I am delighted to welcome Abby McDonald
as a guest host for the linkup today.
She brings God’s truth to light in a gentle, yet profound way.
I take deep breaths in and out, trying to calm the rapid pulse of my heart. It’s no use. My hands shake as I rummage through my purse for lip gloss, trying to silence the voices of defeat. Every five seconds, I look over my shoulder for my husband. Where is he?
When the worship band begins playing, I focus on the words.
Holy Spirit you are welcome here Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Yes, God, yes. Your Spirit will get me through the next five minutes in front of a sea of faces.
I’ve committed to giving my testimony to our church congregation that morning, but as I watch person after person pour into the sanctuary, thoughts of self-doubt and defeat create an endless chatterbox in my mind. What was I thinking? I’m not a public speaker….Continued…
...Read the rest of Abby’s McDonald’s story – and, if you are a blogger, Linkup – at A Fearfully Made Mom. Please click the linkup button at the bottom of her post and it will open up a new tab where you can link.
What holds you back? What hinders you? What prevents you from going all-in, crazy wild for Jesus?
Is it others?
What is it?
When I look at my life, I see a whole lot of blessings, but I also see a whole lot of comfort. Comfort that wraps me warm and snuggly. So warm, that sometimes I don’t want to look beyond my TV – or even the walls of my house.
Comfort that second-guesses spending time with others.
Comfort that makes it difficult to give and to let go.
Comfort that doesn’t allow me to see all that God has for me. Comfort that keeps me stuck.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)
Are we gaining the world or are we gaining God?
Because a life stuck in this world is a life stuck in futility.
And a life stuck in futility, is a life without utility.
To live without utility, gives us no ability to glorify God’s nobility.
Complacency, comfort and carelessness about our condition become our greatest inhibition.
But, God is calling us. Wooing us. Pleading that we come.
Do you hear Him?
He is waiting.
He has more for us than the good “American Life”.
He will blow our socks off.
Knock us down with purpose.
Stagger us with joy.
If we let him.
Or, we can continue living in the status-quo, as we always have – content.
But are we really content?
Is enough ever enough?
Perhaps God is saying…”Accepting good, is missing amazing.”
When we exchange good things for our great God, we miss the immense blessings he has prepared for us.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:10)
It’s easy to walk by stagnant faith, rehearsed truths and clichéd lines, but if we want to see crazy exciting acts of God, we have to step out of “safety” and into “risky”.
“Risky” that takes time to hear God’s call. “Risky” that prays for equipping. “Risky” that sacrifices all to accomplish his purposes. “Risky” that doesn’t see the way, but walks by faith. “Risky” that doesn’t stop, that keeps going, that presses on until the work is completed. “Risky” that avoids demanding approval or affirmation, but instead trusts in eternal rewards.
Why aren’t I risky like this? When I take a deep look, I see, what holds me back – is me, myself and I. I am afraid. I am afraid to go to the place where I lose all control. I am afraid to see where he will take me. I am afraid.
Will it really be good?
Will he really be there for me?
Will I be good enough for Him?
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Heb. 11:1)
When we can’t see, we walk by real faith, life changing faith and powerful faith.
We can walk this way, because he has proven his faithfulness time and time again.
He has helped us and he will help us.
He has guided us and he will guide us.
He has shown up and he will show up.
Remember his faithfulness – in the past – to follow his call – today.
We are called “followers of Jesus”, so let’s do the following part. Let’s cast aside all that holds us back and go “risky” with Jesus. It’s so worth it! He will equip us. He will help us. We can do this.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb. 12:1)
God calls us deeper – to abandon our heart to Jesus. To go further and further into his waters of love. Waters that feel like they may overtake us, overwhelm us or overpower us, but still, he calls us there.
I want to go to that depth with him.
I want to see his supernatural power as he prompts me to walk on water. I want to jump at the chance to walk scary, turbulent distances by faith. I want to know, the only way to survive is by grabbing hold of his outstretched arm.
This kind of faith-life has been luring me. It has been calling.
And, here – as I plead to go this length – the Lord is faithfully unravelling truth.
Truth that says, “Come, share your heart. To go deeper, you have to let me go deeper.”
If I want to understand the depths of God’s love,
I have to open up the depths of my heart.
If I want to understand the power of his saving love,
I have to offer him the chance to save me.
If I want to see the deep mysteries of God,
I have to let him do deep ministries on me.
It is not about protecting self, it is about dying to self.
This is when we find ourself.
Do you want to go to the depths of love with Jesus?
He stands waiting.
He beckons us through love.
