lean into His sufficiency, I begin to see (and feel) again from Heaven’s perspective. And I know, for real, that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

And then I cry again …

Because He’s good. He’s beautiful. He’s faithful. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt ..

Love wins.

Always. Forever. For all.

Love wins.

And the revelation of that knowledge is worth any amount of tears.

Today’s Choice

Today I choose …
to trust

to trust Him
to trust Him with all my heart
and to not lean on my own understanding

Today I choose …
to rest
to rest in Him
though weary and sometimes burdened
I come to Him and find rest for my soul

Today I choose …
to love
to love Him
and my neighbor as myself
because He first loved me

Today I choose …
to be
to be still
to be still and know
to be still and know He IS God

Today I choose …
LIFE

The Worthy One

This is one of those posts I already know I have little to no chance of truly expressing what’s in my heart.

But I’m writing it anyway. I’m writing it anyway because it is the thing that is burning within me. It is the one thing I can’t get out of my heart or mind. It’s the thing that brings me to tears and sends shivers of holy awe up and down my spine. It’s the thing that trumps lesser desires and has marked the course of my life.

It’s the thing that leaves me at a complete loss for words, but at the same time desperately determined to seek a way–any way–to express what I’ve experienced so deeply. This vivid reality. This sacred privilege. This blessed assurance. This holy communion that simply cannot be constrained to the limitations of human language.

How do you say thank you for life? For freedom?

How do express a love that so far transcends words that at times they seem utterly useless?

I don’t know how. I probably never will. But my heart aches to try. Because my heart longs to honor this One …

~this holy One

~this faithful One

~this magnificient One

~this beautiful One

This WORTHY One.

This One who loves me with everything –

Yet demands nothing.

And because He demands nothing -

I want to give Him everything.

I desperately desire to live a life worthy of this worthy One. I don’t always get it right, but I’m leaning into His heart. I’m listening for His voice. I’m pressing on to lay hold of that for which He laid hold of me. As I do, I will keep learning …

~by surrendering

~by trusting

~by believing

~by loving

And by following the Lamb wherever He goes.

Because the one thing I do know is this …

There is only ONE found worthy.

And this worthy One …

Is worthy of my all.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” - Rev 5:12-13

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

I took a little break from blogging to spend some time seeking God’s heart for this next season. I’ve mentioned before that I was going to be making some changes but wasn’t sure what they would look like. I ultimately decided to keep this blog as my personal place of expression (rather than the Deeper Waters blog) simply because this has been my personal blog for so many years, but I’ll be changing the name and look. In fact, it will probably end up looking a lot like the Deeper Waters blog does now, since I plan to stop posting to that one. I still plan to start another blog dealing specifically with social justice, but for a variety of reasons, it seemed best to start that one from scratch. Stay tuned :-)

Gazing

When I gaze into Your eyes
I see the love that died for me
The love that saved me
The love that called me
To Your side

When I gaze into Your eyes
I’m healed
I’m whole
I’m all You created me to be
When our eyes meet
Heaven and earth collide
Into an infinite symphony of love

When I gaze into Your eyes
I’m one with You
Intimately intertwined
Wholly known
Wholly accepted
Wholly loved
Complete
Perfect
In You

When I gaze into Your eyes
I enter eternity
Right here
Right now
Forever begins
When I gaze into Your

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 .   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.

UPDATE June 13th, 2014 … as I’ve prayed this through, I’ve decided to keep this blog but rename it Deeper Waters. I will, instead be more or less shutting down my other blog which was already named Deeper Waters. Clear as mud–right?! Oh well, it actually does make sense in my cloudy little brain!

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.

Still

As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. –Ps. 42:1

My heart longs for You
… still
More than my dreams
More than fulfilling my destiny
More than a clear purpose
More than fruitful ministry
I love You
I want You
I long for You
… still

So many years have come and gone
So much water under the bridge
So many times what I thought was clear
Becomes shrouded again in doubt
But no matter how many things change
You remain the same
And I love You
I want You
I long for You
… still

I’m no longer concerned with who I’ll become
Or what I’ll accomplish
Or even what I’ll leave behind
Because I know who I already am
… in You
… with You
… to You
And You love me
You want me
You long for me
…still

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!