All Things New.

You know the feeling you get when someone mentions the name of a person who has wronged you? Or talks about a place that represents a season of pain and brokenness?

Maybe it’s an ex. Or a former business partner who cheated you bad. Maybe it’s an old friend, a boss, a church, or a professor.

Your heart starts beating kind of quickly. Your palms get a little sweaty. That strange pit comes into your stomach and you feel nauseous and anxious and angry all at once. Memories are weird, aren’t they?

As I read and heard the Christmas story this year I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s what Joseph and Mary felt when the angel appeared to them and told them to go to Egypt.

“Now when they had departed, behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, and destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.” Matthew 2:13-15

Egypt. The nation who oppressed the people of God for hundreds of years. Four centuries of ruthless taskmasters and unfair enslavement. Four hundred years of pain and hurt and brokenness.

Mary and Joseph had already been required to trust the Lord a lot. Mary who bravely trusted. Joseph who “resolved to divorce her quietly” until being met by an angel. They who were visited by mysterious messengers of God, bearing little instruction and a weighty promise. Who chose to obey knowing that they would be misunderstood and ostracized. Who travelled to Judea for a census and were denied a proper room. Who gave birth in a beaten down shed and put their brand new baby in an animal’s feeding trough. Who were now asked to go to Egypt.

I wonder if they felt betrayed by God. Scripture doesn’t give us any reason to believe they were visited by angels between the announcement of Mary’s pregnancy and the arrival of the shepherds and wise men. What did they think as they waited? Did they question God’s goodness? Did they regret being chosen for the task? Did they wonder, “When will it end?”

And then Jesus is born on a trip away from home and they are warned in a dream not to go back. Instead, “Go to Egypt.” Rephrase: Go find safety in the nation who deeply oppressed and brutally abused your ancestors. Find refuge in a place of past horror.

Think about that for a moment. They had travelled with nothing more than what fit on the back on their donkey and now they’re asked to go far from home, in the complete opposite direction.

I just can’t stop thinking, “Could that possibly be any worse?”

But the more I wonder and the more I press into the character of a God who fights for what makes us holy above what makes us happy, I think rather, “Could that be any more like Jesus?”

“And He who was seated on the throne said,‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” Revelation 21:5

In fact, the very first thing Jesus did on Earth was to be the agent that God used to lead his family back to Egypt where they would find protection instead of abuse. What a stunning picture of grace.

All things new. All things new.

So often He asks us to look back on the things we’ve said “See ya, never” to. He asks us to reflect and to remember. He asks us to grieve and mourn.

He asks us to hope and He offers us healing.

2016 may have knocked you down hard. It may be full of people and places you never want to see again. I get it; I’ve got a list of my own.

As you take your first steps into 2017, might you ask the Lord to help you find the Egypts lingering in your heart? Is there a person, or a place, or a memory you refuse to revisit? Are you clinging tightly to bitterness and hurt? Are you willing to look back and consider that Jesus wants to make all things new… not just the easy things. Not just the comfortable or convenient.

Though we serve a God who beckons us to come as we are, it is the kindest intention of His heart to want to make you new. Don’t let a day more of this new year pass before you’re willing to step into the mess and ask Jesus to bring wholeness and healing.

So what’s the thing? Where’s the place? Who’s the person?

All things new, Beloved. All things.



Treasure the Moment


“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Luke 2:19 ESV

Thousands of gallons of water plummet incessantly from the heights of the Cascade Waterfall, and we’re swimming deep in the coves that catch it. Can you hear the rush of water? Can you feel the cold chill of the breeze on a wet body? We had traveled to Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, to share the gospel with a precious community of people. With a day off before we began, we adventured to Cascade with hours to simply play. We danced in the water, swam in hidden caves, and climbed the current-carved walls of Yahweh’s majesty. I could barely breathe, let alone speak. So I paused. And I treasured.


Mary knew the art of living in the now. Believing in the promise and surrendering to the King put her in the perfect position to ponder, to take in, to store up.

