Stormy Faith

Here’s what I know:

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this move that is right now set to happen between Tuesday and Wednesday.

I don’t know where we are going to live because we haven’t found anyone who will rent to us due to our current circumstances.

I don’t know how there can be so many people praying for us and yet I know nothing about what happens next.

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Here’s what else I know:

I know God’s ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts.

I know nothing is impossible for God.

I know God created the heavens and the earth and the oceans and he placed the stars in the sky.

I know God cares deeply for me and will never abandon or forsake me.

I know my faith does not depend on my feelings or my circumstances.

Even so.

Fear battles faith with every flaming arrow the enemy has in his quiver and doubt swirls like a storm only Jesus can quell as He did for His disciples on the Sea of Galilee.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

The storm is fierce and my faith is not only little, like the disciples, it is shaky at best.

Even so.

God is faithful even when He seems silent; and I will trust Him and I will wait on Him. I will say yes, even when He says wait a little longer. I will say yes, even if He says no.

Though every ounce of my limited, broken, bone-weary, and fear-filled humanity cries out, “No!” and, “I can’t!” and, “I won’t!” and, “Where are you?” and, “Why, God, why?!” I will trust Him. I will look back at the places from which I have come and recall the ways He has provided and that He has always met me where I am. I will remember His faithfulness.

I will say, “Yes.”

I will.

No matter what, I will say, “Yes.”

Faith on the Move

We’ve lived in this rental house for just about four years, and, the thing is, from about the first three months, I vehemently disliked it and began thinking about moving. It’s poorly insulated and an oil-fueled furnaced (which was expensive to fill and when it ran, because of the poor insulation, barely kept us warm enough without space heaters; the landlord has since had to replace the system), it had a leaky roof (that the landlord replaced), several windows whose cranks didn’t work, and a laundry list of other things, including an uneven gravel driveway upon which I broke my leg and no backyard in which our now 6.5 and 8.5 little girls could play.

imageThe location was not ideal for homeschooling because the co-ops were at least 45 minutes away and the autism-related therapists and other resources for our 8.5 daughter were a 45-50 minute drive each way. We felt isolated and my husband was driving an hour each way to work for the first two years we lived here.

We talked about moving. Often. Still we put it off. We made the best of things. Even so, it’s never been a good fit for us, for our family and what we desire, like community and fellowship and friendships. We knew this. In fact we were completely convicted of it, and, yet, we stayed put. Until now.

Sometimes, you know what you need to do, even what you should do; but you don’t do it. Maybe because of fear. Maybe because of lack of resources. Maybe because it’s too much work or too hard. Maybe, just maybe, because of shaky, wavering faith.

And, sometimes, in light of these things, if you are so wildly bold as to ask God to increase, strengthen or otherwise grow your faith, you may find yourself walking on water despite your every inclination to stay in the boat.

Because, sometimes, unlike Peter, who immediately stepped onto the waves at the invitation of Jesus, when Jesus bids us to join Him on the water, we choose to sit and stare out at Him. Maybe we’re hoping to work up the courage it requires. Maybe we’re waiting for the storm to subside. Maybe we’re hoping He’ll change His mind and not ask so much of us.

Yet all the while we know this is our moment. Even so, we sit idly in the boat.

And so sometimes, rather than waiting on you to climb out on your own, Jesus allows circumstances to swirl into chaos and life’s storms to grow fiercer until you’re tossed out of the boat and into the raging sea.

Faith Like Peter

Then, you have no choice but to make a choice: walk on the water like He’s been calling you to do, or sink under the weight of your fear and doubt and uncertainty.

For us, walking on water looks a whole lot like moving to Wilmington, North Carolina. The storming circumstances have demanded we walk on water or sink. Those circumstances include a job layoff for my husband and the unexpected sale of the rental house we’ve been in for four years. Moving is no longer something we can talk about or consider; it’s a reality.

Walk on water or sink.

We’re choosing to walk on water. We’re choosing to keep our eyes on Jesus in spite of the swells that surround us. We’re choosing to trust Him even when everything inside us screams with doubt, even panic. We’re choosing faith over fear.

WHAT FAITH LOOKS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

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We have stacks like this all around our dining room and in several other spots. We are living in chaos now even as we cling to the supernatural peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

WHAT FAITH SOUNDS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

I have two playlists that are in constant rotation right now. The first, Life is Hard, includes songs that remind me to hope in the face of struggle, with titles like, Breathe by Johnny Diaz and Worn by Tenth Avenue North and Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman and several selections by Andrew Peterson and Sara Groves and Sidewalk Prophets.

