When it’s Time to Fight

Can I be honest?

It’s been a rough week. One of those “seriously if one more thing…” kind of weeks. It started out pretty subtle. A minor annoyance here, an unwanted thought there, but has continued to escalate to the point of a full out break-down with an ugly cry last night.

Then all the pieces fell together. Last night in the dark I asked Jesus to show me what was going on and He did.

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A week ago I apparently opened a can of worms with a little blog post. I’m not sure what happened but it went a bit more viral then I ever expected it would.

Almost two weeks ago I attended a conference with 800 women in ministry. Friday night Christine Cain started her powerful talk to us with this statement “Our enemy has always hated women, and women with a voice he has always detested.”

I agree with Christine. Satan puts a lot of effort behind silencing us from speaking truth. And when we choose to speak up, when we choose to bravely stand for truth; it seems to tick him off.

Last week I spoke up about something that was heavy on my heart. This week my family has been tormented at every turn. I can’t help but think the two things are connected.

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As soon as I made the connection I got mad. My tears dried up and I was ready to fight. I learned a long time ago how to fight the good fight of faith. I meet a lot of women who think it’s wrong to fight, but it’s not. I believe we are invited by God to fight. The problem is when we forget who we’re fighting for and who we’re fighting against.

For: in favor of; in support of: to advocate, to be on one’s side, to champion, encourage, esteem, to hold with honor, root for, support, value

Against: in opposition to; contrary to; adverse or hostile to; in resistance to or defense from, counter to, facing, in opposition to, opposed to, conflicting, incompatible

It’s time to fight! Time to fight for our kids, our friends, and our families. To fight for love, for truth, for justice. To fight against our enemy (not man, but Satan and the powers of darkness), to fight against sin and oppression and injustice.

God invites us into the battle. He asks us to take up our sword and wield it boldly against the enemy. He equips us for the fight. He is our shield and ever present help in time of trouble. He is our strength and our protection. He fights for us and against our enemy. And when we join Him in the battle we get a front row view of His power and might.

It’s okay to get mad. It is okay to raise our voice and shake our fist and call out our enemy on his sneaky schemes.

We have a real enemy. And sometimes he rears his ugly head and messes with our lives in a very obvious way. He is single-mindedly focused on our destruction. He wants to shake our faith and keep us silent. But… greater is He that is within you and me than he that is in the world.

Yes, it’s been a rough week. Yes, I’ve been attacked on every side. But I am not discouraged. I am equipped for the fight. I’m standing beside the ultimate Warrior, and I am not afraid.

~Keri

Are you in a battle this week? How can we fight for you in prayer? 

Photo by Wili_Hybrid Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by hmmlargeart. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Peter Cave Road

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My car was packed and loaded with teenagers, suitcases, snacks, and one mom who was so beyond ready to get out of town and head to a cabin in the woods for a few days. We were making good time with the cruise control set on 65 and gorgeous scenery rolling by outside of the windows. In just a few short hours we would be at the cabin where there would be no work, no agenda, no schedule. Just days filled with fun.

Then we turned down Peter Cave Road.

Y’all, never in my life have I experience a road like this one, and I grew up in the country. I’ve seen my fair share of treacherous dirt roads, but none of them had prepared me for this. I should have known we were in for a ride when I saw the sign on the side of the road “dangerous road ahead, 4 wheel drive recommended”. I hesitated when I saw the sign, but my GPS told me to turn left, so I did.

I had no idea what we were getting into.

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Five miles. Five miles of dirt road stood between us and the cabin. I know dirt roads well enough to know that five miles might take about 20 minutes, but not this dirt road. This road and these five miles took us over an hour. Several times we came to a complete stop before proceeding. Once we had to get out and move a tree limb out of our way. Every muscle in my body was tense as we headed uphill and then downhill with hairpin turns, steep drop offs, and pot holes like you’ve never seen before.

