Planting of Splendor

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The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me…
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.

Isaiah 61

No matter where you are today, what your life circumstance, how large the obstacle feels, He will use even this and you will be planted for the display of His splendor.  Even in this.  Because of this.  Splendor will come.

He Leads, So We Can Be Brave

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Be Brave.

That’s the entire title of the speech I’ve been giving this past month as I travel.

The how I often have to leave unsaid

How?  Because He’s got it.

The Bible is clear on this point.  All the stuff, the external metrics we’re so obsessed with living up to every day even though they keep changing, becomes irrelevant in light of the Scripture.  Once the measuring stick is gone, it’s tremendously freeing for a leader.

I couldn’t be free, or brave, without the cornerstone of my faith.

This is where I hang my metaphorical hat:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to doEph. 2:8-10

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Phil. 1:4-6

Did you catch that?  Three simple, freeing, promises:

1.  We are His work.

2.  He created us to do good works that He already has PREPLANNED.

3.  And He will carry out His good work in us.

External forces will always tell us there is a new barometer by which we must measure success.  Right?  Facebook changes its publicity policy faster than anyone can track.  The networking technique of today turns changes to the branding yourself tool of tomorrow.  That six figure salary won’t put a single kid in private school while you juggle your mortgage and car payment.

The money is never enough.  The promotion doesn’t buy satisfaction.  The plastic surgery, social media, luxury handbag or SUV, the front page headline, the publication, the big award, they never provide freedom.  They just provide more pressure.  To do the next big thing.  To surpass your last achievement.

But. God.

Endless freedom.  Stable assurance.  They form the foundation for a lifetime of brave leadership.

God wants you to succeed more than you do.  He just wants you to succeed differently.  {===> Click To Tweet}

He wants you to see that you are beautiful and loved and forgiven and a conqueror because HE created you.

He wants you to fulfill all the good works He has preplanned and stored up for you.  He’s just waiting for you to ask the simple question:

What God?

Where God?

When God?

How God?

Then He will carry out that good work to COMPLETION.  That’s right, all those good works will be done beyond anything we could have imagined for ourselves (Eph. 3) because He’s doing it.  We just have to go where He says.

Do you know how bravely you can lead when the pressure is off of YOU?

The pressure is on Him.

You just get to say, “okay, let’s roll,” and everything else is up to Him.  We follow where we’re supposed to go even if it feels NUTS.  Even if it’s antithetical to the way everyone says we’re supposed to do it.  The world says, “write a blog about only one topic if you ever want to succeed.”  God says, “mmm, no, I want you to write about a dozen things, none of them related, and any one of which might turn off the people who read the other thing.”  Crazy, right?  But SO freeing.  The world says, “speak more and more and take the bigger promotion and salary and do it bigger and bolder.”  God says, “why don’t you just stay quiet for a while, and wait on the promotion, and hang out with neighbors instead.”   Are you kidding me?  Oh, but how much more fun is it to do it the crazy way.

A girlfriend recently said, “I can’t get over how fun this is.  This following Him in the ways He takes me and doing the things I used to be way too scared to do.  Can you believe how He is using this simple act of obedience?  It’s nuts.  And so fun!”

If are ready for a wild brave leadership ride, then spend a little time each morning asking God those simple questions and then head out wherever He leads.  It will be scary and fun and nerve-racking and breathtaking and unexpected.  He’s leading, so we can be brave!

Leading with Light: Propel

I am so honored to have had the opportunity to share a little bit of my changing mission field over at Propel Women, the amazing women’s leadership initiative launched by Christine Caine.  Their mission is, “Helping women internalize a leadership identity & fulfill their purpose, passion & potential.”

Excerpt from Leading with Light:

My father and grandfather were preachers.  I remember mission Sundays where I would hear the visiting missionaries recount stories of sharing their faith in forests and deserts.  In fact, as a girl in elementary school, I felt called to the mission field and even walked down the aisle one mission Sunday to commit my young self to that path.

Little did I know.

Won’t you join me over at Propel to read the rest of the story?

Pray Anyways

She was so sick.

We had walked through days of fevers and lethargy with her and she was wiped out.  At five years old, days strung together with fever is too much.

So Monday night we kneeled down by her bed for bedtime prayers and asked our God for help.  {I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121}

We boldly asked for His hand to hold her and to relieve the pain and the fever and the exhaustion.  We prayed believing.

Then she woke in the middle of the night with another 104 degree fever.  We dosed with medicine and ice packs, and she limped into bed with us.  When we woke that morning, I told her how sorry I was that she was still so sick here on day 5.  She looked up at me, weakly smiling, and offered, Well mommy, we’ll just keep praying and praying and praying until I get better.

She teaches me every single day.  She teaches me about bravery.  She teaches me about persistence.  She teaches me about deeper faith.

And so I crawled out of bed and got on my knees and we offered up another offering of prayer to our Heavenly Father.  {Your prayers have come as a memorial offering to God. Acts 10:4}

Sometimes that is what prayer is: an offering.  Given with every ounce of faith you have.  Or beyond.

Tonight, just one week later, I found myself on my knees at the door of another child.  With an even bigger offering.

Praying beyond any wisdom I possessed but trusting in a God that sees and knows and can answer in ways I can’t even see to ask.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LordAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…  Proverbs 3:5

I don’t know what you are up against today.  But there is an answer.  Maybe one you can’t see your way to through the hurt or tears or anger or frustration or confusion or exhaustion.  God sits exalted above all of the dust and din that surrounds us.  {For everything in heaven and earth is yours…You are exalted as head over all.  Chronicles 29:11}

It may take everything in you to get down on your knees and beg for answers or healing or a reprieve or restoration, but find a way.  And after crying out in the evenings, when the morning comes, and you still don’t see a way out, you keep praying and praying until it gets better.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Ephesians 6:18

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  Luke 18:1

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you.  I Thessalonians 5:16-18

How Could I Ask For More?

So the trees were all there dancing in the breeze.  Rustling their leaves above the noises of kids playing well below their branches while the moon looked on and the sun fell.

I stood still.  Scared any movement would frighten this moment away.  I struggle living in the moment.  But the moment had me wrapped up in its tangles and I was in no rush to break free.

Our Lenten gratitude ribbons danced on the gate in their blues and greens and pinks and yellows and inspired little bit to her own free-form, wind-blown dance.

I felt such utter gratitude, in the deepest marrow of my bones, as I breathed it all in.

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Grateful for little tee-ball players rounding their first bases of the season.

Grateful for snatches of real conversation held with friends so dear to me over the melee of children’s banter.

Grateful for a church committed to the neighbors on their street and the ones all the way over in Kenya.

Grateful for a husband home safely smelling of the land and sporting three day stubble.

Grateful for the first swim of the spring and the pink cheeks reflecting hours soaking up the sun.

Grateful for children who listened and obeyed and laughed and played and helped and worked and slept and swam and ate and danced and prayed.

Grateful for even the bloodied lip because it meant we were alive and dirty and playing and falling down and getting back up to do it all over again.

 

A song played on college radio two decades ago, and it ran on repeat in my head tonight.  It’s all I could think.  It’s all I can say…

There’s nothing like the warmth of a summer afternoon
Waking to the sunlight, being cradled by the moon
Catching fireflies at night, building castles in the sand
Kissing mama’s face goodnight and holding daddy’s hand
Thank you, Lord, how could I ask for more?