New Houses

God is not in the business of renovating existing houses. He builds new in place of the old, from the ground up. He removes what existed before, every piece of it—the roof, walls, floor, faulty foundation—and clears the land. Yes, the old walls stood on their own, the cracks in the foundation have not yet visibly affected the tenant and the roof kept the rain out, but He is rebuilding it wholly and completely and no reminder of the old house can remain. It is not that He despised the former so much that He regarded it garbage, but rather that He knows the tenant is better served by the things of His building because He is the ultimate craftsman.

Did you know that sometimes He even cuts down the old, beautiful, safe trees surrounding the house? It is because He intends to cultivate a garden instead, one that the tenant can eat from and grow with. At first, when tenants give their house over to Him, they expect construction to move rapidly but oh how they are wrong. This, of course, is only for their benefit (as He is no lazy contractor) — the process is long simply because He has promised them to build something that will last eternally, and He always keeps His word. 

When He pours the foundation, the tenant anticipates the walls will go up immediately after, but He reminds them that it must first be tested and sealed. There is no value in building a house on a foundation that cannot stand the climate, it will only have to be rebuilt. When He frames the rooms, He does so based upon what He knows of the tenant (and He knows them well), its design suits them perfectly with no lack or excess of space. He installs the windows and ensures the view through the glass is something beautiful; they allow sunlight to seep in and only make the interior more bright and lovely. The most distinct feature in His design plan, present in every home he builds, is the light He places on the interior of the house. When the sunlight doesn’t seep through the windows because of clouds or nighttime, the tenant can switch the lights on and the house is illuminated once again. 
The electricity never goes out in His houses and there’s no such thing as a utility bill once you’ve given your house to Him. 

It’s really a great deal, when you think about it, an excellent investment—you gain the most beautiful new house only at the expense of control over its design. It’s not something to worry about or fret over, He’s been in this business for a long time.
It is impossible to endure if you are under the impression that everything you need is just over the next mountaintop. To endure, you must believe you have access to everything you could ever need, right now in this moment. Then, if you know that you lack nothing, you can say, "I can walk this path for as long as it takes; I am fully provided for."

You Have All You Need to Get Where You're Going

If you scroll through the last few months of my writing, or even the last few months of posts on social media, you’ll find quite a collection of thoughts on being in the valley season of my faith. It felt like far too much time spent fighting my way out of a place I so despised; I’d much prefer a constant mountaintop experience. The beginning of summer brought me from the valley season to one of rest. While I was relieved to head for new scenery, I was equally as much afraid of new ground. For as often as I cry out to God saying, “Let’s do something exciting!” I also cry, “Oh help, Dad, I’m afraid to go somewhere new.”

I love the story of the beginning of Moses’ ministry in Egypt, when God first calls him by name. Moses walks beside a mountain and the Bible says that an angel appeared to him in the form of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2, ESV), he notices the bush and resolves to turn from the path he was taking and take a closer look. This brief moment sets Moses toward a life of faith; God places Himself in the path and gives Moses the opportunity to know Him. The Bible then says, in verse four, that “when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, “Here I am.’” 

The Lord revealed to me through this story the pattern of seasons with God: it’s opportunity and response. By the blood of Jesus, we’re able to hear the voice of God calling us off our path, but we have the freedom to choose our response. What kind of lover would Jesus be if he forced us from one place to another without a say in the matter? It’d be like forcing your best friend to go to the place of your choice every time you decided to do something, disregarding their opinion altogether. Our Father, though, is the best companion; He likes giving you options because He knows love is only true when it’s given freely.

God gives you the option to say “yes” or “no” as you walk from season to season with Him, just as He did with Moses. As the story continues and God tells Moses of His epic plan to set the Israelites free from slavery, we witness one of the most amusing exchanges between God and a man in Scripture (or at least I think so). To paraphrase, God says to Moses, “Surprise, I’m the same God that your ancestors flipped their lives upside down to follow and you’re going to follow me too. I heard the cry of your people, the ones you once tried to defend back when you lived in Egypt, and I want to use you to bring them out of slavery and into a land flowing with milk and honey that you’re going to take from various intimidating people groups.” (That’s a rough summary of Exodus 3:6-10.) 

Moses responds, “Yeah, no. Wrong guy.”

God counters, “My child, you have nothing to fear because I told you I will be with you. It’s worth your time because, after you do this, I’m going to let you serve me for the rest of your life.”

Again, Moses questions, “As I play this out in my mind, I realize I’m going to look really stupid in front of all of these people if I can’t entirely explain who I am and what I’m doing nor justify every action. Did you think that through?”

I love God’s response. He silences Moses with the simple statement “I AM who I AM.” This exchange makes me laugh because I’ve had this conversation with God many times over the past few years, though outside of the freeing-the-Israelites context. This is, in fact, my most frequent response to new seasons with God. Some of my go-to statements of fear are, “They’re going to think I’m weird,” or “I don’t have enough faith to follow through.” For this newest season it was,“I don’t want to be lonely,” but they all fall under the general theme of, “That looks unfamiliar and scary and I don’t think I’m strong enough to handle it, let’s just not.” I’ve tended to push or pull or drag my feet when I realize God’s leading me somewhere new, somewhere not within the carefully constructed religious box. Each complaint I send at my Savior is met with, “But daughter, don’t you remember who I am?” As with Moses, my fear falls away and faith awakens when met by the Living God. His kindness, goodness and love are irresistible; He’s the very thing my heart was created for. 

In a life with God lies the satisfaction of everything our hearts desire. An encounter with Him sparks a fire in our souls, igniting the kindling He placed within us at the beginning. When you have gazed upon the perfect face of Jesus or heard Him call your name, when you recognize that He alone holds everything you’ve ever longed for, how could you move in any other direction than toward Him?

