Braving it out because that’s what it takes to overcome

My daughter spent almost all of her 8-year-old  life living in a home without a paved driveway or a neighborhood with a sidewalk.

Bike riding for us was a spurious affair.  About once a year, everything aligned perfectly.

The weather was cool, but not  cold, and definitely not hot or rainy or snowy or even too windy.

The calendar was clear.  We did not have rehearsal, school, camps, dance, karate, sports, church, a birthday party, or some other activity.

That was the one day a year I would load up the minivan with all of our children and then, after they were all buckled in, pack that minivan with every single one of their bicycles and helmets.  We would then drive to  a school parking lot and “practice biking.”

Loading  all those bicycles up so we could drive somewhere to  practice, though, wasn’t really fun.  For any of us.  The kids tried for a little  bit,  but gave up and we all went back  home again so we could move  along to other ways to spend our time.

But now, “the time has come.”  We live in a neighborhood.  Not only that, we live on a cul de sac with a sloped and paved driveway in a neighborhood.

This is the ideal place.

Eight years into life, though, is enough time to build up some fears about going too  fast and falling, about scuffing up knees and elbows and maybe not always landing in the grass.

It’s enough time to build up some immunity to  mom’s pep talks about being  courageous and persevering  in the face of adversity.

So, thus far, our attempts at mastering  this whole deal without training wheels have involved more injury than success.

It is slow going and it is painful going and it is discouraging going.

What  I want is for my daughter  to decide in her deep-down heart of hearts that this is worth it, that she’s going to do whatever it takes to master this elusive skill, that she’s willing to get back on that bike 50 times if that’s what’s needed.

And if she falls 51 times, then she’d get back on there 52.

So far, though, I think she hasn’t decided this is worth doing.  She wants all the fun of bike riding to her friend’s house a few doors down without any of the actual learning.

I get that.  There are some ways that  my heart is right there with her.

God says to brave it out and tough it out.  Put on those  sneakers and that helmet and get on out there where it’s  rough and hard and we might fail.

Yeah, falling and failing is part of it.  That may be what we fear the most, but God doesn’t .   He knows it’s part of  the learning and the growing and without it,  we’re just  living what’s easy instead of what takes faith.

And, faith is what it takes to  please God.  That’s what blesses His heart.  That’s what makes Him pump His fist with joy when He sees us down here.

Without faith,  it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)

So, it’s hard.  Yes.  It is.

God calls us to do  hard things, though, EVEN impossible things maybe, not because  He wants to see us fail, but so that He can succeed.

in  1 Kings 12, King Jeroboam decided  to take the easy way out. He wanted whatever would earn him brownie points with his people even if it meant disobeying God.

So, even though God said the nation of Israel needed to  worship in one place only, Jerusalem, Jeroboam decided this was too hard a burden.  He set up idols and places of worship in Dan and Bethel so people wouldn’t have to travel as far or work as hard to get there.

Priscilla Shirer says this:

“If left to  ourselves,  we will always choose “Dan” and “Bethel” over the more  cumbersome journey to Jerusalem” (Discerning the Voice of God p. 139).

Do we want “Dan” and “Bethel?” Do we want the pain-free and the easy even if that’s not where God is?

Or do we want God’s best, His will and His plans?

What I want is for my daughter to set her heart on overcoming so she holds out for Jerusalem.

Maybe that’s what God desires for us also, to determine in advance that we’re going to obey.  Period.  We’re going to follow Him.  Period.  We’re going to pour ourselves out for Him.  Period.  We’re going to worship Him.  Period.

Even if it means we have to pass right by Dan and Bethel and trek all that way to Jerusalem.

Even if it means some skinned knees and bruised egos as we stumble our way along all because being with Him is the greatest desire in our deep-down hearts.

How to Do the Thing You Don’t Want to Do

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This week, I’m having to do some things I don’t want to do.

Life is like that sometimes.

Eventually, you have to just go to the dentist or get the flu shots for your kids.  No more procrastinating.

You need to make that phone call…have that tough conversation…ask someone for help.

When we’re obeying God and following Him “Anywhere” He calls us to go, it’s sometimes exhilarating. Other days, obedience can be difficult, messy, frightening and overwhelming.

This week, as I do some of the hard things, I consider how Queen Esther did what she didn’t want to do.

When her cousin, Mordecai, asked her to speak to the pagan King about preventing the genocide of the Jewish people, she wrote back to him:

All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days (Esther 4:11).

Still, instead of hiding away in fear, putting off the task, or running away from God (all of which I’m tempted to do at times), Esther chose the hard obedience.

Here’s what we can learn from her:

Pray and ask others to pray

Esther asked the Jews in Persia to fast and pray for her before she finally went before the king.

