OUR BIG NEWS

OUR BIG NEWS

It’s hard to know how to begin.  

Looking back, I can’t help but feel like all major life events are really difficult to explain in a clear narrative. When did it really start? Where exactly did that first domino fall over? I honestly have no clue. 

Our story is kind of different, too, in that it completely revolves around our experience hearing personally from God, so if that's not something you either believe in or have experienced yourself, none of this will probably make much sense.  But here goes.

If you get bored quickly, here’s the very short version:  we're moving.  After 6.5 wonderful years in Alliston, at the end of January we are moving to the east end of the GTA to join C4 Church.

Early in 2016, a couple of church leaders visiting from across the country had specific prophetic words for Josh and I that had to do with us changing location - that we were "anywhere people" who served an anywhere God.

At that point we hadn’t talked or even thought about moving, but much of what they said echoed other prophetic words we’d be given years earlier.  We received it…and then we shelved it.  We were still so well settled in Alliston and really involved with the church.  Moving just was not on our radar.  

It’s impossible to put a finger on exactly when, but somewhere at some point several months later we began to feel really unsettled. 

The feeling of being uprooted is still really difficult for me to explain. It’s not discontentedness. It might sound weird but we have continued to be happy here even as we’ve ALSO become increasingly uncomfortable and aware of the need for change. 

Somewhere early in the process a dear friend of mine had a prophetic picture of a funnel, like water going down a drain.  She said that what God was doing in us might feel like a decline, but it's actually the building of momentum towards something.  

What I learned over the next months was that momentum isn't necessarily an enjoyable sensation.  It’s kind of like being pregnant. The closer you get to your due date, the more uncomfortable you become.  At some point, that baby has to come out.  

For us, everything happened pretty slowly - over the course of nearly two full years from beginning to end.  For a long time we were confused about what we were feeling and had some difficulty putting a name to it. 

By the time we finally realized that these general feelings of tension and frustration were actually God starting to move us on, we found we were looking at a completely blank slate in that we had no clue where we were going to go.  

We began to pray and weigh up every possible location we had connections (including the US and overseas) but even though we have a lot of great relationships all over the place, we were having difficulty picturing ourselves actually living anywhere. 

From that point it was months before we started to sense a pull to C4.  We even visited friends at the Port Perry campus one Sunday, and although we enjoyed the service there was no magical lightbulb moment, no awareness at all that we might be there someday. 

This past March, Josh had an extremely detailed, vivid dream in which we were walking down a country road heading away from an old farmhouse.  Suddenly a tornado appeared and we began running back to the house to take shelter.  Just as Josh’s hand reached the door knob, the tornado swept us up.  However the tornado didn’t hurt us but transported us somewhere, and the dream ended with Josh casually speaking about this in conversation with someone. 

Recalling my friend's picture of the funnel from months prior, we took the dream as a sign that God was preparing us for change.  Even though it felt scary and looked scary, it was all going to be ok. 

We still had no clue how, when, or where - but by this point, we knew absolutely that we were going to be moving and it felt like it could be coming soon.

A little later in the spring we were able to get away without the kids for a night to talk and pray about what was happening.  We still lacked a sense of pull in any direction.  We had been listening to the C4 podcast for a while and felt pretty drawn to the teaching, but we hadn’t yet really imagined ourselves there.  We sat in our hotel room and prayed for some kind of sign.

While on the highway heading home, Josh made a last minute decision to take the more scenic route and pulled off onto the next approaching exit, where we came to a T-intersection.  The light was red and we were stopped in the left turning lane.  

We were talking about C4 when I suddenly looked out Josh’s window.  A few feet outside his door was a one-way arrow sign.  Beneath the arrow was tacked another smaller, temporary sign in bright yellow that simply said “C4”.

In that moment for us, in the conversation we were in, this felt serendipitous.  We had asked for a sign and here, literally, was a sign.  Saying C4.  With an arrow.  

After that, we began taking this possibility a lot more seriously.  As we did so, we found our hearts increasingly drawn to the broader vision of C4 and could see ourselves being part of it.  

Not long afterward, we were able to share our situation and thoughts with our leadership team here at Anchor Point Church.  They surrounded us with prayer and support, and I can’t even begin to describe how loved and covered we felt as things progressed from there. We slowly began to step back from various responsibilities at church, which was actually really painful but we felt we had to do it as preparation.  

At the end of July, Josh was suddenly laid off at his job after the company restructured and his role was made redundant.  By this point, we definitely felt like we were in the tornado.  

It was terrifying, but we also felt pretty strongly that God was going to use this turn of events to help transport us somehow.  The loss of the job really was just one more cord being cut.  It looked like decline, but it was momentum.  

We were put in touch with some of the pastoral staff at C4 who began praying for us.  Knowing that people on both sides of this transition were now actively praying and supporting us was a huge source of comfort and strength.  We knew we weren’t walking through this alone.   

Josh began looking for work in the Durham region, but about a month and nearly 50 job applications later, we still weren’t any closer to a solution.  

Running out of ideas (and hope), he booked a coffee date with an entrepreneurial friend, hoping for some encouragement or inspiration.  It was a total surprise to both of us when that coffee date ended with a job offer with his friend’s online company.  

After a 3-month probational term, Josh and his friend-turned-boss were able to negotiate a salary that we felt was our green light to take further steps toward moving.  The work is entirely remote, so we were portable.  It all started to make sense. 

From that point everything began happening very quickly.  A matter of days later, we were at a house viewing - a little spot just outside of Port Perry, overlooking the lake.  We fell in love with it, sent in our rental application, and were approved within 48 hours.  Our landlord even turned out to be a believer.  Everything was coming together.  After almost two years, this was happening.  For real.

So here we are! It’s happening. It’s happening. Agh.

I don’t often have prophetic dreams - in fact, I don’t often remember my dreams at all, and when I do they are either weird mash-ups of what's gone on in my day or variations on the theme of me being a superspy, like Sydney Bristow in Alias.  

