Monday, November 25, 2013

Erasing Your Excuses

In high school, my band director erased "can't" from my vocabulary. We were a championship band, first in the state for 4A high schools. He delighted in giving us the most challenging routines and music while watching us rise to the occasion and tolerated nothing less than our absolute best, knowing that our greatest potential often lay just below our valid but weak excuses.

I remember more than one occasion, trying and trying to get a note set correct and failing miserably (in front of people by the way). After the fifth time, I quit trying.

"I can't do it."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I can't do it, Mr. C."

"I don't understand that word. Try again."

It's amazing what you come up with when that word isn't an option. I'm having trouble. This is hard. How in the world do I do this? I don't know how. But not one of those gives me the option to stop trying. And every excuse carries with it the opportunity to discover a new journey in the struggle.

He never let me quit in the classroom or on the marching field. Slow down, sure. Take each note one finger at a time, yep. But NEVER quit. Because he knew I could if I set my mind to it, no matter the challenge.

Success lay just below the "I can'ts" just waiting to come to fruition with the acknowledgment of "I can…somehow." And that lesson has shaped my writing journey. Rejections became detours. "Can'ts" became other challenges to conquer. I determined that I wanted it much more than I feared it.

I go much farther when I purge the excuses from my system and just try. I've never seen anyone who valiantly attempted ever epically fail. They just find a better option to pursue as they try again.

Talent and giftedness may come naturally to a point. But success as a result of those abilities NEVER comes without hard work and a willingness to push past rejection, defeat, and redirection. As soon as you purge the excuses, the talent blooms, and it's only a matter of time before others outside your circle begin to notice.

Where do you need to erase "can't" from your vocabulary?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Wings and Roots

Joining a flash mob of writers over at Lisa-Jo's for Five Minute Friday. Today's word?

FLY

It's a season of growing pains. Of feeling so uncomfortable in my own skin that I want to crawl out and escape and then realizing that's exactly what I have to do to be free.

My inclination is to run. To hop a plane and fly out of here to some exotic destination unknown where my only responsibility is exploring, adventure, discovery. To get deliciously lost on some back road or in a culture I've never been exposed to before.

But that's not my calling. My shoes have cement and the people around me stand strong. They refuse to let me run. Because running, flying, would be easy. Roots are tough and familiar all at once. And blooming from those roots, even tougher.

My book comes out in just over two months, and I'm terrified. And excited. And amazed. And...too many emotions to fully understand or identify. All I know is God is good. But that's my heart on the page, lined up for critic and friend to love or abuse in the most intimate way. It's a piece of me never seen before.

And with it, these growing pains tug me from my skin, push me to meet people I'd never consider, write from my heart, raw and real. And I'm learning to fly in the midst of a season of stretching.

Because vulnerability comes at the cost of losing our shell. And I'm learning to soar in the midst of my fear, becoming more me than ever. And I'm learning that the best part about this season is the ability to grow wings and soar while maintaining my roots, the core that makes me beautifully who God made me. No matter where I may fly, I know where to return if I ever begin to lose myself.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Asking God "Why?"

Four years ago, I stood alone in my apartment raging at the Lord, asking Him "why?" Why did He allow this? Did He not care about me? Why did I feel such incredible pain and rejection? Why did I feel all alone?

This morning, I stood in my room getting ready for work, struggling with the same question after receiving an email about friends in a heart-wrenching situation. "Why? Sometimes I just don't understand."

I was thankful to discover this morning that my questions didn't come laced with bitterness and anger as they did four years ago. I think at one point I bought into the lie that God is a genie in a bottle that gives me good things and when he doesn't, there's something wrong with Him and He doesn't care about me. I never, ever would have admitted that was what I thought. Man, reading that now, it reeks of pride and entitlement. God doesn't owe me anything.

So this morning when I don't know what to pray and every encouragement or sentiment seems trite in light of this tragedy, I pray the only thing I know is consistent. I pray scripture.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. Is. 55:8

The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. Nah. 1:7

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 1 Thess. 4:13

My bitterness years ago was more an indication of my heart than God's heart. His character has never wavered since before He created man and called us the pinnacle of His creation. What strikes me is that He called us that knowing that we would reject Him, question Him, and run from Him.

