Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On Barbie and Breaking Free

So, it's been awhile.

It's been a while since the fingers have gotten their exercise dancing across the lettered keys here on this keyboard, but boy do they dance with renewed fire, because they just couldn't handle their dormant state any longer.

Not when they've been carrying the burden of this message since, oh, you know, March. 
It was after a talk with a counselor...

That wise counselor-friend asked me to put a face to the big idol in my life, 
the one that fuels my disorder in sneaky ways, using food and exercise as a mask, 
the one that makes me feel like I always have to be perfect, 
the one that promises nothing but condemnation, nothing but death,
the one that I can boldly say, after talking to so many of my sweet sisters in Christ, many, many of us bow down to daily, sometimes without even knowing it.

And her name is Barbie.
photo cred http://herlifeinspiredblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/barbie.jpg

That's right.
 Like that blond, plastic, flawlessly dressed all-encompassing image of what a woman should be-- perfect body, flawless hair, most fashionable wardrobe, picture perfect marriage, changing the world with successful teaching, medicine, and astronaut careers, and even as President and Ambassador of World Peace, oh and not to mention, she has defended her country in every service (United States Air Force pilot Barbie, and Paratrooper Barbie are just a few examples), she was an Olympic gymnast and has a heart for the children of the world (UNICEF Summit Diplomat Barbie). 
And always with a pearly white smile.

Um. Yikes?
You  may laugh, thinking, no one really holds themselves to these expectations

But, I'm here writing today because I am done shifting in my seat wondering if anyone else feels the same way I do, has also bowed down to this idol of the perfect woman (and boy does it get scary twisted when it becomes the idol of the perfect Christian woman)--

that I must have the most stunning body, wear the most fashionable clothes, run marathons and read interesting books, be charming and funny, admirable goals and top of 10% of my class, serving selflessly in about a dozen ministries, writing an earth-shattering blog daily, holding a great internship and having countless great job offers, one day having the most Christ-centered marriage and one day raising the most adorable little family that looks hand-tailored for all of social media to gawk and gape at...
How often do we exhaust ourselves to appease this Barbie mentality?

Yet, the Lord reminds me it is by my imperfections that He receives glory, the real glory that just makes this exhausted attempt at my own perfect and prideful glory look silly,

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." -2 Corinthians 12:9

and that grace, it doesn't come to the already perfect, it doesn't require, well, really anything at all.
it's a gift
and my Savior, the one who bestows that very grace, He unearths the plastic little lie embodied in this Barbie perfection.

By it's very design it's destined for failure:
according to a 2013 Huffington Post article, if Barbie were a real woman,
that skinny little neck couldn't even support her head,
that cute little waist only has room for half a liver and a few inches of small intestine,
her forever-long legs are 50% longer than her arms, with the average woman's legs being 20% longer than her arms,
and those slender, delicate wrists could not lift anything.

Let's not be deceived,
let's not be condemned,
when there is no condemnation, 
and there is no power in those lies,
only power behind the Truth who offers grace sufficient and an existence of freedom from the oppression of perfection.

The perfect design is knowing the Perfect Designer, because we're no Barbie dolls--
we're purposed, known, and radically loved!

Psst.That's where that whole picture-perfect thing really lies-- in the only Perfect One.
Because really, who wants to try in vain to make perfect from broken,
when we could bask in Perfect Himself and know the Truth.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thailand Part III: The first follower of Jesus in the village and when you let Christ lead

I felt like we were riding to meet a queen that day when the cloudless Thai sky scattered beads of sweat across our foreheads in that crowded van there.
I felt privileged, honored, humbled, all of it.

Because we were on our way to the home of the first woman to attend the church in that fishing village the Lord had brought us to.
We were on our way to a woman with a story that I would count in my mind's hall of faith.
I think back to earlier days when I savored the wonderful book Not a Fan 
 and I think to myself, I could have just watched her life and known what it means to be a follower. She is the real thing.

