Looking Back to Look Forward

Looking Back to Look Forward

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 

2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1 NLT

This time of year always grips me with stress and fear. Not necessarily due to the busyness of the holiday season, (although that is certainly there) but because of all the unknowns looming in the year ahead. As disciples of Jesus, however, we are called to allow tomorrow to inform the decisions of today, but return to the urgent business of the living present, in the moment. In other words, we are wise about the future but we do not live there.

In C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters if you are not familiar, a devil writes his nephew a letter to encourage him on how lure men away from God. Regarding the future he says:

[God’s] ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future — haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth — ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other — dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.

c.s. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

Personally, my year has been chock-full of grief and stretching; some for my good and some seemingly pointless. Those close to me have had their share of burdens, and I’m willing to bet that you also have. Be assured: He knows the pain and wrestling over the most honest and raw prayers that keep us up at night. Only He can see the knees bent on cold early morning ground and the tears that fall secretly. I wish it were not only the struggles that bow our heads, but also that praise would elicit just as much desire for you. Whatever the cause or result of sorrow, we must look to Him who holds it all together, who remains crowned and on the throne.

I know there are some sisters out there who are weary and burdened. I want to encourage you today, that you are not alone, you are seen, you are loved by the King of Heaven. But don’t take my word for it; see the evidence for yourself. 

In Exodus, God promises Moses that he will be allowed to see God’s back, but not his face. We can see him looking back, but he does not allow us to see him coming.

The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”

Exodus 33:19-23

I love this verse because it just reminds me that God can always be seen in everything, even if we can’t understand or comprehend it when it first happens. The Bible consistently exhorts believers to look back and remember.

Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 

Deuteronomy 6:12


Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

Isaiah 46:9

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

Psalm 77:11

For myself, He has seen fit to allow me an incredible amount of growing and stretching this year. This year I have come to deeply understand and appreciate how very deep the chasm between the Word of God and my own earthly life.

He has taught me to pray correctly. And has led me to apply the things I am learning. He has led me to holy sorrow and repentance by revealing my sins to me and then forgiving me on the spot.

He showed me that I am a being designed to be thankful all the time as a result of my nature, not because of favorable circumstances.

He has given me a renewed enthusiasm for quiet time in the morning for prayer and to linger over scripture. He has provided me in my quiet times, ample space to analyze, question, wonder, confess, wrestle, cry, laugh, praise and sing.

Reflection

Think back (or make a list, whichever is more helpful!) contemplate God’s faithfulness to you over the past year.

  • How has He shown up for you?
  • What prayers has He answered?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know now about God that you did not know 12 months ago?

And so we find that we must look back in order to look forward; anticipate the coming year, not with dread but with awe and reverence, owning that there is still so much more to learn and puzzle over as we are sanctified. Do not forget. In Jesus’s name we are able to confidently march into the future with heads and banners held high on behalf of the lamb of God. 

Called to Encourage

Called to Encourage

Yesterday my close friend and I gathered in my living room amidst toys, empty juice boxes, and unfolded (but clean!) laundry. We buzzed with excitement despite the mess as we shared what God has been teaching us this week through Scripture, prayer, and everyday life. Hopes lifted up, tears shed, hearts humbled in prayer. Like that, an hour and a half flew by and it was time for her to leave, even though we could have kept going for hours. After I closed the door behind her,  reality hit once again. My circumstances hadn’t changed one iota, but my outlook was re-energized and refocused.

But be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

Ephesians 5:18 – 21

God has recently put a strong desire on my heart for committed fellowship. And it’s no coincidence how God brings people into your path because it turns out, I’m not the only one feeling this way. He had stirred up a desire in some of my closest friends in Christ who are also faithfully seeking after God’s will. 

Having received this confirmation, I immediately set to work creating a manifesto for the group. In my vision, these sisters would be privileged and committed in the Spirit to sharing, encouraging, rebuking, and praying for one another. An accountability group, of sorts.

Now, I know that this may sound a little extreme. Like something only people with serious addictions have. To be honest, it’s not that far off the mark; technically we believers do have serious addictions to rebelling against God. The need for commitment to community and fellowship is written all over the Bible:

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Fellowship and accountability is not only portrayed as wise, it is for safety, it is for love, and it is for the good of the whole community. We realize that life happens and circumstances change so this won’t last forever. However, in our desire to remain faithful to the very end we will do what it takes to stay vigilant in faith and not stumble.