Calls us by grace.
He will share all of who he is, as we share all of who we are.
Enter the water. Enter the depths of his love. Enter into his heart. The one he stands ready to share.
Go deep. Let go of fear, let go of anxiety, let go of frustration, let go of control, let go of shame and grab hold of the heart of God.
What he will reveal to us is not just plain and rehearsed head knowledge of love, but deep and impactful heart knowledge of love.
I want that. Don’t you?
I want that deep unending, unconditional and unbelievable source of love.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jer. 29:13-14)
1 Samuel 8:6, “But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.'”
The Israelites were always whining and complaining wanting their own way. Their own will. They were never satisfied. They didn’t trust God to do what was best for them. They always wanted something else. I’m sorry to say I can relate. For most of my life I’ve been no different. Oh, I would have told you I trusted God, but still, I always thought I knew what was best. I knew a better ending to the story. My story.
About 15 years ago (in my guesstimation) my pastor sent out an email to the members of our church. I don’t remember the exact purpose of the email but I do remember reading a few lines on prayer and God’s will that stuck in my craw. Mostly because at the time the words bewildered me. Those words read something like this:
If you want healing, pray for God’s will to be done.
If you want safety, pray for God’s will to be done.
If you need a job, pray for God’s will to be done.
If you need financial help, pray for God’s will to be done.
If you are looking for peace, pray for God’s will to be done.
I recall thinking, what about my will? What if God’s will and my will aren’t the same? What if His ending doesn’t look like mine? Doesn’t God care about what I want?
It wasn’t long after, I decided my husband was bored with his job. (Notice, I said I decided.) I felt he needed something more challenging, a promotion perhaps. And I circled it in prayer. A lot of prayer. I thought I knew what was best for him, for us. Never mind what God thought. Not once did I pray honestly about my feelings and my struggles, or what was in my heart. Nope, instead I forged on, telling God my agenda, and asking Him to oblige with an answer.
And He did.
But it was not the answer I contrived in my mind. Nope, God loves me more than that.
Have you heard the saying, “Be careful what you pray for?”
God answered my selfish prayer.
He gave me what I wanted to show me what I didn’t.
He gave me my own way to show me how His way is better.
The next seven years were challenging to say the least. But God used everything that took place within those seven years to mold me for His purposes. Though God did indeed answer my prayer, the path He led me down would not have been one of my choosing. I can see now that it was necessary and it gave me a clear and personal understanding of Romans 8:28, “God works everything for good for those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” Because it was during this trying time God showed me –
A way out of my spiritual desert.
How to be totally honest in prayer.
How to depend on Him and not on myself.
How to be joyful in all circumstances.
How His will is better than mine.
And how He is always faithful.
In the key passage from 1 Samuel, the Israelites weren’t satisfied with God and His way. They wanted human kings like all the other nations. And God gave them their human kings. He gave them what they wanted to show them what they didn’t need.
I believe it is important to lay our hearts open to our Heavenly Father and honestly tell Him our wants and desires. He wants that, but He also wants our surrender. Because at the end of the day He knows what ‘s best. And today I know that full well.
Jesus gave us the perfect example when he prayed “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven….”
Thy will not my will. Amen
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I saw the fun.
I saw the laughs.
I saw the friends.
I wasn’t there.
I wasn’t invited.
I was left out.
How do we cope when Facebook hurts you? Because frankly, people open their lives up like books and sometimes we read into things only to feel left behind or insulted.
How do we overcome the laughs we weren’t a part of?
How do we get past the offensive words?
How do we move forward in love, when we feel hurt?
How do we let go of annoyances?
These were all things I struggled with as my heart broke a little.
I guess for me, it wasn’t just this person that hurt me, but it was all the little ways I saw I wasn’t being included.
I felt left out of the pictures, the recap comments and the moments. I saw the smiles. I saw the joy. I saw the fun.
Where was I? How could they leave me out?
The small offenses all rushed over me.
But, then I got to thinking – have I really been pursuing others?
Because, no one is going to invite you into relationship if you aren’t available. No one is going to welcome you to laugh, if you never welcomed them into your house. No one is going to remember you, if you let the busyness of your day steal the good intentions of your heart.
I am so busy.
These Facebook pains walk me right up to truth – the Lord loves relationship.
They also remind me that I can’t control what others do. They can do what they do, but God will always be here to help me through. People will hurt me. They will abandon me. They will drop me at the door. They will write things that offend. They will insult too.
But, we can find refuge in the Lord. We can seek his ways. So can you. Let’s open up to take risks, because we are kept under the safety of his wing – kept close, like a protected child.
