Taking That Step

Once upon a time, a little girl went rock climbing. She was all of maybe ten years old and the climbing wall at the museum didn’t look so threatening in the face of the dirt cliff she scaled on a regular basis. In fact, the climbing wasn’t hard in the least, and when she reached the top she could have stayed there looking down at the crowd of people forever… because the only way down was to jump.

I remember that moment clearly—wondering why I couldn’t simply climb back down the wall, retracing my steps and placing my weight where I could trust it, rather than dangling at the end of a rope high above the museum floor. Because I could have done that. I gladly would have done that. But no, they wanted me to step out over that ledge and simply hope for the best, and I’m sure you understand why I wasn’t really comfortable with that.

“Rebekah, I’ve got you,” my dad said, drawing my attention to where he sat at the other end of my rope and causing me to wonder how he could have so much faith in this system. “Just step out. Let go.”

I shook my head and backed away from the ledge. From the fear. From the unknown.

Sometimes I doubt my Father. And I’m not talking about the one who sat at the end of my rope that day (though I surely doubted him in that moment). I’m talking about the One who has been holding my rope since the day He first designed to set me on this planet.

The other day I had one of those moments where I was really questioning the sanity of God’s plan for my life. It was just another one of those days when I was looking at the path before me and thinking that there is surely a better way. So there I was, trying to rearrange the details of my life, when I heard God whisper, “Rebekah, have I not been faithful?”

Ugh.

“Then why are you considering this? Why do you doubt?”

Well, I guess it’s because this past year has been a bit of a rock climbing experience for me. Scaling the wall wasn’t difficult at all, but I’m still standing here trying to muster the courage to jump. I’ve realized how often I’m tempted to reach for those familiar footholds. To navigate life on my own. But all the while, God is asking me to jump. And I’m standing there shaking my head and shouting, “Are you crazy?”

“Rebekah, I’ve got you,” God promises. “Just step out. Let go.”

You know, I don’t really remember what took place that day at the museum. I’m not sure if I finally took that step on my own or if my dad gave a gentle tug on the rope, sweeping my feet out from under me and leaving me with no other choice (he at least threatened to do just that, because that image stands out in my mind like an actual memory would). I do remember not falling to my death. And I even remember thinking that (dare I confess this?) the ride down was actually kind of fun.

I also know that I’m standing here today, faced with the same choice. And, you know, I’m thinking it might be best to simply close my eyes, take a deep breath, and step out into the expanse before me.

Ready. Set. Go.rock climbing collage

Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy (Say it One More Time)

Last week I shared a verse with you because I found that it really spoke to me. Judging by some of your responses, I’m not the only one who misplaced that joy God offers in Psalm 16. It’s not the first time I misplaced it. And it won’t be the last.

See, I lost sight of it again—mere days later. I’ve been all go, go, go; busy, busy, busy; just trying to get everything done before Christmas vacation and I’ve lost some of that Joy to the World they sing about this time of year. And again, I didn’t even realize what I was missing.

So wouldn’t you know that I picked up my Bible and opened it up to Acts 2—that familiar passage where the Holy Spirit falls upon the believers, and they start speaking in basically every language known to man, and Peter stands up to say, “These men are not drunk!” (Thanks for clarifying, Pete.)

It’s the sermon where Peter quotes that awesome passage from Joel about how God will pour out His Spirit on all people and their sons and daughters will prophesy. I’ve always loved that scripture. It reminds me of how amazing the transformation that takes place in the hearts of believers is.

But Joel isn’t the only passage Peter quotes in that famous sermon that drew 3,000 people to repentance, and I didn’t need to read the footnote to know the reference for the second chunk of scripture He shared.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Psalm 16. He quoted Psalm 16. And I said, “Okay, God, I get it.” But I didn’t. Not really. Because I’m still having a hard time recovering that joy in the midst of the busyness that has overwhelmed my heart these last few weeks. So I say it again and again: Joy. Unspeakable Joy. Joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Because maybe if I say it enough times—maybe if I think it over and over and over again—it will finally be down in my heart to stay.