The art of living in the now is learning to treasure the simplest of conversations and the most meaningful of days. Like climbing in the playground of a waterfall carved by His hand, or treasuring the smell of pumpkin pie in a room full of the ones you love. During this advent season, as we celebrate the coming of the King, take time to treasure the moments. Remember the pitter-patter sound of little feet, and the high-pitched giggles of pig-tailed girls. Savor the bite of every cookie, and indulge in late night conversations over card games. Pause. Treasure. Love. In doing so, you welcome the beauty of now.



You’re Gonna Have to Hike…

“But you’re gonna have to hike.”

Little did she know that just days before as my team flew into the beautiful mountains of Haiti, I had looked longingly at the stunning mountain range and asked the Lord timidly, “Could I please go for a hike this week?”

I knew it was unlikely. We were traveling with a most efficient organization. Schedules would be unlikely to change, time would be unlikely to spare. An opportunity to leave the protected campus to gallivant in the mountains as my heart so desired would not avail itself, I was quite sure.

But boy, did I want to. I thought back on the opportunities I’ve had to travel this beautiful world, nearly every adventure has included time in the mountains. Coming from Florida, hiking was not a thing I grew up loving. Instead, it’s a love that has steadily grown through adventures abroad (and some stateside, too).

There was sadness in my heart as we flew into Haiti early that Wednesday morning and I gazed on the wonder around us. I thought briefly to the hikes I’ve taken abroad and felt again the tender way the Lord has spoken to me in the mountains. Knowing it was a foolish question, I asked again anyways: “Could I please go for a hike this week?”

I couldn’t help but giggle when Haley, the sponsorship coordinator at Mission of Hope, approached me at breakfast on our second morning to tell me she had arranged for me to visit the darling little girl I sponsor. But she was quick to explain:

“Idene lives at one of our partner schools in the mountains and it’s a little more involved for us to travel there. The whole visit will take several hours and to get there you’re gonna have to hike. The hike itself is an hour and half each way… If you don’t want to go, we understand.”

I’m gonna have to hike?

Oh, how sweet our Jesus is to us.

You hear a lot of things when you choose to go into ministry. It’s well intended, I imagine, but it gives your mind a bent toward pessimism and negativity.

I was told that business or teaching was a better career choice. I could just volunteer at church and achieve the same results. I was told I could use my intelligence for far more than ministry. I was told that people would hurt me. That ministry was messy. People wouldn’t love well. They wouldn’t listen. I would end up wasting much of my time. I was told people would talk about Jesus a lot more than they would act like him. I was told it wouldn’t be worth it.

They were right about the first part. Ministry is messy. People are manipulative and selfish. They say hurtful things – to you and about you. There were days and sometimes weeks that I dreamed of cushy 8-5, a job where I left my work at the office.

But no one tells you that pouring your whole heart into a group of students has the ability to wreck you in the best possible way.

No one tells you ice cream dates with fourth graders will be the highlight of your week. No one tells you that watching your students at “signing day” for a college sport will make you swell with more pride than your own finest day. No one tells you you’ll cry when you watch them share the gospel on a hot summer day in Haiti. No one tells you that you’ll beam as you watch them walk across the stage, and that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night wondering how they’re doing in college.

No one tells you you’ll cry the ugliest cry of your whole life as you drive away, with everything you own packed tightly in your little SUV. No one will tell you that leaving will be the hardest thing the Lord could ever ask you to do.

And no one tells you it will all be worth it.

People tell you it’s messy alright, and surely they aren’t wrong. But no one tells you how much better you will become. How deeply your heart will desire that they know Jesus. How quickly you would be willing to give up everything, if only they might trust Him with the pains & sorrows of their lives.

We’re quick to highlight the bad days and to discourage people from going knee-deep in the mess of another person’s life. We’re quick to tell people when it will be hard; when it won’t be worth it. Can I be the first to tell you?

You’re gonna have to hike.

Anything worth having in life – with the Lord and with others – is worth hiking for. You’re gonna have to hike…

To know Jesus intimately. To serve Him recklessly. To pursue the girl you can’t stop thinking about. To wait for the boy who seems to fumble through every word. To get the job you dream of. To create the family you long for. To be obedient. To be faithful. To grow. It will often be impractical and expensive. It will be easier to say ‘no’ and never think of it again.

