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what leah learned

"Encourage one another daily, as long as it is today," Hebrews 3:13. Adventure in progress…

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Prayer

Heaven without Jesus

If you died and went to heaven tomorrow, golden roads, mansions, perfection, the works, would you be satisfied?

Would heaven be everything you want if it did not include Jesus?

Sitting in the breeze of a balmy Tuesday afternoon, I was sharing my inner thoughts out loud with God while Effie, the toddler I nanny, slept soundly in the house upstairs.

My words began to weave a trend of everything I wanted fixed. In my life, sure, but even more so in myself.

Some of my speech was a recognition of what God was already doing in me, but I had to include my own input, you know?

I had the same goals as God, sanctification is part of his plan, I was just feeling a little less patient than Him.

I paused a moment to remember who I was talking to and the delight of His presence overswept my thoughts.

I realized it is better to sit in God’s presence as a messy, sinful human being saved by grace than to be fully sanctified and perfect

God has brought to my attention-and continues to do so with annoying frequency-how I hold myself up to higher standards than even He does for me. When I set my sights on an important goal, I often leave out grace and aim straight for my vision of that final day when He’s finished His work in me and I’m perfect. My version of best.

Being with God is better than being like God. 

Adam and Eve learned this the hard way.

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life missing out on knowing the depths of His grace by making the same mistake.

Whether it’s a dream job, a house, the perfect family, personal ambition, or heaven itself, I am convinced that there is nothing that can satisfy apart from Christ himself.

It is God’s job to make me look like Jesus, it is my only job to love him.

When we become focused on anything that takes away from enjoying Him first and most, we miss out on the best.

God is the best. 

 

 

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Trusting God…ellipses

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photo by J.K. Photography

I am in a moment of trusting God, of how many seconds or years or decades it will last, I don’t know. Every day that I seek his promises or ask him to speak, I am encouraged. I started out desperately asking for the answers to my questions. Then I started to pray around all of the outcomes I personally deemed acceptable. God was patient with me. He never told me what I wanted to hear, he told me what I needed to hear.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Promises Promises

God wants us to lean on him daily, to go to His word day and night and seek his presence continually, (Ps. 1:2, 1 Chron. 16:11).

These past few months I’ve been through days and sometimes weeks where I needed to hear God’s promises minute by minute. I’ve felt so thirsty that a firehose fixed to my mouth would have done little more than keep me from drying out. A lie crept up in this struggle, telling me that once God spoke I should be satisfied. Believing him should be enough.

I must not be drinking in his promises correctly if I couldn’t get my fill, right? I thought maybe something was wrong with my uptake. Shouldn’t I trust God enough to let it be and take him at His word?

Trusting God isn’t a transaction, it’s a state of being.

He said I want you to depend on me daily. I want you to seek me continually.

It’s right there in His word! The Bible tells us to pray in all situations, (1 Thes. 5:17, Eph. 6:18, Luke 18:1, Phil. 4:6, Col. 4:2, 1 Tim. 2:1…).

“Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face continually.” Psalm 105:4

We were made to seek His presence continually. He will never tire of repeating himself because that’s part of who he is and the loving relationship he created us for. We need to hear his promises again, every day. He made us to depend on him. It’s a good thing.

*Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, but replace the word “love” with “God.”

His patience does not run out. Rather, he tells us to keep talking with him. Always.

Waiting on the world to change…

Once upon a time ago, I was 10 years old sitting in a rented vacation motorhome watching the second season of the Amazing Race while my family waited to check in to the airport so we could fly home from Alaska just days after 9/11. I made a promise in my journal that I would be on that show if it was still running when I was old enough. No matter what.

I waited for 11 years. I didn’t end up going on the Amazing Race after all, I did something bigger and better.

I had the privilege of traveling to 11 countries on 3 continents all over the world with 55 strangers (now family) who loved Jesus so we could serve in His name for a crazy life-changing 11 months.