But many years ago (long before I even met Josh) I had one really vivid dream in which I was walking through a house overlooking a lake.  In the dream I eventually found a room that was clearly a nursery or kids’ room, and suddenly realized that I was married and had children.  I was flooded with a sense of joy and well-being - and then I woke up.

At the time it felt like a promise from God because I had always longed to get married and have a family. It would be years yet before any those things were realized, but today I look back and I’m astonished at the goodness and faithfulness of the Father.  His promises are never given flippantly and he always follows through. 

Something that’s really clear to me now is that this process has never been just about getting Josh and Katie from point A to B.  Instead, it’s been a transformative journey that has forced both of us to confront our individual areas of fear, unbelief, pride, and insecurity.  We are different people than we were two years ago.

In all honesty, both of us are still wrestling through a lot of anxiety as we prepare to leave everything that’s familiar and start afresh somewhere else.  We’re not typically impulsive or spontaneous, which serves us well in some areas but also means we have a hard time taking risks and adjusting to change.  There have been some sleepless nights and lots of tears, but we’ve already had some major victories over fear and we continue pressing forward. 

Josh and I are so grateful for the love and support of our amazing families and the handful of closer friends who have loved on us and been there for us at every twist and turn.  You know who you are.  We love you SO MUCH.  I'm so grateful that real love and friendship is never threatened by distance. 

Every step of this process has been and continues to be critically important, not just to prepare us for the change but to transform us into the kind of people we really want to be.  Ultimately I am so grateful to God for loving us too much to give us a quick, easy or predictable answer.  He knew there would be a much greater prize on the other side of the process. 

He's good, and He's worth following.  Anywhere.  

MORE

MORE

2016 was a bumpy ride for our family. 

Between a lengthy job hunt for my husband, a difficult pregnancy (in which my gall bladder basically decided it hated me), transitioning from 1 to 2 children (glorious, but, #CRAY), and then managing the tight financial limitations of an entry-level salary in a single-income home, it’s a year I wouldn’t really care to re-live.  Among many other things, 2016 was the year I learned what it felt like to look around the house trying to find things to sell so we could do Christmas gifts.  It was also the year I tried about every heartburn remedy that exists, but, that’s another story.

The past 18 months have often felt for me like existing in the space between 2 paycheques, and little else.  Just existing.  Just getting by.  

I have been so grateful for God’s daily (and often last-minute) provision, but I’ve also grappled with the longing for financial freedom and the many practical implications that would involve for our family.  

What I’ve learned in this past season is that desire is part of our human fabric.  It’s the dynamite of our worship and the driving force behind every kingdom dream.  

It’s true that desire can lead us down terrible pathways of sin. And sometimes even God-given, holy and right longings can feel overwhelming in their incompletion, even crushing.  I think this is why so many people self-destruct when disappointment comes.  I’ve been there.  Our hearts are naturally unschooled in how to walk with desire before God.   The whole concept of waiting on a desire is deeply offensive to this generation.

Desire is fierce and scary.  But as I’ve walked with it, I’ve learned that the exact reasons that make it a difficult thing to live with are the same things that make it impossible to live without.

To fulfil my desires my own way on my own terms is to become animalistic, driven by nothing but instinct.  But to erase desire is also to become sub-human in a different kind of way, because denying need also denies the development of empathy. 

Gratitude is not the antithesis of longing. Contentedness is not the absence of desire.   There is a way to walk with both. 

As one very wise writer put it, “without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). In the same way that hunger drives us to eat and thirst drives us to drink, desire provokes action.  

Desire is the reason for first dates, proposals, and weddings.  

Desire makes babies.  

It births projects and companies and careers.  

It motivates social action. 

It sparks political movements.

Desire drives believers to PRAY.  And any church historian will tell you that every great move of God, beginning with the early church in the famous upper room (Acts 2) was preceded by an intensity of prayer and worship. 

Desire matters.  Desire is powerful. It’s a force of energy inside of us that can be used for good or evil.  We have to figure out how to walk with it. 

Desire is created by lack.  I don’t desire things I already have.  Rather, restriction and limitation and lack serve to underline what I really want and provoke me to try and either manage it or fulfill it somehow.  

Desire is always about super-abundance.  Living on that line between what I have and what I want is such a tender, delicate dance.  It doesn’t help that the whole concept of MORE has been unfortunately polarizing in many Christian circles, drawing some into self-seeking prosperity teaching and repelling others out the other end into a harsh, fatalistic view of God’s sovereignty in which simply “accepting our lot in life” seems to be the most “spiritual” thing we can do.  Without even wanting to, I think many of us by osmosis have absorbed bits of teaching that have actually crippled our thinking in this area.  

I’ve become convinced that regardless of what’s in store for me, I am still responsible to entrust my deepest desires to God.  If I don’t allow him access to those deep places, my pain and disappointment and longing cannot metamorphosize into something beautiful. 

Only the ashes held open-handed can catch the transforming wind of his goodness.  Only the hands held out empty can receive the oil of his gladness in place of despair.  As Charles Spurgeon wrote, “it is our Lord’s office to bind up the broken-hearted, and he is gloriously at home at it”.  In this beautiful process, I alone am responsible to throw open the door of my heart and let him in.  Nobody else can make that choice for me.  

For Josh and I, declaration has become an important part of holding our lives open-handed and giving Jesus access to our longings.  We believe giving him access is where breakthrough begins. 

I would classify declaration as anything that comes OUT of you and affects the atmosphere around you.  Declaration is tangible, vocal, and measurable.  It could be a financial offering; it could be (literally) a vocal statement you make over yourself; it could be a lifestyle change; or a spiritual discipline like fasting. 

The Bible teaches that salvation itself begins with declaration.  “If you declare with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10 v 9).   The entire universe began with an utterance, a declaration.  “God SAID, ‘let there be light’, and there was light”  (Genesis 1 v 3).  Declaration brings something out of nothing. We are called to pattern ourselves after the One who “CALLS into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4 v 17). 

Declaration is me choosing to let my own ears hear the sound of my will to worship.  

