Navigating Your Brain

I took the little ones’ hands and walked as quickly as I could.

We had just emerged from the forest and hadn’t ended up where we had planned on meeting the other kids. My heart was sick with worry even though I knew they were okay.

Though on foot, I hit Google maps and began walking swiftly in the direction it led. After about a half mile, I realized it was leading us astray.

Ever walked in circles trying to get somewhere, worried about your other kids?

The woods were deep and the trails varied and confusing, but we were on small paved roads that should surely lead us back to the car. What was the problem?

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Ever ran your mind in circles trying to come up with a plan that worked? A plan that would lead you out of a mess?

Ever landed up exactly where you were at, before? Wondering how it was possible to waste so much time?

We navigate our own brain a million times, only to come up with a solution that leads us to a shack in the woods rather than our own sturdy home. I wonder when we will tune in on God’s word to us, and tune out on our own words to ourselves.

This God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30, ESV)

What is God saying to you right now, friend? 

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Did you know his word to your heart is perfect, even when your circumstances are not? Can you take the dare to listen carefully and follow his road map even when your own thoughts run in circles and you’re tempted to conjure up your own plan?

The God who equipped me with strength, and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.

You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.” Psalm 18: 32-36, ESV

Are we all the way in with God? We cannot receive his comfort unless we’re first willing to give up our own discomfort.

Rather than fight your trial, purpose to use your energy to pursue the heart of God for your trial. Only he knows the way out of the maze.

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Others may think they do, and God will use them to pull you through. But never allow their words to replace God’s word to your heart. God’s word is sure, and human words may contradict each other, leading you round and round another maze.

Only listen in when human words match with God’s words.

Don’t fear your trial. Don’t fight it. Jesus himself ended his earthly life in excruciating pain while bearing blame he never deserved in a million years.

There would have been no empty tomb had there been no occupied cross.

There are no plants springing up without a seed buried and dead under the soil.

And there will be new life for you when you are fully willing to die to your old.

For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.

And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your teacher.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”

And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous.” Isaiah 30: 19-21a, ESV

Running your own mind in circles will inevitably lead you to mental exhaustion and, most likely, worthless, fruitless striving.

Slow it down. Breathe. Not everything has to be fixed today.

Only move when the word is sure to your heart. Realize that your part is to receive from the Lord rather than produce for yourself.

As you learn to adopt his word to your circumstance rather than try to fix your circumstance, your way will become bright and sure. You will be a shining light, glowing on a dark path.

No lamp the Lord lights is put under a basket or in a closet. Let His word shine light through you, and you will find that your circumstances no longer control you.

 Let there be rivers of living water flowing through you, out of you, headed to thirsty souls who want to know what grace life really is.

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Let truth govern you, calm you, reign your mind in a world of many voices. Refuse to run the circle, and choose instead to run the race. 

We navigated our way through the maze of small roads, and spotted the van. The kids were there, waiting, wondering where mama had been. I was certainly grateful as I turned the key.

The road led home, and the maze was gone.

Friend, are there others waiting for you to get out of the maze of your own mind? Are your kids longing for you to see clearly and walk with clarity?

Will you tune in on a sure word from the Healer Himself? 

His word will lead you home, out of the maze. And if your circumstances don’t change, your heart will—because God is good. 

How to Pray When You Don’t Know How

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words.” Matthew 6:7, ESV

Ever listened to someone pray while squirming with uneasiness in your spirit because you could sense in your own spirit that they were praying more for man than praying to God?

Ever knelt on your own knees, wondering how to reach the heart of God?

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I wonder why we try to pray just right when God’s eyes are already roaming the face of the earth looking for His daughters whose hearts have been made right by His love? Look at how simply Jesus tells us to pray:

He wants His name to be hallowed.

He wants us to ask that His will be done on earth, just as it is in heaven.

He wants us to ask for our needs.

He wants us to ask for forgiveness, and to forgive those who’ve wronged us.

He wants us to ask for protection from evil.

He also wants us to keep asking, like the widow who bothered the judge for bread while he was in bed. She didn’t turn away after he refused to come. She kept asking, and then, he came. (Luke 18:1-8)

Jesus tested the faith of His daughter when he told her that it wasn’t right to give the children’s bread to dogs (implying she was a dog rather than a child [Matthew 15:26] ). She pushed through and told him that even the dogs get crumbs. He immediately gave her what she wished for, while praising her for her faith in Him.

Keep coming, but don’t worry about how you come. God’s spirit intercedes for you with groanings even He cannot utter.