Choose Joy

Holding on for Balance

You would think by now I would be used to the strange ways in which God reveals Himself, but I really wasn’t expecting Him to use a self-balancing unicycle. Of course, until yesterday, I had never even heard of a self-balancing unicycle, so I guess my surprise is sort of easy to explain.

But there I was at my friend’s house, watching him demonstrate this fascinating contraption that propels itself forward without pedals. He explained it as a segway without handlebars.

Now, I should probably point out that it’s not entirely self-balancing. While it won’t tip forward or backward, sideways is an entirely different matter. The trick to riding it, Dave said, is to swivel your hips. You can probably imagine the amount of entertainment that ensued. Then it came time for me to be the entertainment.

I was off to a rough start, muttering something about the self-balancing joke, when Dave came up beside me and offered his arm for balance. And then, rather shakily, I was off—propelling forward across the yard. Dave walked alongside me, my hand clutching his arm. Then he sort of jogged alongside me and my hand was merely resting on his sleeve, just in case.

Maybe I was distracted by the fact that I was finally moving, or maybe I simply relied too heavily on Dave. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t long before the contraption wobbled and my fingers curled around Dave’s arm once more.

I felt like a child again. Learning to walk with my hands wrapped around my mother’s fingers. Learning to ride a bike with my dad holding onto the handlebars.

Then I started to think of trying to navigate life without God at my side.

I imagine it would look a lot like trying to ride that unicycle without holding onto Dave’s arm. Because despite his assurances that I was a natural, I knew he was the only thing keeping me upright most of the time. I knew I never would have gotten to the point of balancing on my own without first having his arm there to rise and fall, counterbalancing my weight and inspiring the confidence I needed to keep pressing on. I’d have been lost without his gentle reminders to shift my hips and lean forward—always lean forward. The simple truth of the matter is this:

The only reason I was able to start going at all was because I knew he was there to catch me at the first hint of trouble.

And it reminds me of all the times my life has gotten a little shaky and I find myself clinging to God’s arm, struggling to stay upright. It reminds me of all the times I’ve been distracted by the world around me, forgetting those crucial truths that have brought me this far. Just like with the self-balancing unicycle, I jolt upright and reach for anything that will keep me from falling.

That’s when I hear His voice in my ear. “It’s all right. You’ve just got to shift your hips and keep leaning forward—always lean forward.”

And I know the only reason I live so freely is because I have Him by my side. His arm is the one I cling to when the world rocks so crazily that I forget how to steer.

I take more risks than I would without Him because I know He’s there to catch me if I fall. And I feel the smile spread across my face when I’m finally moving forward, almost on my own. But I’m not ready to let go, no sir. I pray I’ll never let go.

Because I know my true security comes from the feel of His arm beneath my hand—the knowing that He will be there to catch me if ever I should fall.

And so I navigate life—a little shakily—but ever so certain of the God at my side.

The Five Year Plan

A friend and I were recently talking about the problem with the question, “What’s your five year plan?”

See, it sounds like a decent question to ask someone in an interview, but here’s where the question falls short:

What was your plan five years ago?

If you tell me that you’re actually living it, I’ll be surprised and more than a little impressed. Because I, too, thought I had a grasp on what I’d be doing with my life today. But if you had told me five years ago that I would have stopped working at Advancing Native Missions for any reason other than marriage, I would have laughed in your face.

Five year plans aren’t bad in and of themselves. It’s good to have goals. It’s good to have an idea of where you’re going in life.

But when you’re so caught up in those plans you made five years ago that you can’t see how God is reshaping your dream, your plan becomes a problem. Your goal becomes your god.

And that’s where I was a little over a year ago—living the only dream I had ever dreamed. It was all I ever wanted from the time I was eight years old and read a story about Amy Carmichael and her beautiful brown eyes that saved the lives of countless children. I know, I was a rather ambitious eight year old. But those ambitions remained for the next ten years until I could finally touch them. I was there. Doing everything I ever dreamed I would be doing.

And then one day I realized I wasn’t dreaming anymore. Maybe in my heart of hearts I still wanted to be an Amy Carmichael, but somewhere along the line, my idea of ministry had changed.

When you dream one dream for twelve years, it can be absolutely terrifying to let it go.