I believe that some of you reading this are at your own Jericho, and it’s time to shout.  It’s time to declare what you believe to be true.  It’s time to break the cycle of sin and despair.  It’s time to open your clutched fists and allow the wind of his mercy to turn your ashes into gold as you worship him. 

It’s time for MORE. 

ALBUM STORY

ALBUM STORY

So, in case you missed it, I’m releasing an album (WHAT!).

And in the process of getting everything ready for that, I’ve been chewing over a few things. 

A big project like this looks like an "arrival".   And I guess it is, in some ways.  But mostly it feels more like another leg of the race, rather than the finish line.   It's a dot in a series of dots that are slowly being connected together.  There's so much more to do from here.

When vision is growing, there's tension.  I think that's inescapable.  We need a sense of pull towards something to want to actually get there.  The sense of pull is uncomfortable.  It creates motivation to get to the destination and relieve the tension.

But there's good tension and bad tension.  There’s a “normal” tension of handling a call from God in a season of waiting or limitation - and then there’s an abnormal tension which our culture generates around what success should look like.  

Even as Christians I think it can get so easy to tangle the two concepts together and not actually know the difference.  "Becoming" something in ministry is a huge stumbling block for a lot of people. I've been in ministry a long time.   I've seen it, and I've experienced that tension myself. 

As I went along my own journey through the years, I began to feel really squashed by this cultural expectation to “become”, and it almost completely silenced my creativity.  By mid-2015, I hadn’t written any songs in a couple of years.  Confused and disillusioned, I had nearly given up on one of the things I love most dearly.

In May of 2015 I had the opportunity to attend the 18-inch journey retreat in North Carolina, led by Jonathan and Melissa Helser of Bethel Music (heroes of mine, for many reasons).  

When I applied to go, I knew I felt compelled by it but I didn’t know why.  I’m not typically drawn to events, but I just could not get it out of my head that I was supposed to be at this thing.  I waited and waited and at the last minute, sent in my application. It turned out to be a completely life-changing time.

I came home feeling this sudden, strong pull to begin songwriting again - and not just that, but also to head to the studio with those songs. 

It didn’t make any sense.  We had no money - and I had no songs!  It had been almost a decade since my first recording project and I hadn’t exactly made a career out of it.  My twenties were predominantly spent running a business (music teaching) and parenting.  Lots of kids.  Kids everywhere.  All the time.  That's my context here.  So you can understand why I kept my thoughts to myself for a while.  They felt - well, silly, to be honest.

Finally, late one Saturday night, I got up the nerve to tell Josh. Just letting the words out of my mouth even with my own spouse felt like a huge deal.  

I think often, God leaks vision into our hearts slowly over time.  But sometimes, he does it suddenly.  

After that conversation with Josh, quite literally the next day at church a friend approached me and said “I’ve been meaning to tell you - about 6 months ago I had a dream about you.  And in the dream, you were recording a CD, and the songs were going out to people who thought they were beyond the reach of God’s love”.

I mean - !!!  You can imagine my reaction.  

God doesn’t do things the way we think he should.  But when he calls us to do something, he lets us know.  There were many other things that happened from that point to confirm the vision.  

So, from there - what?  When God speaks, how will we respond? What's step one?

Sometimes when taking steps of faith, the practical pieces don’t immediately fall into place.  Sometimes we start with an engine but no vehicle and we have to wait for the vehicle to assemble.  

And sometimes, God asks us to step out holding just a spark plug - just a tiny token of what we believe we’re supposed to do.  

That’s what happened with this album.  We stepped into it not having a penny to put towards it.  And things definitely did NOT fall together right away.  In fact, in the year following the initial crowd-funding campaign, Josh & I experienced more pressure on our finances and more anxiety and difficulty than we ever have.  For a while we weren’t sure if we’d be able to pay our own bills, let alone complete this project. 

My confidence has wobbled many times throughout this process.  But God has provided, and we are so grateful for every person who sowed finance, friendship, and prayer into our family throughout this past season.  You know who you are.  Thank you.

This album isn’t about making money.  It’s not about getting attention.  It’s simply what I did when God spoke.  

Josh & I have lived in these lyrics the past 18 months.  I don’t say that flippantly.   It’s one thing to write a nice song, but this process has taken me so far beyond simply exercising my creativity.  We have literally sung these songs over our own hearts in some of our toughest, most faith-challenging moments, often with tears streaming down our faces.  I feel like our story and these songs are one and the same.  For that reason, I’m excited to let them loose and see what God wants to do.  

February 1st is the big date - pre-order will be coming soon :)  Keep posted on Instagram or Facebook for teasers and other goodies! 

THE TRUTH

THE TRUTH

Growing up as a pastor’s kid in a single-income home meant we never had much cash floating around.  

I learned a lot of key life lessons because of this, including the fact that Puffed Wheat cereal is a grievous waste of space, Puffed Rice is far worse, and car troubles are actually The Worst Thing Ever.  And they never stop.  At least, they never seemed to for us.

My parents went through a string of really terrible vehicles, including a few station wagons (think faux wood paneling), one enormous 10-seater van - really an 8-seater with 2 extra seats fused (possibly illegally) into the back - and three Mercury Grand Marquis, aka “Couch on Wheels”, aka “She Float”, aka “Officially the Worst Car to Drive in the Winter, Ever”.

One of them, at some point, wouldn’t start unless you stuck a ballpoint pen somewhere into the engine.  To this day, I have no clue how that actually helped.  Let's just say my dad's gifts do not lie in the mechanical realm.  The engine actually produced flames at one point during his heroic efforts with the pen.  I mean really, it’s a miracle we’re all alive. 

Quite literally as I was writing this post, my mom messaged our family thread on Facebook a picture of her holding up a piece of rusty metal that had fallen off of their old junky van as she was driving that day.   That, in a nutshell, sums up our family history with cars.

Something else I learned from all those years of interesting-slash-potentially-life-threatening incidents was that familiar feeling of dread when you begin to suspect something’s wrong with your car.  That weird rattling noise when you accelerate.  That squeak in the brakes that wasn’t there yesterday.  The steering wheel feeling kind of frighteningly stiff.  Or just flames.  Flames are never good. 

