Tuesday, January 19, 2010

your story

I met a quadriplegic. He is 52. Five years ago his wife divorced him because of his drug addiction. He was devastated. He became a believer. He became a road biker. Four months ago he was biking on PCH in Malibu. He hit a divot. He flew off his bike. He was paralyzed immediately. He has 3 sons. His wife wants to see him, but he can't. He says it's too hard. He weeps a lot. But he still believes in Jesus.

I met a monk. His father abused him as a kid. He saw his mother kill herself. He became an orphan at 9. A foster child. Adopted. And then a monk. He rings the bells every evening for dinner. He really likes broccoli. He can go weeks without speaking. He refers to Jesus as his "friend."

I met an old man. He was a resident in a hospital. He could barely speak. He couldn't move. I don't know what happened to him--the hospital wasn't allowed to say. He lied there motionless in navy blue warm ups. Stuck inside a crippled body. Fully coherent, but unable to express anything. I stood over him and prayed. One hand on his bald head. Another holding his hand. I don't know if he believed in God. But I prayed anyway. Tears fell down his face. In a quiet, painful whisper he said, "Thank you, Jesus. You're beautiful."

I met a middle aged woman. She was a suit. And a bank account. A BMW. "Self-made." Independent. Self-sufficient. Autonomous. And proud of all of it. She wasn't married. Wasn't sure if she could. She had many friends. But none of them really knew her. I told her she needs Jesus. She said "no way." I asked her, "why?" And she began to cry.

I met a twenty-something-year-old man. He was handsome. He was smooth. He was funny. Charming. Girls loved him. He believed in whiskey. One-night-stands. And porn. My face cringed. He laughed. "It makes me feel good," he said. "And what about the girls?" I asked. "What girls?" he said. "The girls in the photos. The girls in your bed. They are someone's daughter. Someone's friend." "Oh them?" He replied. "Well, man...I hadn't thought of that. I don't know."

I met a twenty-something-year-old woman. She was beautiful. But she didn't think so. She was witty. Lively. Laughter. She believed in love. But she was scared of it. She looked for love. But could never find it. Alcohol. Drugs. Rehab. Parties. One-night-stands. Abortion. Trying to 'find' herself. In 'spirituality.' In self-help books. In diets. In men. "I'm too dirty for church," she said. "No such thing," I replied.

I met a veteran. A Vietnam War veteran. He had no wife. No kids. No family left. He ended up in jail. Hurricane Katrina hit. The prisoners were left to drown. He made it out. Saved 6 men. Now he is homeless. He walks with Jesus.

I met an ex-wife. Her husband was unfaithful. After 25 years of marriage. And 2 kids. Church goers. They divorced. He remarried. She was left. Abandoned. Alone. Believing, once again, she didn't have what it takes. She swallowed pills. Tried to kill herself. Her youngest daughter found her. Jesus rescued her. "Was any of it real?" She asked. "Or was my whole marriage a fake?" (How can I answer that?) "All I know," I said, "is that Jesus is real. And you're alive because he saved you."

Lives written down in a few sentences. Certainly, there were far more details than what was told. But when we strip away the details, we see the heart of each story. We reach the depths. We see character. We see the pain and the struggle. The joy. The hope. The pride. The enemy.

We all have a story. And if you're alive, your story is right now. It's being lived out by you. Which begs the question, what would your life read, written down in a few sentences...

Are you the faithful quadriplegic? Or the steadfast monk? The self-governed soul afraid to feel? Or are you the empty shell of a man; Satan's fool? Maybe the shattered heart of a woman, chasing the shadows? The fighter, the Jesus Veteran? The ex-wife or husband, burned and humiliated?

What do we do with these stories... The stories of those who've reached the depths of sorrow and yet still follow. The stories of those who've ignored their Savior; used and abused the beauty of life. The stories of those fallen victim to sin and darkness. The stories of those who've risen up out of it.

Jesus tells us to live a life of love. Our lives often do not honor that. I believe that when we walk with Jesus, we are called to live the love story. And that love story isn't always going to look how we expect. Love doesn't fit in a boxed in, finite mind.

