Now You See Me

Last year I was at a point in my single life when I was uninterested in men who were uninterested in me. Fed up with dead-end “friendships” with emotionally unavailable and unresponsive men, I prayed the prayer I almost regretted. I asked God to protect me from men who didn’t have my best interest at heart. If he wasn’t the man I would marry, then you could count me out.

But what if that prayer is slightly off the mark? What about the men I could positively impact during my season of singleness? What about the men God would call me to serve alongside? What about the men who have never experienced the beauty of femininity, confidence, and grace from a woman who loves Jesus? What if asking God to hide me is selfish? What if there is a more powerful prayer?

Photo Credit: m_bartosch via FreeDigitalPhotos.net, royalty-free

Photo Credit: m_bartosch via FreeDigitalPhotos.net, royalty-free

When I met my boyfriend, he was more refreshing than an ice cold glass of water on a sweltering summer day in the south; more refreshing than a warm shower on a wintry night; more refreshing than a hearty meal after a season of fasting; more refreshing than… well, you get my point. I wasn’t paying any attention to him, but he saw me. Shortly after we met, I had a lunch engagement with my mentor. There she challenged me to ask God what this young man’s purpose was in my life and what purpose I should serve in his life. Every man you meet is not going to be your knight in shining armor. Every man is not your potential, and should not be treated as such. You may be who God uses to show him how Christian women conduct themselves. You may be who God uses to show him that all women are not seductive and manipulative. You may be who God uses to minister the gospel of Jesus through your testimony of purity and unwavering dedication to Christ. Our purpose in a man’s life could lead to a wedding ring, but our first order of business is to demonstrate the love of Christ.

Although I knew I was beginning to develop feelings for him, I kept everything in perspective by allowing Jesus to guard my heart, emotions, and intentions. All I asked was for Jesus to be glorified in however this relationship was to progress. Some time had passed since my last lunch date with my mentor. This time when she asked about my budding relationship, I told her I believed he was the one my heart had been waiting for. She asked me how I knew. I told her, “Because God allowed him to see me.”

I have always looked this way, written this way, and loved this way. Like an abstract sculpture that few people notice, people have walked past me with little appreciation, but only one man stopped to see me for the masterpiece that I am.

It was that moment when I realized the stunning beauty of those words. This man’s eyes had been opened and he had the vision to behold the beauty (and flaws) that make up who I am. He knows me because he wanted to know me. He listens to me because he wanted to listen to me. He understands me because he wanted to understand me. But he loves me because he sees me, and he sees me because God opened his eyes and placed me in his line of sight.

So, what if the more powerful prayer isn’t to be hidden but to be seen by the man who is sent from God? To be hidden can be lonely, but to be seen and known is the deepest desire in the heart of every woman. Asking to be visible makes us ready for God’s use. Let’s be unafraid to be seen by men. Let’s ask God for His purposes for the men in our lives. Let’s ask God to lead people in our lives we can impact, and who will positively impact ours. Let’s be willing vessels for His good during our singleness. Let us be fully seen by Jesus, and ask to be seen by the man who will vow to love us until the end of time.

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Old Faithful

This past weekend was one of the most fulfilling weekends I’ve had in a very long time. They were full of wonderful friends, fantastic adventures, new people, warm conversation, and joyous hope for the future. Saturday morning I attended a beautiful baby shower for my dear friend Santana and her husband. After I left the shower, I was blushing with excitement. It was a beautiful afternoon with perfect, sunny weather. I wanted to be romanced, so I turned to the One who loves me most. I decided to see a movie and spend time driving around talking to Jesus. I ended up driving to a department store and meandered inside for a bit.

I’m a simple girl, but for some reason I found myself drawn to the jewelry section. This is usually unlike me. However, I began to glance at the rings and admire their shining magnificence. As my eyes scanned the selection, a certain beauty commanded my attention. I reached for it and read the inscription around the silver band. Believe. I slipped the ring onto my thumb and it was a perfect fit.

ring

Tears sprang to my eyes as I admired the ring on my finger. I felt the spirit of God amplifying lessons and examples of his faithfulness in my life over the course of the last two months. He has been steady, loving and correcting me unconditionally. As memories of his faithfulness swirled through my mind, I felt a strong impression that he wanted me to use this ring as a reminder. My life has been on a calculated ascent ever since I began to dare to believe all that God says about me and all that he says I am. That’s how salvation begins for us all, when we decide (as a response to God’s awakening, not our own doing) to believe he is true and good. Yet, I knew that this thing was to be a reminder for me everyday to consciously decide to believe God on a consistent basis.