That adventure into the Haitian mountains on a hot Monday morning was long, and it was hot, and we were wretchedly sweaty when we got to the top. My neck was purple from a sunburn and I was reminded how out of shape I truly am. Yet it is lodged in my heart as one of the dearest memories of my whole life. It was a hike, alright, but meeting Idene on her 5th birthday from a mountain top overlooking the nation of Haiti with the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop? I’d hike it again ten thousand times.

Whether you’re hiking through long days at camp, or volunteering to lead a middle school small group at church, or deciding if someone is worth it, or simply wading through a rough season personally…

Might we be quick to count others worth the mess. Might we be quick to invest, to love, to care deeply. To give all we have for the cause of others knowing and treasuring our precious King.

You’re gonna have to hike. And in case no one has told you yet, it’s going to be tremendously worth it.

The Best is Yet to Come

As of this week, I have officially been out of college for as long as I was in college.

That reality is enough to make me want to vomit everywhere. Or cry the ugliest cry there ever was. It makes me sad. It really just makes me feel weird. It seems as though the sun should have asked for my permission to rise and set so many times.

Time is weird and thinking of how it passes so unapologetically is enough to send me spinning. I’m not the kind of person that needs a reason to get emotional. My Myers-Briggs personality type reveals an undeniable “F” – I am a feeler to.the.max.

So naturally, I’m a mess. As I wrap up a beautifully hard season in Texas, as I find a decade full of prayers and hopes and dreams, and as I consider that I have been post-grad for four dang years.

I remember a friend asking just weeks before my college graduation, “Everyone says that college is the best time of their life – how does it feel knowing your time is ending?”

I tried to not be offended at the senseless phrasing of the question and really probed my heart for an answer. I liked what came to mind and I’m standing by my initial thought that night:

The best is yet to come.

If life is truly as sweet as I think it could be, and if my Jesus is really the good King I believe him to be, then simply put: the best can’t be in the past.

I’m not always so confident. I’m tempted to wallow at the years that have passed. I’m tempted to wish I were a reckless twenty-year-old averaging 5 hours of sleep a night and skipping class to play in the ocean. I’m tempted to criticize the last four years as a waste, not good enough, second-best. But something in me just can’t do those things.

I just can’t get over the belief that Yahweh cares so deeply that we make the most of this life. I can’t get over thinking that if my best days were behind me, he would call me home. I can’t help but think that this life has the potential to be better tonight than it was this morning, and better tomorrow than it was today. He came to give us life, and life abundantly… didn’t he?

I surely don’t mean that trials won’t come or that life is always neat and tidy. I’ve had my share of winters and I’m sure there will be many more to come. But even in the midst, Jesus has allowed me to experience some really sweet moments in my nearly 26 years. And the last four, though post-grad, have brought some of my favorite adventures, some of my dearest friendships, and some of my biggest dreams.

I’m thankful for TimeHop to remind me that I was crossing the stage and moving my tassel on this day four years ago. I’m glad to remember the ending of one of my favorite seasons because it reminds me yet again that sweet seasons come and go, but they don’t have to claim superlatives as they leave us.

We’re nearly always ending a season of sorts. You may just now be ending a season of middle school or high school. You may be finishing college, or grad school and about to make your first big move, taking your first “real” position. You may be closing in on a season of singleness, or engagement. It could be a season of having your littles at home before kindergarten starts stealing their days. Maybe your youngest is graduating and you are (at long last) empty nesters. Maybe, like me, it’s an unexpected ending and a pending move, or position change is looming on the calendar, just a few weeks away.

Whatever this ending looks like, believe the best is yet to come. You need the lessons of this closing chapter to carry you further into the wild adventure of your glorious heart. You need to lean in; you need to draw close. You need to press in to the ugly, painful, torn up places of the season you are saying goodbye to. You need to write down your favorite moments, the stories you want to always remember. You need to bravely ask your King, “What do you want me to hold on to? What do you want me to let go of?”

