We live in a very loud, very chaotic world.

I think we all recognize it, and are collectively creating movements that help us silence the noise, and find peace.  We search to find it within ourselves, mostly, whatever “expression” that may look like.

That said, as believers, the holy pressure is on to discern God’s Word from our own. To discern His voice in our lives from our desires and our perspectives. And friends, this is a good thing. A very good thing.

But I am shocked at how many believers become discouraged when possibly, maybe, they get it wrong… Listen, I get it. Being wrong sucks.  But, as believers, we have to allow room for our humanity. Sometimes, we just miss the mark. Sometimes, we mishear or misinterpret Jesus. Sometimes we were SURE we heard Jesus, when it was that pesky heart of ours being deceitful again.

And friends, this is okay.  This is good.  It’s part of our growing pains with the Lord. It’s part of our journey, our learning process. Moments like this are how we become more accurate in discerning God’s voice. It comes through holy trial and error as we continue to set our faces like flint before Him.  Each miss is an opportunity to commune with Jesus.  It’s all part of growing and learning.  And friends, we never ever stop doing that.

The miss doesn’t have to break you.

It can actually guide you.  And I’m overwhelmed at how discouraged we have culturally become (Christians) over this.  We feel like misses or failures or mistakes define us – WHEN THEY DON’T.  They’re just a reminder that we are still humans, fully and wholly dependent on a perfect Christ who is eternally patient with us.

This is an encouragement today, friends.  Somewhere along the line, we will miss it. We will be inaccurate as we discern God’s voice, we will think we discern something when we don’t. And when that day comes, face it head on.  Keep seeking and pressing and growing from it. Don’t just walk away.

Keep. going.

invitation to ache

We are back at it. Social media is a clashing cymbal making a whole lot of noise again.  Friends and strangers alike utilize their self-inflated platforms to argue their beliefs and push their agenda – political, religious or otherwise.

And my heart breaks again, because we are just missing it. 

I didn’t know how to feel this week with New York’s abortion law. I didn’t know too much about it, and if I’m being completely honest, the scope of darkness that we are potentially dealing with here scared the mess out of me.  Because y’all… this is dark, dark stuff and I just wasn’t sure I could deal.

After almost a full week of coming to terms with how I could possibly process this, awake at 3:00am, I dove head first into Jesus and researched this law.

I started to type out what this law encompasses and add a little bit of my own noise, unknowingly – so I won’t go too much into it. I’ll encourage you to research the law yourself. Look into multiple sites and be sure they are not overtly geared one way or another.  Interpret the law and its ramifications on your own. Don’t let a party, a religious leader or noise do it for you. 

That being said, I digress.

Friends, after I dove into Jesus, researched and processed, my heart ached. My heart ached real good.  It ached for these children, these destinies, these little lives that may never actually see the light of day. And I started to get lost in that ache a little bit.  When I did, my instinct to “thrive” and “think positive” and re-wire those neuropathways out of pain tried to kick in and move me away from that.

And in that moment, I felt the beckoning of the Holy Spirit… “Stay here with me, Nicole. I ache for them too, and it’s lonely here.”  And suddenly, it’s like I remembered that my God, my Savior has a full spectrum of emotions too and that His infinite and deep love personally knows all these babies. They are the dream of His heart and He knows them.  So He grieves, not a statistic, but a life.  I realized I was sitting in the tension of John 11:35 – “Jesus wept.I wanted to get out of the ache and instead Jesus invited me deeper into it.

I write this post to encourage, my dear friends, brothers and sisters to dive into this ache, away from the noise,  where we truly commune with Jesus on this matter.  His heart aches, and now… so does mine.  In a very real and tangible way.  Can I invite us all to this table? Before social media rants, and carefully crafted memes/graphics passive aggresively attacking the very generalized political trends of our opponents, can we just sit at this table with Jesus and weep with Him?

Redemption is coming. He is on the move and He will release life and victory and justice in full holy fury and oh, what a beautiful day that will be.  Right now, He sits in both the truth and promise of that victory and in the reality that our fallen world is getting darker.  Darkness is getting darker, but His holy light is and will continue to advance and get brighter.