The second, Balm for My Soul, includes several hymns covered by some of my favorite artists, including Sara Groves, Mark Schultz, Casting Crowns, Chris Rice, and Bart Millard. These songs are rich in tradition and hope and faith and they keep my eyes, my mind, and my heart turned toward Jesus.

WHAT FAITH FEELS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

Faith in the midst of a storm tends to feel like a hundred things at once. The “right now” moves through myriad emotions, but even so, one thing remains true through this roiling rollercoaster: faith is not based on how I feel in any given moment. Faith is a choice, and it’s one we sometimes have to make from moment to moment. And I believe God appreciates and understands and even honors that.

Faith feels like truth. It feels like solace. It feels like an adventure. It feels like a whole lot more God and less me. Faith feels like walking on waves that swell, crest and trough. But mostly, faith feels like the hand of Jesus reaching down to pull me back out of the depths whenever I misstep.

Prayer For The Weary

(note: The Faith Like Peter image is a print of my words on a gorgeous photo taken by a fellow writer, David Bouchard, during one of his mission trips to Brazil. This print, and the one above, Faith for the Weary (my words also over one of David’s photos), are for sale for $15 and you can contact me about them on Facebook. More information to come in a separate post.)

The Force of Faith

One by one, our friends and colleagues were called into managers’ offices and let go. The rumors of layoffs were no longer rumors and tensions and second guessing were running rampant as folks gathered in small groups to discuss who would stay and who would go.

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You’re safe. They’re not going to let you go. They need you.

These words were echoed by several of my co-workers as we waited to meet with our boss. Although there were two other paralegals and two law school interns, I’d been with the company the longest and Mike depended on my litigation experience.

Even so, when I sat across the desk from Mike, he said the words nobody expected me to hear: Judy, I have to let you go.

I smiled. I mean, how could I not? I’d talked about leaving this job to pursue writing and I didn’t really love being a litigation paralegal. After all, I’d left my job at a New Haven law firm three years earlier in order to attend graduate school in Boston to get my MFA in creative writing. I’d taken the in-house paralegal job at this engineering firm because Mike was super flexible with my class schedule and pretty easy to work with as well.

But this wasn’t where I wanted to be, so, when Mike said those words, I smiled. When he offered to fight for me to keep my position with the company, I smiled even wider, and shook my head. I appreciated his willingness to do so (it meant a lot to me), but what I knew about what was happening was God was at work, not the company.

God was pushing me out of Egypt because He’d heard my grumbling and listened to my prayers and He knew I wasn’t going to go without a well-meaning shove. Faith works that way in my life sometimes. I like to think of it as the force of faith.

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The force of faith is when I pray and I know what I probably need to do. Actually, I know without the probably what I need to do, but I hesitate. I cling to what I know and I stick around my Egypt a little bit longer and, then, I wander in the desert and grumble about God’s plan and yearn to return to the now-glorified memory of my Egypt.

Like the Israelites, when Moses showed up and led them from Egypt with promises of a land flowing with milk and honey, I longed for freedom in the promised land as long as it came with the constraints and safety of my comfortable Egypt. But we all know that’s not how life with God works; that’s not what living by faith looks like.

Thus, the force of faith.

Because sometimes faith looks like a layoff in order to set your feet upon the path that will lead you toward better things. And when we take that step (even if we are sometimes forced into that step), faith can propel us in ways we cannot know when we are standing still.

Quite often I reflect on the moment I was laid off and the journey it started for me. It was a journey that involved learning to say, yes, to God when God said, no, and when He said, go. I find myself thinking about that moment even more these days because it reminds me that God truly keeps His promises and He is who He tells me He is. That time in my life drew me into a deeply personal place with God and I still marvel at how He worked in me and my life; it was a time of deep abiding and it was a wild adventure, too.

And that is something I need to hold fast to in the days to come because God is at work again with another well-meaning push, only this time it involves leaving the rental home we’ve been meaning to leave for over a year now. But, moving is overwhelming and expensive and brings a host of unknowns.

Except God knows. God knows we need to go. God knows where we should go. God knows how we’re going to get there.