Bitterness and anger and fear are heavy rocks to carry, and you’re just not supposed to take them with you. The lessons from the hardship? Keep ‘em. But the pain and hurt? Let it go, let it go.

Joy and freedom don’t weigh a thing and your boundless heart is made to hold it in abundance. Whatever season you are nearing the end of, would you believe this to be true?

So remember the nights you didn’t sleep because of your procrastination. Remember the boy that broke your heart. Remember the professors that spoke life and pushed you further into your calling. Remember the road trips. And as you remember, look with hope and all the heart eyes at the season to which our King is calling you next. He gives good gifts to his kids and I’m hoping this next chapter is sweeter than you could have ever hoped.

Surely, dear – the best is yet to come.


Ten Years.

It was just a few weeks ago that I spent an entire afternoon sorting the books on my shelves. I reached my breaking point when I went searching for the zillionth book “I knew I had” …but somehow couldn’t find.

As I sorted & sorted & sorted, I discovered a full shelf worth was simply journals. Thin floral Rifle Paper Co. sets, a fabric-covered notebook I made before traveling on one of my favorite international adventures, one boasting an antique map of the world (though somehow missing Australia…), and a host of simple brown, leather bound pages.

I watched the stack of journals grow in the sorting process, and I finally gave in to the inviting distraction. As I took a seat on my shaggy, grayish brown Ikea rug, I grabbed a random journal and flipped right to the middle, pulled immediately into the joys and woes of my college freshman heart.

One of my favorite practices has long been rereading through old journals to recall the prayers and petitions that have filled my heart and mind throughout the years. It is both humbling and humorous to recount the boys that caught my eye, the internships I hoped for, and the conflict that led to restlessness and late night prayers.

I opened one after another, only to find an earlier date than the one before it. “When did I start doing this?” I probed my mind. It really hasn’t seemed like long, but as I opened the two-toned brown journal with the imprint of a cross, I found the answer when a date jumped off the page:

April 2006.

Ten years.

Ten years of dreaming. Ten years of joy & hurt & celebration & sorrow.

I flipped and flipped through the pages of that first journal, and of the ones that followed. They carry so much. The loss of loved ones and the growth of treasured friendships. Stories of serving overseas, graduations, and moving across the country. It holds desperate cries, remnants of a broken heart, and lots & lots of hope.

Ten years of a faithful God listening to my fickle heart. Ten years of forgetful wanderings that always, somehow, eventually led me back to him.

There are prayers for which I remember every detail – where I was sitting and what I was feeling when the words first flowed onto the pages. There are others full of emotion for which I have zero recollection, causing me to giggle at how such a trial could simply not be remembered.

There are prayers I thank the good Lord for not answering and things I wanted that God so graciously denied (like that boy my 17 year old heart desired). There are others about which I still wonder why they’ve gone unanswered, prayers that have remained consistent now for a decade. And there are prayers I have long forgotten I once prayed as a teenager that my sweet Jesus has poured out in abundance.

There are prayers for people that I love with a fierceness words on a page could never express and there I names I struggle to remember, reciting the month and year of the prayer aloud, as if timing will help recall the names of people once significant to me.

There are pages with words smeared from the overflow of tears. There are some smeared with water I spit out, laughing unexpectedly at how this little life of mine has turned out. There are even more with coffee stains; each flaw I find simply delightful.

In all the memories and stirrings of my heart, perhaps the sweetest thing of all is the promise that my King has been listening with intention and waiting in anticipation for me to come before his throne and simply ask, seek, & knock.

I forget so easily.

Recounting old hopes and requests is a good practice for this heart of mine. I’m sadly no stranger to doubt and questioning, and I can’t but thank God for his abundant grace when these pages were filled only with why’s and when’s and how’s.

Our hearts need reminders and sometimes the faithfulness of God in the lives of the people around us just isn’t enough. Sometimes we need to remember a time in our own life, a time where we saw him fight for us. A time when we saw him lead and heard him speak just to us.

May I remind you of something? He loves to hear from you. He loves when you come full of messy desire. He loves when you come with a bold petition. He loves when you come just to say “thanks.” And whether those words are ever recorded on a page, I really believe he just delights when you come.

