Respond to the Roaring Lion.

It’s been one of those days. One of those two cups of coffee and a long shower and no noise kind of days.

Last night, I feel asleep on the living room floor watching the Tour de France race through the mountains. Though my bedroom is right upstairs, I couldn’t bring myself to get off the ground and walk fifteen seconds and crawl into bed. It’s like I had melted into the earth beneath. So, I slept on the floor. All night long.

It’s not the first time I’ve had unconventional sleeping arrangements. My beds across the world have looked like a pile of blankets for a bit of padding, a one inch pad on roughly finished concrete and dirt, an air mattress, a couch, a rooftop. Last night’s snooze shouldn’t have been a surprise for my body.

But today was rough. The first words from my father when he saw me were, “Wow. You look like you’ve been hit by a truck.” And I sure as heck felt like it. My hair was a mess, yesterday’s make up was running down my face, and my neck and head were throbbing to the ticking beat of a bomb getting ready to explode. I remember waking up multiple times throughout the night to flip, turn, sleep on one, two, or no pillows. I was a mess. In hopes it would take the pain away, I barely remember guzzling my coffee. Praying it would relieve some tension, I took an extra long shower.

I decided I needed to get out of the house and drove to my local coffee shop. With my purse, books, and favorite zip up hoodie wrapped around me, I curled into the leather chair, popped in my headphones, and savored the fresh brew.

Nothing.

I read some, talked to a few people that wandered by my seat, yet I still felt nauseous from the pressure traveling up my neck and around my head. This is stupid, I thought to myself. I don’t have time for this. And how embarrassing, since I technically chose to sleep on the floor.

I changed my music to sweet Steffany Gretzinger and dear Kim Walker-Smith, and decided to create something new by surrounding key words and coloring the page of an old book. Cracking open to a random page in a book printed in 1922, I went after it. And, oh how sweet my morning became.

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Prince. It’s all about royalty.

Cold ashes of the fire. How my body and soul felt.

Full-grown king lion. The One who walks among us.

Our confidence. Remains in the Roar.

To my surprise, as I drew and worshipped, the tension left and the nausea fled and my pain was relieved. Which really is no surprise at all. I was sweetly reminded of how our Father hates when we’re in pain, whether we choose it or not, and how precious His healing touch is when we approach His throne in worship and confidence.

Let us all join together in worship and urge the Father to gently  heal our hearts. The King Lion is calling; will you respond?

Present Anticipation

I’m living in anticipation these days.

When I landed in good ol’ America five months ago without a scheduled exit date, it was a struggle to stay present. I can’t remember the last time I was somewhere without knowing when I would next be hopping on a plane, train, or car, and walking into a new season of life in a new place with new people. Instead, I treated the start of this season differently, as less than any other season I had walked into. I started a new job with new people, but in the same town and under the same roof I grew up in. I was not ok.

I’ve traveled the world, seen color and beauty like no other, done things that make my heart leap, and breathed out the Spirit of God on the lands of Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. It’s incredible to think of the places I’ve walked in my short 25 years of life, and I’m deeply grateful for the doors that have been opened to me. Now, I’m back in Dallas and, no offense to my family who always, graciously welcomes me with open arms, but it’s the last place I want to be.

Transition has been rough. It’s never easy for me, and this time was no different. I fought being here for so long. I was like a child who was being picked up by her father from her favorite toys and put in the cry room. The room full of rockers and pillows and tissues and sound proof walls. I sat and banged my fists on the ground, asking, “Why? Why? Why am I here, and not there??” I didn’t understand the Father and I questioned everything on a daily basis.

Through the loving, but piercing questions from new friends, I have cried many tears that flooded and overflowed into the deeper, ugly parts of my soul. Until this season in my life, deep down, I had given up on the church in America. Washed my hands and walked away. Decided that revival in America was for somebody else to carry and definitely not my responsibility. I would think to myself, Surely I’m meant to be overseas. Surely I’m not supposed to be in America. I’m made for more than this place. Get me out of here.

I’ve realized that everything about that thinking is wrong.

When the nastiness of our hearts are exposed, we are left with two decisions. One, to allow it to remain and continue festering in our souls, feeding bitterness and cynicism. Or we kick it out, fists flying and hearts racing, and bring in truth and beauty to fill the spaces.