I don't know if I'd be the faithful quadriplegic. I don't know if I'd be the steadfast monk. I can't wrap my mind around their reality. I can't live in what I don't know. All I can do is be faithful today. To live my story today. Tomorrow will come. 10 years from now will come. I will deal with it then.

I love stories. Even the ones where they refuse Jesus, I am drawn to. Only because I see the gapping hole where He belongs. And then, once again, I am reminded at how huge He really is. How desperately we need Him. His Son and his Spirit are the only way out. We don’t always know what that road looks like and it seems every day is different, but we do know where the road leads- it leads to Him. In the thick of an earthly life that is so inconsistent and so fallen, He is the one thing that never changes.

Honor Him with your story.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


“Know how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong.”

I was shooting rubber bands at a coworker today. I had an entire bag fresh off the Staples truck and I kept firing them at her. Before long there were rubber bands strewn all over my floor. Running around and picking them all up, I began to stare at the pile of them in my hands. I stretched one every which way, wrapping it around my fingers, my wrist, attaching things to it, using it to hold things together. Rubber bands are incredibly useful and because of their flexibility, they are resilient.


I sat and thought on that word for a while. The more I thought, the more I realized that nothing strikes me as more resilient than the human spirit. It can hold its breath beneath the largest waves, it can bend with the strongest winds, it can absorb a torrential rainstorm, and it can survive extreme seasons of drought. We are buoyant against the tides, submissive to the winds, quenched by the rain, and often healed in the desert.

As we lean into the stormy struggle, we lean into Jesus. For God is often hidden in pain.

He stretches and strengthens our spirit.

The further I stretch a rubber band, the further it’s going to fly through the air.

As I think on resilience, I feel the need to call on women. Young, old, and in-between. You are resilient and stronger than you know. The world needs the strength of your heart; the fearlessness of it. You friends need it, your husband, boyfriend, your children, and family...

Only you can grow a miracle inside you, and by the sheer grace of God, bring him or her into this world. There is something about you... something that transcends humanity. You've been given a huge responsibility- a divine one. And it is not to be taken lightly. You are nurturers. Encouragers. Doers. Workers. Helpers. Wise. And above all, God fearing.

I've known too many women who don't understand the love with which they were created. They don't understand how the fall of Eve has affected them and therefore, cannot come to grips with their sin, their struggle, and their curse. They don't understand the hope they're called to, the enemy that hunts them, and the God that pursues and protects them. Their soft hearts are hardened or severely and almost irreversibly damaged by culture, parents, tragedies, and the lies they believe about what men want and what makes them beautiful.

Our world does not make it very easy for a woman to believe she's worth something. Our world does not make it very easy to believe there is no divinity in a mirror, a scale, a magazine, or a boy. The world makes it very difficult for a woman to be resilient. To stand up under the pain, the threats, and the war of life. This is exactly why we must fight for our heart.

There is something about a Godly woman that encompasses an incredibly durable spirit.

She's just not shaken. She knows the future isn't hers. She doesn't worry or fear. She rises early. She works hard. She's okay with mud and sweat. She protects her children; she plays with them. She supports her husband- challenges him and loves him deeply. She knows how to rest. She lets herself cry. She is compassionate. She is disciplined. She doesn't need to be seen by the world as "great" or "beautiful." She knows who she is, despite opinions and lies. Her identity lies with God; He is her justifier. She serves. She doesn’t strive for fame or title. She doesn’t compete with other women for beauty, praise, or adornment. She is brave. She is consistent. And she is passionately pursued and adored by her Maker. She's the kind of woman who allows your heart to rest simply by being around her.

I have not met many women like this.

The miles of heartache and disappointment, trials, working and praying, build up the endurance of her spirit. Miles upon miles on her heart.

She can run, and run, and run...and not grow faint.

Too many women allow the power of resilience to be robbed from them. Regardless of how or why, they choose bitterness or vanity; they give in to temptations over and over and face traumatic experiences they've never healed from. Thus never experiencing God's redeeming power within. They haven't seen the look in his eyes when he looks at her. They can't even imagine his love.