But in the meantime, as a Bride, can we take a moment to step away from the noise and weep? It doesn’t have to be forever, our marching orders are coming soon and justice will be released.  But today, let’s take a moment of silence and weep with He who weeps…

calculated risk taking & joyful abandon

If you know me, or have spoken to me in the last year, you know that 2018 has kinda handed my tush back to me in 1,000 different ways.  You know that it’s been a good year, but it’s been a hard year.  And if you’ve paid attention, you may have noticed that my “calculated risk taking” has gone to a whole ‘nother level this year.

I’ve always mostly been a calculated risk taker.  That means (according to Webster’s Dictionary) that I establish and understand the chances of failure, and based on that will determine the course of action that will or will not take place.  So, for example, I will never go blonde, because the probability of me looking 10,000 times ridiculous is favorable, so I avoid it.  I am not exactly a thrill seeker and I could honestly care less if my adrenaline never spikes… I prefer it that way.

That being said. I’ve taken a calculated risk taking approach to my faith.  Thankfully, I serve a very consistent and faithful God.  So, He’s usually, nay, always a safe bet. But, as I sat with the Lord, confessing that I wanted a little more in a certain area of my life, He challenged my modus operandi and grated away that “calculated risk taker”.  I journaled, confessed my fears and concerns and basically asked Jesus to confirm what I think I know with roughly 37 “fleeces” (see: Gideon, Judges 6:36-40).

I finished with journal entry with “calculated risk taker”.

And friends, before my pen stopped writing, I heard the Lord say “but what would joyful abandon look like?” 

And legit. I had no response.
Because I just don’t know.
I’m a pretty passionate worshipper.  I can jump up and down with the best of them.

But. What would joyful abandon look like in the depths of my soul and my heart?
Guys. I have no freaking clue.

I was taught to be cautious with my heart, to protect my heart above all else. To make sure I safeguard and keep it, because that’s it. I mean, the heart is where it’s at. So you betta’ make sure there is no junk up in there…

So, this joyful abandon He speaks of?
Psh.

What would it look like to be confident and expectant in His goodness instead of hoping for the best but preparing my heart for the No?  
I have no grid for that. 

And I’m kinda figuring that’s a problem… since it was Jesus Himself who brought it up.

So, I don’t actually have any answers today… Or any type of real revelatory exhortation.  I kind of just wanted to share and invite you into that place… What does it mean to live in joyful abandon? Like… for real.  Let’s talk about it. Let’s pray for one another. Let’s do this… together.

Joyful Abandon according to a prophetic word released by another blogging believer:

“You think there is safety in normalcy — in continuing on in the same way as you always have.  You choose the illusion of stability over the shocking truth that sets you free to serve the God of all Creation!  You, dear one, are more than your limited imagination can ever fathom.  You are a force; salt and light, in this dark world through the very presence of my Holy Spirit within you… In trusting me to the fullest extent, your spirit will soar, singing the note you were given to sing at this critical moment in the Father’s symphony of time.  Close your eyes, child; trust me implicitly; and jump into my waiting arms!  Will you abandon all doubt, trust my loving definition of who you are meant to be, and say yes to me now?”

the call to courage

“I leave the gift of peace with you – My peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but My perfect peace.  Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts – instead, be courageous!
– John 14:27

Webster’s Dictionary defines courageous as such;

  • not deterred by danger or pain; brave
  • characterized by courage
    • courage; the ability to do something that frightens one
    • courage; strength in the face of pain or grief
    • courage; ready to face and endure danger or pain.

Here’s the deal.  We often times think of courageous individuals as those who face outward danger or a present threat of pain in the natural realm; think fire fighters, police officers, cancer survivors, military personnel, etc.  And y’all, these are very brave souls.  They deserve to be honored and respected.

But they aren’t the only courageous ones.

