Friday, November 20, 2015

For the Revivalists.

For the Revivalists. For the hungry. For the Christ-chasers. For the ministers. For the hurting. For the overwhelmed:
God has addressed many things in me in the last several months. Compromise and competitive thoughts. He has abolished the unforgiveness in my heart and the offenses I allowed to creep in. He taught me to take a slap across the face and turn the other cheek. He taught me how to consider it joy when my goods were plundered. 
He has stood patiently with open hands as I emptied my pockets and placed my children, one by one, into His care. And really, let Him have them. He has laid a comfort on me as I cried on the altar and laid my husband down for God to fully have, as I vowed to get out of the way and stop carrying the job as his convictor and teacher. And then He poured a joy out onto my marriage that I had not previously known.
He has taught lessons until I stopped crunching numbers and chasing dollars and started trusting Him to deal with my finances with the math of the Kingdom and the provision of heaven. He has shown out in my life, and poured in so much that even the overflow has been an incredible testimony. 
I have stood still, even clenching, as He bound His peace to me. With straps and buckles comprised of the Word He’s laid that peace on my working arms and my running legs and my ever-wandering heart. And at some point I stopped clenching and leaned into His dressing me. 
Oh, He gave me garments I never dreamed of. He called me His tool, His light, His salt. He called me His and then He waited patiently for me to believe Him. 
He trained my words. He replaced them with His words. He told me “Don’t call yourself sick. BY my stripes you are healed.” He told me, “Don’t call yourself poor. You are made in the image of a God that does not want. I meet your needs.” He said, “Don’t call yourself voiceless. I will give you the words in the hour which you need them.” 
And He has. 
But the fear. It stayed. It stayed because when it knocked, I invited it in. To sit and chat a bit.
Until I realized that fear kills revival as quick as the other killers. It stands in the corner with its friends; Compromise, Unforgiveness, Offense, Rebellion, Competition. That nasty gang of devilish liars. Those Revival-killers. 
Kick them out of your life. 
Don’t you know we need it? Don’t you see our world has caught fire with terrorism, hate, sin, apostasy. Our world is in pain. It is dying, a slow and painful death. Our world is screaming, crying, writhing for a Revival Rain to wash it clean. For a Bride to call our for her Groom to come. For a remnant to rise up and appeal to heaven on behalf of the powerless. 
What will the church do? What will you do, Church?
The answer is surely not to wage war against the broken world but instead to open our eyes and wage war against the Revival-Killers we have housed in our hearts! 
I have booted the others out one by one while I made the bed for Fear and fed him a meal made of my words and my heart and my conviction and the measure of Revival God had placed in me! 
I was born for such a time as this. I was equipped with words and heart and conviction and a measure of Revival that I WILL bring to the altar. I will no longer allow it to be fodder for the enemy. 
What of your heart? Confess it. Shine light on it. 
You have a measure of Revival, God made it yours from the foundations of the earth. You have a weight of something precious that will die with you if you feed it to the Revival-killers. 
But if you let the light flood it, kick the killers out and consecrate your God-loving heart, you can lay your measure down. Bring it to the altar with me. Let’s lay them down together. 
Let’s start a movement and watch the Revival grow. Let’s watch it change us, then change the body, then bring a flood onto the burning world. 
Are you with me?


This essay originally appeared in Do South Magazine. Being a monthly contributor this this beautiful publication is one of the things in my life for which I am deeply grateful. See more of my contributions on their website.

Thanksgiving stirs something up in me. Of course, I want to be thankful year-round. I want to take it slow and enjoy what really matters. This time of year amplifies that desire. Every year, I go into the holiday season with a deep longing to get it right, to linger on the important things and pass over the distractions. Usually, I get caught up, though. I have the best of intentions in October but by the end of December, I’ve spent too much, gotten too stressed, and ended up frustrated.

This year, something shifted in our life and in us. We went from people who harbored a dream of going back to the basics and raising our own food to people who actually had a working homestead. There is a red egg basket on our kitchen counter now. It’s a romantic thing, at least in my terms of romance. The eggs are all different colors because our flock of chickens contains many different breeds, and it is more beautiful to me than any flower bouquet. The hens started laying over a year ago and I wondered if it would become commonplace, if it would just be a thing we were used to.

It hasn’t. I still catch myself pausing in the kitchen, reaching in the basket and rolling an egg around in my hand, feeling so deeply happy to call it mine. I wanted this life for such a long while. For years I read books and followed blogs about hobby farming. After we bought our property and moved in, I felt my dream begin to form into reality when my aunt gave me three chicks and I found a twenty-five dollar chicken coop on Craigslist.