It was worth the wait. More importantly, the waiting was essential to preparing me for those plans.

Sunday a random devotional popped into my email inbox. Guess what the topic was?

Trusting God.

The main point was this, that God uses the waiting to prepare us for his plans for us.

It went straight to my heart when I read the line, “he wants us to trust him.”

Think about that. What place is a heart in when someone who loves us asks us to trust them?

They are offering their help, their confidence, their best. They are for you.

It’s clear if you read the Old Testament (go ahead and skip to the New Testament for even more proof) that God always keeps his promises. There are whole books on it.

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God  who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,” Deuteronomy 7:9

When God asks us to trust him, we can be assured it’s because he is trustworthy.

Israel

Do you ever have those season where you feel like God is speaking directly to you through a particular verse, story, or passage? It’s been like that for me with the story of the Israelites.

God keeps telling me through other people, sermons, prayer, reading the Bible-even random places-how I’m like Israel in her different seasons.

Our promises are the same. I don’t understand it all, but when my wisdom and foresight isn’t deep I still know that this is significant.

Summer

He told me he was taking me the long way around.

Remember when the Israelites had to wander in the desert for 40 years after finally being set free from the hand of Pharaoh? That wasn’t just because God got tired and decided to stick his kids in time out for a while so he didn’t have to deal with their whining. It had purpose.

Part of that purpose was to prepare them for the promised land he was taking them too. They weren’t ready, according to his own standards (key).

So he took them the long way around.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Occasion after occasion I have found myself fighting within my heart to control an outcome or avoid an unfavorable one when God speaks this verse, telling me to be still.

He is fighting for me.

Imagine The Avengers; Thor with his hammer, Captain America with his shield, Iron Man fully suited up, Hulk-well, as Hulk. All of them. Throw in the Justice League too if your imagination can take it (Superman, the Flash..). All of them standing around you, fighting for you. This team, shielding and protecting you from the enemy.

Would you grab a plastic sword and anxiously swing it around just to be extra sure you’ll make it out of this battle okay?

No, because that’s ridiculous.

When you have Thor and Captain America defending you, you sit back with a milkshake and relish placing your confidence in such warriors. You know you are going to win. It might not be easy to watch, but you just know it.

God is bigger than Thor. He is stronger than Hulk. He is braver than Captain America. He is faster than the Flash. He is more bullet proof than Superman. He has better aim than Hawkeye and Arrow combined. Iron Man’s suit has nothing on him. He is even cooler than Vision. Yeah, I said it.

(I really hope you now have this awesome picture of God surrounded by angels that look like Thor with wings.)

Trusting…

How often do we trust like this? I trust you God, ellipses…

I’m waiting. I’m taking a chance on you. This is a risk. I really just want what you’ve got planned at the end of this.

I woke up this morning, got into my car, turned my heart to prayer and immediately God flipped the angle of my heart.

I wanted to pray things centered around myself and fixing this discomfort of waiting. Another day, more promises, I could do this. Refuel. That was the plan.

Instead, he gave me prayers of blessing for someone else.

It’s funny how becoming a blessing can minister to us in powerful ways.

The Holy Spirit filled my heart with thankfulness and praise.

Then I realized, the joy and peace that comes from simply trusting God, obeying Him, reading his word, being with him, was in and of itself the reward.

Crowns

We read about crowns as a reward for faithfulness in the Bible (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

At times the thought of earning those crowns to throw at Jesus feet (because he deserves them all) has been the motivation and encouragement I needed to get through a moment of waiting.

A good thing, but not as it turns out, the cake.

This morning I finally get it.

Trusting God isn’t about what he has promised or the results of your waiting-it is about trusting God. The very state of being in God’s presence, trusting him, is worth it for the state of being in that moment of trusting Him.

Trusting Him is worth trusting him because he is so good, so loving, that Himself is worth it. He is the prize for our trust.

Trusting him means giving him your whole heart, and getting all of him.

