The #1 Fear You Were Never Meant to Have

The #1 Fear You Were Never Meant to Have

I don’t know a single fearless person.

I know some strong people, courageous folks, those tough guys who open pickle jars for we muscle challenged. (God bless them.)

But a completely fearless person on this earth I have yet to find.

Even in our very best brave moments we are no match for the constant pounding of this scary, crazy world. If we don’t depend on something deeper, we are in for deep trouble. (I’ll tell you more about what I think about this word brave in Put Your Warrior Boots On, very soon. Hint: it may surprise you.)

Jesus never wanted us to live with fear. It’s never been His intention, though He knew our flesh would constantly pull us to this posture. Over and over again in His Word He tells us why we don’t have to live with it (John 16:33b), what to do with it when it comes (Psalm 56:3) and what will combat it most of all (I John 4:18).

When we constantly struggle with fear we expose how deeply we depend on self. And yet Jesus knows, in our natural man, it will come natural.

Out of all the fears we were never meant to have, there is one that stands above the rest. It is a fear that determines the way we view our entire life and everything flows from its belief system…

The fear that in this life, we won’t have victory.

This is what most of us walk through life believing.

We won’t say it, because that’s not spiritual. We know better than to say it out loud, for people will scold us and tell us to think more positively than that. But the way we deal with trouble, respond to the news in culture, scrambling around like mad, this way and that — trying to control our lives so we can protect ourselves and those we love — it’s obvious that we do not understand how this Jesus story goes.

I just want to remind us today: the battle is over and Jesus won. As believers in Jesus, we walk in His authority. You and I are on the winning side.

How tragic for us to be in this position and squander it everyday with our irrational fears of being taken down by a world that is weaker than our God.

How sad to waste our life by never realizing the life of the victor, the life Jesus Christ intended us to have through His sacrifice.

I want us to live better. Jesus expects us to live better. He died, so we could.

  • We must stop settling for fear. For some of us, it’s become a way of life. We are used to the grind of the fear-driven life, to the point we don’t crave freedom from it like we should. Until we get to the point we see what our fears have cost us, we will not hate them enough to let them go. Fear has cost us peace of mind, true spiritual growth, doing things for God we long to do, releasing those we love to do things God has called them to, as well (parents, that is often our big struggle). My friend, never settle for the grind of a fear-driven life.
  • We must admit we are depending on self, not God. It’s hard to own this, but we must if we want to free ourselves from it. Own our stuff, humble ourselves before God in complete honesty and repent of this. At the core, it’s a self-focus issue.
  • Practice the victory life. It is a powerful thing to saturate ourselves in the Bible (and support reads) that help us remember the victorious life that is ours. Memorize Scripture. Pray for victory from fear. Do things everyday that remind you, “God wins. Therefore, I win,” declaring to and conditioning your mind to believe it.

Jesus wants us to know and believe in our core, that no matter how it looks in this world, as believers in Jesus Christ we function from a place of victory.

Anything else was never meant for a child of God.

 

 

 

***I always love hearing from you on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — we have such a vibrant community in all those places, so please join us there! I read every comment and often respond, as time allows…so many rich things you say inspire me and others who stop by and read. THANK YOU and KEEP THEM COMING! I love seeing you share memes from this community as well, so here are some quotable from this post for you to share with YOUR circle of influence! p.s. Love ya’ll.

Sharables

Here’s What We Tell the Kids

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Put Your Warrior Boots On, April 2017, Acknowledgments…

G, M, and S: My darlings, Jesus is the only thing in life. That’s all I can tell you. You’ll need these warrior boots, more than you may now know. Never forget to put them on or that your mom loves you, forever.

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It’s true, that so many things start for one reason and manifest in another.

When I started writing Put Your Warrior Boots On some months ago, it wasn’t for my children. The election hadn’t happened. Distraught parents weren’t on social media asking now after all this and the outcome, what do I tell my kids? But now, all of that and more than ever, the knowledge of how to walk Jesus strong is ever so necessary for us, and maybe especially…yes, for the kids.

Just to be clear. The world didn’t get crazy 7 days ago. The world was already crazy and the aftermath of last Tuesday just brought it out with blazing vengeance.

I have written several versions of this post and deleted them all – because I refuse to get caught up in rhetoric and frenzy and divisiveness of this election.

I know some will say this post is small and not addressing the challenges. I can live with that assessment because I know the truth: in all the years I’ve written and spoken a solo message, and that won’t change now: it’s always God, only God, forever God. Things and people and kings and angels and demons and the madness of this world, all fall in line under Him. I stake every thing in my life on Him, and dare not be confident in anything else I might want to contribute.

