speak

Courage and cowardice.

Strength and weakness.

When you think about it, the prophets of the Bible at one point lived each of those extremes.

Moses said no thanks in the beginning and eventually tells God, “’Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ But Moses said, ‘Lord, please send someone else to do it.’” [Exodus 4:10-13]

Isaiah had a vivid vision and was brought to his knees in humility, hearing God speak, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” [Isaiah 6:1-8]

Elijah got to a point he wanted to die after all the other prophets were killed, and hides in a cave, where he hears God speak, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” But the best part of the cave is that God tells him to go stand outside, then:

“And behold the Lord passes by, and a great strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was no in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” [1 Kings 19:11-12]

Samuel thought God’s voice was actually his mentor’s voice and when he finally got clued in he said the scary words a prophet can never take back, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [1 Samuel 3:10]

Examples of the prophets hearing the voice of God could go on for paragraph after paragraph. It was their calling to be a mouthpiece for God and to speak his words. Even on that level of being known and hearing from God there is still a common factor…they were all still human and their actions show that in some revealing ways, but it didn’t stop God from using them.

Some would say I am a mission-junkie…others know it has matured into more Kingdom-junkie, and I would definitely say I have become a prophet-junkie and that has a lot to do with really loving how God used the prophets.

I am constantly mesmerized by their ability to speak words to people in their own culture that were so incredibly painful to hear. Words full of truth, yes, but painful words at that. They were calling people back to rightness with God, and back into God’s heart, but the people didn’t want to hear that their behavior was too far outside of what God had instructed them to do. They didn’t want to hear that worshipping idols would really have consequences. They didn’t want to hear that their social indulgences of sex, prostitution and debauchery were wrong.

The words God had the prophets speak fell on deaf ears, and the Old Testament is full of stories of God trying to bring his children home.

God is still speaking now, and friends, God is still trying to bring his children home.

Can we honestly say we are seeking to hear his voice? When God speaks those words…do we even recognize it?

Samuel didn’t recognize the voice of God because it hadn’t been heard in thousands of years. He had no idea what it sounded like. Thankfully, his mentor instructed him to listen and say to God, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Wise words from an ailing priest with sons that continually made him look bad…(cliff note) Samuel’s first prophecy was to tell Eli that God was going to carry out everything against his family that he said he would, because Eli knew his sons’ sin and did nothing.

But the real question is…are we living in that time again where God’s voice hasn’t been heard in thousands of years? Or are there people who clearly hear the voice of God speak and we ignore them? Label them as crazy?

Elijah stood at that cave entrance dejected, dishonored and alone. But God showed up. Not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire…but in a whisper. I have the fortunate timing of being placed where I can hear a whisper, but I still have to be an intentional listener with plenty of discernment time available.

What would happen if we all breathed out what Samuel did once he realized who was talking to him in that dark room where the voice of God woke him up? What would our lives look like if we intentionally spoke out as Samuel did, “Speak, for your servant is listening?”

Much courage and strength are needed to speak those words.

May God grant you that courage and strength, friends.

 

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Imagine being a part of the Jesus’ crew and the crazy roller coaster of emotions that had in the end. Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Messiah had been present with them, then taken away, put on trial and nailed to a cross. Next thing they know…he is alive and standing in front of them. Resurrected. Alive. Whole. Then he sends them out as his witnesses to tell all of the stories they had in their story arsenal about what Jesus did on earth, while he is with the father until it is time to come back and make everything new.

It’s a lot to absorb, so what does Peter do?

“I’m going out to fish,” he tells his buddies in John 21:3 and then their response is, sure, why not, let’s go fish.

John 21 has been creeping up on me for several months, and I keep wondering at why Peter was driven to go fish in that moment. Jesus had proven himself resurrected! Alive! So Peter goes fishing?!?!

Was it a complete departure from what God was calling him to? Did he feel unworthy of that calling? Take a number, friend. We’ve all been there.

Was he in denial of the calling Jesus had placed on his life to be a witness to all He had done?

Was he still doubting his own belief? His faith?

Was it a desperate need to do something comfortable that he knew how to do without thinking? Did he just need to get away?

Did they need to raise some money before they went out? As a friend has suggested in the many conversations I’ve had surrounding John 21.

Peter had Jesus right in front of him…resurrected. He had the Holy Spirit breathed in him to wholeness. Jesus had SENT him out.

And then Jesus shows up again.

While the guys were fishing, Jesus shows up in true Jesus fashion telling them after an extraordinarily long night of fishing without catching a single fish to put the net on the right side of the boat. “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” [John 21:6]

And then…then they recognize their Messiah.

