In November of 2018, I felt stretched to pray for things that feel vastly out of reach. I specifically felt prompted by the Lord to pray for a new car. Now, if you saw the car I was driving, you would instantly understand why this could become the first go-to prayer.
I had the same beat up two door 1999 silver Honda Civic hatchback for 10 years. That’s right…ten years! Though that car was a little tight and made getting my 5’8 frame in and out of that vehicle a little difficult, I was extremely thankful for that car. Bullet, as my best friend had so lovingly named it, had minimal issues and enabled me to financially get by on ministry jobs for a decade. It was in many ways a little miracle mobile. But I was feeling inspired to ask the Lord for a newer miracle mobile that had things like automatic locks and four doors. You know, crazy things like that.
Sure enough, only a few months into praying for a new car, and I got a phone call. “Jen, I was able to buy a new car and I’m wondering if you’d like my old one…for free?”. The phone call came as quite a shock initially, but after a few moments of speechlessness I looked up to the sky and mouthed a “thank you” to the Lord.
You would think I would have responded to the offer with an exuberant, “Yes! I’ll take it!” while jumping with glee; but I didn’t. My response went something like, “Thank you so much for thinking of me! Can I think about it?”. After specifically praying for a new car for months, the answer should have been an obvious yes. However, I had become comfortable with my old car. It had been so dependable, and I knew everything about it. In fact, Bullet kind of felt like it was a part of me. It was with me in every move and transition of my adult life. Taking the new car meant opening myself up to some unknowns and potential inconsistency along with requiring a willingness to pay more for gas and insurance. Though this new car was “free”, there was a cost. Though it was “free”, it was still risky.
Perhaps it will ease your mind to know that I took the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer two weeks later and got rid of my Honda just before the engine went out. Obviously, the Lord was looking out for me and knew a faulty engine and a mountain of other issues were coming.
But here is what I learned from this experience: the new thing I want in my life and God's promises require something new of me.
God's promises always require us to leave something behind.
It was surprisingly difficult for the Israelites following Moses out of a dark and depressive Egypt to trade up for the shimmering beauty of the Promised Land. Why? Because they were too comfortable with the old way of life. Slavery and oppression were all they knew. War? Fighting? Conquering? Freedom? This couldn't have been more different from their life in Egypt. They weren't willing to leave the old behind and they weren't willing to pay the cost.
Just like my new car, going after God’s promises pays off in the long run, but it costs us more in the day to day.
I often look forward to the future, the promises God has for me, and the opportunities the Lord has in store for me with such hope and fervor. However, I so quickly lose my steam to chase after those dreams all because I see the truth that it will take work and sacrifice to get there. I want it to come easy. I don’t want to pay the higher insurance. Not to mention, I don’t want to live by faith. I like my sight and being able to know everything that will happen.
But I won’t get to the promise without a willingness to let that promise cost me something. I won't get to the "hope" and "future" mentioned in Jeremiah 29 without being willing to let leave the past behind. Thankfully, my Mitsubishi is a daily reminder to keep letting go, keep trusting, and keep letting the promises cost me something.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time
we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
In one of my college classes, one of my professors shot off a statistic mid lecture about how unlikely it is for humans to change in adulthood. It sounded something like…”you are 75% less likely to change after 21 years of age.” He confidently proceeded to say, “in other words who you are now is who you will be in 50 years”. Yikes.
He kept going and it got infinitely more personal as he lifted his left index finger and pointed to me: “So researches are saying that who Jen is now, her cognitive abilities, emotional health, moral compass, all of it will be exactly the same when she’s 71”. Not only was my professor presenting this shocking research article to a young class of dreamers, but he picked ME to be the example of an unchangeable 21-year-old already finished product.
I was boiling under my skin and I could feel the pounding of my heart that murderously screamed within me, “OH NO YOU DIDN’T! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? THERE IS MORE FOR ME TO BECOME..”
Six years later, I would like to say that I have proved him wrong; and I believe I have done just that.