Josh and I have had our fair share of car-related drama too, and every time something feels or sounds not quite right we have to ask ourselves:  do we want to know what’s wrong?  

Do we want to take it to the mechanic, have it taken apart and examined and diagnosed?  

Do we really want to know?

Well no, we don’t.  We don’t want to know.  Because knowing comes with a price tag.  Knowing costs something.  We might not know what the problem actually is, but we know that if we know, we’ll be out of pocket in a blink.  

So, when the warning signs come, we hesitate.  I'm not suggesting that's right.  It's kind of stupid.  But it's what we often do.  We wait, out of some kind of hope that it'll just sort itself out.  And of course, it never does. 

I hope you get where I’m going here. This isn’t really about cars. 

I’ve been in many situations through the years where I tried to convince myself I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t hurting and that I was fine and everything was fine, when everything was not fine.  The warning signs were there.  Everything was a mess.  

But it’s scary to face the diagnosis.  

It’s scary to come to terms with the not-rightness of something, and to put a name to it and facts to it and reality to it, reality that sometimes other people can see when we can’t.  And this is where we, like little potato bugs curling up in a ball to self-protect, often curl up into a state of denial.  

Denial is like flying a kite on the beach when a tidal wave is coming.  Denial is a fear-driven, self-protective tactic we use on ourselves and others to distract attention away from what’s going on at ground level.  

Denying the truth is the default position of our flesh.

Default = potato bug.  Think about the apostle Peter.  After walking with Jesus through several years of supernatural ministry, having seen him raise people from the dead and heal lepers and transfigure in glorious light right before his eyes, Peter denied his Lord and Saviour three times on the eve of the crucifixion. 

Peter did it.  We all do.  You do it.  We self-protect by denying the truth.

I heard it said recently that people who can’t control their own emotions will try instead to control other people’s behaviour.  This is what denial does.  Denial deflects the problem that is mine onto other people.  It converts the problem, in my head, from being my problem that I do have tools to deal with, into being an attack on my identity and worth that I need and deserve protection from. 

When I am living in denial of my problem, I am too scared of what the truth will cost to actually deal with it.  I create an external storyline that is at odds with the real facts of my life and my inner health.  I broadcast myself in a way that makes me feel in control of what other people think of me. I manipulate information about myself to gain approval so that I can achieve my goals.  But like the sputtering car, this kind of behaviour will only get me so far before something breaks down. 

Many years ago now, I was in a really terrible relationship.  I had staked pretty much all of my hopes and dreams for the future on that relationship, so coming to terms with the reality of it was terrifying.  For a long time, I denied the truth and just put up with the mess.  I put on a happy face and only allowed people to see the parts I wanted them to see, so that I could protect the relationship from coming under pressure.  It was all out of the fear of losing everything I thought I wanted for my life.  But eventually the truth revealed itself, and the relationship tore apart in a really messy, ugly way.  

Having said that, although there was pain, there was an immediate sense of relief in being done with it at last.  It was a relief to see things for what they were, and to see that God actually had something better for me than this dead-in-the-water thing I had so desperately tried to keep alive for so long.

God wants you and I to reckon with the truth, not because he wants us to be shamed and pulled to pieces in front of everybody, but because the truth is good for us.  

The truth sets us free.

I believe the Holy Spirit wants some of you reading this right now to really reckon with his truth - to stop flying that silly little flappy scrappy kite of image and reputation and self-victimization, and just recognize where you’re at, point blank.

The truth isn’t going to destroy you, or your reputation, or your identity or value, or your family, or the purpose of God for your life.

It’s going to be like drinking a glass of cold water on a hot day. It’s going to be refreshing.  It’s going to be good.  It’s going to get you where you need to be.

It’s going to unlock your feet to run into the things God has for you.

The truth will set you free.

 

CONTENDERS

CONTENDERS

I have never been a graceful loser.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a hard time NOT being the best at something,  whether it was mini-putt, Monopoly, or anything involving athletic ability (read: lack of).

And apparently age has not really improved me much in this area, as evidenced by last week’s epic game of Risk with my husband.  

That is, last week’s epic loss to my husband.  

If you’ve never played, Risk is a world conquest strategy game where you deploy troops across a world map, and with every turn you have to choose if/where to attack and where to reinforce troops.  Battles are fought with rolling dice, so there’s a fair element of the game left completely to chance (hence the name, Risk).

I was doing well for most of our match, but Josh had a couple of good turns and ended up taking over a lot of my territory very quickly.  

Eventually it became clear he was probably going to win, so (in the true spirit of my eleven-year-old self) I sulkily gave up trying to play well.  He then was able to completely dominate the board very quickly.  

It was our prayer & fasting week with Anchor Point and I was finding myself thinking a lot about contending for things in faith.  The morning after the game, all of a sudden I realized something profound.

My attitude towards God exactly mirrored my attitude toward the game I’d lost the night before.  I had given up because I expected to lose.

In the game, I had given up quickly.  Josh pointed out that I had wasted some simple but strategic moves where I might have been able to recover some territory and turn things around.

But instead of pressing on and fighting for victory, I had sunk into passivity and inaction.

I felt so convicted by this revelation and felt like God was putting his finger on something.  This wasn’t about a stupid game or my sour attitude at losing it.  

This was about my heart attitude in general.  

If I don't guard myself, there is a passivity inside of me that comes from believing I am on the losing side.  This passivity prevents me from taking strategic opportunities that are right under my nose.

Passivity prevents me from seeing the next strategic step.

At the same time, my attitude determines my capacity to receive from God.  

My faith is a container that God is always wanting to expand SO THAT I CAN RECEIVE MORE FROM HIM.

Guys!  Come on.  Do we see this?  Do we really get it?  

We can talk about faith as a gift, but let's not forget it's a gift that gets refined and stretched, and that needs exercising to become stronger.  God hasn't given us an inflexible block of wood kind of faith that we just kind of plunk down wherever it seems to make sense.  Rather, he's given us a new spiritual muscle inside that we are called to work on building, with him.

