Strength

Step Out in Faith

It’s not easy being a girl.

I know what you men are thinking…that this post isn’t for you. But don’t let my opening statement scare you away. This message is especially and specifically for you. But it bears sharing a bit of background, as in, it’s not easy being a girl. You’ve heard and even perpetuated the stereotypes, you’ve encountered the Bridezillas and the other crazies. To be honest, there aren’t that many areas on which I personally identify or connect with the traditional “female” experience. But there are a few—and there is one that especially stands out to me.

FAITH.

I know what you guys are thinking—women don’t have the corner on faith. And you’re right. As with any generalization, there are exceptions. But those exceptions belie the rule. Case in point: the cross. Think back, where were the disciples? Nowhere to be found. They were off hiding in the bushes somewhere. Who remained? The women. Now, I don’t know if they were 50 feet from the cross, but I can tell you how I picture the scene at Calvary. I see the Marys, all three of them, kneeling beneath the cross, worshiping Jesus in spite of what seemed a hopeless defeat. They’d been at His feet before, hanging on every word of His teaching…anointing His feet with the finest of perfumes and even their own precious tears. But this time, it was different. This time, it was He who was anointing THEM, with His own precious blood. And they believed Him and His promises. Still.

Need more proof? How about the tomb? Where were the disciples then? Running around like chickens with their heads cut off, that’s where. Why? Because they had finally met with a set of circumstances that defied their sense of reason, circumstances that they couldn’t understand or explain, or FIX. You can relate, can’t you? In a society where you’re expected to be self-sufficient, strong, successful. In a world where you’re expected to perform and provide, and to be right. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. You’re tired—exhausted. You’re weighed down with burdens that God never meant for you to carry. What He wants from you is FAITH. And I feel God telling me to tell you today, Step out in faith. Step out in faith. Don’t step out in the calculated risk that YOU can accept and manage. Don’t step out in your own resources—your wealth, your intellect, your spatial reasoning skills. Don’t step out only in what makes perfect logical sense. When you rely on these worldly “wisdoms” and competencies, you are stifling your God. You’re making Him small, weak, impotent—not in reality, but in your MIND, and your HEART.

Consider David, when he faced Goliath. Did he step out in his own strength, or experience, or prowess? No, in his own words, he stepped out “in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45). God never said to be strong and courageous in your own abilities. In Joshua 1:9, we see that God commands us to be strong and courageous, and to not be afraid or discouraged, “for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Don’t stifle the Holy Spirit inside you. Don’t put false limits on a God who is limitless. Have faith. Deepen your faith. And then STEP OUT IN FAITH!

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God, I pray that you would raise up not just one generation of faithful men, but an army. I pray that these godly men would allow themselves to trust you, and to not rely on their own strength and understanding. Instead, let them pursue you BOLDLY, recognizing that you are a BIG God, and that you have in store for them BIG, GOD-SIZED dreams and possibilities. Give them courage to rest in you, and to step out in faith for your glory and your kingdom. A thousand times, Amen. In your matchless and limitless power, let it be so today.

 

Who I Am–Part II

Philippians 2:15b
“…Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…”

My second tattoo is a Chinese symbol for the word “shine.” It was inspired by Philippians 2:15 and was intended as a reminder to me that I should shine God’s love and character in the world around me. But truth be told, its location in the center of my upper back makes it something I seldom see. I wonder if that has anything to do with how frequently I seem to fail at this task. I so often feel dim when I observe my words, tone, thoughts, actions, and even feelings.

I have to confess that for these couple of days, I’ve felt overwhelmed with and defeated by my own shortcomings. My self-efficacy is practically non-existent at the moment. I feel as though everything I set out to do results in failure. In truth, it isn’t literally everything. But certainly, there are a lot of things that have revealed my weaknesses. Weaknesses, you say?

Well, thankfully, the Bible has a few things to say about weaknesses—a few encouraging things, for these moments when I feel discouraged.

