When I Grow Up…

When I grow up, I want to believe without seeing. I want to live in joyful anticipation of what You will do, even when I have no idea of how You are going to work things out.

When I grow up, I want to immediately trust Your heart when hard things come instead of immediately praying to see Your hand change my circumstances.

When I grow up, I want to face each trial with an immediate, sincere and hearty, “Thank You!”, even if I have to do it through tears.

When I grow up, I want to see people as You see them FIRST, without You having to kick me in the pants to remind me of Your love for them. ALL of them.

When I grow up, I want to think before I speak every single time. Not just when I am well-rested and stress-free – but in every circumstance, with every word.

When I grow up, I want my default response to everything that comes my way to be a song of praise.

When I grow up, I want to only care about what You think about anything – from what I am doing to what I am wearing to what I am eating to what I am thinking. ALL of it.

When I grow up, I want stress to drive me to Your arms, not to the bag of cookies.

When I grow up, I want to sparkle with reflected glory because I am a consistently shiny mirror of Who You are.

When I grow up, I want to leave the future in Your hands, remembering always that I have NO control but can trust the One Who always does.

And when I am ALL grown up, I want to hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in Your Father’s happiness.”

When I am ALL grown up, I will thank the heroes who have gone before, the ones who helped me to grow. King David and Amy Carmichael, Dwight L. Moody and Queen Esther, Peter the Apostle and Dr. Tony Evans – and so many more.

When I am ALL grown up, I will be done wrestling with “the good I want to do but do not do” and will instead rest in Your arms.

When I’m grown up…

Cozy vs. Costly

I find myself at war with myself.
Two desires, locked in mortal combat most of the time.
I want to be comfortable.
And I want to grow.

Those two things are usually mutually exclusive.

The seed has to die before it can sprout.
I need to lay down my life in order to live.
I need to put YOUR agenda ahead of my own in order to really be fulfilled.
I need to love Your people and put their needs ahead of my own in order to really love You.

I don’t like trials.
Or discomfort.
Or being stretched.
I don’t like being corrected.
Or having steep learning curves.
I don’t like feeling foolish.
Taking risks.

It is so much easier to stay in my coziness.
My comfort zone.
My familiar space.

And even here, even now, living cross-culturally in the midst of so many unknowns, I can quickly carve out a familiar, safe, cozy space in my heart.
A comfort zone.
And I can totally stay tucked up in it.
Not risking.
And not growing.

But that is not living
That is not real LIFE.
Not the abundant life You promised.

Because doing that allows me to fully rely on ME.
When I am fully comfortable and fully able, I don’t need You.
When I take no risks, I need no protection.
When I can supply all the things, I need no provider.
When I turn away from the fight, I need no armor.
When I rely on my own strength, I need no supernatural power.
When I walk only in the familiar, I need no Good Shepherd to guide me.
When I hunker down and focus on me, I need no supernatural vision.
When I love only me, I need no healer, no wisdom, no comforter and none of Your love to flow through me.

When I make Comfortable my goal, I am my own god.
When I make Happiness my criteria, I am the center of the world.
When I make Protection my ultimate desire, I miss out on ALL the adventure of following You.

Because You are not about my Safety.
Or my Pleasure.
You are not about my Comfort.
Or my Feelings.

You are all about my heart.
My character.
My growth.
And mostly, You are about me being a reflection of You to a lost and dying world.

You are about me shining, not with my own light but with Your light, the Light of the World.
You are about me showing the world the evidence of Who You are – because what is happening in my life is not possible without You.
You are about taking a cracked vessel and shining through it.
You are about my weakness showing Your strength.
You are about showing hope to the world because they see You – Living Hope – in me.

None of that is comfortable.
None of that is about You making me happy.
None of that is about my pleasure.

But ALL of that is the way to true joy.
The excitement of seeing You at work.
The knowledge that You can take my feeble efforts and multiply them.
The soul-deep understanding that Your love is ALL I need to see me through.
That my circumstances will ebb and flow.
That sometimes I will be comfortable – and often I will not be.

But that You are always, always with me.
Comfortable or terrified.
Safe or at risk.
Happy or sad.
Feeling good or feeling bad.
Relaxed or stretched taut.

You are always there.
And you are always calling me deeper.
Always asking me to be a seeker of Your heart.
Always ready to take me on the next adventure.
With the reward of Your smile.
The warmth of Your “Well done.”
The knowledge that You are exalted.
And the blessing of seeing Your Kingdom advance in my corner of the world.

