He is still working through you

A couple years ago I was on fire. Passionate. I was pretty certain that God had placed a specific calling on my heart. I knew I had heard him, remember the events. The time. The place. Who was around. What He said to me.

I had a plan and a purpose. A focus. A desire.

Then…I didn’t.

Then…I began to question if what I heard was real. Did He really speak to me? Was I really called to do that thing?

What happened? Well, many things. The world, mainly. Satan, more than likely. People, because they can get in the way. So, I listened to the world. I listened to Satan, and I listened to those people, and I doubted that call. Doubted if it was ever mine.

Doubt can creep in during the midst of some of God’s work and gifting when different motives are at work. Doubt can creep in during the midst of His speaking when other’s are speaking something different. Doubt can creep in when we are waiting for Him to move our mountains, because someone is telling us we are not capable to be used by Him. Doubt can leave the purposed feeling like they have no purpose.

Doubt kills vision. It kills focus. It can stifle a call.

Same power, now and forever
No You’re not through
Same words, can speak to the mountains
And make them move
I know the God of the old is the God of the new
I know that You did it then and You still do
You still do -Terrian

Faith brings purpose and vision back to life. The faith that God will not keep His purpose from being accomplished, even if the world or man gets in the way, God is still moving mountains. Providing power to the people the world deems not capable, and reassuring us that He isn’t through with us yet.

Whatever doubt you may have today. Whatever dreams or calling have been allowed to die, I pray you remember God still has a purpose, plan, calling, and vision that is just for you!

I do not own the rights to this video, lyrics, or music.

The Battle: Part 1

Tossing. Turning. Up. Down.

This was the position of my body through the night, but also my head. Awake for 3 hours while the devil wreaked havoc on my brain. For 3 solid hours he attacked my purpose. My integrity. All my regrets. He tapped into all the things that made me feel inadequate, useless, and less than.

“Nothing special. Worthless. Stupid. A fraud. Not worth listening to. Voiceless.”

For 3 solid hours.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Spiritual warfare is real. Wrestling matches with the devil are inevitable when you are one who walks with God, especially when you believe you heard Him, but for whatever reason He has now become silent.

I was in the place where God’s call on my life had been the loudest. I knew for certain what He wanted me to do. And then He didn’t open the doors to make it happen. He placed roadblock after roadblock in my way instead.

So, it’s certainly no coincidence (because I don’t believe in them) that on the first night in this very same place, the devil used this to attempt to devour me. He used the fact that I had not done what I thought God had called me to do to wage an all out assault on my body, mind, and spirit.

Guilt. Shame. Regret. Recounting and bringing up every wrong turn taken. Every chapter still unwritten. All the purpose still not seen. Until I started to believe the lies. “You are nothing special. You won’t do anything that matters. Even God left you. Even He isn’t listening.”

The devil started the battle and I let him beat me almost senseless for 3 solid hours. Until I finally said: “No more.”

I went to war.

In a cabin room, in the middle of nowhere, I turned on my lamp, pulled out my pen and Bible and disputed the devil. Silenced his voice with God’s Word.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10,17

My weapons told me and Satan that I was not inadequate, but that God would fill my inadequacies with His strength (2 Corinthians 12:10).

That I wasn’t worthless, because He counted me more special and worthy than even the birds he had given flight (Matthew 10:31).

And though I may not be doing what He originally called me to do, when He spoke to me in this place, He was most certainly with me, and was calling me to greater, simply through my obedience (Romans 8:28).

The devil may have started the battle, but my God…He will always win the war.

Note: I would like to think Satan stopped toying with me after this night, but not so. Come back for Part 2 of this story tomorrow!

Grace for the broken

Can a woman of God be broken by Him? Can a person who is faithful to Him struggle with doubts? With temptation?

If your answer is no, you are mistaken.

I’ll tell you why.

Picture a woman. One who is sure of her purpose. She has put her trust in God, is sure of what He told her she was to do. She prays fervently for those He has placed in her path. She ministers to the “least of these.” She is faithful to His instructions, guidance, and ways.

