fear no evil

Last night, I went to a worship concert with several friends. It was an amazing time, worshiping with friends and singing some of my favorite worship songs. One of these songs was Oceans, by Hillsong United. While this song has been a bit overplayed in the last year, its words were just as meaningful last night as the first time I heard them.

Until last night, the last time I had seen Hillsong live was in Cape Town. They came to South Africa as part of their Zion tour and that was the first time I heard “Oceans.” It had incredible meaning for me then, because I had been in this foreign country less than a month, and there were still a lot of unknown things. I had to trust God a whole lot more than usual because I was way out of my comfort zone. I wrote another post about this last year (you can read it here), so clearly it was a significant memory for me.

Hearing the song last night was a bit surreal…which may seem strange because I’ve heard it countless times in between. But the presence of God was so heavy, and when I closed my eyes it was as if the thousands of people disappeared and I was alone with Jesus.

I was reminded of a moment last month at the beach with my family. Anyone who knows me knows that the beach is my absolute favorite place to be. One of the days I was out in the water with my sister and cousin. The water was perfect; fairly calm spells followed by HUGE waves which were perfect for riding. We were floating along enjoying the swells, when I tried to stand up and check to make sure we hadn’t floated too far down the beach. But I couldn’t touch the bottom. A mild wave of panic briefly fluttered through my head as I calmly told the girls to swim inland a little bit. We had simply allowed the swells to carry us out past where we could touch. This wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but with all the shark attacks happening this year it was a little scary being out that far.

As we got to the bridge of the song, I understood why God had brought this memory to my mind:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

Deeper than my feet could ever wander. Hmm. Do I tend to panic when I get too far out and forget to trust in God’s sovereignty? Do I really believe those words, asking Him to take me deeper? I am much more comfortable where I can touch the bottom. That’s where I am in control. I can direct my movements, I can stand on solid ground. I feel safe. But these words I was singing…I was asking Him to take me deeper than my feet can go – that requires trust. And surrender.

If I am afraid, I will never get to the place where I fully trust Him, where I can most be used by Him. If I am in control, that means He is not. It’s time to pick up my feet and let Him move me.

This is not an easy thing to do – there are so many unknowns. Which way will the current flow? What if there is a storm? But I hear Him say, “Trust, my love. I will never let you drown.” He owns the ocean, He formed it’s every wave. Who better to trust with my life than the One who gave me breath? Fear may try to creep in, but His love is stronger.

I will admit, the crazy amount of shark attacks in North Carolina this summer has been quite unnerving, but that still didn’t keep me out of the water. My love for the ocean is stronger than the fear of something bad happening. The same is true for any risk I take for the Kingdom. Of course there is fear that I will fail. But His love covers me. I am accepted, loved, and chosen by the King of Kings. Yes, there is evil in the world. There are sharks in the water. There always will be. But that shouldn’t keep us from diving in. I don’t want to be afraid to go where He asks me to go, and do what He asks me to do. I think a lot of times I keep my feet planted firmly on the ground so long that I forget what it feels like to float freely along. I can no longer hear Him calling me out into the waves. Fear is faith’s greatest enemy. And often the things that take the most faith result in the greatest reward.

If Jesus can walk on water and calm the storm, He can surely keep my head above the waves. With a new season ahead of me, where I will most likely feel as though I am drowning in reading and homework – I will fix my eyes on my life preserver, the One who saved my soul and continues to do so. He alone is worthy of my trust, my love, and my life. It is in His presence where I am safest – even if my feet cannot touch the ground.


I am a seed.

I am a seed. 

I grow towards the light, the best that I can. Sometimes there are things that cast shadows and block my way, and it is hard to see. But I stretch upwards, and blindly trust that I will once again see the sun.

The nights can be dark, and sometimes cold. But the day always comes. The sun warms me with it’s morning embrace. I feel joy and hope is restored.

I am a seed.

