He Overcame the World
This month, Jesus just kept showing countless ways he he had overcome the world. As I contended for Jesus’ light yoke, he kept showing me just how narrow the door has been for so many people in the last season. He helped me develop better balance and boundaries in processing intense emotions privately so that I can be more authentic with friends, from a place of clarity. Overall, developing better boundaries has helped me recognize more readily when groups of people are facing spiritual intimidation vs. when assuming the issue is just mine.
God bless the narrow road! Even as I consider the challenges my friends have faced lately, I am grateful for the process. Because the narrow door belongs to God, and he is good, it will be worth it.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.Romans 8:18
At the same time, I want to be sensitive to honor my friends for just how hard things have been. No matter how well individuals have responded to challenges, there is no denying that this last year has been difficult. Even still, I believe that God has fresh insight, fresh courage, and fresh mercy available if we need his help.
Singing over Jesus
When things have become difficult this month, one of my favorite things to do in private is to meet Jesus on the cross, and sing over him. While I sometimes see images him visually on the cross, more often I just sense him near to me in my room. Adoring him for everything he was willing to go through, seeing him delight in that cost being acknowledged, watching it sink deep and him just rest in knowing that he has my heart. When nothing else is going well, I love knowing that I can still make him smile in the “uneventful” moments.
Letting Go of Fear
This month, the most challenging work God did in me was bringing me out of fear.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.Psalm 34:4
I realized that when it came to worrying about the future, fear was what kept me in self-defense and shadowboxing against accusation. After a year where accusation came from so many unexpected sources, finding the root was powerful.
In these moments, God keeps reminded me that he is the same “God who Keeps by Heart Safe” from June.
So far this year, God has brought me out of:
- Fear of Loss
- Fear of Being Misunderstood/Disappointing People
- Fear of Lack
- Fear of Failure/Inability to perform
- Fear of the Unknown
- Fear of Isolation
I have a few more fears that I still need delivered from, but I know the Lord will finish his work.
As I do the inner work to be fully well, I love the preaching by Bill Johnson near the 11 minute mark on this song. So helpful!
As God continues to bring me out of fear, he has been talking to me a lot about the courage to lead from the heart. I have some things that I have been processing and writing, but am waiting to get a little more perspective before I share.
Offering God Our Hearts
This month, I have noticed several instances where individuals or groups struggle to meet God in his deep emotions. With numbness or fear cluttering their capacity to connect, they seem conflicted in the desire to give more of their hearts, not entirely sure how.
I think the solution to this problem is simple. In worship, we need to offer him our hearts.
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “ LORD, I am coming.”Psalm 27:8 NLT
If you offer God your heart, he himself will pour out the grace to transform it. You don’t have to try harder to stir up emotion. He knows that you desire to connect with him. Give your heart away and know that he will keep it.
I WILL give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.Ezekiel 36;26
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:13
If that feels too scary, an intermediate prayer would be: “Lord, show me how trustworthy you are.” When we struggle to trust God because of our past experiences with people, we can trust that he knows exactly how to redeem all of it. If you invite him to show you that he is good, he will.
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.Psalm 34:8
Internal Shifting Again
What an adventure it is to follow God! Next week, I will be in Scotland again visiting my friends, and I could not be more excited to spend time with them. Getting a chance to travel again makes me think about this concept of movement and transition more generally.
Earlier this month, I had a dream where I was literally shaken awake by the reverberating words of an angel, telling me to remain alert. Following this dream, I became more aware of internal shifting happening in me that feels like preparation for whatever is happening next. Essentially, I feel like I’m gearing up to start over, but waiting on instructions. Moments like this, I’m glad I gave God permission to make me into a blank page and write a new chapter.
Favorite Things in October
I borrowed copies of all these books from libraries.