And I really think he loves to remind you in seasons of silence that he has not forgotten. You have not been overlooked. You’ll be fought for, even still. You’ll be taken care of and protected.

It is both terrifying and thrilling to imagine the prayers that I will pray over the next ten years. The nations I will visit, the trials I will face, and the people I will love. Standing on the brink of a new decade full of empty pages, I hope I’m always stirred by the significance of words and all they represent.

Do you have pages to look back on? Are there prayers you’ve forgotten you prayed or answers you’ve forgotten to thank Jesus for? The more you record the more you can remember.. so take a minute today to process on paper whatever season Jesus sovereignly has you in. The decade older version of yourself will be super thankful.

May we fight to be people that speak to our King. People that record the woes and the glories. And maybe most importantly, may we be people committed to looking back and remembering. It’s a sweet practice and so worthy of our time.

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” Psalm 143:5


Sit in the Silence.

Yesterday It was repeated with joy, “It’s Friday… but Sunday’s comin!”

Friday was heavy. It was dark and long and all hope seemed lost. When Jesus breathed his last everything seemed to shatter, and the pieces didn’t come back together nearly as quickly as we pretend they did.

We forget that Heaven held its breath in a holy pause that we don’t like or understand.

It makes us squirm when we think about it, and so we tend to simply not. But as broken and long and hard as we find Friday to be; we simply cannot skip over Saturday in anticipation for Sunday morning. We can’t because Yahweh didn’t. He surely could have designed history to proclaim, prophesize, and anticipate two days instead of three. He could have, and he didn’t.

It matters that we remember how Yahweh let the silence linger.

There is so much purpose to his design. He let the ones closest to Jesus wake up and live a whole day with no answers, no direction. He let them wonder. He let them hurt. He let them long for a different end to the story. He gave them the chance to remember.

And as if one whole day of quiet was not enough, Yahweh took it one step further and designed that day to be the Sabbath (Luke 23:56). The Sabbath was a day of required rest for the Jewish people and it started on Friday night at sundown. The most tragic day in history was followed immediately by a day of quiet rest. Jewish law prohibited the people to do anything unnecessary. It was not a day for work, for leisure, or for adventure. But rather, for reflection, peace and stillness.

And there just has to be a reason that Yahweh let this day be silent. He wastes nothing, you know. He assigns purpose and value to every single breath you breathe. He has designed even the darkest moments of your life for your good and his glory.

Isn’t this very weekend evidence of that?

Though I have it in my head that God’s provision must equal my comfort, Holy Saturday reminds me that following Jesus is anything but comfortable. It is sticky, and messy, and sometimes really, really hard. It reminds me that sometimes I want answers that the Lord isn’t ready to give. It reminds me that sometimes I have to sit in the thickness of unanswered prayer, and wait longingly for things I am unsure I will receive.

On a day of unanswered hope, would you let it be just that? Would you let the cavities of your heart feel the weight of a supposed Savior who seemed lost for good? Would take time today, even if only a moment, to press into the significance of this silent Saturday? Would you press into the prayers of your heart that feel unanswered? The desires that seem looked over?

Ultimately, may the silence of this day sharpen your sensitivity to his voice, knowing that soon Heaven will exhale and the silence will be broken with the most glorious news imaginable.

How Much More?

“Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Luke 12:24-25

“How much more” is about as quantitative of a question as you can get. When we ask it, we’re asking for a measurable answer. We want to know estimated time, dollar amounts, or distance. We want to ensure that we made the right decisions, purchased the right items, and turned the right way. And for some reason we have it in our minds that comparison is the best way for that to be done.

It’s everywhere, really. We compare beauty, success, sizes of homes and types of cars. We make a decision about ourselves based upon the side-by-side evaluation of another. It’s really rather twisted, but that’s not what my heart is after today. I’m after how we reconcile the unknown things we try to grasp with a good God who promises more.

There is something thrilling about the unknown in a mystical, fairytale way. There is something enticing about far away days filled with adventure that we’ve yet to discover. There is something beautifully stunning about a heart full of desire and void of expectation that could alter your life for better. The unknown can be beautiful.