  • I believe Jesus is enough for today

I am fully persuaded that all that I need in life is in and flows from my precious Jesus. There is no real fulfillment outside of having a personal relationship with a God who brought me from death to life. There is no room for discontent in my life because Jesus is the source of all of my satisfaction. Does this mean that we don’t need money, friends or family? No! This simply means that we should understand all we need–all things good–comes from him. Therefore, he is my Superior Pleasure above all other things. As long as Jesus is on the throne, we shall never face a day that isn’t full of hope in him.

  • I believe God is for my good

Every good thing comes from God and God does not withhold good things from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). Not only do I believe that God does good things, but that he wants good things for me more than I want them for myself! Consequently, I can rest and trust his timing, his placement, and even his delay because I know he will come through for me.

  • I believe I am loved and accepted

I am not a mistake. God decided (it was in his perfect, detailed plan!) to create a woman who looks like me, smiles like me, laughs like me, thinks like me, loves like me. I am a purposeful, hand-stitched creation that God yearned to see in the world so that I could bring him glory and impact people for his kingdom. I am accepted and loved by God. It doesn’t matter who else has beautiful hair, a nice smile, or even who can write better than me. This world has space and a need for my particular personality, my particular words, my particular influence. Be grateful for the person God made you to be because it doesn’t matter how many people you think look, work, learn, or perform better than you do… God has a sphere of people and lives that only you can touch. You are special. You are loved. You are important. You are needed. You make a difference.

Blinking back tears, I took the ring to the register and paid the cashier. I find myself staring at it often and remembering that I do believe God in all these areas of my life and more. It’s not always been easy, but it’s worthwhile to trust a God who cannot fail.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Psalm 85:10-11, ESV

I love how the people of God declare that love and faithfulness are friends and righteousness and peace are intimate. It’s a beautiful picture of the goodness of God and the wonderful life he offers us. When I read this passage, my heart swelled. This depiction of faithfulness flooding from the ground like a geyser and righteousness shining down from the heavens creates an image of the earth being an incubator of the goodness of God.

Photo Credit: Andreas Tille, Creative Commons

With such a beautiful, biblical description of God’s faithfulness erupting from the ground, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the infamous geyser in Yellowstone Park is named Old Faithful. Nature in all its magnificence only scratches at the surface of the awe-inspiring glory of God.  Everywhere our feet trod is covered in faithfulness; everywhere the sun beams light and heat radiates in righteousness. What a picturesque truth! The faithfulness of God is inescapable. It’s who he is and it’s all around us.

Single and Satisfied through Community

I am fully persuaded that being in a healthy, thriving, God-centric community will change your life. Really. I have witnessed the greatest expressions of God’s love, majesty, grace, healing and power through my small group. At the beginning of this year, God placed it on my heart and the hearts of a few other ladies to dig deeper into His word and into community. I remember a conversation I had with my friend, Kristi, about how desperately I needed a community of sisters who wanted more of Jesus. So we went to God and by his grace we began to meet with some ladies who shared our desire for more. We came with no plans, goals, or expectations except that we would facilitate a place every week for us to encounter God. People have asked us what we do on Wednesday nights to which I simply retort, “We open the Bible and see what happens.”

Today I am especially filled with unspeakable joy after this past Wednesday’s study session. We’ve just recently begun reading and discussing Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge. Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Twitter) is aware that I am a huge supporter of Captivating because God used it to begin healing my heart. Naturally, this seemed like a great study for our group because I believe God wants to heal the broken hearts of the women in His Church (Click to Tweet!). Wednesday afternoon I asked God to do something new and fresh, to melt our hard hearts until we’re ready to be vulnerable and open to our desires, our dreams, and our wounds (so they can be healed). Simply, I wanted God to come. He always does, but I wanted something special.

There was something new in the air. I could feel it almost as soon as we sat down. Ironically, all of my notes for the discussion were wiped away from my phone seconds before we began. Clearly, God wanted to come in to the meeting and have more control than I did. The spirit was so sweet. Everyone was happy, hopeful, excited. Even those who began to share difficult and tough situations began to experience a shift from doubt to faith–the change was visible on their faces! There was a moment when I asked everyone what their favorite movies and stories were when they were younger. Every single countenance began to glow as we welcomed the rush of nostalgia.

“Sleeping Beauty!”

“The Lion King!”

“Cinderella…the one with Brandy and Whitney Houston!”

Suddenly everyone burst into song and infectious laughter. Someone shouted through laughter and shining eyes, “Oh! My heart is racing right now! I feel good!” In that moment, we were all little girls again in the presence of our God… in a place where nothing and no one could harm us. Not even the memory of pain was able to penetrate that circle of love.

