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Three letters.

I’m in South Korea presently.

Last week I was in Nepal.

Next week I’ll be in South Africa.

These current travels come on the heels of an 8-month period of time during which I travelled to Hawaii, England, Wales, South Africa (the first time), South Korea (the first of two trips in one year), Cambodia, and Thailand.

I realize my life at the moment probably sounds a bit “over-the-top” – as if I’m trotting across the planet enjoying an extravagantly and impractically adventurous existence.

Or something.

But I’d like to share the reality of the situation with you…

In the previous 8 months, one word has gripped me, compelled me, and arrested my attention. It’s the word I’ve whispered amidst the pain and shuddering of my own failure. It’s the word I’ve wrapped my heart around when the only thing of which I felt capable was its opposite. It’s the word punctuating the moment of my most vulnerable surrender to the Father. And it’s the word that launched me into this present wild season of adventure and ministry.

The word is three letters long… Ready for it?

It’s yes

y – e – s.

I’ve honestly had to stop quite often over these past several days in order to wrap my head around my life at the moment. The question bouncing around my brain is this: how did I get here I mean literally how??

How the heck did I get to South Korea? And Nepal before that? And South Africa one week from now? 

Because the obvious truth is: I’m not some impressive darling of the faith – a woman with Esther’s magnificent courage or Ruth’s immovable commitment. I regularly feel weak – like clockwork – beset with recurring doubts and fears. Oh! If you only knew my inner world! You’d see a woman in her mid-twenties with two and a half million lessons yet to learn, a soul full of hunger, a few tender roots of vulnerable hope, a handful of untamed weaknesses, and several staggering failures under my belt. I’m enjoying these present adventures not because I somehow deserve them or have proven myself worthy of them. Goodness gracious, noI deserve anything but the faithfulness and provision of God.

But He is faithful and extravagant in giving me His provision and Presence anyway.

And here’s where this word – yes - enters my narrative. The most transformative lesson I’ve learned this past year is this: I don’t need to become someone “better,” more “impressive” or more “fixed” than I am right now in order to experience the fullness of the Father’s love and abundance; I don’t have to do anything remarkable to “turn my life around” and become someone impossibly more “put together” than this present me. No, the only thing the one thing – I must do is say yes to Him. Right now. As I am. 

Yes.

Please don’t miss this. I know it might sound like a tired cliche (the idea of giving God our “yes”), but I guarantee you it’s anything but tired. Yes is the one word that has woken up every fiber of my being and liberated me from the chains of my own limitations into the glory of his limitlessness. Too much of my life was spent giving lip service to the indwelling grace and power of Christ while subconsciously assuming I had to first rise to a certain level of faith and discipline before I could actually and immediately experience the reality of Christ’s miraculous power and transformation. It felt for too long like I was on the wrong side of some impossibly wide chasm, staring across the divide at the “impressive Christians” (the ones who have books written about their lives)… those who watch God utterly transform and liberate them, set them ablaze with His love, and work astoundingly through them.

I wanted a life like that. I wanted it badly.

But I assumed the only way of experiencing such a life with Jesus was to “prove myself” in the faith, to put my head down and “get over” all my ever-present flaws, sins, and weaknesses – as if I had to “arrive” at some mythical point of maturity before enjoying a liberated, healed, abundant, and fruitful life with God.

But last fall, in the midst of one of the most broken seasons of my life, that delusion was (thankfully) shattered.

I came to understand in my soul (not merely in an intellectual way, but in a gut-level way), that the cross of Jesus Christ – His death and resurrection – means I never have to waste my energy trying to “arrive” anywhere. The fact is, I’ve already “arrived.” I don’t have to cross that chasm to the other side (where the “impressive” Christians live) because I’m already there, and being there (here!) has nothing to do with how impressive I am. The fact is, Jesus carried me over the divide when He carried the cross and left the grave vacant. Every remarkable and astounding promise of God is – in this moment – a “YES” for me in Christ Jesus, and all I must do is respond to His yes with my yes.

I only have to say yes to Him.

I’m not trying to be simplistic; I’m just being honest.

My life drastically changed when I realized that rather than the Bible being full of truths I had to somehow work hard to incorporate into my life (disciplining myself in order to eventually “live up to them”), it is instead an honest description of my present and immediate reality with God. I just have to agree. I just have to say yes.

But it’s even more personal than that… God is knocking relentlessly and longingly at the door of my heart (and your’s!), whispering over and over that all He wants is to come inside and prepare a feast to enjoy with me, to be with me, to wrap me up in His love. Even in my ugliest, and most unimpressive moments He knocks, intent on coming inside.