My daughter was holding my phone and counting down the tenths of a mile as we climbed our way up the mountain. Every tenth of a mile was celebrated as if we’d traveled a hundred miles. I began to wonder if we would ever make it.

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Over an hour later we did. When we pulled into the drive way and saw the cabin the car erupted in celebration. I’ve never wanted to kiss the ground before, but I did in that moment. We had done it, we survived.

The next morning I woke up early and quietly left the cabin to go sit on the porch and watch the sun rise over the Buffalo River. I kept thinking about that car ride and our harrowing adventure. The worst part was; we didn’t have to spend an hour of our lives on Peter Cave Road. My GPS chose for us to go down a road we didn’t have to. If we had only traveled a few miles further down the highway there was another road that would have brought us to the cabin without all the drama.

Isn’t life like that sometimes?

Sometimes we find ourselves traveling down a road we never would have chosen for ourselves. A road so long and treacherous that we wonder if it will ever end. A road that keeps us tense, single minded, and desperate. A road that is so slow going and unending that we begin to question everything. “How much longer?” “Will this ever end?” “Are we lost?” “Should we go back?” “Will we survive this?” “How did we get here?”

I learned a few things driving up Peter Cave Road that I think might be important to remember when life leads us down a dangerous road.

Sometimes experiencing Peter Cave Road is not your fault. The good news about our adventure is that it wasn’t my fault. I’ve made a lot of wrong turns in my life (both in the car and in my choices) but this wasn’t one of them. This time I was following directions. Peter Cave Road was chosen for me by my GPS. I don’t know why God sometimes choses for us to take the long, hard way to arrive at our destination, but He often does. It’s not because we did something wrong, it’s not because we are being punished, it’s not because we are too stupid to read a map, it’s because that’s the road He put us on. Is there a reason? Sure. Will we know the reason before the road ends? Maybe, maybe not. Sorry. I could lie and tell you some deep spiritual thing will only happen to you on that road. That might be true. But we also might wind up standing in His presence one day asking Him; “So, Peter Cave Road. What was that all about?”

Time and distance is relative. We started our road trip on Interstate 49 and ended it on Peter Cave Road. Our trip started with the cruise control set and us covering about 65 miles an hour. It ended with me riding the brake and us going 2-5 miles per hour. A mile is a mile, but road conditions very much affect how long that mile takes to travel. The harder the road, the longer it takes. Slow going is still going. Even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere, you are.

Don’t abandon ship. Multiple times during our adventure on Peter Cave road someone would pipe up with “It would be faster to get out and walk.” It sure felt like that was true. As tempting as it was to abandon ship and head out on our own I knew that as slow as the car was it was still a better option to stay in it. I know my own strength; I can’t walk 5 miles carrying all of our luggage up Peter Cave Road. Well, maybe I could, but I promise I wouldn’t have arrived at the cabin before dark, and being in those woods after dark doesn’t sound like much fun. As slow as the car was, it was our only hope. Colossians 3 says we are hiding with Christ in God. When the road is hard, stay hidden in God. Yes, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and go it alone, but we won’t get very far on our own strength.

Eyes forward. Peter Cave Road isn’t a smooth road. Bumpy would be a drastic understatement. Then there were the pot holes, washed out culverts, muddy holes, tree limbs, big rocks, and many other obstacles. Off the road there was beauty. Lush trees, mountain views, wildflowers, pretty birds, but I didn’t see any of it. I simply couldn’t pay attention to the things around me because I was so focused on the things in front of me. In life, when we are in a season of traveling a hard road it often comes with guilt. We want to focus on other stuff, we want to talk about other stuff, we want to see the beauty, but sometimes we just can’t. Sometimes all we can do is keep our eyes forward. That’s okay.

