Sometime ago I heard a pastor say, “Faith isn’t the product of striving it’s the result of surrender.”
I’ve been learning to surrender.
To stop striving to believe what He says is true. To surrender all my fears and doubt and to sit with Him hopeful, like a child, expecting something good.
I’ve lived most of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Looking over my shoulder for a club to come down. And watching closely the rug under my feet expecting it to be pulled by some dark force to make me fall.
There is rest in the storm. There is peace in chaos. There is trust. Because I know He is good, I can follow Him into the valley of the shadow of death without fear. He is with me. He is trustworthy. And in the place where the enemy’s threats rattle and echo off the rocks Jesus sets a feast for me. Feeds me with dainties of His love. Romances me with intimacy. Gazes into my eyes and I am drawn into the love in His.
I forget there’s a malevolent presence nearby because the goodness and glory are so bright. So beautiful. With the radiance of God’s glory shining on me nothing else is important. I can’t even see anything else.
I’ve been learning to surrender to trusting Jesus. Even when it’s hard. Even when I want a different path. Even when I want it to be easier than it is.
He’s teaching me how to row upstream. How to move with strength, effort, and pain against the flow that resists what I’m called to do and who I’m designed to be. Seeing God’s country up ahead and not giving up. Throwing off all yokes except His. Not entangling myself in what is not my assignment. Embracing only that which He’s shown me is mine.
There are worse things than pain. Being without Jesus, without my Heavenly Father, without the Holy Spirit’s comfort is way worse. It is unthinkable and unimaginably empty.
The Lord is my shepherd. I choose to follow. I choose to surrender to His journey for me. It matters not where I’m going as long as He is there. As long as He is leading. As long He is with me.
I believe God’s beauty fills the earth. I believe God’s beauty fills you. His fingerprint has made you unique. No one, anywhere, is like you. No one brings to earth what you do. No one brings to life what you can.
God loves variety. Thousands of species of flowers all over the earth express beauty in very different ways. Observing flowers is a celebration of the unique and beautiful. How can I answer the question, “What is the best flower?” or “Which flower is the most beautiful?” Should I even ask that question when each flower has its own lovely essence?
God’s values are different than ours. He does not compare flowers or us the way we so easily do. He does not judge us the way we judge ourselves. He values us because we are the living intention of His love. He made us. He gave each of us unique DNA, unique fingerprints, and voice waves and He has written a book for each one of us that tells a story that is ours alone. No one can live my story but me. No one can live yours but you.
God’s heart is alive with love. Full of intention to capture our hearts. What happens in our hearts is most important. Faith comes from the heart. What fills our hearts overflows and spills out of our mouths. What I speak brings life or death. To myself and to others.
I once lived in a small prairie town of 800 residents. I attended a church of 14 people. I felt somewhat noble for my obedience to God to live in such a vast, empty land and to attend such a tiny church. One day as I worshipped I heard God speak. “Do you know what a great honor it is for you to be with these people?” He asked me.
Obviously, I did not.
He continued speaking. He said, “These people have my ear.”
And I saw how, whenever they prayed, they were heard. Families from all over the nation called when they were sick and as these simple farmers petitioned God, He answered and healing came. I was humbled seeing God’s heart in a new way.
It is not how big our ministry or audience is that measures our success. Success as the world chases is not the way of Jesus. Not the way our heavenly Father measures success.
All of heaven rejoices when one single soul finds Jesus. Not when I have a thousand likes on social media or 100 sales or when I’ve impressed the critics with my skill.
I believe that there are people that no one but you can touch with your life. With your art, your craft, your writing, or music. They will resonate to the life of God that lives in you and can be expressed only by you. No one brings heaven to earth the way you do. No one else can show the part of God you have seen but you.
And just as natural environments are impacted when even one small bug or creature or plant becomes extinct so is the body of Christ impacted when you stop doing what God dreamed for you to do. No matter how simple or small you think it is. The world is less full and rich, less filled with His glory when you stop.
The enemy of God uses all manner of things to slow us down to keep us from living our story. He lies about the value of our work. The value of our lives. He points to others so we will compare our work to theirs. He separates us from one another by spreading fear that we will be seen as insignificant—and maybe that’s our greatest fear.
It is hard to untangle ourselves from the cultural ways of measuring our success and value but we must. We must live in the kingdom. Rejoicing in God’s garden. Filling our unique place in His glorious, diverse garden where He walks and delights in us. Where He’s longing to give us His ear.
He’s waiting for us to listen to and live the story He’s dreamed for each one of us. Don’t stop. You and your work are more beautiful than you know. You matter more than you can even imagine.