This is what I imagine Heaven will be like – an eternal meeting of souls that love Jesus, overflowing with hope and uncontained zeal for his Word. While Heaven is going to be an indescribable experience, we luckily have the chance to enjoy a taste of it here on Earth.

Reflection

  • Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
  • What would it look like to start an accountability group within your circle?

Put it into practice

Feeling challenged to gather some pals and start doing the same thing? Please download the Accountability Group Manifesto below and make it your own, as the Spirit leads. And then tell me in the comments how it goes!

Music to move our spirits

Music to move our spirits

When I’m spiritually dry and worn out, I turn to worship music. Even though I am all about Bible study and journaling, sometimes I just can’t get unstuck. In these times I find that a little humility (I can’t manufacture the desire to praise you God, you have to do this for me!) plus a little variety is the key to get back on track again.

I wanted to share six of my favorite worship songs with you this week. Each one is incredibly special and has moved me to praise and prayer (and tears) at different points of my journey with Jesus. I pray that these songs might inspire you to praise and prayer too, as the Spirit leads.

Who is this King of glory?

Who is this King of glory?

Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, The LORD, might in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in.

Psalm 24:8-9 NLT

Take a little extra break here, fudge on the speed limit there. Tell a white lie to get out of a commitment. Look the other way when a Sister or Brother should really be confronted.  Serve the Lord or serve myself? Decisions, decisions.

This is hardly an exhaustive list of all the ways in which I choose my ways over God’s ways throughout the day. And what a laundry list it can become depending on how closely I keep track (assuming I don’t fudge on that too!)

One thing is for certain, I can pretend that my sins (read: disobedience) just float off into the atmosphere never to be dealt with again, like a lost balloon. Unfortunately, lost balloons have to come down sometime, and thus it is with sin. As a semi-mature believer I know two things right off the bat: 1. God desires obedience…  2. So that I will live the best life possible as I was designed to do.  (Joshua 1:8; Luke 11:28)

From simple experience, I already understand that when I decide to walk away and follow my own path, I start to go down a slow downward spiral, causing separation and isolation from Him. Not to mention from my fellow believers and loved ones. I know that when my heart isn’t in it, Bible reading becomes like a chore and I have no interest in the things of the Spirit. God promises to reveal himself to us when we seek him, but it is a conscious effort that requires our decision to do so. While He makes it possible for us to seek and find him, he does not force himself onto our agendas. Instead, he desires our first step of faith.

Whoever would draw near God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

And so my life is a see-saw of constant conversion. Several times a week, sometimes even several times a day, I have to first identify whom I will serve, and then confess it. “Who is this King of glory?” Who is it that I am effectively worshipping with my words, actions, attitude? Is it the Lord, or is it myself? 

Then as though that weren’t difficult enough to rip my natural impulses away from the comfortable easy route, I must proclaim him as my Lord again. Because if I don’t make an obvious effort to turn back to him, who’s to say that I ever repented at all?  He is the Lord, strong enough to handle my wounds, uncertainties, sins, prayers, questions. He is the Lord, mighty in battle – who battles on my behalf. 

And here’s the best news: No matter what circumstances you may have that caused you to push him out of your heart, however temporarily, for whatever reason, He is faithful to return and restore the brokenness. 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Psalm 51:17

He won’t force his way into your love, but he will enter in where invited. Why? Because He loves us more than we can imagine but he also respects our decisions like a good Father (Revelation 3:20).

So dear friend, if you happen to be far from the Lord at this moment, consider this the push you have been waiting for to return to your Lord, your King of glory. He is always good and always faithful.

“Choose today whom you will serve… But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Reflect

  • In what area do you struggle with obedience?
  • What keeps you from repentance?
  • Read Joshua 24:14-15. What would it look like to obey in the particular area the Holy Spirit has brought to mind?

Pray

Spend some time reading and meditating over Psalm 51. God loves to hear from you. Bring it to him in prayer, trusting that he will not reject your heart as you seek his way.

Author update & Lent is here again

Author update & Lent is here again

Hi friends,

These past few years have been some of my least productive years in writing to date, but busiest in changing, stretching and growing. From finally working out forgiveness with certain people, to becoming a wife, to becoming a mother, learning to weigh a full time job with home and family responsibilities. I’m also very excited to announce that my application to become a staff writer for Tirzah Magazine was accepted and that I am now an official contributor over there too! Tirzah is an online publication dedicated to encouraging young women in leading lives and faith and I’m proud to be associated that team of godly women.