God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean I just roll over and expect him to drop everything in my lap.  Somehow, mysteriously, my faith and his sovereignty BOTH WORK together to accomplish his will.  

This kind of relationship is so evident throughout Scripture.  God wants his people to step out in faith and trust him in the impossible moment.  

God doesn’t always make things super obvious.  He's not obliged to make it obvious.  And he's not obliged to make it easy for us.  He's only obliged to make it happen.

He doesn’t always lay out a picture of what exactly is going to happen, or how things are going to work out.  

He just assures us that he’s in control - and that he’s worth the risk.  

His kingdom come on earth is worth the risk.

This is where I feel challenged, and this is where I would challenge you.

There come moments in life that are pivot points of decision.  From time to time I believe God presents us with these pivot points in order to challenge and stretch our faith - so that he can entrust us with greater things.

In those kinds of strategic moments, we have a choice to make about how to act.  

We have to dig deep for our expectation.  

What do we believe he wants us to do - not necessarily what “makes sense” to do - but what is HE himself asking and requiring?

And then, we have to choose to put energy to our expectation.

We have to choose whether to step forward by faith, to take action on what we expect - or just stop moving completely.  

That choice sets the tone for everything that follows.

HIGHLY FAVOURED

HIGHLY FAVOURED

Last year Josh insisted on celebrating our wedding anniversary at a theme park (this is what happens after a few years of marriage, kids.  Scrap the romance, go for thrills).  

So off we went, stocked up with water and sunscreen and, I admit, some Gravol, which we did need to use.  And although some might argue we’re getting a little old to be riding anything with the word “Behemoth” in it, we actually had a pretty great day together.

You know why it was fun, though?

Because we felt safe.

When you get on a roller coaster, the only way to enjoy the ride is to assume you are, in fact, going to be ok. When you know you’re safe, you can experience the thrill factor without the fear factor.

But if I got on a roller coaster and wasn’t really sure I was going to get off of it in one piece, or even be alive at all, I would be terrified.  Every twist and turn, every up and down, would throw me into a wild panic.  

This is what life feels like sometimes.  

This is what relationships can feel like.  They’re up and down.  Because people go up and down.  People go through stuff.  I go through stuff.  I zig zag.   If you could have seen Josh and I earlier this year when we were job-hunting for him for months, to no avail, you would have seen a pretty sharp zig-zag.

I feel like there are these whole seasons of time in life and in relationships - especially whenever big, important decisions need to be made - where there are so many interpersonal dynamics and conflicting opinions (hello, American election) and just crazy stuff flying around that it feels like being pulled up into a tornado.  You’re flying through the air wondering where this thing is going to land and what life is going to look like on the other side.  It can be terrifying.

The other morning I woke up wrestling with a few different situations that felt chaotic and frustrating and, yes, a little scary.  

I scrolled quickly through my social media feeds (quickly being my key word for Facebook these days) and noticed a friend had just posted this Scripture:

Let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, o Lord;
you cover him with favor
as with a shield.”   (Psalm 5 v 11-12)

I began to think about it.  God’s favour and blessing is protective.  It shields.  It keeps us safe.

Favour doesn’t mean we’re immune to difficulty.  But it means that the promises of God remain intact in the midst of difficulty.

Favour doesn’t have to do with having a perfect, bump-free life.  Favour is about God’s opinion being supreme over anyone else’s opinion of us.

Favour means that no person, no argument or attack or manipulation or scheme, can interrupt or threaten the plan and purpose of God for our lives.  

Favour means that I am powerful.  I am powerful, because God is for me.  Not for any other reason.  Just that.  Just favour. 

Something we all have to negotiate with at some point is how to use our personal power as individuals, and how to act when we don’t feel powerful.

I don’t know about you, but when I feel threatened or powerless in one area of life or in a relationship, my knee-jerk first response is to want to recover that power in another area, or over another person.  I've learned to assume that this is always going to be my instinctive reaction, and that I need to fight it, because it’s destructive.

As imperfect humans our bent is to punish those who seemed to take power from us, whether by openly mud-slinging or by quietly poisoning others against that person.  

Honestly, I think this is why places like Facebook have become such a sludge pit.  Social media is a space that makes it easy for powerless people to try and slap other people around without actually having to look them in the face.

Sometimes we might also try to make up for our powerlessness by controlling ourselves in severe ways.  Eating disorders, extreme exercise, or any obsessive-compulsive behaviours often can, I think, be traced back to some kind of perceived lack of personal power and safety.

And if we’re being real, we all struggle with this issue, in some way, at some time.  I struggle with it!  I really do.

But knowing God’s favour changes the struggle from feeling impossible to being redemptive.

Knowing we’re favoured by God means that we can learn how to hold fast to our vision for our lives when we’re getting mud slung at us.  

Knowing we’re favoured means that when opposition and attack comes, or when poison creeps in to relationships, or when critical decisions hang in the air, we can remember what he said and it will be enough to get us through.

Do we get this?  Favour is our shield.  Favour makes us powerful in our inner being.  Favour gives us peace to lean into God to defend our cause, even when it seems like no one else will.  Knowing the favour of the Father is what protects and sustains the promise inside of us as we continue to move forward.

I’ve had moments in life where I knew beyond a doubt that God had spoken to me.  Those moments have been anchors for me when circumstances get tough and whenever I’ve faced conflict or disagreement.  Knowing I am highly favoured by the King of Kings and that his favour is protecting his promise keeps the horizon in sight, even in the middle of the hurricane.  

Life might feel like a roller coaster, but no matter what happens, the promise won't die.  He'll come through on what he said.  Favour has you buckled in safe and sound.

What’s he saying to you today?

SOLUTIONS

SOLUTIONS

Right now, Joseph is in this *super* fun phase where his first response to frustration or sadness is to take whatever is closest to him and throw it.  

This is often food.  Sometimes Lego.  Both awful.

And because the initial outburst of the oatmeal or lego blocks or crayons flying everywhere is never really quite satisfying enough, he’ll get right there into the mess he made AND MAKE IT EVEN MESSIER.  