That little coop was the most thrilling thing I’d ever had, and as I cared for the coop daily, I thanked God for hearing my prayers. I felt so grateful. I shared photos and wrote about it, I posted about it on Facebook. A month or two later, my dog killed those chickens. I sat on the front steps of my house and cried, feeling like God had forgotten me, feeling like He didn’t actually hear the desires of my heart. I felt foolish for being so enthusiastic in expressing thanks for something that turned out to be so fleeting.

Since starting our little farm, I have learned a great lesson in thankfulness. It was a lesson I didn’t know I needed. I thought I was a grateful person before. I have always reflected on my blessings and vocalized my thanks. But it was a surface-level gratitude.

I always thought that being thankful meant just being appreciative. Receive something, express gratitude, thankfulness complete. Not so much. It’s good to be appreciative. It’s perfectly appropriate to praise the people around you to let them know you see them, need them and love them. It’s wonderful to praise God for what He has done for you, because that is how we share His love.

However, being thankful, being really, truly grateful is a deep-rooted thing. It’s not something we just celebrate in November. And it certainly isn’t just for when things seem to be going all right. Thankfulness is meant to create a concrete foundation for us to hunker down to when the storms of life come. True gratitude happens when no one is looking, and before it benefits anyone else, it has to change our outlook and the groundwork of our own lives.

Homesteading is hard. This summer was so hot, the rabbits refused to care for their young so the babies grew cold in the nest boxes while their mothers panted on the other side of the cage. We lost chicken after chicken to heat stroke. Extension cords ran across the front and back yards, fueling fans on all of the animals, but we still had to pick up bodies. Then the truck broke down. Our finances were lacking. The chickens got mites and the goats got worms. I hatched an incubator full of eggs and the heat lamp was too hot, so when I excitedly came to check on them, none moved.  Let me tell you, there is nothing romantic about homesteading when all your stuff is dying.

It was about that point that every bit of passion I’d had for this life dried up. I felt like the worst farmer in the history of the world. Surely, surely, no one had ever made as many mistakes as us. I wanted to give up. I wanted to send all our animals to a farm that could keep them alive. I wanted to question God. But then I remembered crying on my steps over my first lost chickens, feeling hopelessly forsaken. And I remembered how just a few weeks later we were blessed with thirty new chicks, and how a couple months after that we built our big coop. I went inside and looked at my red basket, and though it was nearly empty (as the hens laid very little due to the heat and the mites), there were eggs. So I said, right then with a pile of losses and an almost empty basket of eggs, “Thank you, God, for this farm.” And I meant it.

It was the kind of decisive moment that stays with you. I didn’t feel like I needed to share it with the world or even my family. It actually didn’t even feel like a grand gesture. But it was the moment I made a choice that even if my life was not going how I wanted, I still wanted it exactly as it was. I decided not to jump ship and blame God for the failure but to instead hang on and embrace what He would teach me. I’m not entirely sure, but I think if there were a scale for these things, that would be the instant that I actually became a really, deeply, genuinely thankful person.

The heat broke. Things stopped dying, new chicks hatched and lived and the rabbits gave birth and cared for their kits. We fixed the truck, built a greenhouse and filled it with promises of provision. I know everyone has their horror stories of their first year of homesteading, and ours is no exception. It’s almost like an initiation is required to enter into this life. It’s like any person with this dream has to relinquish control and understand real gratitude before they can accomplish anything. I have been initiated, hazed even. I have learned true gratefulness should not leave me feeling forgotten by God. Instead, it should propel me to remember the good He’s done for us before and encourage me to believe He will do it again.

I expect the holidays this year to be quite a bit different. I can already see the changed mindset of my family. We’ve taken strides to live simply and learned to give thanks for when things are prospering and also when they are not. It makes life slower, more worthwhile. Nothing is for granted.

This Thanksgiving, we are butchering turkeys we’ve spent the last six months raising. All of us are aware of how many hours of hard work went into them. We remember how we prayed that they wouldn’t die in the heat, how much effort went into protecting them. Now, before they are even brined and braised, I can say I have never been more thankful for a turkey.

Yes, there’s a twinge of sadness to living life like this. Because while gratitude is born in a choice, it is cultivated in learning to honor and value our blessings. While I will be immensely proud to serve a bird that was ethically and naturally raised by our own hands, it will be sad to no longer have the silly things gobbling around the yard. Thankfulness is bittersweet, and we live in a society that will cheer a person on as they disconnect from the cost of things. Everything costs something, and we are made better when we seek to stay aware of that.