"We only know who we are saved to, until we know what we are saved from."

Women- you must know your story. Even more, you must know your story within the bigger story. If you don't, you cannot stand up under it. If only all women understood and actually believed how precious they are. What is it going to take?

"For her price is far above rubies..." This kind of woman is hard to find.

Which brings me to the Proverbs 31 woman and how much I desperately want to be her. She is resilient. She is fiery. She is gracious and humble. So much so, she has no idea how special she really is. "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." Laughing at the days to come isn't something any of us do well. We are too heavy and often too burdened. Every woman needs a sense of humor. And only women are going to fully understand why. Can we literally laugh at the days to come? I want to. We must pray for that kind of heart.

"Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." If only we lived in a culture where wives actually brought their husbands good--ALL THE DAYS of her life. We all fall prey to our carnivorous culture, what they tell us we need and "want" or what we "deserve," but women, this is not about us.

"He has full confidence in her..." One of the most fundamental foundations of a God honoring marriage is to be able to trust your partner. Can the greater population of married couples even trust each other?

If marriage was created to be the closest mirror to our relationship with our Father, if it's that sacred, then it's a big deal. We must enter into it with his kingdom in mind, not our own.

His grace ought to build our homes. Love requires it. And the world needs it.

We cannot get married with personal happiness as our goal. We cannot get married, have children, and lose interest in our tasks and our callings. This is far bigger than marriage. Your journey and his glory don’t end there. Your husband needs you. And he is going to need you all the days of his life. You must stand beside him. Figure out what that looks like, and then do it.

"She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." She lives by love. She doesn't just serve, but is a servant.

"She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks." She is bold. She is devout. She is motivated by love. All she needs is the truth in her soul and the love she's received to go about her days with courage. And with JOY. There should always be joy.

Women we must be strong. We must be virtuous. I want to yell it from the rooftops so the voice of truth is louder than the lies you believe. Women held captive to their childhood or their sin. Enslaved to the lie that they don't matter. The lie that they are used goods. Believing the deprecating words they've been told by parents, siblings, ex-boyfriends. The woman who has been manipulated and controlled. She grows timid and afraid of life- even of opportunity. The arrogant woman hardened by life, thinking her independence is a virtue and her selfish drive is honorable. I wish I could knock on the door of every female soul that has been crushed by life. It can diminish you, but only if you let it.


If we give in to media and if we ignore our story, this can’t be realized. And as a virtuous woman, we cannot want just any man. He must be a virtuous one as well. Choose wisely. Pray for him; even if you don't know who he is yet.

How do we become this kind of woman? We can start today. We can ask God to show us. He will. And what would it look like if the church, our country, had women who lived this way? It is a rebellious way to live. It means never accepting the pitiful standards of the world and never underestimating our strength in the power of God. It means knowing who we are, where we come from, and who we are fighting against. Married or not, this is what we are called to. We are to be warriors.

The ironic part about it all is, is that as a woman we are (or at least were created to be) very soft. We can be fragile. But perhaps that is what makes the true heart of a woman so beautiful and so rare --and even so easily attacked. We break at the sight of injustice and of evil. We break over our hurts and the hurts of others. Like glass, we can seemingly shatter.

This is where the dichotomy lies: we are delicate, but strong. When we embrace our fragility, God manifests his power in us perfectly. He makes us into resilient, soft-hearted, yet tenacious women.

We are not hardened by life. We come to possess a delicate strength; it rises up when others don't expect it. It is a quiet strength and by his grace, it is beautiful.

We will still break, but our hope doesn’t.
We will still break, but our trust doesn’t.
And our spirit isn’t destroyed.
And that, my friends, is the power of a woman.

This must be the most divine and profound aspect of who we are:

To experience and endure the suffering so deeply; to feel in our spirit the fractures of humanity; to go through the labor pains, the raising of children, the curse of relational heartache, the questions and the letting go, and yet still not be shaken, and to look to our Father and say "I trust You; for You are good."

To run, and run, and run…and not grow faint.

The further we are stretched; the further we fly.

