The Secret to Satisfying Your 2017 Life Goals [with God]

I received a new pair of running shoes for Christmas. Not the cheapos– the certifiable kind from an authentic running store for athletes. Game on, 2017! The truth is I’ve been running for years. I’ve trained and ran races, mostly with ease, until last year. My last race was less than desirable. And I had a hunch it was time to consider good, quality shoes to accommodate my stAGE of life.

The gym is crazy cakes these days. Open treadmill’s are few and far between. I get it though. It’s a new year and everyone’s got the resolve to make a change, do things different…probably due to that stAGE of life thing. I’m with ya. Gonna try some new running goals, change it up a bit.

It’s no secret I’m also running this fierce race of life with a different set of achievement in mind. We can talk running races on dirt and pavement and mills all day long, but really, truth is, my heart and mind and soul are running for a way different prize. And it’s all about intimacy with God. My life’s race is really about cultivating a deeper, stronger relationship with God.

This is my goal. The prize is contentment.

I think a few of you want this too. A real certifiable relationship with God. And you’d like to start running the fierce race of life equipped with the quality of God by your side. Hear my heart and understand that I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT BEING A RELIGIOUS PERSON [a common misconception when the world sees someone crazy cakes about the things of God] — the notion that we “do” all the right things; be kind, love a little, go to church because of a duty to follow these so called rules. But that is NOT what I’m talking about. I’m talking about igniting your personal desire to know God more. This is about finding food that will satisfy every single one of your resolutions – a daily nourishment for our soul that only God can provide. Something I believe can only be found by devoting ourselves to a secret life with God. It’s about forming a habit each day to live worshipfully before God, reading the stories contained in the Word, and praying fervently.

This is the secret to a satisfying 2017. A good goal, in my opinion, to running a good race. A different race.

And don’t think the world won’t notice. The transformation comes…in time. If you want to go out and change the world, you’ve got to devote yourself to the inner life, first. How can we expect to export life giving resources if there’s no import?

Don’t know where to start? The book Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge paired with the Bible (I read from the New International Version and The Message version) and a little quiet time is my recommendation. Sorge’s devotional book has 52 chapters (one per week) and is a great guide to get you going. You can get a copy here. 

Game on, 2017!

When Joy Feels Like You Nailed It, Again!

Have you ever attempted one of those Pinterest prized creations? You just saw the most awesome creation, it looks super easy, your confidence soars to great heights, you tackle the task…and then there’s a moment (perhaps a blackout) when you suddenly realize that your great elaborate plan of Pinterest perfection has completely failed. You don’t know how you got here but your huddled in the corner covered in flour, burned from the glue gun or bandaging a wound.

 

 

Nailed it, again!

I’m convinced Joy is a lot like a Pinterest prized creation. We can see it, oh yes, in all it’s prize and glory. But whenever we set out to make it our own something usually goes terribly wrong, another failed attempt.

Before we head for the lofty hills of attaining Joy, once again, let us consider a few of these truths:

The truth about Joy is that it’s a gift from God. It was already created (whew, pressures off) and yeah, it’s pretty much already perfect. While this Joy gift in all its 100% perfection remains in Heaven, we can still receive it here on earth because the Father gives good gifts to his children. Namely, Jesus, the reason for the season. A gift to us. He came and died and rose again so that because of our connection (belief) in Him and all things eternal we too can have full access to Pinterest parade of Joy.

But first we need to receive it and say thanks for the gift of Joy. Think of it as being placed on your tongue like a piece of dark chocolate, let it coat your insides and satisfy your belly.

Now I know what your thinking. Ha. That’s real nice. I get it. Yeah, I’ll receive it but the second I turn around, bam! The irritating circumstance or the pain of loss or the fear of what’s ahead…none of that has changed. How can I keep the Joy in my heart when it constantly feels like its being ripped away from me?

Here’s the thing: the tension of fully receiving Joy is a beneath the soil understanding that it’s possible to have both (joy and sorrow) at the same time. It’s possible because the Bible tells us so. He (Jesus, the Joy giver) was a man of many sorrows, familiar with suffering, but because of the Joy set before him he endured the cross.

“Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see it.” -Ann Voskamp

See the gift. Receive it and say thanks. Breathe, believe and live.

