September 30, 2014

The God of Adventure

From Natalie: Two words immediately pop into my mind when I think about my friend David: he is a dreamer, and he is always going to be way more optimistic about new ventures. (I sincerely mean that in the nicest way!) For people like me, dreamers have a great many lessons to teach and impart. I greatly respect him and whenever he lends his voice to weigh in. I hope his words here this week, encourage and embolden you, the reader. Be sure to visit his site Builder, Chaser, Dreamer and his new book as well!

************

Ad·ven·ture: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. 

Nothing about my life has really gone the way I planned.

School
Jobs 
Relationships 
My health
Church
I could keep going. 

There’s been hiccups, detours, and failures. But there have also been major wins, surprise happy endings, and few ok-that-wasn’t-so-bad moments. 

This is what life with the God of Adventure looks like. It looks like life, lived day by day in faith. It feels like normalcy drizzled with grace and cluelessness dipped in his guidance. 

I used to crave adventure and I still do. I have just learned that the definition needs a little housecleaning. 

To be an adventurous Christian you do not have to become a missionary or lead a huge church or sell all your stuff and hold up crazy signs. Please don’t ever do that last one! To be an adventurous Christian means to live life with an adventurous God. 

So many things in my life have gone so differently than I planned because my priority was Him, not that thing whatever it was. 

My education was about 3 hours from where I planned, the relationships I thought were going to blossom into more fizzled out and the job thing – well He is still working with me on that one. 

God wants to have an adventure with you. That’s why he made you. That’s why he made any of us, to share in this life and creation with him. 

How do you start your adventure? 

Be Willing to Lose 
People always want to focus on the positives of adventure like gaining new experiences and learning new things. But every adventure in the Bible begins with loss. Abraham loss his old life. Mary lost her reputation. Jesus gave up everything.

If you’re serious about starting a new chapter of adventure with God be willing to lose. This isn’t to deter you, but it’s a reality check. I have spent just as many nights angry at God as I have thankful for the paths he has chosen for me. 

Adventure is hard. Make sure you’re ready. 

Accept Confusion as a Badge of Honor 
It’s funny how much clarity we demand when beginning something new. If you are about to buy a new book think about the steps you go through first: 
  • learn about the author 
  • read the reviews 
  • check the table of contents 
  • skim the forward

We want to know everything the book is going to say before we bother reading it. There’s nothing inherently wrong about that, but adventure doesn’t work that way. 

Most of the time you’re not going to know when the adventure has officially started and you’re certainly not going to see the finish line. There won’t be any road signs or magical tools to help you overcome the undefined enemy. 

For a long time it will just be you and God and your Bible. You’ll wonder if you’re crazy. Maybe I heard him wrong, maybe this isn’t for me, maybe… 

I don’t know what God might call you to do. The one thing I do know is that if it’s from God, expect some confusion to be involved. 

Be Ready to Win
“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t”

I love this quote and I believe it applies to brave Christians. Christians who are willing to embark on an adventure with God, who are willing to endure the loss and the confusion; they are the ones who experience what He wants to do on a whole other level! 

The only reason adventure is even an option for Christians is because God’s love is relentless. It’s banging on every door and climbing in through every window to show mankind that He is serious about redemption. 

And that is what Christian adventure is all about – becoming part of the redeeming force upon the earth. The God of Adventure will not rest. Best of all, the God of Adventure will not lose.

September 24, 2014

The God of Waiting

From Natalie: Ashley will be familiar face to many of you long-time blog readers. She's got a heart brimming with wisdom and inspiration. (I'd be lying if I didn't say that there were time I wish I were way more like her.) Having read much of her own faith journey online over the years and then chatting via Skype or snail mail, Ashely impresses upon me as a person of great patience and graciousness. I read and hear her words, and immediately think of the story of the two sisters hosting the Savior in their home: One sits at his feet--the better portion. One is busy doing. (Don't worry she catches on later where she ought to be.) Ashley sits at the same Master's feet. She chooses the better portion. And I'm learning by her example to do the same. Be sure to stop by her blog and website today, and follow her along!

