An Unlikely Opportunity for Discipleship

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By Anna Faith

 

“Lord, please send me someone. Someone that I can pour into. Someone I can develop a friendship with–someone I share YOU with.”

This is my continual prayer to the Lord. The Holy Spirit has so impressed upon my heart the special place that teens have in HIS heart. I may be a twenty-something, but I remember clearly what I felt at 15…and 16…and 17…and 18…and so on. I remember as if it was a moment ago. I know the unspoken pressure girls feel. I know how vicious other girls can be–even Christian girls (yes..sadly, they too can often be vicious). I know how it feels to want to be admired, and wondering when you started wanting to be admired. I know what it feels like to have your crush like your best friend. I know what it’s like to stare out the window and intentionally listen to dramatic music so it feels like a music video. I even know what it’s like to feel really ugly and want to hide under layers of sweatshirts. I’ve watched my own friends battle with self-image, “friendships” with guys (meaning they actually like those guys), and even hearing the bitterness they felt towards their parents for (wise) rules set in place.

The teen years are one of the hardest things I’ve ever walked through.

Yet, in the midst of all my emotions flailing as awkwardly as my clumsy limbs, I remember one girl named Danielle (as I shall call her). Danielle was about 5 years older than I was, already giving her the perk of being one of the older “cool kids”. We had a low-key friendship, meaning we didn’t know each other very well. But, in the middle of my awkwardness and really struggling to press after the Lord, she has left one of the largest impressions upon my heart. I remember the time she let us sharpie her hair, just because we asked. I remember the time she drove me to the funeral of a friend’s mom. She gently hugged me as I cried. She would drive me to meet my mom, and wasn’t even upset when the plans changed and we had to drive alllll the way back to our original destination. She always had a smile and quirky sense of humor. Danielle had her own problems, but she was the “cool” one who always made me feel like her close friend. Danielle was awesome.

As the years passed, I asked the Lord to make me a “Danielle” to someone else. I wanted to show younger girls how beautiful they REALLY are. How there is so much more to life than living for the opinions of others. Someone to encourage, to hug, and to love as a Sister-in-Christ. Someone to serve them…and to teach them how to serve others.

“Lord, where can I help?”

We all have our “circles”. We have our family, our school friends, our Bible Study ladies, our Co-op buddies, our online friends, our play-date group, our soccer team friends, our Church friends. We have our groups. We brush shoulders with people all the time–home-schooled or not. As I waded through my own circles through the years, I have crossed paths with several girls that I love dearly. BUT, I really was not able to connect with anyone that I “clicked” with. But then one day–about 3 years ago–I turned around…

…and I saw my little sister.

Seven years my junior, she is currently in the hardest stage of life. The teen years. *cue dramatic theme music*

OBVIOUSLY, because we are family, there is a certain showing of love that is expected within the sibling ranks. I am close with all three of my sisters. But, there’s something different about my baby sister. She is the goofiest, silliest, sweetest, quickest-witted, storytelling-est, sassy pants you will ever meet. She has the tenderest, most sensitive heart of anyone I have ever met. She’s my Spudnut (my nickname for her).

And the Lord told me to love her. Really love her. To invest in her. Spend time with her. Purposefully. Encourage her. To listen and to speak. To not just be her sister–but to be her friend.

In return, I was given one of the sweetest gifts. I was given a best friend. My little “Spudnut”. We share a room (which can be rough if you’re an introvert), but we have learned to really make it work. We stay up late talking. She asks me guy questions, I hear the rustle of pages late at night as she reads her Bible. If she needs to talk, she’ll sit quietly on the floor beside me until I give her my full attention. She asks me how my day was, even if I spent it at home. She makes me special things. She loves upbeat music, and jokingly rolls her eyes when I make her listen to classical to “stimulate her brain”. I tackle her when she’s grumpy (literally), erupting in hysterical laughter and flailing arms. I’ve had some of my deepest talks, and my most heart searching moments with my “Baby” sister.

It has been one of the sweetest gifts God has ever given me. But it is hard. Somedays I DON’T want to talk. I DON’T feel like listening. I just want to brush by her and let her “go play for a while”. But then the Holy Spirit will quietly whisper “Be careful, Anna. She is an answer to prayer.”

As my sister is growing into a young woman, I have begun to pray again that the Lord would open up more doors of “discipleship”, but also friendship with other girls. There are SO many teen girls who are walking around in a cloud of depression, self-hatred, and starving for LOVE. I would even encourage YOU, dear friend, as you go about your daily life–in your various circles–to seek the Lord in this area. Ask the Lord if there is anyone whom YOU might be a “Danielle” to. Are there any girls at school or Co-op who could use an encouraging word? Even if you do not think you are ” qualified”, you don’t need a degree to be a friend! 🙂

We would love to hear from you! Have you ever had a discipleship relationship or had someone reach out to you in a way that really affected you? Or have you ever had an opportunity to reach out to someone? Do you have sisters, or friends who are like sisters to you that you can minister to, and pray for?

When?

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This is a journal entry of mine…and I hope it is a blessing to you!

It can be so easy for us to go through our lives, just trying to be people’s friends. Giving them a big smile and some cheery small-talk, and hoping it will change their lives…somehow. Hoping that maybe they will see Jesus in that look. That smile. (And, by God’s grace, sometimes they do! And that is always a blessing.)

We give smiles and hugs out freely…and that is good — needed, even! But what about the one thing that will actually change their lives and give them lasting joy and hope for the future? We give them food and medical aid and clothing…..When will we also give them Jesus? We are so careful – so cautious, because, well, we don’t want to offend them! We don’t want them to be turned away! And so, we are silent. Day after day goes by…but the reality is, in desiring to not turn them away, are we selfishly taking from them the chance to be right with God, and to be free of their heavy burdens?

It is worth pondering. What is the real reason we are silent? Why do we withhold Living Water from their souls? Is it because of fear? Are we afraid of rejection – our OWN rejection? Are we afraid of their anger, or losing their friendship or respect?

Jesus Himself had to deal with all these things while on earth – and has to deal with them continually to this very day. Can we not sacrifice our own pride or respect in the eyes of others for His sake…and theirs?

It is a good thing to be a friend. It is good to give a ready smile, or a needed hug – even physical help and aid. But when…when will we give them Living Water? When will we introduce them to the Healer of their souls? He is the only one who can heal their hearts, and make them new and full of joy! We all have a limited time here on earth – and we cannot tell when a life may be cut short. I have already had several friends whose lives have ended too soon.

So what are you waiting for?

When will you tell them?

Pray and ask God to show you any selfish or fearful reasons that you have been silent…and ask Him to give you courage to speak, and to give your friends soft hearts to understand.

Don’t let your heart be plagued with the distress that comes when you miss a chance that never comes again.

And ponder this: when was the last time that you shared Jesus with someone? ”Tomorrow” may never come – so ask God to show you what you can do today!

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From participating in the Tuesday@Ten challenge.

Single? 3 Ways to Have the BEST Valentines Day EVER!

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Valentine’s Day.  That blissful time of year when all of your “non-single” friends get chocolate, and flowers, and romantic candlelight dates.  That dreaded time of year when you hide out under your covers, eat lots of chocolate (that you bought yourself), and avoid everything pink, red, or even remotely romantic.  That, or you’re one of those people who actively torture yourself by scrolling through Facebook, looking at all the sweet things that people did with their “significant other”, and you cry yourself to sleep listening to gushy love songs.  [Some people do it to themselves…just saying. 😉 ]

It’s a wonderful holiday that seems to have been instituted just to remind you of your definite singleness…again.  Not dissimilar to pouring lemon juice on a paper cut [Note: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME — Just take my word for it.]…or having text messages sent to you continually about the HUGE sale that your favorite store is having…right when you’re completely, totally broke.

