He is Constant

The Lord really rocked me during my time with Him this morning. He showed me this picture of Him in Heaven. I couldn’t see His face because my gaze was locked on the hem of His white robe. It was swishing back and forth in constant movement. It was so bright and light and white and there was so much movement that it was almost dizzying. He was moving, the angels were moving. Heaven was actively moving – on my behalf.

He then told me that my idea of His characteristic of “constant” was not full. We often call God “constant.” He’s unchanging, steadfast, dependable, and faithful. We know these things to be true, but then sometimes we can’t see Him moving in situations in our lives and we start to lose hope. 

He reminded me this morning that constant also means constantly moving. He’s never far away. He’s not standing in Heaven looking down passively at our comings and goings. He is actively and intimately involved in our lives. He is busy working in us and around us for our good and His glory. This busy isn’t a distracted busy like we know in the natural. He is constantly moving in our lives on our behalf. Constantly speaking to us. Constantly surrounding us with pillars of strength to uphold us. Constantly placing us in strategic positions. Constantly protecting us. Constantly rerouting us. He is near, and He never abandons us.

Do not lose hope in Him when you can’t see Him working. He’s our Living Hope. That means our Hope is alive. Alive and active and constant.

He is constant, and He is constantly moving.

Steal, Kill, and Destroy

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This I know to be true: the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and he prowls around like a lion looking for things to devour.

———-

Last night I finished writing and editing a blog post about war and surprise attacks in areas where I thought I’d seen victory. No more than two hours after I posted it, I was under attack again.

One of my dearest friends and I were talking about a specific situation in my life, and she was sharing her heart with me. What she had discerned from the Lord and what I had heard from Him myself were conflicting and tension was mounting. I suddenly found myself angry and questioning her intentions. Our interpretations of what we were hearing about this specific area were not lining up, so I immediately threw up a wall. I started backing away from one of my best friends – one of the sweetest gifts from God in my life.

As soon as I sensed the wall go up, I started praying and the Lord started unveiling my eyes. It was like a switch flipped, and I saw it for what it was – a very crafty attack of the enemy. The more I prayed, the more He revealed about the attack that had been set out against me that night.

First, the enemy was attempting to create division and dissention among this friendship. This is a very familiar attack that he has leveraged over my life the past few months, and quite frankly, I’m sick of it. I should have recognized it immediately. Instead, I was anxious and fearful and confused. I questioned the heart and intent of one of the people who has encouraged me and uplifted me and prayed into and over my life during one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever walked through.

Then he pulled a sneaky surprise attack, and used this conversation with my friend to make me doubt my ability to hear from the Lord. Earlier this week, I started questioning a series of words and revelations I’d been given and heard from the Lord over the past few months. I am confident that I know how Holy Spirit speaks to me, and I know I know the voice of the Shepherd. But doubt started creeping in when I started facing intense opposition to and attack against those words this past week. It took a conversation with another good friend for me to realize that I was being attacked in this area. I started combatting the attack by speaking truth over myself and making the declaration that I am able to clearly hear from the Lord. I literally saw victory in this area two days ago, and now I find myself in the midst of a surprise attack in the exact same area. 

As soon as I realized what the enemy was doing, I started calling him down. “NOT TODAY, SATAN. You will not try to ruin this, too. You have no authority here. My God is bigger than you, He has already won this battle, and I have victory over you through His blood. STEP BACK.” I felt immediate peace wash over me again.

———-

The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Period. That’s his end game. When he sees a way to weasel into our lives, that’s what he goes after. Anything that he can steal, kill, or destroy in an attempt to keep us from the glorious that Christ has for us. For me last night, he wanted to steal my peace, kill my confidence in my ability to hear from God, and destroy a God-ordained friendship.

The Lord has good for us. He came to give us abundant life. He has a plan to partner with us to shake this earth for His Kingdom. A plan to bring heaven to earth. A plan to grow us and use us for His glory. But the enemy wants to put a stop to it. He is like a lion prowling around and looking for things to devour. When the enemy sees a threat – a person or a pairing or a group that He knows will be powerful together for the Kingdom – he does everything in His power to rip it apart.

The good news? We have victory over the enemy through Christ Jesus. His blood wins every time. His purpose wins every time. Nothing can come between the Lord and His plan and purpose for our lives. I believe this to the very deepest parts of me. His will prevails. Even so, we have a responsibility to be alert to what is going on around us. We must ask the Lord to open our eyes to what is going on in the Spirit realm. We have to see the enemy prowling around and call him down when he attempts to come between us the glorious unfolding Christ has for us. He’s so deceitful, so sly. If we are not careful, we are blinded to how the enemy is attempting to destroy us.  Look up!  Look around!  What is he trying to steal, kill, or destroy in your life? Do not let the enemy try to steal what the Lord has for you!