May we become the women of a new generation. Women who know their story and who see it in light of eternity. Eternity is now. Women who are transformed, brave, and who yield to the spirit. Women who pray. As we yield to his kingdom within us, our resilience grows. May the redeemed flexibility of our spirit wrap itself around his life. As we do, we allow his power to transcend any pain and any story.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the fullness of God

We either live bravely or we live cowardly. There is no in between.

Paul writes a prayer to the Ephesians that they may be "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." I've been wondering lately what that may look like in the flesh.
The "fullness"of God. Huh. I cannot fathom it.
Even more, we can be filled with that fullness. That I'm not so sure I even believe. It's so big. I think of Paul's words, "...his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms..."

Incomparably great. Mighty strength. Raised from the dead.

The tomb is empty. It is finished.

So not only can we be filled to his measure, but we can know and actually experience his power; power like nothing else that has, does, or will ever exist.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power he uses in your life. Can you even swallow that?

Paul says he became a “servant of the gospel through the working of God's power.” We too are servants in the working of God's power. So what does that mean? What do we even do with that? How then, ought our life look if we are servants and warriors for a Kingdom so miraculous, so immense, and so divine, that one day every knee will bow.

Every single knee.

What depths would we go to if we earnestly had faith that God would meet us there? What questions would we ask ourselves if we earnestly believed that He'd stand in the gap when we don't know where the questions will lead us?

Where would we go, what would we risk, give up, train for, and stake our life on if it meant that in our surrender, it gave God room to fill us with his power. The power that restores life to the dead and healing to the sick.

Sometimes we are so afraid to ask ourselves these difficult questions. We are even afraid to ask God. What if his answer isn't what we want? Or what if he doesn't even answer? So instead we keep cruising along as best we can, ignoring our call and our purpose in the body of Christ.

It isn't that we don't have faith God won't show up, it's that we don't actually believe he will.

Faith springs forth from belief. Belief is passive; faith is active. If your faith is weak, it's because you don't truly believe. The only way we can come to know and experience the fullness of God is to follow his son, Jesus. And the only way we can follow Jesus is to commit our life to him, going with him wherever he leads, inviting him in to every decision, every pain, and every celebration.

As we invite him in to our decisions, he's going to reveal things and usually slowly. As we invite him in to our pains, he's going to send his spirit to comfort us, to speak on our behalf. As we invite him in to our celebration, he is going to rejoice with us, laugh with us, he's going to dance.

No matter the invitation and no matter the circumstance, he will always reveal more of himself.

How often do we sit, stand, or kneel in just a reverent awe of how huge this truth is. It is not only huge, it is life-giving and it is radical. It goes against the very grain of humanity. We don't always want or even think to invite God in to our lives. We don't believe that when we do, he's going to fill us with himself.

There is always more in us.

There is always more room to grow and more of Jesus to know.

But the only way we are going to continue to experience him is if we agree to set ourselves aside and let him lead us. And that means anywhere. Yes, that means pain. Yes, that means joy.

But you will never reach the “bottom of your heart” because in the love of God, there are no limits. It is as high and deep as it is far and wide.

Then if his love is infinite and everywhere, why do we cap out when we get married, have a family, buy a house, get a dream job, or have money in our bank account? Does our growth and does his fullness “end” when we get what we want? Or does his fullness “end” when we think we can’t walk any further because it’s just too hard.

Instead of living for more, instead of seeking his “incomparably great” power, we control out of fear or pride; we try to control our lives and we allow our thoughts to dwell on the things that only add more smoke to the illusion. Or we shrink back. We cower and shy away from the depths, the questions, the callings, and the risks. As we shrink, we doubt, we grow timid. A timid spirit has no room for God's power, "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who believe and are saved."

Some of us may find our spirit chained to our own control, our timidity, our fear or anxiety. Fortunately, God cannot be chained. Remember, the tomb is empty.

If we allow the spirit of God to fill us in the places we are the most chained, can we even fathom what his freeing presence can do?

Use your imagination; it's a gift God gave you.

What would that look like? Who would we become? Or do we dare even ask...