(For further opinion: feel free to visit any social media outlet to read the take of thousands of others who have well exercised their freedom to speech. There’s plenty of both wisdom and verbal smog to go around.)

My words in this space are for our children, the ones we don’t know what to say to in this moment…and for ourselves, too, as we are so often as frail and needy as are they.

Today, as yesterday, we tell our children to trust God. We tell them He is the answer for the world, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever. We tell them that even smart people get it wrong and we are all wise in our own eyes, which is why we need to pray so very much because we all think we are right.

We tell them that God is strong and powerful and no election or unrest changes that. We tell them He is trustworthy and doesn’t make promises He can’t keep or say things out of turn — ever, even though everyone else does.

We tell them all is His. All is His, forever and ever amen, and though people forget that, it doesn’t change Kingship or sovereignty.

We tell them that the Bible says that no weapon formed against them will prosper. We tell them this when they are lied straight to by Satan to make them believe their life is unstable. With Jesus, it is not.

We tell them when fear is around, God is not in that, so we must pray to get out of the fear cycle. We tell them to answer fear with praise and praying the Word of God, which always calms and heals. We tell them that God is their God, and their life is not their own to be wasted on arguments and hating people or loving self too much but to be used for His honor and glory to be a light in this dark world.

We tell them they are ok because Jesus is in charge and well in command. We tell them we don’t have to understand how that works to believe that it is. This is called faith.

We tell them to pray for a heart of peace like never before, even before they pray for their very own country…because we know that hearts at peace cannot also be at war, which solves the problem.

And we tell ourselves these things, too, and turn off the tv and vitriolic social media (which only distracts us from our power source) as we declare the Word of God over our own life and heart and mind – fortifying the weak and worried places…looking to the One who has remained present and strong in every chaos of this world through the ages and is equally present, still.

If this is all we can tell them, then we have told them everything. The greatest disaster in this moment is not having to tell them hard things about political leaders but if we miss this opportunity to tell them about the ultimately security plan in Jesus Christ, which transcends current mess and transfers to any future situation.

All is His, my friends. All is His.

When Things Don’t Work Out

image-1Coming up with good words after you’ve given your brain a month off is a little like trying to get the ketchup to come out of the bottle for the first time: it’s all in there, but it takes some maneuvering to set it loose.

That’s where I am this morning.

I read two books (fiction and memoir) in the first 3 days while on my “sabbatical –“ a forgotten love I haven’t had time for in years as I bury myself in commentaries and non-fiction inspiration like a good Jesus writer. I sat and watched my kids ball game after ball game and never once checked my phone, not even at halftime. (p.s. Who knew it was possible to sit and not scroll?) I went to the doctor with my ailing father and had necessary, hard conversations with my mother about plans for the future. I sweated and painted and fixed and pulled knobs off of things and nails out of walls in an empty house and cried a lot – the bottled up tears I have neglected. I petted my dog a little longer. My husband told me he likes me, again. Turns out social media can hamper a marriage silently and before you know it, you are in need of marriage ER.

I’ll be brutally honest: there have been moments in this hiatus I have feared I am done with writing – that the words won’t come, again…and maybe even scarier moments when I fear I am not – because when you’ve gone and gotten yourself a taste of a normal life – one outside the swirling social media world and the awesome burden of public inspiration and yes, consumption – you begin to crave it more, at least for the introverts.

The latter fear came true as I am standing on a ladder last week, fresh smudge of paint on my face, painting the inside of a bookcase I’ve known for 11 years but needed freshening. The symbolism to my own life doesn’t escape me.

I am thinking about you and how to tell you why we moved back to our old house after moving to the mission house for a year and all I can think about is Romans 8:28.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

And I know in that Holy Spirit speaking kind of way, that we, the people who so badly want everything to work out and all stories to have perfect endings, often misunderstand this. We take it to mean that all things work out, but it’s not true. All things don’t work out, at least not in the way we anticipate.

But with God, all things work together. Together is different. It’s not just one thing but joint things, in concert, collectively. Somehow, as we make each experience of our life mean everything, we miss this piece of all things, together.

This means that sometimes particular stories won’t end pretty, but when you put it with the rest of the stories and things, all of it, together, will be for our good.