But then…doubt creeps in. The doubts of people. Those who doubt her abilities, giftedness, and vision. The doubts she has in herself-am I enough? Do I have what it takes? And the voices of the devil that open those doubts wide: “Nope. You are not good enough. You don’t have what they have. Your vision is all wrong. God isn’t answering your prayers.”

Picture this. Constant for months. Disappointments. Changes not expected. The constant voice of the devil’s criticisms and lies.

Once faithful. Now full of doubts. Until she breaks.

What does this breaking look like?

It’s slow. Not sudden. The doubts in her abilities, her talents, her purpose slowly turn into doubts of her worth. God’s love for her.

She slowly forgets what He says about her, and who approved her, and seeks this from the world.

From people. From the opinions of those people. Trusting feelings, perceptions, and the promises of a fallen world, and not Him. She is broken, because she forgets who made her worthy.

I have always liked the song “Gracefully Broken.” There are several different versions, but my favorite is the one performed by Tasha Cobbs Leonard. In the opening commentary this is what she says about being broken, and being offered His grace:

God will break you to position
He will break you to promote you
And break you to put you in your right place
But when He breaks you He doesn’t hurt you,
When He breaks you He doesn’t destroy you, He does it with; grace.

God will let you become broken so He can provide you the way to His grace. He will allow you to be broken to show you how to climb back into His arms for safety. He will let the breaking occur so He can show you how to truly surrender to His will. He will break you to remind you of His love when you go looking elsewhere. He will allow our brokenness to happen so we can be put back together again with grace that provides deeper lessons, truths, understanding, and wisdom. Those that we could not learn and gain if we had not broken in tiny pieces.

But as the song says…He never leaves us that way. He offers us His grace.

To everyone broken, He offers us a way to put the pieces back together. In their right place. Grace to remember our worth again. Wisdom so we never allow the lies and noise of the world to cause us to forget it.

He may allow our breaking, but He also offers His grace.

Are you going to accept it, and allow Him to put your pieces back together, today?

I do not own rights to video, music, or lyrics.

Still I know He is God

We will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge. Psalm 46:2-3, NLT

One year. A lot can happen in one year. Schools can shut down virtually overnight. People you thought were solid, prove to be pretty fluid. Jobs can be lost, and so can people. The world can come to a stand still. Weddings, birthday celebrations, and others of sorts can be canceled. Funerals can become drive-by only. Deliveries of babies can happen without a family member in sight. Church doors can close, and elderly neighbors can now be visited by waving to each other from a window.

The world is so different. Your world feels so uncertain. You may be so full of fear.

Yet, let’s not forget verse 10 of David’s Psalm, “Be still and know that I am God.”

That verse, when the Lord forced me to be still, brought me comfort. And the psalm, with all its references to raging seas and chaos, reminds me of a song by Mikeschair titled “Let the Waters Rise.” The lyrics of the chorus are as follows: There’s a raging sea/Right in front of me/Wants to pull me in/Brings me to my knees/So let the waters rise/If you want them to/I will follow you.

Follow Him. In the midst of the chaos and the uncertainty. Trust that all will be well. Hard stuff? Well, yes-because we are a people that need all the answers-right now! Me? I am a person that craves predictability, and uncertainty is NOT my jam.

Be still and know…

And still? No…we are not a people who know how to be still. But a year later, I do know this-He is most certainly God. He is a God who didn’t let the waters consume me, and though chaos raged all around me, and some days it may still, He provides the answers every single time. He provides peace.

And though it is hard to pray some days, when I fall on my knees and ask Him to guide me through the uncertainty, He most certainly will. Because “He was faithful before, and He will be faithful again.”

My year had its fair share of crumbled mountains and raging seas, losses and defeats. There were many of those. Stories for a later time. But in each one there is victory. Victory even when I wasn’t still. Victory because in each one, there was always God.