You and I are why there is creation. Why there are blue skies, ocean waves, dolphins, and giraffes. We are the reason God put His story in every living thing and in the stars and sky. You and I, formed from the elements of earth by God’s hands and brought alive by the breath of God Himself. You and I are God’s wildest dreams.
Yet everything in our lives pits itself against our understanding this one thing—the deep, abiding, never-ending love God has for us. For each one of us. The truth that our lives matter more to God than the death of His only, beloved Son. God expressed His love by giving His heart, His Son for us. We are His delight. We are who He hungers to know as dearly loved children. As His dearly loved children.
Jesus knew His Father’s love for Him and He was secure. Jesus trusted the word from His Father’s mouth and the depths of His Father’s love for Him. Recently, I’ve been seeing a picture when I pray. I see Jesus asleep in a boat in a storm. I see the disciples gripping the railing of the boat watching the storm. Greatly afraid. I see Jesus resting in peace.
And then I see the boat, the waves, and the storm as from a distance and I see underneath the boat the hand of God cradling it. Even in the storm, the Hand of Jesus’ Father holds the boat safely.
I know that God is showing me His heart of love for me. And His path of obedience as well. To have faith in Him, I have to be looking at Him, not at the storm.
I am a seeker hungry to seek God. To walk in ever-increasing faith and trust in His goodness. There will be storms, but He is big enough, good enough to get me where I’m going and, if I’m abiding in Him there are times I will be sleeping, in complete peace, while my boat bumps along in the hand of God, in the middle of a storm.
I know I seem stuck on the storm metaphor these days but so much of what I feel is like big weather. An uncontrollable force that changes familiar landscapes into unrecognizable vistas. Winds that leave brokenness in their path. From here I sit and wait to hear from God. He does not change. It is the same day to Him whether it looks good or bad to me. He is the same provider, protector, source of all good gifts whether it is sunny or stormy in my world.
His intentions are always the same. To bless me and you. To be with us. To live with us in our world not perhaps in the way I see but big, beyond understanding. His plan for a peace that makes no sense. That lets me sleep in the boat. In the storm. Under the shadow of His wings is all and more we’ll ever need. Beauty we cannot see without Him. Life that cannot die because His life is so big it cannot be quenched and it is within us.
My understanding of Him is the understanding of a five-year-old who fights against the voice of a loving parent to play in the street or with fire. Incomplete understanding at best but dangerous and deadly at worst. Self, pride, or fear will always take me on a misdirected adventure. Away from the grand, glorious adventure God has for me with Him. To a place of beauty, peace, and joyful exploits.
Into the Storm
Hearing the storm, I didn’t think about adventures. I curled up into a pill bug ball breathing quietly until all would pass. But then I felt Jesus take my hand. He pulled me up, laughing, and we ran together. We ran into the storm not away from it. What felt prudent was not the way of God for me. Facing the storm with Jesus at my side was not an expression of bravery it was one of trust.
I knew running into the storm with Jesus was not dangerous. It was the safest place I could be.
Psalm 91: 1-2 TPT
When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai,
you are hidden in the strength of God Most High.
He’s the hope that holds me and the Stronghold to shelter me,
the only God for me, and my great confidence.
God sent me a Grand Invitation. It was to a banquet in my honor. To a table He set with beauty from His pure heart of love, thinking of me.
He was excited as He sent out the invitation. Excited that I would come and we could sit feasting together talking of everything and anything. He yearning to tell me stories I’d never heard. Hoping I would tell Him the dreams I’d never shared before. So He sent me this beautiful invitation covered with His hope and longing and love.
It came to me on a day that was dark. In the middle of a noisy storm. And I, busy closing windows and shutters. Busy listening to the news on how to prepare for what was coming. I, busy crying out in prayer for God to save us from the storm, didn’t even look at the invitation and then forgot all about it.
Until one day I looked up and caught a glimpse of a beautiful corner sticking out from underneath a stack of problems. Curious, I pulled on it. And in wonder at its loveliness, I opened it. The scent of heaven’s flowers came rolling out as I tugged the invitation out from the envelope. I felt the longing of Jesus’ love for me surround me. I felt His sincere desire that I come to the feast He laid for me. He was waiting every morning for me to arrive. Morning after morning had gone by while He faithfully waited.
The day I finally showed up began a joyous conversation with the creator and designer of everything. The One who knows me most yet still loves me best. The food He offered tasted like nothing I’d ever had before. I savored it and pondered looking into Jesus’ face, into His laughing eyes as He waited to hear what I would say.
We talked about so many things. I would ask a question then He would begin a conversation about something completely different. His words filled me inside. In places I didn’t know were empty. I had a glorious morning with Jesus. He didn’t even mention the current storm. He didn’t even seem to notice that it was there. Being with Him was so absorbing I didn’t notice it either. And as I turned to go back to my day, I heard Him speak with such longing in His voice. He said two things that didn’t seem to fit together, yet I knew they were both true. And they’ve changed my life.