And then, even with all the planning and hopes and following Jesus…some stories don’t end particularly bad – they just don’t meet human expectation, which quietly has become our Gospel. You must have an epic mission house story ending, some to me have said, and I know they want me to have one to tell. The thing is, I do not. We moved because some things happened that we know only God could orchestrate and we walked in obedience with the information we had at the time and we move back for the same reasons. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t amazing. It just was. This year, we learned. We grew. We got less selfish and maybe learned to appreciate space. We also still fought and had to say we were sorry and got on each other’s nerves, just like in the other house. But it’s like when we started and closed a church in 13 months some years back and there was no neat and perfect story to tell the people like I wanted: some things are too God to be understood and too soul cavernous to be explained in 500 words. And some stories don’t yet have endings so it makes sense we can’t fully tell them. Sometimes stories aren’t epic, they are just another story.

All things don’t work out. I need to remind us of this, not to make us pessimistic about our life, but to remember God’s promise that if we love God and follow Him, our life works together – all the good, all the bad, all the hard, all the disappointing – and it is truly the best life, still and always because life doesn’t depend on one just thing — even a big thing — to make it good.

I tell you this because I know you’ve had things not work out at times, too. And I want you to remember that a perfect plan on paper not working out disrupts nothing about God’s bigger plan for your life experiences to work together for your good.

I have to tell you this one last thing.

Before God called me into this life of ministry (or perhaps when I finally said yes), I wanted to be an interior decorator. I was a few weeks away from enrolling in the Art Institute of Charlotte to further my dream when my mom and I decided to start teaching a class at church that wound up becoming my first book. As God furthered my writing and speaking, I put the enrollment papers away and determined one day, I would pick them back up if He ever let me.

Somewhere between travels and words and looking into people’s eyes and seeing God use me, the desire to pursue being an interior decorator left. But my love of decorating never did.

As I painted the bookcase the other day, I recognized the unexpected kindness in the things not working out like I had planned – one only God could lace a disappointment with so beautifully.

After 11 years of the same old paint, the same old look we were moving back into when we really wanted to be moving forward, I was getting to redecorate my home and make it almost like new. It wasn’t my plan when I lived there. It wasn’t something I had the time or resources to do. Had we never moved out in the first place, none of it would ever be done. I can choose to see it as coincidence. Or I can choose to see it as the Father who loves me, made me and knows me so very well, knowing what I love and letting me get to brush off the decorating passion and use it in a healing way in the midst of disappointment. I have to tell you – it’s been the sweetest of unexpected gifts to take this month off to create in my home.

That’s our Father, friends. He doesn’t stop being present when our life on paper doesn’t work out.

That’s our life: not just one thing working out but all of it, working together.

For our good.

When we love God and live in line with His call and purpose.

p.s. I’ve missed you. I am not sure exactly how all of my re-entry will look, as of now. But as always, I will write as God puts things on my heart to share. Thank you for your love and patience. I’m so very grateful for you.

Dear Followers of Jesus Christ: a response to the Oregon Shooting

IMG_7204My intent in blogging today is simply this: to offer some words of truth and hope after yesterday’s Oregon college campus shooting. That is all.

Because I know, we are scared and freaked out. The early reports say Christians were singled out, and if this is true, what does it mean for us since we profess the same faith? Our question to ourselves echoes loud: could I, in that moment, gun to head, profess Jesus? Would I? And our faith, that often unused, teetering, on the fence, halfway in, easy come, easy go…suddenly feels a lot more serious. This is a question we don’t have to think about in our normal, getting up and going to our job, driving carpool and cooking dinner, life. Yet we do.

In moments like this our tendency is to panic. This is human but not helpful. It keeps us imprisoned to the evil act and doesn’t help us rise, rally, and do what needs to be done, next.

First. Let us not think about ourselves, which is our tendency. Let us fall to our knees and on our face, pray to God, our Help in trouble. Let us thank Him for men and women of deepest faith and courage who remind us how to live and yes, God forbid, how to die. Let us beg Him for peace and comfort and mercy for the families left behind who now have to go on. And let us ask for an uprising of greater faith in us and through this pain, some lives saved for eternity by coming to know Christ.

Second. Let us learn and listen and take this moment to change and prepare. We cannot…I repeat…WE CANNOT keep burying our heads and pretending this stuff is not real. We cannot pretend we can do church and it be a cool smoke and lights experience and that is the extent of our Jesus world. Friends. Please. As believers in Jesus Christ, we did not sign up to be life observers and consumers. We signed up to be battlers and conquerors. We signed up to be peacemakers and servants. Things aren’t about to get real- things are real. Now. Today. We can either live and learn or listen and learn. We can either prepare or be caught off guard. The Bible is a Book of preparation, so God found preparation extremely important. Everything we need to know for life is found in the Word of God, and it must become our life. Read. Memorize. Dive in, like the survival is in the pages. (It is.) And p.s. I love you, but we don’t have time to keep giving ourselves pep talks and worrying about our every flaw and issue. Self-help isn’t the answer. God help is the answer. Jesus is our hope and security, not our ability to strengthen our humanity. It’s time to put our warrior boots on and live and walk in the authority of God, which will, in turn make us better, kinder, honest, more wise, less fearful, more determined people. (More on this, see THIS POST.)