So, what’s a single gal to do??

Well, you CAN hole yourself up in your room all day, and have a great big pity party…by yourself. But, I mean…again??  Really??  OR…what if you tried something different this year?

Here are 3 ideas to help you have a Valentines Day worth remembering this year!

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1.  Pray for your single girl-friends.

Start now – don’t wait!  Begin praying for each of your single girl-friends…and ask God to direct your prayers for them.  Pray that God would encourage their hearts, and surround them in His love this year.  Even ask Him to give you specific scriptures that relate to how you can pray to them, or that would be an encouragement to them.  Praying for others is one of the very best ways to get your eyes off of yourself, and get out of your own pity-party.  Making a list may help you to remember to pray for them, and to not forget anyone.

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2. Ask God to show you how to be a blessing to them.

As you’re praying for your friends, ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to them.  Ask Him for ideas of things you can do that would encourage their hearts, and show God’s love to them.  Ask God to make you His hands and feet to show them His love this year.
And then…do it. Whatever God shows you — put it into action!  It may take some real time and effort…and even money, but God will bless you for all you give.  Write out the scriptures God gives you into sweet cards.  Share whatever word of encouragement God puts on your heart for them.  Buy them some flowers…or chocolate…or both!  What do you wish someone would do for you?  Now go and do that for them!  If you really want to go all-out, you can even plan a special evening to invite them over, decorate, and make them a special meal!  Or what about a special girls’ spa night, and devotion time, where you can pray together (spending time with Jesus together is always the sweetest thing)!  The possibilities are endless when you ask God for great ideas — He knows what will most bless each of your friends! And it might be something different for each one.

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3. Spend time with Jesus.

This is last, but definitely most important of all, for truly having the best Valentine’s Day!  Don’t forget to spend time with Jesus, and just enjoy His presence.  Remember: He truly cares about you more than anyone else…and even after you have a loving relationship, and a blessed marriage, no guy can fill that spot in your heart that was meant for only Jesus to fill.  You’re not just spending time with Jesus because you don’t have a boyfriend!  You’re spending time with Jesus because HE is your Love, and your Life!!

Spend time thanking Jesus for all the ways He has shown His love for you this year — even write some of them down to be a reminder of His goodness for you when you’re discouraged.  Don’t rush — how would you like it if you were out for a special time with someone and all they did was look at their watch the whole time??  Take your time to really enjoy God’s presence, and be a real friend for Him.

And why don’t you take some time to actually write God a love-letter this year?  Tell Him all the things you love about Him, and that you can’t imagine your life without Him.  Even pray about what you can give Him as a gift this year — it can be something as simple as giving Him your worries about the future, and committing to trust Him more, and not fear about the future.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?? Do you have any other ideas for having a blessed Valentine’s Day?  Have you ever tried reaching out to those who are lonely on Valentine’s Day?  If someone was going to do something kind for you on Valentine’s Day, what do you think you would bless you the most?  Now…how can you take that and use it to bless others?  Share your thoughts in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you, and even feature some of your ideas here!

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Are You a Competitor or a Co-Laborer?

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By: Anna Faith, an Unshakable Girl Staff Writer

 

I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. Nowhere else can you inspire your culinary skills, realize what goes into sewing a dress, discover what the color “sea foam” really looks like on a wall, and realize how little you exercise. All at the same time. You can go from “I want to do that!” to completely overwhelmed by your inadequacy in .37 seconds. [Side note: Check out the Unshakable Girl Pinterest page, for inspiration and encouragement.]

 
Sound familiar?
 
In a world swarmed with a suffocating amount of pressure to perform–to succeed–to do well in all things, sometimes it feels like a hopeless case just being a girl! As I scroll through my media sites yesterday, I felt completely done. Who am I compared to these Diploma holding, fit, super stylish women? They’re hip enough to be trendy, yet personable enough to be relate-able. But it is not simply a comparison of lifestyle to which we fall victim. Even amongst other Christians (!), we play the comparison game. We compare even our relationships with God based off of what we perceive in other’s lives. The glossy, edited versions of their lives that we see flood our screens. The “put together” smiles they seem to show when we pass them at Church. How many scriptures do they post on Social Media? How unique are those verses (bonus points if they’re an Old Testament verse!) ? How many people do they mentor? How many girls are in their Bible Studies? What kind of reviews do they get on their blog? How many places do they volunteer at?
 
We measure ourselves by our perception of others. We test the worthiness of our lives by a “Pass or Fail” label. Little do we realize, in “testing” ourselves, we are also quietly opening deadly doors within our hearts. If we grade ourselves as “Pass”, we are saying (even in our hearts) that we have become better than another person. We are more fit, Spiritual, a better friend, more fashionable, funnier and quietly pat ourselves on the back. Woosh! The door swings open as the suave figure of Pride saunters into our heart. In just a few seconds, we have held ourselves in esteem over another person. On the flip side, when we find ourselves lacking, we stamp a “Fail” onto our outlook.  We aren’t as beautiful, fit, healthy, Spiritual, talented, happy homemaker as they are–and we feel DONE. We crawl into a dark hole of depression and self-pity. 
Creeeeeeaaaaak. The dark, woeful silhouette of Despair crosses the threshold of our hearts. 
 
As uncomfortable as it is to admit it, I am guilty of this exact thing. I have frequently found myself measuring my own life in a “Pass or Fail” standard that I have set. More often than not, I find myself wrestling with Despair as the label “Failure” is sealed on my mind.

 

Sisters in Christ, do you see how painful a cycle we set for ourselves? And how typical of the Deceiver to creep in and turn us into rivals? For we are not rivals, but instead instead co-laborers! YOU are my co-worker, in Christ. For those who are seeking earnestly to expand the Kingdom of Heaven, we are working in the same line of work! We are planting seeds, cultivating, and (by God’s grace) watching the Holy Spirit grow eternal fruit! What an incredible blessing to realize! We are  not working against one another–but WITH one another!
 
So what do we do with all of these thoughts bombarding our minds and infiltrating our hearts? What do we do when we fall into depression?
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1) Repentance. No matter how “good” we may seem to others, we have to get our hearts right with God. Hearts that are full of sin and deceitfulness (Jeremiah 17:9). Simply by looking at others, we puff ourselves up with pride OR we begin to doubt God and His character (through despair, which is the “absence of Hope”). We must realize that our attitudes–our secret striving to be better–is not streaming from a godly heart. We must ask the Lord to forgive us–to fill us with the sweet humility AND Joy which is found in His own dear character! 
 
2) Take Every Thought Captive “to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Now, I’ve never really heard of someone “accidentally” binding up a prisoner, nor have I heard of a situation where a man was simply walking through the woods and happened upon the VERY person he was hoping to capture. This being the case, we actually have to be looking for those sneaky little thoughts. Carefully on the watch. Although avoiding people forever may seem appealing at times, we technically can’t live in a cave. We have to learn how to bind up those prideful or despairing thoughts–and refuse to let them stay in our minds. When you’re faced with a thought of “wow, I’m so glad I love the Lord more than they seem to” OR “wow, I’ll never be as beautiful or Spiritual as they are”, take that thought and force it out of your mind. Say “NO, I refuse to indulge the devil in his schemes! I belong to Christ and I refuse to dwell on these things!”
 