You will still love me even if I decide to snuggle down into my comfort zone.
That is never the issue.
Your love never changes. And is never dependent on my choices.

But I will miss out every time I choose cozy over costly.
When I value the blessings over the Bless-er.
When I seek Your hand instead of Your heart.
And when I choose relaxing rather than risking obedience.

So do what You want, Abba.
Your ways are best.
I don’t want to miss the miracles You have planned because of my fear.
I don’t want to lose out on the chance to walk on water because I am standing in my way.
I don’t want forego being a part of Your Kingdom advancing because I don’t actually trust You to know what You are doing.

So have Your way.
However. Whenever. Wherever. Whoever. Whatever.
Have Your way.
A new day.
A new adventure in following You!

Josiah: Lessons From The Classroom Down The Hall

His name is Josiah.
He is a bright little boy with a charismatic smile and a charming personality.
Academically, he is solid.
But, frankly, the boy is an airhead when it comes to the practicalities of life.
I joke that this dark-haired, dark-eyed 8-year old is the “blondest” kid in my class.
His situational awareness usually leaves a lot to be desired.

But not this past week.
We were in the middle of reading group when he interrupted me.
“Ms. Purves, Mrs. Goshinmon is calling for the 3rd graders.”
When I stopped to listen, sure enough, he was right.
From down the hall, Mrs. Goshinmon, our elementary coordinator, was calling that it was time for the 3rd graders to head to Spanish class. (Josiah is not the only airhead in this story. Sigh. I am both naturally and chemically blonde…)

So this kiddo who normally has a hard time navigating oral instructions and is often “lost” was the one who heard her voice from far away and called my attention to it.

Do you know why?

Because Mrs. Goshinmon is not only the coordinator for his elementary school.
She is also his Grandmother.
And he knows her voice.
Loves her voice.
And is attuned to it in a way that I am not.

And this whole situation made me think about Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
He said about himself that, “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out [to pasture]. When he has brought all his own sheep outside, he walks on ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice and recognize his call.”
He went on to say, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt those who are] My own and My own know Me [and have a deep, personal relationship with Me].” (John 10)

Josiah heard his Grandmother’s voice long before I did.
And, not only did he hear it, he knew that he needed to respond. That I needed to respond.
So he took the risk of interrupting the class to tell me to take heed of the one calling out for us.

I need to be in tune with the Good Shepherd in the same way that Josiah is in tune with his Grandmother’s voice.
Because we both have the same reason to listen.
Josiah heard his Grandmother because he loves her.
He knows her.
Knows that she has his best interest at heart.
And that her voice is one to be heeded.
Not just because not listening may bring consequences – but because she has proven her love for him over and over again.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has proven time and time again that He is worth heeding.
He loved me enough to die for me long before I was born.
He cared enough to call me to Himself from a very young age.
He has walked with me through every storm, in every sunny place, and even in the darkest valleys.
He gives me the strength I need for every moment of every day.
Why would I not listen to Him?

But here’s the thing – Josiah knows his Grandmother’s voice so well because he spends time with her. They have an ongoing relationship, not just a passing acquaintance.

And we need to have the same with the Good Shepherd.
So often Christ-followers know Him in a passing way.
But He longs for intimate fellowship with you.
He longs for you to know His voice.
To hear it and obey it.
Not for His sake – but for yours.

He longs to spend time with you.
He longs to hear you speaking to Him about everything.
And He longs to speak back to you through His Word, through the voices of His servants, through praise music and even in the stillness.

But you have to take the time to listen.
You have to make the time to quiet your heart before Him.
To get to know HIS voice.
And to hear it above the wind of your circumstances, in spite of the lies the enemy whispers and through the clutter of culture.
That takes time.
Commitment.
Relationship-building.
And sacrifice.

But it is so worth it!
To be so attuned to His voice that you can hear it down the hall, around the corner, and over the voice of everything else happening around you – that is priceless.
Because what is on the line is bigger than being late for Spanish class.
He longs to be an “ever present help in time of need.” For you to “come boldly to the throne of grace.” For you to “ask whatever you will” and for him to give you “peace beyond your understanding.” He has “resurrection power” ready to dispense and the “words of life” to fill you. He is “living water” and the “bread from heaven.” He is “light for your path” and the “strong tower” for you to run to for safety.

But it is up to you.
He is calling.
He longs to be your Good Shepherd and “daily carry you in His arms”.

