More Than Good Enough

For most of my life, my morning consisted of throwing on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, running a brush through my hair, looking in the mirror and saying, “Eh, God said that it was good.” Perhaps you would never look at me and think that I was insecure. After all, I never buried my flaws under a pile of make-up. But deep in my heart, the root of the problem was the same. I was never more than “good enough.” But then I wondered…

Who am I to critique the handiwork of the Master Artist? Who am I to say that one creation is better than another? And if God declared that it was good, how can I say that I’m only “good enough”?

Think of the most beautiful thing you ever created, whether it be a poem, a picture, or a piece of music. I’m sure that your heart swells with pride at the memory of the moment that work of art came alive. Now imagine that your treasured creation could talk and it said to you, “I’m ugly. I hate this, that and the other. Why did you make me this way?” Imagine the devastation, and perhaps you will come close to understanding the breaking of God’s heart.

The fact is, He finds joy in you. You are the perfect masterpiece that brings light to His eyes. When you look in the mirror, I hope you’ll see what He sees because God didn’t only make you “good enough”; He made you perfect.

Never Come Back

Most people call it spring; here at Advancing Native Missions we call it “missionary season.” There’s a missionary couple staying at my house, and I think it’s safe to say that the wife is quite taken with me. Not a day goes by that I’m not told that I’ll soon be heading to Ghana in a suitcase. It started off as a five-month stay, then she started saying five years. The way it keeps fluctuating up and down makes me want to avoid Ghana (even in the conventional way) because if my new friend has her way, I’ll never come back.

Never come back. That’s a frightening phrase, isn’t it? Most of us are quite comfortable inside of our carefully crafted boxes. The thought of stepping out is disconcerting enough, but to think that we may never come back?… It’s enough to send us retreating into our little cubby holes for the rest of our lives.

I think that’s why so many of us are afraid to follow God’s calling on our lives. We’re afraid that He will lead us to a place of no return. And our fears are not altogether unfounded. God often does call His children to “never come back,” but what we tend to forget is that the place to which He is leading us is much better than the place we now stand.

So take a deep breath, and step outside of the box you’ve been living in for too long. Allow God to lead you to glorious places of which you’ve not yet begun to imagine. And once you’re there, never come back.

Oh, and before she leaves the country, someone please check that missionary’s suitcase!

Who is Jesus to You?

“This is not a church; it’s a hospital.”

This is what I was told by a missionary friend last night. When you don’t feel good, you take a pill. We go to church every Sunday to get our “Jesus fix”, but most of us don’t even know who Jesus truly is.

To the world, Jesus is a fad – a name that Kesha wears on her necklace even though the Jesus I know doesn’t fit into the singer’s “sick and sexy-fied” lifestyle. But how can we expect the world to know the character of Jesus when even our Christians often don’t understand Him? 

45-year-old woman who had been raised in church was asked to disciple a new believer, she claimed she didn’t know how. When my friend encouraged her to simply talk about her lover, the woman responded, “Jesus loves me?”

And I wonder… How does a woman spend 45 years in church and not know that Jesus loves her? How does a person spend every Sunday morning listening to the greatest fairytale of all time and not be moved by it? How do we get it in our minds that we can go to church and get just enough of Jesus to help us make it through the week?

God shouldn’t be a drug; He should be the very air we breathe. We need Him. We need the relationship for which we were created.

Did you know that Jesus loves you, or is that simply a song you learned in Sunday school? Did you know that God rejoices over you with singing as a mother sings over her child? Did you know that God is jealous for you as a lover is jealous for his beloved? Do you know these things, or have you simply allowed them to go in one ear and out the other?

Is Jesus just a necklace to complete your “sick and sexy-fied” outfit, or is He the lover who holds your hand and walks with you through all of life’s ups and downs? Who is Jesus to you?

You are Enough

Identity. That word is such a huge deal in our culture. It seems that everyone is out to “find themselves” nowadays. I’m not entirely sure what that statement fully means, but I do understand the delicate dance of trying to find your place in the world. But when it comes to identity, I think we place too much value in who other people say we are or say we should be.

In the movie What a Girl Wants, seventeen-year-old Daphne Reynolds dreams of meeting the father she has never known. She tells her mother, “I feel like a part of me is missing, and without the other half, how am I supposed to know who I really am?” Ironically, in Daphne’s desperate quest to “find herself”, she nearly loses herself as she squelches her wild, carefree personality in order to fit in with her dad’s traditional world. My heart always cheers her on as she looks her father in the eye and says, “You know what I miss now? I miss being me. I’ve finally realized that that is enough.”

Being the person you are is all you have to be. It’s enough. Even when people tell you that you’ll never amount to anything. Even when you’ve failed for the hundredth time. You don’t have to adopt the dreams the world tries to shove down your throat; all you have to do is pursue the dreams God has given you.