And He’s calling us to trust Him. He’s calling us to say, yes, when He says, go. I’m fairly certain there will also be some noes along the way, too. But my experience reminds me to trust Him without hesitation.

So, it isn’t all that surprising that the couple who came and looked at the property on Thursday last week had a contract to purchase the place by Friday and that we have to move by the end of August.

It wasn’t surprising, but still it was overwhelming. At least at first it was. It was until I remembered that day in Mike’s office and how God began yet another good work in me then, like He is now. Because now, I see it as another adventure in faith with God. And, so, we go. We go in faith. We go with God. We go with prayer.

We go…

Heart to Heart with Jesus

It’s Holy Week, and like no other time, my heart draws near to the heart of Jesus. Through the heart of His earthly journey in Jerusalem His life and ministry draw to its incredible end. My mind seems to turn often to His final days in Jerusalem. I want to be near Him. I want to be with Him because I want Him to know how deeply I love Him and need Him.

IMG_7547His end is drawing near. It will be excruciating in the suffering it brings to Him, and, yet, His end brings my beginning. My new beginning; a new beginning freely offered to me every time I stumble or fail or fall short or doubt or turn away. It is this new beginning in Him I covet every day. Because each day brings its own trials, challenges, and struggles, His presence in the midst of those moments provides me opportunities to witness His faithfulness, His unconditional love, and His unending, amazing grace.

Even so, I know that these gifts which are so freely given cost Him everything. Therefore as each day of this Holy Week ends and we move closer to the cross and the crucifixion, I find no words to express the emotion of my heart or the contemplations of my mind.

My mind places me alongside Him on His journey around Jerusalem. This journey to His death. As for my heart, it sees the depth of His passion and drinks deeply His human struggle toward obedience to the plan He and His Father created for just this moment.

And though I know this journey, His journey, leads to resurrection, I allow myself to embrace only this moment and to hear His words and wonder at their meaning. His discussion of faith and His words on the Mount of Olives. It calls to mind the unknowns and the fear this life brings to bear on the shoulders and hearts of each of us.

And it reminds me the importance of why faith matters. Why my faith matters.

Faith transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Faith infuses the mundane with the holy.

Faith breathes life into the weary.

Faith offers me countless second chances and new beginnings.

Faith reminds me that this man called Jesus, though He was also God, chose the cross, chose humiliation, chose suffering, chose death, so that I could choose life. Every day.

imageEvery day I can choose a life that is made new in Him. And so, today, my heart draws near to the heart of the One who loves me enough to die for me. I join Him on His journey as He moves through these final days in Jerusalem. He knows what’s coming and He invites me to come and join Him, at the table, in the garden, at Golgotha.

And with a heart both burdened and expectant, I come. I join Him for each step of this journey because I love Him and I need Him and I want Him to see that in my every step as I join my heart and steps to His.

The Whisper of Truth

Do you hear a whisper of truth? A whisper as soft as snow falling in the night and equally beautiful.

Do you hear it? Is it telling you things that are familiar and, yet, unknown to you in this moment?

Heed the whisper.

Embrace the truth.

There is truth in the quiet discontent of the soul that seeks more; that seeks truth; that seeks the Creator.IMG_8762It is His voice, His whisper, His truth.

And it beckons.

It resonates somewhere beneath the surface of who you think you are and how you see yourself, because God does not look at you the way you look at you. God sees you as He created you.

He knows you.

He knit you together in your mother’s womb.

He created you for good works that only you can complete.

And because He created you, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You matter. You matter to God and you matter to the world because there are words only you will speak that someone needs to hear. There are things only you can do; amazing and life-giving things.

But you must trust Him.

You must heed His truth and His whisper.

You must embrace not only His truth, but who He created you to be.

If you’ve lost who that is, if you’ve lost your way, cry out to Him. Ask Him to reveal to you who you are in Him.

If there is a restlessness in you, seek Him and ask Him to shine His light upon your path and show you the way that you should go.

Don’t settle for what you think is true; believe in what is really true. Trust the One who knows you and created you and cares for you.

He’s waiting for you to embark on an adventure with Him today. Are you ready?

Enough for Right Now

By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”  Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (John 6:17-21)

Fear Not(47/365 Days of Fear Not)

Change is a lot like darkness sometimes.

It’s difficult to see where I’m going.

I can’t see what comes next.

I know it won’t last; that I won’t be in this place of transition for an extended time. But it can feel like that, you know?