3) Put On A Garment of Praise. One way the Enemy gets us distracted from our mission of pursuing CHRIST and seeking to bring people TO Christ is getting our focus OFF Jesus. He gets us wound up in our problems. Our feelings. Instead of listening to these emotions knock on the door of your mind, what if we filled our hearts with songs of Worship? What if we poured out actual thanksgiving to a God who cannot lie–a God of Truth, Mercy, Justice and Purity in Heart? Pop in a worship Cd–one that focuses on CHRIST and not on how YOU feel–and let the adoration of Christ fill your room! 
 
4) Practice Honoring and Encouraging. We, as humans, tend to look at numbers. In the Body of Christ, one of the Church’s biggest stumbling block is often “attendance”. How many numbers they can get (and maintain) in their buildings. When we stumble across other blogs or sites, we often look at how many “followers” they have. What if–instead of scanning to see what they have–we viewed it as their “field”?  Those girls that they are surrounded by–what if we view them as the “seeds they are nurturing”?  PRAY for those women you see which hold a high degree of influence. Pray hard for them. Whether they realize it or not, they hold a position of authority within their sphere of influence. Pray that the Love of Christ would be their true desire. Pray for humility. Take time to encourage them with a kind word (or comment on their website)! 
 
It can also be so very easy to look at someone who the Lord is blessing in certain areas and, instead of rejoicing with them and being glad for God’s blessing on their lives/ministry/etc., we are jealous, grumbling, criticizing — perhaps without even realizing it — because, deep inside, we want what they have. We think, “I’m serving God just as much as they are…so why did God bless THEM in that way, and not ME?” “I have been working longer and harder than they have…but I haven’t seen nearly as much fruit as they have in just a few short weeks/months/years.” “We both love the Lord, but why did God bless HER with an uber-godly husband, and leave me still laboring on my own? She shouldn’t have more blessing than I have!”
 
Again…this self-righteousness and pride can so easily slip in – especially when you begin serving the Lord, and find out what a long road of self-denial and labor pains it really is…and how firmly you must hold fast to the Lord’s promises in faith, when everything around you looks bleak and difficulties arise and surround you.
 
But we MUST fight against these attitudes, because we are not trying to promote ourselves! We are called to simply be faithful in whatever God has called us to, proclaim the Gospel, and leave the rest up to Him. Fruitfulness is not the ultimate test of our calling and purpose. The ultimate test is our FAITHFULNESS. And the only way we can truly remain faithful is to fix our gaze on Jesus, and rest in His good character, and hold firmly onto His promises, which will never fail us. We cannot measure our success, or the greatness of God’s love based on outward signs of fruit and favor and everything always going perfectly for us (or the lack thereof)! But we look to His promises, which are unchanging, and trust in His love, which does not fade. And remember, that we are all working together, in the unique ways that He has called each of us…and we are called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”. Not gazing at ourselves and our own struggles continually, but forcing ourselves to look outward — into Heaven, and into the needs and blessings of others…and loving them with HIS love.
 
Above all, pursue Christ. Truly pursue Him. Not just in a “I’ll get around to having a close relationship with Him one day. I’m just too busy right now”. No. TODAY is that day! Sisters, if we are to be Salt and Light in a world that is (very quickly) perishing before our eyes, we must set our priorities straight. We must thwart the schemes of the Devil by building one another up in a true sacrificial Love. A love where we think LESS about ourselves–our feelings–and more on serving others with JOY. The world is to know us as Christians by our love for each other (John 13:35). Let us seek to Love Christ with all our hearts, souls and mind–and to truly love our neighbor (or Sister in Christ) as ourselves.
 
Side note:
I do want to mention the fact that if you are struggling with a particular issue, PLEASE email us. We are here to pray, encourage and love on YOU. Yes, YOU. We want to be a friend, true sisters, and a blessing to you. If you are going through a difficult season of life, if you are struggling with self-hate or depression–please contact us. We would love to connect with you and pray for you personally. 
Also, please share this post, so that we can spread the truth and encouragement of God’s Word far and wide! There are “Share” buttons below to make it quick and easy to share this post with your circles of friends.

What to Do…When You Don’t Know What to Do.

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Following God is simple. But most of the time, it’s not exactly what any of us would expect.

People press in around us from the time we enter middle school, with questions, suggestions, always wondering what we’re going to do with our lives – urging us to make decisions, and follow our dreams, watching us, waiting for us to do something big – amazing – something to change the world. They’re always so supportive of the kids who decide that, when they grow up, they’re going to be a doctor, a firefighter, or a hairdresser. But for any who might be tender enough to voice their desire to be a “missionary”, there is often polite laughter, a pat on the head, and unending, “But what are you REALLY going to do with your life?” questions. And for those who don’t even have a clue, there is so much pressure to jump into college and spend tens of thousands of dollars “figuring out” what you want to do…because…well…you’ve got to be doing SOMETHING.

But let’s take a step back for a moment. Let’s lay aside all the pressure, the opinions, the advice…and just quiet our souls for a minute. There are always more things to be done, things that COULD be done, things that people think you should be doing. But what is it that God wants you to do? There is one question that keeps me going, and helps me to stay focused when my brain is trying to go 120 different directions at once…and my body can’t even comprehend what it would mean to keep up. Then the Holy Spirit cuts through my anxious, overwhelmed thoughts and says, “What if Jesus was coming back today? What would you want to accomplish before His return? What do you want to be doing when He comes back? Now DO that.”

That one line of thinking can change everything. In that light, there are suddenly a lot of things that seemed important, but aren’t. A lot of pressure that doesn’t need to exist. A lot of hesitation and questioning that can be swept away. And so much freedom to throw yourself into the Lord’s service with abandon.

If Jesus was coming back today, I would want to rescue as many lives as I could. I would want to share the gospel with as many people as possible. I would want to take advantage of every meeting with someone, whether at the store or on the street as if it was their last chance to be saved from judgement.

If Christ’s return was imminent, I wouldn’t have to worry about having enough money saved up. I wouldn’t worry about what people thought about me. I wouldn’t worry about having a good enough education. I would take what I do have, and what I do know, and go out into the world and preach the gospel. I would lay aside all my own plans, desires, and dreams…and every vision of success in the world, or what the world says I need to do or have. I would set out with just Jesus, and courageously go forth to do whatever He set before me. I would let Him fully and truly live through me, to do the things that are on His heart to do; the things that He would want to do if He was in His own body on earth right beside me.

Following God’s will isn’t that complicated. We can make it complicated, by inserting all of our “what-if’s” and fears and plans for ourselves. But really, if we were all perfectly honest, we would know what God is asking of us. We would know what His will is — it is to go forth and share the gospel with every person. No degrees required. And, if we could truly trust Him to provide, there would be no need to worry about money, or organizations supporting us, or anything. We could actually just go wherever He lead us.

It’s not complicated. But it’s not easy. It means that our lives are not our own. It means all of the rosy plans we had for ourselves are no longer our goal or aim. It means that any acclaim of the world, any recognition, any hope of fun or doing what we like or what we feel is our “gifting” is gone…and replaced by the urgency to just get out in any way possible and share the gospel with whoever will listen. Laying down our own lives to share God’s amazing love with the hurting, broken world at our doorstep.

God’s will means simply saying, “yes”. And going.