I have at times been overwhelmed, underwhelmed, joyful, grieving, and maybe a little bit crazy. But I’m hanging on to the call to write and to take up my pen in obedience and renewed confidence that only the Lord can provide.

Speaking of obedience and renewed confidence, you may know that today the season of Lent is upon us. I wanted to repost an article from a few years ago, because I found myself being reminded of how if we are not careful, we can turn it into a mere “Christian New Years’ resolutions day” rather than a heart-honest call to turn toward the Lord with renewed zeal.

I hope you enjoy it!


Why I’m dreading Lent this year [originally posted February 8 2016]

Lent is this Wednesday. I know. “What? Already?” I believe my exact reaction was, “AGAIN?”

Every year it’s the same. I spend all kinds of time sitting at Starbucks with my laptop trying to decide whether it’s coffee or chocolate that will get the boot. “Hmm…maybe I should just give up Facebook,” I think to myself, washing down a bite of chocolate-chocolate-chip muffin with a swig of mocha latte.

Lent is like the Christian version of New Years Resolutions. You make up your mind to give something up or start doing something good, only to let yourself slide until you have completely forgotten about the funny promise you made to God 40 days prior. (Chocolate bunny, anyone?)

If you’re not familiar with Lent, it is what Christians call that stretch of time between Mardi Gras and Easter. It is a time set out in the church when believers usually focus on growing closer to God through Prayer, Fasting, and Giving. It’s actually a great opportunity to rekindle the dryness that periodically creeps into our faith-lives. Everyday life and responsibilities cause so much noise in our heads that we forget to focus on the One who is the only source of wisdom, comfort, and salvation. This is why I’m such a huge believer in the practice of Lent. We learn to slow down and establish a structure of prayer that is oftentimes missing from our lives. So why am I dreading it?

Over the past 2 months I my article-writing engines have been on overdrive and I have loved every stressful minute of it. I’m writing for and with God for you good people spread across the Interwebs and all the while, I hear my heart beating in step with each piece. It’s buzzing with excitement: you are doing exactly what you are meant to do. I have SO many ideas for how to glorify God with my writing and my blog.

However, Lent means I have to slow down. It means that I actually have to stop trying, pull it back a bit, and slow down so that I can commune with God. As much as I don’t want to slow my mad productive pace, my soul hangs in the balance if I do not. I’m like a toddler running out the front door and down the driveway before my mom has time to put a diaper on me — I tend to run way ahead of God’s plans before I’m ready.

But this relationship with the master of the universe is vastly more important than anything I post, write, plan to write. I’m hearing his still, small voice in my heart saying, Be still, Molly. Quit trying to prove to me how awesome you are.

I want to be intentional about this year’s season of Lent so I won’t be posting every single day, but only as the spirit leads. I will be listening for God’s voice and striving toward closeness with Him.

Won’t you join with me in search for an intentional Lent? Whether this is your first Lent season or 100th, let’s take Lent seriously together this year. Let’s both commit to being companions of Jesus, instead of competitors. ☩

He is sufficient

He is sufficient

Are you desperate for relief from your heavy burdens? For me, the dark early hours of a Monday are akin to staring down the barrel of a gun – but instead of a steel shaft, I see the days of the week lined up and advancing toward me. I can’t tell you how many mornings I have begrudgingly left the warm cocoon of my bed, feeling utterly abandoned by the weekend and unarmed/unprepared to meet the week.

That is, until this morning. Something has shifted in my understanding of a small corner of the Gospel message for me, and I’m grateful because I can finally connect the dots between this Earthly life and God’s promise of abundant life made complete in Jesus.

His grace is sufficient for me. Do you believe this? We don’t have to pray that it would be or ask why he hasn’t made it so… it already is. Lord, give us your wisdom to understand in our hearts, deep inside, that when life is hard, when thousands of burdens rail at us from the business side of a new week, what it means to be satisfied and contented with you.

Not with you and coffee. Not with you and a quiet uninterrupted time to pray and think. Not even with you and a desired outcome to a situation. But satisfied with you alone.