As I enter this season of gratitude and celebration, I’m hoping and praying to carry these things I’ve learned. I’m hoping it may spur me to give canned jams and tokens of our labor as gifts, understanding the cost of them and the value. I may not get it all right, I may get caught up in the buying and the planning. But I feel like as the years go by, as we make it through more hard summers and hard winters, this thankfulness will grow.

And one day, it won’t be something I have to choose. It will just be who I am, a woman deeply rooted on a strong foundation. Whether or not the egg basket is full or empty, I will stand firm and be thankful. And I will thank God for the privilege of living this beautiful, bittersweet, completely romantic life.


Monday, November 16, 2015

On Refugees and Revival

As a rule, I do not write about controversial things. I value my witness far more than I value my opinion and so I generally hold the latter so the former can be heard. But I’m having a hard time quieting my thoughts on this. And I think this is one of those situations where the two are too intertwined. I’m trying to pick them apart and I simply cannot, so here they are together: witness and opinion, whatever they are worth.

A few weeks ago, I spent hours of my day on Facebook. It’s something I hadn’t done in a while, a habit I have tried to break but I stumbled across Humans of New York and Brandon was doing a special, showcasing the Refugee Crisis. He was telling their stories. I couldn’t stop reading. Each story, I felt it, you know. I hurt over it. I prayed over them. I sat there at my computer with the din of my house resounding in my ears, breaking occasionally to fill sippy cups with chocolate milk, and I prayed for these strangers. I prayed they would find their loved ones, that they would find healing, safety, provision. And I prayed more than anything that they would find God. That someone would feed them and give to them and show them by their actions as well as their words the love of Jesus.

Then I went about my life. It’s a busy life with all these kids and this farm. Ministry to do, meetings to attend, plans to make. I thought of them occasionally, the refugees, but mostly I did not think of them. I thought of why my free-ranging chicken coop hasn’t been laying well and I reminded myself to breed the rabbits. I made a list for Thanksgiving shopping. We butchered turkeys and I wrote an article about fear.

Last Friday night, as I sat in a Pizza Hut in a small town in Louisiana, my kids complained because I made them order water to save money. We got a pizza with pineapple and it was average. And while my youngest son threw his pacifier on the floor over and over, I found myself scrolling Facebook again, refreshing as often as I picked up the paci, reading the coverage of the Paris attacks to my listening husband. And I prayed for them, the Parisians. For them to have comfort in the terror, for them to find surety and safety, for the attackers to be found and stopped, and most of all, that God would be known and shown faithful in the circumstances.

The next day, my feed was flooded with the hashtag “#PrayforParis” And as I expected, I read the Mister Rogers quote a handful of times. You know the one, it surfaces in every crisis, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

That quote struck me deep the first time I read it. I think it was during 9/11. I was a child then, just sixteen. But then I read it again during Katrina, then the Boston Marathon, then again when a tornado came tearing through our own lives, and then again on Friday. Sometimes the reverberation of things like that makes me feel numb. We are so Ill equipped to process the brokenness of this world with our own human understanding.

Saturday I went to a birthday party for a seventy-five year old man, who has surely seen more tragedy and pain than I can even comprehend at thirty. And Paris and those hurting there crossed my mind. But then I got to ride horses, and I laughed. I raced my son through a bouncy-house and let him win. It was a very good day.

I tell you all of this to get to my point, because I want you to know that I am probably very much like you. I am an American, a Christian, I am even a minister. I have set my heart on Revival and have made my life largely about my Father’s business.
However, in the last few weeks, even with knowledge of the state of mankind at my fingertips, my life has mostly been about me, and about the things in front of me demanding my attention and my focus. Oh, I’ve prayed, possibly even more than the average American Christian. I’ve even cried! But my heart has been largely untroubled.

Until today. Today my Facebook feed, that little window into the world past my bubble, is abuzz. Because now those refugees I prayed for need a place to go. But there’s this lurking shadow called ISIS, claiming the terror on those Parisians I prayed for, and who knows if they might piggy-back in on those refugees backs right on to American soil?

Last year, God called me out of my comfortable Christianity. He shook my life up in the most glorious way. I didn’t know which way was up and which was was down but I knew where Jesus was and that’s all that mattered. He lit a fire in my bones and taught me that a call to repentance is the most passionate of love songs. This afternoon found me on a stage, singing to God with a handful of others, asking Him to touch our Nation, capture our hearts and lead us into holiness. We have been praying for a harvest, a revival, a spirit of Glory to fall and send people by the thousands running to the Cross, the Son, the Savior.

I’m believing God that I might see a million souls come to know Him in my walk.

I told you I live in a bubble.

