One Way to Freedom

You guys, I just need to brag about God for a minute. He is seriously a wonder worker. And I just can’t believe that, when I’ve got my eyes peeled and heart wide, I get to witness the richness of His love. Everyday, if I’m aware.

So, a few days ago I posted a video update from Colorado (our summer home). If you haven’t watched it yet, you should. In the video I share a recent ranch story about a campfire friend, her vulnerable confession, and the Spirit’s prompting (later on) to share a copy of a prayer with her.

Since she left the ranch, she’s been on my heart in a big way. Specifically on the day I shared the video story. Then, just hours after I posted the video, I received an email from her. She wanted to say thanks for the prayer. She’s read it every single day. Note: she told me she’s not really the praying type. Yeah, ok. This is cool.

I emailed her back, thanking her for thanking me…(it’s a Minnesota Nice thing, I suppose) and then told her that I’d love to share my story with her sometime, that it was a long one, but in a nut shell, for years and years I tried to make all the changes in my life (with regards to drinking) on my own power, believing I had enough self control to be who I knew I really was deep inside. I just couldn’t do it on my own, at least for very long. But in perfect timing God delivered me and gave me the freedom I was longing for.

And then she called me. She wants to come back to the ranch, to her happy place, and she wants to talk with me. So, my heart is leaping with joy because I can see (what perhaps she cannot in this moment) that God has her in His sights. I mean, His eyes are always on us. Perhaps, what I mean is that God is now in her sights.

My not-the-praying-type campfire friend said, “I’ve read the prayer everyday…”

That’s the difference, right there.

If we want a transformed life. Fully. Wholly. Completely. It begins by giving our attention, devotion, thoughts to God. Our own power isn’t enough. It cannot sustain. It cannot break strong holds. And it simply cannot control the outcome.

But God can sustain. Jesus breaks the bonds that hold us back. And our greatest liberation with most surely come when allow ourselves to “be” in His presence, turning our head, and bowing our heart.

“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” -2 Chronicles 16:9

A heart shift catches the attention of our God running to and fro over the whole earth. Shift your perspective. Watch and see. Focus on the One Way and blessed, mark my words, Freedom will come.

Hey God, Wow!

One morning, a few weeks before we left Minnesota, during my quiet time with God I randomly had a picture in my mind of Jesus washing the disciples feet. Hmm, I thought out loud, “God, I don’t think I really understand what it means to wash peoples feet…show me what it means.”

Upon our arrival to the ranch in Colorado we found the property to be in disarray; the laundry room tore apart with no working washer, unclean cabins for who knows how long, stagnant construction projects and so on. On top that, working for a harsh, broken man with a lifestyle that hurts my heart has become the greatest challenge to me. But then, one morning shortly after we got here, I had some quiet time with the Lord and felt him whisper to me in my frustration, “Rachel, this is what it means to wash someone’s feet.” Oh. So, it’s servant work.

Since then I have read several accounts of John 13 when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. I’ve read multiple translations, picking up bits of commentary online, talking about it with my Aaron and friends – desperately seeking God’s wisdom for me in this season, through this Word.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his robe, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” -John 13:3-5

But the time here at the ranch, thus far has been more challenging than I imagined. It’s caused very ugly things in me to come out. Frustration. Sadness. Anger. Irritability. I’ve been fighting to hold onto Christ in me, but fleshly feelings have overwhelmed me. I find myself continually asking the Lord why we are even here. Even though I know deep down that God called us here, I’ve been severely resisting the temptation to flee like Jonah.

Until the other night.

Aaron took the kids fishing so I could prepare all the breakfast items for our 25 guests, the Park family, here at the ranch to celebrate Mr. Park’s 80th birthday. For hours, as I worked in the kitchen with the windows open I listened to all of their voices gathered together around tables, sharing a meal and telling stories. The thing that began to slowly overwhelm me was the sound of their laughter. Continual laughter and joy wafting through the screen window – and suddenly I had a thought…is this what Heaven will be like? Gathering around tables to share a lingering meal, sipping on wine, telling stories, singing songs and absolutely delighting in each others company as if the celebration of life may never end. Magical. It made me smile. I needed this. To be uplifted by their joy – especially because of my mood lately.