Courage is not allowing exterior circumstances, current or threat of danger to wreak havoc in our souls.  Here’s my thought.  We all have a sad story (or 12) to tell.  At some point in each of our lives, our souls have been attacked by discouragement, by fear, by disappointment, by death, by abandonment, rejection.  I mean, you name it if I’ve missed it.  I’m sure you could.  At some point, we have all faced the growing and gnawing temptation that heartbreak brings.  Not just romantic love heartbreak (though, y’all, that counts).  I’m talking about heartbreak.  The kind that leaves you questioning what life is, who God is and could it possibly, ever, get better.  You know what I’m talking about.  And my friend, if you don’t… I hate to break it to you, but you will.  We have all faced an element of heartbreak, or, you know… heart shatter, whatever.  And what I know is that the first one usually won’t break us.  But the 10th one might.

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And then we become cynical.  Then our hearts become hard, or afraid, or numb.  Or we run away, or we want to run away.  And that my friends, is when we join the ranks of the cowardly.  You almost prefer numbness and cynicism because you’re tired of disappointment or rejection or abandonment or death or whatever.  So, we run and hide.  We do exactly what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden when Abba came out to meet them (Gen 3:9).  They ran, they hid and they made every effort to hide themselves in the middle of their mess and heartbreak.

Friends, we are redeemed from the curse.  The call to courage is to remain and to remain pliable and to remain unblemished by the world’s hardness (James 1:17).  We are called to remain and to remain tender.   And in this world, filled with death and tragedy, heartbreak and brokenness, our ever present temptation is to allow our hearts to grow cold, hard and bitter.  But friends, our Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and we have an open invitation to a life lived tender, to remain soft in the face of great and constant heartbreak.  When our hearts are weak with disappointment, the call to courage looks like putting our hearts and hopes on the line again.

So, let’s remain tender.  Let’s fight for our hearts to remain tender in the midst of some tough seasons and some rough testing.  Let’s answer the call to courage.

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“Moreover, I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” 
– Ezekiel 36:26

foolish, laughable and puny

Psst.

Hey you. Yeah, you.  The one who’s at one point or another in their life felt inadequate.  You, who have felt insignificant in your world and your own life.  You, who have felt completely unseen, humiliated, puny, looked over.  Yeah, you.

Did you know that you are the type Jesus looks for?

Psh. Yeah, you are.

But God chose those whom the world considers foolish to shame those who think they are wise, and God chose the puny and powerless to shame the high and mighty.  He chose the lowly, the laughable (despised, disgusting, outcasts, those perceived with contempt) in the world’s eyes – nobodies – so that He would shame the somebodies.  For He chose what is regarded as insignificant in order to supersede what is regarded as prominent” – 1 Corinthians 1:27 – 28

Oh my friend.  I understand the temptation.  That one that is taunting you right outside the doors to your heart.  We live, eat and breathe a superstar culture.  The need to be seen (and therefore affirmed and exalted) is real y’all.  No doubt about it.  And it IS.  But, “it is not from man that we draw our life but from God, as we are being joined to Jesus, the Anointed One.” (1Cor 1:30)  But you are seen.  You are admired and studied.  You are known, and there is this majestic plan to use YOU to shame the somebodies.  Who YOU ARE and who THEY DON’T REGARD AS SIGNIFICANT ENOUGH will supersede what the world, the culture regards as prominent.

Baby, that means Beyonce’s got nothing on all that Jesus has for you.  

Rejection sucks.  Loneliness sucks. Being misunderstood really sucks.  Being looked over, feeling powerless and puny, being laughed at… it all really really sucks. But, those momentary light afflictions of the heart?  They’re creating a heart that can withstand and sustain the purpose, mission and glory of a God who created the most majestic of mountains with a single word.   You may not FEEL like you’ve got this, but I promise you, by the grace and promise of a really faithful God.  You do.

Let them regard you as insignificant.
Let them laugh.
Let them consider you foolish.