But there is something equally terrifying about not knowing where you could be in a year. Or what you’ll be doing or who you’ll be with. It’s the dark tunnel you must travel through to reach the light at the other end. Your journey through the tunnel will impact your attitude when you reach the light. And our King has promised to be the same all the way through.

I’m certain it’s because he knows how quickly we get caught up in the unknowns of our future that he told us to look around at the birds in the air and the flowers in the field. “If I take care of them, how much more do I know what’s best for you?”

The question is rhetorical. He’s not expecting nor asking for a calculated answer with hands held four feet apart saying, “This much more, Jesus. Thanks for the equation.”

The point of the question is that there is no answer. There is simply no measure to how much more He cares for you.

And the “how much more” ought to cover everything. It is provision and protection. For the tangible and intangible. It is for the things you know you need, and the things you’ve yet to discover. And in trying to communicate this eternal truth to the people, he calls them not to look at their own lives, but at those around them.

I’m the pot calling the kettle black over here because just this week I sat on my dirty kitchen floor crying because I want answers that Jesus hasn’t given me yet. I picked my sniffling self up and headed to the couch in my living room next to a coffee table holding my leather bound journal. As I reached for it, hoping word vomit would somehow help me make sense of the unwanted fountain flowing from my eyes, I looked right a vase of lovely purple flowers.

“How much more?” my heart echoed. “I love these flowers a whole lot. But how much more, Gwen? How much more do I love you? How much more will I take care of you?”

I don’t often have fresh flowers in my living room. I bought them for a dear friend’s grandmother who was in the hospital in Dallas, but made it all the way up to her room before learning she had been discharged just hours earlier. With no time that day to drive an hour outside town to their home, I concluded I would need to babysit the flowers until I could make the trek.

Some may call it silly, but I call it Jesus’ sweetness to force me to place a bouquet of flowers on my coffee table, knowing I would need them that night. Knowing that I would need to see flowers to remember the way he takes care of me.

It’s a funny emotion to feel sought after by Jesus and if I’m honest it often causes me to buck up my pride. It’s almost as if his closeness gives me the courage to lash out with doubt-soaked inquiries regarding my future. “Why? When? Where? Who?” These unanswered questions have the ability to spin my heart into an anxious heap of wondering, and I’m hoping that maybe you need a little recentering, too.

Not only does anxiety fail to add hours to your life, it takes away the hours that you do have. The more time you spend spinning webs of “what ifs”, the less time you have to trust. Maybe we need to be reminded that trust and anxiety are the antithesis of one another and they can’t occupy the same heart.

No matter where you’ll be one year from now, you are somewhere today for a reason. Dig your heels deep in the place you are and lay your wonderings about the future before the One who does know. He doesn’t withhold good things (Psalm 84:11) and works even the messy things for your good and his glory (Romans 8:28). Live fully and love deeply right here, right now. Seek his kingdom – pursue holiness. Fight sin. Invest in others. Love people when they’re messy. Let people in when the messy one is you.

I’m in the process of reoccupying a heart filled of fear with confident trust in the promise of who God is and what He has spoken over me. And what he has spoken is a simple, “how much more?”

What things are occupying your mind to the point of a breakdown? What is ruling your thoughts in a way that cripples your delight and trust in Yahweh? most importantly, Will you believe him when softly speaks, “how much more?”



“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

Matthew 6:26

I first took notice of the pigeons as I sat on a hard wooden bench, waiting at a bus stop in Fiji. The day was hot, a breeze not yet noticeable. The sun was shining lustrously and the sky was filled with cotton candy clouds. The gravel of the road was broken and dusty and I found my eyes mindlessly drift to the pigeons that had gathered there. Since that afternoon, I find myself noticing the pesky birds nearly everywhere I go. What’s worse, I’m finding how embarrassingly similar I am to them.