By the end of the night, we were all so full of life and hope. The energy in the room was intoxicating. We had abandoned our agenda over an hour ago and were fixated on Jesus and the perfect love He gives that we sometimes reject. We often feel unworthy, undeserving, or that it’s too good to be true. But as I looked around at all these women, I was experiencing God’s love.

As we prayed to close the night, we were shouting and celebrating each prayer that was lifted up to God. We were celebrating being women. His women. His daughters. Together. Black women. White women. Filipino women. So different. All broken, but wanting Jesus.

One woman prayed, “In this moment, we are all fulfilled. May we always keep this moment of wholeness in Christ and community.”

She was right. And as she prayed that, the audible sighs that escaped from everyone’s mouth was confirmation. We were fulfilled. We weren’t thinking about the men we didn’t have or the weight we haven’t lost or the job we didn’t get. We were whole. Complete. Radiant. Captivating.

God’s gentle, loving spirit led us into a new place of hope that I don’t know many of us have experienced before. I know I haven’t. There was something so sweet about what happened there that night. We allowed God to love on us and He did it so well. I woke up Thursday morning feeling drunk on love. I’m loved. I’m accepted. I’m pursued. And in a circle full of ladies, I was completely fulfilled. (Click to Tweet!Giggling, blushing, singing, hugging and fulfilled.

If you ever doubted that godly female friends could enrich your life, let the story of my community change your mind. I have seen the face of God through the women in my small group. Don’t think that it’s impossible to reach fulfillment in relationships until you get married. That’s simply not the truth. (Click to Tweet!) My heart is expanding, my prayer life is increasing, my life is receiving deposits of Jesus with every word my friends speak into my life. We look forward to Wednesdays because we know we’ll leave feeling better than when we arrived, and we know Jesus will be there. I’m fully persuaded that God, too, looks forward to Wednesdays because there is always a place where He is welcome in our homes and in our hearts.

My friend noted, “Who would have thought, as women, to feel that fulfillment did not require a single man in the room!” (Click to Tweet!)

It’s an incredible thought. I have never been more fulfilled in my life. A younger me would never believe that the experiences I’ve had could be enjoyed without a man on my arm. But, as the Cinderella song that my girls and I love to sing says:

Impossible things are happening every day.

When I think of God’s love overflowing, I think of Him pouring wine into a glass until the red liquid runs on the table, the carpet, everywhere. When we reject His love, it’s like we’re trying to mop up the wine with Bounty napkins. Why do we do this? God is telling us, “Drink it! Take it all! It’s for you!” In our hearts, we can’t comprehend why anyone would pour wine into a full glass, but His love can’t be contained! But we steadily try to mop up the ‘mess of love’ because it’s too much, it doesn’t make sense. All He wants is for us to drink and let Him love us. Don’t wipe away the offer, drink it in!

— from the heart of Ashley Breaux, 6/19/2013

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

I love the Lord. He is so vast that He can die for the sins of the world once and for all, yet He’s so personal that He can speak directly to our hearts and spirits every day. I love that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all and the Giver of Life and the King of the universe, but nothing makes my heart swell more than when I consider that I personally know Him. There isn’t a day that goes by where He is unattainable, inaccessible, or unreachable. God is near to us! And He has the uncanny ability to become whatever we need Him to be for us. The Apostle Paul said that he becomes all things to all men (I Corinthians 9:22), and I believe he learned that from Jesus. Throughout my life, Jesus has become many things for me, and each facet of His Person has had an astronomical influence on my life.

Friend

Photo Credit: Ambro, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Credit: Ambro, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every teenage girl experiences the overwhelming desire to be loved and accepted by her peers. I remember feeling the pressure of being liked. I never had a hard time making friends, but it seemed that my circle of friends was constantly shifting and changing. I didn’t know why the people around me faded out of my life. All I wanted was certainty and to establish a secure friend. I met that Friend when Jesus walked into my life. I talked to Him about any and everything. He was the only Person I felt would never tire of me. Jesus wasn’t annoyed by me, no matter what time of day I called on Him. Although there were others around me, Jesus was my only consistent friend. From there, our relationship grew.

