New Year, New Word, New You

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Here we stand, breaking into another new year!  How will we begin? First steps are always a bit tricky. I’m just wondering how you have started in previous years. Are you a resolution maker, a list producer, or do you pray asking God for a word? I had recently heard of this idea and being a lover of words in general I latched onto it with enthusiasm. Because in my world, words have power. So a friend explained that you begin by praying for God to unveil a single word that would guide you as you go through the year ahead. Just one word.

If you are like me, you want to live a clear and focused life for Christ. And let’s be honest, having a neat, precise target lets us breathe a little easier. We are people who long for a plan, a little direction, and the freedom to follow at our own pace. So having just one single, solitary word seems like a good way to get that clarity of focus.

For example, my “word” for 2017 was “fearless”. I felt God was showing me that word over and over in the early weeks of January. So I adopted that word as my guidepost as I journeyed through the year. As the months passed by, I found myself measuring my level of “fearless” living against the lives of those I admire, those I see desperately chasing after Jesus.  I wondered if I was even close to the target I aimed my efforts at for the year of living fearlessly.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to look in the mirror and evaluate your strong and weak places. A little quick glance into that reflection helps us grow, and lean in closer to Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have found that sometimes singular focus can lead to a bit of anxiety because it gives me room to compare myself to the standards of my world.

So my friends, this year I am determined to fix my mind, body and soul on a different path. Instead of looking for a word to define the areas I need to reform, refocus and reset, I am determined to simply yield. Every day…just yield.

Are you with me here? Hi, my name is Karen, and I have control issues.

Not only do I like a plan of action, I want to be in charge of the charge!  Sometimes I allow my passion to lead me, and I leave Jesus in the dust.

So what if I fully embraced yielding?  When I looked up the word on my dictionary app, the thesaurus unveiled this stirring truth. Jesus was the living, breathing perfect example of the word yield. And if my intention, my longing, is to live a life like His am I willing to yield?

Here are a few words to turn over and examine.

Yield: to give way…am I willing to give up my way, for His way?

Yield: bend…am I willing to be flexible, moldable, movable?

Yield: let go…am I willing to embrace change, every day, every way, trusting Him?

Yield: surrender…am I willing to resign from leadership of my life, let God run things?

Yield: submit…am I willing to allow the Holy Spirit to break me and make me into a beautiful reflection of the love of Jesus?

Okay, these are the things I want to carry into the new year.  I want to declare there is no word I can cling to in order to be better, love better, live better without yielding to the One who takes my messy self and molds it into His likeness. Today I stand flooded with gratitude that He is able, if I am willing.

So, as I face a new beginning, I won’t pray for a clear “word” that points to a plan of action. I will pray that yielding to His Word will point others to Him.

 

My prayer for me and for you…

dear Father,

Thank you for new beginnings. Thank you for fresh, clean, do-over days. As we face the starting line, remind us to let you lead. Help us give way, knowing without a doubt your way is better than anything we could possibly dream up. As we face changes in the days ahead, help us to depend on your promise that you are with us. Father, we confess that submit and surrender are not words we embrace. We like control. Help us to relax and release that control into your loving hands. Lord, you have proven over and over you are trustworthy. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus in this journey. Your Word has given us a clear picture of how a yielded heart lives and loves. Strengthen us for the course you have set out for us. Let our declaration to yield to You bring you glory upon glory.

amen

.

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Will we choose to break through or break down?

My Dear Sis,

As I stand at yet another crossroad in my life, I look around and wonder if you’ve ever felt the same anxiety the unknown future brings.  It drops in unannounced and unwelcome. Oh, I am confident in so many other places, but in the future there are unseen moments that make me quake and shake and stumble.

I am about to move to a new town. Again. I have been in this place just three short years. Honestly, I have only recently found my people. You know who I mean. The people who think like you, laugh at the same things, find joy in simple, silly things, love the same coffee places you do and love to sit and talk and talk and talk about Jesus til the cows come home. The people you call home. Your tribe.

If you’ve ever moved and had to rebuild your tribe, you know the anxiety I face. Starting over requires steps. You have to move out into unchartered waters and risk exposing yourself. You’ve got to find a way to trust there is a safe passage through to the new beginning.

Sis, have you ever stood in a similar place?  That place where you try to fool yourself into believing maybe you can just go around instead of through?  Oh yeah, I’ve spent days, months, yes even years declaring I would stand firm and not go through the thing that was just impossible.

I didn’t want to go through the sea of pain that threatened to pull me under.

I didn’t want to go through the roaring whirlwind of fear and anxiety that threatened to toss me about.

I didn’t want to go through the thunder rumbling in the sky all around me, loudly proclaiming I am just not enough.

I just didn’t see a way through when I stood blinded by the storm raging around me.

So sis, if you are standing in a storm, how do you take one step forward, how do I take one step forward? How do we move when all we see are crashing waves, one after another with no end in sight?