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Katie Davis is an excellent modern-day example of a life surrendered to God, and what He can do through one who lays down their own desires and plans and ideas of what would be “fun” in order to rescue lives, and share God’s love. Katie was just a normal teenager in pursuit of all the things that were on the normal teenager’s mind: popularity, boys, a good career….and then, God showed up and turned her world upside-down.

After she graduated from high-school, she had decided to take a year off before going to college. She signed up for a short-term mission trip to a Ugandan orphanage, and, as she said, “I moved over there thinking that I would be there for a year and then I would come back and go to college and be normal again.” But God had other plans.

While she was there, God captured her heart and opened her eyes to see the desperate need of the people there…for someone to love them and to show them a better way.

“I quit my life…I quit college; I quit cute designer clothes and my little yellow convertible; I quit my boyfriend. I no longer have all the things the world says are important.”

Then…God took her back to Uganda, with no plans to ever return to her home land, and began to make her a mom, at 19, to little Ugandan girls who had no one to love them. God brought them to her, one-by-one, until she had 13 little ones in her care, and gave her charge over them as their mother, to love them, snuggle them, teach them, clean them…and to tell them about Jesus. She also started a ministry in her home, to any who wanted to come. She started “Amazima Ministries”, so that the destitute children would have someone to sponsor them, and so they could eat and go to school.

You might think, “Wow. It takes a special person to do that! I could never do something like that.” No! Don’t even think that way, friends! That thought is where the call of God dies. You must understand that NO ONE is spectacularly gifted to love people like that. We are all weak, sinful, and sorely lacking the love it takes. BUT, Jesus has said, “Come, and drink freely!” He has promised to give us all we need to do the work He sets before us. It’s not about how capable we are…it’s about allowing God to fill us with HIS power and strength, and to work and live through us.

As Katie expressed so well, “I remember when I wasn’t ready to move to Uganda. I remember when I wasn’t ready to kiss the people I loved the most goodbye. I remember when I didn’t have enough money to sponsor just ten children, and I remember when I wasn’t old enough to be a mother, and I remember when I didn’t know how to parent. I remember when I couldn’t cook for fifteen people and when I didn’t want to share my house and my things and my life with sick people and addicts. I remember when I was afraid of the slum community that now holds hundreds of friends and when I was terrified that my daughter would never walk and when I was scared that we would never heal after tragic loss. And I remember that never, not once, was I really as ready as I wanted to be. And I remember that God kept all His promises, every last one, in His perfect time.

This new season looms and I don’t know what is next. But He doesn’t need me to be ready for this season because He is ready. He just needs me to be clinging to His feet.

Now. This is where He has called us.”

“People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people.”

“I want to give everything, no matter the cost, because I believe that nothing is a sacrifice in light of eternity with Christ.”

“The goal of the book [“Kisses From Katie”] was for other people to be encouraged that, in small steps of obedience to God, he can create something more extraordinary than you could have imagined. When people come into my story from this side of things, they might say, ‘Oh, this young girl has this organization and all these children—either she’s totally crazy or she’s gotta’ be incredible.’ I’m neither, but the story started with one open door of going to this third-world country. I said yes, and then God placed needs in front of me, and I tried to meet them in the best way I could.

I think prayer is key. I would encourage people to follow and obey, and try to serve others one step at a time, whoever is in front of them. If there is an open door to go to a foreign country and it is something you want to explore, walk through the open door. Once you get there, God will open other doors and bring needs to you. And as you meet the needs right in front of you, he can build something different than we ever would have thought or planned.”

“Maybe courage is not at all about the absence of fear but about obedience even when we are afraid. Courage is trusting when we don’t know what is next, leaning into the hard and knowing that it will be hard, but more, God will be near.  Maybe bravery is just looking fear in the face and telling it that it does not win because I have known The Lord here. I have known The Lord in the long, dark night.

We still tremble, but more than that we have faith. Even though we feel uncertain, we press into a God who is so certain, so sure, so steady. He carries us, He lifts our heads. And His unfailing love and comfort becomes our courage and our hope.”

So what is God’s will for you? Be faithful to do what He sets before you. Move forward through one door, and He will open another. Trust, and, as God has told me very seriously: make sure to do nothing out of fear.

Becoming a Shepherdess

pretty young woman holding a white lamb, close up portrait, outdoor

 

“…Do you love me?….Tend my sheep.”  John 21:16

“I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”  John 10:11-13

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  Ephesians 5:1-2

 

God recently pointed out these scriptures to me and said to me, “This is what I want you to become. A shepherdess.” I  was a little puzzled at first, and began to ponder what that really meant. First, what does it mean to be a shepherd, and second, what are some important things to know about shepherding?

What does it mean to be a shepherd?

A shepherd must take very seriously the lives of the “sheep” that God has put into their care. This will look different for everyone, but God gives each of us our own “sheepfolds” – places where we meet people and become connected to them, such as school, work, church, etc. Depending on how outgoing you are, your “sheepfold” may be larger or smaller…but it’s still there, no matter who you are, or what your personality, we all know people who are hurting and need help. Each of these people you know will/have become your “sheep”; as God calls you to a serious relationship with Himself, it will never be simply for your own enjoyment – God calls us to always be pouring out our lives to help others, and the closer you get to God, the more He will ask you to give. And the closer you get to God, the bigger He will make your “sheepfold”…because you will begin to see, more and more, that you don’t have the right to choose who you feel comfortable talking to about Jesus or not…because every single person needs Him – even just the people you walk by in the grocery store or at the mall – and you may be their only chance to hear the gospel.

A shepherd’s duty is to invest their lives in the sheep. To give all they can give to see the sheep succeed. To teach them, to invite them over, to be available whenever they need help – or just a friend, and most importantly……

A shepherd is also the “priest” of their sheep-fold. This does not mean that you have to perform rituals with incense and wear weird hats. Let me share a few scriptures to clarify:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.”

Hebrews 4:14-5:4 

“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Hebrews 7:23-25 

“But you are….a royal priesthood….” 1 Peter 2:9

These verses show us that God has called each of us to become like a high priest, just as Jesus did. This doesn’t mean that we are to think of ourselves as something special. No, it actually means quite the opposite. As shepherds and priests, it means we are to become the servants of all, and to deal compassionately with those God has placed in our care, knowing all that He has saved us from, and His great mercy toward us daily. But it also means that we are to live our lives to make intercession for these “sheep” of ours (intercession=earnest prayer). The job of the priests in Biblical times was to offer sacrifices and prayers before the Lord on behalf of their people. And in the same way, God has called us to pray earnestly for those He has given into our care. We are to uphold them in prayer as if their very lives depended on it. And indeed, so often they really do depend on it.

 

Sheep and lambs on pasture

What are some important things to know about shepherding?

1.) Shepherding is not a part-time job.

We humans are always looking for the easiest way around things. We don’t want to just throw our lives into things without careful thought and planning…and making sure we still have plenty of time to do the things we want. “I don’t know if I really want to commit to that job right now…maybe I can just work part-time.” Well, in Biblical times, being a shepherd meant giving up your life to take care of your sheep. It meant 24/7 care. It meant that you spent your life leading your sheep around to new pastures, and being aware of their every need and trouble. A good shepherd literally invested their whole life into these sheep, so they were very careful to watch over them and take great pains to make sure they were well cared for. When you invest your own time and energy into something, you take a greater responsibility for it, because it has suddenly become a part of you. A shepherd didn’t have the choice of waking up late, or watching TV, or hanging out with friends and doing whatever he wanted to. A shepherd woke as the sheep woke, and had to continually keep watch over them, to make sure they had what they needed and that they were safe from harm. A bad shepherd was one that would relax when he should have been alert, and wild animals would come and kill the sheep. A bad shepherd would also be one who was simply out with the sheep because he had no other choice, and who didn’t invest his time and energy into taking the best possible care of them…so that when the wolves come to attack the sheep, he cares only about saving his own life, and flees – leaving the sheep to be devoured.