But are you listening?
Do you know HIS voice?
Be still today in His presence.
He’d love for you to know it – and Him – much better.

May we all be like Josiah with his Grandmother. In tune. Attuned. Listening to the voice of the One who knows us best and loves us anyway.

Thoughts That Lead To Death. Thoughts That Lead To Life. (Or Navigating Culture Shock…)

Thoughts that lead to death:

I am done.
Cooked.
Completely overwhelmed.
This was not at all what I expected it to be.
The demands are too high.
The price tag is, too.
In lots of ways.
This is impossible.
And I can’t do it.
So I might as well quit.
Or at least stop trying to so hard.
I mean, does it really matter?
Do I really matter?
There is no point.
Why bother with any of this, anyway?
Why not look out for me?
No one else is – so I need to.
Because, let’s face it, no one really understands what I am going through.
Sure, God says He does but let’s face it – He’s not physically present.
His arms can’t hold me.
He’s here – but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
And I am doing all this stuff for Him and He doesn’t even appreciate it.
I mean, it is getting harder, not easier.
I thought He blessed people who walk with Him?
I thought He cared about me?
I thought He was good?
Can’t see that in my life right now.
So I might as well throw in the towel.
On all of this.
I can’t do it – so why try?

Thoughts that lead to life:

I am done.
Cooked.
Completely overwhelmed.
This was not at all what I expected it to be.
The demands are too high.
The price tag is, too.
In lots of ways.
This is impossible.
And I can’t do it.

But You said I can do all things through You.
It sure doesn’t feel that way right now.

I really want to quit.
But I know You have called me here and You have promised to finish the work You began in me.

But can I at least stop trying to so hard?
I mean, does it really matter?
Do I really matter?
There is no point.

But You say to do everything as if I am working for You, not for people.
So yes, of course it matters.
Because You prepared good works in advance for me to do.
You brought me to this point in time, space and eternity to accomplish Your will “for such a time as this.”
So no, I can’t stop trying so hard.
Because I am not doing this for them – or for me – but for You.

But I feel like no one understands.
No one “gets me” here – and the people at home can’t really “get it”, either.
It is a unique kind of loneliness.
I know You say You understand.
Do You really?

Oh.
Yeah. Right.
Jesus left heaven.
He, who had never experienced sin, was immersed in it.
He, who could hear thoughts and read minds and knew hearts, was in it over His head.
He, who spoke the world into existence and knew no limits to His power, was trapped in a body.
A frail, human, bleeds-when-you-cut-Him body.

And that’s why He so often went off by Himself to meet with You, isn’t it?
Because it is hard.
Hard to live away from Home.
Hard to be constantly misunderstood.
Hard to love the unlovely.
And hard to complete the work You have assigned.

And Abba, it’s true that You are not physically present.
But You have sent so many messengers of Your love.
People
Beauty
Blessings
Protection
Provision
I cannot see Your face – but oh, how I can see Your fingerprints!

So this is hard.
Harder than I thought it would be.
For different reasons than I thought.
But tonight I rest in the fact of Your goodness.
Your enemy wants me to doubt it.
He wants me to believe You are not good.
That You mess with people.
That You have messed with me.
And that the task at hand is greater than I can accomplish.

And on that point, that bitter, nasty serpent right.
I do not have what it takes to live cross-culturally.
To teach such a wide range of kids.
To deal with four different cultures in my classroom.
To work with unfamiliar resources.
And to meet stringent demands.
To have every single thing be unfamiliar.
And to have a learning curve steeper than the paths my friends at Bethlehem routinely climb.

I can’t do what needs to be done. And do it well.
All I have are a few loaves and fishes that are my life.

I can’t.
But You can.
I am incapable.
But You are fully able.
I am powerless.
But You are the mountain-mover.
The ocean-splitter.
The water-walker.

And so the enemy’s reminders of my weakness backfire.
They simply drive me to Your arms.
Your promises. Your character. And Your heart that is for me and not against me.
Leading me to expect You to make great things out of my weakness.
You will take all that is flawed in me, all that is flawed here, all that is impossible, all that I cannot do, and turn it into the best wine, the most bread and fish, an incredible feast.
For me.
For the kids I serve.
And for their parents who are serving as well.
But mostly for Your glory, God.

When I am weak, You are strong.
When my circumstances are impossible, You make all things possible.
When I am overwhelmed, You calm the storm.
And even when You don’t, You calm me.

So back to the original thought.
“I’m done.”
But You have just begun.
Lead on! Show me what You can do – for Your glory!