And there’s only one little word He’s waiting to hear from me…

I began to grasp this truth in earnest last October, and seven or eight “yes’s” later, I’m here in South Korea speaking to a large group of young people about my miraculous journey to Nepal to share the Love of the Father with the unreached people groups in the Himalayas (fully funded!) when – three weeks before flying out – I had only $20 to my name. Several more “yes’s” and I’m praying with courageous and beautiful cancer patients here in Korea, meeting with Korean missions pastors over lunch to discuss the heart of God for the nations of the world, and listening as my Korean friend earnestly articulates her longing to give her life to God in missions.

Another yes later, and I’ll soon be on my way to South Africa, a nation I assumed I wouldn’t be able to return to until years down the road.

“Yes” has altered my very existence.

Saying yes to God won’t mean the same thing for every one of us – God delights in us each too uniquely for that. And it won’t mean that all of the challenges simply evaporate from our lives. But saying yes will mean that our limits no longer enslave us. It will mean that we no longer have to doggedly chase a foolish and elusive point of “arrival.” It will mean we no longer have to alienate ourselves from the present and immediate power and tenderness of God.

And it will mean that right now we can begin to live the sorts of lives with God about which books will be written…

Whether those books are penned in heaven or here on earth in this age, right now the Father has His hand outstretched towards you and me… He’s not looking for the “impressive” ones, nor the ones who’ve “arrived.” He’s not looking for the “elite.” He’s looking at us - the ones who feel weak and ordinary and hungry – and with smiling eyes and His Voice dripping with the anticipation of Heaven, He’s saying, “Will you let me in? Will you take my hand? There are no more obstacles. I’ve removed them all. There’s nothing you have to prove. I’ve already proven it. There’s no chasm for you to cross. I’ve already carried you to the other side. Will you let me in?”

We need only to say a single word.

Three letters.

My ordinary, flawed life has happily turned upside down with the utterance of that little word.

Now it’s your turn.

I promise you it’s worth it. Better yet, He promises it’s worth it.

Will you say yes?

Oh, people.

As I prepare to leave for Nepal and India in a few short days, I’ve been freshly astonished by the love of friends and family. I mean, really. My heart can’t stop aching with bittersweet joy and tenderness, affection and vulnerability.

I love people. 

And I’d like to learn to do so more extravagantly – tossing selfishness to the wind and gladly offering myself to others with clear eyes, pure intentions, and a heart trembling, breaking, and bursting with the love of the Father.

That is what I want to do. That is who I want to be.

In the meantime, my jaw drops and I’m humbled to my knees with gratitude at the love of those around me. 

I am in the company of some extraordinarily gracious and selfless people.

God knows I have so much to learn from them.

I have been blessed with life-infusing relationships.

And I dearly hope to become a woman who can offer the same to others.

Further up and further in, friends…

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Link

Cover of “Tonight You Belong to Me”

Cover of “Tonight You Belong to Me”

Jamie is one of my closest and dearest friends.

And she happens to be a darlingly talented singer.

Watch this video – click the highlighted title above to view. Enjoy the fine-tuned skill of my friend.

Jamie is on the left, her equally talented friend Katie is on the right with glasses.

Dive.

I wrote the following words 35,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, en route from Los Angeles to South Korea two months ago. I’d like to share them here because something new and entirely course-altering has been happening inside of me these past several weeks, and these words were the foreshadowing of this current transformation. I can’t easily describe this revolution inside of me, except to say that the cobwebs of drowsy years are being swept from my eyes, and my spirit is coming awake with an electricity and sobriety I’ve never yet known.

I feel that for some time I’ve been standing on the lip of an enormous ledge overlooking the bluest, wildest, most desirable sea… and now – this very moment – I’ve finally jumped off the ledge.

Here are the words I wrote that January day – overcome with awareness that I was writing down the truest part of my own soul – on the back cover of my journal while 7 miles above the Pacific Ocean:

I know to whom I belong. I know what He says of Himself and of me. And frankly, I could care less what any other voice calls me. I am not my reputation, nor my exterior, nor my accomplishments, and I will not live any longer as if I am. I’d rather make what some would call a fool of myself by living with exorbitant trust in my Father – trust that many might find impractical, perhaps even irresponsible. I know no other reality. I’ve asked Him to make me a torch and set me on fire, and I expect Him to do just that. I cannot simply exist. I was made to tremble and dance with the flame and flood of the Living God. I am what I am, and body and soul I am His.

 

It’s happening. It’s real. And I’m pierced magnificently with the realization that I have sprinted clear through a point of no return.

May it be so for you too, friends.

This Jesus we love is requiring of us our breath, our essence, all that we possess and call our own, our very souls. To surrender all this is to dive headlong into Life and thunder and sea and sky and a Kingdom that has swallowed up death for all time. It means diving into the arms of the Living God.