Her story isn’t one of a lone heroine rising to face an enemy. She … depended on the intercession of her people.  #AnywhereFaith

I pray some specific things when I know God is asking me to do something I don’t want to do:

Please:

  • grant me favor (Proverbs 3:4)
  • give me courage (Isaiah 54:4)
  • bless the work of my hands (Psalm 90:17)
  • make me competent to do things I can’t possibly do on my own or in my own strength (2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

Like Esther, I also sometimes make myself vulnerable and share my request with someone else. Just knowing I’m not alone helps me move forward.

Just do it!

Esther set a deadline—fast and pray for three days and then she’d go before the king (Esther 4:16).

Deadlines can work for us, too. We can pray and think about it forever, but in the end, it’s time to just get the job done.

After the three-day fast ended, Esther walked into the throne room uninvited and faced the king on behalf of her people.

Leave the results in God’s hands

One of the hardest parts of my calling is asking.  I send out proposals and ask publishers if they’re interested.  I ask businesses about book signings.  I ask for input on my book from others. I  ask people to join my launch team.  I ask radio stations if I can come on the air.

I have to ask.  It’s part of being an author, but it’s the hardest part for me because I fear rejection. What if others say, “no?”

I’m learning, though, to leave the results up to God.

Esther made a famous declaration when she finally decided to go before the king, saying, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

These are words of submission to God’s big plan.

Whatever happens, no matter what the outcome, I’ve done what God wants me to do and He’s in control.

Sometimes I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” And then I remember that any “worst thing” I face is still in God’s hands.

Success doesn’t depend on me, nor was it up to Esther to change public policy or the heart of the king.

Ultimately, we can walk in obedience and trust God with the outcome.  Even if the worst happens, He will carry us through.

Celebrate

When Esther obeyed, God saved her people.  As a result, the Jews celebrated, and they are still celebrating the Feast of Purim with “feasting and gladness” to this day! (Esther 9:22 ESV).

In a much smaller way, I celebrate even the smallest acts of obedience, too.

When I’ve made the phone call I didn’t want to make, talked to the person I was afraid to talk to, stood up for something when I was afraid to speak, or submitted a proposal when I feared rejection, I usually treat myself.

It’s not big or expensive. For me, it might be a a hot cup of tea or a piece of dark chocolate, maybe a morning off from normal work in order to rest and read.

Maybe your treat is a Starbucks coffee or a new book.

It’s not about going big; it’s about rejoicing over obedience and celebrating what God has done in us!

Want to learn more about Esther’s fears and how God helps us go “Anywhere” with Him, even when we’re terrified?  My new book, Anywhere Faith, is available now.anywhere-faith

The Picture of #AnywhereFaith

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A few weeks ago at the height of summer, I took my kids to a local water park for the day.

My older girls were slipping down water slides while my two-year-old son and I hung out in a splash area for little kids.

While we were there, I prayed for God’s help as I prepared for the October release of my new book,  Anywhere Faith: Overcome Fear, Insecurity, and Excuses and Say Yes to God. 

I asked God to give me a picture or story to share with others that described what it meant to have “Anywhere Faith.”

At the water park that day, my son, Andrew, found this one particular slide he just loved.  He would climb up the steps, wait in line, slide down, and then run around to get back in line and do it all over again.

But he wasn’t always waiting his turn.  If he thought one of the kids in front of him hesitated for even a split second, Andrew would nudge his way forward and slide right down.

His two-year-old brain was probably thinking: “if you’re not going to go down right now, I sure will!”

Since I want my son to learn about waiting, patience and taking turns, I stationed myself up on the slide platform to make sure he didn’t get in front of the other kids.

That’s when I saw the “Anywhere Faith picture” I’d been praying for.

A little girl, maybe two years old, had discovered the same slide as my son.  She was decked out in her little polka dot bathing suit with frills around her waist and her hair pulled into a tiny ponytail.

Her daddy walked with her up the steps and waited with her while the other kids slid down. Then, just as it was her turn to slide, he’d run back down the steps and around to the bottom so he could catch her.

In the meantime, she positioned herself on the slide, laying down on her belly, feet-first (so she couldn’t even see the bottom) and gripping the top of the water slide with all her might.

She hung there for a few seconds, waiting and waiting and waiting.  No way was she letting go before her daddy was at the bottom of the slide.

Then, she’d hear her daddy say, “Okay, Abby, come on down!”

That was her cue.  Immediately, she let go and splashed down to the bottom where he was waiting to catch her.

When I was a teenager, I discovered a poetic prayer written by the missionary, David Livingstone, that began like this:

Lord send me anywhere,
only go with me

I copied the prayer into the cover of my Bible and truly meant that with all my heart.  I’d go anywhere. anywhere-faith

Of course, God has certainly changed any plans I made as a 16-year-old girl.  He brought me to unexpected places of ministry and service for Him.