After enjoying breakfast with each other, Jesus singles out Peter and starts quizzing him. Jesus ends up asking Peter three times if Peter loves him, and Peter seems to get more and more hurt as each time progresses. However, the statements that Jesus makes after each question are important.

“Feed my lambs.”

“Take care of my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.”

“Follow me.”

Of course Peter loved Jesus, but Jesus also already knew that Peter loved him, which means we look at the statements Jesus gives Peter. Jesus was leaving, and he had been training and pouring into his disciples to take care of the flock after he left. Jesus knew life would get very hard for the flock of believers that followed him. He also knew his disciples were ready to care for them and continue to pour into them as Jesus had poured into the disciples.

Subsequently, Peter gets a specific instruction to follow Jesus. Many times we look at the verses that say, ‘Follow me’ and get all excited about how we are supposed to follow Jesus and use it as an anthem to bring others into the fold. But, friends, when we choose to follow Jesus, we don’t choose to follow him halfway and the path of Jesus leads straight to the cross where he was nailed. Jesus wasn’t giving a pep talk, ‘Hey bro, don’t forget to follow me when it gets really hard and the path it a bit too zig zaggy for you.’ No, Jesus was telling Peter, ‘Your path leads exactly where mine did. Are you ready for that? Because it’s coming, and you will die on a cross.’

It gives the order to ‘follow me’ a more intense meaning. Jesus was not joking around. Then to add to all of that, Peter gets a bit jealous that John is hounding in on his one-on-one time with Jesus:

“Peter turned and saw that the disciple that Jesus loved was following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’” [John21:20-22]

I think the part that God keeps hammering into my head is that we have a tendency to look at what God is doing in those around us and how they are being used by him. We all want that moment alone with him, without anyone else interfering in our conversation, but even in that moment, Peter questions what will happen to John. Jesus just told Peter that he will follow Jesus to his death, and Peter gets distracted by how John will be used.

Jesus tells him simply, “You must follow me.”

It’s not complicated. It is a bit terrifying. It is also very plain, no loop holes there, right?

Which leads us to examining ourselves…for most of us our world we live in is way beyond crucifixion in the literal sense, but what about the figurative sense? How plainly do we take the mandate to follow Jesus? Do we fight it? Do we go into denial? Do we simply claim we heard wrong and take a different path? Do we give up and decide it isn’t worth it? Does a someone who claims to be a believer hurt you and completely turn you away from Jesus?

We live in freedom to ask questions, but weigh it carefully against rebellion against God in how deeply you delve into getting answers. God doesn’t owe us answers, and demanding them makes us rebellious against his sovereignty. He deserves our faith. He deserves our love. He deserves our lives lived out for his Gospel to push forward in this world.

In the end, what matters is that we chose to follow Jesus down the path he asks us to go for him.

“You must follow me.”

wait

God makes me wait. It might to have something to do with my being fairly vocal about not liking the wait. And sometimes it’s an incredibly long time. I waited a long time for the right God opportunity to live internationally. A long time.

But when you wait, when it FINALLY comes…it’s so good, right?

IMG_6523The waiting placed me in Haiti, and there is this word in Creole that I use a lot at the villages, ‘tale.’ It basically means wait a second, hang on. The kids are normally all clamoring for attention and unfortunately, humans only have two arms and two legs. Today, however, one of our Canadian friends had about 10 boys all hanging on him. On his shoulders, two on his back, one in each arm and others just being around him.

Later, I was making the most professional looking pipe cleaner flower ring ever, and I had many wanting to learn how to make it. The amount of times I used the word ‘tale’ are too numerous to count. But as I watch them wait their turn when when I tell them, and they have patience that I do not. Granted, sometimes there is the ‘older kid’ shuffle when others line jump, but those kids who have a thirst to learn, and want to see…they are willing to wait as long as it takes and they will remind you they are still there.

I can learn from this, as well as a plethora of other things from the kids…but this practice of being present in the wait I can learn from.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” [Psalms 27:13-14 ESV]

I have this on my wall in my room in metal art. I almost didn’t want it, for a rather obscure reason, because I actually have a metal art addiction. It didn’t have what I like to think of the ‘wait’ sandwich. I think there is a very good reason why it says ‘Wait for the Lord,’ not once, but TWICE. It’s actually comforting for me to see that I’m not the only one who has issues in waiting. It’s all of us, right?

I also think there is a reason that the middle of the ‘wait’ sandwich it says, ‘be strong, and let your heart take courage.’ It is hard to wait. To look out there and see something on the horizon or catch a small glimpse of something for the future, and the timing says wait.

I read something yesterday from Jesus Calling: ‘When you try to figure out the future, you are grasping at things that are Mine. This, like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion: doubting My promises to care for you.’

