If you've ever been crushed in spirit, then you know that it is the most lonely, desolate place a soul can be. God knew this, and so he spoke directly to it. He told us what he will do when we are broken and crushed.
He comes close.
Psalm 34:18 is the verse I live by, because I have lived it. I have known the closeness of Jesus in the place of crushing.
Today, there are many who are crushed in spirit. Two days ago, they were not but today, they are. It feels overwhelming even to the outsider looking on because trauma is, by definition, the result of a painful experience that leaves one feeling helpless or terrified.
We can feel helpless in the face of crisis after crisis. We may even be at the place King David found himself many times when he said "How long, O Lord must I soak my bed in tears?"
(Psalm 6) It is normal to feel this way. It is part of the human experience, and Jesus himself experienced it. He was crushed. He was broken. He wept and lamented so intensely that his sweat turned to drops of blood.
How amazing to think that before He even went to the Cross, Jesus shed drops of blood over you and me. He shed drops of blood because of His deep sorrow and lament for what had to happen. In that moment, the entirety of the world's crushing rested on him, and He bore it through deep anguish.
Do not let the enemy convince you that Christ is far removed from our pain. He knows our pain even better than we do.
Today, it is good and right to lament. It is holy to shed tears, just as Jesus often did. It is good to cry out and ask for mercy, and an end to suffering. It is okay to express our overwhelming helplessness and anger to God. By doing so, we prove in whom we've placed our trust.
Not in politics.
Not in presidents.
Not in people.
We cry out to God, because He alone can save us. Lament is not a lack of faith, but a sign of it.
Only one has the power to heal a broken heart and crushed spirit. Only one has the power to restore all things. Only one conquered the grave so that hope can live forever.
Today, we lament, because we must.
May the tears and heart cries be like a river flowing to the throne of God. May we cling tightly to the one assurance we have; Jesus. He is interceding on our behalf. That means he hears our cries. He sees every tear, and He remembers the crushing. And He is with us in it.
Lazarus was dead. And Jesus waited. Four days, to be exact. That is past sort of dead to all the way, tomb closed up dead. Past the point of “God’s got a plan” to, “Well this must be God’s plan.”
I’ve been there. Trying desperately to rationalize why I’m here, where God is, why he didn’t do it the way that seemed right…
Jesus waited on purpose. That struck me as I read this story for the hundredth time. First because He understood His power. He knew that He wasn’t limited by “number of days someone has been dead.” He wasn’t worried. But this wasn’t the only reason he waited. He said it plainly to the disciples in John 11:14
“Lazarus is dead. And for your sake, I”m glad I wasn’t there, because now you have another opportunity to see who I am so that you will learn to trust in me.”
Oh. OH. Could it be that this story is about trust more than it is about the power on display? The power is extraordinary, there is no denying that. But power does not always bring about the fruit of trust.
If it did, hundreds would have stood at the foot of the cross in mourning.
Jesus knew what He was going to do. I don’t believe He was ever surprised by His assignment. He knew Lazarus was going to live. He said as much. It’s the trust part that I’m meditating on today. Jesus said it plainly that He was glad it was taking so long, because it would just reinforce WHO He was and hopefully deepen the trust His disciples had in Him.
How often do I get frustrated because the answer seems delayed? Too often. I wish I always immediately thought to trust Jesus first. But, I find that more often I am just like the disciples, trying to explain to Jesus why this is a terrible idea, or why He seems to be unaware of the circumstances. The reality is that He is delaying often, simply to show me how much I can trust Him. That’s something to think about.
Delay is not denial.
More often, delay is God waiting so that we will know who He is, and trust Him. Now, sometimes there is flat out denial because God is doing something different than we expect or want, but even denial is for our good, if we are devoted to Jesus.
So what do we do during a delay?
We set our eyes on Jesus. We ask, “What are you like?” and we let that season of waiting be about discovering more of Him. Asking questions is a beautiful way to engage with Jesus. He loves our questions. He isn’t afraid of our doubt, and He wants to hear our lamenting.
If you find yourself in what appears to be a delay of provision, just remember that you cannot possibly want your good more than God. He is far more invested in your future than even you. He staked his son’s life on it. In the delay, Jesus is saying to us what he said to the disciples when they faced the death of Lazarus.
“Now you have an opportunity to see who I am so that you will learn to trust me.”