I talk a lot about how we carry the presence of God, putting on new glasses, looking to where God is at work and joining Him in that. For me, it’s easy to live in that way when in a country full of idols staring at you and buildings blaring the mantra of the day across the city. Of course, my God is the same there as He is here, but I think I have been afraid to admit that I didn’t actually believe that. And that is ugly.

Because here, it is the same situation. The idols look different and the mantra sounds unconventional, but it’s still a place of people walking through life empty, hurting, and broken. If the purpose of life is to join God in His work of bringing all peoples of the world to praise His name, then my ears need to be tuned in to listening for where I don’t hear the name of God being lifted. That could be across the world, or here in the city I grew up in. It’s my decision to choose if I want to actively listen.

Though it’s still a struggle, I’m becoming more and more present. I wake up and choose to live in present anticipation. Not anticipation of leaving Dallas (though I would get on a plane tomorrow if I could), but of hearing and seeing where God is moving in this place, in this city, in this nation.

I’m sitting on the edge of my seat, standing on the edge of a cliff, and I see Him swaying among the trees and pages that flip when He walks by. I’m excited to be here because I know, in the depths of my heart, that He is here. His presence is near and alive. With eyes alight, I’m listening for the ones crying out for more and I’m willing to say, “Here. Come. Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Because, my friend, He is good. In every place of the world, He is good. He reigns. He is worthy of praise, regardless of where we are. Live in present anticipation of His movement today, and I promise you will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Aslan Is On the Move

I’m one who likes to stay posted on world news and happenings. I think it’s smart to keep in touch with the realities of what is happening in other places outside of my own so that I don’t walk in the naivety that everything is flowers and roses. Lately, however, the news headlines, just from this past week, seem to be worse and worse each day:

The Ebola epidemic, stretching from Guinea to Nigeria, has killed over 1,000 people

ISIS attacks and unrest continue in Iraq

Suspected suicide of Robin Williams

Africa’s last polar bear died

Missiles being shot across Israel and Gaza

Boko Haram continues to kidnap young women in Nigeria

Teenager sets himself on fire while his mother helps

Protests in Missouri over alleged racist killing of an 18-year-old, resulting in release of the National Guard to protect citizens and police

Plane crash kills a Brazilian presidential candidate

Ukrainian government continues to fight pro-Russian separatists, resulting in over 2,000 deaths

I have opted in to receive automatic notifications from my CNN app to help me stay on top of things. Last week, I remember looking at my phone and seeing yet another blurb of bad news from CNN, and thinking to myself, “When will this stop?” I sighed a release of exhaustion from reading these things, paused for a brief thanks that I don’t have to dodge missiles or fear Ebola creeping in my organs, and continued about my day pulling espresso shots and making latte art.

I began to become bothered at how these notifications did not affect me like they really should. Sure, I was sad to see something else going on, but it didn’t hit me deep in my spirit like it should. It was like I had come to expect bad news, instead of expect good news. So, what do I do when bad news isn’t surprising anymore?

Since Eve first made headlines from eating the forbidden fruit, bad news has come to perpetrate our every day lives. It has instilled mistrust, fear, and instability in a world that was originally intended to walk in harmony with the Father. People lay their heads down at night hungry, sick, and hurting in places deeper and more complex than where bone and sinew meet. What’s the point of all this wrong? Why is it happening?

When Jesus was on the earth, He taught the disciples how to pray. The beginning of the prayer goes like this:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Jesus said that we should first recognize God as our Father and as holy. Then, He calls us to pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done–the same on earth as it is in heaven. No pain, no fear, no bad news. Rather, He wants us to pray that earth would look and smell and feel and taste more and more like heaven every day. If I may be so bold, I don’t think that means us as Christians are to sit and pray and wait for God to come and eradicate all that is evil in the world. I think, instead, it is a call to action. A call for us to start spending our time, talents, and resources to transform earth into a more heaven-like place.