This month, I found unexpected solidarity in reading The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. While I didn’t initially expect to have a lot in common with Eleanor Roosevelt, it was a surprise and pleasure to realize that she actually started life as a timid person. However, God kept putting her in challenging circumstances, she was motivated by the needs of the people around her to work towards change. Among various social reforms, she helped develop the United Nations out of her lasting conviction that war is fundamentally evil. Reading this book this month helped me process fears that I didn’t realize were there. She is so transparent in talking about how she developed much of her confidence in her 30s and 40s, and that for her, it was about time and exposure to risk. I know so many people who disqualify themselves too soon, and wonder why God would have included them in his master plans. Her story reminds me that we don’t have to feel strong to make a difference.
Her transparency reminds me so much of my friend Robin. I met Robin back when I was just 20 and studied abroad in Chile. It was my first time leaving the US, and where I met Jesus. Robin is one of my longest term friends, and I think it works because we are opposites held together by silly memes.
Robin is one of the most legitimately patient people I know. She is so deliberate that it drives me nuts sometimes. She has taught me a greater respect for the process that change takes. And in some small way, I’ve helped her relate to her husband, who is a lot like me in temperament. She tells me that in knowing me, she’s become more direct and less easily intimidated.
When I have friends who baffle me, Robin is one of the first people I go to in order to unscramble what could be going on. In the time that I’ve known her, I watched her meet her husband in Chile, start and end different jobs, move multiple times across continents, and have a baby. I’m looking forward to the day I can see them all again in person.
Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks
Another book that left a deep impact this month is Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks. This book immediately caught my attention because telling dumb stories is such a big part of my relationship with my dad. When we talk on the phone, we normally give updates on projects we are working on, I tell him a little about my seminary homework, and we share a few dumb stories (the weirder, the better).
Beyond just the topic, this author is a former teacher who regularly experiences nonsensical things. While he has found that his crazy life has given him plenty of material, he actually believes that the every day moment stories have the greatest healing/emotive power. As someone who also has had a crazy life, I agree.
This book is the most accessible book I’ve ever encountered on writing. It’s about as accessible and small pieces as Duolingo (for language learning). He goes back and forth between instruction in writing short stories and telling stories with exemplars from his own life. Reading this book has helped me slow down and be more present.
Befriending Our Desires by Philip Sheldrake
Initially I noticed Befriending Our Desires because it was the most controversial read on the list of potential book choices to read for a seminary course. When I encountered the book later on while searching for another resource, I decided to check it out.
I was not expecting to find such a vibrant discussion of vocation and how God draws us by our own interests to not just relationships, but meaning more generally! Sheldrake’s use of language is masterful and respectful in discussing sexuality. The author uses imagery of intimacy and mystery to holy-challenge the emotionally numb and those who gnostically reduce the body as an object versus something that God created intentionally. I would recommend this book to any adult who wants to understand God, relationships, and vocation more holistically.
You and Me Together Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan
I am rereading You and Me Together Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis Chan because it is singlehandedly the best marriage/relationships book I have found to date. God has clearly been preparing me for marriage at some point in the future, yet I can’t say that it’s my focus right now. Nevertheless, I love Francis Chan’s eternal focus for marriage and ministry. He openly owns that neither he nor his wife are particularly similar people, but their marriage works because they are both so focused on their shared mission that they don’t have time to get derailed in division and selfish motives. I remember that when I first read this book in 2019, it revolutionized the way I did friendship because it made me really consider how much friend drama I was facing was because friends were simply not aligned to God’s plan for my life. As I’ve progressed in ministry, I have noticed that the friendships that flourish are ones who bless and celebrate the new callings God is developing in me (and vice versa). The friendships that fail are the ones where individuals simply cannot bless what God is doing (for a variety of reasons, including immaturity). Especially at a time when I’m thinking about responsibilities so far outside of my own individual capacity, I’ve been encouraged this month by friends who have a similar mission OR simply can share in the excitement of what God is doing among Youth and Young Prophets. My most precious friends are those who know their calling well enough so that we can mutually co-endorse one another, and use whatever gifts we have to support one another’s calling in the Kingdom of God. While some of these alignments may have initially seemed unlikely, God has used them to produce fruit that neither I nor the other person expected at the time. Based on what I’ve been seeing in the Spirit, I believe that God will put increasingly favor on unlikely ministry partnerships in the future.