“He came to Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” -John 13:6-7

As I passed through the kitchen, carrying a box of eggs to the cooler, a guest from the party poked his head around the doorframe, asking if I might have a minute to talk. “Sure, come on in.” I said with a smile, though my weary spirit sighed a little. His name was Colin. He said, “I hope you don’t find this awkward but…” he stammered, ”I believe God gave me a message for you today. It was while I was taking a shower.” I raised my eyebrows, hinging on every word stumbling from his lips. I told him that I love the Lord very much and I certainly did not think he was awkward. And I watched his shoulders relax a little.

“Oh good. Well…” he paused, “the Lord wants me to tell you that the work you are doing out here, this summer, at the ranch, is all about Training. You’re being trained for what comes next.” Then Colin looked down at my feet. “Also, there’s something about your feet. The Lord kept showing me your feet…” He shook his head, unsure, and then asked, “Are you wanting to be a missionary or something?”

My mouth was wide open. My eyes burning with tears. This man, a total stranger, had no idea the things God was already speaking to me about these feet. Gah! I shared everything with him. Soon Aaron returned and Colin repeated everything he said to me, he even spoke some very interesting things into Aaron too. When he finally left for the evening I felt an enormous lifting of my spirit through this man’s prophetic word.

“I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater then the one who sent him.” -John 13:16

I still don’t have a clear vision or even total understanding for the purposes God has, but that will come. I’m sure of it. For now, I’m so thankful God has reminded me (again) that I’m exactly where he wants me to be.

i love her.

Once I met a man on a flight from Minneapolis to Washington D.C. who shared three unforgettable words with me. He never spoke them, actually, but they’ve captivated me even still.

I remember driving to the airport that morning while the sky was still black, sipping from my mug of coffee, still black. In the midst of quiet and calm I felt God whisper in my spirit to take notice for the person I was assigned to sit next to was assigned indeed.

I boarded the plane and took my seat, exchanging a curious smile with the man next to me. I was paying attention. As the plane departed we started a conversation, discovering we had a lot of similarities, including our age. He loved his family, his eyes smiled when he spoke about his wife, his passion for playing music was high and he was a devoted follower of Jesus. For the entire flight, we talked, leaving little margin for silence.

But there was one moment, mid-way through the flight, where I happened to glance down at his forearm: slightly turned, sleeve pushed up, the palm of his hand exposed. I saw three words, I hadn’t noticed before, permanently scripted in simple ink so bold.

I love her.

I think my mouth dropped. Because those three words, tattooed to his body, told me more about the depth of his character, than anything spoken ever could. Sure, he said loving things about his beloved and I ventured he pretty much loved her, but this…it felt like another level.

 

This was a pure statement.

This was his platform.

This was permanent.

I know there was a story. His story. But those three words said more than a mouthful ever could.

Unspoken expressions emboss the purest statement of who we are and what we stand for. May the notion give you pause. Today everyone is talking, saying something. The world is loudly screaming that we must LOVE out loud. The chatter is a great and mighty force. Yet, I’m convinced there is movement in the breeze, a language buried deep in our flesh that will speak out through unconventional platforms…if we so choose. We’re told that if we stay silent, for such a time as this…then we’re not taking a stand. But what if silence isn’t what we once thought? What if silence and spoken words are not two opposing parallels? What if quiet can play its part too?

What if proclaiming our views, our thoughts, and our ideas to make the world great again might be as simple as doing it differently. Finding a unique platform. And doing the silent work that causes heads to cock because it’s so gloriously silent, and so wonderfully profound, and so mysteriously filled with love.

What if today we stay still, palm up, skin exposed, and simply let the words we’ve got tattooed on our body, heart and soul showcase love on a new level? Make a statement without saying a word. It might be the purest platform around.
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5 Great Books to Boost Your Spiritual Energy This Christmas

Waiting is hard, especially when we are in a hurry. It feels like we’re always scrambling, especially during the Christmas season. We often feel more depleted, tired and totally worn out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

I’ve discovered that one of the greatest resources of replenishment is a few moments of quiet each day. A hard habit to form, indeed, but once you’ve pushed through the threshold of resistance…the rewards are spectacular, full of life renewed.

So, do yourself a favor this Christmas and give yourself the gift of quiet time, space to remember and dwell on God’s goodness to YOU. Reflecting, thanking and laying low are wholesome ingredients. Some of the best gifts are worth fighting for, doncha’ know!

This Advent, as you prepare to give yourself the gift of solitude, consider one of these 5 great books to help you boost your spiritual energy.