The best way out is always through. Any chance I can get to quote Robert Frost I’m going to take it, but on Peter Cave Road and in life he’s right. Stuck on the dirt road we kept looking for options; is there another road we can take? Would it be better to turn around and go back the way we came? Is there a quicker, easier route? I wanted to avoid the road, but we couldn’t. We had to keep going (as slow as it was) forward. Sometimes hard roads and the pain they bring can’t be avoided, when we have to travel one the best way out is always through.

Adventure comes at the end. On the way home from our time in the woods (using the alternate, safer route) I asked the kids what their favorite parts of the trip was. Every one of them said Peter Cave Road. They went on and on about how awesome our car was to get us up that big hill, and how scary it was when we had to drive through the river (seriously y’all it was an epic adventure) and how narrow it was in that one place where the trees were pressing in on both sides and how dark it was it the woods even though it was the middle of the day and how we made it out alive! It was an adventure. One we will talk about for years to come; the story of Peter Cave Road and how we made it out alive. There is something in us that loves to celebrate stories of survival; our Feast of Purim. The Jewish celebration of the Feast of Purim was a joyous celebration commemorating a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved by Queen Ester of extermination. They survived, the lived to tell about it, and they remembered and celebrated God’s deliverance. We need to tell our adventure stories and celebrate God’s faithfulness through the hardest roads.

At the beginning of our trip one of the kids was in the backseat singing “Life is a highway…” That’s not true. Life is not a highway. Life is a long road. Yes, parts of it are smooth and straight and sunny and fun, but other parts are bumpy and uphill and dark and dangerous. Whatever road God asks us to travel one thing remains the same; He can be trusted to get us to our destination.

Hang on for the ride!

~Keri

Holding Hurt Hostage

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Two summers ago I read a story in a blog that has recently come back to my memory. In fact, I can’t quit thinking about the monkeys Fab saw that day…

One time I made the mistake of going to the Austin Rescue Zoo with a friend of mine. It is probably the most depressing way you could spend a day; each of the animals has been rescued from a terrible environment. I was excited to see the monkeys because (a) I like monkeys and (b) because these monkeys had been trapped in tiny containers (barely the size of their bodies) their entire lives and now they had this huge enclosure with room to swing in the trees and finally act like monkeys. I scanned every branch, but there were no monkeys to be seen. Then I saw a little girl pointing to the corner of the enclosure, and sure enough, there they were. The monkeys sat with hunched bodies in the corners of the cage with their faces pressed up against the bars. It was as if they didn’t know that they had been set free and behind them lay this huge open space. I guess they felt more comfortable in the position they had known their entire lives. They didn’t know how to move their bodies the way they were made; it hurt to stretch and move their muscles. So they just sat – looking at the exact same view they’d had before they were ever rescued.

There are times in life when hurt holds us hostage. When misfortune finds its way into our hearts and displaces everything else. When we are so wrapped up in grief and circumstance that we feel trapped by it, enslaved even. Thankfully, for the most part, those are seasons in our life that come and go. Usually they stick around longer than we’d like, but almost always they do end. The problem is, when hurt has lingered long it’s hard to break free from it. Sometimes, long after hurt has let go of us we still hold tight to it. Instead of hurt holding us hostage we hold hurt hostage. We invite misfortune to pull up a chair and stay a while. Hurt moves in and takes up residency in our hearts. And all the while we hold the power to set them free. Instead of letting the hurts go and releasing the pain of the past we hold it hostage. We tie it to a chair and point a gun to its head. The problem is that we ourselves become the prisoner.

I’ve watched too many movies. I know what hostages are like. You can’t turn your back on them for one minute or they will escape. So we live with one eye trained on the hurt. We can’t fully engage in life because we’re tied to watching our hostages; fear, anger, depression, bitterness, mistrust, resentment, cynicism, abuse. They cloud our vision and keep us from being free. We can’t let them out of our sight or they might escape. I hate my hostages, I want to be free from them, but somewhere along the way I’ve taken them on as mine and feel responsible for guarding them. But what if we let them go? What if we put the gun down and untied the ropes? What if we opened the back door and let the hurt leave? What if we made room for something else to occupy that space? What if we emptied a few chairs and risked letting peace or love or joy to come and sit with us?