It reminds me of the Israelites and Moses. I picture them walking toward the Red Sea. A sea of uncertainty, with nothing to keep them afloat but a promise. I can just see them following Moses to the shoreline, looking out at the immense power of the crashing waves. They’re standing there sandals soaked, their spirits conquered by the plan that looked to be a dead-end. With the Egyptian soldiers coming toward them, their dreams of a new beginning seemed lost in the sea that stood between them and freedom.  I love their first response, because I would have done exactly the same thing. They decided it was time to turn back. Time to give up. This situation was impossible.

Because the Israelites could not see a way through, they were willing to go back. Back to pain, back to suffering, back to slavery. There was no way to break through so they broke down.

Sis are you like me? Do you find yourself standing at the edge of a sea. Are you hoping the water is warm and inviting and in the very same moment fighting the impulse to turn back because searching for a way through takes hard work. And some days it’s just plain exhausting.  We are willing to give up the promise of a new beginning because fear relentlessly whispers in our ear there is no way through.

Oh dear sis, I invite you and me to cling to the words of Moses. They may just keep us afloat in the wonder and worry of what tomorrow holds. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today…The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13,14

As I read these words I realize God asks me to just stand still and watch. I have to laugh as I have seen Him go before me and work throughout my life so many times I have lost count.  But somehow, I still fear I am on my own. Do you do that too?

If only I could remember to depend on His promise that He will fight for me.

There is no fear in the future if I believe He is my rescuer.

Okay sis, Here’s the big finish…

When you look up and see there is no way through. You’ve hit that wall of waves. You’ve stepped into the deep end. You’ve fallen into the darkest storm.  Grab this life-line.

“Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters–a pathway no one knew was there!”

Psalm 77:19

The Psalmist tells it like it is! God’s road leads through the sea, His pathway through the mighty waters….and it was a pathway…NO ONE KNEW WAS THERE.  Once again, it’s a trust issue. The way through was there all along.

Ah, now that’s a sweet break through!

Here’s my prayer for you sis…

Father,

Forgive us for forgetting your promises. Forgive us for fearing the future You have planned for us. The same future that holds the assurance of love and life alongside You. You have gone before us and come behind us and stand with us, so we will declare we can go through. We can go through whatever sea threatens to overcome. Because Lord we know You have cleared a path. Even a path we don’t even know is there. So Father, we will take one more step, a step toward You, trusting you are standing with open arms ready to guide us into the new beginning You have planned just for us.  And we will praise your name in that very place! Amen.

 

Sis, can we agree on this?

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My Dear Sis,
Have you ever looked back at disagreements? Wondered how you got to that place and how it grew into something so much bigger than it really was?
I remember once my sister and I argued over a stuffed giraffe for the longest time. She remembered it was her Christmas present and somehow, I remembered it was mine. We never did find a way to resolve that question because even mom couldn’t remember for sure. So, we just had to laugh about it and go on.
Could we even keep count of all the little arguments over the years between sisters? All of them small and insignificant and forgotten. We saw things different, and it caused an unsettling for a bit. The disagreements didn’t hold any power because the strength in our sisterhood was bigger.

Love was the best defense to overcome the offense.

I look around today and wish for more of that. If only we women could see our differences and recognize how very small and insignificant they are in the expanse of our lives and our world.
If we could all be like sisters and see the very things we have in common, how would our lives be different? How would our world be different?

If we could hold the hand that has held a child, would our hearts beat in rhythm as mothers?
If we could hold the hand that has held their mother’s hand as she breathed her last breath, would our hearts beat in rhythm as daughters?
If we could hold the hand that wiped away the tears of longing for love, would our hearts beat a rhythm as sisters?
Could we be sisters who agree that the things that make our hearts break wide open are the very things that make them beat in complete unison?
In that deep place, we would find we are more alike than different.

I want to find that place in the women of the world and expose it. Let the air and the light and the goodness breathe life into it. Let it bring healing and acceptance and yes even deeper understanding of all the ways we stand in the same places. Crying the same tears of regret, sorrow and even joy.
Oh, Sis. Could we gather together and find the common denominator to bring peace in a world that loudly proclaims different is too much to overcome?
When we meet some girl, some daughter, some mom could we reach outstretched hand, open heart and ask her to help us understand? I don’t believe there is any difference that divides if we are willing to listen and lean in and learn.
In order to discover truth, we will have to kick fear out the backdoor. We will have to kick out our cluttered understanding of who they are and who we are too. We will have to stand with open arms, open heart and open mind.
And in those wide-open spaces we will start to inch closer, one step at a time, one story at a time. Before we know it, there will be a circle of sisters, hand in hand, heart beating in rhythm because love is the best defense to overcome an offense.
Yes, sweet sis, it’s the first step toward healing the broken relationships in our world. Will you take it with me?

Love,
Your Sis in Christ
Karen

 

Bible Study for Dummies

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So you’ve made the decision. You’ve taken the gift. You believe God is who He says He is. You want to follow Him. And you want to do it right. Now you are searching for the book titled, “Following Jesus for Dummies” because you have no idea where to begin.