This woman, she once owned several bars, and several of the bar girls, and was doing well in her business,
but oh how merciful it is when Jesus breaks our business for His blessings, for His grace.
She accepted Christ, and she did just what Jesus told the rich young ruler to do--
she sold her bars,
she freed her bar girls,
and she now sells rice and smoothies out of her humble home for $10 a day,
provided she can work that day, because she has arthritis that makes it difficult to chop mangoes and stir rice.

Talk about really following Jesus.

Do Americans even do things like this for a Savior? I thought to myself, and asked the chilling question, Would I do something like this?

After a time of following Jesus like this, this poor woman became discouraged.
The pain didn't cease, the times did not grow easier, and she had contracted the kind of defeat that paralyzes a believer from coming to church for a time.
Do I blame her?

The pastor, he asked that we would sing to her, enthused at the idea.
I wondered how our voices, this small token of love, would seem to a woman who knows a love so great she was willing to give up money, jobs, and comfort for it. How could our untrained voices bless such a woman?

Still, we packed our sticky selves into her one bedroom home, pushing out the space taken up with humid air and sadness with voices proclaiming God's love in song. Strums of the guitar and words of truth drew tears from her eyes as she stood there, so small, donning an apron and the sweetest smile of appreciation I'd seen.

Afterwards we prayed for our sister.
We prayed the kind of prayer that changes you,
transforms you,
gives you a taste of how invested Christ is in her renewal and makes it the sweetest burden, the most fiery flame of compassion.
Tears framed every eye in the room, furrowed brows crowned each forehead and fervent words were carried as whispers while the pastors wife prayed aloud in Thai.

When eyes were opened, to my surprise, the Thai students who had been sitting and observing all the while were crying themselves, abandoning the Thai cultural norm to withhold emotion. Still in shock and awe at how God had moved, I asked my Thai sister why tears flowed, and she struggled to find the words. She managed to say that she had never seen anything like it, where people cry like that, pray like that for a stranger.

That was the treasure right there-- the opportunity to tell her Who was the one behind such deep feelings, to tell her Who produced such love.
In that moment of deep prayer, I did not think for a second of how it would look to those Thai we were ministering to;
I didn't think how odd it might seem that I was praying aloud, or that I was crying for a woman I had just met--
it was simply Jesus.

That is when the treasure is found,
when our intentions, our dignity, our claims to pride-- they're all lost before a Savior.
And that's when He shines brightest
and we taste the endless treasure of eternity.
What a treasure, to unknowingly be a part of the display of the love of Christ.

So lost in Him that He is all that is seen.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Thailand Part II: In the Thick of It

 I found myself in the thick of Thailand,
in the thick heavy of the humid air that we swam through,
in the thick of a language I did not understand,
in the thick of intimidation as I gazed out the window of the bus at a lovely landscape scattered with Buddhist shrines shining like they were mocking my attempt to come here and speak the Gospel

This is our turf these lifeless shrines began to mock me what makes you think you can bring your Jesus here?

Oh, but Jesus was already there. 
And that Jesus, He is beyond merciful.
Especially when the thickest thing I was in was my own impatience... a head spinning dizzy trying to strategically maneuver conversations with my new Thai friends that would somehow work Jesus in.
And this was just day one.

I can just see my King laughing at His frenzied daughter, saying, Just wait. I need no help revealing myself. Just wait.

So my sweet new Thai friend and I, we giggled over the chick flicks we both liked, she told me of her dreams of being a flight attendant, and all the while I'm fervently asking the Lord like some anxious toddler, When, when, when?

We drove past more trees with blossoms flaunting their bountiful beauty in the gracious breeze that kissed the heat that day, and I drank in the vision of serenity after being in the hectic Bangkok traffic just an hour earlier.

As the city melted into countryside, the Lord melted my anxiety and though I was impatient, doubting, and questioning His sovereignty, and really did not deserve what came next--
an open door for the Truth to flood in,
a glimpse of the treasure I'd been begging for: the privilege, the honor, the blessing of an opportunity to share the Greatest News with this new friend of mine.