Facing change can be like being in a boat in the middle of the night when the winds pick up and the seas grow rough. I can feel out of control. And I can feel deeply, sorely afraid.

And sometimes, the presence of Jesus causes me even greater fear.

Have you ever been there?

Have you ever been in a place where the presence of Jesus in the midst of your life rocks your boat even more than the storm itself?

You’re afraid that He’s going to ask you to do something you don’t want to do.

You’re afraid that He’s going to send you somewhere you don’t want to go.

You’re afraid that He’s going to take away something you love: a dream, the vision you have for your life, a job, a passion, the status quo, the comfort of being stuck, your excuses.

You’re afraid that He’s going to step into your boat, into your life, into your right now, and take away all of the reasons you’ve created for what you’re doing or for what you’re not doing.

And you’re right to think so.

Because that’s exactly what He wants to do. But only if we’ll let Him. Only if I let Him.

I look up in the darkness and I see Him approaching me as I am tossed around by the storm of change and I’m frightened. Because He’s walking on the surface of the storm and though it swirls around Him, it affects Him not. Who is this Jesus? And what does He want?

I want to know, but He doesn’t say.

All He tells me when He comes near is: It is I; don’t be afraid.

Is that enough for me?

It was enough for the disciples: they were willing to take Him into the boat.

But what about me? Is it enough for me?

The disciples were willing because they knew Him. They’d lived with Him and traveled with Him and broken bread with Him and seen Him in action doing miracles and loving the outcasts.

They knew Him and so they trusted Him. And because they trusted Him they were willing to take Him into their boat. And immediately their boat reached the shore where they were headed.

The idealist dreamer in me would like to think that that’s all there was to it. That they reached their goal and now they could kick back and take it easy.

But that’s not how it works, is it?

Once they hit the shore, they still had many miles to travel and much more work to do and even a whole lot more to learn from Jesus.

That’s where I am right now.

Things in my life are changing direction and I don’t know where they’re going. My dreams are shifting and changing shape and even priority in my life right now. And the details of my day-to-day that have been so familiar to me for so long need tweaking at the very least and, in some instances, complete overhauling.

I have a strong sneaking suspicion that Jesus wants to take my excuses and my doubts and that He wants to stretch the comfortable places inside my passion and purpose and God-given dreamscape so that I can create them anew with Him.

And I want to know what that’s going to look like. But all He’ll say right now is: It is I; don’t be afraid.

Is that enough for me?

For today, it is.

In this moment I’m willing to take Jesus into my boat and let Him get me to the shore.

And as hard as it is, I’m willing to say that that’s enough for right now.

 

 

The Inner Workings of a Dream

At that time I said to you, “You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky. May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised! But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.”

You answered me, “What you propose to do is good.”

So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. And I charged your judges at that time, “Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.” And at that time I told you everything you were to do. (Deuteronomy 1:9-18)

Fear Not

(30/365 days of Fear Not)

Sometimes, when I’m working on my God-given dream or living out my God-given purpose, I forget that the work is not all about me and that it’s meant to be shared. It’s meant to point others to God.

But there are times when I feel protective of my vision and so I’m selfish with it.

In fact, I try to keep it to myself so that no one knows what I’m doing. I figure that the fewer people who know what I’m doing or growing or creating, the fewer naysayers there will be. The fewer dissenters. The fewer haters.

But that’s not how God designed this business of living out the dreams He’s given each of us. He has planted a purpose, His purpose, in our hearts so that we can bring a small part of His kingdom to bear on the world around us. A world that is broken and hurting. A world that is desperate for Him and His dream-bearers.

But we cannot go it alone.

Eventually, our vision, our calling, our purpose, our dream must be shared with those around us and with whom we live our lives. We need community. We need an inner circle.

Consider Moses.

He was leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Part of Moses’ role as their leader included hearing disputes and bearing the problems and conflicts of the community. But as God increased their numbers, this became too much for Moses to bear alone.

He needed others to share his vision and share his burden.

He needed wise and respected leaders to serve as his inner circle and to serve the people and to bear the problems and burdens of the community.

Moses needed help.

We all do.

And we don’t need to be afraid to ask for help or to delegate part of our vision to a trusted and wise inner circle.

Eventually, all we do and all we build belongs not to us but to God.

We need to trust Him to guide us and to provide an inner circle for us.

And as He does this, as He provides a trusted team, we need to heed their counsel as much as we lead them with our vision.