It is very true that research shows once a person hits 18, it is difficult to change certain neurological pathways. I am certainly not arguing against that. However, we don’t have to settle for our instinctive emotions, behaviors, and mental narratives. We don’t have to accept our current state if where we are is outside of the destiny, the promise, or the fullness that God has for us. I believe that as seasons come and go, we should continually be becoming.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. “ 2 Corinthians 3:18
Friend, take a deep breathe and remind yourself today that you are in the midst of your “becoming” season. It is a messy and beautiful season with fullness waiting on the other side. And that fullness is not only the fullness of God and who He is; it is also the fullness of who He made YOU to be. As you come closer to the fullness of God, you also come closer to the fullness of who you are.
Don’t stop reaching for character growth. Don’t use the excuse “this is just who I am”. Don’t stop believing that the best is yet to come! Don’t stop becoming all He has made you to be. If you continue through this “becoming” season, I guarantee you will discover things about yourself you never would have dreamed of.
It’s who you are becoming today that determines who you will be tomorrow.
So, who do you want to be tomorrow? Go become that person today.
“Brothers and sisters think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
1 Corinthians 1:26-28
A mixture of blank faces and passionate worshipers staring at me while I’m singing so loud and so hard that my side hurts. I’m sweating. I’m exhausted. I’m out of breath. I look up and gasp for air in a moment off the mic just to keep from collapsing. Then I turn back once again to a stoic crowd, while I scream-sing til my voice is brash and bruised.
Most of the feedback I receive about my sweaty Sunday singing is positive. However, I occasionally receive puzzling looks and questions as to why I would be so demonstrative in worship.
It’s “foolishness” to them. It's wasteful. It's showy. It's juvenile. Well here's a little secret courtesy of the blonde scream singer on stage: it just doesn't make sense yet. This foolishness doesn’t come from immaturity, rebellion, a lack of intelligence. It’s a “foolishness” rooted in something that is both magnificent and mysterious.
My demonstrative displays of worship erupt from a very genuine part of my heart that knows Jesus (period). Jesus has not only changed every part of my life and lifted me from the depths of my despair; HE is beautiful beyond measure.
As I discover more of who Jesus is and experience His wonders in my life, I'm finding it harder and harder to give anything less than passionate shouts, knees on the floor, tears down my cheek, and sweat...lots and lots of sweat. Simply said: my heart is experiencing Jesus, and everything else is just the overflow.
It's not the physical mannerisms that are important in worship; it's where our heart is. Have we really allowed the Lord to reach us at our very depths? Are we really pursuing the lengths and breadths of who Jesus is? Or are we merely satisfied with the shallow end of grace and the former wonders dwelling on the surface? Friend, there is grace upon grace available to us. There are wonders upon wonders to be found in the person of Christ today!
I am meant to lead my community to the place where God still moves, a place that looks “foolish” to the world. I am meant to break the ground that they, with time, will someday walk in. It seems foolish now, but someday “every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.” Someday EVERYONE will be a little “foolish” before the Lord.
Now, dear reader, it is with all love and sincerity that I urge you to first experience the fullness of God for yourself, but also to understand that YOU are meant to lead your community to this place of encountering God and His life changing love. Though you might look a little “foolish” in the process, you can take comfort knowing that it is GOD who chooses the "foolish things to shame the wise".
Your gifts are needed, your heart is needed, your efforts are needed, and your prayers are needed. You have been given divine gifts to illuminate the story of Jesus in this world and carve out of the part of the human heart that has always existed for Christ alone. You may end up in spheres that are beyond you. You may be surrounded by people with more clout and talent. Yet, God chose YOU to be the vessel of His glory.
So...may we have the COURAGE to be the first to be a little foolish for the things God has done for us. May we have the STRENGTH to be vulnerable enough to show the depth, length, and breadth of the work Christ has done in us. May we have the GRACE to know the little that others give may be the best that they have right now. May we continue to EXPERIENCE the love of Christ and PURSUE Him even when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable. And may we be willing to GIVE our all and give our best, regardless of what others give, because we know the great lengths we have been saved.
It was a typical Tuesday afternoon at the office when these not to typical thoughts were flying through my mind.