Under his protection, he will show us how to act.
He will instruct us in truth.
He will arm us with the right mentality.
He releases us from the power of others’ insulting actions, so we may find freedom in the power of his unending love.
Frankly, we all offended Jesus. We actually offend him daily. We insult, we overlook, we leave him out.
But, does he stop loving us? Does he stop pursuing us? Does he still call us into relationship?
We prompts us to extend grace, just as he has.
So, let’s remember:
1. We are who Christ says we are. Our identity is secure in Christ, not dependent on Facebook.
2. We can’t expect to be pursued when we are not pursuing relationship.
3. People are quick to speak and slow to think. We can be like this too.
4. Jesus shows us unending grace; we can fall into his grace to extend grace.
5. If we can let go of how others act on us, we can grab hold of how Christ wants us to act to others.
6. The more we keep our eyes – and heart – on what is true, noble, upright and of good report, the more peace and joy that will be ours. Offenses lose their power.
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:31)
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
It strikes me that we can let go of insults, injury and inadequacies, when we grab hold of truth, God’s truth.
Because, truly, there is only one book that defines us – and it’s not Facebook.
When I found myself getting irritated at the wide pronouncements of one-word resolutions, I started to wonder, “What’s my issue?”
How can someone not like words like:
Why am I so frustrated as others passionately pursue the Lord?
Sure, I picked a word – it’s “patience.” It was wisely given to my by a friend.
Patience in writing.
Patience with my husband.
Patience with my kids.
Patience in growth.
Patience in relationships.
Yes, I see the value.
But, what I can’t handle seeing – at the end of my year – is failure. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see the shame, regret, fear and embarrassment tied into that. Why should I set myself up for this?
So I find, it’s simpler to get annoyed and to avoid.
It’s easier to hate than to embrace.
It’s safer to go protected than to become dejected.
So, I push goals, dreams and hopes out of the way to protect a heart that could break along the way.
Truth is, I know I will fail in many ways.
I won’t be patient. I will get irritated. I will blow up at my kids and probably my husband. I will drop the ball. I will mess up. I just know it – and I hate that.
I hate that I can’t reach out to all I want to be – and grab hold of it.
And, underneath it all, I guess this is what really aggravates me about 1-word resolutions. We will all fail in our own way. We will all do the exact opposite of what our 1-word is.
Good luck on that 1-word friends!
For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7)
And, he is not content with stagnant hearts that hide from his life-giving, love-producing, purpose-provoking truth.
So he says to me, “Kelly, running from failure is running from me.”
And, who can argue with that?
Failure is the beginning of something new.
Failure is the meeting point of love.
Failure is the hidden treasure – we let go of self and grab hold of Christ.
Failure is the heart of growth.
And the starting point of hope.
Jesus doesn’t stand as a judge of 1-word resolutions. He doesn’t demand a 1-year illusion – here today and gone tomorrow. He is not a master of confusion. Ready to throw us into seclusion.
This is not our Lord. He never withholds love –
and he doesn’t shame us based on failures.
In this, I realize our resolutions don’t stand as a barrier to his love –
but as a conduit for it.
I realize if I stop aiming to please him, I can start aiming to just behold him.
Because a student best receives, when she isn’t trying to do things her own way.
Deeply, so deeply, I want to remember:
We are safe in his sacrifice. Held tightly, cupped in his loving hands.
Secure. So secure in our position as children of the most high King.
In the safety of his love – and the finality of his sacrifice – we can embrace grace and all the gifts extended through it.
A grace that doesn’t stop at our failings.
A love that is never given to be taken away.
An eternal position that can never be snatched.
A God that doesn’t give to steal away.
What kind of God would that be?
Truly, all wrath is gone.
All that remains is love.
Because of Jesus, I am safe – safe to move forward in perfect love. Love that casts out all my fear. Love that conquers all. Love that makes me an overcomer. Love that let’s the Spirit of God pour out from me. I can’t even comprehend the start and end of this grace.
So, the Lord just says to me…
“Patience, Kelly. Patience.
You are my work in progress.
It is not you that is at work – but it is me.
At the proper time, you will be exalted.
Do you trust me?
In my good time (which may well be more than a year), you will be patient.
You are my work, my craftsmanship, my love.”
And, in these truths, I can rest. I can rest because there is no condemnation left for me. It’s gone. It is gone for me and it is gone for you.
So for now, it just becomes a journey to his destination. In his timing. In his way. Until the day until he flings open the gate to welcome in his new creation – that he made me to be.