Body and soul may you find yourself enfolded in those arms today.

 

Further up and further in.

 

A brief addendum: Have a listen to the following song, you might find it as stirring as I do:

This little book.

I’m writing a book.

… which probably sounds way cooler than it is.

I’m not trying to climb any best-sellers lists, and – realistically – the finished product will likely never be formally published. In fact, publication is not at all my goal.

Of goals I have two:

1. Honesty

2. Obedience

This “book” (I’d prefer to call it a ‘thesis’ or a ‘story’) is about me. I know that sounds vain, but I don’t mean for it to be. What I do mean for it to be is an honest account of my nearly decade long struggle with an eating disorder, all the lies and fears that birthed it, and the inscrutable Mercy of the Living God who saved me from myself. He is the One who has compelled me to write it all down; and because I feel the breath of His Passion as I write, I want to obey Him by putting my fingers to the keys and typing – as honestly as I can – the narrative of His redemption in my life.

And tonight I have a feeling that I need to share an excerpt. Here. On my blog.

I didn’t think I would do this. I envisioned writing this book and keeping it very much to myself throughout the process; but I have the sense that someone reading this post – perhaps you – will find in these few paragraphs a renewed depth of trust in God, a rekindled certainty that in every hour and in every way He is Good to His children.

I do hope that person is you.

Here it is, friend, an excerpt from my little-writing-project-book-thing:

(This excerpt is written about my life when I was 15 years old – two years into both my eating disorder and high school.)

I wrote in my journal often that year. I wrote out detailed descriptions of my daily exercise regimen. I wrote lists of “acceptable” foods which I was “allowed” to eat. But mostly I wrote to God. I told him often that I knew there was something I was keeping back from Him. Something I was keeping in shadow, something I was clinging to and wouldn’t dare let go of. And all the while – in the deepest deeps within me – I knew that He would ultimately require it of me. He would take from me that thing I was gripping with white knuckles. The shouting majority of me did not want to see that day come, but the whispering sliver of me – the part that was both willing and courageous – insisted that it would be my great deliverance. I mistakenly thought at the time that the “thing” I was holding onto – the thing God was wanting to take from me – was the entirety of my dreams for significance and attention. Filtered down farther, I came to feel on some level that God was primarily wanting to “humble me” by making me lose control of my weight, stop exercising so much, and give up on being different or extraordinary.

I wrestled painfully in my heart with this conclusion. I knew that He would at some point have His way, and that I could not ultimately have mine. But, oh how I wanted it. I was so enormously thirsty for the satisfaction of that gaping need within me – that empty cavern of worth and value and specialness – that I kept plowing along my own path, all the while quite aware that it wasn’t His path, and all the while trying unsuccessfully to forget that fact by plunging into the minutia of my self-made world. What I see now – after years and pain and liberation and unveiling – is that the “thing” I was clinging to and the thing which God wanted to take from me was not all my thirsty desires for worth and significance and value. It was always and only my fear.

There in the heart of my high school years I was confined in a cage of fear. I was ruled by it, compelled by it, chased by it, and coerced by it. Fear was the pair of glasses through which I viewed the world and my own place in it. I was so much like a naked man and woman in a garden long ago who doubted the goodness of their loving Father, supposing that He was withholding the best from them and intending to barricade them from having it. In their fear and pride, they seized their own destinies, and in so doing found a darkness and a torn reality that shredded the paradise of their existence. They became afraid. They hid. They took matters into their own hands. And at fifteen years old, I was reliving the very same plot. I too had experienced the joy of His nearness and expansive hope in my childhood – just as they had in the youth of their days – and I too had traded in that simple trust and outward gaze for the tendrils of fear and its resultant self-absorbed ambitions. Just as they did, I hid from Him, the One who wooed me at the horizon, and I determined that I had to do it all on my own.

My fear told me to resist His plans and interventions in my life – fear told me to avoid a complete surrender to Him because He might just take from me the things I thought I needed most. But it was a ruse and a deception – just like that first deception in Eden. In reality, He came to me not like a cosmic police officer stripping me of my license and issuing me a ticket in an effort to slap me into humility; but rather as a love-sick Father sprinting down the road after me, calling my name, scanning left and right, searching tirelessly to find me in the pit I’d wandered into, all so that He could speak tenderly to me and wipe away the memory of my fears with the river of His love. He only ever wanted to remove my fear and replace it with a Love made perfect; but I wrestled and cried and squirmed under the deception that He was intending to “teach me a lesson” by taking from me the things I wanted most dearly.