“I wonder how many times people let their greatest masterpieces stay hidden from the world. I wonder why humanity doesn’t always push forward their best work or lets it dissolve in the dark before it can be fully appreciated. And I wonder if we will discover people’s passive wonders in a thousand years to come.”
Perhaps I should explain these rambling mid-work thoughts.
I was logging onto my email account when I noticed a web article that caught my attention. Normally I am very resistant to online articles and ads, because they are often the spawn of Satan trying to spam their way into my world. But for some reason my usual precautionary web roaming defenses were down while I scrolled over the article that read “2,000-year-old computer discovered”.
“What?” I thought to myself. “That can’t be right. We’ve only had computers for a few decades, not a few dozen centuries.”
The article continued to explain that a few decades ago, a Greek archaeologist found a gear of a wheel embedded in a rock as he was examining an old shipwreck. Upon recent re-examination, researchers discovered the mechanism in the rock to be a very complex and very ancient analog computer. Not only was I shocked that something like that existed thousands of years ago, but I was even more shocked to learn that a mechanism that complex wasn’t known to be used until the 14th century, over a thousand years after it’s existence.
For over a thousand years that piece of equipment was submerged under water, in the dark, eroding away. “Did the architect know that over two thousand years later that I would be reading about this little invention on a Samsung computer with another micro computer (aka cell phone) in my pocket? Did he or she know how far their work could have gone had it not been sunk under the sea? Could their invention have sped up humanity’s technological progress by a thousand years?”
This story is down-right remarkable. Humanity eventually got there. We use computers in a variety of ways in our everyday life; but could we have gotten their faster? Did that individual’s work see it’s fullest potential? No. Because it only saw the sea.
Now I wonder, what works are submerged in my being that I haven’t let see the light of day? Perhaps they once seemed insignificant. Perhaps I am too afraid of what others will think. Perhaps they once seemed too costly or time-consuming to complete.
Well, perhaps it is time to rediscover the brilliance inside of me. And perhaps it is time to rediscover the brilliance inside of you. Don’t let your best work sit around collecting dust. Don't let it decay in the dark. Take a risk today and let the world see your submerged brilliance.
“It’s not what you have; it’s what you GIVE to what you have.”
William Larry Swift
My parents pastored small churches for most of my life.
I, to my great surprise, began to follow in their ministerial footsteps by becoming a youth pastor at a young age and later attending a Christian university. I went into college with a few years of ministry under my belt, and I assumed I would finish my college career only to go back into youth ministry a sharper, well equipped pastor.
However, during my time at my university, the Lord began to shift my heart and unfold a new and unexpected plan for my life. After graduation, I was still wrestling with my calling and searching out this shifting
My friends seemed instantly successful. They launched into their, artistic and business endeavors with what seemed like, at least from a distance, sheer ease.
Those who didn’t jump into their career were traveling, getting married, or getting their Master’s degree. They all seemed to be breaking ahead of me, leaving me in the dust.
I began to feel “late” to every dream in my life as I watched others break ahead. I was like a rocket, ready to launch but with no place to go: aimless.
While experiencing my quarter-life crisis, my dad offered these words, “Jen, it’s not what you have; it’s what you give to what you have”. It’s that sort of Dad-like advice that always comes in in the clutch.
What made these words especially impactful to my restless heart, was that my dad lived this very sentence out every day of his life. I watched him toil tirelessly for the faithful congregants who sat in those blue Sunday morning church pews. I experienced his relentless care and provision for our family.
And now, once again, my dad was caring for me in the way my heart needed most. His simple statement and effortless wisdom changed my view of success for the rest of my life.
Greatness isn’t found in my following, it’s found in my character and care of others.
The deep work the Lord does in me will eventually be a deep work He does through me. And deep work takes more time. I want my life to be swimming in the depth of God and His purposes rather than the shallow end of my own expectations. So, I’m becoming okay with the detours from my dreams and the longer routes to greatness. And I am incredibly grateful for a father who can show me the way.