———-

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” — Proverbs 27:6

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” — 1 Peter 5:8

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” — John 10:10

The War Is Over

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Wars are being waged around me. Everywhere I look, I see the darkness and carnage that only war can bring. As I’ve navigated the treacherous landmines of my own battlefield, I’ve found myself glancing to my right and to my left and seeing the battlefields of my friends and family. War is everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong – there are times in your life when you have to go to war with your own flesh. One of my friends says that sometimes looks like the Lord squeezing everything out of us that doesn’t look like Jesus. And sometimes? Sometimes that just looks like war. As hard as some of these times have been, I’m thankful for the pieces of my own dying flesh I see littering the ground. Each piece of dead flesh represents a specific area in my life that didn’t look anything like Jesus. My Papa, the Great Physician, skillfully and carefully wielded his scalpel, surgically removing those decaying places out of me. He tossed those pieces by the wayside so they would no longer encumber me. He got rid of them so I’m able to look a little more like Jesus. And for that I’m thankful. But just because He’s a skilled surgeon doesn’t mean there was no blood shed in the process.

But sometimes? Sometimes war finds you straight in the midst of the chaos and confusion that can only be an attack from the enemy. Flaming arrows whiz past you, lighting in their intended targets, the places where the enemy knows he can do the most damage – your relationships, your hopes and dreams. You smell the acrid smell of smoke as it rises and fills the air around you. You pick up your weapons, stretch out your arm, pull back the arrow, and aim for your target… this is battle. This is war.

There are times when you walk out of those battlefields with your arms raised up in praise, knowing the Lord has brought deliverance and victory. These are the times when you’ve been able to put a stake in the ground, claiming new territory as your own. The times you’ve drawn a line in the sand and screamed at the enemy, “YOU CAN’T COME ANY CLOSER.”

And then there are the times when you turn around and catch a glimpse of the enemy trying to sneak back in and advance on your territory. Completely caught off guard, you pick up the armor you’ve just laid down and prepare for battle again. You fling your broken and busted up body over your relationships and your hopes and dreams, arms and legs outstretched like human armor in an attempt to cover exposed areas of weakness and vulnerability. Completely taken by surprise, you realize the battle isn’t over yet.

Early last week, I found myself in exactly such a place. I was completely disoriented when I sensed attack in an area where I’d already seen victory. I felt that the situation demanded I take up arms and prepare to fight. I found myself talking to the Lord early one morning and telling Him what all I thought I needed to do and laying out my plan before Him. (Yeah, I know. Ridiculous now that I think about it. What I needed to do? MY plans?) I kept asking Him over and over, “What do you think, Lord?” And time and time again, I was met by silence. Deafening silence.

I spent a day or two hearing nothing but complete silence from Him in this area. One morning, I woke up completely frantic. I said “God! What is our battle plan here? What do I need to do?” It was then that I finally heard Him speak: “Be still.” I remember shaking my head, panicking, and thinking “BE STILL? In the middle of WAR?” He nudged me gently and said, “Remember me telling you last week to be still? I meant it. Be still.” I sat there, dumbfounded. I still didn’t quite grasp the concept of sitting still in the middle of a battle. He had to have sensed my confusion because a few seconds later I heard Him say, “Brave girl, lay your weapons down.” If you know me at all, you know I’m a verbal processor and I had to keep talking to gain understanding. “But Lord,” I said, “I need to fight for this. I know I need to fight.” And like the patient, loving Father that He is, He reminded me, “You don’t need to fight. I’ve already told you this isn’t your battle. I’ve got this. Let me do the fighting. Be still. Lay your weapons down. Trust that you’ll see victory in this.”

Later that morning, my spirit was still in a state of unrest. I knew I needed to spend some more time with Him. I was listening to a random Bethel playlist on YouTube while I was reading my Bible and journaling when a song filtered through that I’d never heard. The first few lyrics stopped me dead in my tracks:

The war is over, turn around

Lay your weapons on the ground

 

I stopped what I was doing and sat and listened through tears.

He has made a way for us

Born for glory out of dust

Children held within the arms of peace

 

He has made a way for all

Mercy waits where sinners fall

He is our Victory

 

It is finished.

It is done.

The blood of Jesus overcomes

It is finished.

He has won.

He has won.

After I *mostly* pulled myself together, I sent a link to the video to my friend Morgan. I was like “This is a new one I haven’t heard! I bet it’s gonna be on the new album!” And sweet Morgan was like, “That’s the one they did at the Worship Night we went to that I kept talking about!” Ummmm… yeah. Apparently I was on the floor crying or journaling or something when they did this song and completely missed it. Like I don’t remember it at all. Isn’t it funny how the Lord works? I know for sure He kept that song for this time when He knew I’d need to hear it most.

I’ve spent the past several days being still and trusting the Lord for victory, and this song has not been far from my mind or lips. He’s been faithful to bring it to mind every time I start to feel anxious, and He’s ministered to me and taught me so much through it.

—–

The war is over.

Those places I thought were victorious but then found the enemy sneaking in to stir up the battle again? They completely caught me off guard. But God? He sees all and knows all. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He is never caught off guard by a surprise attack. There’s no battle being fought in our lives that He isn’t intimately familiar with.   And there’s no outcome of any battle that hasn’t already been won for us. You heard me right – there’s always victory available in any battle we face. When He was on the cross, He fought every battle we will fight. He won victory for us on the cross.

Lay your weapons on the ground.

So many times I’ve wanted to pick up weapons that were never mine to hold in the first place. And when we aren’t used to holding these weapons that were never intended for us to use, we can’t stand up under the weight of them. We fall trying to fight a battle that was never ours to fight in the first place. All He asks us to do is cease striving. To simply rest in His might. To trust Him to be the God that only He can be. He’s God. And He’s good at being God.