God of the harvest

Waiting on the Lord versus just giving up. Listening to Him to tell me when to move versus acting based on my desires, wishes, or what I think God should do. That is how my prayer life and spiritual walk has been for some time now. Praying for light, but seeing darkness among the very crops for which I have been praying. Continuing to plant seeds here, but looking around to see them wither and die in front of me.

There is a lot in the passage from Isaiah 30:18-26 that mirrors my walk right now. As I sat reflecting on its truth today, I could not help but see the parallels.

He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries (v 19).

And cried I have. I have laid before my prayer wall with tear-stained cheeks wondering why God keeps directing me to do something. To pray continuously. To keep trying. To not give up. And feeling like those pleas are not reaching past the ceiling. Feeling like, maybe, that still small voice I heard was my own, and not His at all. That maybe this is not His will at all, but all my own. I have pleaded for Him to “just fix it.” I have said the same prayer over and over and over until I have wanted to rip it off the wall and burn it.

I’ve called for help.

I’ve heard nothing.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (v 20).

I’ve called for help and heard nothing. And I have certainly suffered for what He has asked of me. Hurt. Rejection. Criticism. Discouragement and disappointment. When the way I was told to go doesn’t produce the fruit I hoped I would find.

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you he will say, “This is the way you should go.” (v 21). 

This is the hardest part-surrender.

To a will that is not my own. To an outcome I may not like. One I definitely cannot see. It’s teaching me to wait. And I’m not so patient. It’s teaching me to relinquish control, when I want to be in control. It’s teaching me to trust, but I have soul deep trust issues.

It’s teaching me that it’s not my will, but His. And isn’t His always better than mine?

I may cry now. I may feel I am surrounded by darkness, and that all these seeds of grain I am planting are returning void and useless.

But there is a purpose in this season of suffering. While God harvests this turmoil here in my heart, he is also harvesting a victory:

Then the Lord will bless you with rain at planting time. There will be wonderful harvests and plenty of pastureland for your livestock (v 23). 

There will be reward for your obedience, January.

There will be fruit for your labor, January.

Don’t give up now. Your tears mean something. They are not wasted. Your prayers are heard. Your work is not in vain.

I’ll show you if you just let me do the work.

If you just trust me with this harvest, I’ll show you what those tear-stained prayers will produce.

Don’t give up. Keep praying. Keep listening. God will do the rest.

He is the God of the harvest.

Me, of little faith

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me! Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

“Are we walking on the ocean?”

“Well, not ON the ocean…unless we are Jesus.”

Of course at the time I thought I was pretty witty. Until I was schooled by an even sassier, younger version of myself who broke it down for me…like only a preteen girl can do!

“Um, no honey! Jesus said, ‘Why do you have such little faith, Peter?’ Don’t you know we can walk on water, too!”

Me of such little faith. Without even knowing it, my sassy eleven-year old had gotten it right. I was like Peter. Not convinced I could walk on water.

There have been times recently when my faith has been fleeting. When I have fought battles, convinced that God had stopped fighting for me.

When I thought the waves were going to take me under, and I have also cried out, “Save me, Lord!” Hearing. Feeling nothing. Doubting that He was going to deliver me from my mess. From chaos.

Like Peter, I have ventured out at His leading, and become discouraged when things didn’t turn out the way I hoped. Started sinking in doubts if I faced opposition, discouragement, or hurdles along the way.

I began to drown out His purpose and His mission in my doubt.

Me, of such little faith. “Just like Peter, Momma!”

I don’t know what boat you need to get out of today, but I do know this-He is there to save you. To guide you out on the water. He won’t leave you. He won’t let you drown. He won’t let you rock around helpless in the waves. Being blown over by the wind.

He will help you. He only asks you step out of the boat in faith, so that you can walk on that water to the place He is leading you, too.

The Season of Doubt

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Now faith is confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1

A few months ago, I had the honor of presenting the Sunday message at church. After spending a week ministering to kid’s through VBS, it had been revealed to me that my faith had been lacking. I knew in the back of my mind what God had asked me to do. I had prayed about it. I had prayed that somehow my husband would jump on board, and these prayers were answered. But, I was still not truly convinced or faithful enough to take the next step.