Lover

A woman becomes beautiful when she knows she is loved…Cut off from love, rejected, no one pursuing her, something in a woman wilts like a flower no one waters anymore. She withers into resignation, duty, and shame. The radiance of her countenance goes out, as if a light has been turned off. But this same woman, whom everyone thought was rather plain and unengaging, becomes lovely and inviting when she is pursued. Her heart comes alive, come to the surface, and her countenance becomes radiant… This doesn’t need to wait for a man. God longs to bring this into your life himself.
from “Captivating” by John & Stasi Eldredge
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Photo Credit: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jesus and I grew from companions to lovers. We crossed that line of camaraderie, and I began to pour myself out to Him in new ways. The things He whispered to me became more intimate, more piercing, more intense. He wooed my heart in ways that caused my pulse to both quicken and stand still. He formed me and knows exactly what words to say that will release tears of love and gratitude. Jesus is more than our Savior; He is the God who stooped down and looked at the adulterous woman in her eyes and loved her. He is the God who took the longer route to his destination in order to have a life-changing encounter with the woman at the well. People write songs and poetry about being in love with Jesus, but I had never been that infatuated with Jesus. It wasn’t until I knew Him intimately that my appreciation for Him grew to incomprehensible love. After years of wondering if it was actually possible, I fell in love with God.

Warrior

Photo Credit: "Without Fear" Jennifer Ellison, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Credit: “Without Fear” Jennifer Ellison, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Every woman longs to be the princess who is rescued from a mighty man of war who has come to win her freedom and win her hand in marriage. This man has successfully leapt over walls of fire, swum across tempestuous seas, swung on thorny vines across bottomless pits…all to save a beautiful woman who is bound by an oppressor. We fantasize about our knight in shining armor galloping on his robust steed over the horizon just as the sun is beginning to set. There he is! We long for this man to come for us so we can get away from this place we are in and be with him. As long as I’ve known Jesus, I readily identify Him as friend and lover, but I have not seen him as a warrior. Until now. My eyes have been opened through recent discoveries and now I see that He eagerly fights for me. I am wide awake to the fact that my enemy is bloodthirsty for me, but God is my Warrior and my hiding place. He hides me in the shadow of his wing and He will annihilate my enemy. God is a mighty Warrior eager to protect me from intruders and unwanted assailants. Since I have seen Him this way, my perspective of the Lord has grown. Suddenly, my confidence in Him has grown exponentially. He is mighty. He is fierce. He is able to ward off my enemies. Mostly, He believes I am worth being rescued.

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. Exodus 15:3, NIV
But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. Jeremiah 20:11, NIV
The LORD will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. Isaiah 42:13, NIV
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17, NIV


Join the discussion! Who has Jesus revealed Himself to be in your life? Leave a comment!

“But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29)

Prayer: The Escape from Temptation

Last week was one of the most confronting weeks I have experienced with God in a long time. It was a time of consecration, isolation, and true adoration (pardon my rhyming) of the One who formed life from dust. Prayer was my focus, which was great for me since my prayer life needed refreshing. I have been thinking about our greatest deterrents to prayer and the difficulties we face when approaching prayer. One particular idea stood out to me. I believe one of the most difficult times to pray is when we are battling temptation. (Click to tweet!)

When I was younger I had a dream that I have never been able to forget. In the dream it is dark, so void of light that I can feel the darkness threatening to suffocate me. Suddenly I see a tiny glimmer of light in the far distance. Naturally, I am drawn to the Light and I began to walk toward it. As I mesmerized by this Light, it begins to grow bigger and shine brighter until it is blazing in the horizon. As the light grows, I notice people on either side of this path who represented temptation. They were people who I wanted to associate myself with who were doing things that I wanted to do. They represented all the things that appealed to my flesh. As I walked past them, many of them tried to coerce me to indulge with them, but I was determined to get to the Light. It wasn’t until I reached a certain temptation that I didn’t want to resist that I turned away from the Light. I gave the temptation my undivided attention and indulged in sin. After I sinned, I turned frantically about in search of the Light…but it had vanished.

Jesus handled temptation much differently from the way we usually do. (Click to tweet!) Let’s study how He wrestled with temptation.

And Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Luke 22:39-45, ESV

Jesus knew His purpose

In the text, we know that Jesus is preparing to die. He knows that His time has come and He knows what lies waiting for Him at Calvary. He also knows that He exists for one purpose, which is to reconcile God and man once and for all. Before Jesus goes into this battle, He has it in the forefront of His mind that He is not there for Himself. He is not there to gratify Himself. He is not there to do His own will because He has a higher will to accomplish.

Jesus negotiated with God

 Jesus knew that before the world began that He would lay down His life for the souls of man. After the plan was set, the environment perfect, Jesus has finally reached the moment in history where He faces the precipice of His sacrifice. Now He has a choice to make: Am I really going to go through with this? Is there any other way?  Jesus’ prayer is saying, “I know this is the day we’ve been planning for, but is there a Plan B? Is there another trick You want to pull out of Your hat, Father?” His flesh was kicking and screaming out, “If there is any other way for me, then I want to do it! If there is any other way for me not to do what God is calling me to do, then I will.” (Click to tweet!)