The thing I've learned is that God's goodness is not measured by my circumstances or feelings. It is based on His unwavering character and it is woven throughout His word. The same book that says He is sovereign and good when bad things strike is also the same book that says He is comforter, healer, peace, joy, and that He is about His glory. That also means that anything that comes our way is for our good, even suffering.

Does that taste bitter? I know it does to me. How the heck is losing a child or a spouse or contracting a deadly disease for our good? I can only tell you what I have seen and heard, and without a doubt, those people who claim the name of Christ and walk through those circumstance emerge like gold in that refining. It sucks. It feels like their hearts are physically being ripped from their bodies. But HE IS DOING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL in the mess and tragedy.

I can't prove it to you. The thing about arguing the goodness of God is that you don't believe it until you CHOOSE to taste and see that He is good, blessed is the man who trusts in Him (Psalm 34:8). If your world is crashing in, try reaching out to Jesus. He is a Father that comforts, renews, restores, and walks through the trials with us. My suspicion is that if you are in the midst of a storm, you have nothing to lose. His character has never been disputed by those who walk with Him.

As I stood before my mirror this morning, aching for the pain my friends are experiencing, I was comforted by this: that my why is not a question of God's character but more confusion and anticipation of how God is going to restore this incredibly broken situation for something beautiful. I am CHOOSING to trust Him, because I know He is trustworthy. Will you?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Together

I've never accomplished a significant task on my own, and I've never experienced a significant moment without people dear to me nearby.

It's the moment a song we wrote as fourteen-year-olds becomes a song we can still sing together in our twenties and the coffee dates span years of acne and immaturity to young adulthood.

It's the people I learned to march in sync with. The ones who knew the bitterness of defeat and the sweetness of a state championship.


It's the crew who taught me to love and laugh and be at home in a west Texas town so foreign to my city roots.

It's the strangers who became family and taught me how to open my heart again. The ones who loved me at my worst and encouraged me back to my best.

It's the ladies who stuck out tough conversations, breakups, fights, and built solid friendships that we call COMMUNITY.

It's the team who serves by my side every Tuesday night, pushing me to be better, love well, be strong, and never shy away from the tough conversations.

It's the women walking a new stage of life with me now, never afraid to ask the tough questions that make me search my heart and lean into the Lord.

It's the team of mentors, professors, agents, and editors who believe in me and work to make my dream a reality to touch lives with my passion.

It's the family who's always been there and knows my heart well. The church family that raised me. The one that stands by me now.

My life is shaped by the beauty of people's influence. Life is better TOGETHER.

Linking up with a fun group of writers over at Lisa-Jo's.

What Makes Me Love Jesus More

I'm convinced that smog doesn't just clog the air of Dallas, Texas. It clogs my mind as well. The constant fast pace, emails, and traffic soundtrack leave my brain frazzled and desperate for a quiet place.

More than ever, this year I've discovered that escaping the city to the great outdoors makes me love Jesus more. I can't even explain the joy that fills me when I get outside the high rises. It's pretty bad when a writer is short on words. But without fail, I understand the words of Jesus that He came to give us life to the full (John 10:10). My heart is full, my joy uncontained. I want to dance, sing praise to my Creator, have a conversation with someone I love, write and let my passion spill on the page.

My job is to create. Maybe that's why I relate best in my Creator's handiwork. I see the beauty that I wish I could capture in words. I see the natural way of things, without the glitz and glam of advertisements attempting to sell a product. I see the sunset, the light filter through the trees, the color of the leaves, and I'm home.

As my wheels beat a path away from Dallas or I take flight in a 747 to some pre-planned location, the burden lifts. Idaho stole my heart a few weeks ago as I took walks, went on a hike, and spent hours outside gathered around heaters with chili and fun conversation. This time outside my routine refreshed my soul.

I understand a little more why Jesus escaped the crowds and the city to get alone with God in the wilderness (Mark 1:35). Can you imagine what it looked like back then? No trash. No pollution. No mark of humanity. Just nature in all its raw beauty. I imagine He felt close to his Father as I feel when I escape for just a brief time. I find that on my way back, my heart finds a new sense of peace to make war in the city God has placed me in. I'm prepared. I'm learning the quiet doesn't come from outer stimulation but inner contentment, the peace that passes understanding because I know who I am and who my King is (Philippians 4:7).