It’s Friday morning which means I am keeping a checklist nearby of all the tasks that I will need to accomplish before the day is over. I keep running over again in mind what groceries are at the house. “Do I have enough eggs to get me through till’ Monday? What meal can I prep for the next few days?”
When I get home from work tonight, I’ll do the laundry, clean my bathroom, make dinner for the next three nights, and make sure the house is (mostly) clean. Why do I do all this on Friday night? Because Saturday is my SABBATH day.
SABBATH is a spiritual practice that’s been around for thousands of years but somehow, I’ve began to stumble into this weekly routine only a few months ago.
The truth I have found is: we weren’t built to run without rest. Eventually it catches up with us.
If you don’t practice SABBATH or know much about it, let me give you a brief rundown. SABBATH is most simply stated as a day of worship and resting from labor. It was typically observed for a 24-hour period on Saturday and was a central to Jewish life in Bible times.
SABBATH reminds us of who God really is, and it affirms our identity just as it did for the Jews in the book of Exodus ("a sign between me and you for generations to come" Exodus 31:12-17). SABBATH reminds us that we are dependent beings in need of God. It also reminds us that God is actively taking care of us and the world around us. I have found that my SABBATH DAYS so beautifully encourage my connection with the Lord as I discover repeatedly His care for me, His Sovereignty, and His longing to be known by me. To my surprise, I have also discovered more of who I am and developed a sort of centeredness I was craving for years.
SABBATH enables us to see the goodness of the Lord in THIS season. It slows us down to see the things that the Lord is doing around and within us. When we are running at a breakneck pace during the week, it’s all too easy to miss where the Lord has been at work. In fact, I spend about an hour every SABBATH journaling about my week prior to recount my week’s activities and encounters, identify any themes, and discover what the God has been speaking to me over the last six days. This has truly been LIFE-CHANGING for me! It’s made me aware of God’s very active presence in my life, and it has kept me present to the now instead of always living for the next.
SABBATH pushes against our anxious hurry, our nagging consumerism, and our tight grip of control on life. When I started the practice of SABBATH, I didn’t anticipate these being a by-product of my Saturday routine. However, I have found time and time again the restless anxiety drain from heart as I spend quiet, task free hours with the Lord. I have also seen my compulsive need to be in control in a new light, and have found that compulsion begin to fade from my being. Most alarmingly, I have discovered that the American consumerist culture has had an affect on my time and mind in ways that I no longer want to partake in. SABBATH has caused a shift in my heart towards contentment, and it’s a wild experience.
I highly recommend SABBATH to anyone and everyone. I think it is a bit of a dying practice in our culture, but it is gold for the believer. It is of tremendous worth and value; however, I realize that defining what “work”, “rest”, and “worship” are for us individually can be difficult. So, here are some tips and thoughts about SABBATH.
SABBATH tips & thoughts:
MORE RESOURCES ON SABBATH
Click the photos to purchase the book or listen to the podcast!
Sitting in a quiet anti-mall at the end of a dimly lit hallway in the opening hours of this very hipster Northern California market. I can hear the echoes of a hustling and bustling coffee shop down the way as I read about the “food and drink” miracles Jesus performed in the Bible. One such miracle is known as “the feeding of the five thousand” found in Matthew 14.
This a very famous miracle in the Bible. So. as I read this passage, I’m trying my best to get a sense of the hunger and thirst that the crowds and disciples must have felt in these stories; however, this is admittedly quite difficult for me as I sip on this strong and quite rich espresso. I finally set the coffee cup down and try to feel the frustration and weariness of the disciples as they are hand over some kid’s lunch to Jesus. I try empathizing with the hungry crowd who were probably shoulder to shoulder as they gathered around Jesus to hear Him speak.
If you’ve heard about this miracle, you know that Jesus remarkably feeds over 5,000 people with only a few loaves and fish. However, it may come as a shock to you that the crowd didn’t come to Jesus that day for food. Their spiritual leader, John the Baptist, was just murdered. So, these people were probably experiencing mourning, crippling emptiness, and intense grief. They were looking for answers, for comfort, for guidance. But Jesus didn’t address their grief-stricken spiritual hunger alone; He met their most practical need before getting to their deepest suffering.