I wrestled for months with the knowing in my heart. The knowing that it was time to let go and move on. But I was afraid. I was ever so afraid of dreaming a new dream. I was absolutely terrified of giving up the familiar.

This was uncharted territory I was exploring. This was never in the plan. Well, it was in The Plan, just not my plan.

And in the past year I’ve learned that it’s okay to throw my plans out the window. It’s okay to admit that I may have been wrong about the timing. And that maybe my dream wasn’t supposed to last five years after all.

Because I’m not the girl I was five years ago. Nor am I the girl I once imagined I would be.

But I’m finally coming to terms with that. I’m finally deciding that maybe this is where I was meant to be all along. And maybe life has grander adventures in store than the ones I conjured up with my limited imagination.

Today if you ask me my five year plan, I’ll tell you to ask The Man Upstairs. Because I’m done making plans for Him to interrupt. I think maybe it’s best if I just let Him lead me step by step.

Washed in the Waters

The other day, I had to tell the story of Naaman from memory. Why? Because it was depicted on a coloring sheet at the preschool where I work and I have a class of overly curious four year olds. So there I was, wishing that someone had been clever enough to include this particular passage of scripture in the story Bible we use in the classroom. Wishing the coloring picture had been of Jonah or Esther or one of those other classic stories that I can tell backwards and forwards and maybe even upside down. But no, it was Naaman. Why? Because God apparently had something to teach me.

I decided to tell my class that Naaman was sick and his servant girl (whose unwavering faith in God I praised) suggested that he go see the prophet Elisha who told him to wash himself in a pool of water seven times and he would be healed.

I thought of that story again today and looked it up to see how I had done in my spontaneous retelling. (Leprosy is a sickness, right?) The thing that jumped out at me was something I forgot… or maybe something that had simply never seemed vital until today.

Naaman’s reaction when Elisha told him to wash himself in the Jordan River (Yeah, it was a river, not a pool. I must have been thinking about that guy in the New Testament. Technicality. But I did get the number right. So do I pass the test?)… Well, it’s a pretty interesting reaction. Naaman actually gets mad.

“I thought he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy,” he says in 2 Kings 5:11. The next verse explains that Naaman walked away in a rage. Imagine that. This guy actually gets ticked off because Elisha doesn’t come out looking like Obi-Wan in his over-sized robe while waving his hand in the air and saying, “You do not have leprosy.”

Naaman started walking away from his miracle because it didn’t come in the form he was expecting.
It was supposed to be over with a wave of Elisha’s hand. This whole swimming lesson was a bit ridiculous. Because it’s not like Naaman had never bathed before. Leprosy wasn’t something you could simply wash away.

He didn’t understand that all God really wanted from him was obedience.

Thankfully his servants pointed out that he was being ridiculous and convinced him that it was time for a bath.

In Naaman’s defense, I’m willing to bet that his doubts weren’t entirely misplaced. I imagine that he had tried many remedies. After all, he was a wealthy, highly respected man who probably had connections to some pretty successful doctors. But none of them had a cure for his leprosy. Nothing he had ever tried before actually helped.

Now here he was again—justifiably skeptical—standing at the edge of a river where the God who doesn’t play Jedi mind tricks asked him if he really had enough faith to be healed.

Naaman immersed himself in a promise.

Once…
Twice…
Seven times.

And he was healed. Instantly.

And that’s when Naaman knew that there was no God in all the world except the God of Israel.

May we all have to faith to immerse ourselves in God’s promises and let the waves of His love and mercy wash all our impurities away.

Do I Lack Faith?

I’ve been reading this devotional book that was written by someone who is really big on faith promise stuff. Now, before I delve into this any deeper, let me just say that I do believe faith is important and there are tons of scriptures about having faith and living in faith and speaking in faith. And I believe in every single one of them. I believe in claiming God’s promises and speaking life over my loved ones.

So my problem with the faith promise stuff isn’t a lack of belief, but more of a disappointment in the way that it is presented. Because when you tell a story about standing outside your house reciting Psalm 91 when a twister is headed directly your way then tell me that God can vanquish my storms just like He did yours… It’s not that I don’t believe it; it’s just that I question the sanity of staring down a tornado. And I don’t doubt that this family was clearly instructed by God to pray over their house. I don’t doubt that God worked this miracle for them. But you can bet I wasn’t standing in the rain this week, telling Hurricane Sandy to bypass my house in Jesus’ name.