The Lord composed His moment like this:

As we talked about this new marvelous thing of Thai culture with our new Thai friend, I felt the Lord push me to take a step in faith, to ask my friend about the Buddhist shrines and what they meant.
Like Simon Peter, I threw out the nets after already feeling defeated, wondering if I could ever witness on this trip, if I would ever see fruit.
But I threw them out in faith.
And my net broke under the weight of God's utter grace.

"What do Christians believe?" she asked.
I did a mental double take and I felt the Spirit sweep in and clothe me in God's bravery and strength as I spoke the Gospel, oh so careful not to mess up this message that burst forth from my heart, vibrated in my vocal cords and burst into the air for all to hear.

When Simon Peter saw the net come back full of fish, it was enough to make him fall to the ground before a Holy God,
and all Christ could say was, "Do not be afraid."
And that day, that first day in Thailand,
though I did not deserve,
though I doubted as passionately as I should have believed,
though I questioned as deeply as I should have had faith,
the Lord made me a "fisher of men."

And all that maneuvering, tinkering with some grand strategy to share His Gospel--
it's man-made garbage because Christ's way is the best way, the only way.
And the only way is to be still, to love Him, and let that flow forth.

Jesus through me and my missions team partner,
He proclaimed His redemptive story,
He used my insecurity for His glory as I voiced morsels of testimony,
He used the spirits she feared to offer His overwhelming victory over them,
He revealed His end to the Buddhist cycle of karma,
and these things became a masterpiece before my eyes that I could not claim any part of-- and that's what made it such a beautiful miracle.

My Thai friend took the weight of the words, and expressed how difficult it was to choose to leave the Buddhism she grew up with, especially when the church she had tried made her so happy, yet her family was proud of their Buddhist faith.

And I felt like I was bathing in a melty pool of chocolate,
overwhelmed in sweetness,
indulging in warmth,
knowing again that my inadequacy means nothing,
and that Christ is everything.
Though I was impatient and did not deserve any of it, stuck in my doubt, paralyzed by my planning,
 I got the utmost privilege of witnessing His seed planted, and speaking His glorious truth.

No matter what the outcome, just the experience of the Lord's grace, reminding me that He will work and have unimaginable glory despite my impatience, despite my inadequacy, despite my plans that were bound to fail-- that is satisfaction filling enough for eternity.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thailand Part I: Open Wounds

So how do I even begin to express in words an experience that was rampant with miracles and saturated with God's presence answering prayer after prayer like some marvelous fireworks display before the eyes of me, my missions team, some new Thai friends, and a family of believers and believers to be?

How could I possibly convey the magnitude of God's transforming power working on overdrive in the hearts of the unsaved, resurrecting a new hope and zeal int he hearts of believers, and revealing His glorious love in new ways moment after moment, wondering to myself if it could ever possibly get better, and being shocked and awed as the Lord was better and better all the time?

Maybe I'll begin the story of my missions trip to Thailand with the hours before I stepped on a plane to arrive at a life forever changed. Maybe I'll begin with the whispers that became loud, harsh accusations as the hours of anticipation wore on. Here's what they sounded like:

You are in NO shape to go to Thailand and share the Gospel. Heck, you don't even get the Gospel yourself! You're so deep in this dry season no one will want what you claim to have.

And then other moments they sounded like:

You've let your eating disorder be your king so much this semester, how could you possibly be used by God anymore? He's so done with you.

The little seedlings of truth, that I had been struggling with  my disorder, that I did feel so very inadequate in my understanding of the Gospel, and of Jesus' love, that I was going through a dry season... they took root and I boarded the airplane defeated.

But with courage from the Lord I uttered softly to myself, "Lord, I literally have nothing to offer you. I just ask that you would use me for Your glory, if that's at all possible anymore. I love you so much, and that's really all I have right now."