The rain comes to quench my thirst. Sometimes there are seasons with very little rain. It is dry, and I am thirsty. But I know the rain will come again.

Sometimes there is a lot of rain, for days and days. It can be dark and stormy, but I know the rain is good for me. Occasionally there is rain and sun at the same time, and colors streak across the sky to remind me of my Father’s love for me. It is a spectacular sight.

I am a seed.

When I was little, I couldn’t see very much. Only things low to the ground, close to me. Now that I am taller, I can see much further. There are things out there I never knew of before. Many other plants, some that are like me, and some that are not. Some have beautiful flowers, and some are so tall they seem to touch the sky.

Sometimes I am jealous of the other plants. I wish I had beautiful flowers like them, or that I could grow as tall as the tallest tree. But then I remember that I am special, there is no other plant exactly like me.

Sometimes I get tired of standing tall and looking pretty. Thankfully, there are some trees near by that I can lean on when I’m tired. Then, I am able to stretch up taller and brighter for all the world to see.

I am a seed.

Sometimes I get dirty, and at times I have been stepped on. I have been passed by, forgotten, and overlooked. But I have never been neglected by my Heavenly Father. He always nourishes me and feeds my roots. I always have enough to grow.

Sometimes parts of me are withered and dying. Those things fall away, and new growth comes forth. I am stronger, taller, and sturdier. Even though it hurts, I can withstand heavier rain and stronger wind.

I am a seed.

I started as a tiny seed, unable to see above the earth. Now I can look around and see how far I have come. I am thankful for the friends I have made and the things I have learned. I still don’t know everything that is out there, and I have much more growing to do!

I am now big enough to produce more seeds – I wonder what they will look like or where they will take root. Will they travel on the wind to far away places? Or will they fall to the soil right next to me? Either way, I know my Father will take care of them, just like He takes care of me.

May I trust in You, Lord, as sure as my faith that the sun will rise every morning.

“See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” Matthew 6:28-30

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:8-11

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:3-8

the good fight of faith

I haven’t written anything in almost 2 months – I’ve started several posts, and never finished. I’ve been struggling with some pretty tough truth lately, and I guess it’s been hard to find words to explain what my heart doesn’t yet fully understand. Bear with me, this might get intense.

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but things are getting a little bit crazy. I try not to watch the news too much because it’s so biased, jaded, and quite honestly depressing. But with social media blaring literally everywhere we go, it’s pretty easy to find out what’s going on literally seconds after it happens. The world has been buzzing about ISIS for a while, but with the recent news of the death of Kayla Mueller, and the 21 Egyptian Christians who were beheaded, things are continuing to get worse. The scariest part is thinking about how many hundreds, thousands, of Christians in the Middle East have already been killed, and absolutely no one knows about it, because news crews won’t go there. The most important thing to watch during this chaos in our world, is how the Church responds.

The Church gets a bad rep sometimes for either being irrelevant to culture, or for being too relevant. The Church has to remain relevant to what is going on in the world because as believers, we have to learn to function in society as the hands and feet of Jesus – that is the job He gave us. To go and make disciples in all the earth. Did He say it would be easy? No. Did He say we would never be persecuted? No. The problem is, the love of God is offensive. The cross is offensive. Because it makes people uncomfortable. It is a furious, powerful, supernatural love. It’s a love that turns heads. Gets people’s attention. You can’t learn about the love of God and not do anything about it. It requires a response.

And that is why the job of the Church is so difficult. We are called to be in the world, and not of the world. So the tricky part is to follow Jesus without changing who Jesus is. Our job is not to make Jesus “cool.”  Matt Chandler puts it this way, “You’re never going to make Jesus so cool that everybody thinks He’s cool. Once you do that, He’s not Christ anymore, He is some figment of your imagination.”