Hard words to read? Tough to swallow? Yah, yesterday, me too. I don’t like seeing my actions as being rebellious against God. And it’s not that I am never rebellious, it’s just I’m normally rebellious FOR him, not against him.

So we wait. We choose to be strong and we let our hearts take courage. As I sometimes see in the kids, when something is worth the wait…it is worth it to be still and chill out while you are waiting, eventually the timing will be right.

place

We have a lot of things we say about home.

‘Home is where the heart is.’

‘Home is where you are.’

There are so many others, but I think what I am beginning to realize is that home isn’t so much an exact place for me anymore.

Home is living.

Living with purpose. Living in the place wherever God has me. Living life with an extraordinary community that doesn’t put restrictions on distance. Living free within God’s grace and calling. Living through abundant laugher.

When we choose to live within God’s Kingdom, we choose to be different. We choose to represent radical love. We are still present in this world, fight for justice and are relatable to others, but we choose to live within God’s Kingdom.

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” [Ephesians 2:19-22]

When we are built as a dwelling place for God, it is not a geographical location. It is by the Spirit and that’s as far from a GPS location as you could possibly get.

And that looks like an eclectic community God has brought together. It looks like a group of strangers coming to Haiti who will have crazy Kingdom connections by the time they leave. It looks like a neighbor saying to you, “There is just something different about your family.”

Home for me truly is being open to the Holy Spirit creating a dwelling place for God in me, my community and those around me. And that’s a pretty amazing home to find your place in this world.

path

Twisty turny, topsy turvy…if you were someone who didn’t know me and took a birds eye view of my life this crazy pattern is kind of the life path you would see.

My life doesn’t make sense to anyone who chooses to live outside of God’s Kingdom, plus a few folks who are within it, I’m sure. It does seem random. It does seem like there is no direction. And it really doesn’t not live up to the societal standards of the States. By a considerably long distance, actually.

But here’s the thing…I don’t give a shit what others think my life looks like. It’s not their choices. It’s not their path.

This path is mine, it was given to me from the Lord, and I alone own it.

I know the voice of the Holy Spirit. I know the choices I make. I know that I am happiest and have the most purpose while living within my calling and walking with God. I know the feeling of being lost, the pain and frustration of being off that path, and truly, it’s not worth it.

I hate the time and patience it takes to hear next steps on that path. Honestly, I do not sit well or contently in that time. But I don’t give orders and demands to God. Quite the opposite really. I serve him, not visa versa.

I am sitting in that place of impatience now. Knowing that I am working for an organization that I desperately love and fit within better than any other employer I’ve had in my life. I’ve never worked for anyone where my distinct calling in life perfectly matches to who an organization is at its’ core. Spirit led, Bible based, Jesus loving, Kingdom crazy people who all speak the same language God has put within me. There are not many believers called to Kingdom work within the global orphan window that find themselves working for an organization solely focused on global orphan care and prevention. I mean, really?

But my sense is that there is a time frame I am supposed to be in Haiti, but at the same time a sense I will be back, and I find myself praying intensely for clarity. Clarity on time frame. Clarity on the voice of the Holy Spirit. Clarity on discernment. Clarity that the next step I take on this crazy life path is the one I am called to take.

And let these words that I’ve prayed in the presence of God be always right there before him, day and night, so that he’ll do what is right for me, to guarantee justice for his people Israel day after day after day. Then all the people on earth will know God is the true God; there is no other God. And you, your lives must be totally obedient to God, our personal God, following the life path he has cleared, alert and attentive to everything he has made plain this day.” [1 Kings 8:59-61 MSG]
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Several years ago, one of my very best friends from college and I were hiking in Utah. We’d carefully chosen this path, and we’re digging in to accomplish it no matter what. Her patience and friendship that day were second to none, as she journeyed with a friend with newly discovered altitude issues. We were coming up the end of the path, victory of summit within or grasp and the final gasps of air filling my lungs when we realized it was a false summit. We weren’t done yet, but it was only going to get better. It was going to take anther intense push to get to the summit, and I seriously considered calling it quits, but had I really stayed there I never would have experienced the best God had for us of his beautiful creation at the top.

I feel like my life has been a perpetual ascension of false summits. Points that I find myself sitting as a placed believer not sure how it could possible get better, but what comes after continually puts me in places where I never dreamed my life could be. I feel as though I’ve come to another false summit, and I’m just not sure where God is taking the path. I can only see so far ahead, and it really looks like this is as spectacular as it could possibly get. However, the God I follow is crazy creative and very intentional at where we are placed for him. IMG_3635

What I do know is that living exactly within your God given calling is the most secure place to be in this world.