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In your weakness, you are covered by Someone who knows how to touch the heart of God because He is part of the Godhead, Himself.

When you have no words to utter, know that the Spirit utters even better ones for you.

Just keep coming!

Honest and Honorable

Sometimes, you get to pull away from work to do what you love–speaking and writing.
Sharing life with others means others share life with you–and all of us get to share Christ’s life, together. 

I stood there with words of life to share, but they came from a place of brokenness, and I said it, loud, “Ladies, I don’t share from a place of knowing it all–this is what I’m going through.”

I sit down, wondering why God leads us to be real in our rawness. The things we want to protect with our pride are the very things God uses to take our pride away, until we say, with Paul,

                         “I glory in nothing but Jesus Christ, and I’m here for Him.” 

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She comes with her own story, then another comes, and another. Because when we share our stories, others share theirs–and life is suddenly fresh with love because we all connect with the soul of another more than the accomplishments of each other.

The honest life is the honorable life. 
The authentic life is the beautiful life.
The bare life is the blessed life, because God always clothes His people. (and He clothes the naked with the most beautiful, because they have none of their own garments, and His are best). 

We can only be fully clothed with his garments when we first strip off our own. He’s waiting to clothe us with better.

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All of us are drawn to the soul of another more than the accomplishments of each other.

Share your good and hard, and you’ll get to walk alongside others through their own good and hard. You’ll get to walk up, look up, urge another to look up, and then, grow together. 

We’re here for each other, and God is here for all of us. Always.
#livereal #lovebold #listenwell

When Women Love Well

Sometimes, Instagram is inspiring.

Peace and love without truth end up being a distorted version of love. Kinda like labeling a septic tank with the name of your favorite drink, and trying to convince someone of your good intentions for their health as you hand it to them in a wine glass.

Or, like trying to feed someone a plate of sugar coated dog poo with verbalized concern for their enjoyment, health, and well being.

No one is silly enough to judge a person for refusing the margarita labeled sewer water even if it’s served in a wine glass. Or, for turning away from the plate of dog poo even if it’s coated in sugar.

We don’t accuse them of judging, but applaud them for speaking out on what’s really inside that wine glass, or under that sugar. Yet, if people dare speak up on things that really matter, they are instantly judged for judging.

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This girl loves so well on all accounts! 

 

Weird how people who say they hate judging end up judging others so harshly.

When peace, love, and truth all mesh together, someone ends up looking like Jesus, who spent his days healing people who needed Him, but speaking out against sin because it destroys hearts and lives.

People, did you know we can love the sinner but hate the sin? Another world view instantly removes our ability to stand against anything, including murder, pedaphelia, or any other crime.

Loving people like Jesus did means we love all people but we don’t love all things people do.

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People do all kinds of things in the name of love–but only God gets to define love, since it wouldn’t exist at all had He not created it to begin with!

#truthbomb

Derive Your Value From His Heart

I see her standing there, silent and calm, in the larger Swiss airport where chocolate lines shelves in the shops and little outfits hang to remind people of Heidi running the snow covered Alps.

Quebec was elegant with its French language and wine, but Switzerland is charming and peaceful. Even in the airports, one can pick out certain cultural qualities and appreciate them. But always, I notice the women.

Some are confident, marching along in slacks and brief cases for business. Others wear the exhausted look of a traveling mother. Some are clearly retired, with an older but carefree expression on relaxed countenances. For them, life was well lived, and now, enjoyed without work or pressure.

In Quebec, I headed to the wine bar for some Chardonnay, but in Switzerland, I head to a well covered nun to see if I can find something to relate to her with.

She’s shy, and immediately tries to cover her mouth with her hands as she speaks. I look past her fingers to yellow teeth and wide open gaps. She’s a dear, quiet soul who somehow has given her life to service—and I wonder, who will love her?

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Our plane lands in Tanzania where women live in poverty and cultural manners are distinctly different from America. The airline worker bumps into me on numerous occasions—and she, too, wears the dead pan look of a woman who’s deepest longings have long been lost.

The cook at the shack where we stop to purchase breakfast of soup and chapati is a prostitute. At night she sells her body and in the day she sells soup out of a smelly little shop looking more like a barn. Men with no integrity line her tables, and we choose a side spot to avoid stares.

I’m thinking back to the beautiful, smartly dressed woman in America who waited behind me in line at security. Confidence oozes from her persona, beauty emanates her being. She’s loved, admired, beautiful, and comfortable.