When God makes you a shepherdess, you can’t say, “Today I am ‘off duty’, and I’m not available to help anyone.” Nope. Serving God means being on call all the time, and when someone calls you at 2am, it means talking with them, and helping them gladly. It means when someone interrupts your plans or ideas for a nice time with their need for help, it means not hesitating to rush to their aid.

2.) Shepherding means laying down your life.

Like I mentioned in the previous point, shepherding means dying to yourself. Jesus is our example in this as John 10 says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

We must be willing to set aside our own plans in order to pray for and help those around us. If they need prayer, we must be faithful to lift them up before the Lord. If they call us at 2am, we must be willing to talk. If they need a home, we must be willing to offer them ours…

We must always be willing to have God answer our prayers for people through us…otherwise, it is not real love and care for them. Of course we are always glad to pray for people who need help; praying that God sends them someone who can help them, someone to encourage them….someone to give them the money they need — the support they need. But…when you pray for God to provide for someone, are you willing to give your own last $50 to help them? When you pray for God to encourage them, are you willing to be the one to go out of your way to bake them cookies, invite them out to coffee, and just BE there for them? When you pray for them to be saved…are you willing to be the one to share the gospel with them?

I’m not saying these things to scare you out of praying, but to show you what real love for people looks like…and to show you the kind of heart attitude we need to have when we pray for people, if we truly want God to answer our prayers. Sometimes God will do things to answer our prayers that have nothing to do with us. Sometimes God will ask us to pray someone into salvation without ever talking to them even once. But sometimes…many times…God will test us to see what we are willing to do ourselves to help someone…and when we give all that we have to help those in need, God will both fill in anything else that is lacking and use our sacrifice to actually minister to their needy hearts.

As Oswald Chambers said so well, “It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a ‘doormat’ under other people’s feet. God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, ‘I know how to be abased…’ (Philippians 4:12). Are you ready to be sacrificed like that? Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket— to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted— not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work while maintaining a saintly attitude, because they feel such service is beneath their dignity.”

God wants us to serve and to give of ourselves without expecting any praise, any recognition, or any help from another person. And it is only a truly pleasing sacrifice when it is done with gladness and praise to God, and not begrudgingly.

3.) God will teach you obedience through your suffering. 

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

(Hebrews 5:7-8 ESV) 

Even Jesus Himself had to go through suffering in order to be perfected, and to learn true obedience. When you live your life for others instead of yourself, it will require great suffering and difficulties. You will have your heart crushed when “sheep” you have invested much love and prayer in turn away from you. You will have to battle off the intense desires of your flesh for ease and pleasure continually. You will have your character shaped and pruned so that it becomes more pleasing to God – this can often be a painful process, and is never truly finished while we are here on earth. You will have to give up your own plans, your own comfort — even things that every other “normal” person feels entitled to may not be things that God allows you to have or do. But it is all worth it if some of your “sheep” are brought into freedom and life with Jesus! And, it is even worth it all if you learn the lessons that God needs to work in your heart, and you are drawn into a closer walk with Him.

So, I hope that you will join me in praying that we will cling more closely to God in all things, and that we will take our jobs more seriously, and pour out our lives more freely for the sake of others.

Only by His power working within us.

Lord, teach us how to be shepherdesses.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 

Hebrews 13:20-21

Why I’ve Been Absent…

This is why I’ve been absent…and why the Unshakable Girl Magazine will be a bit late in coming out this month. It’s because I was pouring all my time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears into this little book.
A little book I hope will draw the hearts of many children to fall in love with Jesus. <3

bookcover

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

ART That Captures the Heart of God!

FMBpainting1

There are some who seem to be particularly gifted with the ability to mull over numbers and facts for hours on end.  There are those who are gifted to be teachers, nurses, and secretaries — those who keep the world going ‘round.  And then…there are some, like myself, who are captured by beauty and remain simply unable to look away.  Beauty tugs at our heart strings and causes us to forget the realities of this world and the things that are needed to make it run, as we find ourselves lost in the pursuit of capturing it.  Some of us use paintbrushes, and some – pencil, charcoal, ink.  Some delight in using the modern technology within our cameras to capture beauty…and some are content to sit with only their imagination as the limit of what they can capture.

I’ve always liked to think of this pursuit as being especially close to the heart of God, the Artist Who paints every sunset in the sky, and captures every sparkle on the water just so.  God has put into us a little of His own Being…and that, I believe, is where we get our love of creating beauty!

However, the devil never rests at his job of corrupting every good gift from God…and in this current society I see it more starkly displayed than perhaps has ever been seen on earth before.  Skulls are entwined with flowers and bows on every hoodie in the mall.  Sculptures in every park look like chunks of metal that fell off a spaceship and got embedded into the ground.  Paintings consist of random splatters and drips…or people who are garishly disproportionate…or inappropriate.  And so many dark, depressing works of “art” that just make your skin crawl – many of which include hellish faces leering at you as you walk by.  That’s what happens when God isn’t welcome.  All true creativity, sweetness, and beauty is lost.  Without instruction from the Master Designer, we can only create empty forms of beautiful things…and they will be lacking all of the vibrancy and life that made them worthy of capturing in the first place!  And every “art gathering” is simply an expo of New Age, magic, death, pride, lust, and all KINDS of terrible things.  NOT exactly what our hearts are longing for.

So, how can we make the best use of our art?  How can our art most glorify the Creator of art — the King of the Universe?  How can our art stand out like a beacon of light in the midst of the dark, dank “art cave” of this world?  How can we truly capture God’s heart in our art?

1.) Capture innocence.

The sparkle in a child’s eyes.  The frisking of a puppy.  The gentleness of the world cloaked in snowy wonder.  The delicate curve of a flower’s soft petals.  These things are all full of an innocence that the world overlooks, and has forgotten how to appreciate.  The world needs bold colors, elements that grate against each-other in an irritating way, and disturbing images to capture our media-deadened minds, so that we’ll take notice.  But God’s ways take us back to child-like innocence and purity…and the ability to take delight in the gentle and sweet things that He has created; these are the sort of things that come from His heart!  Everything He does blends perfectly, and He always highlights just the right parts to cause our eyes to marvel at the beauty.  He does not create anything ugly, or perverse, or even irritating to our eyes and our sense of proportion and beauty.  If you are going to make art, imitate our good God in this: capture innocence.

2.) Capture light, virtue, and beauty.

God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all [1 John 1:5].  The moody, depressing paintings of the world ooze with darkness and despair.  They exalt perverseness and immorality, and the twisting of beauty into something that echoes the chaos of their hearts.  This is not art to be praised!  This is simply a window into the hearts of men without God, no matter how fine the brush-strokes, or how perfect the hues.  These “artists” are to be pitied, and prayed for…but not emulated!  No!  Do not desire to be like these, however popular or praised they may be.  To capture God’s heart, and draw hearts to Him through our art, it must be bursting with light, celebrating virtue, and full of the delight of true beauty – which can be found in all the things that God has created.  In order to truly capture God’s heart in these things, though, we must actually have a close friendship with Him ourselves, first and foremost.  In order to see what He sees, and capture things in just the right way that brings glory to Him and causes people’s hearts to rejoice, we must truly KNOW Him, and be close to His heart.  Anyone who does not know God, cannot capture things through His eyes, and cannot see the beauty that only His children can see.