The Mounds and The Mountain

The Mounds and The Mountain

They were all around me.
Scattered and tossed about.
So I very carefully took them
and piled them up neatly.

They made a very large stack.
Impressive, really.
And as the pile grew, tears choked my throat
and threatened to spill down my face.

Trouble after trouble sat in a pile before me.
Little things
Big things
And everything in between.

They made an impressive mound.
And it seemed to grow bigger the longer I looked at them.
Until the mound became a mountain.
And I became defeated.

So I turned ever so slightly to the side
and thought to myself,
“I’ll make a new stack. A gratitude stack.
A stack of good things in my life.”

And that pile was also impressive.
But it didn’t have the massive weight of the troubles before me.
And instead of growing as I stared,
it seemed to shrink, dwarfed by all that was bad.

And the tears that choked my throat
found their way to my face.
I slumped to the ground,
Defeated.

But then I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I heard a familiar Voice.
And He said, “Turn around, sweetheart.
Just turn around.”

And as I did a 180 from the piles before me,
I realized that there was a mountain looming behind me
A real one –
not a mound-turned-mountain like those I had created

It was a Rock
A real and present Mountain
A Strong Tower;
Mighty and Massive; filling the land and scraping the sky.

It was the faithfulness of God
The character of the One who calls me “Daughter”
The heart of the One who calls me “Friend”.
The Truth.

That mountain of Who He is – not who He was –
towered over my piles
Both of them
The good and the bad; the wonderful and the difficult

All of my circumstances were dwarfed by His presence
The record of His dealings with me
And I whisper with the Psalmist,
“I have seen in MY history the faithful love of the Lord”

Miracles; Messages
Mistakes He has redeemed
Masterpieces of His glory
Magnificence unveiled

This is the Rock that stood behind me.
This is the Strength that surrounded me.
And in the shadow of This, I am undone.
And so are my piles.

The good, the bad and the ugly all crumble
in light of The Eternal.
Because as I stare at His magnificence, I remember two things:
Who He is. And who I am not.

He is the Great I AM. I am the great I’M Not.
He is perfect in all His ways. I am perfectly capable of every sin in the book.
He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I am incapable of running even a kingdom of one.

He is the Just Judge.
I am the guilty convict.
He is the One Who is worthy to call me condemned.
And I am the one who deserves it.

He is Truth and Justice and Righteousness.
I am Lies and Corruption and Sin.
And yet, He is the One who calls me “Forgiven.”
So that I am the one who is shattered by love.

I turn back to my piles of good things and bad things.
I glance over my circumstances, once again in tears.
But this time they are gratitude and love and awe
Streaking down my face.

The hard things are still hard
And the thankful things are still good
But I am different now.
I am the one who is changed, transformed by His goodness.

So I leave all my stuff at the base of the mountain.
I slide my hand into His and say, “Lead on.
Today is Your day. And I am Your girl.
Do as You will – I can’t wait to see it.”

O.V.E.R.W.H.E.L.M.E.D.

I am about as overwhelmed as a person can be.
I moved to Guatemala this past weekend to teach missionary kids for a season.
I left behind my church – which is also my job and ministry.
I left behind most of my stuff (although it certainly feels like I brought A LOT with me.)
I left behind my family – bio, spiritual, and chosen.
I left behind my freedom in many ways. No car here – which means limits.
I left behind my (beloved) pets.

And I am currently in the chaos that is a new school year.
That is true for any teacher in the weeks before school starts.
But I am teaching a “split” this year of 3rd and 4th grades.
In a new-to-me school.
With two classrooms to manage.
And a new co-teacher to work with.
Juggling four cultures – Guatemalan, US, Canadian and Korean – since I will have kids from all four places.
And all new curriculum to learn.

Living with a new roommate who I met last night.
With new routines that impact everything from how I use the bathroom (don’t flush the TP!) to how I cook (disinfect the produce!)
In a new bed
In a new room
In a new place.

With a new laptop
New phone
New friends
New church

O.V.E.R.W.H.E.L.M.E.D.

Without God in the equation I would be a mess.
(Or more of a mess.)

But He is not absent from the equation!
He is the Author of it.

He called me here.
Made the way for me to come.
He goes before me.
He walks beside me.
He knows my needs.
And has already made provision for them.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.
And God is working all things together for my good.
And more importantly, for His glory.

He is my strength.
My song.
My deliverer.
My fortress.
My strong tower.
The Voice of Truth.
And the Good Shepherd who daily carries me in His arms.