Lord, I confess how UNsatisfied I have been with you. I have passed over this verse with a “yeah, but…” and page turn to seek something clearer, easier, more attuned to my “needs”; some other bible verse that gives the secret recipe to Peace and Rest so I can thrive in this hectic world. I have even had well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ tell me point blank that I was anxious and panicking because I failed to trust in you. That made me mad. I honestly thought I did trust you. Well, at least my desire to trust was pure, and it could not be anything else because at the time I had only the amount of faith measured out to me. (You give us exactly what we can handle.) But now, some years later you have suddenly opened up my eyes to understand.

Lord, show us that we are already equipped with all that is needed to walk confidently through the day, doing good and seeking your face constantly. It took a very confusing detour to arrive at this conclusion, and although I know the winding path will keep on going, we pause today to praise you in this discovery, and like the biblical fathers, build an altar on the side of the road here to mark the place where we finally understood your grace really is all we need.

Study with me – This is the Gospel

Study with me – This is the Gospel

Good morning friends,

As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t do it all and don’t have it all together. Every day I punish myself with guilt for not being able to take my life by the throat and make it what I imagine it should be. And on top of that, it’s Monday – which intensifies the need to set the entire week off on a good foot.

But I can’t do it all on my own. I need grace from the outside in, but I also need to give grace from the inside out.

What am I talking about? I want to write original content for you, reader. I want to create beautiful things in Jesus’s name. I want to put everything I have into this work of my dreams. But ticking clocks, household chores, waking babies, and full-time work preoccupy my mind and energy. Limits.

The poor widow felt this too.  Luke 21: 

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

This is important: She gave out of her poverty, not because she was trying to compete with what others were able to give, but because her heart desired to honor God.

Does my heart really desire to honor God? Then what I can do, he will accept and cherish.


I’ll be going through This is the Gospel by She Reads Truth study for the next 14 days. Each day’s reading is available for free here. You can also download the app here for iOS and here for Android 

I hope you will join me and find rest in the Good News of GRACE. Love you, friends!

In the palm of His hand

In the palm of His hand

I recently met a woman whose exhaustion and loneliness was written on her face. She exuded defeat, though for the sake of her two children she tried to hold it together. A single mom of teenagers chain smoked vigorously throughout the day and smiled without really smiling. Something about her stopped me in my tracks.

Not being a naturally outgoing person, I might have walked past her on an ordinary evening. But in this moment I felt utterly compelled to walk up to her and… I don’t know what. I had never met her before, and I had no idea of what I would say. I just knew somehow that I was supposed to go over to her.

Luckily, I had an excellent ice breaker in my arms – my little daughter. She tends to attract attention wherever she goes. All manners of strangers reach out to touch her, from grisly biker dudes at the gas station, to the grandma standing in the grocery check-out line. For some reason a baby is a safe buffer; no one can feel intimidated or threatened when an adorable little one is around.

It was night time and getting dark. Many families and friends sat in groups talking near the campfire, but this woman sat on her own aloof and glassy-eyed. I could feel her sadness as we spoke. She told me that she wished she could hold the baby but, on account of being drunk, she would not. I thanked her for that and promised she could hold her in the morning. “Thank you for coming to talk to me,” she said.

Even the darkness couldn’t hide that slight quiver in her voice. What she didn’t know is that the infant whom she so desired to hold and cuddle, was currently wearing a onesie with the prophetic words of Isaiah scripted across the front: “God has you in the palm of His hand.” That she prohibited herself from reaching out due to her current state of inebriation was not lost on me.

This word of Isaiah’s is part of a passage where God comforts his people, reminding them of His promise to save them and give them an inheritance that will never spoil.

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,

   the Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast

   and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget,

   I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

   your walls are ever before me…

“Though you were ruined and made desolate

   and your land laid waste,

now you will be too small for your people,

   and those who devoured you will be far away.

Isaiah 49:14-16, 19 NIV

Now days later she rests heavy on my heart because this is only one example of a person who feels her desperate need for redemption but either cannot or will not reach out and receive it because she believes she must first redeem herself to be accepted. Friends, this is not so!

Jesus promises an abundant life (John 10:10). And that promise of abundance is not delayed. Jesus is not just assuring us of some vague, future eternal life in Heaven with God. He’s talking about a present-tense, immediate abundance of life, today! Something we can take hold of that right here and now, just as we are: ruins and all.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8 NLT

Jesus didn’t wait until all the people repented and acknowledged him. Even his own disciples ran away and denied him in his hour of need. No, he stayed on that cross to finish the work, of taking our deserved punishment so that anyone could reach out and grab that bundle of joy.