And, one tip I have been coming to understand about what sets a good painting or drawing or photo apart from the rest is always significantly about the lighting in the picture.  So, I recommend, if you want to be able to capture the beauty you see, or the sweet things in your imagination — study light.  Study the way it dances through the trees, and sparkles on the ripples in the river, and gives depth to scenes that would otherwise be flat and boring.  Note how it causes a face to glow, and how it gives petals an inner radiance.

3.) Capture truth.

While drawing fantasy worlds may be fun, or relaxing, it is most likely never going to save a soul.  Focus, instead, on what is true.  And…what is truth?  God is truth.  Salvation is truth.  Repentance and forgiveness are truth.  Fighting to hold onto salvation is truth.  Our heavenly reward is truth.  Though this kind of art may not be for everyone, I have found some of the most compelling art I have ever seen to be that which captures the spiritual truths that give us a heavenly window into spiritual realities that we can’t always see, but know to be true.  I think an excellent example of this is Ron DiCianni.  His paintings are all beautiful depictions of a Christian’s life, and glimpses into heaven.  I think perhaps my favorite is one he calls, “Safely Home”, which depicts a Christian martyr just arriving in the presence of the Lord, finally free of his chains, and held in His Savior’s comforting embrace, as an angel waits to give him his new and shining white robes.  So much emotion is captured in this one scene, and it is one that causes your own heart to long to be faithful unto death — to “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown”. [Revelation 3:11].

Sun rays passing through an open door

4.) Capture Heaven.

Jesus dwells in Heaven.  It is a very real world, full of light and beauty and free from the effects of sin and death.  If you can give people a glimpse into heaven with your art, not only will their hearts be compelled to rejoice, but there will be an inner longing that is awakened in their hearts that may very well lead them to the Savior Himself.  I can’t necessarily dictate to you all that this means for your art, and it very much ties in with my previous points…but if you prayerfully make this your goal in all that you do, you will find your art take on a new depth and life.

5.) Selfless art.

Perhaps the highest call for art is, in fact, using it to bless others.  You may think that it’s not worth it to spend days or weeks on a painting just to give it away to one person.  But the act of giving something so full of care and effort away for the eyes of the receiver alone is an act of the greatest humility and selflessness.  Not expecting any praise or acclaim or gain, but just giving to make someone smile.  I have personally found that I prefer this kind of art over every other; just seeking the Lord for His ideas for a picture for someone, often with a verse to go with it, that will really minister to their hearts in exactly the ways that HE knows they need.  When I seek God for His thoughts and ideas, and His help to draw/paint/take pictures that are sweet and full of His love, I am never disappointed at the way He uses it to speak to the hearts of the receivers in a special way — and that is the greatest reward!

6.) Surrendered art.

Here I come to a most difficult point, but in it is found the greatest reward!  If you think there is any chance for God to use your life to reach other with the gospel; if you want to serve God, and see lives changed…don’t look to your art, and don’t hold too fast to your own notions of what you want to do with your “gift”.  There are so many thousands and millions of desperately hurting, lost, and dying people in this world who need Jesus, that if there is any potential that God could use you in the harvest, there really can’t be any time wasted on seeking after art for art’s sake.  One painting, one drawing can take days and weeks to complete.  And there just isn’t any way to justify the loss of that much time. Jesus is returning soon, and every moment we spend in seeking our own interests is a moment that we aren’t reaching out and rescuing another soul for eternity.  We can try to justify our art as a “tool” for the gospel, and as long as it truly is, I think God will bless it.  But how much of it is simply seeking our own idea of what we want to do, and what we find delightful and “fun”?  Honestly, there is just no time to waste on art that doesn’t directly call people to seek the Lord.  God has really made this clear to my heart.  I had thought that I might like to go to art school as I was considering after-highschool options…and even after I decided against college, I still held onto art as something that I desired to excel in and be known for.  But then, God did something special.  He called me to serve Him full-time instead, both in directly sharing Him with people all across North America, and in simply making the best use of my time, and making sure that everything I use my time for is with the goal of expanding the Kingdom of God.  He has asked me to lay aside my desires to build my life on art, and instead, to desire to seek and save the lost.  It is interesting, because sometimes He will give me something to do that involves art…whether illustrating a book, or doing photography for someone, or making a drawing or painting to bless someone with…and instead of it being me seeking my own pleasure or acclaim, it is just a part of my obedience to Him and His call on my life, and is filled with almost the same joy as leading a soul to Him directly.  Sacrificing our art for the sake of seeing lost souls come to salvation is a sacrifice that is well-pleasing to God, and He will cause it to be like fertilizer for the seeds that are planted in people’s lives to spring up and flourish!

Woman holding white flowers

One encouraging example of this area of surrender, one that encouraged me to release my grip on “my art”, is Rosalind Goforth, who, with her husband Jonathan, was a missionary to China starting in the late 1800’s.  God granted them the answer of their prayer of reaching 10,000 souls with the gospel.  Rosalind was a talented young artist from a well-to-do, prominent family in England.  Her days from youngest childhood were largely spent beside her artist father’s easel, who strongly desired that she would be an artist, and saw in her a natural talent.  At age 12, after hearing a preacher speak at a revival meeting, Rosalind gave her heart to the Lord.  She said, “From that time, and increasingly as the years passed, there seemed to be two elements contesting within me, one for art, the other — an intense longing to serve the Master to whom I had given myself.”  Rosalind did, in fact, end up graduating from the Toronto School of Art, and was preparing to leave for London to complete her studies in art abroad when God changed her course. In Rosalind’s own words,

“The autumn of 1882 found us again settled in Toronto, when I at once entered the Art School.  The period of three years that followed was a period of great unrest in my life.  While I loved my art, for it was born in me, yet there was always the inner, secret longing for definite Christian service.  I came to pray daily that a door might be opened for such.

Mother and my eldest brother, Fred, had given Father their solemn promise that I would be sent to England for training in the Kensington School of Art.  In view of this promise, Mother’s later action may be better and more sympathetically understood.

Little did I dream as we entered the year 1885 how completely the course of my life, as then planned, was to change before the year ran out.  Graduation from the art school was to come in May, when a coveted gold medal was to be presented by the Governor General of Canada.  One pupil, Miss X, and myself were so far ahead of the others in the class, it was a foregone conclusion that one of us would get the medal.  There is little doubt had I won it I would have been so elated the artist career would certainly have followed.  But GOD planned otherwise.

Early in February, I was taken ill with inflammatory rheumatism.  This was the third serious attack.  For days my life hung in the balance.  I was only half conscious and unable to move or be moved.  Every joint in my body seemed on fire.  Some weeks before, I had memorized the hymn, the first verse of which is:

How sweet the name of JESUS sounds

In a believer’s ear;

It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,

And drives away his fears.

Words fail me to describe what that hymn meant to me through those days of agony.  The words, fresh in mind, came without effort.  While at times the whole six verses would come as soothing balm, it was the message of the first two lines of the last verse that brought to me the irresistible call to service. The words,

I would thy boundless love proclaim

With every fleeting breath

seemed burned into my soul.  I came out of that valley of suffering determined to pry myself loose from the things that were forcing me to follow other than the path of Christian service.

It was then I began to pray that if the Lord wanted me to live the married life, he would lead to me one wholly given up to Him and to His service.  I wanted no other.