It was as if the flood gates were opened for the Lord to drown me in grace when I'd been trying so hard to tread the water myself.
A sigh of relief in my heart as I realized my inadequacy, realized my weakness, only to realize the greatest lesson I learned on this trip:

The way God will use me, the way God will make me an instrument of His grace and mercy and glory, is in NO WAY dependent on my spiritual, mental, or physical state.
Oh, and once we surrender and realize that,
the ways He works in a willing, humbled heart are amazing.
And even when my heart was not as humble, not as willing, not as open as it should have been,
 the Lord allowed me to share the Gospel on the very first day I arrived in Thailand.
the Lord allowed me to share my testimony in a church half a world away from home.
the Lord graced me with an earth-shattering, and really, a me-shattering experience where I got to worship as the sun rose on a beach and witness two more sisters claim our Heavenly Daddy as their Savior and begin a relationship with Him.

And so I begin this story as a joyous mess,
because in the admitted mess is where we find real joy. 
Not in our strategies for ministry,
not in our spirituality that is really a gift anyways,
but in our brokenness.

My team leader told me on the trip, "By His wounds we are healed, and sometimes, by our wounds, we can heal others too."

I begin to show you that my exposed wounds were the avenues for the outpouring of His glory,
and when He taught me to boast in my weakness there, across oceans deep, I learned what grace really is.

A sunrise over Thailand, the morning two of my Thai sisters were saved

Monday, February 10, 2014

Having my Cake

"The Word of God is daily bread, not cake for special occasions."

Does anyone read ever these Christian cliches and just go blah blah blah, yeah, I know, whatever.

Well, I do.

Or, I did before God humbled like He sweetly does.

You see, it hit me one day-- I am in the Word daily but it's not always my nourishing bread to be digested and broken down and absorbed and spread throughout veins as fresh vitality.

No, I often treat the Word, and those shining treasures known as His promises, as I treat real-life cake at my worst times:

an indulgence that I just don't deserve and shouldn't treat myself to too much of.

Writing that, I think, isn't that so warped?
But I know that it's a real soul-sickness and I know I'm not alone in that.

How I wish those lies would just know the victory!

Ah, but they have.
He reminds me of this one great thing.

He reminds me that ingesting His Word, breathing in God-breathed, refreshing fountains of truth and peace as they are-- it's what He died to enable for me who has been graciously made His daughter.

That I, the starving sinner, could eat and be filled and more filled and blessed satisfied by entering His presence without restraint,
all thanks to that rugged cross and that beautiful Savior.

Why would I deprive myself of this,
Why treat these promises as indulgent cake not to be touched by the likes of me?

Did I forget that Jesus came mighty to save and touched me anyway,  in my disgusting mess,
made a way by His blood and His pain and His sweat and His wounds,
that my wounds, my cancer called sin,
that it would be healed,
and that healing known in full by promises gifted graciously over and over.

Will I let the pride, the lies, the self-induced pressure, the doubt, the fear,
will I let these things be the barrier between me and my treatment,
between a starving soul and its daily bread
and a King from the glory He is more than due?

I will not, no, not any longer.

It is not cake, and but it's just as sweet.
It is freely given, free to be believed and nourishing,
and with Christ, it is not too far above me, but for me as I am, and for His glory unending.

What a Savior,

what a gift,

what a feast to be had in His presence inhaling His exhale strewn across ancient pages,

and I will lap it up, like I'm meant to,
believing it fully, and partaking in it unrestrained. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Enough with Enough -- Part II

It's wild how God works when our eyes are closed,
when there's no way we could possibly have a clue what He's doing,
and He surprises us in splendid shockers that never cease to humble and save.

Just after I had been beckoned by my Lord
through that beloved Bible study,
through heart to heart with a dear friend,
through humbly breaking, bending the knees, and returning to the one place that really matters,
the one place that is the wellspring that splashes and thunders with victorious life in all the driest desolate places: His love.

He surprised me when I least expected it.

Exposed wounds from the weapons of legalism
those lies telling me I did not do enough ministry,
 did not do enough good deeds,
to meet some special checklist that qualifies me to be on some other silly level of super spiritual Christian.
Try harder the lies urged try harder because you're just failing. God's just not glorified in You.
What an awful accusation when that's all you really want.