Until then, I will rely on him during the process of being patient.
And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect; this is the work of the Lord who is Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 JB)
Life gets so hectic. It gets busy. It gets overwhelming.
Many times, I sit with two children screaming their heads off and I don’t even know what to do. Or, I look at a pile of work that needs to be done, but I have no time. Or, look at the Mount Everest of trials and I have no idea how to ski down.
In these moments, I have to wonder – what do I send?
Do I send love?
Or, do I send irritation, aggravation and frustration?
Because a lot of the time, the world seems to act on me. It seems to send me into a tailspin. One where I just spin in circles trying to grab hold of a tail I can never quite reach.
And, my aggravation, at my lack of control, often sends me on a rampage to dump frustration on those I love.
My environment becomes a result of my circumstances.
I know God calls me to rise above this, but why can’t I? What holds me back?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)
Is it that I send my mind down roads of thought that they shouldn’t be traveling on?
When life breaks down, when circumstances come to topple – I can choose to send my heart to Jesus. I can choose to send my thoughts to the Word of God. I can choose to send out to others a heart that ministers to their needs, instead of one that is being swallowed up with mine.
Jesus will help me.
He understands trials.
He knows the chaos of life.
He has the right answer for me.
He can get me through.
Jesus, you have told me to go. Send me down your paths, send my according to your ways. Send me, so that I may find true, joyful and meaningful life – because when you send, no one who is encountered by you is ever the same.
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The weight of performance and achievement almost led me right up to the doorstep of death. But, I guess this shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering God does say the wages of sin are death (Ro. 6:23).
I just could not do enough, be enough or feel good enough.
Each failure seemed to add more weight to by back:
Try, fail. More weight.
Work, get nowhere. More weight.
Achieve, go unrecognized. More weight.
Accomplish, but desire more. More weight.
My body was at a breaking point. I couldn’t handle it; I couldn’t cope.
Because if you’re an achiever – and you don’t achieve –
you’re really just a failure in training.
If you’re an achiever – who comes in second place –
you are really just a loser without a cause.
If you’re an achiever – who achieved-
you’re really only as good as your last achievement.
Striving and perfectionism waged war in my life and led me to become a dying frame of an anorexic girl. They led me to seek refuge in selfishness, bitterness and depression.
All my work to gain love, had only left me feeling – unloved.
But, Christ is doing a mighty work in my life as I have relinquished control. More and more, he is helping me see that achievement, based on self, is one of the main requirements of the devil.
a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill.
to cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.
Achievement that is not based in a response of obedience to the Gods’ authority, is obedience to the wrong authority.
This authority of the unseen world, loves to see our hearts inclined to self-authority. No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other… (Mt. 6:24)
Whom do you follow?
What do you follow?
When we struggle against achievement, we go arm to arm with God to fight for authority. When we struggle with achievement, we stand up and say, I can do it better than you. When we struggle with achievement, we see ourselves – and look away from God.
It boils down to pride.
And, it’s no wonder it feels like it may break our backs.
Because Jesus has already carried this load and it is no longer ours to carry. His body was already broken for you and for me.
The price has been paid. It is finished. We are free from the heavy burdens of self-sufficiency, because Christ is 100% sufficient.
He calls us to unload and let go, by saying:
– My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:9)
– For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
– Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Mt. 11:28-29)
He calls us to freedom in him.
He calls us to rest in his ways.
He calls us to trust by faith.
He calls us to follow his will.
He calls us to life in Him.
He calls us to prayer with hope.
He calls us to seek his ways.
He calls us to follow his truth.
He calls us to find peace in his leading.
Here we are safe under the right authority – as we submit to the one who will protect us, guide us and help us.
Christ has already done the work.
The law has been completely fulfilled. The grace has been completely poured out. The condemnation has been completely removed.
I no longer have to struggle to make the world pleased with Kelly, because God is well pleased with Kelly. I no longer have to be beholden to my own ways, because Jesus is the only way. I no longer have to fear the outcomes of others, because my outcome is secure – eternity awaits!
Just drop the weight! It feels so good. Why carry around a back full of loaded bricks? Why not unload them into the arms of Christ? This way he can instruct you and guide you as you build your earthly and eternal house – brick by brick by brick – according to his will.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Ps. 127:1)
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It’s not pretty. It’s not always whole. It’s often aching. It’s needing help. It can feel so dark.
But, my heart is open to you. It’s open to the work that you want to do. It’s open to your will. It’s open to your desires for my life.
Don’t let me close my heart to you Lord. I will miss you. Don’t let me let you go unwelcomed.