Jesus’ humility provided strength

But Jesus remembers that His life’s purpose is to be for God and not for Himself. Jesus then prays, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” He sets aside His personal agenda and submits Himself to God. Then something incredible happens. An angel comes to strengthen Jesus. It wasn’t until after Jesus submitted His own will to God’s will that He received angelic strength. He was vulnerable with God and admitted the weakness of His flesh. When Jesus submitted His will He was in the perfect posture to receive grace and strength to withstand temptation. (Click to tweet!)

Jesus prayed more earnestly

After the angel poured strength into Him, one might assume that the struggle was over. Not so, for the Bible says that Jesus was in agony. Then, He began to pray more earnestly. This is not our usual response to temptation. When the temptation intensifies we tend to collapse from the pressure and tell God, “Nope, I can’t do it. Lord, forgive me in advance.” (Click to tweet!)

Many of us shy away from praying about the things that tempt us because we are ashamed of them. Our greatest temptations are alluring to our flesh and, if gratified, reveals a portion of our brokenness. Our temptations show us what we want, crave, feel entitled to–it is something we might go to extreme lengths to get. It is the guilt of that rush we feel in the middle of temptation that causes us to hang our head in shame and avoid prayer. The adrenaline we experience from the mere tempting thought makes us feel that we have already failed God, so we may as well trudge on into sin. Temptation is not a sin. When we are offered a sinful thought, desire, or opportunity, we can reject it. It is only after the acceptance of that temptation that it becomes sin. This simple truth can free us to boldly approach the throne of grace in the heat of temptation.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15, ESV

James tells us that temptations lure us away (remember the dream I had), and desire conceives sin. Yet, we know that the temptation itself is not sin, but when it conceives it becomes sin to us. How, then, do we stop the conception of sin?

Stay tuned for the answer in Part II of Prayer: The Escape from Temptation.

Join the discussion! What are your thoughts on this topic? What are other reasons why we don’t pray when we’re tempted?

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The Prayer I Almost Regretted

It was at a point of brokenness, heartbreak, and frustration with myself and painful situations that I prayed the scariest prayer to ever leave my lips.

Lord, if he isn’t the man I will marry, then don’t bring him into my life.

Sounds harmless, right? Wrong. I wasn’t mindful that I serve a jealous God who loves me more than my mind can comprehend. I wasn’t thinking about God as my Father who would do absolutely anything to protect my heart from intruders and invaders. I believe He was eager to answer this prayer because in about two years not a single man has tried to win my heart.

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Photo Credit: Glenda Ortero (glendali), royalty-free

I didn’t know that the answer to the prayer would mean:

– lonely weekends void of dates (Scandal re-runs and Words with Friends, anyone?)

– battling insecurities and self-doubting thoughts of inadequacy (Am I good enough?)

– nearly no male companionship (Hey, boys, remember me?)

– struggling with jealousy (I want to be happy for her, but when will I get my chance?)

I don’t think I realized what I was asking for when I made such a serious request. As time had gone by (and still no one on my doorstep with flowers), I had progressively retracted my trust in God and foolishly whined and complained to Him. How silly am I! Who would point their finger at God and complain about the very thing they prayed for?

How dare you answer my prayer, God? You knew I didn’t mean it.

The amazing faithfulness of God blows my mind because He answered a prayer that hurt my pride and heightened my weaknesses, but He’s doing it for my good. Had I not had these moments of solitude, I would never be in the place of learning and valuing dependence on Him. I am remembering and embracing the fact that I need to be single.  It’s in my total singleness that God is perfecting me, shaping me, refining me, and making me whole. Is it for a husband? No. It’s for Him! And if a lifelong partner happens for me in the future, then he will get the benefit of all God is working in me right this moment.

So, the bitterness, jealousy and insecurities are vanishing into thin air by the grace of God. My grievances have been turned into thanksgiving. I am thankful that God was eager to answer my heart’s prayer (this process is torture to my flesh, but my heart is ever grateful) because He knows what it cannot handle. I am thankful that even when my heart ached from loneliness, I was protected from heart aches from unhealthy relationships. I am thankful that when no one is calling my phone or asking me out, I have a God who longs to spend every waking moment with me. He is diligent and steadfast in His love. All the love I need to be whole flows from Him.