  • “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God” (1 Corinthians 27-29).
  • “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
  • “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 50:4).

I don’t know about you, but even after a fairly tumultuous couple of days, I feel like I can sleep better tonight, resting in His strength. I hope you can, too!

So Much Fight

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Laredo HATES bedtime. She will say or do just about anything to avoid going to bed. Sure, she’s sucking her thumb, clinging to her lovie, and laying prostrate on the floor. No matter. She’s not tired, she says. So the other night, we left her sitting on the floor outside our room, where she sat wanting to cry, but too exhausted to remove her thumb from her mouth. Twenty minutes later, we looked over to find her fast asleep on the floor.

“So much fight,” is all her daddy could say, as he gathered her up in his arms and carried her off to bed. His comment made me wonder what must lie ahead for her. After all, what if this fighting spirit—placed inside of her as God knit her together, contemplated long before she came to be—was His way of preparing her for some future and very significant fight? I can’t help but believe the answer is yes. I don’t know what that fight will look like. Will it be spiritual, physical, emotional, financial, political? I don’t know. But I know the verses I will share with her when that day comes:

Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Chronicles 28:20: “Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.”

Psalm 27:1: “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?”

Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

Psalm 28:7: “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

Psalm 46:1b: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 56:3-4: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”

Psalm 112:7: “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.”

Psalm 118:14: “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”

Isaiah 41:10: “‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “…we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”

Ephesians 3:16: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being…”

Ephesians 6:10: “…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

Philippians 4:13: “I have strength for all things in the One strengthening me.”

2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

These words of encouragement are not just for one little girl. They are not only for some future fight. I’ve recorded them here for YOU as well, for the fight that you are facing even today. I don’t know if you were born strong, if you’ve since achieved strength, or if you’ve simply had strength thrust upon you. Regardless, God desires to strengthen and sustain you. And He who goes before you will fight for you—if you’ll let Him. And that is my prayer for you today. After all, perhaps God has placed you right where you are, and for just such a time as this.

Seven-eighths

I had certain plans in mind for this week’s blog, but today I was made aware that this is Mental Health Awareness Week. So, having a bit of personal experience in that area, I thought I’d take a moment to acknowledge others who may also be struggling. If you ask my friends and family to describe my personality, they might tell you that I’m melancholy. Or, they might describe me as cynical. I tend to describe myself as a “glass seven-eighths empty” kind of person. Now, that may or may not come across in my blog entries, and that may or may not be the Zoloft talking—but whatever the case may be, I have a great deal of sympathy for people near to and distant from me who struggle with all varieties of mental illness and related challenges. Even people who don’t suffer from a diagnosable mental illness can experience bouts of sadness, doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, you name it.

It would appear from various sources of research that mental illness is on the rise and especially so in America. Now, certainly, that is partly attributable to higher rates of diagnosis, greater possibilities for effective treatment, and a lifting of the stigma that once accompanied an “admission” of anything but the most stable mental and emotional condition. But also most certainly, there are a lot of sources of discontent out there that are inhibiting many from embracing the abundant life that God intended for them. We can see that even in the rash of celebrity suicides that seems to have plagued our society during the recent years.

A view that is very common among those struggling with mental health issues is that things will never get better. From experience, I can say—no, I can PROMISE—that they do. As a young girl, I wrote a lot of poetry. Nowadays, I have found other outlets for self-expression, and I write many fewer poems. But for this blog, I searched through an old notebook to find just the right one to close with:

Too Weary Have I Grown
(April 11, 1995)IMG_7267

I cannot
No longer have I the strength
No longer can I carry on
I tried, and thought I could,
But too heavy is the load I carry
Too long is the path I face
Too weary have I grown
Too many are my burdens
Too few are my allies
Too distant are the pleasures of this journey
And I cannot go on.

 

If you can relate to these feelings, then believe me when I say that you CAN go on.