The story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet the week of his death is famous. She used a very expensive oil to anoint Him. Not only did she pour this oil out on Jesus' feet, she wiped his feet with her tears and her hair. This woman interrupts a meal attended by prominent men, religious men. She inserts herself into the moment, and does what no one has ever seen before.
When I discovered how much that oil was worth, I had to ask myself how I would have responded to this moment of adoration. I so much want to put myself at His feet. I want to declare that there is no way I would have been an observer, no way I would have chastised her.
But $50,000 is a lot of money. That's right. The oil she poured out on the feet of Jesus is estimated to be worth $50,000 by today's standards. That is not just expensive perfume. That is enough cost to leave everyone in the room staring in stunned silence, and even angry at her.
Think of how much food you could buy for the poor.
Think of how many coats you cold buy for the cold arms.
Think how many shoes you could buy for barren feet.
I want to say that I would be more than willing to pour out $50,000 on the feet of Jesus, but something inside of me wonders, as if it knows my weakness and frailty. Would I do so, or would I look for my lesser oil, the one not so costly? Would I rationalize my choice to give him the lesser oil because, "I could do a lot of good with that money."
Jesus is everything to me. He has marked my life in a way I could never have imagined. I try at times, to imagine who I would be had He not intersected me in my shame years ago. He healed the shattered places, and made me whole. He is everything. Yet, I wonder. Would I pour out my most costly oil on his feet? And what is my most costly oil?
Forgiveness can be costly. Humility, courage...these things can feel so costly at times that I would rather not pour them out. I would rather hold them back, find a better place or time to pour them out.
Jesus honored this woman. He said we would talk about her for generations to come. He knew what it meant for her to pour out that oil. He knew the cost of her oil, and He treasured it.
Maybe, if I remember that Jesus knows the cost of my oil, I'll find the courage to pour it out for Him. He knows the tears and pain that I walk to get to forgiveness. He knows the trembling of humility and the obedience in it. He knows I am not a risk taker by nature and that when I choose the road of courage, I am pouring out all of me at his feet.
Maybe one day it will be a $50,000 bottle of oil I pour out for Him, or maybe it will always be the choices I make to follow His way of love that are as precious to Him as a thousand bottles of oil.
What oil can you pour out on Jesus' feet? He knows what it will cost you to do so. He'll honor your sacrifice of worship, and He'll tell your story in the halls of Heaven.
And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
For all the years before I encountered the fullness of Jesus, I walked to the beat of a very clear and loud lie.
You're not as valuable as the next person.
Maybe this stems from the moment I chose to follow Jesus as a little girl. There were two of us in Sunday School class that day, watching the story of Jesus play out on green felt boards. And both of us raised our hands when the teacher asked if we wanted salvation. I prayed the prayer, and I knew, in my five year old little heart, that Jesus had come inside and made me different.
That night, when people were giving testimonies of the good things God was doing (anyone else grow up with Sunday night testimony time?!) that teacher gave thanks for the other little girl who had chosen to follow Jesus...but she didn't mention me. To be fair, I was the pastor's granddaughter, so she probably thought I had already prayed that prayer a hundred times. I don't think she had intentions of leaving me out. Nevertheless, I vividly remember the imprint that moment left on my soul.
You're not as valuable as the next person.
When I encountered Jesus some twelve years ago, this was the belief He immediately began to unravel inside of me. He said things like, "I see you, I've always known you, I choose you..." None of those things had played over and over in my heart for all those years before. Abuse, religion, deep pain and brokenness seemed to confirm the lie that I really wasn't as valuable as the next person. When Jesus began showing me his constant presence in my journey, how He had never once turned away, how He had been following close behind me, picking up the pieces of my heart and holding them until I was ready to sit with Him, and heal...
That Jesus was unraveling the lie inside of me, and I found I had no argument to make against the deep compassion in His voice. All these years later, I still find myself circling back to that lie, and finding cracks where it wants to seep in and diminish my identity. It doesn't come in neon letters, screaming. It is subtle. It finds wounds, and speaks through them.
For a long time, religion was the very comfortable adornment I tried adding to myself to make me valuable. Maybe if I just knew more, maybe if I just looked better, maybe if I just obeyed perfectly. Surely these were the answers to my broken heart's need to be known. It's been over a decade now of me pursuing the way of grace, free of religion, but those familiar thoughts come creeping in as soon as I hear that lie....