There’s a difference between acting in obedience and asking God for a miracle. If you strongly feel that God is telling you to do something that doesn’t make sense in the natural, by all means, step out in faith. But don’t tell me that if I have faith, God will do X, Y, Z. Because He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been there. I’ve been the ten-year-old girl, standing in her grandparent’s bedroom and watching the last shred of life slip from her grandmother’s lungs.

Looking back, I know that there wasn’t an ounce of my ten-year-old body that didn’t believe God could heal her. I was young and innocent and didn’t have reason to doubt that God would do anything BUT take that cancer away from her. Instead, that cancer took her away from me. And in the months that followed her death I started to wonder if maybe I had done something wrong. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough. Maybe I didn’t believe deep enough. And maybe God would have healed her if only I had gotten those things right.

That’s a terrible thing for a ten-year-old to believe. For anyone to believe.

So I said to God, “I need answers.” Then I picked up The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ and started to read that instead. I came to this part that tells the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof to meet Jesus (Luke 5). In the book, the story cuts off at the part that said the man’s sins were forgiven. Then the author grudgingly fills in the rest of the story before posing the question: “If the story had ended without Jesus providing physical healing, how would you feel about it?”

And I found that God provided my answer in the midst of Randy Singer’s musings:

“But at the end of the day, we must get comfortable with an unyielding truth: Jesus will always answer our prayers for forgiveness, but he doesn’t always answer our prayers for healing. At least not the way we want them answered.”

I think this passage of Scripture makes it pretty clear what God’s priorities are. When God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to, it’s not that He’s punishing us for a lack of faith; it’s because He is busy healing a much deeper hurt. And maybe that’s the greater miracle.

Maybe that’s what our hearts were really asking for all along.

Whatever Happened to World Peace?


Blame it on the fact that I have close ties with a missions organization that keeps me updated on what is happening all around the world, but I’ve been thinking about the elusive subject of world peace. I know, I sound like I belong in a beauty pageant, but before you start congratulating me on my ambitions to bring harmony to the universe, let me just say that I don’t think it’s possible.

I’m not trying to get all political, but when I hear people talk about the upcoming election as if it will make or break America, I just have to shake my head. Because in my opinion, America is already broken—yet another piece of a fallen world. And when I take a Biblical look at what has to happen before Jesus returns, I don’t see things getting any better. I just don’t. But the real reason I don’t believe we will ever achieve world peace is verses like Luke 12:52:

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”

The simple fact of the matter is that when Jesus came to earth, the people of Israel were expecting a Messiah who would liberate them from Rome. But did Jesus ever involve Himself in earthly politics? Well, aside from the time He instructed someone to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:21), He didn’t really talk much about the nation that ruled over Israel.

He did make it abundantly clear, however, that His Kingdom is not of this world. Therefore, the peace He offers is not for our world, but for our hearts.

So many people will tell you that God wants peace and prosperity for His people as if that means we will live a life of ease. Tell that to the believers who are in prison. Tell that to the Christians in Egypt who are being forced out of their homes for bearing God’s name. Tell that to Jesus as He suffered and died on a cross for sins that were not His own.

God does want us to be prosperous, but maybe His idea of prosperity is a little different from ours. My family has never had much by the world’s standards, but we have harmony in our home. I’ll take that kind of prosperity over wealth and discord any day.

We live in a fallen world that will always have division. There will be hatred and war and persecution until the day Jesus comes back to set everything right for good. But no matter what takes place on the surface of our world, the peace of God is transforming lives throughout the nations.

Last weekend, I was at a conference where two men who are very dear to my heart were called up on stage. The speaker then explained that one man had come from a long line of Arabs while the other had come from a long line of Jews. “Tell them how much you love the Lord and each other,” he instructed.

Then I witnessed the only hug I’ve ever seen receive a standing ovation.