Remembering Who You Are

Behind a stack of books on the shelf, hidden from plain view, I found an old book I once read. I wiggled it free, dusted it off and began re-reading my favorite parts. It was the kind of book I’d scribbled in the margins, leaving clues as to my whereabouts in life. Dated: September, 2008.

As I perused the notes, my mind took a sharp detour down Painful Past road. Thankfully the road doesn’t jar me like it once did. All the mines have been detonated. The worry, fear and angst that were once associated with a trip down memory lane are now held in monument regard. It’s like, ‘hey, wow, there was a great and ferocious battle here. Loss of life, bloody. But oh, sweet victory, the battle was won.’ I look around. The ground is holy. I remember and I’ll never forget. Today I see flowers blooming out of the ruins and I smile in awe and great thanks.

This great and terrible time I’m referring to is when God, by His hand, finally took the last drink from my cup. It’s a story of deliverance from the grip of generational alcoholism. It’s a story of flesh eating sin sickness. Death. And life born, anew.

Something I still celebrate today.

A miracle, yes! And yet, I sit and recall the cycle of events post miracle. A time of transformation. Here’s the thing: transformational things in life, those ordained by God, take time to work themselves out. The aftermath of any battle leaves gapping wounds in our heart, mind and spirit for a season or three. It’s here, in THE INBEWTEEN, that the TRUTH of who we are and our real identity is most vulnerable to lies.

It’s here, we must understand:

  • The truth about God’s character. (Psalm 18:31-32)
  • The truth about the Voice of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
  • The truth about our identity in Jesus. (Romans 8:17)

In the months leading up to the epic battle to save me from myself God was hugely at work in my life. For the first time in 30 years I’d been given a very clear calling on my life. Specifically, God said, “Rachel, you are my Ambassador.” And I knew in my heart that He was calling me to be His Ambassador through public speaking.

But after the battle, when my wounds were exposed, and I grappled with the question ‘who am I really?’, another voice began to rise up. Except this voice was in opposition to the One I’d first heard. I was confused. The strange, new voice made me believe that my work was to be done silently. And in that season every time I had thoughts about standing before others to encourage them in the faith, the voice whispered in my ear, “This is NOT who you really are!”

For eight years I helped to organize an annual Christian music festival called Livestock supporting World Vision’s gift catalog. One time, in the midst of this season of transformation (and confusion) one of the musicians asked me if I would join him on stage to share a story about the good work were doing. Without hesitation I laughed and spouted, “Naw, I’m not your girl for that sorta thing!” The words tasted like sour milk.

I believed the lie.

But only for so long, because I believe Truth always wins. The Truth buried deep within me, began to emerge over time. As I pressed into the Word of God I found confirmation to the call on my life in 2 Corinthians 5:20 (“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…”). Turning my heart towards Him, He cleaned up the old ruins, replacing lies with Rock solid Truth. So that, eventually, I could discern His voice from the one who was trying to steel me away from my purpose.

Today I’ve stepped fully into that call. Without hesitation I can declare that by God’s grace I will speak (publicly) to the witness of his work in my life, through the power of the work done on my behalf on the cross.

I want to encourage you today to remember who you are in Christ. Are you in the season of IN BETWEEN? Can you remember the things He once called you to? Does His Word confirm it?  May this image be a helpful guide to you as you discern the One True Voice.

 

gods-voice-3

 

Blessings and peace as you step into all He has ordained for your life.

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For the Haters; The Power of Prayer {Repost}

A few years ago my good friend was diagnosed with cancer. It was a horrible and scary time. I prayed like everyone else, delivered a few meals, and visited her during a round of chemo. I did everything I knew to do, still I felt helpless.

Until one day, while doing my regular kickboxing routine, I did something radically different.

I’ll call it Spiritual Kickboxing.

What is kickboxing? It’s a power-packed routine where you shadow box, kick, punch, and move. It’s sweaty, down and dirty, and it is for haters.

 

 

You see, on that day in the privacy of my living room, I discovered the hater in me. The hater of sickness and disease, the hater of brokenness, sin, and those trapped in darkness. I realized that I’m done with the Devil’s death schemes. So, this is what I did:

1. I closed my eyes and pictured my disgusting cancer spreading opponent. Boy, he was ugly- and easy to hate!

2. I put up my guard and spent the next 30 sweaty minutes, with my friend in mind, defending her in prayer.

3. I beat with clenched fists, crushed with Words, and kicked fatal blows in the Name Above All names; Jesus.

This may seem like a wackadoodle concept but here’s the truth friends; the real battles we face in life are not ones that we can see with our eyes. The real battle is invisible; brought forth by an oppressor (the devil) who’s mission is to hurt, maim, and destroy your life (Ephesians 6:12).