He knows he’ll have to clean up afterward.  He doesn’t actually enjoy messes.  But he doesn’t know where to put his feelings. There’s no bridge for him between feeling and acting.  We're working on building that bridge, but construction goes slow on this one.

And let’s be real here.  A lot of adults don’t do much better.  I don’t do much better sometimes.

A couple weeks ago I unearthed some of my old journals and I was remembering a few experiences where I really wasn’t sure I’d come out the other end.  Messy situations and messy feelings and messy relationships and just mess, everywhere.  Ever been on one of those boats of horror?  Yep, thought so.  It's kind of part of being alive. 

But even looking back 5 or 10 years ago, I can see that the way I’ve handled my emotions in seasons of mess and pressure has slowly been evolving over time, and there are a few things I’m realizing even now.

I think everything starts with one critical question.  In the hard place of conflict or impossibility - when the problem feels too big and when we have no clue what to do with our feelings or where to start trying to fix things - what’s the first action we take with those feelings?  

First steps are critical because they’re directional.  They set the course for whatever’s going to follow, whether that’s me dealing with my frustrated toddler or me dealing with a relational conflict or any other messy problem that seems like I’m just going to be circling round eternally.

I would suggest that our natural impulse as humans - in and out of the church - is to act on our feelings without anything bridging the feeling and acting.  

BUT.  As believers in Jesus we have to put a bridge there.

The bridge is worship.

If we take worship out of the equation, the sequence of events that follows a decision becomes dependent on our performance.  

That is a really heavy thing to carry because it means that when we mess up or things don’t go as we wanted or people don’t respond like we want them to, we suddenly have this big burden of blame that falls like a brick on the situation, and we have to put that brick somewhere, on someone.  Blaming and shaming is to a situation like Joe getting into the pile of oatmeal he threw off the table and slapping it around on the floor.  Mess getting messier.  Nobody getting anywhere.

Performance actually causes us to resist revelation of God's goodness. When we’re stuck running on our own strength, we can't run into his.  

I believe this more than ever before: worship is a weapon.  Surrender is a weapon. It’s the most powerful thing we can do, ever, in any situation.  The impact of our worship is not imagined. It’s real. It’s powerful. It makes a difference.  


Thousands of years ago during the reign of king called Jehoshaphat, a huge horde of enemies had gathered to fight Israel.  This was, literally, a dead end.  As in, involving a lot of people actually being dead.

Was Jehoshaphat’s first response to get all his generals together to make a battle plan?  No.  And he didn’t panic and run to the hills or hide in his closet either.  He gathered the people, and face to face with their problem, together they prayed and worshiped God.

In this gathering, God’s Spirit came upon a man called Jahaziel (v 14-17).  We’re not told anything else about this guy other than that God spoke to him.  He was probably just an average Joe.  But something happened to this man as he worshiped, something that set the direction for a whole nation : GOD SPOKE. 

And God told Israel what to do.  

He even told them specifically where to go and where to expect their enemy to be.

“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them.  Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel.  You will not need to fight in this battle.  Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.”

If so many lives hadn’t been at stake, the whole thing would be laughable.  It didn’t make any sense.  And it got even more hilariously illogical when the people actually went out to battle, because Jehoshaphat had this *great* idea to send out the musicians first.  

The worship team was the front line.

This is like sending Hillsong out to face ISIS. 

It’s ridiculous to our logical thinking. It’s stupid.  But God did what he said.  The enemy ambushed and destroyed itself without the Israelites having to do anything except worship.  Worship was the one thing they did.  That's it.

Jehoshaphat understood something that I believe we need to take hold of more often in the church.  

He saw that his most effective first step in facing a problem was worship. He saw it when the threat presented itself, and he saw it when he made the decision to send out his singers ahead of the troops on the battlefield.

Worshiping God is a statement that he has more than I have.  He has wisdom, power, and love that are beyond what I have. 

Worship reveals to my heart that God's abundance defines my worth. God’s bigness not only defines who he is, but what I can be and what i can do.

This is why the bridge of worship is a bridge into freedom and deliverance and solutions to impossible problems.  

This is where I decide God is who he says he is, and what he tells me to do is never going to crack or fall apart because he always comes through on what he says.

He is reliable.  He is steady.  He delivers.  He helps us out of our mess.

And on that note, excuse me while I go help my son clean up the Legos again.

EXPECTATION

EXPECTATION

This year has been a bit of a bumpy ride.

Many of my friends reading this will already know bits of the story, but the very very short version is that Josh & I have faced a series of financial obstacles.  And when I say “series”, I mean that it has felt sometimes like our own, totally un-fun version of “The Never-Ending Story”.

When your budget feels like a boa constrictor, life can get kind of discouraging. As a young mom staying home with my kids, with no access to a vehicle and very little we can do within walking distance, the sense of limitation has felt really intense some days.  

I got to a breaking point a couple weeks ago when my extroverted toddler - who hadn’t been out of the house or seen other people in several days - completely regressed with his potty training and, in fact, decided it was a great idea to not only poop in his underwear, but also to PULL IT OUT.  

When he walked into our living room, holding out turd-coated fingers and whining like a lost cat, I completely crumpled.  I mean, we’re talking ugly cry.  Like, really ugly.  

Somewhere after showers were had, stuff was disinfected, and my eyes went a little less puffy, I slowly began to realize several things.  

The obvious first was that I needed community.  I mean, I already knew this on one level, but now I really, really knew.  My kids needed it.  Our sanity (and, evidently, potty training success) actually leaned on it.  

And because of how I’m positioned right now, I needed to invite community to come to me. So I started asking friends over for coffee.  I started a journalling group.  And these small decisions made a world of difference, very quickly.

In this, my posture was changing from going and doing, to staying, resting, and asking.

And, in this practical change, the posture of my heart also began to shift.  The way I was praying started to change. The deeper, harder thing I needed to see in the midst of everything was that I had to learn how to rest and receive from my Father.

Rest sounds easy.  Rest sounds like serenity and calm and the spirit of a tropical beach upon my life.  Name it and ca-laim it, yes yes Lord amen. Right?