It is finished, it is done. The blood of Jesus overcomes. It is finished, He has won. He has won.

I’m so thankful for the finished work of the cross. The work that restored mankind to God. The work that defeated death and the grave. The work that tore the veil so I can walk in daily communion with Him.

I love the redemption of the cross, but somehow I think I’ve managed to get it completely wrong for years. There have been countless times I’ve faced a lost battle, a dead dream, an unanswered prayer, a broken relationship, or a nagging sin and with a half-hearted laugh said, “Well there’s nothing His blood can’t redeem.”

No. That’s not it. That’s not it at all. There’s nothing that His blood hasn’t redeemed. The cross was final. When the blood poured out of his beaten, pierced, and mangled body, it wasn’t just to cover the lost battles, dead dreams, unanswered prayers, broken relationships, and nagging sins of the day He died on the cross. The blood covered it all. The past, the present, the future. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s. And because of His blood, we get to live in victory. We are victorious because He was victorious for us.

—–

I still don’t know the outcome of this particular battle, but I’m trusting in the victory He promised me. I know Him to be the God who keeps His promises and the God who finishes what He starts. No promise to me will return void. I’m victorious because He is victorious.

 

 

All Things New


This past week during worship, I felt like I was hitting a brick wall over and over again. I kept trying to push through it, but I was making no headway. I started praying and seeking the Lord, asking Him why I was having such a hard time entering into His presence and giving myself over fully to Him in worship.

The Holy Spirit gently nudged me to recall the moment we started singing the first song of the set. Even though the song was personally significant to me, I wasn’t singing it with my usual joyful exuberance. Instead, I found myself feeling a little sad as we sang. What a juxtaposition – feeling intense sadness during a song about God’s miracle-working presence.

The song brought up some really sweet memories, but they felt as distant as His presence that day. With those memories came the harsh onslaught of comparison. But this comparison was different than anything I had ever experienced before. For one of the first times I can remember, I wasn’t comparing myself to other people. I was comparing myself to… myself. I was comparing my current situation to the places and seasons in which I had walked in the past.

As Holy Spirit started speaking to me, I sat down and started journaling. I heard Him say “I like different. I like new.” He reminded me that even though worship looked and felt and sounded a little differently, that didn’t make it any less beautiful, any less valuable to Him.

When I was finally able to turn my focus from my current situation and back onto Him, I broke through that wall and had the sweetest time of worship. No sooner had we started the second song than He reminded me once again that He makes everything new – this time through song lyrics. At this point, I was grinning and thinking “Ok, God… I hear you.”

It was such a sweet reminder that He makes all things new. Not just some of the things. Not just the things that are broken. Not just the banged up and busted up parts. All things.

Holy Spirit kept speaking to me, so I kept journaling during worship:

Don’t expect your current season to look just like the one you just came from or the one you’re expecting to walk into. This is how you will miss me and what I am doing in your life. If you wear blinders, you will be blinded. Take off the things that blind you – your memories, your expectations, your hopes and desires, your emotions. While these things aren’t necessarily bad, they can blind you to what I’m doing in the here and now. Don’t miss me. Watch for me to move. Feel the wind of my Spirit. Listen to the gentle whisper of my voice. Move when you feel me move. Speak when you hear me speak. Do what you see me do. Don’t miss what I’m doing.

A sweet friend of mine told me that same night that she saw a picture in her mind of Jesus locking eyes with me, never taking his eyes off of mine. The look of a lover truly seeing His bride.

I think that’s where we go wrong a lot of times. We’re so distracted by what’s around us – our circumstances, our memories, the hurt and pain of broken relationships, the expectations we have in our hearts for what we think He will do next, the heart desires cloaked in the fear that they’ll remain unmet– that we forget to keep our gaze trained on Him.

I heard Lisa Bevere speak at a Bethel Music Worship Night event last night. She said something that is still reverberating in my spirit today: “Stop putting question marks where you need to be putting periods and exclamation marks. God wants you to lift your eyes and see what Heaven is doing. You have far better things to do than to compare yourself to what you have seen and known.”

If we don’t want to miss the new thing He’s doing for us in our current season, we have to stop looking back at the past or looking ahead to the future and asking questions that we aren’t meant to know the answers to. How often is our captivity, our blindness of our own volition? How often do we stay stuck in the same spot – so caught up in looking back or looking forward, questioning Him with not even a thought to what the Lord may be doing right here and right now in this season?

I’ve found myself wandering through Isaiah over the past couple of weeks, and I keep coming back to Isaiah 43. It can’t be a coincidence. It’s a passage that speaks of the rescue and redemption the Lord has for His people. It speaks of an intimacy that’s breathtaking. It speaks of His constant presence in affliction – His support under it and our deliverance through it. It speaks of the importance of remembering His faithfulness in times past. He will do it again, but this time He will do a NEW thing.

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.  It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?  There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”

— Isaiah 43:18-19, MSG

Sometimes making all things new means meeting us right where we are in the here and now and doing a new thing in us. He can do wonder upon wonder when we allow Him to rescue us from our blindness. He can show us roads in the desert, rivers in the badlands. He can show us what He’s placing right in front of us, the need He’s meeting right here, right now.