I recently read a book that briefly speaks of this world that God longs to see. The author, Sarah Bessey, references a popular and powerful quote from a classic C.S. Lewis tale after describing a place without fear and evil:

The Table may be loud and dominant, but love and freedom are spreading like yeast. I see hope creeping in, destabilizing old power structures. I feel it in the ground under my feet. I hear it in the stories of the people of God living right now. We’re whispering to each other, eyes alight, “Aslan is on the move.” Can’t you feel that? The kingdom is breathing among us already. -Jesus Feminist, 4

I believe that Aslan is already on the move in this earth, and that if we look closely, we can see His hand pushing out the enemy’s strongholds and His breath consuming things in opposition to Him. I believe that I (and all followers of Christ, for that matter) carry the power to transform this world into that which God desires it to be. I believe that Jesus commanded we pray for kingdom to come to earth just like heaven because He believes in us to join alongside His already existing work in the world in restoration and love. Colossians 1:27 confirms this power by declaring that the mystery has been made known, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

While there are thousands of people living in fear around the world, I think it’s time we rise up and declare the hope of Christ. We don’t have time to waste sitting in our safe homes, ignoring the cries of desperation, while God is asking us to be His mouthpiece to the hopeless. People are waiting for us to walk through the door and whisper into the depths of their souls that today is the day when fear dies and love prevails. It’s when we surrender our perception of safety and security that we can step beyond ourselves, look to where God is already in momentum within the world, and partner with His work in bringing His kingdom to earth, just as it is in heaven.

Do you believe it is actually possible for earth to be like heaven? Do you have your ears and eyes in tune to see the work of the Holy Spirit already moving? Are you ready to join hands with God and bring hope to this seemingly hopeless world?

Consuming Fire

Over time, I have been unofficially designated as the fire maker in my house here in Spain. Which is actually humorous considering I grew up with a gas fireplace in Texas, where I was afraid to even turn it on from fear of blowing up the house. Before I came to Spain, I had only ever started maybe two real fires in my life, and now I make one here almost on a daily basis. I guess my inner Girl Scout (which I never was) is coming to fruition.

Recently, God has been speaking to me about the spiritual realm through the physical realm in very strong and obvious ways; most significantly, through fire.

There is power in fire. It brings light into darkness, cultivates heat in cold, sends people into deep thought and deep laughter. Fires can be a small flame that barely flickers, or a roaring lion in the corner of a living room. There is something beyond mesmerizing about fires. I think it is through the dynamic power of fire that God has chosen it to teach me.

The last few weeks of 2013 and first week of 2014 was a challenging time. I would wake up in the middle of the night, spinning in my bed, tangled in my comforter, as if I was fighting something. Turns out, my spirit was wrestling with the Spirit of God. I had stepped back into the forest of my past and was still clinging to others’ love as priority in my life. My spirit was wrestling Holy Spirit because I was not ready to completely give up my desire for love from man in order to receive God’s complete love in my life and to have it as number one.

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. -Deuteronomy 4:24

God invaded my dreams one night and came to me in a beautiful way, where I watched the lies, the insecurities, the weaknesses of my past die. He then romanced me as my groom and His bride, opening my heart to start to receive His love for me. However, the next day, something happened. I was making a fire for the evening and bumped my hand on the inside of the fireplace. Sizzling and smoke radiated from my hand, and I ended up with a quarter-sized burn.

Are you done playing with fire? Are you tired of getting burned?

I couldn’t contain the tears that welled up in my eyes. Not from the pain of my burn, but from the pain and longing in my heart.

Yes, yes, yes! I’m done playing with fire. I’m exhausted from getting burned. From seeking unhealthy relationships. From seeking the love of others. From finding my identity in what people think and say. I’m done. I’m tired. I just want you, Jesus!

The healing process of a burn is painful. Anything that touched my hand would send throbbing pain up my arm, and it felt like a never-ending cycle of Neosporin, Aleve, and prayers for no scarring. Sometimes, my hand would throb from the heat and pressure of healing. I learned from my mother that whenever something is broken or sprained, it is best to keep it elevated above the heart so blood flow can decrease the swelling. I found that when my hand would start to hurt, the best thing to do was hold it against my heart. My burn would instantly stop throbbing and relief would come. Wounds and burns are healed only when we press them against the heart of the Father, as His pure love draws tenderly against us and redeeming blood flows in.