He said, “Take me with you as you go—I never leave you.” And then He spoke the invitation, “I’ll be waiting for you right here. Come back in the morning and we’ll feast again.”
And now in the midst of the turmoil, I don’t really see a storm. It appears as a blip in time and space where the cosmos goes on forever. Where the majesty of God is so compelling I cannot look away to bother seeing what noisy thing is behind me.
His love for me, for each one of us is complete and all we need. He has come issuing a grand, glorious invitation to come close, closer than we’ve ever been. He is longing for our presence. He is waiting.
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
There have always been only two stories: the one that God speaks and the one that darkness tells. Each day I get to choose which one I will focus on. Which one I will believe and live by. God’s story is harder to hear. I have to lean in to know what He’s saying. I have to dust off my Bible and read the story of hope and love that He brought generations ago. I have to remind myself that He doesn’t lie. That He doesn’t change. That His story lasts forever. Darkness tells me a different story. It prophesies death and destruction. Today this story screams loudly everywhere I look.
There are also only two kingdoms and I get to choose, each day, where I will live. Which one I will align my thoughts, my words, and my prayers with—which one will fuel my life? Whose words, Satan or God’s, will I believe? Whichever words I believe are true are the ones that begin to create in my life.
In the beginning, just after life exploded in beauty upon the earth, God’s enemy entered the garden to change the destiny of creation. He came armed with a lie. A lie that questioned what God had said to Adam and Eve. A lie that challenged God’s words and spoke of a different future to entice Eve into believing God had deceived her.That surely they would not die if they ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Surely they would only be like God. This story, this lie, was a rational one. One that offered an outcome that seemed reasonable, obvious. Eve believed it bringing death to us all.
Today, I hear two stories: one of evil taking over the world and one of Jesus becoming king. My choice is as basic as Eve’s. Do I trust and hope in who God says He is for me or do I believe the power of darkness as demonstrated around me in violence, hatred, and fear? Who do I really believe has control of the outcome?
I don’t understand either story very well. The dark prophecies have many variations but always result in anger and fear. The words of Jesus, who is the Host of Heaven’s armies and our returning king, result in peace and hope. Beyond reason, I choose Jesus’ story. Even when I don’t understand. Even when I can see no evidence. My hope is not in what I can see, my hope is in who God is and what He has promised. What He gave up to have me call Him Father. My hope is in His word that does not change. That says He’s given me a future. That every thought He has for me is good. That He is the One who cares for me. Deeply. With extravagance. Completely unfairly. He loves me beyond what good or bad I’ve ever done. He does not lie, and He does not change.
The story God tells me is that I am His wildest dream. That every color, every animal, every bit of singing music in creation is for me. Given so I would see Him in His wondrous glory and begin to know Him. His story is one of outrageous sacrifice, offering His precious, beloved son as a ransom to ensure my freedom from the kingdom of darkness. To ensure I could become a child of God, a friend of God with nothing standing between us. What an absurd love. He didn’t wait until I was good or even intending to be good. He took all that I was not, and all raging rebellion that I was, and went to the cross for me.
That story is the one that ignites my faith to believe whatever He says is true. That He is my protection, my hope, my song. Convincing me the noise, the smoke, the violence of God’s enemy in my nation and other nations is a lie. That somewhere, somehow, God will arise and His enemies will be scattered. That some way the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our God. That the earth, its fulness, and everyone in it is the Lord’s because He made them. He does not lie. He does not change.
One day while I was waiting on God, I saw the answer to a prayer I’d been praying for a long time. I was so excited, yet as I got up the next morning I wondered if what I saw was a promise or if it was real. Was it happening now or was it going to happen in the future? I asked the Lord, “Is this real or is it a promise?” His words came almost immediately, rolling loudly through my heart. He said, “What’s the difference?” Like He didn’t know. Like they were the very same thing to Him. Telling me clearly that when He promises a thing it is real. To God, all His promises are real. His word is forever true. It’s up to me to believe it. To speak it. To pray it. To stand and say out loud, as a praise, what He has said. To let it live large in my thoughts. To offer thanks, in faith, that He never lies. He is always good. His mercies are never ending. And He loves me with an unbelievable, unending love.
The difference between the two stories being told today is that one is true and the other is a lie.
Please turn off the news, find your Bible and start talking to the One who loves you more than life. I suggest starting in Psalms or John. God’s heart for you and His story of your future will capture you and give you hope for each new day.
2 Cor 1:20 NIV
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
Numbers 23:19 ESV
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Is 55:11 NIV
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.
Psalm 23-24 NKJV
Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person.
Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.