I was still scared of the “what-ifs,” and the only soil in which I wanted to plant my feet, was the kind marked “comfort.”

I have mentioned a few times how I have wrestled with finding my purpose for some time now. God had revealed the steps I needed to take to get there. He had revealed His plans, but I was still hesitant to move forward.

Until I was reminded of this:

“So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:4

Simple, child-like faith.

So, in that Sunday message I handed over all the things I used that blocked my ability to step out in faith. And, then I went to work and handed in a resignation letter.

But, now what?

When a client consistently misses appointments resulting in a missing paycheck.

When the internship I was so sure I could start still has not been approved.

When my inability to adjust to this new routine means my sole purpose is taking up space on my couch each day.

When the bills keep coming. The kids keep getting sick. When I start to wonder if I ever really heard Him right at all.

When I start to ask Him…Ok, Lord. I did it. Now what?

But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:6

I made a decision to step out in faith, but now I was doing exactly what this leap of faith did not allow-wavering in a sea of doubt.

See, I had this false belief that once I said “yes” to God, and took the step he had gently urged me to, that the rest would be a piece of cake. That all the pieces I needed for this “yes” to happen would all fall into place.

Instead, it has been full of obstacles. Full of waiting impatiently. Full of learning that saying “yes” isn’t always that easy.

Because in order for His plan to succeed I have to be refined. Molded. Tested.

So I can learn to pray through those obstacles.

So I can learn to be patient as I wait.

So I can learn to remain faithful in these seasons of doubt.

He Goes Before Me

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” Hebrews 13:5

Remember that past I mentioned I had to face on my journey to become a licensed pastor in my district? That past the devil used for weeks to taunt me? Well, today was the actual day I had to travel to meet with our credentialing board to give my testimony. Even though I had come to terms with my past mistakes, given them to God, and embraced them as part of my journey, it was without surprise that I still spent most of the day at war with a devil who wanted me to believe that my history could never be a testimony of God’s grace.

He used one little annoyance after another in an attempt to convince me that I had made a mistake, that I wasn’t “called,” that I wasn’t worthy. First, I woke up to a cloudy day, soaked with rain. For those of you who know me, rain is not my favorite thing. It makes me want to find a deep dark cave to crawl into, or back in bed, at least. My meeting with the credentialing board was not scheduled until 8pm, which meant an hour and a half drive in the rainy, foggy night. I did drive in the rain and fog, only to find that I had driven to the wrong place. When I did get to the right place after several wrong turns, I sat waiting with a sinking feeling of dread that the pothole I hit while I got lost, would result in a flat tire as I went to make my way back home.

I knew that God had already come before me, yet, I could not keep the devil from crippling me with fear and doubt.

His taunting continued as I learned my transcript had not been received as I had previously thought, as I waited for over an hour to actually give my testimony, and as I clawed around in my purse for a pen to write these very words in this post (Thank God for that Notes app!)

The devil certainly did not want me to give my testimony. He wanted nothing more than for me to believe that God’s grace is not evident in my life. He didn’t want me to be able to write about how I may have defeated him today, any more than he wanted me to be able to tell a room of men and women how God had defeated Him in the past. He didn’t want me to feel like an overcomer. Instead, he wanted me to feel like a complete failure. Like I wasn’t good enough. Like I wasn’t worthy of God’s mercy, or to call myself “pastor.”

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:6

And I knew God had gone before me. What could the devil do to harm me?

I sat in the waiting room, and as I opened Facebook, the following post from Joyce Meyer was waiting on the page just for me: Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny.

No, it is my testimony.

A testimony that shows the power of salvation. A testimony that shows the depth of His love. A testimony that proves I do not have to live with the doubts I allowed God to overcome. A testimony that shows how God can overcome our past sins and mistakes, make us new, cleanse us, and wash us with his grace.

A testimony that the devil was not going to convince me not to share.

And, as I walked into the room-a room filled with people who had gone through the same process, who wrestled with their own doubts, and fears, and who had all been forgiven for mistakes they themselves had made, I knew that God had once again come before me. It was finished. The decision had already been made. The battle had already been fought on my behalf, and He had already won.