You're not as valuable as the next person.
Value. What even determines the value of something? Everything in this world is losing it's value, because it's decaying under the weight of a broken world. Money's value is circumstantial. What I own is only as valuable as culture tells me. Even priceless treasures from history are only as valuable as we, the people, make them. I find it very easy to apply this principle to my own value. It's easy to believe my value is circumstantial, based on culture's perception, only as treasured as the people say...
Yet, Jesus. All I see in His three years of work on this earth is constant encounters with the ones who circumstance deemed of less value. I see him encounter the ones people said were not treasured, and call them to His side. When I look to Jesus, I see value taking on a different definition.
I see it becoming who He is in me, not who I am to everyone else.
In Jesus, what was once decaying now begins to increase. I find myself lately, pounding the floor with my fists, and telling Jesus that I am done with the lies. I'm ready to walk in the value of being His. What might that look like, to fully step into the place where man's opinion is of no consequence? I know I'm close to that place of wild abandonment. I see how far I've come, steps I've taken in the last year, and I know that I am so very close...
I see this image often of me, standing on the edge of a cliff, looking over into the beautiful valley below. I know instinctively that I'm standing on the ground where people would approve, and if I jump, I'm jumping into the wildness of being found in Jesus alone. Jesus is there, next to me. He isn't rushing me, He isn't insisting that I jump...but He has said He will jump with me, that we will do it together. I think I'm about done holding back and hesitating. I feel it in my bones, that I'm just about ready to jump off that cliff, with Jesus.
I think maybe many of us are ready to jump. I sense it in conversation with other Jesus lovers. I feel it in my soul...a desire to abandon the plans and precepts of man, for the wild, bold, passionate love of Jesus alone. I'm ready friend. Are you?
Make me as wild as you, Jesus, so consumed with love that I only know how to live in that place of abandonment to you, because I know it now, deep in my bones.
I'm as valuable as the next person, and nothing can change that.
Not a person alive can escape the reality of appetite. The word most often turns our minds towards food, a good starting point for understanding the complexity of the word.
Our family has been on a wild healthy journey for years. Allergies, and auto-immune have led me down paths of nutrition that I never would have explored otherwise. That journey has taught me a few things, and one of those things stands out to me right now.
Appetite can change.
When we began the journey to a different lifestyle of eating, there were things I introduced to my family that none of us had ever tried before. What is a chia seed, what is plant based milk, and for the love someone tell me what I'm supposed to do with tofu? I remember being overwhelmed at first. I could not fathom a life that didn't include cheese, one of my favorite things to eat. Over time, though, I did find a new rhythm. I found what worked, what was definitely out, and what would be the new staples in our pantry. And you know what surprised me in that journey?
How much my cravings changed.
Where once I would crave a bowl of ice cream, or casserole smothered in cheese (hey...I'm southern) I found those things just didn't appeal to me. When I would eat ice cream, I would get the worst head ache. When I ate anything cheesy, the cheese just tasted like rubber. Many of the things I had eaten before, I had lost my appetite for.
Jesus seemed to understand this simple concept of appetites, as well. In fact, He discusses it with a woman, in the heat of the day, drawing water from a well.
"Can I have a drink?" He asks, having encountered her in the heat of the day, alone at the well just outside her village.
With sarcasm she responds, "Ha! You must be really thirsty if you, a Jew, are asking me, a woman, for a drink."
Jesus isn't ruffled by her bitter sarcasm. He gets it. She's lost her appetite for life. She's been rejected, broken, abused.
"If you knew who I was, and the gift God wants to give you, you would ask me for a drink, and I'd give you living water." Jesus replies, calmly.
She looks him up and down, her face betraying her thoughts that he must be a crazy Jew. "Sir, you don't even have a bucket for water, so where exactly are you going to get this living water? "
Jesus is not deterred. "As long as you continue to drink from this well, you'll always be thirsty. But anyone who drinks from the living water I offer will never thirst again."
Never thirst again.
Jesus sees to the heart of the matter. This woman has lived her life unsatisfied. She comes to this well, in the heat of the day because of her shame, because this world, this life has left her completely empty.
"Well, by all means, give me some of this water, Sir. I could surely use it." She stops her back breaking work of hoisting her water bucket, perches it on the edge of the well, and stares fully into the face of this very odd man.