Because while Muslims and Jews will be at odds until the end of the world, God took these two enemies and made them brothers. He vanquished a hatred that was centuries old and replaced it with a love that knows no bounds. And that’s why I believe that the peace Jesus offers is more than skin deep; it sinks into the deepest part of our souls and heals our most broken pieces so that we can be at peace even as the world is crumbling around us.

And that, I believe, is so much better than the temporary fix we’ve been waiting for all our lives.

You Can’t Touch Her

I watched a handful of preschoolers chase one of their little friends around a playground when, suddenly, the little girl who was being chased made a beeline for my arms. I held her to my chest and shooed the other kids away with my free arm while explaining, “I’m base. You can’t touch her as long as I’ve got her.”

So the kids backed up and waited until Charleigh gained the courage to run again. She jumped up, knowing she didn’t have to outrun the others for long—just long enough. Once around the playground, back into my arms, and repeat.

Except one time, Charleigh didn’t make it back into my arms. One time, she didn’t quite run fast enough. One time, I watched her get tackled by one of her little friends. She was taking a beating, and even though they were all laughing and enjoying themselves, I knew it was only a matter of time before things got out of control and someone got injured.

It was time to change the rules.

I stood to my feet, cleared a few preschoolers out of my path, and pulled Charleigh into my arms. “Ah, ah,” I warned when the other kids rushed at us. “You can’t touch her; I’m base, remember?”

I’ve been replaying that scene in my mind for weeks because, sometimes, I feel a lot like Charleigh. When life swells up all around me and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed, I just know that I’ve got to make it back to God’s arms and it will all be okay. He holds me close as I catch my breath and my heart rate returns to normal. He soothes me and comforts me, stroking my hair, sheltering me from all those things that threaten to consume me.

Because He’s base, remember? And nothing can touch me as long as I’m in His arms.

Then I’m off again to repeat the same pattern. Only sometimes, like Charleigh, I don’t quite make it back in time. Sometimes I find that life overwhelms me and I’m lying facedown in the dirt. And just when I think I’ll never get back up, the rules change. The base moves.

And God is there, picking me up, brushing me off, and saying to my struggles, “Ah, ah. You can’t touch her; I’m base, remember?”

Sometimes God lets us run to Him. He stands there with open arms, waiting to be the shelter we so desperately need because He wants for us to seek Him. He wants for us to declare our need for Him. And we’re the ones who have to come crawling back to fall at His feet and say, “God, I need You right now. I need You so bad.”

But sometimes… Sometimes we’re in too deep. Sometimes it hurts too much to crawl. Sometimes we can’t quite make it back on our own.

And that’s when the rules change.

That’s when God stands to His feet and pushes our struggles out of the way until there’s nothing left but Him and us. That’s when we’re safe again.

So if life is beating you down, just turn around and see that He’s standing there, arms outstretched, waiting for you to fall into the warmth of His embrace. Waiting for you to let Him set things right.

Because He’s base, remember? And nothing can touch you as long as you’re in His arms.

The Night We Lit Up the World

I recently read a book called Permission to Speak Freely, which may explain some of the recent posts/conversations/letters I’ve been writing. There was a lot of the book that I disagreed with. A lot of things didn’t resonate with me or sit well in my stomach at all. But I loved the principal of it. I loved the idea that we all need to be a little bit more vulnerable. We all need permission to speak freely.

But one of the quotes that really struck me wasn’t about speaking freely at all. Toward the end of the book, the author quotes a friend saying, “As we grow up, we learn a great deal about the mysteries that perplexed us when we were small. We learn that the sun doesn’t go to bed after all. Our earth just turns away from her for a bit. The stars that look like diamonds sparkling in the sky are really nasty balls of flaming gas. And bit by bit, we surrender the magic that was our constant companion.”

I stared at those words. Blinked a few times. And then I dared to ask why. What’s wrong with believing in sleepy suns and skies filled with diamonds? What’s wrong with holding onto magic?

And I know I talk all the time about embracing magic and wonder and living that childlike faith that Jesus told His disciples they must have. It’s because I believe in it. I believe in letting yourself be awed by things that others may try to reason away.

Last week I spent an evening with two, beautiful preschoolers who introduced me to the magic of glow sand. We walked outside with our containers of blue and green and yellow and orange, sprinkling it across the ground until you would have believed that fairies had been dancing there.