We live like those monkeys. God has delivered us, but we’re still not free. He has broken the power of the hurt and pain, but we can’t let go of the memory of it. We’re afraid to turn around and explore our new found liberty because we might get hurt again. We feel more comfortable in the presence of pain and sorrow then we do in the presence of life and joy so we hang out with what’s familiar. I get it; it’s risky to leave the cage. It’s scary to head into unchartered territory. It’s silly to think that we’d rather stay tied to hurt than to run out into abundant life and joy and freedom. But when you’ve been hurt too long, and broken too much it’s flat out hard to change.

And we don’t have to. We can keep living like we’ve always lived. Overcome by fear, in the shadow of doubt, with closed off hearts. Or… we can let go. We can chose to cut the ropes that tie us to our past. We can open the door of our heart and let love and life blow in. Scary? Absolutely. Worth it? I think so. (I know the right answer is “yes, it’s worth it” but in full disclosure my heart is still in the “I think so” stage.)

When we hold hurt hostage we live small lives. We live trapped. But we don’t have to. God longs to set us free from the confines of our own fear. He longs to bring us out of the dark dungeon and into the light of life.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19

Let’s make room in our lives for the spacious places God has planned for us. Let’s take a deep breath, close our eyes, and let go off all we’re holding hostage in our hearts. Let’s live free!

~Keri

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Photo by IKO Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Matthew Paulson Licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Vulnerable Hearts

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Last week Dave Frey from Sidewalk Prophets was in studio with us talking about his new single “Keep Making Me” and the story behind the song. He quoted C.S. Lewis “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Those words stayed with me for days.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of guarding our hearts, of keeping them locked up and secreted away. But love can’t grow there. I remember sitting in the studio listening to Dave and asking God to make me vulnerable, to make me willing to be vulnerable so that I would be capable of giving and receiving love. Just a few short days later I got the opportunity to put in practice C.S. Lewis’ words. I was at lunch with a group of ladies that I meet with on a fairly regular basis. They are my safe group, girls I trust with my heart, girls that don’t sit around and talk about surface things, but are willing to dive into the deep places of the heart with you. Our conversations are those without filters, and I love them for that.

It had been a rough week for me, and I sat quietly during lunch, listening to the other ladies share about the exciting things God was doing in each of their lives and their ministries. They talked about big dreams they have for the future and how God is opening doors for those dreams to become reality. I felt like I didn’t have any exciting news to add to the conversation because my heart was hurting and I was afraid if I opened my mouth what would spill out would take the conversation from a direction of excitement and rejoicing to one of tears and concern.

I had all but decided to just put on a smile and keep my mouth shut when I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words “to love is to be vulnerable”. I knew if I didn’t say anything I’d be passing up a gift. A gift from the hand of God, who had placed in my life three women who knew me and loved me, women who wouldn’t judge me or tell my secrets, but would simply listen and encourage and pray. To have friends who love without trampling your heart is a gift, to not be vulnerable with those friends is to snub your nose at that gift.

I finally got up the courage to speak and the minute I opened my mouth the tears fell from my eyes as fast as the words fell from my lips. None of my friends were mad at me for changing the direction of the conversation, none of them were upset that I was having a bad week and needed to process. I was hugged and loved and prayed for. That day I received healing and strength to carry on because I risked being vulnerable.

The truth is… vulnerability scares me. It didn’t used to, but being vulnerable has taught me when you give someone access to your heart odds are pretty good that they will break it; at least that’s how my history has gone. And after one too many times of experiencing a broken heart it’s all too easy to lock your heart up and throw away the key. But I’m realizing that there’s something more dangerous than a broken heart… a heart that’s unbreakable. A heart that’s hard and cold and closed off. A heart that’s afraid of love is a lot more damaged than a heart that is hurt by love.