Think of the pigeons. They abandon the trees and sky and resort to searching under tables for leftovers. They peck at the pavement as if they might find something there that will satisfy. Although the vastness above is waiting, they are preoccupied with scraps. Thinking this is their only chance to be fed. With the full expanse of the sky as their playground, why are they here? The gravel doesn’t nourish. It never will. It couldn’t, even if it tried. But still, they gather, pecking at the crumbs dropped carelessly as people pass by without notice.

Could it be any different than this? Could there be more? Don’t they know that their Maker will feed them? Don’t they know that they were meant to fly? This life in the gravel is a shallow excuse for freedom.

I used to think that the birds must have it all together. What could they possibly worry about? They can go anywhere at anytime, answering to no one. They need not worry about where they work or what they earn. They haven’t a concern for education and never fear if their degree will be high enough to earn their dream job. Instead, they sing. They celebrate in worship as they soar from one tree to another, across open fields of lilies and sunflowers, around mountains and up waterfalls.

But it’s to the pigeons, gathered on the dusty streets, that I feel I can relate. Because maybe, just maybe, they doubt sometimes, too. Maybe they find themselves here because they question whether or not their Maker will feed them in the sky. As I watch them, I’m made painfully aware of my own lack of trust.


So I try with all my might to make them fly away and enjoy what is waiting for them in the expanse above. I want to shout, “Go! You’ll find what you need, I promise. Don’t waste your time down here!”

But truly, those words are more for us than for the birds.

Sweet child, He sees you. And He loves you more than the birds that fly high above. He has promised to provide all you need. You’re missing what you’re made for as you peddle on the broken road.

Stop scrounging in the gravel looking for someone else’s leftovers. Abandon the thought that you won’t have what you need unless you find it yourself. A feast awaits you when you, as you were made to do, soar.


Just Be Still.

The MRI technician was painfully unclear.

With one ear pierced and scrubs that barely covered his midriff, he was the last person from whom I expected to receive a lesson in truth that afternoon.

But then again, doesn’t that seem to be Yahweh’s favorite way to meet us? When we least expect it, from folks we may not believe are even ready or capable to speak it.

Uncomfortable in a hospital gown, he directed me to lie down on the small, narrow table next to the seemingly massive machine. The table became a glorified conveyer belt and it was already moving before he asked his last-second question of, “Are you ready?”

As I rolled into the machine, heart beating double and anxious for the half hour I would be lying immovable, he sent me off with some last minute advice:

“Jennifer, you’re perfectly safe… just be still.”

Just be still.

I’ve been finding it quite hard these days to just be still. I find it easier to let my mind run wild with frustrations from the past and fears of the future. I want to know who and where and when and why. I don’t want to be still, I don’t want to wait – I just want answers.

And that’s where my plan to follow Jesus and remain in control begins to unravel. I learned that the MRI would only be successful if I listened to his last minute advice. The images could only be captured if I gave heed to the instruction of the odd technician and indeed laid still.

Knowing that my physical restlessness would directly affect the doctor’s ability to identify and diagnose the issue in my shoulder, I was motivated to get over the nerves and just be still.

As I slid into the massive machine, unable to do anything but lay and wait, I heard the same advice echo over the wonderings swirling in my mind: just be still. My restlessness directly affects my ability to hear my Shepherd’s voice and follow His lead.

And I’m as dumb as the dumbest sheep to ever be cared for by a faithful shepherd. I am quick to doubt, I am critical, and I am hesitant to believe truth. I am restless, feisty, and prideful. I choose myself over Jesus a lot.

But oh, to be still. To be led by still waters. To lie down in green pastures. To know my Shepherd’s voice so well that when He beckons me to uncharted territories, I follow without question. To be so confident in His heart that I don’t need answers, or details, or everything all at once. To know that I can trust Him. Oh, to be still.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:14

Standing before the Red Sea. Fleeing their captors. Entirely unsure of where they were going, only a hint at Who was leading them. And in the grandest moment of their exit from Egypt, at the height of their fear, Moses speaks with bold humility and proclaims a promise flowing straight from Yahweh’s heart:

The battle is mine. You are mine. Just be still.

Be still, be still, be still. You have a King who cares so delicately for your heart. He knows what is to come. He’s seen it, He’s preparing it, and He cares about it.