The One who does all things well.
And the One who is completely and utterly in control.

He has orchestrated my life and my circumstances to bring me to this place, this time, these people.
And He has a plan and a purpose for all of it.

So while I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by change and by the task at hand, I am more overwhelmed by Him.
By His goodness.
By His grace.
His incredible mercies that are new every morning.
By His faithfulness.
And His unfathomable love for me.

And I am grateful to be overwhelmed by my circumstances.
Because it drives me to His arms.
He has shown over and over again that I am right where I need to be.
And that He is in this.

So when I am weak – and overwhelmed – then I am strong.

How can He show that I can do all things in Him unless those things are overwhelming?
How is His power made complete in my weakness unless I am weak?
How can He get the glory if I can do everything in my own strength?

So bring on the overwhelming.
It is not a bad thing.
It is an utterly good thing.
Because He is good.
And He is mine.

I don’t know where you are today, what your circumstances may be.
Perhaps you, too, are utterly overwhelmed.

But He is never is.
And He longs to be your strength today.
But it is up to you.
You have to surrender.
Revel in the chaos even as you stand on His promises.
Taking every thought captive to Christ.
Resting in Who He is.
Trusting that He will bring you through.
Asking Him for wisdom, heartbeat to heartbeat.
Allowing the Holy Spirit – literally the Breath of God – to be the air in your lungs.
Delighting in His Word.
And allowing Him to lead.

He wants to do magnificent things in you.
Through you.
For the benefit of a lost and dying world.
But you have to give up control.
Allow for the chaos.
Fight the spiritual battle.
Surrender your will.
Will you do it?

And in the meantime, here’s to being overwhelmed!

The Battle: Fear vs. Faith

They square off in the ring of my heart, ready to rumble.
Who will win?

Fear always throws the first punch.
He shouts says, “I will wrestle with the future because I have no clue what tomorrow holds.”
Faith declares, “I will rest in God’s arms, content in the not-knowing because He is the all-knowing.”

Fear says, “I must frantically do ALL the things today, cramming in as much as possible, because it is up to me to keep all these balls in the air, irons in the fire, plates spinning.”
Faith says, “I will do the next thing in front of me today, working hard at the tasks of THIS day, and trusting that God is at work in all the tasks beyond today.”

Fear says, “It is only natural to be afraid – and that’s OK. You can’t help it so you might as well give in; after all, it is you and you alone who has to face ALL the things.”
Faith says, “I will not be afraid, not allow my heart to be troubled, because God goes before me, is the rear guard behind me, and walks beside me. There is nothing to fear because anyone or anything that happens to me has to go through Him first.”

Fear says, “I don’t have the strength to do all the hard things before me. So I will only do the things that are easy, letting someone else tackle the hard.”
Faith says, “I will do the hard things with a cheerful heart, knowing that I only need strength for this day and no others because this day is the only one that I know I have for sure. And God has promised me all that I need for THIS day.”

Fear says, “I can’t follow God in obedience because if I let go of these people, places and things I love, they might not be here when I get back. I am needed here; I am vital here; I cannot go.”
Faith says, “God loves the people you love more than you do. If you will let go of control, He can show you His mighty hand in their lives. You are not the center of any universe – and never will be. But He is the glue that holds all things together. He is the Savior, not you.”

And Fear, in its last gasps, cries out, “But what if I fail?”
Faith replies, “He will redeem your failures and bring about much fruit.”

Fear whispers, “But what if I’m not good enough, strong enough, smart enough?”
Faith declares, “You aren’t. But He is.”

Fear lives the life of a kicked puppy, cowering in the corner.
Faith lives the life of a beloved child, happy, laughing, carefree and joyous.

Fear lives the life of the unloved, unwanted, unprotected.
Faith lives the life of the beloved, cherished and fiercely guarded.

Fear stops the adventure.
Faith fuels it.

Fear throws up roadblocks.
Faith grows wings.

Fear whispers hot threats.
Faith belts out a glorious song of trust in reply.

Fear says, “Death wins.”
Faith says, “God wins.”

Fear says, “You are losing it all.”
Faith says, “You are gaining more of Him.”

Fear says, “It’s not worth the risk.”
Faith says, “It’s time to soar.”

Heartbeat to heartbeat, the choice marches on: fear? Or faith?
Who wins this moment?
Who wins this day?
Who wins the war?

Not fear. Not today.
And Lord willing, not ever again.