Graduation time came, and while I was able to attend, I, of course, failed to win the gold medal, which was awarded to Miss X.

Preparations had begun for my going to England, for I had told no one, not even my mother, of my spiritual struggles and secret hopes, believing it was better to leave the Lord to work out all in His own way.  Then, in a truly marvelous way, He brought into my life just what I had asked for, a man wholly yielded to GOD and His service.”

That, of course, being Mr. Jonathan Goforth.  And Rosalind tells the remarkable story in his biography and a few other of her written works.

“On looking back upon that time, the greatest wonder seems to be the rapidity with which events took place: the meeting with Mr. O’Brien at St. Peter’s; a few days later his invitation to the workers’ meeting of the Toronto Mission Union; the introduction of ‘Jonathan Goforth, our city missionary’; and a few days later the never-to-be-forgotten incident of examining the worn Bible.  At that meeting, though the first I had attended, my name was included in the committee appointed to find a place and open a branch mission in the east end slums.  Mr. Henry O’Brien was chairman, while Jonathan Goforth was also included on the committee.  Thus we were coworkers from the beginning.

The two years given to work in the East End slums, was of the greatest possible value in gaining experience which gave me a realization of my own personal responsibility towards my unsaved sisters.   Of course, by this time, art had practically dropped out of my life, and in its place had come a deep desire to be a worthy life-partner of one so wholly yielded to his Divine Master, as I knew Jonathan Goforth to be.

FMBpainting3
A painting by Rosalind’s brother, Fred, showing the level of talent she gave up to serve the Lord.

To my great surprise, Mother’s reaction to this slum work was most sympathetic.  For weeks all went well. Then one day, as if uneasy, she expressed a wish for Mr. Goforth to come for supper Sunday evening.  He came and Mother liked him; but that evening when I returned from the mission, Mother looked straight at me in a strange way and said, ‘Rosie, was the moon out tonight?’  Everyone in the room had his eyes on me, and my embarrassment was more than I could bear, for I had to acknowledge, as I fled, that I did not know! (Jonathan Goforth had accompanied me home.)

The next morning, Mother came to me and said sternly, ‘This slum work is to cease at once.  You are to get ready and leave for England without delay!’  I replied quietly, but firmly, ‘Mother, it is too late; I promised Jonathan Goforth last night to be his wife and to go to China!’

Poor Mother! She almost fainted! It is not necessary to give the details of the week that followed.  Suffice it to say, Mother gave me the choice of obeying Father’s dying wish or leaving home. For six weeks, I stayed with a brother in a distant city.

Then came a letter from my sister pleading with me to return, as Mother was sobbing day and night and seemed failing fast.

On reaching home, I was shocked at the change in Mother.  She would not speak to me and seemed broken-hearted.  My distress was now very great.  Could it be GOD’s will for me to break my Mother’s heart?  At last, one day, as I listened to her pacing her bedroom floor, weeping,  I could stand the strain no longer and determined to find out GOD’s will so plainly I could make no mistake.  Going down to the parlor, where the large family Bible rested on a small davenport or desk, I stood for a moment crying to the Lord for some word of light. Then I opened the Bible at random, and the first words my eyes lit on were:

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and

bring forth fruit” (John 15:16).

I knew at once GOD was speaking His will to me through these words, and in an instant the crushing burden was gone.  Running to Mother’s room, I begged her to hear what I had to say.

Unwillingly, she unlocked the door and stood while I told her of my prayer and answer.  For a moment only she hesitated, then with a cry I could never forget, she threw her arms about me, saying, ‘O my child, I can fight against you, but I dare not fight against GOD.’   From that moment till her death eighteen months later, Mother’s heart was entirely with me in the life I had chosen.”

So, as you can see from this example, it may be a difficult thing to surrender your art to the Lord – and there may even be those who can’t understand why you would set aside such “talent”.  But I know that Jesus has said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?”  (Mark 8:34-37 ESV)  And I hold fast to this hope and assurance — that anything I give up in this life will be my greatest gain in the life to come.

So whether in taking up your art as a tool to spread the love of Christ, or laying it down as a sweet offering before the throne of God, do it all for the glory of God.

And may I also give a fair warning to those of you who are considering going to college for art?  Be very careful and prayer-full.  You might actually do better to pray and study under God’s guidance – with Him as your teacher, than to shell out  tens of thousands of dollars to go to a school where they can’t actually help you.  Many of the art programs are so yucky, and with many teachers so full of the darkness of the world, that you couldn’t actually learn to make beautiful art there.  They cannot teach what they do not know.  Additionally, most art programs today are full of immense wickedness, and sin is celebrated and encouraged!  It is a sad reality, but you don’t have to be discouraged, because God is the best teacher in these things that you could ever have!  Seek Him, and you will not be disappointed!

You Want…ME?!?

surprised woman shows itself questioningly

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” Ephesians 3:20-21

It can be a scary thing when God asks you to serve Him. Now, there are many reasons that this statement may be true, but the one I’m currently getting at is the moment when we realize that we are sinful humans and so, so weak – continually messing up and making wrong choices…and yet, God is asking us to get out and preach the gospel, and to be His hands and feet, showing love to the desperate and dying souls we see each day! We realize that all that we do and say may be the only glimpse of the heart of Jesus that people will ever see! We wonder, “How can this be?? God should be using someone who’s far more righteous and holy than me! I can scarcely even stand firm in my own relationship with the Lord, let alone leading others to Him, or being an example of His love in a right way that will draw people to Him instead of causing them to turn away!” And we can see our own weaknesses in speaking with people, because so often either we miss the opportunity because we’re too shy or we don’t know what to say, or we do try talking to them, only to realize that we have no great wisdom or understanding that can change their lives; when we don’t see people falling to their knees in tears wanting to repent after we talk to them, and instead, we get eyes rolling and mocking laughter, and we begin to wonder…will we ever be able to change someone’s life?

The answer is: no. We can’t. And the more we try in our own strength, the more we will see our glaring inability to help anyone – truly help them – in the ways they most need. However, there is hope! And it is such a sweet truth that can relieve such a great weight of inadequacy off of our shoulders. The truth is this: Only God can change lives. But He offers His power freely to all who ask (Luke 11:13), so that, when we are willing, His power can actually flow through us, and work through us in ways that we would be unable to accomplish any other way. We were made with a “driver’s seat” in our souls, so to speak. And we can have one of 3 “chauffeurs”: Either our flesh, the devil, or the Holy Spirit. For most of us, our flesh prefers that spot, and much of what we do and say comes from our sin nature, and our weak fleshly thoughts and desires. And when we come across someone who is weighed down by heavy burdens, our flesh is just a scrawny, weak little thing, and just doesn’t have the power to help. In fact, if we don’t carefully rein it in, our flesh can actually end up adding burdens to the poor, already weighed down person instead of helping them to be free! However, when we are “putting to death the deeds of the flesh”, and we call upon Jesus to fill us with His strength and power to change lives, and we ask Him to guide and control our words and thoughts and actions, we are kicking our flesh out of the drivers’ seat and letting the Holy Spirit take control…and we essentially must humble ourselves and become willing tools for His use, letting Him “drive” wherever He wants. When we ask God to fill us and take control and to fill us with the power of His might…He will. And it is amazing how He can bring forth great fruitfulness from situations that seemed questionable, and how He can fill us with strength when we have none, and how He can speak through us to someone’s heart in exactly the ways that they need…and it doesn’t matter if we know the person, and it doesn’t matter if we feel excited, and it doesn’t matter if we are tired, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t know all the right verses that apply to a situation, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t feel bold or don’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter because, we can cast ourselves entirely on Christ’s strength and power, and in the moment that we need it, the wisdom, the understanding, the strength, will all be there. “…do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11b-12

When God spoke these truths to my own heart, I felt such a new freedom to serve Him however and whenever He called me to…because it is no longer dependent on me feeling “prepared” or spiritual enough (though always being prepared, by spending as much time in His presence as possible is invaluable). All that we do comes straight from HIS power, and not our own striving. And when I feel totally inadequate and weak, “His power is made perfect in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a), because He gets all of the glory for the miracle of bringing forth fruit in spite of my weaknesses, and for using me in the ways that I thought were impossible, and for overcoming my areas of weakness with His great power and the help and encouragement of His Holy Spirit. It is such a wonderful mercy! And it causes me much rejoicing, because it is so sweet for God to still use us in spite of all of our weaknesses and failings…and not just to use us, but if we are willing, He will actually be able to rescue many through the use of our lives.