You. You continue to be joined to Jesus.
And watch what the King does in you and through you.

battle strategy, temptation and a call to arms

I was talking to someone today.  I was confessing some… non-sin-but-could-turn-into-sin-so-let’s-just-go-ahead-and-watch-this-thing-and-surrender-it-to-Jesus-now things.  I was mad and I was frustrated, and I was madstrated and all I could muster in my holy moment was “The enemy is just… a sneaky, lying, jerk face JERK.”

Okay. That’s probably a lie, because it probably came out significantly more unrefined than that, but you get my drift.

I’ve been “strategizing with Jesus” so to speak for the last 48 hours or so.  Like, actually going through battle strategy for this non-thing thing I confessed. Because it’s not sin yet, but it could become it. And I will be… ahem… danged, if that happens on MY ground.

Not today satan.

This is what I’ve learned so far.  The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.  John 10:10 tells us this.  So, boom. The enemy is exposed right then…

However. I also have a sneaky suspicion that our enemy is lazy. And before he gathers all the “demonic troops and forces of hell to battle against little ol’ us”… he’s probably just gonna walk up to most of us and just ask for it.  And. Most. Of. Us. Will. Just. Give. It. To. Him.

This is called temptation.

And many of us, as believers, will just hand it to him. There’s no stealing, no killing, no destroying (well, not right away at least) but we willingly surrender our birthright, like Esau, and we just roll over and hand it over.  Uhm. No. Sir.

Friends. Friends. Friends.  Let’s be smart soldiers and smart generals in the battle that rages against our souls.  Temptation is made to be resisted and we are fully equipped, with every tool and gift from heaven, to do just so. We do not have to give the enemy our birthright.  We can say no.

Then. That pesky worm comes in and tries to steal, to kill and destroy.  After we say no.  Through our circumstances.  Through relational brokenness. Through physical hardship. You know the drill.  You’ve lived it and you’ve seen me and our brothers and sisters in the Lord live it. But I’m kinda thinking that most of the time… most of the time, we just willingly hand over birth rights and inheritances.  It isn’t taken or stolen. We. Just. Give. It.

[Enter Face Palm Emoji Right. Here.]

So. I propose this becomes a call to arms.  Don’t be afraid of your temptations.  Don’t make them more than they are, which is an invitation from hell itself that we do not have to actually accept.  We get to say no because Jesus is better.  Because, let me tell you… holy redemption tastes sweeter than any matter of temporary pleasure. Trust my words.   So, let’s fight a war because we’re actually the enemy, not because we’ve sold ourselves into slavery.

Let’s do this dang thing.

be seen.

I want to write a quick blurb. And it’s meant to encourage you.

But it’s also meant to cut you.

We live in a culture that demands attention (as a whole) and places an uncanny and heavy emphasis (and burden) on being seen, being recognized.  This is a culture that permeates through both secular and Christian circles. We hype charisma, and we hype gifting.  And don’t get me wrong… we are 1,000% to celebrate gifts and the essence of every single person we encounter that Jesus has specifically designed and created in a unique way (which, by the way is everybody).  Let’s celebrate and promote when appropriate.

But friends, we do not need to concern ourselves with being seen.  We do not need to work towards being seen.  We do not need to make sure and ensure that our pastor sees us (our calling, our values, our charisma, our gifts).  We do not need to prove anything. 

“Be free from pride-filled opinions, for they will only harm your cherished unity. Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves. Abandon every display of selfishness. Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests.”
– Phillipians 2:3

We need to serve. We need to know that we are already seen by the One that matters, and we need to consider others better than ourselves.  We do not work for recognition, but from it.  From the understanding that we are more than seen in the courts of eternal heaven.  We are celebrated, recognized. We mesmerize all of Heaven with who we are.

Our “callings” or “purpose” is not dependent upon anyone’s recognition of who I am or who you are.  God recognizes it, He sees it. And friends, that is enough.

This isn’t a long post.  But I’ve mulled it over and over and over and over in the last few weeks.  If you feel unseen, know that you are.  If you are nervous that you will miss it because people misunderstand you or keep you in a “box”, don’t be. God is bigger than other’s perceptions. And His plans are for you and they will not be thwarted.

Amen.