 ************

"Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord." ~Psalm 27:14

No matter how fast technology is moving or how much we're conditioned for instant gratification, waiting is still part of the human process. Everyday we are waiting; waiting for the seasons to change, job promotions, school to end, friend and family members to find salvation, to find our spouses, for healing to happen and answers to come. Our life is characterized by this necessary and unavoidable pause that comes from time to time and we don't always respond well to it. I'll be the first one to admit that I never respond well initially. The only other common experience for humanity besides waiting is suffering. This should help us be prepared to embrace those moments instead of growing bitter and resentful towards God. You're not alone in the waiting.

Human Responses to Waiting

  • Restlessness
  • Impatience
  • Worry
  • Lack of Joy
  • Lack of peace
Elisabeth Elliot talks about these and says, “Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands...In Him alone lie our security, our confidence, our trust. A spirit of restlessness and resistance can never wait, but one who believes he is loved with an everlasting love, and knows that underneath are the everlasting arms, will find strength and peace.


If we are responding with restlessness, impatience, lack of joy and peace, we aren't putting our trust in God. Often times, we go through waiting times because God wants to deepen our trust in Him. Other times, He wants to test our character to see if we want His will above our own.

What Am I Supposed to Do While I Wait?

  1. Seek God - Spend more time in thanksgiving and worship. As you focus on Him, you'll begin to see more of His character and His works in your life.
  2. Serve - Whether you serve at church or some other organization, invest your time on others. You'll find that you're not alone in the waiting and also, you'll learn wisdom from others who have been in your place.
  3. Pray - As soon as you feel like you can't focus on anything else but what you're waiting on, give it to the Lord. Do it as many times as you need. There's peace in giving God our burden and exchanging it for His joy.
  4. Trust God - He has your back. His timing is better than ours. Do not lean on your understanding and simply trust God.
In light of this, waiting seasons can strengthen our faith and bring forth the character of Christ in our lives. If you find yourself waiting on God, here are Scripture verses to strengthen you while you wait.

Comfort and Encouragement While Waiting

  • Waiting on God brings depth to our relationship with Him. (Psalm 37:7)
  • If you wait for Him to answer, He will. (Psalm 38:15)
  • Hope is found in the uncertainty. (Psalm 62:5)
  • Be confident in His guidance if He's silent. (Psalm 32:8-9)
  • You're not alone in the waiting. (Gal 5:5)
  • Practice patience, along with the fruits of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22-25)

I've seen a significant amount of believers leave the faith because they fail to wait on God. This shouldn't be so. Take courage and be brave! His plans for you are good. Don't be discourage in waiting seasons.

September 20, 2014

Recent Reads & Reviews

1 || Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again, by Preston Yancy (Purchase / Author's Website)

What happens when you hit a point in your spiritual walk where God just goes silent? That is the question author Preston Yancy lives into and through in his memoir, Tables in the Wilderness. Raised in the Southern Baptist church, Preston begins exploring the depths of his own faith during college, which in the midst of great loss, leads him to the Anglican church (in his own words: "Baptist sensibility-Anglican spirituality"). This is not another memoir of yet another millennial bashing the church and then leaving, but of one who stayed and wrestled... and learned what it truly means to trust, and that even in the midst of a desert, we have a God who sets a place for us at His table.

I happened to really love this book despite some small things I wouldn't agree on if Yancy and I were sitting at coffee, chatting about theology. Having grown up in a more orthodox tradition of Christian faith than the popular mainstream "evangelical" vain, I understood exactly what the author was getting at in his exploration of the Anglican church--how it practices the sacraments, saints, and the like. I know for some readers there will be confusion with those bits (may even be a bit off-putting), but that was not the case with this here reader. Yancy's weaving of beautiful quotes, poems, and descriptions of art the depict Christian truths were a treat. The writing style kind of reminded me of Donald Miller and Shauna Niequist, only it bent a bit more towards the poetic and had a tone of slowness (in a good kind of way). I found myself re-reading certain sections and writing notes in the margins when I came to spots where Yancy so perfectly put into words some of the things I've felt at times in my own spiritual walk. Memoirs are less about coming to a black and white conclusion, and more about sharing one's life in an honest way--readers accept both the messy and beautiful. The readers are invited to the table to simple listen and enter in. Yancy's book allowed that to happen for this reader, and I so enjoyed getting to read his story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