Stillness is antithesis of anxiety and the embodiment of confidence in God’s goodness. (It’s also the antithesis of my tendencies, which constantly shout “make yourself busy with “good” things and you won’t notice how much you forget Yahweh.”)

My only prayer for the MRI itself was clarity. I simply wanted to know whether or not there was a tear and what I would need to do to fix it.

Ironically, the MRI was as unclear as scientifically possible. They could see that there was no major tear, but further testing would be necessary to determine if there was a minor tear causing me trouble. The former is good news, no doubt. But the lack of certainty, potential need for further testing, and ultimately the inability to know for certain what action steps were necessary was exactly the point.

As I walked out of the doctor’s office that morning I heard Yahweh’s gentle voice:

“You can’t control this either, Gwen. You’ve just got to be still.”

Be still and know or be restless and forget.

Knowing that Yahweh is a good God can set you free from your need to control, to have it all together, and to make calculated decisions based on the things you can and cannot see. Remember, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”


Do It Afraid.

In Matthew 14 we read the well-known story of Peter walking on water. Jesus had just miraculously fed 5,000+ and had retreated for a time of prayer alone. The disciples head out to sea without Jesus and along the way encounter a storm…

And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’

Peter has a burst of courage and whether it was covered with confidence that it was really Jesus, or if he thought he was being brave in challenging the ‘ghost,’ we do not know. But Jesus speaks and beckons him into the storm. And Peter steps out of the boat.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’

Someone asked me this week if I was a risk taker. I said yes, a little bit believing that it’s true and a lot a bit wanting it to be true. In my defense, I started thinking of some of my crazier moments – I went skydiving on my 18th birthday. I got a tattoo in a third world country. I ate a butterfly cocoon in China. I went cliff-jumping in the Mediterranean. Those are risks, aren’t they?

But the true thing is that daily, I let fear win. I let fear convince me that re-watching every episode of The Office for the twelfth time is more valuable than reading and writing. I let fear keep me from studying, memorizing Scripture, and dedicating significant time to prayer. I let fear put a hold on relationships, on freedom, and on my wildest dreams. I let fear speak lies to my weakened mind. I even believe them.

The very worst part is that I’m fully aware of the presence of fear in my life. And I’m finally identifying that as the problem. It’s not about whether there is or isn’t fear.

There will always be fear.

The real test in my discipline, my believing Jesus, and my faith in living a life of overcoming fear is not whether the fear exists. It’s whether or not I let it have a voice.

Fear isn’t going to dissipate like dew on morning grass. And I’m coming to believe that Jesus doesn’t always want it to.

He could have calmed the storm before calling Peter to walk on the waves. He could have climbed right in the boat and immediately set their hearts at ease. He could have met them on the other side, leaving them only to wonder how He got there. But He didn’t do any of those things. He came in the dark, in the storm, in the midst of their fear and He invited Peter deeper into it.

And I think it’s because He wanted Peter to do it afraid.

Look at how Jesus answers Peter’s fear with a question of faith:

Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’

Fear and doubt are a lot more closely tied than we would like to think, and the opposite of both is faith.

You don’t need to just get rid of the fear. You need the faith to do it afraid.

Faith to believe that God is who He says He is. Faith to believe that He will do the things He has promised to do. Faith to believe that He is stronger than the storms. Faith to believe that fear doesn’t have to win. Faith to believe that He’s a good, good Father and that His plans for you far exceed the plans that you have for yourself.

I’ve spent a lot of days ruled by fear and begging Jesus to take it away. I’ve prayed for the things I fear to slip out entirely “so that I could finally walk in faith.” I’ve waited for the storm to cease before stepping out of the boat, and I’ve decided that 2016 is going to have a different theme song.

My resolution this year isn’t to get fit, or stop drinking Dr. Pepper, or run a marathon. My resolution is to do it afraid. To stop letting fear have a louder voice than my faith. To stop believing my words don’t matter.

2016 is gonna be brave, ya’ll. And I’m gonna do it afraid.

What’s your thing?

When does fear have a louder voice than faith?

Will you join me this year in doing it afraid?