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.

 

hope deferred

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”
– Proverbs 13:12

I feel like the first half of that Scripture is a theme of our post-modern culture.  Hope deferred, postponed, delayed.  Our hopes are delayed left and right, sometimes even in the face of serious hustle and heart.

Hope deferred, put off, makes my heart sick.  I realized today that my heart is probably just a little bit sick.  Not in all areas, not in a whole (though I’ve been there too), but in one specific area, maybe two if I dig real deep.  And so today, when this truth hit me square in the jaw I confessed, My heart is sick.

The lyrics of Brian + Jenn’s Johnson suddenly start to play in my head just then, and it takes every ounce of me not to cry.

I know it’s all you’ve got to just be strong
And it’s a fight just to keep it together, together
I know you think that you are too far gone
But hope is never lost
Hope is never lost

Hold on, don’t let go
Hold on, don’t let go

Just take one step closer
Put one foot in front of the other
You’ll get through this
Just follow the light in the darkness
You’re gonna be okay

Jesus, in His tender loving mercy whispers to my ear just then… “Persevere!”  And that is when I realize, probably (maybe) for the first time ever what exactly perseverance means. Too often we mean perseverance means we don’t quit.  And you know what. That’s true too.  But perseverance God’s way?  I think is expanded on just a smidge.

Perseverance means don’t quit.  But it means don’t quit hoping, don’t quit believing. Not just don’t quit going and moving and doing.  Perseverance is a state of heart not a state of mind. It means we keep going filled with joy and expecting a dream fulfilled coming up on the road, no matter how long the wait.  It means that we understand that the God who is outside of time isn’t delaying our hopes, but is working all things together for our good.  And our great reward will be in proportion to the measure which we waited, and expected… and hoped.

Keep going.   But make sure you are full on the way there.  If you’re not full, stop. It’s okay. Reconnect with the One who brings us hope to overflowing and who is able to restore our sick hearts.  And then, despite the time you think you lost, the God who is outside of time will redeem it on your behalf.

So, yes. Keep going. But know that it’s more than just gritting your teeth and dragging our feet.  It’s. so. much. more.

“Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen.”

Hebrews 11:1 TPT

winter

editor’s note: I wrote this blog post a few months back. I wasn’t sure I’d wanted to post it, but as I was Spring Cleaning the blog, I decided this was worth sharing.  Because even if we are living in the Texas Spring (helloooo blue bonnets), the reality of winter is still very real to many of our hearts.


I was driving through the Interstate this weekend, on my way to one of the smallest towns I’ve ever been in, to meet one of my favorite people on the planet.  I was struck by the lack of color on my drive.

It’s been a cold winter, and our little part of Texas has seen snow, sleet, ice and all the things indicating the return of Jesus is imminent.  Our trees, our grass and all things green have basically turned brown and for the first time in my life, I understand the deadness of winter. I had forgotten how full of color the world is, until a green patch, in the middle of an incredible dead area.  And when that little patch of green caught me by surprise, the weight of it forced me to see how much my soul longs.

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There are seasons in our life, where just like the Winter, we are surrounded by dead things.  We stand in the middle of it, and all we see is brown and dead. We become accustomed to it and allow ourselves to live in the middle of it, and continue on.  We forget the promise of Spring, the joy that resonates in our hearts with the splash of color that surrounds us.  It’s easy to live in survival mode in the Winter.  It’s easy to forget what color feels like.

But I want to encourage you today.  If your heart longs for the Spring of the Soul the way mine does in the dead of this Winter, remember the vibrant color of Spring. Allow your heart to remember the joy blue bonnets will bring and breathe in deeply the scent of fulfilled dreams and hope accomplished.

Winter is only a season friend.  It doesn’t define you or me, it doesn’t make us, and it most certainly won’t break us.  Keep going. Stay strong.  And hold on.  Those blue bonnets and wildflowers are coming and they’re going to make you feel alive again…