Scripture declares that we are to fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12). So, let us do so with the weapon of prayer. The mission of Jesus was to destroy the works of the devil (1John 3:8) and rightfully we, as sons and daughters, should adopt the same mission.
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…”
Time and again I will enter into a session of kickboxing and use it to pray and defend those in need. Life is hard. At times we all need someone to help us carry our burdens. For this reason, I will put on my gloves and fight. Victory awaits for those who will stand up and claim it.
Will you rise up, generation?
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My Story: Overcoming the Drunken Monster Within

I’ve spent some time in the dungeon of self-hatred. The term was only a few short years but let me tell you, it was hell down there. A prison-of-sorts where my worth was beaten repeatedly. My image so bruised that it even hurt to look in the mirror. It was sorrowful time, a contemplative pit of disgust and shame. A time when the choices I’d made with my own free will caused me to trip and fall, the long way down.

prison

Some of you know bits of my story. The pre-Me was a girl who’d enjoy any excuse for good time. Drinking was my desired gateway to fun. Oh, it was all in good spirit, I told myself. Most of the time (but not always) I was able to juggle the drink and the façade of self-control pretty darn good. Just a carefree girl with a forecast for fun, I told myself.

But the untold truth was like bubbling magma. What many did not know is that the beer swallowed cold was feeding a monster. A monster of generational alcoholism, a monster with haughty eyes and a lying tongue.

Oh, in those early years the monster’s voice was so affirming. It’d tell me such grand things about myself. It’d tell me how beautiful I was and how deserving I was of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING I wanted. I only needed to relentlessly pursue and I could have it all – the whole world, yes! As the consummation ensued, the voice would coil itself around my spirit and make me feel like a twelve story building.

Come morning, I hated that damn monster. And myself.

True enough, as the years carried on I began to chase after another baby Love. It was the heart of God. As I sought, I learned. Until oh-so-softly another voice began to emerge. This Gentle one, it wasn’t pushy. Heck, though, it spoke truth to me that sometimes stung.

“You are my ambassador,” the Gentle voice would say. “This (drink) is not good for you. When will you let it go?” The question always circled like a white dove returning home, into the palm of my hand. It was always up to me as to what I’d do with it.

Even still, despite the Gentle voice and despite my personal academy of seeking, from time to time I’d feed that monster. Without fail it pushed and bullied its way into chambers of my heart, attempting to conquer its foe, the Spirit of God.

I discovered that the monster had an uncontrollable appetite to devour the other Living occupant of my heart. And so it began, this epic battle for dominance. Back and forth like a sword-drawn Tarzan swinging from a vine. Back and forth, with each pass the Spirit hacked away at the choking weed – monster. Back and forth, with each pass the monster attempting to spew poisonous lies.

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. “ – Galatians 5: 17

It takes time; the sanctification, the cleansing, the killing of monsters. The death of it all was a process. The finality, grotesque. The most severe pain I’ve ever felt in my whole life. The grief – a dark tomb. For me, this self-death of drinking was my plummet into the dungeon of self-hatred.

Thanks be to God who rescued me from the pit with His right hand. Though that place was dark, the Voice was with me saying things like,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” -1Peter 2:9

You see, when the monster died, my body felt like ash. But let me tell you, in that good-long-hard-season the Lord God made me whole again, this time, into a new creation. Yes, He did that. I can’t believe it’s been nearly eight years since He destroyed that monster within but He did, and I’ve never known such freedom. Praise be!

And do you know what? He can do that for you too. You’re never beyond His reach. Never. I believe that some of you have been living under the monster’s thumb for far too long. You’re tired. You’re lying in the pit of self-hatred, perhaps.

Dear brother or sister, listen, God’s unfailing love for you is so vast that there is nothing you can do (or nothing you’ve done) that can remove this Love. All you need to “do” is turn your head, look to Him, repent, and let Him lead you into a new (better) life. No regrets.

Amen.
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