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.

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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.

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.

Five Truths for Christian Singles

In February I began a mini-series on singleness as the Lord began to reveal some things to me about His plan for the single Christian. (If you missed them, check them out here: Lessons from Lot & I’m Saved, So Why Am I Single?) In the most recent installment, I listed a few reasons why many of us remain in our singleness season. After that message, I began to feel pressed to express truths for every single person in the Kingdom.

#1: You are not single because God has forgotten about you.

And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. — Jesus via Matthew 10:30, 31 

The Bible says that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Ephesian 3:19). The love of the Father is unfathomable and mindbogglingly inconceivable. How a perfect God could ever love us when we were yet in our sin is a mystery. But since we know He loves us, we know that there is no good thing He will withhold from us!

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gits to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! — Jesus via Matthew 7:11.

God not only loves you, but He cherishes you. He could never forget about you, for you are the very reason He sent Jesus to die. You are the motive for Jesus’ mission on earth. God was willing to lose Jesus for a moment in order to win you for an eternity. That same God could never forget about You, even when we forget about Him. You are a jewel in His crown and an important character in God’s love story. You were the “damsel in distress” (this is not just for the ladies, but for you, too, fellas!) whose Knight in shining armor paraded into the city on a donkey. That same King could never forget about His bride.

#2: You are not single because you are unattractive.

Then the Lord will appear over them; His arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet; He will march in the storms of the south, and the Lord Almighty will shield them… The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people. They will sparkle in His land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be! — Zechariah 9:14-16

We already know that we are fearfully and wonderfully made…that every fabric of our being was not only designed and fashioned by God, but His hands stitched and molded us into the person you and I are today. God has been dreaming about you since before the world was made. How He longed for someone who looks exactly like you! So, out of His bosom you were formed. Not only that, but Zechariah depicts God as a warrior in this passage. He swoops in and saves the day and He goes on to note how amazing and beautiful those jewels in His crown are. There is no possible way that you–God’s finest handiwork–are single because you are not attractive. You are a wonder to behold. As you fashion your spirit-man to look more like Jesus, that glow will turn heads left and right. Don’t think you’re single because of how you look or because (you think) no one notices you. Perhaps, the onlookers don’t have the capacity to fully appreciate the amazing creation that you are. Even if they cannot see your wonder or behold your beauty, you stop God in His tracks every time He looks down on you.

#3: You are not single because you have baggage.

Do you want to know how I can dare to say this bold statement? I’ll let you in on my secret. We all have baggage! There is not a single soul in existence who does not suffer or struggle from some sort of baggage or wound. Whether self-inflicted or afflicted from external forces, we all have baggage in our trunk. The good news about this is that God is a healer!

But for you who revere My name, the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall…on the day when I do these things, says the Lord Almighty. — Malachi 4:2,3

God has likened us as young calves who have been locked away in a stall…that when He comes and heals us from our baggage, we will leap and gallivant with freedom, exuberance and the testimony that God has redeemed us and removed the reproach of baggage! No, my dear, you are not single because of your baggage because we all have baggage, and God is faithful to remove baggage and all of the damage that is associated with it.

#4: You are not single because there are no more eligible men or women left.

This is a lie that the devil wants you to believe in order to coax you into settling for the next person who makes his or herself available to you. There are so many men and women of God swarming around this world, but that’s not the issue and it should not be your concern. In your waiting season, your delight should be in the Lord. Trust Him. When we complain that there is no one left for us to marry, we are ultimately expressing our unwillingness to trust the Lord to write our love story. How silly that we would dare second-guess the Author of our life’s story when He knows the end from the beginning! So, yes, there are plenty of amazing people who God is yet preparing for us, but don’t get in a rush to end your singleness so that you can snag yourself one of them. Sisters, every good man is not your man. Fellas, every beautiful lady is not yours to have and hold forever. Wait on God to lead you to the one you’re supposed to finish your life’s mission with. Delight in God and stop looking!

#5: You are not single because you are inadequate.

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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. — Jesus via Matthew 11:28-30

To my dear friends who suffer from feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, incompetence, or just a sense of impossibility that marriage or a healthy relationships could ever be a reality in your life…I leave you with this simple, yet powerful truth. God gives strength to the feeble, hope to the hopeless, and comfort to the weary. It doesn’t matter what you have experienced in life, you are not inadequate and a healthy relationship is in God’s dream for you! If you are a believer in Jesus, the Bible says you are more than a conqueror! Every good thing is available to you and I, not because of anything we have done to deserve it, but simply because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. God loves marriage. He desires love for you because He is love. Love doesn’t need you to perform in order to earn it. You need not jump through any hoops. All you must do is let God embrace you in His arms and envelop you in His inconceivable love. That love heals, protects and completes us all through and through. It will wash away every thought and lie from the enemy that tells you that you are inadequate and somehow don’t deserve true love. God’s love will rebuild everything in you the devil tried to destroy…and when that love does its perfect work, God can trust you in the arms of a man or woman who is almost as crazy about you as God is.

I have given you five reasons why I know that you’re not single, but I will close by giving you one reason why I know you ARE single right now. It is this beautiful truth:

You are single because, for the time being, your God wants you all to Himself.