Third. Let us remember that evil does not win. God wins. Always. Evil exists but God OVERCOMES. (John 16:33)

Fourth. Let us determine, in his very moment, that we will love God fierce or not at all. Fiercely honoring the Word of God. Fiercely serving and loving people. Fiercely standing for truth and tenaciously defending the Savior of all, Jesus Christ. Fiercely dying to ourselves and living for God. Fierce, believers, or not at all.

And may Romans 1:16 be our rally cry. WE ARE NOT ASHAMED of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are believers. We are people otherwise dying. But oh glorious God: through Him we LIVE. And that others may come to know He is the Only Way is our life mission.

May this become our stand and our record. May we not live in fear, but in God-fueled passion and steadying peace.

Jesus, now. Jesus, then. Jesus, forever more.

Believers: this is the time. We are the people. God has this. No matter what happens, IT IS WELL.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises. (Romans 15:13)

Put Your Warrior Boots On

WarriorbootsI sit here this morning, feeling less like a warrior and more like a tired woman who doesn’t want to hear any more of the world’s bad news.

The bed calls me, the covers promise comfort, and it all seems perfect because it’s just another normal day and I’m grown and can do what I want.

But the truth is, mostly I’m just afraid. Mostly I’m just trying to pretend away the realities of this world and get rid of that stupid knot that’s in my stomach from the things I read in my early morning scroll of Facebook.

Killing babies, killing cops, killing Christians. Miley telling our kids, “yeah, I smoke pot” like it’s the perfect idea and musician after musician on an awards show all but having sex on stage. I’m equipped to fix none of it, because who can fight such madness unless they are God and the last I checked I’m not Him? Early morning helplessness feels especially cruel when a day is supposed to hold promise.

The truth is, I just want it all to stop. I want to be able to have fun and not hear hard things. I want to be able to compartmentalize faith where it worships neatly in church but doesn’t have to wear combat boots. I’m a wimp, I tell you. Yes, if not wanting to live in a world where I will have trouble (see John 16:33) is wimpy, then of course I’m a wimp. I want the hut on the tropical clear blue water with the fruity drink and my people for the rest of my life and poof, this all goes away. That’s what I want.

But I know (and sometimes this makes me mad), that being a wimp is not my option. When I committed to Christ, I committed to a soul battle, the highest cause. So as much as I want to be absorbed into crowds, this is not the Jesus following life.

Even as I pull the covers up to my neck to make the escape, I hear these words in my head, “lead me to the Rock that is higher Than I.” And I remember Psalm 61:2. And I know my life is not in escaping but in following my Leader. It’s not in retreating but being equipped.

The world will either eat my lunch or I will combat it. Evil will either make me a wimp or a warrior. These are the only 2 choices, and I can’t change that no matter how hard I try. Only God can make me a warrior. And so, I rally, but not because I’m ready. I rally because warriors don’t wait for a perfect day to get prepared.

  • I will know what I believe. I will not believe everything because believing everything really means believing nothing. And we have plenty of people believing nothing, already.
  • I will stand in what I believe. I will choose God, over and over, again, because everyday this is what it will require. I know that choosing nothing is really, choosing everything, and God is the Only Everything.
  • I will share what I believe. I will go on record. I will be vocal in conviction and not pride. And if the truth I share offends others, I will share, still, as God leads me.
  • I will trust God. I will trust Him, forever and ever, even when, even if, always. I will trust God in the bad news. I will trust God through the madness. I will trust God without asking Him to do what I want so I can trust Him more.

Today, I will put on my warrior boots. I do it be prepared. I do it to survive. I do it because I have no other option. I do it because I belong to Jesus.

And even in my fear, I will climb to the Rock that is higher than I so He can hold me, heal me, pull me out from under the covers where I hide and make me into His strong warrior.

I will. I will.

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**If this is your heart cry, too, SHARE, SHARE, SHARE this post! And come over to my social media and have a conversation with me about our #warriorboots! Christians, it’s time to rally!

It’s Not Really About Ashley Madison

IMG_6701Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. ~unknown

I’m not sure there’s ever been a truer statement.

My dad, the preacher, used to say it from the pulpit many Sundays I can remember, growing up. And when the news about Ashley Madison broke, it was the truth my mind recalled.