The world was filled with wonder. The yard was aglow with pixie dust. I had it on my hands and in my hair and even between my toes. We laughed and we danced and we felt we could fly. It was magical. Absolutely magical.

But when you think about it, it was just sand. Gritty, dirty sand that would, in four hours, lose its sparkle. Like Cinderella’s carriage turning back into a pumpkin, the magic would be gone. And I would be in desperate need of a shower.

Most people might have considered that before they threw it in their hair. Most people might have been content to let the sand spill out on the ground, lighting up the night for a moment only to be forever lost to the world when morning came around. And you can probably bet that most people would not have sprinkled it over a friend’s shoulders while shouting, “Think happy thoughts!”

Because most people aren’t such big fans of Peter Pan and Neverland and all that “second star to the right and straight on ’til morning” nonsense. Most people, as it was quoted in Permission to Speak Freely, have bit by bit surrendered the magic that was our constant companion.

But I, for one, am not content to be one of those people.

I, for one, will continue to believe in suns that fall asleep and diamonds that sparkle in the night sky.

I, for one, will continue to light up the world with magic that glows only for a moment and wonder that dances forever in our hearts.

Because God never intended for us to lose our amazement. He never wanted us to walk through life scientifically explaining away the miracles He created.

No, I think He wanted us to live a little more like the children who kiss the sun goodnight and marvel at the endless amount of diamonds in the sky. I think He wanted us to hold onto wonder and light up the world with our belief that the world is magical after all.

The Alleged Singleness Expert

Once you’ve written a book on singleness, people tend to assume that anything involving singleness, marriage, or dating must interest you. If I had a dollar for every time someone came up to me to point out yet another book, blog post, seminar, etc. about relationship statuses, I might actually be making decent money off this accidental venture of mine. And I might be less inclined to roll my eyes every time someone approached me with yet another you-name-it.

Because, seriously, it happens all the time and, honestly, I’m not all that interested in talking about romance and relationships.

So when a friend of mine posted a link on my wall saying she thought I would like it, I had one of those “ugh” moments. Except the title of this blog really intrigued me.

“I don’t wait anymore,” it said. So I clicked the link and read what may honestly be the best message on singleness I ever read.

Seriously.

Go read it and see what you think.

“’True Love Waits.’ Waits. What’s it ‘waiting’ for, anyway?”

Apparently I’m not the only person in the world who discovered that waiting is not always a good thing. Someone aside from me realized that the pat answers we give single people do more harm than good. And someone other than me decided that she wasn’t okay with it anymore.

“Whether it was the fault of the leaders, the fault of us girls, or both, a tragedy happened back then. A lot of girls were sold on a deal and not on a Savior.”

Somewhere along the line, we started to get this idea that singleness is an if/then agreement with God.

“If you seek Me first, then I’ll bring the right guy into your life.”

Well okay, God, but is that sort of like how my dad promised we’d get a horse after my brother was potty-trained? Because he’d been wearing big boy pants for seven years when we finally got one, and I don’t know that I can wait seven years for a guy. I’m sort of satisfied now, so could You hurry up a little?

“What if we as girls had learned early on that having Him was everything, not a means to the life we think He would want us to have?”

I completely and totally, wholeheartedly agree with Grace on this one. Somehow we’ve taken something as beautiful as purity and waiting and distorted it until it was all about a guy. But God didn’t give us a season of singleness so we could spend it searching for Mr. Right; He gave us that time to fall in love with Him.

We’ve lost sight of that. We’ve let our focus shift. And we’re insecure and unsatisfied because of it.

“I’ve planned major life decisions around possibilities. I lived like I was waiting for something.”

But you know what? There’s something bigger out there. Something better. God desires so much for you in this season of your life and He is simply waiting for you to reach out and take hold of the life He intended for you.

“I just didn’t want to wait anymore – didn’t want to live like I was waiting on anyone to get here.”

So maybe instead of “True Love Waits,” we should be saying it this way:

It can wait. It can wait until we’ve figured out what’s truly important in life. It can wait until we realize that what we’ve really been missing has been right there all along. After all…

“I already have Him … and He is everything.”