My life path is sticking as close to his path for me as I, in all my human junk, can discern, and I cannot wait to see where the next summit will be

 

covenant

I can be a word nerd.

Sometimes it gets uber ridiculous, especially when I am studying God’s word. I have no education in Greek and Hebrew language, but when I am reading the Bible I get stuck on single words and have this crazy desire to know what the original language’s intent was when written.

Micah 6:8 brings us to one of many verses where prophets are calling out the people on how they have broken the covenant with God. They haven’t held up their end of the agreement. Several years ago I discovered something rather unique about Micah 6:8. Here’s the translation we hear most often:

“He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8 NIV]

For believers who are passionate about justice and seeing God’s Kingdom here on earth, there is a lot to cling to in these loaded words.

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Who can argue those instructions?

I fell in love with this verse even more when I discovered the original Hebrew intent for the word ‘mercy.’

Unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship.

Take a minute to let that soak in…

We are not talking about loving the type of mercy that you have pity for another person. We are talking about a covenant relationship built on loyalty, love…kindness.

As God creates conversations around me about how to engage this world with Gospel intentionally it always comes back to pouring into the relationships around you every day. It’s not a mission trip for a week. It’s not just taking cookies to the new neighbors when they arrive in the neighborhood. It’s not about checking off the Jesus box for the week.

It IS about loyalty to those around you and sticking it out when life is completely shitty.

It IS about the covenant relationship. The loyalty and love that explodes when God creates friendships, family and community. A covenant relationship is not surface, and the sacrifice and commitment it takes for that type of relationship is hard work. It’s hard trusting someone enough to allow them beneath all of our complicated layers…but once we do, the genuine community that develops is Kingdom igniting. All bets are off and God is going to do crazy, insane things.

It IS about unfailing, unconditional love. The type of love that lives in the grit of our lives and doesn’t go running the opposite direction when it gets even dirtier. The type of love that sees redemption and transformation through sin, and doesn’t get stuck in the measurement of sin.

Love mercy.

I live for the day that we take seriously the things God says throughout the entire Bible and the Holy Spirit in this world.

I live for the day the sacred covenant in relationships springs forth a deep genuine love for one another.

I live for the day others look at my life and can visibly see the respect, commitment, loyal love and devotion I have to the relationships God has placed in my life.

I live for the day my life reflects the character of Jesus while choosing to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.

And for all you word nerds out there, check out these verses where ‘mercy’ is translated the same as Micah 6:8…Psalm 5:7, Hosea 6:6, Micah 7:18, Micah 7:20, and Zechariah 7:9. I really, really love the Zechariah verse.

joy

They have no clue what they were in for…this is what I think every time I read Luke 10. Jesus is sending out his guys, and he is giving them a myriad of marching orders. Do this. Don’t take that. Peace. Kingdom of God. And don’t forget to shake the dust off your feet if they don’t welcome you…wait. What?!?!

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’
[Luke 10:1-11]

Imagine the challenges these guys faced. Dirt, and lots of it. Stay with folks you don’t know. Don’t take anything with you. Sent out as lambs amongst wolves…that’s pretty intimidating. And all to spread the message the Kingdom is here, and if they were not welcomed they were to shake the dust from their feet and move on.

I think of all the challenges folks have when they are taken out of their comfort zone and how they adapt to them in those intense Kingdom moments. It’s hard stuff.

But the key here is how the guys returned…

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” [Luke 10:17]

With joy, friends. They returned with joy.

That is the difference between setting out on your own and being sent out by Jesus. That is the difference between being called to an endeavor and making choices on your own without leaning into the Holy Spirit.

They were energized. They were inspired. They had gone out into the harvest and seen the fruit of their labors. They used the name of Jesus, empowered by Jesus himself. They trusted the One who knows. Their faith was insane. The road was hard. Their comforts were few. They took nothing from home with them. No toothbrush. No air mattress. And certainly no food from home so they could eat what was familiar.

And they returned with JOY.

Friends, the Kingdom of God is joy. It is extreme faith. It is risk. It is promise. It is adventure. It is the sweet spot where who God has created you to be merges with the gifts and experiences he has given you. And it is, oh, so beautiful for those with eyes to see it and work toward it. And that joy is evident on every face that catches a glimpse.

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Side note: I have some really spectacular friends who are blogging one word a day with me through Lent. However, since I am posting from an iPhone in Haiti…it’s rather hard to link their fabulous blogs. Please check out Shawn Franssens, Lindsay Evans, Heather Kostelnick and Brian Swanson’s blogs if you get a chance. It is really interesting reading to see how each of us feels led to share about each word!