The thing about Ashley Madison (the “life is short, have an affair” website and the subsequent recent news ousting of the people who participated in it) is this: it’s not really about Ashley Madison. It’s about sin.

All such trainwrecks are.

(Interesting: I started a blog weeks ago when another situation in my life came up. But I tabled it, because it didn’t feel like the right time. And now, with the recent news, it is because at the core, it was about this.)

I have a friend who’s in kind of a mess. And when I say kind of a mess what I really mean is her life has gotten uglier than I can tell you about online, and she is having a huge come to Jesus moment about how her sin and compromise has brought her to this place. She’s losing things she loves. It’s all painful…everyday is painful. It’s farther than she wanted to go and held her hostage for a long time and cost her bucket loads more than she wanted to pay.

I tell her some weeks ago, with a tone of loving hard, “ You know things went off the rails when you started to party and blow off God, right?”

“Yes,” she whispers. She already knows.

And so, my friend (who was, by the way, never on Ashley Madison) is in the same boat as those who now freshly mourn that they once took the sin bait and even with first bite, wound up with a pricetag way too expensive. Lives, once caught up in a quiet fleshly excitement are now having heartaches so deep their bones can’t contain it.

The truth is, no one ever knows when that first step towards sin will catch up with us and blow our lives wide open. That’s why, no first steps, ever.

It’s as I write in I Want God: say no to what your freedom allows but at the end of the day won’t make you more holy. Our freedom is a wide open space. But we have to monitor how far the run.

And with these thoughts…about my friend…and same, but different…those caught up in the mess that is Ashley Madison, I offer some blunt heart talk:

  • There’s no level to which we must go to stay clean before God. I tell this to my friend, “Be the prudest of the prudes. That’s what it may require for you. Throw your tv out if it’s getting in your way of clean living. Don’t ever take another drink. Break up with friends who don’t help you run after God. The end.” And that’s just the truth. Whatever it takes to not fall into sin. Whatever it takes. Half-way means you’re not really serious. Not really serious flirts with sin. You know the rest.
  • Freedom in Christ is not doing whatever we want. Oh, I wish I could write on this for hours. We’ve got an epidemic of (even ministry leaders) believers who were raised in a strict church world and are now just so stinkin’ excited to realize God is bigger than a box that they have gone to the extreme and have started to look like a traveling frat party. People with kids who are watching and Christianity’s rep in their circles up to them and I just want to shake some of them and say, “Hey listen – I’m so glad you now know my big God is not a taskmaster and rule enthusiast, but now is not the time to lose your mind, ok?”
  • Living to be holy is not narrow minded, pedestrian or zealot-like. See, this is the dangerous whisper, and Satan’s got the pitch down. That it’s just about grace, all of it, and people who run hard after God are small minded, and God is love so He can’t also be guardrails. And it’s not true. He’s grace. He’s love. Yes, yes, yes. But he is holy and says it point blank, “Be holy, as I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16) I mean, it’s not an ask. There’s no gentle suggestion. It’s a divine call, an expectation. And so, we must. And in that quest, we will look serious about God. And that may annoy some people. But don’t tell me I can’t run after God and be a fun, well-rounded person, too. Don’t tell me I am judgmental because I believe the Bible. Often those ideas are perpetrated onto people because they are either assumed to be like some Bible beating fool or they are convicted by a Jesus freak and it’s the easiest way to dismiss someone under the skin. I am a sarcastic, oft rebellious, silly woman with plenty of love and grace for people who, like me, have a mess in the rolodex. But man, I love God a lot. And both can be true.
  • Expect for sin to kill you. I just don’t know how else to say it strong enough. Sin kills marriages. It kills kids hearts. It kills a pure spirit. It kills everything. Anything that kills is not worth playing around one second with. So right before that first step towards a compromise remember these words, this is about to kill me, and know that you’ve been told.
  • Jesus. I mean, He’s the bottom line, right? He’s why no sin is worth it. Nothing works without Him. Nothing matters without Him. And everything is possible with Him: even the worst day, worst news, public disgrace of our messes. But He has to be Who we want most. It’s never going to come down to our will power. Not one of us is strong enough in and of ourselves. But wanting God most (and living with that single pursuit) is going to be what keeps us out of the death grip of sin. Just that. Period.

And so, if anything from this mess called Ashley Madison teaches us, let it be that once again we are reminded sin is nothing to play around with. It will never keep its promises. It will always, always kill us.

And again, we remember how much we need God and run to the One who saves.

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I no longer take comments in this space but I would LOVE to engage with you on my social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

**By request…my specific response to Josh Duggar’s confession, HERE.)

(If you aren’t aware of what I’m talking about when I refer to Ashley Madison, google it.)