Last night, I had a close call again when starting the evening fire. The wood had been sparking when new flames ignited; however, I kept blowing and wanting the fire to grow. As soon as I stood up and started walking away, a flame shot out of the fireplace and bursted like fireworks on the 4th of July. My housemate was with me and saw what happened. We both froze, and as he let out a laugh of unbelief that I didn’t get burned, I sat on the couch and teared up with gratitude that I didn’t get burned. It was as if Holy Spirit drew me away from the flames and the love of God protected me from getting burned again.

And I think that’s what God does. He doesn’t put us in situations that will force us to get hurt; we do it to ourselves and to each other. When we listen to His voice and leading, His Spirit guides us, causing us to flee from sin and danger, death and destruction. But if we’re not careful and attentive, we will get burned. Thankfully, God’s love for us never ends, never runs out, always wants to permeate our dreams, our lives, our hearts. It’s when His love invades that our wounds are healed and the fullness of our hearts’ desires are fulfilled.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angles, nor principalities, not things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:37-39

Sick and Frustrated

I’ve quarantined myself the past two days. Summer has come and I suppose it’s time for me to catch a cold. It only makes sense, right? Beautiful sunny weather, an opportunity to work for a few days with some fantastic kiddos, a chance to spend valuable time with my brother…all thwarted by a sore throat, clogged up nose, and pressure-filled head. Oh, and not to mention I leave for Nepal (one of the most hygienic places in the world) in less than two weeks. I love being sick. Said no one…ever.

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My grandparents used to live on a farm in Ohio, and some of my favorite childhood memories are from our times there. A stream of excitement would run through my little body when traveling to the farm that was surrounded by a white, three-foot fence, stepping onto the old, creaky wrap around porch before walking into my grandparents’ house, which was always full of various family members. I remember the waterbed my grandparents slept on, the log fireplace in the living room, and the combination of smoke radiating from dull cigarettes and burning meat on the grill. I loved holding onto the back of the golf cart with my brother and cousins as my Uncle sped around the land with intentions of throwing each of us off. I cherished the time walking around with my Grandpa, checking in on all the horses in Barn One, Barn Two, Barn Three, and having my Grandma teach me how to ride.

Red Gold arabian horse

I even remember when I got sick one time on the farm. I’m sure it was a cold similar to the one I have now, except it was actually winter outside. I recall curling up on the couch, facing the fire and getting lost in the flickering flames. My mom, Grandma, and all my aunts were constantly checking in on me to make sure I was doing ok. I can still remember the sucker I received to help lift my spirits: it was red and attached to some sort of mechanism that when I pushed the button, the sucker would rotate!

Even now, my mom has done whatever it takes to make sure I start feeling better as soon as possible. From grocery store runs to making me dinner, she has cared for me like I know she does best. Her compassionate and servant heart has shone bright these past two days. She has definitely made being sick a tad bit better, reassuring me that I will get healthy and she will do whatever she can do make sure that happens.

However, if I am being honest with my heart, I’m beyond frustrated that I’m sick. All I keep thinking is how terrible the timing is. How I need to work this week so I can make some money. How I’ve been striving to build my immune system so it can be strong and healthy when I’m in Nepal and India. I don’t have time to get sick, I say to myself with every sneeze and tissue. My pride had swollen up with the plan I formulated to make some money, to be healthy, and to prepare efficiently and sufficiently. Now, I am forced to live and breathe in defense from the cells attacking my body, knocking me on my heels and catching me off guard of my supposed plan.

Oh, how I’m reminded of the fragility of man. As much as I could have done to prevent getting sick, it’s still going to come if my cells aren’t strong enough to overcome the illness. And spiritually speaking, as much as I can do to prevent getting attacked by the enemy, he is still going to come, regardless of my spiritual preparedness. The more important question is whether I am dependent upon the Spirit prior to being attacked so that we can battle together, or if my pride will get in the way again and drag me down in frustration and defeat. For it is when we trust in the Spirit’s reigning power that the enemy must and will be utterly conquered.

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Even though I’m still not happy that I’m sick, I’m working on my defense mechanisms. I feel weak and wimpy right now, and probably more whiney than I would like to admit. However, I’m slowly crawling out of the hole of frustration and defeat and proclaiming today the power I have in Christ through my weakness. With a little help from DayQuil and orange juice, I will trust that His healing waters will pour forth physically, emotionally, and spiritually, for I am ever so thirsty.