************

2 || When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over, by Addie Zierman (Purchase / Author's Website)

Memoirs like Addie Zierman's are not unusual to see sitting on bookshelves these days: stories of poster children who grew up in the Evangelical world of the 80's and 90's (the Jesus Freak Generation) and then hit walls... and are finding their way back to a rich, and vibrant faith. They're stories of untanglement--from man-made rules to the true meaning of God's grace. Zierman shares hers with deep vividness in the pages of When We Were on Fire.

Zierman's story is a roller coaster for sure in more ways than just one. She brought each chapter to life so well and made me feel like I was standing next to her throughout the whole book. I cried at a couple of spots, laughed at others, and echoed her girlfriends when they told her those missionary boys were real jerks. I love that the author did not sugar coat the messy parts of her story (and there is some gritty language (profanity))--because as Christians we really need to get better with bearing one another's pain and hiding our own. Her handling of the topic of loneliness was excellent as well. Although I did not grow up in the typical conservative-90's-wierd-Christian-subculture now labeled as the popular evangelicalism, I have many friends who were in the thick of purity rings/no dating, meet me at the pole days, and bad Christian rock, so I still could in many ways relate to her stories. The book is a quick read; a great book for a rainy weekend in with free time on your hands.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Blogging for Books, as part of Waterbrook Multnomah‘s Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

************

3 || Colliding with Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth, by Sarah Jakes

The story of Ruth in the Old Testament is a beautiful picture of redemption, restoration, and legacy that images these themes on an even larger scale in our journey with Christ. In her most recent book, author Sarah Jakes, attempts to illuminate these truths. Unfortunately, for me at least, that was not the case in reading Jakes' book. 

I had a hard time getting into this book. I love the story of Ruth and have done my fair share of Bible studies on that little book in the Old Testament now, and Jakes' book did not impress me. Now I will be fair--I stopped reading about eleven chapters in, but for the most part I felt like I was reading stories from the author's life and little on the book of Ruth. There were a few theology things I could get nit-picky about as well, because honestly, I felt like the author was stretching it--not to mention that there wasn't any kind of sourcing or citations in the back (a real head scratcher when you're claiming to teach on a specific book of the Bible). Overall, from what I read, I felt like the book was more about the anecdotes of Jakes life, which she then tried to compare/match up to Ruth's. For those interested in studying the life of Ruth, I honestly cannot recommend this book a solid resource.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

September 16, 2014

The God of Identity


From Natalie: I've been a long time reader of my friend Gennean's blog, Loved, not Lost. She has a heart of gold evidenced in her wisdom, love for Christ, and her spirit of encouragement towards others. Recently, Gennean's been involved with the Unveiled Campaign too--which I'd encourage any of you ladies to go check out. She keeps things simple and beautiful, so I hope you enjoy having her here this week! 

************

Over the last few years I have learned that one of my personal and deepest passions is for people to understand and find their worth and identity in the Lord.  It makes sense that I would care so deeply about this, considering it's something I struggled with quite a bit throughout my high school and college years (and continue to grow in). It wasn't until recently, though, that I realized there is so much more to this identity thing than I thought.  In the last few weeks, I have found myself immersed in the Word, spending countless hours in books and sermons focused on identity, so here are a few, albeit broad, things I have learned along the way.

We, as a flawed people, have the unnerving tendency to rely on ourselves, rather than the Lord (uh, hello Israel).  Because of that, we allow what we think about ourselves--including the things that we hear and see and let others influence us to believe--to shape our identity and thus overpower who God has already told us that we are:

Chosen.  Loved.  Redeemed.  Free.  Worth it.

Identity all begins with this: if we would just believe that God really is who He says He is, and that we really are who he says we are, we would see and experience so much more on this side of eternity.  We would more fully live out His calling on our lives; we would have full confidence and assurance in who we are and what we were made for; we would see miracles and get to be a part of those miracles; we would play a larger role in crazy Kingdom expansion because we would be relying no longer on ourselves, but on Him in us and the Holy Spirit's power through us.  It is all an issue with misplaced identity.