I thought I was nursing and cradling and protecting all of my dearest hopes. But I was actually nursing and cradling the poison of fear, unwilling to let it go because I couldn’t yet fathom what might replace it. Here, perhaps, the battle within me raged most evidently: I wanted so desperately to be vulnerable before the Love of God, but I was so very afraid of letting Him love me because of what it might mean, how it might change everything, how it might make me lose control. What I didn’t yet understand is that “losing control” would, in fact, become the most beautiful and delightful liberation of my lifetime.

Dear reader, He comes like a warrior in full strength not to “discipline us into our proper place” nor to punish us in a “Fatherly” way for our shortcomings. No. He comes blazing with furious love, arms outstretched, eyes locked on ours, aching to unleash His torrent of fear-dispelling tenderness over top of us.

That is our God. And that is why I shared from my little book.

Courageous friend, will you believe Him?

May He ever draw you further up and further in.

Link

“I Breathe You in, God”

“I Breathe You in, God”

(click the link above)

It’s nearly 1am in the earliest glimpse of a Sunday morning, and I am loving this song. Hopefully you might as well.

Give it your attention just for a few moments; it’s well worth it.

 

This is personal.

This is rare. In fact, I’ve never before shared something like this… but today I thought, “Why not give it a go?”

I am about to share a segment from my personal journal – the journal in which all of my uncensored and most honest thoughts are recorded. I’m sharing the following excerpt (written several months ago) because I think someone might relate and hopefully find a bit of encouragement. Even if it is just one person - just you – then the sharing was worth it.

So here it is, from my journal entry on January 6, 2013:

“I’ve had new insights about self-rejection and self-hatred… Both are actually ploys of the enemy to get me to hide from the Presence of God, while tricking me into thinking I am feeling some sort of ‘religious piety’ by being so harshly angry and disappointed with myself for my shortcomings. You see that?! When I fume and mope and self-flagellate and give up and stay away from the Presence of God, I do so because I simply cannot accept that I am so flawed, that I am so inept at fixing myself, that I am so far from the “me” I think I should be… and so I alienate myself from God because I can’t stand to move forward with Him as this present version of me. I end up, in fact, alienating myself from reality, from peace. I choose instead to unleash graceless judgement, animosity, and pessimism upon myself, refusing and shoving aside the tenderness of Christ. I try to hide my shortcomings; I try to beat them out of myself; I try to talk myself out of them; I try to plan and organize and schedule myself away from them; I even try drowning in hopelessness over them. And all the while, I keep my distance from God until I either have my flaws “somewhat under control” or else am so exhausted and desperate in my attempts to control them that I feel on the verge of despair. It is a constant war with myself. And it is an endless closed loop to nowhere. I have spent a decade of my life waging war with myself, hoping desperately to erase the unseemly or “shameful” parts of myself. Consequently, I’ve lived too often in a state of self-rejection and distancing myself from God (because I couldn’t stand my failures and weaknesses, and I assumed He must feel the same way about me)… and round and round the carousel I went: firmly fixing my attention on overcoming some flaw or sin issue, wallowing in self-pity and anger when I felt I was failing at it, triumphantly pleased with myself when I’d seemed to finally “fix” myself, then crushed with fear and anxiety the moment an old issue (one I’d thought I’d fixed) seemed to crop up again… I’d then doubt and begin to think that I was about to spiral into an oblivion of all my former struggles, so I’d try to calm myself down again and set about firmly fixing my attention on overcoming some flaw or sin issue (and so the cycle would repeat). All these machinations, self-improvement efforts, and earnest attempts to fix myself are useless, and God wants none of them for me or from me! I don’t have to wage war with myself any longer! I don’t have to exhaust myself by my efforts to cover, hide, or fix myself! I don’t have to alienate and abuse the parts of me that I’m ashamed of! I don’t have to separated myself from reality! I don’t have to cower before and serve a delusion of what I “should be”! I don’t have to hide from God in my moments of disgust! NO. What God has always wanted and wants is simply for me to come home to Him, precisely as I now am – flaws and all, compulsions and all, insecurities and all. Just like the prodigal, He just wants me home. He wants me, honest and vulnerable and uncovered before Him. And coming to Him in that way means being at peace with myself, accepting the reality of what and who I am at this very moment. When I lay down my weapons of torture and punishment against myself and simply learn to be in vulnerability before Him, it is then that I hear Him call me His beloved daughter. It is then that I am pierced with the tender and costly and gracious love spilled all over the cross of Christ. It is then that I am me before God so that He may be Himself in me; and I no longer shrink back from Him, distracted from His Presence by the smoke and mirrors of my own efforts at self-improvement. I am filled with my truest sense of purpose and the fullest measure of God when I cease warring with myself, accept myself as I am, and offer myself as such to Him. He wants me, not my efforts.

 

And there it is. My journal.

Further up and further in.

 

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