 

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I’ve listed them for your personal preview. Click on the links below to preview and order the book that best suits you. Blessings & peace this holiday season. xo

1.) Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camely

2.) A Moment of Christmas: Devotions for Time-strapped Moms by Anna Rendell

3.) The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

4.) 25 Days of Christmas: A Devotional for Incredibly Busy People by Ray Hollenbach

5.) 10 Days of Christmas: A Baker’s Advent Devotional by Rachel Britz

 

How To Change the World This Thanksgiving With Pumpkin Pie

One thing you might not know about me is that I spent 7 years working in residential property management. A season in my early adult life that I regard with great fondness. It was hard work. But I was young and ambitious and a single mom with a mouth to feed. I climbed the ladder in a few short years and acquired the management position to lead a new development project – 130 units in the suburbs of Minneapolis. While the property was high-end luxury, a certain percentage of the units were reserved for low income families. The model was a relatively new [at the time] tax incentive for development investors. In reality it was a co-mingling of social and economic classes. A test, of sorts. And my property would be a guinea pig.

The year was 2000. I scrambled all year long to market, promote and lease up those apartment units. I even picked one for myself [and my daughter] and moved in. By the end of August we neared 100% occupancy. The low-income units, mostly three bedrooms to accommodate larger families, were the first to get gobbled up. Somehow, in the rapid lease-up process, a large community of Somalian refugees learned of our availability, applied for housing, and settled for a beautiful, brand new apartment in the burbs. I was pleased with the success of that work and was ready to get into the groove of more normal managerial duties.

Not so.

As the first of September rolled around, I received a slightly panicked phone call. It was the elementary school’s principle. In two short weeks over 100 children, new to the district, registered for class. Most of the students were of Somalian decent, and the school was not prepared to offer ESL to this many students mere days before the start of a new school year.

This launched a completely new and unexpected campaign, for me. I called it the The Foundation.  [Because one night I was awoken from my sleep, deeply moved with a thought or dream or vision that had me huddled on the bathroom floor with my Bible. There was a terrible impression that I was being asked to “build a foundation for the children.” This, of course, was well before I really understood the way in which God can and does speak through dreams. All I knew was that I needed to put a plan into action.] So, the very next day, I began. To my surprise all these civic and religious groups came out of the woodwork with resources and programs and money. The school district, the city, the police department and two local churches. We collaborated and united for the children. Before long a full running after school program was in place. The children, many of whom had stolen my heart, were happy.

Little did I know, at the time, the ripple effect this little lease up project would have on an entire city.

Then, 9/11. 

The atmosphere changed in a blink. So much fear. So much uncertainty. So much grief. So much anger. Suddenly, our quaint community filled with a rainbow of nations, colors, and classes seemed to echo the same question-cry through untold, glossy eyed stares: Are we safe here?

In the weeks that followed, putting on a confident smile was like worming into a pair of jeans with wet legs. Not easy. Everyone who lived in the apartments felt like an extended family member, to me. I cared deeply for all of them. And I wanted to reassure all of them that we were going to be ok.

 

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The week of Thanksgiving, 2001 was special, for so many reasons. America was grieving. And yet there was more unity than ever before. On the eve of Thanksgiving I remember preparing several pies to bring to my family gathering a few hours away. As I mixed the ingredients and poured batter into formed shells, one family, a single woman with five children kept coming to mind. She lived down the hall from me. She was a Somalian refuge, and someone I’d felt a special tug to nurture during her cultural transition. My heart had come to adore each of her bright smiling children. As I placed each pie into the oven I thought about the recent events in my nation and wondered too about the events she’d witnessed in her own.

In a blink I felt so much connection. So much love. I knew just what to do.

“Thankfulness is not some magic formula; it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately…” -Sarah Young

I rose early the next morning and delivered one Pumpkin pie with a note that read, “Happy Thanksgiving!” And something about America and you are welcome and blessed to be here.

When I returned to my office the following week I found one empty pie plate, traced with a few crumbs, sitting on my desk. Perfectly empty. I smiled.

Empty never felt so full.~

 

[Note: I’ve always wondered what ever happened to The Foundation. Do they still offer programs for the children? Two years ago, while traveling through these old stomping grounds, curiosity got the best of me and I stopped in at the rental office. I introduced myself to the manager and asked about the program. “Oh yes,” she said “the program is very much still running.” ]
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