I’m praying daily that He would remove any blinders on my eyes that would cause me to miss the brand new that He’s doing in the here and now of my life. I’m learning to train my gaze on Him despite the distractions that compete for my attention, and I’m asking Him to nudge me when my eyes start to stray. He is drawing my attention up as He draws me into deeper places of intimacy. I’m locking eyes with the One whose eyes will always be locked on me. The One who makes all things new by doing a new thing in me.

Walking in the Mystery

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Over the past few months, the Lord has taken me on a journey unlike any I’ve ever traveled before. As I’ve walked the path He’s set before me, I’ve been blown away by how gracious He’s been to me. He has dreamed the biggest of dreams with me. He has spoken the most beautiful promises over my life. He has answered some of my greatest prayers and fulfilled some of my deepest longings. He has healed places in me that were in desperate need of healing. He has injected me with hope.

Along the way, He did something I wasn’t expecting. He showed me my Promised Land, and then He showed me the steps it would take to get there. I started walking in faith toward what I knew He was calling me to.

Not long after He confirmed in my spirit what direction I was to head, I started running into walls of opposition. The enemy started coming at me with some of the strongest spiritual attacks I have ever experienced. My mind was attacked by whispers of lies from the enemy. My finances were hit from all sides. My closest relationships were in turmoil. Confusion and chaos abounded in every area of my life.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about confusion and chaos, it’s that they seek to destroy connection in relationships. Sometimes it’s in your relationships with people, sometimes it’s in your relationship with Jesus, and sometimes it’s in both. As confusion and chaos attempt to destroy connection, they also seek out cracks in your life where seeds of doubt can be wedged in. And when it’s not immediately silenced, doubt takes root and grows.

For me, the disconnect and doubt crept into every area of my life. I was completely undone by the confusion and chaos I was feeling. It made no sense to me. I was so certain of what the Lord had shown me, the direction He was pointing my life. Things got too hard, and the path was too uncertain. I stopped dead in my tracks, and I refused to budge. I was content to stand still until He cleared things up and showed me where to step again.

One day I was processing some of what I had been going through with one of my friends. I was so frustrated by the walls I kept hitting. I told her that my best friend had challenged me to start praying that the Lord would increase my faith. I had been praying that prayer multiple times a day for several days when everything seemed to start unraveling. I was confused. I had been expecting good things like answered prayers and open doors to come along and stretch my faith. As I opened up about my frustrations, she told me a story about one time when she realized she loved the Lord more than she trusted Him. It was then that I felt Holy Spirit asking me “Do you really trust me to increase your faith?” I felt my head nodding up and down in a solid YES. Then he said “But do you trust me to do it in the best way for you?” My nod stopped abruptly. I finally understood.

I had been asking Him to stretch my faith, and He was answering my prayer. I just didn’t trust Him to do it how He saw best. He was using some really hard, uncomfortable things to stretch my faith. Instead of recognizing them for what they were – faith stretchers, I allowed doubt to creep in and bring disconnection with it. Doubt made me question His nearness, His goodness, and His faithfulness. I was angry over these hard things that had nudged themselves into my life completely uninvited. Without even realizing it, I was slipping away and becoming disconnected from the One who always has my best interests at heart. It all came down to my own inability to look at what was going on in my life through His lens of love. He loves me so much that He only wants the best for me. He wants my faith and my trust in Him to be without limits. Even though I didn’t understand it at the time, He was doing exactly what it took to get me to that place.

Once I realized what was at the root of my disconnection, the lack of complete trust, I repented for it. I changed my heart and my mind, and I gave my YES to whatever the Lord wanted to do in my life. I gave him my YES to bring me to the place where my faith and trust were stretched fully.

A few days later, the turmoil in my life was still raging. I felt Him ask me very quietly “You say you trust me, but do you trust that the promises I spoke over you are true?” I found my head nodding again, but my heart was not following along. I kept saying, “But God… you showed me. It was so clear. But everything is so uncertain now. It’s all so fuzzy. How do I move forward when nothing makes sense? Are you changing your mind? What are you doing?”

He took me to the book of 2 Corinthians where Paul says:

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1: 19-20)

I’ve always heard people say that all God’s promises are Yes and Amen, but I never really thought about what that meant until now.

Once God gives His Yes in our lives, it remains a Yes. He is not fickle; He is steadfast. His Yes will never become a No or a Maybe. His promise remains true even when our human mind can’t fathom how it could ever come to pass. He may change our path, but He never goes back on His promise. And because He is trustworthy and good, I can give my Amen to His Yes – no matter what the fulfillment of that Yes may look like.

– – –

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp talks about groping for understanding in the midst of not understanding. She mentions the Israelites eating manna during the 40 desert years. Manna literally translates as “What is it?” The Israelites literally ate the mystery. And the mystery was “like wafers of honey” on the lips.

The unknown can be pleasant, sweet, and satisfying. The Israelites had to trust God to be their ultimate source of provision. They were to never gather more than one day’s worth of manna except in preparation for the Sabbath. They were in a place of ultimate dependency, ultimate trust. They were trusting the manna would show up, that God would show up. Despite being unable to see how God’s promise for their lives could ever come to fruition, they trusted in the mystery.

– – –

As He was connecting all of this is my heart and mind and spirit, I was still at a standstill. I was standing in the middle of the path He had been clearing for me with my arms crossed tightly over my chest and my lips set in a hard line, refusing to move. He nudged me ever so gently again and said “I meant it when I said walk in the promise. You have to walk. Don’t stand still. Walk.”