Then surrendering all this to Him, God showed me it's by His power, and the grace of dwelling in His love, that great things get done for His glory and His kingdom.
And I need not, cannot, do a thing.
Literally, He did it while eyes were closed and the mind was lost in dreams and the breathing was slow and soft.
Yes, He did it while I was sleeping.

Sleeping there in my dorm room, buried in brightly colored comforter and pillows, I felt a gentle shake from that new sweet sister that had just moved onto my hall.
"Rachel?" she whispered gently, "If it weren't important, I wouldn't wake you. Sorry."
"What's up?" I garbled, surely groggy and less than glamorous for such an occasion to glorify God.
"Do you know any Bible verses about God's will for you life?" she asked from her half broken heart, "Because I think God might have put us together in this hall for a reason, since you seem to be mature in your faith."

Did she know that I had been struggling,
that I had made myself a vulnerable mess just hours ago at my Bible study pouring out all the things I needed to figure out, to be healed from,
that I was in that dry season all those Christians always talked about, that I was SO far from "getting it?"

Together we talked for an hour,
and in this blessing she shared with me the things troubling her heart,
and we poured over scripture,
and felt healed wounds by knowing where to go together-- right to our Daddy's embrace.

That message I'd heard just hours before at a Bible study that seemed so perfectly catered to fit the time I travel through now?
Well guess what-- it's a perfect fit for her too.

Because we all need to dwell in the love of Christ,
to be made small there
and allow Him to accomplish,
Him to work,
Him to get great glory,
Him to be enough,
and nothing else seems to matter when you realize that one glimmering eternal treasure is yours forever.

After all of it, and I'd turned out the lights to slumber once more, I found myself wildly smiling,
heart racing at the joy that the Lord had renewed in me,
all I could do not to laugh crazy to myself,
that the Lord had shown me I do not have to do a thing but dwell in His love,
and He does the rest.

Literally opening up opportunities when I'm in the epitome of not trying: sleeping, for goodness' sake!

For when you dwell right there in His love,
and nothing else,
no expectations,
no condemnation,
no accusations,
no qualifications,
and when "enough" is only used to describe His grace,
and when legalism finds its place to die right there with all the other sins, right there on that cross,
well it's wide open for Him to work in wondrous ways.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Enough with Enough- Part 1


One word encompassing the chains around my heart, chains of lies linked by fortified "not-enough's."

I don't care enough.
I don't love enough.
I don't suffer enough for the Kingdom's cause.
I don't live for Him radically enough.
I don't do enough ministry.
I don't donate enough money.

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of the word, "enough."

That enough,
it robs me of the very joy of my salvation,
that salvation where the "not enough" is replaced by "My grace is enough,"

and I hate that darkness without joy in Him, because that joy, it's everything.

And where do you find the strength when knees are weak and you're fighting, fighting to cling to this legalism that has tricked you into thinking you can earn that "grace enough" by beating the soul tired with the "not enoughs?"

You let the knees bend and break.
And you get back to the enough that will produce grace upon grace that becomes more than enough.

Like Paul said in these sweet words:

"When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 
 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him
Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. 
Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."
Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT, emphasis added)

It all just comes back to loving Him, by His power.
I cannot make myself fall in love with Him.
I cannot convict myself to figure out some new way to surrender to Him.
I cannot produce a great big divine calling.
I cannot produce my own joy in salvation.

But my strength will come from His power, His understanding of His miraculous crazy over-my-head unsearchable endless unconditional love.

Dwelling there, loving Him, it's really the enough that's worth it, the only one that counts or lasts.

Dwelling there, loving Him with all I've got, 
not letting the vital truth found in His love get lost in my aimless shuffle running from one qualification to another that proves that I love a Savior for all to see,
nor do I lose it in the frustrating focus on the big plans for the future that I just can't get a handle of, swelled up by pride, driven by fear of not being enough for God when I graduate college,

no, I'll be small with Him right here,
let God be big,
let God do the convicting,
let God do the working,
let God do the loving,
and let God be glorious!

What a great place to be.