The extraordinary truth for us in these passages comes to us in a humble sack lunch from a boy: Jesus rarely does what we expect Him to do. Sure, this is a down-right amazing miracle, but it isn’t what the people were after.
Far too often, I am intensely focused on what I think is my most urgent struggle. It clouds my mind and I can’t see anything else no matter how hard I try. “If I could just get this fixed, all would be well”. So, I bring my cloudiness to the Lord expecting Him to meet me in a very particular “a,b,c as easy as 1,2,3” sort of way. Instead, He usually meets me in ways I would have never expected nor asked for. I then proceed to walk away from these experiences baffled and scratching my head. Because while my “urgent need” seemed to go unaddressed by the Lord, I am somehow full.
Jesus is after wholeness in our lives, and He knows what we need. But what Jesus is really after is us, and us knowing Him. He isn’t just after our relief; He’s after our hearts. Jesus doesn’t want us to experience miracles for experience’ sake; He is always trying to show us more of who He is. In every season and situation of our lives, Jesus is working to deepen our relationship with Him.
So, when we are caught in the mystery and messiness of life, let’s simply come to Jesus. Let’s trust that He is for us, and that He is the best person to take care of every part of our being.
My breaths were short and shaky. A sinking feeling was coming over me, the kind where all the life in me seemed to drain right out of my body, and I couldn’t feel my legs.
I kept rehearsing what I was going to say while I started sweating up a storm. I was sweating as if I had run a half marathon, though I was briskly pacing down a 10-foot-long hallway.
This last-minute practice wasn’t easing my nerves, and my worry and mental cramming couldn’t prolong the inevitable. It was time. The moment had come. There was no turning back.
Does any of this sound familiar for you? These nerve-racking moments were brought to you by experiences I have had several times before a big work meeting, before a class presentation, before a big game, before a confrontational conversation at home, and before taking the stage to sing. These moments happen to all of us. Fear creeps in. It makes us go a little crazy. Sometimes we run, and sometimes we face the fear head on.
I hate being afraid. Fear has been a constant companion in my life, and it’s kept me from trying a lot of new things throughout the journey. The truth is, I don’t want to push myself. I want to be safe. Even though I creatively, socially, or emotionally suffer sometimes, I’d rather be comfortable than take a risk. When my fear bell starts going off in my head, ”This is dangerous! This might hurt! You might fail or be rejected or not make it!” I go in to lock down mode. The only thoughts in my mind are, ”Get me away from everything and everybody immediately. I need to be SAFE!”
Yet, I’m slowly learning to recognize the alarm and MOVE ANYWAY.
I am finding in this perfectly perilous journey that the fearful part of me isn’t ALL of me. It’s only a small part of me; and it can dwindle over time so long as I am persistent with feeding my courage.
It’s a lot easier to feed our fear than it is our courage (can I get an AMEN). This is because feeding fear usually looks like doing nothing or running down the well-treaded physical and mental paths that we have ventured down a thousand times before. It’s like muscle memory. It’s automatic.
Courage, on the other hand, is like carving a new path out of the over-grown, tiger ridden jungle. It’s not clear where to start, we don’t know what’s on the other side, and it takes all of our strength in the process. Courage can be tiresome. Courage is work. However, what I have found is that typically when I take the first step towards courage, the second step is a little easier. Then the third step becomes lighter than the second; and on it goes.
Courage doesn’t look like mightily wrestling fear out of our lives; rather, it often looks like cowardly taking the first step.
So, let’s face our fears today! When we’re afraid, let’s MOVE ANYWAY.
Tell how you’ve made some small steps toward courage this week by visiting my contact page!
As I attended my barre workout class this morning, the instructor repeatedly made her way over to my mat to correct my large, swooping positions. She whispered the same phrases to me about a half a dozen times, “smaller movement…even smaller…little reach”. To my amazement, when I made smaller lifts on my crunches, or held a lunge one inch at a time, I felt my muscles tighten and work like they’ve never worked before. In fact, I felt muscles that I never knew I had.