So, I hit the big city, and I'm no longer a slave to my outlook calendar and smart phone clock. I'm a servant of the King making the most of every opportunity.

And I'm more in love with Jesus than when I left.

What makes you love Jesus more?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Shaken Cover Reveal and Release Date

After years of working on this project, I am very excited to announce that it's almost a reality! Shaken, book 1 in the Heart of a Warrior series, hits shelves and e-readers on February 4, 2014.

Shaken is the story of a Kaylan Richards, a young woman who gives up her childhood dreams for a calling to go to Haiti. After a few short weeks, she falls in love with the people, but then the earthquake strikes. Left to pick up pieces of broken lives, Kaylan wrestles with the goodness of God as she returns home to Alabama. But she never counted on Navy SEAL, Nick Carmichael. Can Nick show Kaylan the God who never abandoned her or will the earthquake shake even the most rooted faith?

I can't wait to share the story of Kaylan and Nick, a story of brokenness, hope, and love. And you may even discover that I'm a bit of a closet romantic.

You can pre-order now on Amazon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Problem with Singleness and Why the Label is Stupid

"Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you." 1 Samuel 12:24

I swore off dating books when I was 16. I won't touch one and and I definitely don't recommend them. Why? Because without fail, all of them push a particular opinion or method of doing things. So, I've been thinking a lot about culture and labels and what the Bible has to say about different seasons of life, and I gotta be honest, this label that we call "singleness" is pretty stupid.

When asked to describe myself during an ice breaker in a new group of people, I never, not once, think to introduce myself as single. Instead, I think in terms of roles I play - daughter, big sister, friend, granddaughter, niece, cousin, employee, volunteer. Being "single" is not a ROLE I play but a cultural LABEL assigned to me, and I refuse to utilize it.

I think we have treated singleness all wrong. Think about it: our grandparents often married right out of high school. Our parents, right out of college. And my generation? Well, we seem to marry later and later. You can argue good, bad, or indifferent, but I'm going to leave that debate alone. The point is, the church had to figure out where to put this growing group of not married people, so we slapped the "single" label on them and then started tip-toeing around them, unsure what to do or how to teach this new group.

I've gotta be honest...this singleness label, if we aren't careful, makes this life stage very much about "ME." And our singles groups in church become meat markets or support groups instead of discipleship opportunities.

Let's be real. The Bible doesn't really specify the difference in how you are to act if you are single as opposed to how you are to act if you are married (besides defining those roles). It does call us to pursue holiness. It doesn't give us a list of what to do/not do when we are dating. But it does tell us what purity looks like and the characteristics of a godly man or woman. Bottom line: the Bible calls believers to BE FAITHFUL. Period. No room for debate. It may look different depending on your season of life, but the call is the same.

See, singleness, when not approached correctly makes this season focused on waiting and wondering. But that is all wrong. "Single" and "married" are labels. Daughter, sister, wife, mom those are roles we are called to fill that focus on a relationship instead of an individual. When we approach those roles correctly, we are focused on impacting and loving others for the kingdom, not waiting on prince charming to ride through. Right now, I define myself as a young adult with an ability to reach my generation because I understand them. When I get married, my new label of "married" doesn't change that God has called me to be faithful. My new ROLE as a wife and eventually a mom will redefine what being faithful looks like.

Don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to getting married and raising a family. Cannot wait. But clearly the Lord and I have a different time table, and that is totally fine. God wired us to be relational, with him first and then with others. No matter my season of life, I want to build those relationships instead of focusing on the "lack" of a significant other. Just as a side note, faithfulness doesn't guarantee marriage. Instead, it's an overflow of a heart set on eternity that recognizes that Jesus is enough, even if you never walk the aisle or say "I do."

Here's a message to all the ladies out there. Get up off your butt. Quit waiting, and jump in the game. BE FAITHFUL. You have huge opportunities right now to go, do, and be that you may never have again. Make the most of them. Years ago, the guy would come calling on the girl in her sitting room and ask about the weather and her family. He'd wait a few months, approach her dad, and then marry her. But her life revolved around waiting for him to call. While I think we have lost a lot of the beauty of pursuit by the man as God intended, there is something to be said for girls not waiting around. Ladies, may he find you running hard in pursuit of Christ, not sitting around twiddling your thumbs and wondering when he is coming.