– – –

And so I find myself walking again. My faith has never been bigger, and I’ve never trusted in His promises as fully as I do now. I’m taking each small step He guides my feet to take, and I’m being faithful to remain true to the Amen I gave to His Yes.

Even when His promise is a complete mystery, I can still stand in agreement and trust Him with my Amen because of His faithfulness in my life.

I’m trusting in the mystery and trusting in Him completely.

He has shown me my Promised Land. It’s time to walk to it.

 

Marked By Love


If you know me even in the slightest, you probably know I’m not much of a morning person. I usually sprint out of my car and into the school building in an attempt to beat the clock. And if I’m early, I’m usually walking and thinking and not paying much attention to my surroundings. Today was different.

This morning as I was walking into school, the Lord drew my eyes UP. I looked up and saw this heart on the outside wall of the school, and I stopped dead in my tracks. Over and over I kept hearing Him say “My love is written on these walls.” I fumbled for my phone so I could snap a picture. I stood there for several minutes just staring at the wall. Our school was literally marked by God’s love this morning. 

I’m fairly certain He didn’t draw my gaze up this morning just so He could give me a warm fuzzy. He wanted to remind me that just as His love was written on the walls of my school today, it’s also written in and on me. His love marks us – changing our DNA and leaving us with an indelible reminder of who we are in Him and what we’re called to do. 

His love isn’t just meant to be tucked away deep inside – it’s meant to be worn and walked in and reflected on our countenance. We are tangible extensions of God’s love to all we come into contact with. He even tells us in scripture that we will be known by our love (John 13:35).

When we are met by Love, we are called back into our original identity as sons and daughters of God. We become like Jesus, and we start to mirror His nature. We are love because He is love. He lives inside of us, and all that He is and all that He has is in us. 

I can’t really explain the heart that was on our building today. It was there this morning, but now it’s gone. And even though my eyes can’t physically see it, it’s etched on my heart forever.

I want to live a life marked by love – one that’s lasting and never fades.

 

My Name Is…


My whole life I’ve been slightly obsessed with names.  You can ask my Mom.  She will amen everything I’m about to say.  When I was a kid, I would check out baby name books from the public library.  To read.  For fun.  When I was like EIGHT.  And then there was that whole two or three year period in my younger years when I lamented my own name. I could not for the life of me figure out why my parents would name me Carrie Beth when Carrie Elizabeth was the better, prettier, more sparkly choice.  Obviously.  I remember crying and asking my parents between sobs “Why… couldn’t… you… just… name me… Carrie ELIZABEEEETH?”

My obsession even carried over into my adult life.  Any time one of our friends or acquaintances announces a new pregnancy or birth on Facebook, my best girl friends and I immediately text our group thread and discuss the new baby’s name.  I also may or may not have a running list of names for my future kids tucked away in the notes app on my phone. And then there’s the fact that I have my very own personal copy of 100,001 Baby Names.  In fact, one of my teacher friends knew I had said baby name book and asked to borrow it when she was looking for a name for her sweet new baby boy.  That’s right.  My married friend borrowed a baby name book from me, the single girl.  The irony’s not lost on me. So there you have it.  I’m secretly obsessed with names.  (I guess it’s not so secret anymore, huh?)

My love for names even carries over into my love for Bible study.  One of my favorite things in the Bible is the significance of names.  The word nerd in me loves to dig in to whatever scripture I’m reading and see just how a person’s name impacts the story.  Names in the Bible can tell us more about a person’s character, a struggle they’ve faced and overcome, or a change they’ve undergone.  Even the names of places in the stories can give us greater insight into what has happened in that town or region or what the Lord has promised for that place.

This week, I’ve been reading the She Reads Truth devotional plan on the book of Ruth.  Who doesn’t love a good redemption story?  I’ve always loved the story of Ruth because there’s so much about her that I admire.  I love Ruth’s character – her actual, literal character of heart.  Not just her as a “character” in the story.  I love how she was willing to give up everything and move to a new land because she was in covenant with her mother-in-law.  Because she loved her.  Because she was family.  The idea of covenant relationships and the importance of family in the Kingdom are two of my favorite things to talk about.  I also love how hardworking Ruth was; I especially love that it was her work ethic that drew Boaz’s attention and not just her beauty.  I have also always admired Ruth’s fearlessness and boldness because there are areas in my life where I am far from bold and very much afraid.

Every time I’ve read the story of Ruth, I’ve identified solely with her.  Until this time.  This time when I read the scripture, my heart stirred  because I saw so much of myself in Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law.  You see, Naomi was having a really hard time.  Her life was nothing like she’d pictured it.  She lost her husband, her two sons, a daughter-in-law.  On top of it all, she was completely unsure of how the Lord was going to provide for her.   As she and Ruth entered her hometown of Bethlehem, the women who had known Naomi forever didn’t even recognize her.  Her circumstances had even changed her outward appearance.  Naomi was quick to say “Do not call me Naomi (pleasant); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” Naomi was unable to see past her current circumstances, and so she took it upon herself to change her name and give herself a new label.

Like Naomi, I’ve questioned God’s provision in many areas of my life.  Like Naomi, I’ve been completely unable to see the big picture that only he can see.  Like Naomi, I’ve allowed my circumstances to change me.  And like Naomi, I’ve taken the naming power away from God and re-named myself or my situation.