I remember with great clarity my first steps as a Christian. I didn’t grow up going to church like many of my friends. I didn’t go to Sunday school and see the puppet shows about Moses, Noah, Daniel or any other story in the Bible. It’s hard for people who have grown up in the church to remember what it was like to learn how to find their way through God’s Word. As children there’s a common denominator, no one knows how to navigate. So they sit down in a classroom on a level playing field. No intimidation. No one feeling foolish. So how does this 45 year old person who has finally found her way to salvation learn about God and His great story?

When you come to the cross late in life, you struggle with great feelings of inadequacy. You long to know more, understand more and allow truth to mold you into someone pleasing to God. But there’s this barrier constantly tripping you up. It’s called doubt.

You are determined to learn from God’s Word, so you sign up for Bible study at church. The leader starts with prayer. Great. You are good here. Then you are asked to turn to a chapter in the Bible with numbers following it. You look around trying to follow what others are doing. Flipping anxiously through the thin pages of your new Bible hoping no one notices you have no clue where this chapter called Galatians is located. By the time you have found Galatians they are reading from the book and you have no idea what the numbers mean, so you sit completely still pretending you are right there with them. And because you are overcome by anxiety from the search you barely hear the discussion.

And satan has found his way in.

Discouragement is born in moments like this. Disbelief is born in moments like this. And the fear of failure turns us away from what should be an experience of joy and expectation.

Our insensitivity to new followers of Christ and their difficult journey into His beautiful Word has caused many to stumble and even turn away. It would be like sending a child into third grade not knowing how to read. It breeds hopelessness.

Think back to a time when you felt lost and alone? Embarrassed to ask for help? You had to fight every fear. They all came crashing in at once.

If we allow new believers to walk into a Bible study without a partner to share the journey, we quickly become part of an epic failure to honor God. He called us to stand strong for one another in the journey. The whole journey.

My beginning was messy and to be totally honest I pretended a lot when I first started going to Bible study. I kept going because I longed to be around these women who loved God, because I loved Him too. I wanted to understand more about Him. Eventually one of these lovely women recognized my struggle and came alongside. She spent time explaining this amazing Book full of truth, love and promises. She made me want to know more, encouraging me in the times I couldn’t make any sense of what I read. She taught me about grace, and helped me understand growth comes with time.

I live thankful for this lovely friend who saw I was lost, longing to be found. I wonder if I would have turned away believing God’s Word was beyond my comprehension had she not stepped into my journey. Because she was the gift God provided for me in those times,

I feel a deep responsibility for those who are coming to the table hungry for His Word. I long to be the friend who senses the wavering and steps into the journey.

Would you consider joining me? Let’s introduce this magnificent Book full of promise to those trying to find their way. Maybe you believe as I do that it’s a journey best shared. Turning page after page, light spilling onto words of truth and peace and exquisite love. Pure joy grows here in the sharing.

One Step Forward

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Every beginning carries a little fear. Even when you try to shrug it off and move away quickly, it follows with determination. You have little pep talks with yourself. Positive fragmented sentences. Each word meant to separate you from the heaviness of the unknown.
There lies the factor that is a common denominator in fear. Unknown. How can it have so much power without a name? It creeps in before we even have a reason for giving it power. There is no real explanation of why, how or where.
History has proven fear worthwhile. There is evidence of its value. Other days, other events, other moments gone bad make us sit in this same place, believing history does indeed repeat itself.
What if history had no power? What if we chose to forget? What if we momentarily believed the possibility of a positive outcome? Could we overcome?
If training our minds to take a step in any given direction without apprehension is possible, what could happen? How would it affect our every choice in life?
All moments of hesitation would be erased. Possibilities would quickly become probabilities. Risk replaced by anticipation. Our view would be clear; no amount of trepidation would cloud the vision.
So, can we get there from here?
What does it take? Could it be as simple as taking the first small step?
I saw a movie once that required the hero to take a step into an abyss that had no bridge. He was asked to trust, just take the first step and then the bridge would be clearly seen. Maybe that’s what’s required. The answer to fighting fear in its own arena is to defiantly take just one step.
So here I am today, looking for an option to strengthen my resolve to just keep writing. I long to overcome the fear of another ugly “f” word. Failure.
I may just follow the hero in the story and focus on his triumphal first step.
I won’t look down, ahead, or even behind. I’ll just step out, one day at a time, one word at a time, one sentence at a time. I will leave fear behind with every stroke of the keys.
I realize it’s the first day, the first step and there will come a time when fear creeps in and pulls the words right out from under me. So when that day comes, I will revisit these words and start again. I vow to stop pulling out the history books documenting my epic failures. I will grant myself grace and find words to describe what it feels like to sit in a place of restoration. I will write. Just. One. More. Word. Even if it hurts and it’s ugly and it means nothing to anyone. I will not allow fear to wrestle me into a dark, dead corner stopping my voice, stopping my heart. I was meant to write. I know this without a doubt.
Fear stands in the way of truth. If we don’t feed the monster it will die a natural death. So I take one step forward and leave history where it belongs. It’s a new day.