And guys, find a girl who is running after Jesus with all her heart, and don't be intimidated by that! If you aren't where she is at, quit moaning or feeling inferior. Man up, grow up, and catch up. If she is running that hard after Christ, then be a man who desires to run right next to her if not slightly in front of her. You are fully capable! Stop thinking you can't, and dive all into your relationship with Jesus. Let him make you the man you need to be, not just for her, but for His glory.

Singleness is a societal, cultural label that is just very stupid to me. I don't want this season to be about ME. Single or married, I want to be defined by my role in the relationships in my life and how well I am loving others and pointing them to Jesus. No matter my marital status, I want to be faithful. If you are in this season, dive in with me and let's run together.

I realize there are a lot of layers to this topic. Feel free to chime in. This is solely based on conversations I've had in the past few months. End of soap box.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Season of Change

I tend to view my life in chapters, which probably isn't a real shocker since I'm a writer. But this year of my life doesn't seem to have a clear cut pattern with the exception of one word - change.

Without a doubt, I am a creature of habit, and while some change is exciting, change that rocks my world in every area really challenges me.

Since my last post, I've moved to an apartment in the city. With a new location has come changes in relationships, schedules, and habits. I've accepted the invitation to join another community group as my current group prepares to transition into a new season. My first book is receiving the final touches and book 2 is heavy on my mind.

All of these changes are great, but I'm so overwhelmed. This is a year of curve balls from the Lord, and I feel like I have to make a daily conscious decision to just roll with each pitch. Definitely a year of chipping off rough edges and reshaping this piece of clay.

It's so hard to release control of plans and hopes and desires. It's so hard to balance the good things and say "no" in favor of better things. It's hard to let go.

I feel very scattered and out of control, but isn't that where Jesus likes us best? He is peace in the chaos, shelter in the storm, constant in the change, faithful in providing, present in the loneliness, direction in the fog.

He is SOVEREIGN.

That's the trait I am coming to understand in a greater way this year. It isn't this emotional characteristic. It's powerful. He works all things for my good, continually aligning my heart with His so that His desires become Mine. It somehow makes the change make sense.

I'm half way through the year, and I have no idea what to expect. I'm learning to daily trust His hand and savor the moments He gives me. And I might just be thankful when my life attains some sense of normalcy or familiarity again. But regardless, I'm letting go and trusting He knows my heart as this chapter continues.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Learning to Listen

My world is loud. My email constantly demands my attention - three different accounts for three different reasons. My job revolves around communication and social media, the deadly noise of an electronic culture.

We've forgotten the value of letters and phone calls, the connection that comes with face to face. We've forgotten how to have a conversation longer than 140 characters, and we sure don't remember the bond developed by vocally sharing the depth of our thoughts, our hearts.


I remember a crowded beach in California. Surfers rode the waves, entertainers lined up around the boardwalk, and this misplaced Texas girl walked with my group enjoying the show. About sunset, I found myself alone near the water, the waves roaring in to kiss the shore over and over. All other noise dissipated, and I truly listened.

I see my Creator in the waves and the ocean - His power, His gentle nature, His vastness, His beauty. And I can hear His still small voice in the waves that lap the sand, asking me to drown out the other noise and just listen. He speaks in the quiet moments. He answers when I truly surrender.

With no beach nearby, I'm learning to find my ocean moments in the roar of the big city. He speaks most when I commit to listen. And I'm tired of the noise. I'm sitting on the shore, listening to His voice whisper in the waves.

Linking up with other writers at Lisa-Jo's today!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hiking Columbine Trail

Fall
The trail wound too close to the edge of the mountain. My foot kicked a pebble loose, and it skittered over the side. I avoided watching it's wake, scared to lean over. We were the back group in a crew of thirty, the others racing to the top.

My camera remained a ready friend in my hand, capturing every moment of the beauty. Mountains rose all around us, a tribute to the strength of my King. We rounded a corner into the most beautiful crag in the rock, full of flora and fauna, perfect for exploring.

That's when it hit. A raindrop. Then another and another. We heard the group ahead of us begin to yell as the sky blackened and lightening flashed. A mountain is not the safest location in a Colorado thunderstorm. Our leader came sprinting down the trail, the others in her wake. Water wound down the red mud, sliding beneath her feet.