It was the scariest request I have ever prayed, but  now I am bursting with joy and hope. I am loved. I am never forgotten. I am protected. I am kept.  I have a God who goes to war for my heart with more strength and intentionality than a girl could hope for in ten thousand warriors. And He is holding my life and my future in His hands.

Leave a comment & join the discussion! What is the scariest thing you have asked God? Was the answer what you expected?

Songs in the Night

Have you ever been in the middle of something — perhaps talking to a group of friends, shopping in the mall, or even driving down the street — and someone extremely attractive stopped you in your tracks? Immediately whatever you were saying or doing before pales in significance, that is if you can remember what it was in the first place. Suddenly all that matters is this walking visage of radiance.

As I sit here haphazardly pecking away on my laptop, Lord, I Thirst for You begins to softly play… and before I know it I am mesmerized by God. I have long forgotten the thing that had been consuming my mind. The lyrics have now taken me prisoner and I am in a trance.

Lord, I thirst for You

It amazes me that we can live for weeks without food, but in most cases we could not survive longer than one week without water. A lack of food will not cripple us immediately, but without water we will deteriorate rapidly. Hunger can be ignored after the hunger pangs dissipate, but the fate of a man lacking hydration is usually sudden and devastating. Thirst insinuates a level of urgent desperation to be filled. This is the level of desperation with which we are to desire the Lord. Are you thirsty?

And I long to be in Your presence

I can recall moments of intimate worship that Jesus and I used to share when I was younger. I used to stay up late and sing to Him. I’m not a singer, but I was so in love that it didn’t matter to me. My voice may have been out of tune, but my spirit sang in perfect harmony with His. Somehow as the years have gone by, I became busy. Too busy to worship. Too sleepy to pray early. Too self-absorbed to spend time with Him. Too prideful to give Him all of me. Too preoccupied to miss His presence. Are you longing?

My soul will wait on You

Waiting can be the most torturous task to ask of someone. Even the most patient person among us will admit that there is something in their life that is unbearable to wait for. Waiting to become a teenager, to go to high school, to get a driver’s license, to graduate college, to start that dream career, to fall in love, to get married, to have a baby, to get out of debt, to pay the house off, to become grandparents…. The waiting never ends. Waiting takes having faith in the unseen. Waiting takes having complete trust in God’s sovereignty. Waiting is not idle time; it is eager expectation for the things we’ve hoped for. My soul, like the Trinity, is comprised of three parts: my mind, my will, and my emotions. My mind (thoughts) must trust God. My will (desires) must trust God. My emotions (feelings) must trust God. Are you waiting?

Father, draw me nearer

My heart is turning violently in my chest. With all my heart, I want Him to close the gap between us. I cannot stand the distance any longer. Are you drawn to Him?

Draw me nearer to the beauty of Your holiness

I am thirsty.

I am longing.

I am waiting.

I am drawing near.

Here I am.

Where Passion & Purpose Collide

The great thing about life is that behind every disappointment, success, failure, and triumph is a beautiful story waiting to be told. Every narrative features a colorful cast of key players who help challenge, encourage, and sharpen the protagonist. The main characters in my life have been my family. I grew up in a Christian home with God-fearing parents who taught me about the Lord. Suddenly, I was enamored by this wonderful God.

When I was twelve, my father revealed to me that God spoke to him and said, “Jeida will write for Me.” Literature and writing were two of my favorite indulgences so I was elated to weave God into them. Poetry, novellas, and play scripts flowed effortlessly from my pen as I began to pour myself into my writing. Fictional characters came to life on the page. Never once had I considered that I had forgotten a major component of God’s promise over my life.

Jeida will write for Me

As the year progressed, my ardor for writing waned. I began to resent the gift He had given me. I lost sight of God rather than choosing to lose everything to find myself in Him. I was striving to perform instead of wholly surrendering myself. I attempted to give my gifts to God while withholding fragments of my heart. The word He’d given my father wasn’t so much about the activity of writing but my willingness to be for Him. He was calling me to be a worshiper in every aspect of who I am.

Some people worship through song. Some people worship through dance. I worship with words. When I write I imagine reverberating echoes of celestial symphonies wafting to His throne. God breathes every word, phrase, and syllable into me so that I may exhale it back to Him. I thought I was pursuing God but He was pursuing me. I thought I needed Him to make my story relevant, but it’s never been my story. He invites me to be a part of His story. Writing is my passion, but Jesus is my purpose.  All that I am and all that I produce will be for His glory, His name, and His renown.  From writing to giving to serving, I am constantly emptying myself at His feet and worshiping Him with my best.