But what about the nun with silent longings and wide gaps between her teeth, who never feels beautiful and lives a hidden life of service to others? Is she less of a woman?

Or does God speak something of value that reaches every woman?

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Opportunity varies just as much as culture. Culture varies from one continent to the next, and a girl can’t choose her country any more than she can choose her parents. We are born where we are, and life begins, there.

How is it possible, then, to place greater dignity and value on one woman than another?

I’m wondering if Jesus weeps a little (or a lot) when he loves his daughter so passionately that he designs her in the womb with thought and detail, then she enters the world and never receives the slightest resemblance of love from those surrounding her.

The little African girl seated at my sister’s table with her own five kids eats quietly, gratefully. Just a few years back, she roamed her village while her mama ran off to live another life and her little brother and young uncle cared for her. She slept with them in a small mud shack, and basically survived.

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Today, because someone chose to love her, her eyes hold a little more light. But there is still the old-soul suffering in her young countenance as she silently chows down as much food as she’s allowed. If she wasn’t guided to stop, she’d get a tummy ache.

Do we know this little girl, sleeping in a mud hut with her little brother, is worth as much as the little girl dancing in the studios back home, face alight with happiness and body clothed in princess attire? That the color of her skin makes no difference to her worth, and her limited opportunity does not equate limited value?

And you, sister, who’s been rejected and left behind—do you know that in Christ, you are sought after and claimed? Just as opportunity and culture cannot determine a child’s value, so your circumstance cannot determine yours.

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What a culture says to you, or what a man gives (or doesn’t give) to you can in no way define your worth.

Many of the women in Africa walk about with life-less eyes. They are used by men rather than loved by one man. And they tell my sister, “Your man wants only you, only one? You are so lucky!”

If I knew Swahili, I’d make it my mission in the next two weeks to assure every single woman that her worth isn’t measured by a man, by her circumstance, by her house, food, clothing, or opportunities.

It’s unbelievably cool that in the eyes of God, the lady chanting loudly to sell her wares outside the compound is worth every bit as much as the lady standing behind me in the airport dressed in smart business attire. One may despise the other, but God loves both equally.

I chat quietly with the nun, wishing there was more to bridge the gap between us. I wave to the lady balancing a log atop her head while she swings her youngster onto her hips—without losing balance. I smile at people behind me in long, weary lines.

Because the people of God are called to live out the heart of God, called to love each person equally, called to value, honor, and cherish each individual life whose worth began when God decided to create that life.

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The nun with crooked teeth may know, just as well as the girl dancing in the studio, that she is loved with deeper love than she could ever imagine; a love not based on humanity but on a God from whom all humans owe their existence.

If you owe your existence to His handiwork, you may as well go one step further and derive your value from his heart!

Encourage with Life

Some of my friends are so encouraging I view my interactions with them as pure life. When I joined the worship team, I put school aside for a later hour each Monday morning just so I could sit and glean from them during our weekly meetings.

I felt like the baby of the bunch. Because some people are so well-rounded and whole that your own growth pales in light of overwhelming goodness. And your own insecurities and weaknesses squirm a little because dark can’t really thrive in the face of light.

It’s vital to hang out with people more mature than we are, ourselves. And hey, these people were so full of encouragement that they pulled every possible good thing in my life right out into the open.

When I said, “I really desire the gift of prophecy,” they said, “You already have it—but we’ll pray for more.” And they’d sit me in the center of the room while they gathered round and laid hands on my head, praying life giving prayers all the while.

I grew by hanging out with them. Grew like never before.

Because they operated in the authority of Christ, they brought the life of Christ. Sisters, did you know you are heaven sent with a mission to bring life in the face of death, to being truth in the face of lies, to turn evil into good merely by your presence because you are filled with a God who has all authority in heaven and earth?

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Some of you are smack dab in the center of the most traumatizing circumstances, and you’re left gasping for a single breath of air just to make it, much less inhale deeply. But, God has authority, and you only need to ensure you are breathing his air.

I can walk in God’s authority just as my friends do. The only reason they give me life is because they know life. They listen in to life. They walk in truth, refuse lies, and counter evil with good in mighty blows that leave the enemy reeling.

They’re not out to please people, sisters. They are out to walk in life, and that pleases GOD. They hold up my hands as they urge me to do the same, and my life changes over a course of time.

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Do you walk in so much life that you give out the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Sister, you are called by God to bring the authority of God to each hurting heart in your life today. You are called by God to invest the life of God into immature places, and fill them with heavenly graces, instead.