He had once again gone before me, and I had nothing to fear.

Me, Of Such Little Faith

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have such little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” Matthew 14:31

In a few weeks I will head back to Lynchburg, Virginia to attend a week long class. Alone, just like the last time. I have spent many of the past few weeks once again dreading the thought of leaving the cocoon of my home to sit in class with such a large group of strangers.

An introvert’s worst nightmare. And the source of dread and doubt that has plagued me, is one I even convinced my husband to let go off in terms of our finances!

I know. I know. I am not only an introvert, but also not so great at this practicing what you preach stuff.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions. James 2:14

So, I here I sit. A woman who says she has enormous faith in God. Who commands her numbers-crunching husband to have a little faith as well, yet, I don’t have enough faith to believe he will not leave me lonely while I am away from home.

See, I mentioned I am introvert, right? I am not one who seeks out people. I would rather sit in the back of the room with a cup of coffee and a book, people watching, without ever having to engage with anyone. It seems a little irrational, but in reality, I simply fear rejection. I fear not making a connection with people, saying something completely idiotic, or finding out that someone really just doesn’t want to talk to me, or even like me.

Why? Because the devil tells me I have nothing to offer. Because the devil tells me I have nothing important to say, nothing of significance to contribute. Because the devil wants me to believe that no one wants to talk to me. That I am not good enough, and that no one likes me.

And even though I know that I will be surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ; people all working towards the same goal, the devil wants me to believe that I will be all alone.

Even when I know better….even when I know he says he will NEVER leave me lonely.

Just as my doubt begins to take over, and I cannot get over my fear and insecurities about venturing on this journey again:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Philippians 4:6-7

That’s right. Even in our doubt, he can still answer prayers. Even seemingly silly and irrational ones like mine.

Because just as I was praying about my loneliness and dread, someone else was praying about their own journey to Lynchburg that same week! And, what do you know? It just so happened to be the same week I would be traveling too.

I doubted God’s plan last semester, and he placed people in my path to be with me along the journey. I doubted him again, and yet he has provided my need this time as well, putting that same person in just the right place at just the right time.

Oh, me, of such little faith. Worrying about tomorrow. Afraid of the unknown. Not giving my doubts and worries to God and trusting His plan.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22

He hasn’t failed me. He has never let me fall. Whether in my finances, my relationships, or a week long trip away from home.

So, it’s time to get rid of all my doubts, all my fears. To lay all my worries, burdens, and cares at His feet, and then to walk away knowing that no matter the task, no matter the worry-God has it all handled!

Fearless in the Face of Doubt

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“Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23

This week marks the beginning of another semester of homework deadlines, on-line discussions, and late Sunday night procrastination panic-in other words, another semester of graduate school. I made the commitment this semester to spend a little time before classes began to prepare myself for what lay ahead. In doing so, I reviewed some of the grades and comments from professors I had not yet gotten to from the previous semester. I came across these words:

“January, we all have areas that we can grow in, but your insight has really increased over this week. Like all good counselors you will get better with practice. Keep your eyes on the prize!”

This after a week at school where I spent most of my time in my head, doubting every little thing I did or did not say as a pseudo-counselor.

Keep your eyes on the prize….

But, so often I keep them on myself-on my inadequacies, my mistakes, my failures, my self-doubt. I can’t see the prize because I am blinded by my insecurities.

And, I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

He who began a good work. Was it not God who called me to this season in life? Is it not God who will equip me with everything I need to see his work and purpose through to the end? Is it not God who urges me in Philippians 3:4 to keep my eyes on the prize?

Yet, I still doubt my abilities, and in turn doubt Him.

So, this semester and those seasons I don’t even know about yet, I want to keep in the forefront of my mind the urging of Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21. To remember, God can do anything-far more than I could ever imagine or desire. Far more than I could ever do on my own, or in my own power.

I have to replace fear and doubt with faith.

I must keep my eyes on the prize.