"Okay. Go call your husband, and come back with him," Jesus replies gently.
She looks away. Down into the deep darkness of the well, that mirrors the condition of her soul. "I'm not married." This man is making her uncomfortable. What does he want from her?
"True. But you have been married five times." Jesus says the words so calmly, so plainly.
"Oh great, you're a prophet. Well, Prophet, where exactly am I supposed to worship? Because my people can't seem to agree with your people." She is clearly agitated.
"The time has come, where anyone who wants to worship, will be free to do so, no matter where they live. Because worship will now be about the heart, no matter where you live." Jesus is standing now, and walks a bit closer to the woman.
"This is all confusing. You are confusing. All I know is someday the Messiah will come and maybe then I'll find some answers." She reaches out to hoist her heavy bucket of water onto her shoulder when he whispers words that seem to echo deep in the cavern of her soul.
"You don't have to wait any longer. I am He."
The woman's life is changed from that day. The first to hear the news, that the Messiah had come. The first evangelist for Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, the first to grasp the truth that at last, at long last, her appetite for peace, love, hope...at last it was all being fulfilled.
The woman Jesus met was bitter, calloused by life. The world's cravings had left her hollowed, empty. But the woman who rushed back to her village to tell everyone about Jesus was a woman who had found a craving worth satisfying.
A woman who, finally, had found the food of life.
Appetite is everything, I say. What I crave, I pursue. The good news is that what I crave can be changed. Just like I changed my eating habit all those years ago, and lost my taste for cheese, the same can happen in my spirit. In a moment, I can encounter King Jesus, who showers my soul with living water, so that my thirst is finally quenched, my appetite finally satisfied.
The odd part of following Jesus is that, though we are satisfied with Him, we continue to crave more of him. He's the only craving I've found, that both satisfies and makes me hungry for more all at once.
What are you craving, friend? Are you like the woman at the well, tired and worn from chasing appetites that have left you hollowed and starved? The hope here is that appetites can change. Cravings can change.
And the truth here, is that as long as you crave and pursue the appetites of this world, you will always be left empty. Like the woman at the well. Shame will find you in that empty place, and tell you you are defeated. Isolation will be your companion in that dark place, where you feed those cravings. Jesus is your only hope for satisfaction. He's the only craving that will nourish your soul.
Jesus, be the craving of my soul. Be the food of my life, the water that quenches my thirst. Let me, like the woman at the well, abandon my water jar, and run into the highways and byways to let others know that I've found it. At long last, I've found the water that quenches my thirst, and the food that satisfies my life.
"All at once, the woman dropped her water jar and ran off to her village and told everyone, “Come and meet a man at the well who told me everything I’ve ever done! He could be the Anointed One we’ve been waiting for.” Hearing this, the people came streaming out of the village to go see Jesus.
I think we all like to have a plan. I felt the tug of this recently, when we went back to what was home for ten years. I knew the question would come up of what we have been up to, and how our ministry is going. I will be honest, friends. I was tempted to focus on the things that might somehow validate where we are, eight months into this new season, because if I'm very transparent, I had a whole different vision for where we would be eight months in. The issue was not with those who care about us and asked the normal questions that come from seeing someone after an extended separation. The issue was with my own heart and that demon of performance that Jesus RID me of years ago, but still comes whispering lies every so often.
After the first attempt to answer these predicted questions with a list of what is “in the works” I felt the conviction of God’s Spirit and heard his whisper…
“You don’t need to justify to others what I have called you to.”
I felt that. Big time. How many years of my life were spent working hard to justify myself before man? How many years were spent trying to make my words and deeds fit into someone else’s box?
I did an about face after that moment of conversation with my Papa. I repented for my wrong thinking and answering. Then, for the rest of our trip, I answered with the truth.
The truth is, Jesus had much different plans for how we would begin this new season. That's why the idea of being obsessed with plans is so comical, really. How much can we plan, and control? Not a whole lot, as 2020 is teaching us all. And then add to that, how often we think we know what we need only to find out that Jesus knew a WHOLE lot better than we did what we needed. And yet, we plan and plot. What we planned to do was jump in to the next assignment right away. What we planned to do was dive head first into all the things. What Jesus planned was for deep, extended and healing rest.