Paul prays that Christ would dwell in our hearts, that we would grasp his love that surpasses all knowledge, and that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Are we so abundantly saturated in the power of God that the only way anyone is going to find us is through him? When people look at us and talk to us, are they experiencing the fullness of God?

Are we living from our broken places, inviting God in to our weakness to consume us, so that we will be “joined and held together by every supporting ligament, growing and building itself up in love, as each part does its work.” We are the body of Christ. Unified. (Or are we?) This is how his fullness is restored in each of us; but it only works if we allow it, if we receive it, and if we work together.

Invite him. Include him. Seek him. He will not fail you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. -C. S. Lewis

It's always a dangerous prayer when we tell God to have His way with our life. Sometimes we say it half-heartedly, not realizing what the statement actually requires. Or if we realize the weight of it, we may utter the words with a bit of trembling, knowing full well God is going take us very seriously. He loves us too much not to.

Regardless of our confidence in Him or lack thereof, when we pray a prayer of surrender, God knows our heart and we can be certain He will reconcile us to Him over and over, indefinitely. He loves us too much not to.

Most of the time, when we give up our life to God, I'm not so sure we realize that means all of it. When we tell Him, "I surrender to you" that means everything. Do we understand that? He needs all of you. He needs all of me. He loves us too much not to.

Whether we do it subconsciously or intentionally, we make plans for our little life. We may know in our "head" that we aren't guaranteed certain earthly securities, but most of us would be lying if we said our "hearts" were fully surrendered to God's plan. It's too scary to not have some idea of how we want or think our life ought to pan out. We're supposed to "know." Sure we can dream, we can envision; He definitely speaks to us in those places. But think about your own life, do your dreams bring only Him glory? Do your visions expand only His Kingdom? Do we even ask ourselves these questions? God waits for us to come and ask Him, "Is this what you want for my life? Does this honor you?" He will not throw Himself at you; He waits patiently for you to come; and it is always a voluntary coming. God makes it your choice, your decision. He loves you too much not to.

When I told God about a year ago (and I don't know why it took me so long) to simply do whatever it takes to make me the woman He needs me to be for His Kingdom, I remember not feeling much. Kingdom living isn't an overnight process; it's not a feeling and it isn't something I can do halfway. It is a choice and one that has been made every day since then. I fall short all the time and I expected that. I battle the fear, "Is He really going to meet me here?" and the risk "Does He really know what I need?" and every time I come back to Psalm 34, "But those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." I lack nothing in Christ. We lack nothing in Christ. Do I believe Him? I love Him too much not to.

Pain is involved in this reconciliation. When God gently yields us back to Him, it can hurt. We also know God is hidden in the pain. And there we can experience Joy, oddly enough. Joy comes from having faith in the character of God, trusting He will do what He's promised, even admist our darkest days. There is Joy because we are not lost; He finds us when we cannot find ourselves. There is Joy because God never does anything in vain. Nothing is out of His control. Linger on that. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Do you believe He loves you that much?

Suffering and struggle are not some random collateral or by-product of external or internal circumstances. Suffering is used and it is used for Him. It is an instrument God can play on the very beatings of your heart to draw you closer to Him, to make you like Jesus; pure, blameless, shameless, and white as snow. It is used to cultivate compassion, to deepen, and to depend on God and God only. It is used to instill His peace at the very depths of who you are so that worry, anxiety and fear are exposed for the illusions that they are. Peace acquiesces to suffering. And suffering acquiesces to His love for you; it yields to His very power. Yes, He loves you that much.

Do we still pray and earnestly mean those dangerous prayers, "God have your way with me...sharpen me...refine me. No matter the pain, I will stand. For you God, on this bed of needles I will lay. Whatever you say, I'll do. Wherever you want me to go, I'll go. For you, I will. I'll do anything."

Our love for Him ought to make us powerless to do anything, but boldly follow. But do we? No matter the struggle, no matter the darkness, no matter the joy, the desire, the confusion or doubt. Do we simply follow and trust that God will continue to reveal Himself to us as we walk and as we seek Him out for today and today only. When we let Him love us, He becomes our friend; and when He becomes our friend, we realize how much He loves.