We have to be willing to risk. Part of our healing, part of our finding wholeness on the other side of brokenness is taking a chance to risk again. We have to learn how to let go of the pain that love has brought us so that we can receive the love that God has for us. So how do we do that?

This week I was watching one of my favorite shows, Call the Midwife (it is serious British drama, and I love it!) when these words grabbed my heart:

“Next time there’s a storm leave open both doors. Don’t let your misfortunes find a home.

History needn’t be a trap, we can escape its web and shake off its weight of pain.

We can change our minds and open up our hearts.

We can let forgiveness speak and allow it to be heard, let friendship flourish,

and let love in so it might feed and sustain us all our days.”

 

There it is… the secret! Don’t let your misfortunes find a home. Don’t let the pain of the past take up residency and live in your heart. Let it pass through. Open the back door and let it free. Don’t hold the hurt hostage. Because if we do we don’t leave room for forgiveness and friendship and love to enter in and find a home.

The sad truth is, not everyone can be trusted with your heart, and not everyone should be given full access to your heart. God gives us wisdom and discernment for that reason. But He also places us in good community and surrounds us with brothers and sisters in Christ who want to love us and be the hands and feet of Christ extended to us. To reject them because of the hurt inflicted on us by someone else is to reject God’s healing for us.

We need to ask God to give us eyes to see the people He’s placed in our lives that are safe, and when He shows us who they are we need to ask Him for the guts to open our mouths and speak the vulnerable words, to uncover the hiddenness of our heart, to reveal the hurting places.  To let love in so it might feed us and sustain us all our days.

With love~

Keri

Image by Chelsea Rustad, used with permission.

The Shadow of His Wing

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“We spend more time talking about how wonderful it is to hide

under His wings than actually finding refuge there.”

Angie Smith

We sat in the gazebo in the middle of forty beautiful acres with open books on our laps discussing chapter five of “Chasing God”. It was evening and the sun was slowly setting, the only sound was that of birds scurrying about and the breeze on the wind chimes. We sat in silence as the truth of Angie’s words filled the space between us.

Just a few minutes earlier we were at dinner with about thirty Benedictine Sisters inside the hundred year old Monastery that sits in the middle of the property. At dinner Sister Kimberly was entertaining us with a hilarious story. She was at a retreat out of state when several of them decided to make their way down to the lake for a few minutes of quiet reflection. It turned out to be not so quiet after all. On the bank of the lake was a pair of geese with a large brood of goslings. Sister Kimberly was excited to see all of the baby geese, when suddenly a large dog came out of nowhere barking and chasing after them. The momma goose ushered all of the babies into the lake and then proceeded to stretch out her gigantic wings over each of the goslings and pushed them under the water. She stayed there like that for the longest time, hissing at that dog, and nearly drowning her babies. Sister Kimberly said she held them under water so long she was sure that none of them would survive. Eventually the dog wandered off and one by one the baby geese bobbed back up to the surface.

I couldn’t help but think about her story as we sat in the gazebo discussing what it looks like to take refuge under His wings. How brave of that mother goose to gather and protect the little ones. How terrifying it must have been to be one of those babies; thrown into the lake, pushed under water, surrounded by darkness, gasping for breath. I imagine they might not have thought their mom brave or heroic or nurturing. I bet they fought against those strong wings under that cold water.

Maybe this is why taking refuge is harder than talking about refuge.

“I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1) sounds a lot more poetic then “please nearly drown me and hide me in a dark cold place until the disaster has passed”. The truth is; experience is always messier than knowledge, which may be why we shy away from it.

The next morning I got up early and went out to the pond. I found my own pair of geese; these two aren’t keeping an eye on a young brood, but on a nest full of eggs. Their diligence to watch those eggs amazed me. They were willing to take me on the moment I got to close to their precious babies. I understand their fierce protective nature, I am a mother, I would do the same. I even understand why the mother goose pushed her babies under the water. I didn’t make sense to them, but to her it was what needed to be done in that moment.