"Get off the mountain. Get off the Mountain. Lord, get all these students off the mountain safely," I heard her whispered prayer as she whipped past me. My friends and I began to run, now more concerned with the lightening than the proximity of the edge. Water ran like a stream between my feet, and I began to laugh, a rough year of college bleeding off with the refreshment of a summer storm and the adventure of a Colorado mountain hike. As the potential of falling off the cliff increased with the deluge, I had no fear.

I fell more in love with Jesus in that storm.

"Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." Hosea 6:3

Linking up with other writers at Lisa-Jo's for Five Minute Friday.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Imagination Gone Wild

Linking up with other writer's at Lisa-Jo's today for today's word...


Imagine


I dream in color. Active imagination is an understatement for me. There are moments that I have to separate the daydreams from the memories. Each moment is vividly real to me...or could be.

When I write, the movie reel in my head comes to life on paper. The characters become people I can touch. I know their history, their names, their pain, and their joy. I imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes.

I was that kid who found something creative in the tracks left by water drops on my car window. I see an analogy in a cotton field or a top hat in the clouds. I imagine God in a smock painting each sunset as it fades to black. I imagine the incredible possibilities and potential of some of my friends.

I imagine all the time. Too much. Not enough. I imagine someday and tomorrow. What could have been or what could be.

But the imagining becomes "what ifs" when not paired with His perfect plan. This crazy brain of mine came tailor made at the hands of the God who created all we see. I imagine what God can do, because I know He's bigger than my imaginings or my feelings or my plans. My guess is that my imaginings amuse Him at times, and He's just sitting up there saying, "Oh, sweetheart, I have something so much better in mind. Just you wait and see."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bird's-Eye View

Joining with other writers at Lisa-Jo's today to talk about...
             View

My sight is limited from the airport terminal. The person in front of me sipping Starbucks as we wait to board the plane. The mom juggling a toddler, stroller, and too little sleep. My eyes burn from several nights spent talking, laughing, and finishing last minute wedding details for my friends' wedding. My brain is fuzzy, and all I know is I'm headed back.

Back to the big city, to my busy job, to a packed schedule, to more friends and family, to a pending move. My lungs constrict. Too much on too little sleep.

We board the plane and zip down the runway, Missouri tipping beneath me from the window. I watch the green hills and trees, the Arch, and a weekend full of memories slip into the past as we climb higher. My view is no longer limited. It stretches before me, all the way back to Texas, and I breath a little easier.

It's the difference in my human, tired perspective and God's grand design, so intricate and finite in detail that I can't clearly see it until I rise above the everyday and catch a small glimpse of the master plan. Breath. Just breath. I remember God's got this from my bird's-eye view. He knows the plans He has for me (Romans 8:28). I settle back in my seat and relax as the morning sky scrolls past.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When the Storms Come

Disasters have the potential to cripple us. Scratch that. The usually cripple us. One of the most common questions I hear from people no matter their belief system is "Where is God? How is this loving or good?"

Ironically, this is a question I spent a season of my life wrestling. It is also the major issue in my book, Shaken, which releases in January 2014.

Unfortunately, there is no cookie cutter answer to this question. Like "proving" that God spoke and creation came into being, choosing to believe that God is good in spite of the storms is a choice based on faith.

Fire fighter from Stillwater, OK helping in tornado relief.

A few years ago, storms raged in my life and my heart raged against God. Seriously. One night in Colorado, I locked myself in my apartment and yelled into the room, wishing God was present for me to throw something at Him. Not my finest moment. But in the midst of that storm, I learned a lot about weathering the rocky seasons...

1) God is good despite the circumstances - Nahum 1:7. In fact, He is a stronghold in the midst of the pain.

2) He is peace. He stills the storm literally and figuratively. He stilled the storm when the disciples cried out to Him.

3) He allows them to test and grow our dependence on Him. In Job, He tells Satan to let Job have it because He knew Job would never renounce God.

4) Storms either make us bloom or demonstrate the shallowness of our roots. Who/what do you depend on?

In the midst of the Oklahoma tornadoes, the war in the Middle East, the death of children we have an opportunity to point people to a God who comforts, heals, restores, and gives hope.