I definitely didn’t know as a teenager where my “Anywhere” was.

But I’m still just like the little girl who splashed down a water slide backwards because she knew her daddy called her to come and was there for her.

when God calls my name, I want to let go of anything holding me back and follow him anywhere he asks me to go.

David Livingstone knew He needed God’s presence in order to live in faith.  “Lord send me anywhere only go with me, ” he prayed

That little girl on a water slide knew she needed her dad’s presence so she could let go.

God’s presence is what we need, too, in order to have the faith to follow Him whether it’s around the world, across the street, or in our own homes.

When we remember that God never leaves us nor forsakes us, that He stays with us and walks us through the hardest seasons and the toughest days as well as the everyday and the mundane, we can have the faith to follow Him anywhere.

Sometimes there are things holding us back.

Maybe we’re not sure we heard His voice correctly.

Or we’re afraid of what others will think.

Or perhaps what God is asking us to do doesn’t fit in with our perfectly good 5-year-plan.

That’s okay.  Having Anywhere Faith means trusting God with the honest needs and struggles of our hearts.  We don’t have to pretend to have it all together.

Instead, we tell Him the truth:

“I’m scared.
I’m confused.
I’m worried.
I’m insecure.”

But we also tell Him this:

“I want to be where you are, God.  I’ll follow you anywhere because anywhere with you is better than any place I’d go on my own.”

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3).

 

Not again!

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My son stepped out on the front porch this morning.

He was, thankfully, fully dressed (not just hanging out in his pajamas or, what’s worse, a t-shirt and diaper).

He even had on his winter coat and his wooly tiger hat.

But he was still wearing his Batman socks.  No shoes.  Just socks.

Who has time for shoes, anyway?  His sisters had just completed the morning dash: shoes, coats, hats and gloves, backpacks, lunch bags.

He tried to sneak outside with them at first.  He wove himself into the line and stared determinedly straight ahead, hoping to avoid my gaze and maybe escape my notice while he slipped out the door.

Of course,  I scooped him up out of the line and told him to say goodbye to the girls.

He cried instead, grabbing at their coats to either make them stay or allow him to go.

Finally, we stood at the door watching for the bus.  He pushed the door open, a little further, a little further, until he finally stepped out onto the damp porch, Batman socks and all.

Then the bus arrived, and he cried some more.

Now, this is not the first day of school.

We are now five months into this school year, halfway to summer vacation.

Still the mornings involve tears and wet Batman socks.

My son doesn’t just have to do the hard thing and say goodbye to his sisters.  He has to do it day after day, week after week, and it never really gets easy or even easier.

I realize as I watch him that sometimes I think obeying God means doing it once and being done.

There.  I obeyed.  Now can I go back to what I wanted to do?

Or I think that doing the hard thing is a one-time sacrifice.

There.  I forgave.  Now I’m over that.

Or, I fixed my attitude.  I took charge of my emotions.  I chose worship over self-pity.  I shut down the lies of insecurity.  I fought for contentment over jealousy.

All done.

But God sometimes asks us to do the hard thing and then to do it again and again.  He asks us to walk in daily obedience, as Eugene Peterson calls it, “a long obedience in the same direction.”

It’s taking that first step of obedience and then keep on keeping on, step after step after step without turning back or giving in or giving up.

We are dying to self daily and loading crosses onto backs morning after morning.

We are choosing forgiveness over bitterness today and tomorrow and the day after that.

I read about Moses meeting with God on that holy mountain:

The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up (Exodus 19:20 ESV).

Moses was an octogenarian mountain climber, scaling Mt. Sinai for this meeting with God’s glory.

But he didn’t just climb up once.  Oh no.

He gets up to the top and God tells him, “Go down and warn the people…..Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you….So Moses went down” (Exodus 19:21, 24, 25).

Then he had to go back up and draw “near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21)

Moses then “came and told the people the words of the Lord” and the Lord told Him to come up again (Exodus 24:12) so “Moses rose with his assistant Joshua and Moses went up into the mountain of God.”

Up and down and up and down Moses went.  God called him up.  Moses climbed up.  God sent him down.  Moses walked down.

At some point, I might have said “Enough, God.  I’m good here.  I’m too old and too tired for this.  Just tell me what you want me to know because I don’t want to do the hard thing anymore.  No more climbing the mountain.”

But Moses would have missed God’s glory if he had given up or refused to continue.

And the beautiful, most amazing thing is that while Moses came up, God also came down.

The Lord met Moses there on that mountain.

He does the same for us.

Yes, what He calls us to do might be difficult.

Yes, He might ask us to do it again and again and again.

But God reaches down to us and makes Himself accessible.  He is never an out-of-reach God.

He reveals His glory when we persevere and choose Him over the easy way, Him over quitting, Him over complacency, Him over everything and anything else.