See, it’s easy to win the world with the message of faith, hope, and love. Do good things, strive for peace with everyone! Most religions teach some version of this. That sounds great to most people. But Jesus is about much more than that. He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. To leave behind our past life, which sometimes means giving up some pretty significant things, even relationships with people we care about. To literally die to ourselves, and live completely for Him. That is the only way to live like Jesus – we can’t just try to be good people – we will fail time and time again. The only way to experience true peace, and freedom from sin is to allow Jesus to take over our lives completely. It is all or nothing!

I am reading a book right now called Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. In the chapter I just finished, Pastor Cymbala talks about the church in America:

“…since the 1960s, fads have come and gone in the North American church, only to be replaced by newer fads. Leonard Ravenhill, the revival minded preacher and author from Britain, told me…”People say the church today is ‘growing and expanding.’ Yes, it’s ten miles wide now–and about a quarter-inch deep.”

We are not here to start fads just so people will think church is cool!! What are we doing?? People around the world associate being American with being a Christian. Many people who call themselves “Christians” have never even opened a Bible. What if instead when people heard the word “Christian,” they thought of Jesus? We have to look to the believers of the early church in Acts – they were so connected to the power of God that they had thousands coming to Him every day. What are we missing? We have missionaries in practically every country of the world, and in some places where Christianity is illegal, there are thousands coming to Christ at a time, despite the fact that many are losing their lives because of their faith. Why is the American church asleep? These are our brothers and sisters!

It is scary to think about a day where persecution comes to America like what is happening in the Middle East. Is it possible? Could we really see a day where Christians are more than slandered for their faith in the land of the free? Are we even really truly free? What if we had to hide our faith? How many people would cave and change their beliefs if their life was on the line? I have begun to think about this question, because it may become reality for us. Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to come to a cute little bible study and then just go on with their lives. He asked them to leave their nets and follow Him. He asked them to abandon their occupation, and walk with Him. To stop fishing for fish, and to start fishing for men. If we knew that Jesus was coming back in the next 10 years, (there is no way to know that, but it’s just something to think about) how would you spend it? Would you travel the world and check off your bucket list before it’s too late? Or would you spend every minute winning as many people to Christ as you can? To take as many people with you into the Kingdom as possible. Which is more important?

What are we living for? If you’re not willing to die for Him, then maybe you aren’t living for Him either.


dead wheat

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” John 12:24-25

I have seen this passage of Scripture many times before, but usually everyone quotes the second part, not the first. I recently read both verses together and all of a sudden had a much greater understanding of what this actually means. I learned the other day that wheat cannot be harvested until it dies. That’s when it opens up and the seed can be harvested. I understand why Jesus uses this metaphor to describe our surrendered life to Him. If we do not lay down our lives, die to ourselves, and live as a child of God, we are denying ourselves not only eternal life, but the ability to bear fruit, produce seed, and multiply the harvest!! When we live for ourselves and not the Kingdom, we deny the very purpose we were created for. Wheat is pretty much useless to us until it is ground into flour or some other product. In the same way, God cannot use us unless we die to ourselves and allow Him to make us into something new.

We have to die (our flesh has to die), in order for others to have life. Jesus fully understood this, as He gave up His life so that we might live. He knew that His death would provide life for all of humanity. Then He asked us to do the same. A life laid down means we are able to bear fruit, grow, and plant seeds in other people’s lives. Once wheat is harvested, the seeds can be planted to grow more wheat. Many times our culture makes us think that life is found in success, or in money, or in building a great family or career. All of these things can be good, but the source of Life is Jesus! If we continue living life for ourselves, we will never even touch the fullness of life we have access to. If wheat is never harvested, it will never unlock it’s potential. So much about the Kingdom of God is backwards to what our society tells us: We must die in order to truly live, the more we feed on the Word and drink of His presence, the hungrier and thirstier we become. The more we give away, the richer we become.