What’s a Missionary?

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What does it mean to be a missionary? The general idea of a missionary – the one that is always the first thing that pops into our heads at the mention of the word – is often times something like a saintly, glowing person with a halo. Someone with superhuman abilities to do things that “normal” people would never do. Someone who always does and says the right thing, and somehow magically always knows exactly what to do when confronted with a challenge. Someone who goes into the jungles of Africa alone and fearlessly preaches to hundreds of people who all get saved. Someone with great charisma and boldness.

If some of these things are what come to your mind when you think about what a missionary is…you might be surprised to hear what I’m about to say. But I will preface it by saying that I am comforted by these verses:

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 ESV)

Serving the Lord isn’t just about going overseas to build houses, or doctor sick people, or preach to cannibal tribes. Sometimes God calls people to do these things…and that is always really amazing to see! But sometimes there’s no glorious title given, such as “So-and-So, a missionary to Such-and-Such exotic location”. Sometimes serving God and doing what He asks you to do means staying in your home country – or even your hometown! Sometimes it means just being faithful to go out to the streets of your city and tell people about Jesus. It can mean simply realizing that practically every person you see walking by you every day is lost and confused and hurting…and dying inside, because they have no hope; because they don’t know Jesus………and then committing yourself to follow the Lord’s direction to reach out to them, and to do whatever it takes to tell them about Jesus – to give them a chance at receiving new hearts and new lives. It’s not always glorious being a “missionary”. It’s not always fun. It doesn’t mean getting a great tan, or having lots of pictures in your scrapbook with little kids in rags, with dirty faces. These people need Jesus…but so does the kid walking down the street with his face glued to his gameboy. So does the girl you see sitting alone on the bench in the park just crying. So does the barista at the coffee shop, with the sad eyes and empty heart…who has tried buddhism, witchcraft, and mormonism…and who is still searching and empty…so empty, and so confused. You don’t have to raise thousands of dollars to go out for a week and do a building project in a third world country. You just have to wake up, and look around you each day – any day. You just have to see the needs of the people in your own town instead of pushing them aside, or assuming they’re “alright” (as I can often do myself, because my natural tendency is to generally just assume that everyone is doing fine). You might be their only chance to hear about Jesus, and how He can actually give them new hearts and take away their sins, and their guilt and shame and emptiness and fill them with joy. Pray for God to give you His eyes to see people…and pray for boldness…because you’ll need it.

Now, can I tell you that, despite the rosy picture people have of “missionaries”…we are not super-human. In fact…our weaknesses are perhaps MORE apparent in the heat of spiritual battle, lack of sleep, and general stress. We often have moments of intense fear and intimidation. There are many times that we know God has told us to do something, and we hesitate too long. There are many missed opportunities. Many times we know we just need to reach out and help someone…and yet, the words escape us. We get tired – very tired – and grumpy. Sometimes we say the wrong things; sometimes we say things out of our emotions (which are not always right) instead of from God’s Spirit’s guiding. We don’t always have victory over the devil’s attacks and discouragements the first time…or the second. We don’t always see fruit from our labors; there aren’t people continually repenting or lining the streets asking, “What must I do to be saved?” We don’t get lots of pats on the back or encouragement – in fact, anger and slander and lots of hurtful words are more common than I ever thought they would be. There are many times when we wish we just had a little bubble that we could pull out and hide in whenever we wanted to have some “alone” or “peace-and-quiet” time. There are lots of times when we’d like to just give up, or get a “real” job, or, at the very least, go on a month vacation. There are some people and places we come across that just downright creep us out. There are sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, discomforts galore…and lots of times – too many from me personally – that we grumble and complain instead of praising the Lord like we know we should.

Being a missionary means being “on call” for God to use you as His hands and feet whenever, wherever He wants to…and it generally goes waaaayyy outside of our comfort zones. Can I just say that again? It generally, almost always, goes waaaayyy outside of our comfort zones. God likes to use us in areas we aren’t comfortable in so that we cling to Him more tightly, and so His power is displayed in our weaknesses – not our skill and cleverness. Sometimes God will call us to do things in a way that we are particularly gifted and comfortable in. Sometimes. But more often than not, I have seen God’s call on my life and many others lead them outside of their realm of comfort and skill, leading them to lay aside their hobbies and many of the “gifts” they seem to have – the ones everyone is continually complimenting them on and marveling over – in order to just pursue reaching the lost with reckless abandon. There will be time for painting and knitting and playing instruments and doing trigonometry (if that’s something that floats your boat) in heaven. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing these things, but we can waste so much time pursing our own interests and dreams that we don’t even notice the hurting people around us. And all of these things take up so much time that they really leave very little for seeking the Lord ourselves, let alone trying to help others find Him. And I will also just add that I have had to lay aside many, many interests that I had in order to do the things God has set before me in this time – from art and playing instruments regularly, to dreams of being an archaeologist and a novel-writer.) But there is only a very short time we have on earth, and SO many hurting, lost people who are just blindly stumbling their way into hell! A missionary is simply someone who decides that time is too short to pursue things other than rescuing the lost, and who lays aside their other dreams and goals in order to seek those who are wandering, and to hold them back from the slaughterer of souls.

A missionary is not a perfect person, not always bold and outgoing (I’m really not!), not eloquent, doesn’t always have the whole Bible memorized, doesn’t always wake up like a chipmunk on coffee – wanting to go out and preach the gospel to anyone and everyone they see, and doesn’t always know the right things to say or do. A missionary is simply someone whose heart has been filled with love and concern for others, and has laid down their own lives in order to bring others into freedom through the gospel (John 15:13). And it is oh, so worth it. Every time I get to see that light in the eyes of someone who “gets it”, my heart overflows with gladness and thankfulness to the Lord for leading me in this way. It can be challenging at times – and made more so by my own weaknesses…but it is so worth it, and so sweet; there is nothing I would rather do. The fruit of living the life of a missionary is that which will last forever, instead of turning to dust like the treasure of this world; meaningless when your life is over. It is wonderful to see people raised up from their dead lives and given new hearts; filled with joy and light! It is beautiful to see those who were wandering aimlessly through life become like an unfolding flower; beautiful and fragrant. It is so special to be a part of a young child taking hold of the Good Shepherd’s hand for the first time. All this because Jesus chooses the foolish things of this world…..and that would be me. I am so grateful to be a part of His plan…and you can be too.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Proverbs 24:11

“…save others by snatching them out of the fire.” Jude 23a