And the thing is, if we really let the reality of who He says we are to infiltrate every part of our being, we would do what God has laid out for us to do.  We would manifest Jesus.  Fear would not stop us.  Doubt would not cause us to question.  We would walk into new places with supernatural confidence, boldness, and strength by His power and His Spirit. Y'all, this--all of this--it's real.  And it is available.

So how can we "get there?"

1. Believe what the Word says
2. Study Jesus
3. Know we are His
4. Live like Him

If only we just did that.  Sadly, we limit ourselves, and in doing so, we limit God.  He has given us the Holy Spirit that we would step out and do things in His strength so that only He could get the credit and glory, much like Jesus did, because we have access to the same Spirit that Jesus had.  We can do the things that Jesus did.  Don't believe me?
"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12
If we only saw ourselves with "unveiled face" (2 Corinthians 3:18), believing all that the Father has said we are and made us to be... man, I really do believe that the Kingdom would be ignited and spread like wildfire upon the earth, and we would not only see it but be a part of it.  It all begins with rooting our identities in Him.  Believing Him.  Studying His Son, and living like Him.  And I am in the same boat as many of you: hungry, ready for more, and just starting to see these glimpses of His glory.

You, my friend, are born for the Kingdom to flow through you; born to be absolutely overwhelmed with God, in such a way that there's no turning back.  Only pursuit.  Only moving forward.  There is no need to be frightened by intimacy with the Father.  Seek Him, know Him, believe Him.  There you will find your identity--who you are, what you love, what you born for--in Him alone.  Root yourself in who He already has said that you are, and live out His calling on your life by His power and strength.

This is a good life, friends, and He is so worth it all.

September 9, 2014

The God of the Lonely



I've had the great pleasure of getting to know Elle not only through her blog but also through Skype over the last year. She's such an amazing, godly woman, and she has a deep love for good books and traveling... lot's of traveling. I feel like every time she shares about a recent trip that in some small way I got to go with her. She is incredibly gracious and thoughtful, as well as one of the most adventurous persons I know. Be sure you go read her blog and follow her along at beautiful hope (click here)!
“Our hearts are lonely till they rest in Him who made us for Himself” ~Elisabeth Elliot
Loneliness is the guest that no one wants to welcome in, yet all have hosted her at some point. Singleness, losing a loved one, and relocating to a new city are but a few times Loneliness has knocked on my door unwelcomingly. While I wanted to duck under the window, turn off the lights, and hope she’d walk over to the neighbor’s door, I have learned a lot from this unwanted visitor.

Loneliness can feel like a desert with no refreshing stream in sight. For others, it is a stinging reminder every day as they walk back into an empty apartment. In different seasons of loneliness in my life, I remember tear-soaked pillows and raw, honest prayers questioning what in the world God was doing. I remember the self-pity as well as the jealousy of other’s seemingly brighter circumstances. I remember feeling isolated and forgotten. But what I remember most, is that I was not really alone because I was under the watchful care of the God of the Lonely.

Here are three lessons that God has taught me in the seasons of loneliness that helped me see meaning behind the pain of being alone.

1. God sets the lonely in families (Psalms 68:6).

I have story after story of the way God has placed trusted community in my path at exactly the right moment. He surely has set me, the “lonely” of Psalms 68, within a family of Jesus-followers in so many seasons of life. His presence never left me, even when my eyes shifted from looking to Him to looking towards all that I did not yet have.

During grad school, I was anxious about the future and felt like I did not have anyone to confide in as I was also dealing with pain from the past. I was living alone in a studio and would wonder if anyone cared or noticed me. I had many friends and family three hours south in my hometown, but on those lonely nights, they felt hundreds of hours away.

God opened doors for me during that season, replacing despair with hope. I started attending a community group through the church I attended, moved in with five awesome Christian gals, and went through Biblical counseling in a group setting. These beloved people all helped me through some really difficult days and were witnesses to the amazing, redeeming work God did in my life.