It is all about trust. The more we let go of ourselves and our own desires, the more room there is for God to have His way in our lives. If we just give Him an hour on Sundays and expect Him to work miracles in our daily lives, we can think again! He wants ALL of us. Every inch of our heart, every dream, every desire – all surrendered to Him. And in return, He promises all of Himself to us. His love, His grace, His presence, His power. There is nothing else worth living for! The persecuted church understands this better than we ever will in America. It is so comfortable for us to live in the routine of Sunday School and Wednesday night bible study, yet there are thousands of people who have to wait until the middle of the night to sneak to church in a secret location. We forget that most of the disciples were killed for their lives of faith. We wonder how the Chinese church passionately worships for hours and hours, and Christians in third world countries see miracles we could hardly imagine happening to us. Their faith is the result of lives completely laid down in worship to their Father, the King of Kings. They don’t just go to church and then halfheartedly decide one day that Christianity isn’t for them. They literally put their life on the line daily by choosing Jesus.  

If we only choose God when it’s convenient to us, we are not really choosing Him at all.

There is a reason why Jesus says “whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” We give up life in this world for something so much better – and it’s not something we have to wait until we physically die in order to access. Dead wheat in the hands of our God turns into a great harvest, a multiplied offering of the Bread of Life to a starving world.

one year

As we get ready to wrap up 2014, I’ve been thinking a lot about this past year. I’ve been given one year (well, slightly shy of a year…) to invest in the lives of two kids. I’ve babysat for tons of families, with kids of all ages, but I’ve never been with a family full-time, for this long. I’ve grown to love these kids. Not just the “aw, they are so cute and fun” …but I mean I really love their personalities, their brother-sister relationship, their unique passions, and their family values. I appreciate who they are, and I honestly wish I could see them grow up and do amazing things in the world. But, they aren’t MY kids…and I’ve only been given a short year to be with them. To help them with homework, take them to practice, go on walks with the dog, play at the pool, jump on the trampoline, read books, make snacks, and watch Disney channel movies. When I first met them in January, I knew this family was special and the kids were wonderful. However, as I’ve grown to love them and know them more over the months I have been with them, I know firsthand how special they are and what a blessing it was to be included in their family for this year. I feel incredibly blessed to be trusted by this family, to care for their kids, take them places, and keep the house in order. I have learned more than I could have ever imagined about what it is like to run a household (mind you…just a glimpse!) and balance the activities of two school-age children. I have taken away some valuable ideas for my own future family, as well as some things I might try to avoid. I am thankful for this past year for more reasons than I can mention.

I watched a little girl turn 8 and move from 2nd grade to 3rd grade. I watched her grow in confidence with her reading, and navigate through friendship drama with surprising maturity. I watched her eyes light up as she told me her hopes and dreams of becoming a vet and helping animals one day. She taught me to live more in the moment, and learn to laugh at myself. She taught me to take risks and be brave, as I watched her dive into things with no regret. She taught me to never give up until you accomplish something. I watched her discover the world in wonder as she picked up feathers and rocks, treasuring them all as precious creations to enjoy and learn about. I listened to her talk about fond memories with past babysitters, knowing that one day I would be no more than a memory too.

I watched a young boy begin to mature as he transitioned from elementary to middle school. I continued to be amazed at his patience and love towards his little sister. I read his letters from summer camp, astonished at his mature vocabulary and his determination to get the highest rank in sailing. This 12 year old taught me about giving sacrificially and how to value what matters most. He showed moments of silly sarcasm balanced with moments of intelligent conversation. I watched him teach, guide, and protect his little sister, while also graciously letting her play with him and his friends. I saw his tough side, brushing off bruises and bloody noses from playing football; and his soft side, cuddling with his sister and their dog. He has amazing discipline and perseverance and I have no doubt he will one day achieve his dream of getting into the Naval Academy.

The last two weeks I’ve gone to see his band concert and her drama performance, only wishing I could see more. I’ve made sure to hug them before I leave each day. It has been a true honor and blessing to be included in their lives, and I can only pray that I was able to make a positive impact. I know one day they may forget about me, but I don’t want to ever forget them.