By the end of the class, I was exhausted, but I was also stronger. I was grateful that my instructor pushed me to take smaller steps.
My workouts are usually focused on running as many miles as possible as fast as possible. In other words, the aim of my gym regimen has been “faster, farther”. This class was a stark contrast to my usual routine as it focused on tiny, repetitive movements and holding a position for as long as possible. Tiny movements? Holding the position? This does NOT seem like a workout. I guess you could say this is “Slower, smaller” sort of practice was really pushing against my “faster, farther” mentality. But boy did I feel the aftermath of that workout routine.
As I ached on after my class, I recounted my instructors’ words, “even smaller…little reach”. I began to not only feel the physical implications of those words, but the spiritual, emotional, mental, and social ones as well.
We don’t often think the smaller, slower movements have a greater pay off, but often they do.
Perhaps we have overlooked the progress we have made and diminished what it took to get there. Maybe we just need to celebrate more of the little victories in our day to day life.
Perhaps our over-reaching tendencies have caused us to fly right past the goal unable grab it for ourselves. And maybe, just maybe, we need to take smaller steps to those goals and simply hold the position.
The tiny, intentional steps we take throughout our days sustain us and strengthen us for the long haul. And those, my friends, are the steps are worth taking and recognizing.
When you're tempted to rush ahead and dismiss snail like progress, just remember: "even smaller...little reach".
TRY THIS TODAY:
- Take a moment today and celebrate a recent step you’ve made toward your goals.
- Tell a friend about your progress!
- Brainstorm together how you can take the next small step towards your ambitions.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” John 20:19-21
The disciples were standing in a crowded room most likely exhausted and certainly terrified for their lives. Three years earlier, they had been yanked from their careers, their families, the only life they knew, with an invitation to turn history upside down. They faced extreme highs and extreme lows as they followed the man they called “the Christ”. They had “no place to lay their head”. And now their Master, their beloved “Savior”, their closest companion had died a brutal death. It must have felt that all of their dreams, their calling, and their momentum toward the purposeful life they had just began to hope for died along with Jesus.
It must have felt like they lost out on the life they were dreaming of. Why did Jesus stir their hopes only to come to this bitter end? It must have felt like the last three years were just a waste. It must have felt like their whole life was “floating” and completely out of their grasp. But they didn’t have the full story. They didn’t know resurrection was coming.
They must have believed there was no hope for them. And now, they’re locked in a room out of fear that they too would be killed. Then Jesus suddenly and miraculously appears in their midst speaking peace, reaffirming the calling, and breathing His presence on them for the journey ahead. The disciples must have questioned their sanity to have seen the crucified Messiah in their midst; they must have kept rubbing their eye lids and glancing at the other guys in the room with a “do you see what I’m seeing” sort of look on their face.
This moment changes EVERYTHING for the disciples. With the very breathe of God upon their bruised hearts they begin again. With their Savior’s affirming and commissioning words, the destiny that has always been written upon their hearts starts here, in a crowded and once cowardly room.
This moment is link between who they were and who they were about to be. It is the collision of the life before Jesus, the last three years of tiresome ministry, and their soon to be world-changing futures. The Spirit was pulling together every moment of their lives to launch these men and women into their God given purpose and design.
What if every moment in your life up to this point is just an echo, a foreshadow, of God’s ultimate purpose for your life?
What if all the changing and rearranging in your life is for a purpose and someday it will all collide to form grand beauty and epic purpose beyond anything you could ever fathom?
Like a diamond in the fire, God works all things together for our good. Don’t think for a second that God’s greatest instruments aren’t forged without the flames of exhaustion, doubt, fear, uprooting, pruning, failure, disappointment, and grief.
Though you may be walled in by constant reminders that things haven’t turned out like you had hoped, take heart. That’s the kind of room Jesus tends to show up in.
The breath of God can invade this season, and even kick up the dust of past seasons rearranging everything toward the purpose you have been made for, the one you have been waiting for.
The moment is coming for you, friend.
You're just standing in the echo.