As for my brief chapter in his grand story, I have no idea what is next for me. All I know is that my life has been stitched into His story, and by Him and through Him it is already complete.

What about you? What is your passion, and how do you use it to glorify God?

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

— Colossians 3:17, ESV

Take It Off

I have been waiting for this moment for countless days. Every other monotonous task and chore I’ve performed has been a sullen prelude to the time when I would sit down and give written form to my sundry pensées. I’ve been juggling my thoughts inside of my head like a standard circus act for some time now, and when I finally get into a comfortable rhythm, more thoughts are thrown into the mix, thwarting my concentration and focus. I’ve done an amiss job of keeping these spheres of thought going in a smooth rotation, and I can sense that I’m about to drop some of them this very instant.  

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Those who know me are familiar with my extreme ardor for literature. There are days when there’s nothing I’d rather do than cuddle under a blanket with some Starbucks and a lengthy novel. American literature is my favorite because our history is so rich and pregnant with endless narratives. Literature has the unique ability to bring form and life to the grandest of historical events and the most mundane moments. It holds the power to shake a nation with the horror of slavery like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. It brings holy fear, conviction and revival like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. It fuels hope and inspiration like the Ain’t I A Woman and I Have a Dream speeches. Literature takes snapshots of history and molds them into tangible works of art that we can learn from and carry with us forever. I was confronted and comforted by a parable written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the Dark Romanticism era, The Minister’s Black Veil.



This story is centered around a young, gentle, and well-liked minister named Mr. Hooper in 18th century New England. One day Hooper ambles into his church donning a black, crepe veil over his face which obstructs everything save his chin and mouth. His parishioners are incredibly frightened down to their core at the spectacle. They tremble as he makes his way from the back of the church, down the aisle, and takes his place behind the pulpit to deliver his sermon. Hours, days, weeks, months go by and the black veil remains intact. No mortal eyes have connected with Hooper’s for longer than anyone can remember. Finally, his wife (the only one who isn’t afraid of him) begs for Hooper to remove his veil for her even if but for a moment. He refuses and she abandons him; she cannot bear to be married to a man who she can look at but cannot see, who she can know but never understand.

As I became engrossed with this story, I, too, was desperately curious about the purpose of Hooper’s veil. Never once was it removed, even when the children who once admired him ran from him in sheer horror. Surprisingly more people are saved than ever before because they liken their sinful state with the man behind the black veil. Still, most are ghastly afraid.

At the end of the narrative, Hooper is on his deathbed when he’s asked to remove his veil once and for all as he tiptoes into death. His response caused my heart to race.

“Why do you tremble at me alone?” cried he, turning his veiled face round the circle of pale spectators. “Tremble also at each other! Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil? What, but the mystery which it obscurely typifies, has made this piece of crape so awful? When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!”

Hooper’s observation knocked me in my chest with blunt force. As my teacher’s edition curriculum so perfectly notes, this story’s theme is about the unwillingness and inability to reveal our true nature. Hooper compares three relationships: friend to friend, lover to lover, and man to God. Revealing our true selves requires vulnerability and trust. The point of the matter is that most of us walk around with our own black veils intact. Basically Hooper is saying that people shouldn’t shudder when they see his veil because we are hidden behind our own veils–our unwillingness and inability to be vulnerable.

The last couple of weeks have been unusually difficult. My faith, prayers, joy, peace, and zeal for God were low while my insecurities, weaknesses, struggles, and fears were heightened beyond my own control. At least I didn’t think I had any control over them anymore. I found myself going through the “Christian girl” motions: hosting Bible studies, serving at church, attending prayer meetings, interceding for others. The truth is my heart wasn’t in any of those things, but I didn’t want to admit it to anyone else or to myself. As much as I wanted to share the tempest in my heart with my small group, my closest friends, and my parents, I just couldn’t bear to remove my veil. I didn’t want to hear the typical, “Just pray about it,” “God loves you,” “There’s grace for you,” answers. I know all of those things, but there is something else that needed to be challenged and shaken in my prideful, double-minded heart. I needed to do more than talk to God about how I felt. Prayer is what you make it. It is possible to pray and remain the same because it’s not our prayers that impressive God; it is our faith that pleases Him most. The veil in the Holy of Holies was torn so I could freely enter because Jesus came to earth, bled and died, and resurrected, yet I have carried my own veil of unwillingness to expose my greatest fears, weaknesses and sins to Him. This black veil began to turn my heart to ice and it was becoming easier to tolerate distance from the One who first loved me.