Did you know that when Jesus calls you to an extended season of slow down and rest you will be forced to wrestle with your identity?
You will come face to face with JESUS and have to determine if He is enough. Is he enough if you have no title, no plan, no massive mapped out vision? Is he enough if the culmination of your ministry in that season is that you meet your neighbor and have them over for dinner or quietly serve in a community where no one knows your name?
These are the questions that rise up, and that we must answer when all that is left is Jesus.
I have boldly prayed for years now, “Jesus, purify my heart,” and I will tell you, that is a no joke kind of prayer. Because if I pray it, I can bet on Him to come through with the exact circumstances that will reveal the deepest, most hidden place inside of me. He has done SO MUCH good work in my heart. I cannot even write in words all He has done over the years. And yet, there is never a moment that I don’t need to pray that prayer again, because I am always in need of a deeper cleansing, a deeper revelation of truth.
So, how did I start answering that question of “How is it going in Utah?” after my moment with my Papa? With total honesty. It’s been hard and beautiful all at once, because I have peace in the deep place that all Jesus wants from our family is to do the next right thing, even though I might not know today what that will be tomorrow. It’s not going how I thought it would, or even at times how I think it should, but it is going exactly as Jesus wants.
Don’t get me wrong, now, friends. We are eager to run, to plan, to do wild things for Jesus. That hasn’t changed in this season. And this hasn’t been a season of abandoning those dreams. It’s a season of pause. A season of reset, refining, and reordering.
Maybe what we thought we needed before this season isn’t what we need at all for Jesus to be made famous. Maybe we can just show up, like little children on Christmas morning waiting for Mom and Dad to put our presents at our feet.
This is who He is, friends! He is a God of rest. He is a God of relationship. He is a God that is willing to put a pause on any plan if our hearts are broken and tired and needing rest.
He cares more about the condition of my soul more than the condition of my plans.
I look back at month two of this season and I breathe a sigh of relief. Are you kidding me? The last thing we needed then was to plunge head first into a new assignment. The last thing we needed was a new to do list. I can’t even imagine where we would be today if we had followed THAT plan. Oh, to trust Jesus who knows so much better than I do what my soul needs.
I’m pretty sure if you are reading this, you can identify on some level with this struggle. I mean, didn’t we all just go through a season where everything was stripped down to the minimum? Didn’t we all just emerge from a season where ALL of our plans were completely wiped out and reordered?
Now, if you are reading this and cringing a bit because you are a planner, I totally get it, friend. Your planning self is revolting. “But...wait...I think I need some kind of plan, don’t I?” I won’t try to answer that for you, friend. I can’t answer it for you. That’s between you and Jesus and what He is speaking to you. I can only share where He has brought me in this eight month journey, and it is this right here...
My lack of plan has left me staring at Jesus with childlike wonder.
Perhaps this is the better way. Perhaps I was never meant to be such a grown up, but always a little girl who twirls and dances with her Papa and then waits for Him to surprise her with beautiful Christmas morning gifts. Maybe when I’m busy planning, I miss the gift of dancing with HIm, and seeing the gifts He is freely giving.
I’m convinced that Heaven is a Christmas morning kind of place. If that’s so, then I want to be the child rushing to the tree early in the morning because I just couldn’t sleep and I HAVE to open those gifts. And I already know what the Heaven Christmas gift is.
Jesus. The gift is Jesus, friend. Our plans, our blueprints, our maps, they are all fine, but they aren’t the goal. They aren’t the end result. They aren’t the childlike wonder that we are created to live in.
Jesus is the plan. Jesus is the blueprint. Jesus is the only map I need to follow. If I choose him over my well laid plans, then the pressure is off for me to perform. My eyes are on Jesus. Will I need this lesson again on plans and trust and childlike wonder? Most likely. But that’s okay. Because I know His heart for me. I know Him, and He is enough.
Eyes on Jesus, friend. Let’s make that our plan.
All the thoughts on social media about beginning a new decade have made me reflective on the last ten years of my own life. In January of 2010, I was a mom to a three year old, and an infant and Allen was the new youth pastor at Streams Church. It would be only a few months later that I was challenged that my own story needed attention, and that I needed healing. It took me a few months to work up the courage to say yes, but I finally did.
We rarely know in moments of courage what the ripples of those decisions will be.