Upon graduating grad school and moving closer to my hometown, I moved into an apartment about thirty miles north of my family and friends. I was anxious and lonely as I dealt with the new rigors of being a pediatric nurse practitioner in a rural, low-income community. Unbeknownst to me, I moved in next door to a girl who would become a great friend. We swap recipes, occasionally surprise each other with flowers or groceries, stay up and talk through difficult topics, pray for one another, and share clothes. I think God surely has a sense of humor, because we’re both nurses, our personalities are extremely similar, and we even look alike! Our landlord has trouble telling us apart and we are constantly asked if we’re sisters when we hang out in public. God knew the prayer of my heart to have someone nearby as I moved to that apartment and provided the perfect friend!
  • Think about it: Who can you reach out to in their season of loneliness? How can you help carry the burdens of those around you who struggle with loneliness?

2. Loneliness is a way God can get our attention.

C.S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” How true is this for the pain of loneliness? In your time of feeling alone, do you typically spend more time in prayer and Bible study? I for one spend less time. My heart seems to build a brick wall that attempts to keep out any Truth from entering in. But when I use the time of loneliness to draw nearer to God, His presence is felt. Not that He ever left us (He promises “I will never leave you nor forsake you”), but loneliness can get our attention focused on Him if we fight the urge to look at other distractions.

I am often tempted to look to other things, such as becoming a social butterfly, watching hours of TV, aimlessly perusing blogs or Facebook, and spending money on things I do not need. He is what we need in times of joy, but especially in times of loneliness.  He is what will fill the aching hole of loneliness.
  • Think about it: What is God trying to teach you in your season of loneliness? Is it about His all-sufficient providence? Is it about His unfailing love? Fill your mind with Bible verses and passages that remind you that God is near and will not leave you (Is. 41:10; 1 Peter 5:7; Josh. 1:5; Heb. 13:1-25, Phil. 4:6-7). Pray through these verses. Journal them. Talk with other girls and older women about what you’re experiencing and ask for prayer. Ask for accountability if you spend too much time on aimless activities or distractions.

3. Jesus was lonely too.

It is often easy to focus on Jesus’ divinity and skim over His humanity, but Jesus experienced the same hardships and pain we do. Throughout His ministry on earth, Jesus encountered loneliness. He was deserted by followers because His teachings were too difficult (John 6:66), His disciples fearfully ran away when He was arrested in the garden (Matt. 26:56), and His own siblings made fun of Him (John 7:3-10). But, He felt the ultimate abandonment when He carried the weight of the sins of the world on His shoulders and died for what we deserved. He became sin and for a brief moment, was separated from His Father, crying “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34)

What did Jesus do when He was lonely? He prayed and He obeyed the Father. He did not fall into a cycle of self-pity (and if anyone had a right to feel a little sorry for Himself, it would be Jesus! He was blameless, yet tortured for our sins!) but rather, praised His Father by word and deed.

Jesus endured loneliness, so He knows the pain of abandonment. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). We can cry out to Him and know that He will understand and love us during our seasons of loneliness.
  • Think about it:  Why is it important for us to believe that Jesus was lonely too? How can this affect your prayers during your loneliness?

Allow me to end with a prayer by Elisabeth Elliot, who wrote a book on loneliness that has helped me a lot (The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wilderness to God). As a young woman, Elisabeth Elliot penned this prayer in her journal, not knowing that many years ahead would be marked by loneliness. May it be a battle cry in the midst of your present or future seasons when Loneliness comes knocking on your door. I am not saying it’ll be a breeze and you’ll want her to stay an extra few weeks. But I will say that even if Loneliness seems to linger on your doorstep, you are not truly alone. Battle that lie with God’s Truth. As Christians, we serve a God of the Lonely who knows what we are going through and will walk us through it, step by step.
Perhaps some future day, Lord, Thy strong hand
Will lead me to the place where I must stand
Utterly alone.

Alone, O Gracious Lover, but for Thee;
I shall be satisfied if I can see
Jesus only.

I do not know Thy plan for years to come,
My spirit finds in Thee its perfect home,
Sufficiency.

Lord, all my desire is before Thee now,
Lead on, no matter where, no matter how –
I trust in thee
~Elisabeth Elliot