Outside the bubble this evening, Governors are being applauded for denying refugees and then others are name-calling those that applaud them. I’ve seen all kinds of words this evening. Impeachment, Idiotic, Repugnant, Foolish, Hateful, Stupid, Sitting Duck, Killer, Murderer, Trash, Muslim. There’s been political jargon far over my education and Christians calling other Christians judgmental names. I’ve seen no less than five times, “Say _____ now so I can unfriend you.” And I keep seeing Jesus name tied to these strong personal biases.

And since I warned you from the start, and since you now know 1041 words of my own heart, here is my witness and opinion, which I realize are rarely advisable to marry.

If we are praying for a harvest of souls, and the American church has made a multi-million dollar business out of Sunday church “for the sake of saving lost souls”, why would we not rejoice at boat loads of unbelievers being delivered to our doors?

Because the threat?

Here’s the importance of The Word. Here’s the problem with the Lukewarm church, going and sitting in a pew on Sunday and then fixing our hearts on worldly things the rest of the week: we are weak in power. We have forsaken the authority that Jesus gave us when He sent His Holy Spirit. We were never meant to be afraid of our enemy. We were never meant to fear anything but God, and in this is not a fear that disables us but a reverence that emboldens us.

Oh, that this could be an ignition! If only I could impart this fire into you and you receive it! I pray that God would move on your heart right now as you read this and that you would apprehend this boldness.

It hit me tonight, at the end of the dinner table. We made biscuits and gravy for dinner because the milk was about to turn and we had to use it up. And I sat in my yellow chair and poured over scripture and after weeks of caring enough to pray some, after worship and crying out and life as usual, God just hit me then and there. And just like that, I became vexed.
Not for the Syrians. Not for the Persians. But for the Americans, the Christians.

I became vexed because we are a church that has forfeited her power for comfort and her demonstration for doctrine. We worship a God that has promised to confirm our message with accompanying signs. If He is God and man is made my God, why are we not proclaiming Him with all sureness? Are not the refugees AND the terrorist made by Him? Are they not hardwired to know Him? Is He the truth and if we believe that, what are we hiding from?

We serve a God that has given us all authority of His son’s name, to which every knee shall bow. We serve a God that has promised us the ability to heal the sick and cast out demons and raise the dead. You can argue it, but it’s in the Word. He said it, not me. This part isn’t even my opinion.

We are a people that have not been given a spirit of fear but of love and power and a sound mind. We are a people that are to love our lives not unto death. We are Esthers, given a place of privilege in a crucial hour in history, for such a time as this. We are Nehemiahs, called to rebuild the broken wall of God’s people, to stand in the gap. We are Joshuas, called to face the Giants in the land and believe that God is mightier by far. We are Davids, facing Goliath with a stone and a sling and worship in our heart. We are Jeremiahs and Joels, calling out for those blind to the times to turn and repent.

We are the church. The bride of Christ.

What in the world are we doing, casting off the harvest for fear of our lives? Can our almighty God not protect us? Hasn’t He promised just that? Does He not command His angels concerning us? And has He not offered us eternity because of his wild and reckless love for us?

What are we doing, calling names instead of speaking identity? What are we doing fighting the fearful with hate? Do we fight against flesh and blood? Strike down fear by speaking life!

And repent!
Yes, repent.
I repent. I repent of my fear and my indifference and my self-centered understanding. And I pray for you, American. I pray that as you read this Holy Spirit strikes your heart with the fire of revival. I impart it to you, and if you will grab hold of it and be ruined to everything else, YOU WILL SEE MIRACULOUS THINGS.

I speak this life into you. That you would rejoice for refugees and that you would not fear ISIS. They want you to fear them. They want you to fear them and love yourself more than you love Jesus and those He died for.

Prove them wrong.
That’s my opinion.
We should prove them wrong. Not by our words but by our testimonies. By our witness. Oh, that we might be like the first church apostles. That we might be Pauls and Peters and Stephens.

I don’t write about controversial things. But when I do, rest assured, it is because God has laid it on my heart to do so. So perhaps you disagree, which you have the right to do. But you have read until here. So think it over.

And maybe, if you are willing. If you will say YES, God will vex you.

And you will be a Revivalist. Fearless. Single-minded.
And your opinion and your witness will marry and even against your better judgment, it will bubble out of you.

And you might just get what you pray for. When God puts a face and a people on your newsfeed and you are comfortable praying for them from half a world away, He might bring them closer. He might make you actually stand on it, risk for it.

He might not tell you to look for the helpers. He might tell you to be one.

But then again, that’s just my opinion. Or maybe it’s my witness.
These days, it’s hard to separate the two.