The very last line of Wednesday’s devotion was “We are not named by our circumstances, we are named by our good God.”  I immediately started crying when I read that.  Even though I hate to admit it, I will.  I am a woman who has spent years bowled over by my own inability to see past my circumstances.  Instead of trusting God with the big picture, I’ve looked directly in front of me at whatever wall I was facing and called myself names based on temporary situations.

As I was reading, Holy Spirit started speaking to me.  I saw an image of a wall covered in graffiti, tagged and re-tagged with defining labels and words.  So many words, so many labels, so much chaos.  It was hard to tell what anything actually said because there were just so many words everywhere.  I saw Him reach down and wipe off all the labels, all the chaos from the wall with one confident sweep of His hand.

The next thing He did was remind me that I am who He says I am.  He’s been working with me in this area a little while now, but it’s still an area that I struggle with – seeing myself as He sees me.  As He whispered to me and reminded me who He says I am, He placed a label on the wall.

BELOVED.

BEAUTIFUL.

CHOSEN.

ENOUGH.

WORTHY.

NEVER ALONE.

POWERFUL.

DAUGHTER.

LOVED.

FIERCE.

CALLED.

Then He whispered something to me that still takes me a little by surprise.  He told me that I am who HE is.  Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, I have full access to all the characteristics of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.  He took all the labels I’ve given myself through my circumstances and the voices of other people, and he changed them out for labels of His own.  As He spoke these truths over me, He placed His corresponding label on the wall right alongside the names He calls me.

My name is not Hopeless because His name is HOPE. 

My name is not Striving because His name is REST. 

My name is not Alone because His name is GOD WITH US. 

My name is not Weak because His name is MIGHTY ONE. 

My name is not Troubled because His name is PEACE. 

My name is not Uncertainty because His name is THE SOLID ROCK.

My name is not Defeated because His name is VICTOR.

My name is not Broken because His name is HEALER. 

My name is not Worthless because His name is REDEEMED. 




“We are not named by our circumstances, we are named by our good God.”


We were never meant to label ourselves based on our circumstances.  We were also never meant to be labeled by others.  If we’re going to understand who we are in Him and through Him, we have to wipe away all the clutter, all the graffiti, and ask Him to remind us who we are.

Ask Him to tear down the walls of your circumstances and remove all the labels you’ve ever given yourself.  Ask Him to help you take off all the labels others have placed on you. Spend some time with Him today and ask Him who he says you are.  Then ask Him to remind you who He is so you can see a better picture of who you are because of Him.

Time for a little rearranging

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I’m a creature of comfort.  I like cozy.  I like warm. I like inviting.  I really like familiar.  I don’t completely balk at change, but it’s generally best if I can have some time to process that change is happening.  I have to warm up to the idea.

I’ve lived in the same apartment for four years, and I have never rearranged furniture. Not even once.  I’ve added a few odds and ends here and there, but all the rooms are basically the same as they were four years ago when I moved in.  Once I get a room how I like it, I keep it that way.  I’ve never been one to just randomly rearrange furniture.  Goes back to that whole loving-the-familiar thing, I guess.

Last week I got this itch to rearrange my bedroom.  I couldn’t explain it.  I didn’t really understand it.  I just needed change.  I stood in the middle of the room and turned around and around, taking stock of what I had to work with and carefully thinking.  I thought about what arrangement would make the room flow best, and I visualized what I wanted where.  The more I thought about it, the more I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work the way I wanted it to.  If you know me even the tiniest bit, you know how stubborn I am, so it should be no surprise that I decided I would make it work.  I forged ahead and moved a few pieces of furniture only to be slapped in the face with the realization that it definitely was not going to work.  I kept thinking to myself “If that wall was just a tiny bit longer…” or “If that window was just a smidge more to the right…”  I got so frustrated.  I finally just gave up and put everything right back where it started.  No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t change the size and position of the four walls and two windows in my bedroom.

A few days later, I struck out on one of the last trips of summer to visit some of my best friends.  I was in the mood to roll down my windows and sing realllllllly loudly, so I needed realllllllly good driving music.  I decided it was a John Mark and Sarah McMillan kind of day, and I promptly set my phone to shuffle through all their tunes.  Pretty soon, the song Walk Around My House played.  I honestly don’t think I’d ever listened to it before that day, but man oh man did the verses catch my heart. (Y’all, apparently this is a thing for me – listening to the McMillans’ music and Jesus simultaneously throwing me a curve ball…)

Walk around my house and turn it upside down
Your love pursues me
Walk around my house and turn it upside down
Your spirit moves me
Open up my windows and unlock all the doors
You know you own me
Open up my windows and unlock all the doors
Blow right through me

The Lord’s timing is so funny to me sometimes.  My mind had literally just flitted back to my overwhelming desire to rearrange my bedroom when this song came on.  It was while listening to these lyrics that I felt a gentle nudge from Holy Spirit to really pay attention.

You see, there are some habits and practices and thought processes that I seem to fall into step with when I’m not carefully guarding my mind and my heart and walking in the knowledge and fullness of my identity as a daughter of the King.  These habits and practices and thought processes are the creature comforts of my heart, the places and spaces that feel most comfortable to me when I face hard times – when I find myself hurt by someone or when I’m comparing myself to another woman or when I’ve found myself in the middle of an everything-seems-to-be-going-downhill day.  If I’m not standing guard, these creature comforts take over my thoughts and actions and start worming their way into my heart, chipping away at the identity that I’ve turned my back on, even if only for what seemed like a nanosecond.