Thankfully, I had a friend who, like Hooper’s wife, demanded the black veil be torn away. My refusal wasn’t indignant, but flippantly disguised with the familiar phrase we all use when we don’t want to be bothered or pitied: “I’m okay, really.” I expected him to be like the others–tell me he would pray and then move on about his day. That’s what Hooper’s wife did to him. When he refused to remove the veil, her frustration at his declension drove her to abandon him. My friend didn’t leave me to rot like Hooper’s wife. No, he was persistent even when I tried to assure him I didn’t need anyone touching my veil. “I refuse to leave you alone,” he said. “I don’t want to push you to tell me, but I will push with you to overcome. You [are] priority tonight.”

Whoa.

He didn’t know it then but he used a God-given key to unlock a well of hope in me. It wasn’t so much what he said with his mouth, but the overwhelming sense of love and protection that reverberated from his action. He cared…and I was reminded of Jesus who never leaves me even when I wander away from Him.

For the first time in a long time I was vulnerable with my friend and expressed to him what had been eating me alive. He comforted me and I realized, “This feels good! It’s nice to come from behind this veil.” So, day-by-day, I am removing these layers (because it doesn’t come off in one big swoop) of protection and choosing to show myself–the whole me, the broken me, the ugly pieces of me–to a God who loved me before I ever made a single mistake.

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It is so freeing to be vulnerable with someone–whether family member, friend, lover, or God–and feel wholly loved, accepted, and cherished despite the myriad of weaknesses that mar my life. This week I am challenging myself to take off my black veil for Jesus and allow Him to touch my brokenness. He’s a Healer. There’s nothing He cannot solve within my desert soul. If you are struggling with vulnerability, I exhort you to be free! It’s never easy to be open and naked and exposed to the opinions of man or the holiness of God, but amazing transformation is available when you decide to take it off.


What about you? If the black veil represents an unwillingness to be vulnerable, what are the things that keep your veil intact?

Christ Died for Dead People

Our view of God is much, much too harsh and much, much too small. Some of us have grown up with the mentality that God is mean and waiting (dare I say hoping?) on our failure so that He can strike us down. May I encourage you? When God sent Jesus to die, we weren’t just a hopeless people; we were dead. Sin doesn’t make us bad; it makes us dead!

God’s view of a sinful humanity on the earth: dry bones.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

God looked down on earthly carcasses and His heart swelled with compassion and His love said, “Jesus, it’s time. Go bring them to life. Go make a way for My children to come to Me.” This means that God the Son died for already dead people. We were not just in bad shape. We were not just getting by. We were definitely far from living a whole life. We had no life. Can you imagine the conversation between the angels the day Jesus was crucified? I like to think they were gazing into each other’s eyes, hoping one of them had the answer for the madness happening on earth. “Maybe Michael has the answer! Find Gabriel! Gabriel will know. Why is Jesus, the Son of God who stood with His Father when the world was fashioned…hanging from a tree and becoming a curse for a bunch of dead people? What is God’s interest in these people?”

Oh, and does He ever have interest in us! This is the God we serve; a God who stretched out His hand toward a dead humanity and loved us fiercely! There’s nothing mean about this God.

But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

How astounding is it to read this scripture again with the fresh realization (or reminder) that our sin made us dead. We can never doubt God’s love for us ever again, no matter what we do, because He already sent Jesus to die for us in our state of death.

Flash forward to today. Jesus’ mission has been accomplished! Holy Spirit is here on earth, empowering Christians all over the world. Yet when we miss the mark, we allow a humanistic view of God tell us that there’s no way He will forgive us this time, or He doesn’t want to hear my prayer again, or because I sinned again now He definitely won’t bless me in the area of (fill-in-the-blank). God is not a mean God! Know that even when we fall short, He’s the parent who runs to His child’s side the moment we call on His help. What parent do you know would watch their child fall off of their bicycle and into the street, and wouldn’t immediately run to their rescue? How much MORE caring is the Lord God Almighty? When we fall — and we will all fall — God’s grace is sufficient! Even though there may be consequences to our sin, His love is outstanding and He is faithful to walk with us through the consequences.

I want two things to resonate with you today.

1. Christ died for dead people. Since this is true, you know that He loves you enough to see you through the difficult days and trying moments of life. Even when you make a mistake, God is eager to grant you grace and mercy. A God who died for dead people will surely rescue those He has brought to life.

2. God is not mean. I don’t care what anyone tells you about God; go study God’s character for yourself! God is compassionate and beautiful and just and bursting with glory, love, and splendor waiting to be explored. Surely He could never be a mean God.

If anyone told you otherwise, then someone lied to you.