I remember vividly how terrified I was to walk from my car to my counselor's office. The voice of darkness was LOUD, telling me to run. I resisted, though, and that one decision literally changed the course of my life.
What you need to know about that young wife and mom is that she didn't have many dreams, really. Religion had lied to her for so long, that she didn't think she had much to offer. She spent most of her days trying to measure up, hide from her past, and find the approval of the people around her. If people were happy, she might feel a moment's rest. If they weren't, she was in turmoil. God was a distant and disgruntled Father who she worked hard to appease.
Today, I smile when I think of my 2010 self. I hardly recognize that version of me, can hardly find words to communicate all Jesus has done with my fragile and scared "yes". He came close. That's what the last ten years have been about; Jesus coming close to me, whispering into the dark, broken places, and reviving them with light. He became everything, and in finding Him, I found hope, dreams, and a wide open road to the future. He is the reason I write, preach the gospel, and am drawn to the forgotten ones in this world. The foundation of who I am, where I go and what I do today is built on this one thing:
Jesus didn't forget me, didn't move on from me when I needed Him to come close.
Enter this new land, where Jesus has called our family. Utah is stunningly beautiful. I have only to look out my window to remember His greatness, and majesty. Yet, I have felt and seen the sorrow of this land, as well. In only two months, my heart has been weighted with the burden Jesus carries for so many people here. People who at large, have been forgotten by the outside world because they seem fine, seem put together, seem successful...a story I know all to well. Religion is alive and well in Utah.
At the core of my story is freedom from religion. Yes, I was healed from childhood abuse, but that was only a byproduct of the deeper issues. Religion breeds sin. That's all it knows how to do. It preys on the weakness of men, and feeds the flesh whispers of pride and arrogance. Then, when it's had it's fill of your life, it leaves you empty, alone, and broken. I'm so glad Jesus came to me when He did. He invited me into a dance with him, and in doing so, freed me from the slavery of religion. I've been dancing with him for ten years, and the fire of His word has only grown stronger inside of me.
And now, He's called us to a place that needs the same freedom I've found. A place that needs the revelation of Jesus in His fullness. Not a shadow of Him, not a copy, but HIM. Religion is the strongest enemy of the gospel. Religion yelled, "Crucify him!" Love is what kept Him on the cross, and brought Him out of the grave.
The last two months have been hard for our family. Transition is never easy, and we've felt like extra weight was added to it with sickness, trying to sort out finances so we can provide for our family, and the emotional roller coaster of not knowing the plan for our future. Jesus has been faithful, though, in the dark moments when I've cried out.
A few weeks ago, I was running errands, and listening to worship music. I was tired, emotionally and mentally spent, and feeling regret, for the first time since our move. The question loomed large, "What if this was a mistake?" I was sitting at a stop light with a breathtaking view of the mountains ahead, and my mind filled with an image I haven't seen in years. On each mountaintop was an angel, clothed in a red robe, holding a sword of fire. They stood ready for battle. It was so vivid I could draw the picture, if I had the talent to draw. I knew in my spirit they were angels of war. The last time I saw the same angels was when I was making my way to speak for the first time to a group of women, and share my story, years ago. I had the distinct knowing that this moment in my life mirrors that moment. When I said yes to being vulnerable and sharing my story for the first time, I was looking religion square in the face and telling it to go back to hell. No more was I going to hide, no more was I going to appear to have it all together. I chose in that moment to lay my heart bare, and let Jesus do what he would.
Those angels of war came with me that day to defeat lies of religion that held women hostage. Today, those angels stand ready to defeat the same lies that hold thousands of people hostage in Utah. Religion is the fiercest of enemies, but it does not stand above the name of Jesus. I'm proof of it. I had the deep revelation, sitting in my car at a stoplight, that Jesus sent our family here to make war against religion. It's the scariest kind of war. I know the power of it, I know the destruction of it. I might as well be looking into the face of a ten headed dragon. But I know my Jesus. I know how much He loves. I know how strong He is. I know that He looked into the face of that dragon over two thousand years ago and said, "Do your worst." And when that dragon did his worst, he was defeated. Because religion can do a lot of things, but it can never love.
And for the past ten years, Jesus has been teaching me how to love.
Just as Jesus didn't forget me, didn't move on from me when I needed Him to come close, He has not forgotten the people of Utah. He's coming close, with freedom for the captives. He is gathering an army here, and we are just voices added to the fight. He will have his inheritance in Utah.