And while I really love the comfort and the warmth of the familiar, I really don’t love the familiarity of these particular creature comforts.  It was in realizing that these places exist and assessing the damage they have caused that I felt an intense need for change within my own heart.  I wanted God to have the space to rearrange the furniture of my heart.

I love that God is not limited by four walls and two windows like I was when trying to rearrange my bedroom.  He is not bound by any earthly constraint.  He can push away anything that hinders so that his will and his purpose for me have room to come to light in my life.  I want him to walk around my house and turn it upside down.  I want him to open up my windows and unlock all the doors.  I want him to have full access to every part of me – even the creature comforts that have been part of me for so long.

I’m learning to give him full permission to move things and change things and tweak things and really get me into the place where I will be most comfortable.  And in the process, I’m learning that living in the comfortable space I created is sometimes not the comfortable space he wants for me.

Jehovah Nissi: The Lord is My Banner

During a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom this past weekend, we went on a jungle trek through the park’s version of “Asia.”  About halfway through the walking tour, I turned a corner and saw these flags waving gently in the breeze over one part of the trail. The whole area was so peaceful and serene and beautiful that I just had to stop to take a few pictures. At the time I didn’t even realize what the flags were – I just thought they were pretty! As I started walking off to rejoin my group, I heard a tour guide telling a family that they were Tibetan prayer flags. She explained that one of the ancient Buddhist beliefs is that the more tattered and frayed and faded the flags are, the closer the prayer is to being answered.

My mind keeps wandering back to those prayer flags. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them. So many times I pray about something and then just leave it alone – whatever “it” is.  I leave the fear or the doubt or the question or the desire or the need there. I think “Well, I’ve done my part. I’ve prayed. I don’t know the outcome or how God is gonna do this, so I’ll just leave it here.”  I really think that in some crazy messed up way, I’ve trained myself to think that I’m annoying God by praying about the same things over and over.  I’m lying to myself even though I know the truth: prayer changes things.

Many times these areas of my life – these battlefields – are the places in which I never seem to see victory. I’ll do my due diligence and whisper a prayer and then step away.  A few days or weeks or months later, I’ll find myself with the same need or doubt or question and whispering the same prayer again.  The Lord is really opening up my eyes to see that these places can not just be prayed over once and then left alone. I’m to constantly bring these requests back before the Lord. Prayer is powerful, and it changes things. And while He doesn’t need my advice or opinion about how He should move or work, He does invite me to co-labor with Him in the Kingdom, and so much of that starts in prayer. Prayer can shift things in the spiritual and the natural. It can move barriers. It can soften hearts. It can change outcomes. It can clear human obstacles.

I was talking to a friend about this photo, and he said “You know, those prayer flags remind me of the name of God that means “banner” – Jehovah Nissi.”  As soon as he said that, something quickened in my spirit, so I started digging around in my Bible.

In Exodus 17, the Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites.  Moses stood at the top of the hill and held up his hands and the staff of God over the battle below.  As long as he held his hands up to God, the Israelites were winning.  If he ever dropped his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses began to tire, Aaron and Hur brought a rock over for him to sit on and then they stood next to him and helped him hold his hands steady.  Moses’s hands remained raised and Joshua and the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.

The really good part comes next!

Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.  He said, “Because hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Exodus 17:15-16

Do you see it?  He built an altar to the Lord and called it The Lord is my Banner.  Banners and flags have always been a way to mark a victory.  But this wasn’t just any victory – it was victory because of Moses’s faithfulness to keep his hands raised to the Lord during the battle.  Moses never stopped praying, and victory came.

Victory can be found in prayer, but we must be unwavering, unrelenting, and steadfast. If I want to see my prayers answered, I must be diligent to stay on my face before the Lord and not grow weary in prayer.  I should have tattered and frayed and faded remnants and reminders of hard prayers that were answered in my life  because I chose to fight for those “its” I used to just whisper a prayer over before walking away.  Battles will never be won and victory will never be mine if I’m not willing to do the hard work of fighting for my territory.

I don’t need tattered and frayed and faded prayer flags to show God’s movement in my life.  I have a banner that flies over me in victory, and His name is Jehovah Nissi.

What 2015 Taught a Road-Weary Traveler

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By the time December arrives, I’m usually trudging through the year like a road-weary traveler.  When December 31st finally gets here, I’m just plain over it – I’m limping toward the finish line.  I’m lethargic and bleary-eyed and tired of being confined in what feels like the smallest of spaces.  I’m straining my eyes to look for any kind of oasis I can spot ahead – a beacon of hope that promises me a chance for something better than where I am currently.

The past few years have been good… but good doesn’t necessarily remove the hard.  Every December 31st for the past four years, I’ve practically catapulted myself into January, breathing a deep sigh of relief when the clock struck 12:01 a.m.  I’ve looked to the new year as the only hope for redemption for the less than stellar year before – a year full of unmet expectations and unanswered prayers.  I’d hope for a year of better and newer and brighter and deeper.  An unparalleled year of peace and joy and happiness.  I’d say to myself “Maybe this will be the year my prayers are finally answered.”  