He continues to make you bigger on the inside so you can receive more and more of his fullness. Trusting him is about knowing him. It’s about relationship. It’s not about the future, it’s about the two of you. The condition of your soul. What you were made for.

The rest is frosting.

I want to challenge you with this question; is trusting God enough for you?

This should be our ultimate aim. Not the answer to our questions (and believe me, I have plenty of them too…limitless Leah they probably call me in heaven), not the future we imagine, nor the dreams we asked for. Our worries gone. Our troubles ceased. The good things that He has planned for us. Those are real-but they are not the aim.

The questions may never be answered. Keep asking anyway. Remember to listen for what God is actually saying, not just the answers to your questions. Trust is meant to bring us closer to him and to glorify him. Not to get you what you think you want or need.

What you need is to trust Him.

Trusting Him is the greatest gift.

 

 

 

Pray Right Now

“I’ll be praying for you.”

How often do we forget to lift up the causes of our neighbors after making this promise? More often than we’d like to admit.

I want you to start a revolution. Don’t worry, it’s just a little one.

Next time you see a friend in need or a stranger ask for prayer stop and pray with them in that moment. There’s power when two or more of God’s people come together, we should be taking advantage of those opportunities. You might even find that the very act of stopping to pray with someone, serving them with your words and heart and time, will do some of the mending itself.

Last week I followed my own advice-okay that’s a lie, the advice actually came from a wise woman in my Bible study who decided to stop and pray with people as needs came up. She started to do it, praying for me with me, and it inspired me to follow her example. The sweetest moments of my week have come out of that stopping to pray alongside others.

Try it.

You don’t need fancy words. Just be honest, God knows what’s in your heart. You don’t need many words. Just say what you mean, he already knows what you need.

Bullets

This story is not mine, but it was told by one of the speakers at a World Race debrief I was on in 2013.

Our speaker, Shawn, talked about a former Navy SEAL who had gone into the mountains in Burma to save refugees. This man went from the world’s most elite military service to dodging bullets in the Burmese mountains-literally living on a prayer. Shawn spent a few days with him as a journalist, after a rigorous audition to ensure he could survive the journey, and this is what he said the prayers of this warrior looked like:

“God, keep us safe. Amen.”

Tears

Time after time I’ve placed a hand on a shoulder and dug into my soul for prayers, from healing to encouragement to restoration of relationships or hope. Sometimes God is really specific and I pray for a long time, until I run out of words and promises and truth. Other times I simply bring my neighbor’s plea before our awesome God and say thank you. We all have different gifts meant to bless others, but every single one of us has time. Time is all that is required to bless another person through prayer. I can’t count how many times I’ve opened my eyes to see tears in my neighbor’s gaze simply because someone took the time to love them by praying for them. That is life giving.

And it’s unlimited.

Next time you meet a stranger, talk to a friend, or listen to a neighbor, I encourage you to do one thing:

Pray right now.

Peace

We serve the God of peace. That is, if you believe in Him.

I do,

but I am often without peace.

God promises peace to His people. He doesn’t promise easy, He promises peace.

I was thinking about this while I was reading Matthew this morning. Chapter 11 verse 28 says, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” That’s Jesus speaking, this is an invitation.

Do we need it?

It hit me just how significant this offer of peace was when I thought about the state of our world. It doesn’t take a pageant queen to tell you this world is in dire need of peace. It’s obvious when we read the news, but there’s just as desperate of a need for peace in each of our own hearts.

Think about the daily worries that rack up your blood pressure. Are you always late for work? Do you wish the stoplights would turn faster? Is that stain on your pants ruining your outfit? What about the message that one annoying person left on your phone? You’re gonna have to hurry out the door and drive faster and ask someone for a Tide pen and get back to your mom eventually… Even the little daily stress of life take away from our peace when we decide to handle them on our own.