Because you are what makes me.
You are what lifts me.
You are what gives my life a pulse.
When you are teaching me, instructing me and leading me, I am at one with you your heart.
You are a perfect visitor.
You take residence in an awe-inspiring way.
You don’t demand my service.
You don’t look at me with a judging eye.
You don’t wonder why I am not a better welcomer.
Instead, you actually welcome me into your heart. You welcome me into your ways.
I think I am giving – but it is actually YOU who gives.
You are the gracious host, because as I seek you, you let me come closer and closer to your heart, your ways and your safety. As I knock at your door, you welcome my heart to find safe refuge in you. This is where power is held. This is where your glory is found.
You teach me what love is.
To love others before myself.
To open a door to others in need.
To lift another who has fallen down.
To bring truth to others who feel lost.
Let me never shut the door to your love – because you never shut your love to me.
Let all of my heart be ready to welcome all of you – for it is only then that I will discover that you bring something far greater than a housewarming gift – you bring you. And all of you, is more than enough for all of me – because your grace changes all of me!
I walked out the door in a hurry. Mostly because for the last ten minutes my husband repeatedly told me to get out.
About this time last year I celebrated my birthday. I asked for a pedicure – with the unspoken word “alone” embedded in the message. Luke granted my request with an eager heart and threw in a “take the whole day” cherry on top. So, when the clock turned to 8:30 a.m. the morning of my birthday, and I was still in the house, Luke started pushing me out.
But when I shuffled outside, the limousine parked behind my car brought me to a screeching halt.
“Luuuuuke,” I yelled on my way back inside the house, “What is going on?”
With a mischievous smile he let me in on the plan he’d been working on for days now. A full-day girls get away to shop, eat and relax at the spa.
There I sat. No kids, dishes, laundry or list of to-dos. No demands to meet. No details to arrange. Nada. All I had to do was breathe. So I did. I took a big, deep breathe. I smiled and burrowed back in my chair. The stillness spelled P-E-A-C-E.
That two minutes, or so, was awesome ….
But before the driver could make one turn I put the hamster back on the wheel in my brain and let him loose.
Is he going to turn in front of that car? I better buckle up. And so it began. The rest of the ride up I balked from time to time. What is he doing? How fast is he going? Is he texting and driving?!
I could hear Luke’s voice in my head begging me to relax. You’re missing the whole point.
Decision time. Luke wrapped peace and pampering in a shiny black car and laid it in the driveway. All I had to do was get into the limousine. And I did. But once that door shut behind me, it was now up to me. I had to choose to enjoy the gift.
And my eyebrows raise at the thought: I can actually create my own state of tension and exhaustion. Anywhere. Anytime.
My awareness promoted at least a fight to put the hamster in his place. At the spa they soaked me, scrubbed me, peeled and painted me. I left exfoliated and rejuvenated.
Then the day after the spa happened. In a nutshell: Total anarchy.
The kids held a secret midnight meeting and decided to try to unseat me from my position of authority over them. It’s the only logical explanation for what went on here. Kicking. Screaming. The mother of all melt downs (by me and them).
And I giggle, because I’m thinking the same thing you are. What does this have to do with peace? And please don’t imagine this crazy house of people with hands joined singing “Amazing Grace” as we lay down our troubles and dish out hugs. Not even close.
But as the day wore on I noticed something inexplicable …. a smile. On my face and theirs.
Somehow, after a day so treacherous it prompted Luke to proclaim renewed confidence in his decision to have no more children, I mustered a smile. Even a laugh.
Stress in the limo while I ride to the spa. Peace in the kitchen while all of my little blessings fight over where to sit. This seems backwards, right? What gives? And then I realized,
Peace is not an arranged place or set of circumstances; it is an intentional position of the heart.
It’s the difference between my toddler standing in front of his daddy crying and screaming and stomping his feet, and this …
A head rested on a solid shoulder. A storm calmed underneath a strong arm. A little boy secure in his daddy’s grip.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, … Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, … singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:15-16 (ESV)
Strife can strike. Anywhere. Anytime. Or Peace can rule. Anywhere. Anytime. With His word in your heart and a His song on your lips, you make the call. I pick peace!
I left my job as a television news reporter to join my husband, Luke, on our adventure in the National Football League. 10 years, 12 moves, 6 kids, and 5 teams later, it’s safe to say the road has been anything but predictable. Our dreams today don’t look quite like they did ten years ago, but I’ve learned along the way dreams do come true … even if you’re not a Disney World. I blog about a football wife’s life at www.katymccown.com and I’d love for you to visit me!