Knowing King Jesus nullifies the crippling symptoms of fear. Encountering God empowers us to step forward into whatever is next because His love casts out every anxiety. I always interpreted that phrase to mean that, if I truly loved Jesus and believed in Him, I’d never face something I was afraid of because His love would remove any feelings of fear. While He may very well cast out doubt, and those moments are incredible gifts, He is as equally likely to nudge us forward even when remnants of fear can still be found in our hearts. His “love casts out fear” because it sets us free from fear’s former power, loosing our feet from the shackles to which we were bound before we met Jesus. This freedom doesn’t guarantee you’ll never feel fear again, it guarantees that you are no longer bound by it.

As Moses considers where God has asked him to go, he lists off his insufficient talent or intellect as reason to abandon the cause (Exodus 4:1-13). In fear, he tells God, “Please send someone else.” The Bible then says that the Lord’s anger was kindled against Moses, but His love provides the measure of faith necessary to prepare Moses for the journey ahead. In order to protect the relationship between them, God produces the resources needed for Moses to obey His command; He provides faith, dressed as Aaron, for the task ahead. God says to Moses, “I will provide Aaron as a mouthpiece for you. You’ll do what I’ve asked, but He will be your voice.” (Exodus 4:14-17) God meets Moses in his small faith and provides what is needed for greater faith to arise. You see, had Moses disobeyed God because of his fear, it would have affected their relationship. In His compassion and kindness, God provides a way for Moses to step into the season where he has been called and to continue in relationship with Himself. 

If we believe God is who He says He is, then we believe that He provides. The core of Christianity is that, no matter the cost, God always rescues His children. God will not ask you to step into a new season with Him and then set you up to fail. He’s a good friend, father, companion, lover—His kindness never runs out.

And He gives us the measure of faith necessary to step into the land He’s called us.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (James 1:2-4, MSG)

Afternoon Coffee

You make me think of drinking coffee
Mid-afternoon in my favorite chair.

I sit and I sip, expectation of quiet now satisfied.

Being with you is the pause I scramble to obtain
Because there's no greater peace than the freedom to just be.

So, when I think of you, I think of my afternoon coffee in the blanket-covered chair.

Your only expectation is that I show up,
And you're always waiting for me.

You don't require deep or productive commentary,
But you love to hear how my mind wanders.
You love to watch me simply be free.

You're like afternoon coffee in my favorite chair,
You're the quiet my heart needs.

He Called Me To The Valley

My life in the past few (many) months has felt like a constant battlefield. Perhaps this is the life of the Christian, a brutal fight for joy and peace in all times. The greatest battle in a faith-filled life seems not to be the one against the things that oppose us from the outside, but the one against the emotions, doubts and fears that oppose us from the inside. 

But before I address what feels like the war in my heart, I think it’s important to remember that I’m fighting from victory. All my life I’ve tended toward a poverty spirit and desperation mindset, something that is so common among God’s children when they find themselves in a dark season. In my own life, the poverty spirit appears first as an adoration filled cry of a child to her Father, asking Him to visit her because she feels alone and far off. Based in the truth that our hearts are designed for God’s presence, this cry isn’t sinful of itself. There’s so much beauty in a heart that cries out for God, broken, desperate, and needy for His presence. However, when I feel that my Father has not answered my cry, I assume an increasingly desperate posture. I ask, “What have I done wrong?” and “Why have you taken your presence from me?”. My mind confesses every possible error or misstep. And again, while there is beauty in desperation, there’s also forgetfulness. The moment I begin obsessing over my sin, neediness and insufficiency, I forget my adoption into the fold of God. It becomes an issue of my ability to right myself before God, when in fact “it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:21). The belief that I can somehow make myself clean enough for the feeling of God’s presence to return rejects my identity as his child. This poverty spirit is no more righteous than a Pharisee’s loud and pretentious prayer. A poverty spirit is a spirit that has forgotten who God is.

All that to say, what, then, are we to do when our souls are lost and lonely and our spirits feel faint? Is the painful season of quietness or dryness punishment from God? Does He send me through this because I have failed Him? No. I know the Father’s heart is good, and He doesn’t wreak havoc to punish us for not meeting expectations we’ve set for ourselves. Why, then, does he allow for the valleys of the soul? I think because we need to see the valley before we can truly thrive on the mountain top. The valley is where we recognize that the only dependable thing in this life is the goodness of God. It’s here where we learn the necessity of His presence but also the truth of His steadfastness despite our wavering emotions. And then, on the sweet day when He moves us from the valley and places us atop the mountain, we will be certain that no striving of our own brought us there. We owe it all to the hand of God.

I arrived in this valley after a series of obedient “yes” statements, where God asked me to lay down the things so tightly grasped in my hands. It was a series of conversations between my Father and I, questions of Where are we going? and Where have we been? With every desire laid down—the shiny college experience in New York City, an independent and self-sufficient lifestyle, the summer spent in Europe fulfilling lifelong dreams, and even one of the dearest relationships—the words were always Do you trust me enough to follow me? Do you know I have something better for you? You see, my Father knows my heart, He knows my only desire is to be where He is. The losses and unmet expectations of myself and my life were and are painful. I never expected following His word would lead to a season of feeling so lost in the wilderness and so doubtful of His presence. My only consolation is that I know I followed Him here, and therefore, I am right where I should be.

The one walking through the valley—though susceptible to despair, doubt and confusion—is not there for punishment or to receive the scorn due them. Though I feel winded from the painful blows of shattered expectations, hiding hope and scarcity of joy, He brought me here to prepare me for the increased measure of grace He is about to pour out. I am not forsaken, and I am not defeated. The valley is my victory because it is where He has called me.

“He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand; and if only the will to walk is really there he is pleased even with their stumbles […] our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.