Will you trust Him when the storm comes?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Finding Life on a Plane

One of my best friends in the world walked the aisle and said "I do" this weekend. Despite last minute details, all hands on deck, and a few minor bumps, everything came together and the wedding was beautiful.

What an example of God's faithfulness. I have had the privilege of living life with this amazing woman from states away. I've prayed for her guy, prayed she would be patient, prayed he would be whole-heartedly devoted to Christ, prayed he would absolutely adore her. I wasn't the only one praying this, and God answered every prayer above my expectation.

Over and over this weekend, I kept thanking God for His goodness to give us His best even when the waiting is difficult. I thanked Him for His sovereignty in placing Ash and me in the same room four years ago, despite our initial uncertainty. I thanked Him for the beauty of His creation as I drove the hills and farm country of Missouri. My heart was full with thanks to the God I serve who is so good.

This truth became even more real on the plane ride home. I sat next to a lady who was reading The Happiness Project, a book written by a woman trying to find more happiness in her life by creating a happiness project. The book is a New York Times bestseller, which is an indication that many people are seeking the answer to happiness.

My heart broke for this woman sitting next to me. I began to pray that the Lord would give me the opportunity to share Christ with her. As we began to talk about the book and life, she said that no matter what she does, nothing totally satisfies. She was hoping the book would shed some light and help her find happiness.

After a weekend participating in this wedding, I couldn't wait to tell this woman where life is found. Jesus came that we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10)! Ashley and Jared have found that, not in one another, but in Christ, and now they will serve Him together. I've found unexplainable joy and contentment in Christ in a season of singleness. I shared the gospel with this woman and explained how my good and loving Father desires to give us joy and life to the full when we follow Him.

The secret to happiness is Christ. Plain and simple. It doesn't come with a better job, more money, a husband/wife, kids, or fame. Jesus satisfies completely. In the wake of a beautiful wedding and testimony to God's faithfulness and love, I'm praying that this bride-to-be that I met on the plane learns that life and fulfillment come from Christ alone.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Comfort

Joining with other writers at Lisa-Jo's today to talk about...

             Comfort

In the craziness, I seek a slice of normalcy - comfort in chaos. Something, anything familiar.

In college, it was curling up on my bed on a Saturday, cocooned by my pillows. FRIENDS, NCIS, or Saved by the Bell filling the silence.

As an adult, it's the familiarity of faces that have known me my whole life or the people who share in my victories and struggles every week. It's reading a book I have read a thousand times or enjoying a walk as the sun dips below the buildings and trees.

I seek that comfort deep inside. The contentment that comes from knowing who I am and Whose I am in the midst of a storm.

His arms hold me, His hand guides me, and the gentle pressure is enough to comfort in the midst of the unknown. In all the changes, He is consistent. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Brave

Joining with other writers at Lisa-Jo's today to talk about...

BRAVE

I visit a third world country for a week and call myself brave. What a misuse of the word. I return to my comfortable bed, good job, and three meals a day plus anything else I want, and I have truly missed the meaning of the word.

I share my faith with the waitress, leave a verse on the receipt, and call myself brave, while soldiers may now receive a court martial for sharing their faith. Believers in other countries must hide their Bibles for fear of jail time, and I'm too tired to read mine tonight.

I don't define this word. I've just Americanized it to pat myself on the back, but I've missed the mark completely.

It's that mom who gives the last bit of food to her toddler while she rocks him to sleep crying, all while she prays and trusts that somehow God will provide tomorrow.

It's the soldier who values truth over man's version of honor and believes eternal life outweighs a reprimand.

It's the believer in China who invites his neighbor to the church in his basement, knowing they risk imprisonment and death if that neighbor snitches.

We are losing our status as "land of the free" when tolerance is redefined as anything goes unless it's Christian, and "home of the brave" means we take a stand for what is right and true only when we feel like it or it suits our purpose.

God help us be brave if the time ever comes when they take our homes because we bear His name. I usually keep quiet over social media with all this political correctness. What good does it do for Christians who have never met to argue in this arena? But when sharing my faith is in jeopardy, silence is not brave. So I'll add my voice to the crowd, and pray that I'll be brave when it matters most.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Friend

Joining with other writers at Lisa-Jo's today to talk about...

FRIENDS
There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother... 