Ten years ago, Jesus took a broken, terrified young woman, and raised her up as His daughter. He freed her from religion and in that she found healing for her wounds. He gave strength to her voice, and clarity to her vision. He put her on a hill and gave her words to speak that would pull the veil away from those blinded by religion.
Today, I stand on a new hill, looking over a new valley, and Jesus is adding new strength to my voice. I didn't know ten years ago that I was looking this ten headed dragon in the face, when I said my timid "yes". Today, I do know. I know just what I'm up against, and it doesn't scare me anymore. Just as Jesus said when he walked up his hill, and gave His life, I will say to that ancient serpent, "Do your worst". And then watch Jesus set captives free.
Our family has been called not to just plant a church in a new place. We've been commissioned to disrupt and tear down religion, to shine light in darkness, and to point people to the truth of Jesus. The battles we've fought to get here are only proof of what is to come. We're talking and praying and dreaming of how Jesus is going to do these things through us. We know it isn't going to look like it always has. And we are here for it. All of it. Because Jesus is worthy of every sacrifice, and we've pledged our lives to Him. So, here's to the next decade of giving Him our all, no matter the cost.
When I was just nine years old, I made the declaration to my family that I was not "risky people". I have considered myself a seeker of safety for all of my life. Growing up in a trauma filled environment tends to make anyone crave safety above all else. I have always been fascinated by dare devils and risk takers. You know the type, or maybe you are the type. Not afraid of much, willing to do crazy things, not considering the consequences. That's not me. I'm careful, cautious. Except when I'm not.
I was recently writing in my journal about this very thing. I was reminding Jesus that I don't consider myself a risk taker, that it's too stressful to be bold and daring. He interrupted my scribbling with these words...
"You keep calling yourself a seeker of safety, when all you've done and are doing declare you to be a risk taker."
I thought about it, then laughed at myself. When did I become "risky people?" When did I leave the blanket of safety, and become the adventurer? It wasn't in a specific moment of time, or an event. It was gradual. It was little steps that looked extremely risky at the time, that I later looked back on and shrugged and said, "That wasn't so bad." All the while, I was taking these steps, being risky, not knowing that's what I was doing. How though? How did I do it when all I've craved forever is safety?
Jesus has become so vividly real to me, that when He's asked me to take risks, I haven't felt like I was really taking a risk...because I just saw Him, heard Him, was drawn to Him. When I saw Him pointing to something He thought I could do, I just said, "Okay..but will you go with me?" He always said "Yes" and so I never looked back. So, here I am, declaring myself "risky people" as I set off on this journey to an unknown land.
Our family heads out in eight days on an unexpected adventure. It's more than that, though. We aren't just going to this fun new place, exploring a new landscape. We're choosing to enter into a battle, to wage war with Jesus, and other risk takers, for a land that He has always known, always loved, always yearned to call His own. We had to say yes when we didn't know where we would live, and even where our finances would all come from. We said yes when we just didn't know.
The risk is always in the unknown, isn't it?
The funny thing is, when we are holding onto Jesus' hand, the unknown doesn't have to be a risky place, because it's not unknown to Him. It's only risky business walking into the unknown if we are doing it alone. When we lay our lives down before Jesus, we become followers. We might become leaders too, but we are always following. And if we are following Jesus, then we can go anywhere He whispers, because we go together, with Him. I'm risky people, my husband is risky people, and our two girls are risky people. Our secret isn't our stamina, or courage. Our secret is Jesus. He called, we answered, and we follow.
What about you, friend? What risky unknown could Jesus be opening up to you? If you say yes, He'll go with you. I'll leave you with my one of my favorite Narnia moments. It's when the beaver is explaining who Aslan is the the four children. Susan, in her non-risky, cautious way, asks, "Is Aslan safe?" The beaver laughs and responds, "Safe?! Of course, He's not safe! But He's good."
He's good, friend. He won't lead you where He isn't willing to go with you.
The best visual I have ever come up with for how this life with Jesus works is the picture of a tapestry, and the weaver. Tapestries are made of thousands of threads, yet when you step back to look at the tapestry, you don't see all those threads. You only see the picture. It isn't until you come in close that you realize just how many threads are required to make that picture what it is. Our lives are much like those tapestries; full of threads, woven together by the master weaver. Alone, those threads don't make sense or seem important, but when they are woven into the picture that the weaver envisions, they become necessary and beautiful.