Give out all you have, and you will be given more. Because all authority has been given to Him, He now asks you, sister, to go forth and bring it to those around you. Abide in Him, and you abide in His unbending, unyielding, uncompromising, life-giving authority that always brings life. 

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“And Jesus said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:18&19, ESV

Faces of Africa

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Today, as I’ve just returned from a remote village in Tanzania, I’d love to share a few photos with you! Sometimes, we learn a lot just by seeing more of the world………….

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People have much, much less than we do………..but they still smile more than many Americans. The greetings they call out of their humble abodes spread more joy than the silence of Americans living their individual lives. 

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Kids gratefully lick every last drop from a porridge kettle, dipping fingers into liquid food left over from our breakfast. In America, kids pout over whether they get to have Lucky Charms over Cheerios. 

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Young kids care for even younger kids…….girls wear babies on their backs while mamas hoist heavy sacks and buckets onto their heads. I can’t help but think of teens whose mothers have to ask them many times over to wash a few dishes……..

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Kids entertain themselves for hours at a time. They are starved for love, and happy to chow down each morsel of food they are given. In America, kids are celebrated and pampered—then, often turn around to complain for more. 

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People work hard for very little. A good year means there is lots of corn—not lots of potato chips or candy in the pantry. They give their best to us as guests–even if that means there’s goat intestines in the meat!  (I had to quickly spit out the rubbery texture and was grateful that custom has the host family wait elsewhere while guests eat!) 

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A mom of six walks one hour to get to a small church service……..In America, many moms run ragged (and late) to get into the car for an easy ten minute drive. Fellow sisters, how hungry are we for God? 

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Missionary kids don’t always have many toys or movies……..these boys are incredibly creative as a result, and even their smaller siblings pitch in with chores voluntarily–because nothing else is grabbing for their attention. They build anything and everything out of wood, and the smallest things hold creativity and excitement for them. American parents, could we move away from the screen a little so other things have a chance to hold their attention? 

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This downs syndrome child is trusting and grateful. He’s needy, with feet as tough as raw hide, needing a good hot soak to wash away days (perhaps weeks) worth of dirt. But his smile and his love as he grasped my hand and walked through town with me, a complete stranger, was contagious. Can we love like that? 

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In Tanzania, you get asked to wed a man who is holding your hand a bit too long as he exchanges greetings. “Give her to me! I want to marry her.” You walk away quickly, shuddering just a little. And you appreciate your brother in law even more. 

You might see a Black Mumba snake late at night, or have gigantic cock roaches creep your way as you use the latrine. Or, you’ll need to head into a pitch black night for the same purpose, thankful your phone is charged and has a flash light. 

You might be out of toilet paper and towels on the same night, and the make shift shower will be cold. Your feet will get grimy just getting from the shower house to your bed, which is a mattress on the floor under a mosquito net. 

If you’re very slender, you will get no compliments for beauty–but if you have a few more curves, you’ll be told that you have a “big” (when you’re actually tiny), beautiful body, and  look like you’re pregnant (even though you don’t–this is considered a great compliment!). A row of men will be laughing and happy over their assessment of  beauty while they drink home made liquor from a filthy shared bucket. You’ll look at their eyes and be so creeped out you’ll want to run–but for love’s sake, you stay. 

You’ll hear screams, and watch a man chase a child with a whip. You’ll want to run outside to intervene, and your emotions will go haywire. You end up doing push ups and listening to worship music because internet connects in one part of the house. 

You’ll hear drunks laugh loudly right beyond your bedroom wall, and it feels as if they are an inch away. 

You’ll meet the chief, steeped in Spiritism, who, after two years of Bible lessons decided the Bible is indeed true, but he can’t live accordingly. You’ll meet his oldest wife, who is one of five, and you’ll notice her eyes hold years of darkness and pain. Ironically, the young man leading worship at the Sunday service is his son. He’s clean, peaceful, and strong. What a contrast of light and darkness! 

 Cultures vary, but God’s Word speaks the same thing the world over. When these men get saved, they quit beating their wives and taking multiple wives. As a result, the women often end up happier even if they don’t accept Jesus. The gospel always liberates and values each individual heart. 

And the gospel is always true, in each place the world over. Culture cannot determine the gospel–rather, the gospel must permeate and determine the culture. 

Fellow Christians, we must be okay to be different, not only in Africa, but in our very own, comfortable America. Let God’s Word win, the world over!