I called to talk about her wedding plans, but she let me cry instead. Separated by miles and bound by memories, she's seen me at my worst and my best and loves me in spite of myself. I don't feel the need to sugar coat. I tell her exactly how I've been stupid. But I don't feel the need to be strong either. I can just be me. We finally talk about the wedding details, and my tears are now tears of joy that she found this amazing man, that she is incredible, that their wedding will honor the Lord, and that she asked me to be a small part of it.


I text her in my weak moments and when I am incredibly excited, this friend who knows my heart. She reminds me to be strong, that God's got this. This friend also separated by miles and bound by a summer of concerts and mountain climbs and late nights giggling and talking about some day. She's my backbone, the one who throws the red flags, the one who knows me, loves me, and speaks truth. She is a ray of sunshine, and the inspiration for one of my characters in my book.


Still another friend, a heart friend. College rivals and childhood friends, she is my chill buddy. We share memories marked in joy, friendship, laughter, tears, and music. Even when she isn't close by, a conversation over the phone or text closes the gap. She is constant. Honest yet gentle, she knows my heart and my history.

How precious are these who never leave, who allow me to invest in their lives, all the while investing in mine. They define the word FRIEND.


Monday, April 22, 2013

The Problem with Fear

I'm learning really random lessons in a crazy season. I'm ready for this season to be over with, but I'm thankful for what the Lord is teaching me and how He is molding me through the struggle.

In the past two months, I have learned a lot about fear and a lot about faith. In fact, they are direct opposites of one another, something I knew but never really identified.


Fear
      - demonstrates a lack of trust in God's sovereignty
      - is an emotional response
      - makes us say things we don't mean
      - causes us to react in a way that results in consequences
      - hurts those we love
      - is selfishly motivated
      - is our attempt to control our circumstances
      - consumes and paralyzes us

However, the Lord creates masterpieces from our messes and our fear. The only time fear is used in a healthy sense in the Bible is to call us to fear God - He is holy, just, righteous, pure, and great. We have to learn to TRUST Him. Ralph Waldo Emerson said,  "All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen." Fear is walking by sight and immediacy. Faith is walking in obedience, trusting God will show us what's next, even when we don't understand.

Faith
     - causes us to bear fruit
     - allows God to control the circumstance and result
     - breeds peace
     - fosters relationships
     - is an act of obedience (therefore God-centered)
     - helps us focus on the needs of others
     - demonstrates our trust in the One we claim to follow
     - frees us to act
   

In the past few months, I've seen and experienced the results of fear and the results of faith. Fear is painful. Faith is life and peace and freedom. I haven't mastered this yet, but I am committed to mastering my fear through fostering my faith. The One I follow is so sovereign over my circumstances and intimately knows my heart. If I truly trust that, whom/what should I fear?

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear." 1 John 4:18a

Friday, April 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Jump

It's easier said than done. That moment you are standing at the edge, looking over, knowing that once your feet leave the ground, your life will forever change. It takes courage and possibly a little craziness.

The jump is rarely safe. It's a lot like falling in love or moving states or letting go of something you've held onto for years. Total release. Total loss of control. Knowledge that you could get hurt, this may not work, something could go wrong.

But you jump anyway, because the idea of staying where you've always been is worse than the unknown. It's stale and predictable, and we are called to live lives of adventure.

So much in life is changing. A book deal, friendships, job responsibilities. I'd love to climb from the platform and run back the other way where it's safe. But back-tracking never benefited anyone. And I have people at my back holding me in place. They won't let me run.

So I stand with my toes clinging to the edge, heart racing, and hands shaking, knowing that the jump changes everything.

To jump or not to jump...I'm still hanging on.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Homeless in Dallas


Street Level

You press your face to the office glass,
Street level, street clothes
Outside looking in.

You comb greasy hair,
Eyes wild, unfocused,
Familiar stranger.

Downtown Dallas is your home
Shop doorway, underpass
Restless slumber

I should invite you in
Warm coffee, cozy seat
Hear your story

Do you have family near?
Fatherless children, lonely wife
Life out of control

I wish I could fix it all
Reconciliation, comfort
A roof and bed

Inside out, you’re just like me
Flesh and blood,
A man with needs

I watch you turn away
And I remember the command
To love the least of these.