Well, no.  Turns out, it’s not quite that.  

Rest isn’t inactivity.  It’s an activity, one that involves the opening of my heart to accommodate the peace and provision of God. 

Rest involves a change of posture so radical that it can feel like slowly unbending every bent limb and appendage of my life.

The way I pray reflects the posture of my heart. 

Am I scrunched up in fear and control, holding on tight to the way things were or are, scared of what is coming next?  Have I put up a shield that is difficult to penetrate? Or am I open, soft, yielded to what God is doing in myself and in others around me?

Prayer doesn’t take away problems.  But it meets those problems with three very, very important words:

God has solutions.

He does.  When we have to wait on something, it doesn’t feel like it, but his solutions are real and they are promised and they are perfect.

The question is, can we open our hands to receive?  Can we yield to the hard thing in faith that the hard thing itself isn’t a dead end, but rather an entry point to the promise?  

I can’t diminish the reality of suffering.  It’s real.  It’s hard.  Limitation is hard.  Life feels choking, stifling, sometimes.

But I can come to God knowing he legitimizes my hardship and recognizes the weight of it - AND that he has solutions.  Expectation of his goodness completely changes my perspective of my problem.  

Pursuing expectation in the place of limitation sets the tone for everything that is to follow. 

Expectation doesn’t eliminate the problem.  BUT Expectation prepares my heart for the solution. 

Expectation is an attitude that breathes in hope like a runner breathing in oxygen, as the Father teaches me to persevere through my problem.

God invites us to wrestle with him, as he did with Jacob.  He wants contact with us.  He wants proximity.  He wants engagement, and dialogue.  He’s never far off.  In fact, the Bible says he’s inside of us, living and moving within (1 Cor 3 v 16).

He's that close.  He really is.  His presence is like a big feast sitting right in front of us, all the time.  But just as a person has to lift a fork and open their mouth to eat, our posture defines our experience of his presence.

I don't believe God always wants me happy.  I also don’t believe he never wants me happy. I believe in what I think is, Scripturally, a much more accurate portrait of God’s character:  that he enjoys my happiness, he delights to bless and heal and provide, but that his greater priority is revealing his goodness

And the process of revelation is just that:  a process.  A journey, a landscape of trials and victories and valleys and peaks and limitations and tension and wonderful, beautiful release.  

My posture is changing.  I’m becoming more honest with God, more open-handed.  Expectation doesn’t mean I think God owes me anything.  It means that his priority is always his goodness and therefore I can say he has solutions for my most stupidly boggling problems and that my valleys will, one day, somehow, be lifted up.  

And in the meantime, he’s coaxing my heart open to receive the fullness of what he has. I can soak all my questions in the satisfying beauty of his presence.

Because he is love, and that’s his nature. 

BLOG // NO LONGER VICTIMS

BLOG // NO LONGER VICTIMS

I hate wasps.

I mean I really, really hate them. 

Like, I would be out there with a blowtorch and just zap them, every last one - if that actually wasn’t a major fire hazard and kind of stupidly dangerous.  They just make me SO MAD.

I feel like sometimes we can have a few “wasps” flying around in our thinking, and they make me even more mad. 

For whatever it’s worth, to whoever ends up reading this, I want to take a swat at one particular wasp I’ve noticed and say this:

There are no victims in God’s kingdom.

None.  Not one.

There are lots of victims out there, in the world, people who don’t know the transforming power of love.  But there are no victims inside the love of God.

This doesn’t diminish the experience or effect of pain.  I hate suffering and I hate that it’s part of our existence and I hate that sometimes in the church we fail to recognize or legitimize suffering, whether out of fear or just ignorance.

But the truth - if you embrace the Gospel - is that in Jesus, pain is no longer your master.  

In Jesus, the experience of pain is transformed from feeling pointless to being productive. 

In Jesus, pain produces something good in us.  It gets woven into a redemptive plan and it gets used to help other people in a powerful way. 

It might be an overused metaphor but childbirth really is a fantastic picture of this.  No matter how a baby is born it’s painful, uncomfortable, hard.  But it’s productive.  

In Jesus, you no longer need to deal with your pain by deflecting the weight of it to someone else and playing the blame game.  We all tend to do this in some way, but living under a habit of blaming other people for our problems will actually put us under oppression, because ultimately people can’t be God to us and we’ll never get the release we need from living like they are.

I hate seeing oppression over people

I hate it more than I hate wasps.  Way more.  

Like any other addiction, a victim mentality causes us to go round in a self-destructive cycle where there is a build-up of negative pressure moving toward a temporary release of indulging the destructive behaviour (in this case, blaming and getting resentful and bitter).

This mentality creates an unhealthy, destructive pattern in relationships where one person is constantly trying to defuse another person’s time bomb and the other person is constantly moving through this cycle of repressing and releasing and nobody ever makes any progress, ever. 

Here’s the thing: I am not equipped to eliminate suffering any more than I’m equipped to destroy every wasp in my neighbourhood.  It’s a task beyond what I - or any other human being - can handle.  Even with a blowtorch.

I AM NOT GOD.

People can’t be God to each other.  Do we get this? 

We can love each other and help each other to whatever capacity we have, but none of us can carry someone else’s “why”.  We just can’t.  It’s a crushing burden far beyond what we’re made to deal with.  

Victimizing ourselves limits our influence.  If our experiences of suffering can teach us anything, it has to be that we live in a world desperately in need of love and hope.  This is a world in which people of hope can’t afford to have their influence limited.  We just can’t.

I believe there is a way to legitimize and recognize suffering without becoming oppressed by a victim mentality.  And there is a way to minister to it without trying to replace the job of the Holy Spirit, which never works.

Suffering is real.  But God is generous.  

It might not seem like it, but these two facts do co-exist beautifully.   

I don’t have a “why” for my hurts or anyone else’s, besides the simple fact that I believe we’re all in a story that hasn’t wrapped up yet, and it’s a story where pain got invited in by the free will of humankind, not by God.  The Bible says the whole universe is groaning as it waits for God to finish redeeming everything (Romans 8 v 22). 