This New Year’s Eve finds me still a little road-weary but in a completely new territory begging to be explored.  I’m not looking to 2016 to bring me hope or joy because I’ve finally figured out what it means to look to Christ to meet those needs.  He alone is my hope and my deep well of joy.  Not what did or didn’t happen this past year.  Not what might possibly happen in the upcoming year.  Christ alone is my hope and joy.

This year I’ve decided to stop looking to the new year to provide the things I thought I wanted most in life, the things that I thought might make life a littler shinier, a little better. I’m looking at this new year as an oasis – a spacious place that provides rest for my soul and room to stretch my legs.

365 more days to draw closer to Christ.  365 more days to be creative.  365 more days to feed my soul.  365 more days to rest in who He is and who He says I am in Him.  365 more days to learn and laugh and love and live.  That’s what the new year’s about.  It’s about growing.  Blooming. Twisting and twirling and soaking up every bit of sunlight I can possibly absorb.

 

I can’t move into 2016 without acknowledging how good 2015’s been to me.  I’ve learned more about myself this year than ever before.  I’ve deepened my walk with Christ and found new joy in my relationship with Him. I’m so very thankful for all that 2015 taught me.  Here’s a few of the biggest lessons I learned this year:

 

2015 taught me that you absolutely can not keep your fists clenched when the Lord commands you to open them and let go of something.  Obedience means letting go – not just holding on and praying for the Lord’s will to match your own.  He cannot place His good gifts in tightly fisted hands. Letting go is one of the most deeply satisfying places of soul rest I’ve ever encountered.

2015 taught me that you should never have to convince someone that they need you in their life.  You shouldn’t have to sell yourself or the love and friendship you offer.  People either want you in their life or they don’t.  They either respect and value your friendship or they don’t.  Good, true friendship is mutual and healthy.  It’s life-breathing instead of soul-crushing.

2015 taught me that people can misconstrue your intentions – no matter how pure your heart may be.  You can’t control the heart posture of others, so you can’t control how people will view you or your words and actions – even when you know your intentions were pure.

2015 taught me that intimacy comes in many forms in many different relationships.  It’s your friend bringing you a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios – dry with no milk and in a Tupperware bowl and not one of her “real” cereal bowls – because she knows and loves your quirky preferences.  It’s a friend realizing you’re a little down and inviting you to come to dinner with her family.  It’s a friend stopping whatever she’s doing to pray for you and let you talk through whatever’s on your heart.  It’s opening up to your community group about the dark places of doubt and uncertainty in your life.  It’s having someone in your life who is the iron that sharpens your iron, someone who makes you think deeply and wrestle with the hard things in life.  Intimacy is the thread that stitches together the deep connections of community.

2015 taught me that there’s a very real difference in knowing you need to find rest in Christ and actually allowing yourself to rest in Christ.  Saying you’re going to clear space for yourself and for God is one thing.  Actually doing it is something else entirely.

2015 taught me that sometimes the Lord chooses to answer your prayers in the most unconventional of ways.  Be open to it.  Accept His good gifts no matter what shape they come in.

2015 taught me the importance of speaking God’s promises over yourself.  Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).  What we speak over ourselves is as powerful as life or death.  I’m finding it more and more important to surround myself with scripture in my home and on my desk at school so that I’m staring His promises in the face daily.  I’m learning how important scripture memory is for times when I need to drench myself in His love for me.

2015 taught me that it’s ok to doubt yourself and not have everything figured out – even when you’re thirty-two and have been *mostly* successful at adulting for a good ten years or so.

2015 taught me that the 18-inch journey from your head to your heart is one of the most rewarding journeys you’ll ever take.  The road may be bumpy and long and winding, but it’s one of the best trips you’ll ever take.  The shift from knowing something to truly believing something will be a catalyst for all sorts of change in your life.  Knowing He’s my Father and that I’m His daughter is one thing.  Believing it allows me to stop doubting my identity and step into the plans He has for me.

2015 taught me that dreams and passions and giftings can shift according to His purpose and intent.  Just because he’s igniting something new in you doesn’t mean that you’re forever leaving behind the other gifts He’s so graciously given.

2015 taught me that saying yes to too many good things can mean saying no to myself and risking burnout.  Sometimes my yeses to good things have even meant saying no to God in other areas.  I’ve had a really hard time trying to figure out how to step back from an overcrowded, overcommitted schedule of really good things.  But as a wise friend once told me, “Just because it’s good doesn’t mean it’s God.”  I’m still working through this one.  I’m still learning balance.  I’m still learning to discern the good from the God.

2015 taught me to look to Christ alone for my identity.  I often find myself living in the land of Not Enough.  You know the one – I’m not good enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not Godly enough, I’m not smart enough, etc.  Not Enough often disguises itself in comparison.  Comparison leads to jealousy, discontent, and ungratefulness in my life. Comparison threatens to destroy all I have.  Lara Casey says “Comparison isn’t only the thief of joy; it’s the thief of everything.”  I refuse to dwell in the land of Not Enough when the land of the living, the land of God’s fullness is where I belong.

Wherever this December finds you – even if you feel like a road-weary traveler – don’t rush into the new year like I used to do.  Take a few moments to think though all the good and bad of 2015 and what it taught you.

What did 2015 teach you this year?