Favorite Quotes and Verses
You know, it’s been years that I have been looking for a vocabulary word that would describe how God woos people into the right direction as he pulls them with cords of love. I have watched God form and reform us to fit into his ultimate purposes more often than not. I love witnessing that reformation work! This month, Jesus invited me to know him as Witness, delighting with him in simply in being an observer of what he is doing.When I think of the grace and truth Jesus flowed in, I think of Leadership as simply witnessing his life emerge in them.
The word “prevenient grace” describes God’s work of wooing us before we are even aware of his activity.
This quote describes how God pours out grace to make himself available to children long before they have any capacity to respond to him. This is the grace that rests on communities of faith to share Jesus with children who haven’t yet made the external decision to prefer him.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.Hosea 11:4
This is the same grace that is available to adults to seek and find him. To find him again and again for the rest of their lives.
Draw me after you; let us run.Song of Songs 1:4
This activity of being wooed and made to be an object of delight before you have done anything makes me think of Proverbs 8:30-31.
God’s Wisdom in Proverbs’ 8 is often portrayed as a Woman who considers human beings as her own children.
Wisdom as a Child
While the marriage imagery in Proverbs 8 between Wisdom and God is beautiful, I actually prefer the alternate translation.
You see, in verses 8:30-31, Wisdom is described as a child!
I can just imagine God’s childlike wisdom flitting around with him throughout the earth. If delight is available, a child will find it. I love this translation because it shows us that maturity is childlike.
One of my favorite dreams this month had to do with imagery about maturity and immaturity.
In the dream, I watched a man and a woman singing in synchrony a soul music/R&B style duet. They sang:
“Then we were intentional / then we were knowing,
Then we were thriving, and listening, and growing…”
After the couple finished the duet together, a redeemed, mature Kanye-like character picked up the song without dropping a beat. He flowed into a section of rap about wisdom, learning from mistakes, society, and maturity in general. He wasn’t arrogant, but was simply invested in the flow of the lines and in music and a story bigger than himself.
This month, I’ve literally wept over my lack of maturity in some areas. As God gives me grace to keep growing into adulthood, I know he is making it available to others too. I loved this dream because I personally believe that Kanye is a textbook example of an immature prophet/prophetic person who needs a lot of inner healing/help. So to see Kanye flowing in a song that was much bigger than himself was glorious. God can do that for all of us.
Favorite Silly Videos
This month, I’ve been watching Pasta Grannies videos. I once found these videos during the pandemic, and have continuously watched them since, as the grandparent characters are so lovable. Essentially, a British film crew goes through various regions in Italy and records older Italian men and women who prepare their region’s signature dishes. It’s a delight.
Probably because it relates to that sense of generations and family, God used imagery of Italian food this month as I developed more balance. This spring, he used imagery of fast food to talk to me, because of the accelerated pace. In the summer, he had me practice asking for the food I wanted and leaving the wrong restaurants. In the summer, I also had dreams about asking people to share their food or bringing food from faraway places (like Asia) to share with a group. This fall, I dreamed that he was sending various people to bring me food and other necessities while I rested and focused on wellbeing, with the tone of “let me provide for all your needs.” Since January, I’ve had dreams of cooking with Jesus, and lately, I have been cooking to serve a crowd. In my most recent dreams, I’ve been passing through a buffet line and receiving plenty, but in a more relaxed sense. I’m excited to see what provision looks like in the next season, as Jesus and I continue talking about food.
Secondly, I spend plenty of my cozy winter/fall time with fireplace sounds playing on the background. When I’ve needed to do homework or write blog posts this month while tired (*cough cough*), the sound of the flames licking up the wood helps me stay grounded.
Favorite Worship Music
- To have a joyful, delightful, restorative time with my friends next week in Scotland
- Agreement that God will continue kicking out all my fears
- Blessing on whatever the next chapter holds