This is the Good News: That through declaring Jesus as Lord and believing in Him, we may be welcomed into the family of God, to love and be loved without fear.

“But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am…”

1 Corinthians 15:10 MSG

For prayer, journaling, or meditation:

  • Prayerfully re-read Isaiah 49:14-16, 19
  • How would you respond to a friend who believes he/she has to earn their way into God’s good favor?
  • Can you think of a time when you have purposely held back from approaching God? How did you end up going back to Him? (If you haven’t yet, what is causing you to stay away?)

Leaning into Trust and Constant Prayer

Leaning into Trust and Constant Prayer

To be honest, I am still seeking a direction and vision for where I want to take this blog. I don’t particularly want to make it a self-indulgent place where I spill my guts, but I feel somewhat indebted to share what I’ve been up to, and how God has worked for, in and through me over the past year. He has been pleased to introduce two major themes to the forefront of my heart.

The first is Trust.

On August 24, 2017, in what cannot be anything other than an act of God I providently discovered that my blood pressure had suddenly rocketed up to 197/95, and refused to come down. I was at 31 weeks and 6 days of my pregnancy, just about 8 weeks shy of the due date. After about 4 hours of steady attempts to bring down my blood pressure to non-life-threatening levels, it turned out that the safest thing was to deliver the baby immediately. And so my little girl Lydia Brienne was born at 9:56 pm, well formed, perfect, and tiny. Due to being premature she spent 2 full months in the NICU, and we her parents faithfully visited every single day, driving back and forth the 15-odd miles to the hospital. It seemed like an eternity to live day by day, rejoicing with each half ounce gained and weeping from frustration of not being able to breastfeed or be there with her.

But God was so good to us – he provided financially, emotionally, spiritually, through family and friends, some of whom we had never even met. I can’t sum up the whole experience in one truncated post, nor do I desire to; there were so many things that happened that deserve attention (postpartum being a big one). However I will say for now that it’s much easier to stand back and see God’s hand moving even in the pain and hardships as we approach baby’s first birthday. In the moment it was hard to appreciate. God provided ample comfort in the form of loving people – nurses, doctors (basically all hospital staff) who lovingly cared for my baby when I couldn’t, church family who prayed, loved on us, and fed us for several weeks after my operation and once the baby came home, family and friends who visited and gave us the space we craved for processing.

The second has been Prayer.

Each year I make the attempt to start at the beginning in my One Year Bible (no judgement, I haven’t made it perfectly, but it’s more than nothing!). But this year I replaced that with a vow to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Before I began to cultivate a constant attitude of prayer, I will be absolutely honest – I found prayer to be boring, time consuming and not amounting to much. I considered it to be a last-ditch effort rarely bring results. That has changed.

I began small, a little prayer said for something that worried or bothered me as I stood in line at the store, or while I did monotonous chores like washing dishes. It was awkward at first, and felt a little silly. But as I did it more I found that more often than not that one little prayer would turn into another and another, longer ones, leading to more heartfelt worship. Prayer has a snowball effect where once I get started it is difficult to stop.

I’m still learning, but the combination of these two ongoing lessons has created an incredible peace that I am staying rooted in Jesus.

Life update

Hi friends! It’s been a long and unexpected hiatus but a day hasn’t gone by since my last post that I haven’t thought about this blog.

I have continued to write, of course, because I am a compulsive writer. But for a long time now I have secretly wondered why I blog. Before my abrupt absence from the blogosphere I was feeling like my work didn’t matter. Why did I spend so much time writing on scripture for an unseen audience that may or may not care that I pour my heart into these articles (amateur as they are)?

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:10-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Oh that’s right – It’s not about me.

I feel like the Lord has been teaching my heart so many wonderful things in the past year which I will get into but thanks to the encouragement of a sweet friend and the ever-growing pull on my heart that this is my calling, I return once again to share.

But this time I want it to be different. I’d like to feel I’m writing to friends who I love and who love me. Even though I may not know you I am deeply compelled to share my ups and downs in faith, what I’m learning, and how I’m navigating the tough questions of life as a young woman in 2018 and beyond.

Even as I’m writing this sentence, incredible peace overflows in my heart, reassuring me that I’m inside God’s will. So I’ll move forward in confidence, no matter how foolish it may seem to the world.