God is the only One whose opinion really matters because He’s the One who holds firm your true identity. Isaiah 49:16 says, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” He bears the scars of a man who was crucified because it reminds Him of you and the sacrifice He had to pay in order to restore you to Himself.  If you want to know who you are, you don’t have to fly halfway across the world. All you have to do is look up into the eyes of the One who calls you His beloved. Let Him tell you who you truly are. He’ll tell you that you are you. Exactly as He created you to be. And that, my friend, is enough.

You’ve written my name on the palm of Your hand, but until you revealed it to me, I had no idea it so closely resembled a nail-shaped scar…


Waiting…

The three children bounced on the trampoline, shouting at the ground beneath them. “You can’t hurt us, Satan! God is going to beat you up!”

The youngest of them chimed in. “He would right now, but He’s busy.”

“No, He’s not busy,” her older counterpart corrected. “He’s just waiting.”

Waiting. God is waiting. I wonder what it is He’s waiting for. Why doesn’t He intervene when evil triumphs in our world? Why doesn’t He put an end to the suffering in our midst? Why doesn’t He hurry to vanquish Satan forever? Why does He wait? And why does He insist on making me wait with Him?

I think that’s our biggest problem with God’s periods of waiting. We’re so anxious to rush into things that it bothers us to wait with God. We start to think that if God called us to something, things should start happening now. But still, God waits.

Do you ever think that perhaps God is waiting for you? Do you ever wonder if the reason nothing is happening might be because you haven’t taken the steps to make it happen? I could say that whatever God waits for is really none of my concern… unless He is waiting for me.

Nothing happens on its own. God usually doesn’t drop things into our laps unless we are actively pursuing His will. Once you start moving in the right direction, God no longer has to wait. But if He waits for you and you wait for Him, your dreams will wait along with you.

For this reason, I choose to move Beyond Waiting. I choose to step out into the unknown, believing that God will clear a path before me.

He’s just waiting… But not for long.

Drifting Through Life

“I am not angel, nor am I demon. I am not a ghost as some would like to believe. I am a Drifter, something God created in his spare time and then forgot on the fringes of reality.”

Whoever had the idea to put those words on the back cover of Sharon Carter Rogers’ newest book, Drift, knew what they were doing. Those words were so haunting, so captivating and intriguing. Here was a man who thought he had been forgotten by God. Throughout the entire novel, I felt my heart reaching out to this lost creature, yearning to see him restored. And I found myself cheering when he finally reached this conclusion about himself:

“I am not an angel. Not a demon or a ghost. I am something very different, maybe something better. I am a secret, something God created and then hid on the fringes of reality. A tool destined to do as He did, to seek and save that which was lost, to bring lost things back to His hand. I am not an angel. I am a Drifter, and for too long I have forgotten what that means.”

It’s not often that I read a novel where the hero has completely forgotten who he is and what he was meant for. Heroes, after all, have a sense of purpose. But the longer I read this book, the more I understood the Drifter. And the more I understood the Drifter, the more I saw myself in his character. In a way, I feel that this Drifter saved more than just the book heroine. He saved me. You see…

I am not an angel. Not a demon or a ghost. I’m something very different, and yes, even something better. I am a human, something formed by God’s own two hands and sustained by His love. Created for a purpose and destined for here and now. I am not an angel. I am a child of the King of kings, and for too long I have forgotten what that means.

But a certain Drifter reminded me that I do indeed have a purpose, even when I’ve forgotten what that purpose may be. So perhaps I should stop “drifting through life” and live as if I am sure of my purpose, knowing that, in time, my purpose will be fully revealed to me.

A Beautiful Viewpoint

I had a comment from a reader saying that she loved others, but hated herself. I found her remark to be quite painful. I wish that I knew this woman. I wish that I knew exactly what she hated about herself so I could set her straight. But since I’m so far removed from her individual situation, I’m going to take a stab at what I believe causes the most self-hatred in a woman. Body image.

The perfect body is something no woman will ever achieve because there’s no definite end. Perfection is a matter of opinion, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For instance, just this morning, a coworker commented that my hair looks pretty pulled back. I personally think it looks better framed around my face. The only reason I pulled it back today was because it was driving me crazy.

See the girl in this picture? Most people probably wouldn’t notice these small details, but sometimes when she looks in the mirror, all she can see is the scar on her forehead from where she tripped and fell as a three-year-old, the bags under her eyes which are not from a lack of sleep but from her father’s genetics, the pimples on her face, and her imperfect smile caused by the teeth she never grew. Most people don’t notice those things about me, but sometimes these “flaws” rush to the forefront of my mind. Every woman sees flaws in herself that she’s willing to overlook in others. In reality, most people don’t look at you with the same critical eye you use to view yourself.

I think there’s a certain wonder in the fact that no one snowflake is the same. Even leaves take on different shapes and sizes. Each one uniquely beautiful, but no two quite the same. There has never been, and never will be, someone exactly like you. I think that’s a cause for celebration. Beauty is not something to be achieved because God is not capable of creating something ugly. From where I stand, you, my friend, are breathtakingly beautiful because beauty is not a goal to reach, but a point of view.