Waiting is mysterious.  Why God didn’t just pull the plug on this mess a long time ago, I don’t know.  I honestly wake up some days and I think - Jesus!  Just come back already! 

But one thing I do know: waiting pulls our hearts toward eternity.  And somehow, he’s in the waiting.  Somehow, he’s still enough.  The experience of his love is always enough, in a way that defies logical explanation. 

But seeing yourself as a victim will prevent you from having that experience.  Victims keep their heads down and their hands closed.  Sons and daughters look up and they open up and they receive.

That’s why if you tell me your hurt, I will listen and I will cry with you and I’ll do what I can to help, but I will not take on the weight of your why.  It’s not mine to carry.  Only Jesus can do that.

In this messy, painful time of waiting for Jesus to come back, the only productive way to deal with suffering is to absorb the generosity of God into the void that pain creates.  We need to take ownership of our relationship with the Holy Spirit and ask him to meet us where we stand.

What happens then - and I have watched this happen so many, many times besides having experienced it personally - is that anointing is released on our lives to meet other people in their pit.  

And it’s there we discover we’re resourced appropriately - by the authority of our experience and how the Holy Spirit met us there - to lift them out.

BLOG // OWNERSHIP

BLOG // OWNERSHIP

In my late teens I was left very suddenly as the only musician in our small community church.  

We needed a worship leader for Sundays, and the choice was between me or my dad and his repertoire of about three songs from the 80’s.  

As much as I’m sure a lot of people still enjoy a rousing chorus of “He is Exalted”, the general consensus was that I was the more suitable alternative.

So, I got up there that first Sunday, alone and sad and so totally out of my depth.  And after years of dreaming towards being a worship leader and having some kind of great ministry that would really make a difference in people’s lives, all of a sudden this very clear thought hit me like a big ole slap in the face -

I DO NOT LIKE DOING THIS.

I didn’t like it!  It wasn’t fun!  It was hard!  

Week after week, month after month, and yes, year after year of leading worship completely alone in my tiny hometown church (six years in total) the initial unfun-ness of it turned into frequent battles with deep, painful discouragement.

In my inexperience I longed for a mentor or creative peers I could learn from and grow with, but no doors opened.  

Over time my ability slowly improved with experience. Eventually, God provided a co-worship leader who, conveniently, turned out to be my future husband as well.  Because God is really just the best multi-tasker.

Today, many large church movements are providing top-notch training and resourcing to leaders and creatives.  I think this is amazing.  The pieces never fell into place for me personally to do a school or a program, but I’m never going to be one who talks those things down.

However I do think that in the flood of excellence there’s a trap we can fall into without realizing it. 

Let me say first:  it’s good to recognize your own gifts.  It’s good to get good at stuff.  Josh & I lead our worship team here at Anchor Point and we want our musicians to grow and become empowered in their gifts.  I believe God loves excellence. 

But looking back at my own journey, I can see God was after something much more important than the development of my abilities.  He wanted to give me his heart for his church.  

He wanted me to come to love people.

Not to love their response to me, but to love them - whether or not they responded to me in the way I wanted them to.

Love hurts.  Love costs.  Love tears open my borderlines to include other people in my dearest longings and hopes.  Those borderlines are my expectations of how my life will turn out, what my dreams will look like, and those borderlines become very dear and very precious and it is painful to have them adjusted.  

Real love will at some point cost me some of the things I thought I couldn’t live without. 

Every dream, at some point, takes on a sense of weight. You dream of getting married, then you get married, and somewhere past the honeymoon phase you realize that involving another person in the nitty gritty of your life is really not romantic and it’s hard sometimes.  That hurts.

You dream of having babies, and then you have babies and it takes exactly one hour into one fussy, sleepless night for it to hit you:  this thing is no joke.  The way you lived before your time was so completely not your own has to die, and it hurts.  A lot!

You dream of having a particular ministry, and then suddenly (like me) you have that ministry, and you realize that responsibility doesn’t look like a rock star.  It looks like showing up when you least feel like it — and not only showing up, but being soft-hearted, which is much harder than just being present.

I believe that God gives gifts and that he wants us to use those gifts, but ultimately, he doesn’t position people based on their capability.  He positions people based on the position of their own hearts.

Sometimes, he even requires that we yield our own gifting to allow someone else into the position we wanted, whether or not they are more capable than us.  Sometimes he asks that we yield our time to allow other people in.  Like kids.  Kids take a lot of time.  Are they worth it?  Is love worth it? Of course it is.  But it hurts.

Letting your heart and your dreams expand to accommodate other people is a painful process.  

But what’s the alternative?

The alternative is that you don't expand.  You don't grow.  Your borderlines stay tight.

The alternative is that you don’t let people in.  Nobody ever really gets to know you.  You don’t allow anyone to come close enough to your heart that they might cost you something.  

The alternative is that you have to shield and defend your role or position like your life depends on it and eventually, your identity becomes dependent on that position.  Which is really counter-productive because positioning ALWAYS changes, whether you want it to or not.

The alternative is that every time you take on a new responsibility you quickly give up because you didn’t expect it to hurt.

And ultimately, the alternative is that you never get to experience the kind of intimacy that God has designed us to need

It's so hilariously, simply true:  when I abandon myself to the ownership of God over my gifts, he expands my vision. 

He doesn't crush it.  He doesn't kill it.  He grows it.  I grow.  My pride dies, but I don't.  I just don't.  I don't die.  Do we get this? Really?

Love hurts.  Intimacy hurts.  But it won't kill your dreams.  It will grow them.

This is why I think God limits us, sometimes severely, in order to teach us how to love and to serve.  He has to put bars on our ambitions so that our hearts can extend in intimate connection to him and the people he’s put around us.  

This is a very rewarding process.  Intimacy is good.  It’s meant to be enjoyed, not endured.  

But we can only see that when we stop resisting it.

I WILL YIELD.  NO RESISTANCE.  This is what I'm saying to God these days. Will you say it with me?

 

THIS POST CONTAINS SOME adapted material from my FREE e-book, COURAGEOUS DREAMERS. Download it here!