So many times in my life I’ve felt like that nearly drowned gosling. I’ve fought against God, questioning what on earth He is doing to me. I’ve felt like the darkness would never lift, that the waters pressing in around me would never recede. Like Angie I’m a lot better at studying Him than trusting Him. Because often trusting Him doesn’t make sense, at least not from my perspective.

Job said “though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him”. I love the way the New Living Translation reads: God might kill me, but I have no other hope. (Job 13:15) Sometimes God’s ways don’t make sense. Sometimes it feels like He doesn’t hear our desperate cries and will never come to our rescue, but what if He is rescuing us in a way that feels more like drowning than being snuggled up warm and dry in a safe nest? Can we trust Him in those moments?

He says we can. He promises that His plans for us are for our good and not to harm us. Maybe trusting Him looks a lot more like a defenseless gosling trusting her mother’s wings will not drown her but protect her than believing that trust means we will never experience darkness or fear or pain under His wings of protection.

We know that if one of those baby geese had stood her ground and faced that dog in her own strength she might have wound up as lunch that day. That would be a foolish thing to do, yet I do the same thing all the time. When faced with disaster my immediate response is often to either face it head on and try to figure out a way through in my own strength or to run and hide all alone wondering why Jesus isn’t rescuing me. What if instead of looking to ourselves for rescue we looked for His wings and then stayed put under them for however long it took? Yes, it might be scary under there, but it’s better than facing that dog alone.

With Love~
Keri

Brave

This weekend I went to see Brave with my almost 18, senior in high school, about to leave the nest, teenage daughter. No one warned this momma that I would be in serious need of some Kleenex as I watched this coming of age movie with my almost come of age daughter sitting beside me.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet I’ll try not to give any spoilers. But from the previews you can tell that Merida and her mother, the Queen, see life a bit differently. Merida’s whole life she has been taught by her mother as to how a princess should behave. Merida tries to follow her mother’s example, but finds it hard to live in the confines of being a prim and proper princess. So she sets off on a wild adventure in an attempt to figure out how to live life in such a way that brings her joy.

I saw a lot of myself in the Queen. While I’ve never raised a princess I have raised three daughters and many of the words I heard the Queen speak to Merida I’ve spoken to my own girls with one simple change. Instead of “princesses don’t” it was “Christians don’t”. A good Christian girl doesn’t act that way. A good Christian girl shouldn’t think like that. As I Christian you should… The list goes on.

The Queen and I both had good intentions, to protect our daughters. To keep them safe. To teach them appropriate behavior. But in doing so I have to wonder if maybe we’ve taken God’s wild, passionate and brave creation and tamed it.

There’s a scene in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia where Lucy is asking about Aslan, who represents Christ. “Isn’t He safe?” she asks. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course He isn’t safe. But He’s good!”

The life Jesus calls us too is a life a daring adventure, not a proper tea party. And I am guilty of training my daughters for the latter. But I want more for them. I want them to be Brave! I want them to be so excited about the kingdom of God that they’re willing to go anywhere, tell anyone, give any amount just to be a part of it. I want them to love fiercely, laugh wholeheartedly, and give selflessly, living life with eyes wide open drinking deep of the adventure of it all.

Man that’s scary.

It’s safe to sit in a movie theatre and think about giving your daughter wings to fly. It’ scary to pack her belongings in a car and send her off to a new city or country to chase after Jesus.

A friend shared with me this morning a line from a blog that made me think of Merida and my daughters. “If we lose this generation of young people from God’s kingdom: It won’t be because we challenged them too much, but because we challenged them too little. It won’t be because we pushed them too much, but because we didn’t dare them enough.”