Coming into the summer of 2019 our family was confident we knew exactly what picture Jesus was weaving with our lives. We thought we knew what was ahead. We loved our life, our church family, our job and our city. What could be better?
As it turns out, our good Papa had other plans. He awakened a desire in us to be lead pastors, specifically co-pastors. If you are unfamiliar with that phrase, it simply means we feel the call from God to move into a place where we can share the office of pastor. That decision changed everything.
As the summer unfolded, we began to sense our Papa was asking us to step out in faith; not to wait until we knew what was next, but to step out before we knew what was next. With a knot in our gut we took that step, based on the one truth we knew with confidence: God is faithful.
Things rapidly began unfolding. Within a week of our announcement that we were stepping away from our position as executive pastors, a friend put us in contact with a pastor in Utah. It just so happens that he is a pastor who champions women in ministry and couples who want to co-pastor. He invited us, without even really knowing us, to come out to his church in Ogden, Utah for a week of encouragement and refreshing. In our minds, this was just a moment of refreshing God had planned for us. We didn't see it as anything beyond that. Little did we know when we stepped foot in the state of Utah, a thread was beginning to weave its way into the picture our good Papa has been painting of our lives.
We had no idea how beautiful the state of Utah is! Snow capped peaks, lakes, rivers...it's a stunning state! We were captivated by what we saw, but it was more than that. We were immediately embraced by Pastor Rob, his wife Andrea, and the the rest of the staff at Crossroads. It felt like we had stepped into a family we had always been a part of. Over the course of the week, we were able to listen, ask questions about their team style approach to ministry and learn what it is like to minister to people in Utah. It's very different than ministry anywhere else in America. There are 2.9 million people in the state of Utah, and only 2% walk in relationship with Jesus. We were blown away by those numbers, and the more we learned about the statistics of depression, suicide, and the cultural pressure to perform, the more our hearts were burdened for the people of Utah. Before we left, the offer was made that if God was calling us to Utah, there was an open door to plant a church.
One thing we said at the beginning of this journey was that we did not want to plant a church. We were adamant! We don't ascribe to the thought that God loves to "make us" do things we don't want to do, but we do know that He sees what we don't and He is always offering more than we can see with our human eyes. We can always choose what doors we walk through.
We wrestled with this idea. It wasn't the only option on the table. There was a door open that came with stability, security, not as much change...and there was this door to Utah that led to the unknown. Which would we choose?
After all the wrestling, praying and waiting on the Lord, we knew. God's heart for the people of Utah was burdened, and that burden had found it's way into our souls. Everything God has done in our lives the past ten years has been leading us to this moment. The only answer we could offer was a broken "yes".
So, the Keys are off on a new, wild, unpredictable adventure! We know it will be hard, but we also know without a doubt that Jesus has called us to this, and He is worth every sacrifice.
Now for the facts...
* Crossroads Church is partially funding us, which leaves us needing to fund $25,000 for our yearly budget.
* We will spend the first six to eight months acclimating ourselves to our new church family as well as the culture of Utah. During that time we will determine the location in the region where we feel God is calling us to plant our church.
* We will be going through the Foursquare network's intensive geared toward church planting, to help equip us for the road ahead.
If you would like to partner with us, here are the ways to do so:
To give directly without tax credit:
Click here to give one-time or on a recurring basis through our online giving page.
For giving with a tax credit:
One time gifts or recurring monthly gifts can be given through Crossroads by clicking here, entering payment details, selecting Other under Giving Type, and entering Keys Family in the Memo section.
And most importantly, here are the ways we would ask you to pray for our family:
* That we would know the right place to plant.
* For our girls (Lindsey & Lacey) as they make this life-changing transition.
* For connections with those in the community.
* For protection over our family as we engage in spiritual warfare.
We will be sharing here on this blog as the journey unfolds! There is SO much Jesus is saying and doing. We can't wait to share it all! For now, we will leave you with the two verses Jesus gave us as prophetic promises for our journey to Utah:
The Lord said to Abram, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family and go to the land that I will show." Genesis 12:1
"Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land." Psalm 37:34
Blessed be the Name of the Lord...