Peace comes from trusting our Savior regardless of our circumstances. It means feeling what you feel, real sadness and frustration and confusion, but knowing that your hope is in a God who is faithful to take care of you. He promises to work out all things for the good of those who love Him, (Romans 8:28) and specifically instructs his children not to worry about tomorrow because he will provide (Matthew 6). This is a God who wants us to have peace in our hearts. It’s a priority to Him.

I am asking you this morning, (or afternoon-or night!), where are you finding your peace? Does it come from doing a good job at work or paying all your bills on time? Is it the kind of peace that cannot be taken away from you?

God’s plans for us are better for us than our own. We often forgo peace in order to feel like we are in control. We ask why did this happen? Write lists to make changes and gather opinions that affirm our own conclusions. We prefer to work harder and find comfort in the empty message “it will all turn out okay.” We forget that peace is right there in the place where we stop looking to the world for resolution in our hearts. Peace comes from the place we place our hope. Are you hoping in yourself? Your education? Your loved ones?

We decline Jesus’ invitation to a peace that is everlasting because it requires dependence on Him.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

Do you have peace?

A Psalm On Wednesday

The Lord sought me, and he found me.

Though I was never lost my heart did not know it’s place was in your kingdom.

He brought me home to be a daughter of the King.

Raised me from the dead that I might know the home I was created for,

though I would not have known the difference dead.

Tears do not drown your love while I sink.

Days I banish hope pull at my strength,

like sinews that cannot hold faith strong.

The ropes are creaking, they will break.

Only trust in you lasts.

I tire, weary traveler, yet you are with me;

this is my comfort. You presence is all my comfort.

For I know you hold my hand in the darkness, and in the light.

That is everything.

I have known joy, and I have forgotten.

I have known anguish, this world promises much more.

I have known loss, though I stand in your victory.

I am sought, I am found, I am yours.

I am just beginning.

I write and you already know it.

You are the only one who reads my heart,

like a book you know my very ink.

Only you can satisfy. Truth.

I am thirsty for your presence, always, though I turn away, always.

Teach me yours ways, that I might shine in this world.

Make me to be your child, not in simile but in sincerity.

For I was always your child, even before time.

I was not adopted but lost and redeemed. A run-away.

Lift me high and place my feet on secure ground.

Set me on a mountain that others cannot destroy.

Leave fear without my heart.

Let my days be numbered by grace alone,

the number by which I travel home.

May your plans for my life be good and blessed.

Favor me, O Lord.

I am your daughter.

You made me, yours.

Teach me to know what this means, deep in my very soul.

Let me hear your voice, feel your heartbeat inside your chest.

In you is my rest.

In you is THE rest.

You alone, there is no rest.

Place my head on your shoulder and tell me I am home.

I am safe, saved by grace.

Keep me, always.

I am yours.

I AM, Yours-

Lord God, my prayer is that they would be blessed by the raw sincerity of my writing. Not edited for style or written for rhyme but real. It is not through me that anyone is encouraged by the work of your Holy Spirit alone. Thank you for using me. I am humbled by your grace and privileged to be your daughter with a writer’s heart. Words to say; they belong to you, thank you for letting me hold them and use them for others. I love you. Bless them- Amen.

Beauty from Pain: Letter to my Author

Lord,

Forgive me for praying my will in other people’s lives. Forgive me for asking you to fix the brokenness, rather than redeem the lost for your kingdom and purpose. Fix my eyes on the hope of what you are doing; a new thing. You are strong and your promises stand true. They are as solid and real as the ground I walk on; even more so. What you have said, you will do. Love my family, love my friends. Give them a story that shines your glory, not man’s. May I no longer look for the human answers to our daily problems in this life. Instead, have your will in each of our lives. Let us live the best story that you can write. You are the author of perfection; no one else is fit to carry your pen. You give life and you give it to the fullest, but we need your help to understand what this means. The life we live in Christ is not the same life that the world lives, for we are citizens of heaven. Eternity is now. Intercede on behalf of myself and my loved ones, and answer the prayers that we would pray if we knew all that you know God.

Love Always,

Your Daughter

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