Psalm 127:4 says “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”

Arrows are designed to be released. To be sent flying through the air, usually into danger. They are not meant to be kept safe, left at home, away from the dangers of life.

It’s hard to let go. Harder still to let them be brave. So much of life isn’t safe. But it is good. And He is good. And there’s an adventure waiting for our kids if we’ll just give them a chance to fly.

We Don’t Need Jesus

A few weeks ago I was listening to an interview of a woman who was living the American dream. She had it all. Good paying job, loving husband, adoring kids, nice house in a nice neighborhood with a white picket fence.

And she gave it all up.

Everything.

Quit the job. Sold the house. Packed up her family and moved to Africa to rescue kids who were being trafficked into sex slavery.

It’s an incredible story of faith and a radical following of Jesus. In the midst of Kimberly’s story she said something that has haunted me ever since.

“Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy and in

America he does it with a white picket fence.”

 

Over the weekend I finished reading a book by a girl in her early twenties who had the perfect life. Homecoming queen, wealthy family, adoring boyfriend, opportunity to attend the college of her choice, cute sports car. She too was living the American dream.

And she gave it all up.

Everything.

Passed on college. Broke up with the boyfriend. And bought a one way ticket to Uganda to become the mother of 13 abandoned girls and start a ministry where she now feeds and educates thousands of kids.

She came back to America for a few months and said she missed the poverty of Africa. Why? Because she realized that:

“in America we don’t need Jesus.”

Katie went on to say that in America if we are hungry we go to the pantry, or the local grocery store. We don’t ask God for daily bread. If we are sick we go to the doctor. We don’t ask God for healing. If we need comfort we call, text, or Facebook any of a dozen friends. We don’t beg God for His presence.

Katie said that in America she missed Jesus. Because in America she didn’t need Jesus. She could live life on her own.

These two women’s stories won’t let go of me. I confess; I’ve been tempted to pack it all up and join them in Africa. But I don’t think that’s the point God is trying to make to me. I think what I’m realizing is that somewhere along the journey I’ve bought into the lie that the American dream is God’s dream. That safety and comfort and security is the goal. When in actuality that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The civilized view of Jesus is that He always comes through for us.

Like Superman, He always shows up just in time to protect us and save us from disaster.

His purpose is to ensure our safety, our convenience, and our comfort….

but God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance.”

Erwin McManus

 

The thing about Kimberly and Katie’s lives that so captivates me isn’t their comfort. It’s the danger. It’s the front line, perilous adventure of following and trusting Jesus. These women are living lives of significance. They are boldly marching into the darkness and letting their light shine.

I spend my days frantically trying to build a sanctuary to put my light in so that nothing can blow it out. I spend my days guarding my light. They spend their days shining theirs.

I spend my days begging God to let hardship and trials pass me by. They spend their days thanking God for walking with them through every hardship and trial.

And I am jealous.

I want to see God like they see God. In every minute of every day. As their source and faithful supply.

It’s hard. Here, in the first world, where even in our difficult seasons we are still so blessed. It’s hard to need Jesus here. It’s hard to realize our total depravity when we are surrounded by abundance. It is hard to realize our absolute need for mercy (help for the afflicted and wretched) when we are surrounded by grace (good will, loving-kindness, favour).

I’ve so bought into the American dream that I feel punished when hardships or trials enter my life. I feel deserving of blessing. And therefore I despise seasons of lack. When things go wrong my first inclination is that God is punishing me, not that He is blessing me. My first thought is not that God chose this for me so that I would draw closer to Him.

I want to learn the secret.

The secret that Kimberly and Katie and Paul learned.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,

whether well fed or hungry,

whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Phil. 4:12-13

 

I want to learn the secret of contentment. I want to learn the secret of living in God’s strength, not my own.

I have learned to be content with the American dream, behind my white picket fence, surrounded by comfort and health and security. But I want more. I want contentment when all else fades.

When nothing is left but Jesus… Can I find contentment there?