Take a look at yourself with new eyes. I think you’ll be surprised by what you find.

Want a little more information on beauty? Check out what one of my favorite wordpress authors has to say about the subject.

I Just Want to be a Mirror

“Herein lies the essential difference between fiction and nonfiction: Nonfiction tells us what is wrong and how to fix it; fiction holds a mirror up to our lives and allows us to apply the truth in an infinite number of individual ways.”

That quote by Penelope Stokes entered my mind as I sat before God in prayer one day. “God, I just want to be a mirror,” I insisted. It was never in my plan to have God turn my dreams upside-down. Had I known where God would be directing this whole Beyond Waiting journey, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog today. From the very beginning, I begged Him. “But God, I can’t do this. I write fiction.”

“No,” God corrected, “you write truth wrapped in the guise of a story.”

He was right, of course. He’s always right.

But there’s just something about a good story that brings the whole world into perspective for me. While I hear people say that they find the Old Testament to be culturally irrelevant, I discover some of my greatest life lessons in the history of these flawed human beings. Tell me a story, and I will find where God is hiding in the background. Every story ever told is all about Him. And for that reason, I long to tell His stories.

But of course, God wouldn’t simply have me telling stories- He’d have me stepping outside the box I had formed around my dreams. He would have me expanding the bounds of my imagination. He would still have me telling stories, but they would not always need to consist of the fictional characters that so easily become my reality.

So, writing this blog is me living my dream in a way I never dreamed possible, because only God could make me aware of the dreams I never knew I was dreaming. Only God could knock out the walls I had formed around my full potential. And only God could hold up His mirror and show me what He sees when He looks at my life.

So I’ve changed my tune (or at least my prayer.) I just want to be a mirror that reflects God’s glory.

Hugging Baby Jesus

Last night, my two-year-old neighbor came over to visit. Tessa has always inspired me with her childlike wonder, but last night, her innocence was sweeter than ever. She found herself captivated by the nativity’s Baby Jesus and asked if she could hold it. After playing with the naked baby for a moment, she decided that the baby must be cold and asked for a blanket to cover him. We dug through my sewing box and pulled out a scrap of old fabric Tessa could use as a blanket.

When she finally tired of playing with the figurine, she insisted that he couldn’t be laid to rest until everyone in the room hugged and kissed him goodnight. This seemingly silly gesture struck my heart. How long had it been since I had consciously hugged Jesus? I know one can’t literally wrap her arms around a God who is bigger than the universe, but I believe that some of our actions are carried to heaven in the form of a hug. Remember that verse that says, “Whatever you do for the least of these…”? I think hugs are included in the “whatever” category.

Lately I’ve been so caught up in everything I have to get done, that I’ve forgotten the reason I exist – to glorify my Savior. To do everything I do in a way that is so full of love for Him that it would seem like I’m literally hugging the King of kings. I haven’t been hugging Him like I should, but today I’m resolving to change that. Today, I am going to intentionally try to put a smile on God’s face.

So. . .

Have you hugged Jesus today?

Reluctantly Called

For the longest time, I simply didn’t understand people who said they were afraid to give God control of their lives because they were afraid He would call them to some remote village in Africa. Maybe that’s because I gladly would have gone to Africa as I delighted in my call to world missions. Many missionaries tell stories of their hesitation to follow God into the mission field, but not me. I fell in love with the dreams God was stirring in my heart and I couldn’t fathom how anyone would fear God would call them to something they didn’t want to do… Until He called me to something I had no desire to dream. For the first time in my life, I truly related to Thomas Carlisle’s “The Great Intruder.”

“It is exasperating to be called so persistently when the last thing we want to do is get up and go but God elects to keep on haunting like some holy ghost.”

So there I was with this “holy ghost haunting,” and sweet, obedient, willing-hearted, little me said, “There is no way I’m pursuing that one. If You want this to happen, You’re going to have to make it happen Yourself.” (FYI – that is a really, really dumb thing to say to God because it just might be possible that He’s truly serious about that thing to which He called you.) Last night, He answered my foolish statement. Last night, He stripped away all my excuses. Last night, He provided such a clear starting point that I can’t turn away this time.

While I should listen when God calls me, sometimes I’m stubborn and insist that I need more than His call if I’m actually going to move. So last night, God sent me a person to ask me to follow that calling, and I felt Him whisper in my heart, “You denied Me, but can you deny her?” I couldn’t. And He knew it; that’s why He sent her to ask for Him.  

So I’m taking this moment to say that I’m stepping out into the calling I never dreamed of, and I’m willing to bet it will soon become my greatest dream. Because I still believe God doesn’t call us to things we don’t want to do; there are simply a few things we don’t yet realize we want to do.

So if God has been stirring something in your heart and you’ve been afraid to answer, this is your call from a human, beseeching you to step out. Someone in this world needs you to take that place God has opened up for you. If you’ve somehow managed to deny God, please don’t deny that person who really needs you to embrace your calling. I can guarantee you won’t regret it, but you will regret not trying.