Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hidden

"Faith without works is dead, " He said in James. Does that make you break out in a cold sweat, too? Good, we'll help each other through it then. I really, really wish faith without works was alive and perfect, and showed just how much I love God.

But it isn't and it doesn't.

I have recently been beat up by this fairly petite, blonde woman in Texas name Jennie, and for some odd reason, I keep coming back for more! :) This "Anything" book has grabbed the deeper parts of my heart and is pulling off callouses I had no idea I'd allowed to build up.

Oh how the softening hurts.

I read her words about Jim Elliot who was killed by the Waodoni people in Ecuador because they couldn't understand that he was trying to invite them to heaven with him--and they sent him there sooner than his family could have imagined. I read about D.L. Moody who was an uneducated shoe salesman who felt the call to preach the gospel. And somehow through his ministry, the most prestigious seminary was built--an uneducated man somehow gave one of the biggest contributions to the education of God's people. I read about Katie Davis (who I found out about in 2012 and was every bit as intrigued by her as Jennie says she was) who at 19 left the perfect American life she held to live in Uganda and raise orphans as her own.

These people...I get emotional thinking about their FAITH. This is what was so harshly attacked in me only 5 short days ago. My faith. And maybe I understand a little bit more why now. Because if my faith becomes active, where I step out and do something with it...that must be absolutely terrifying to our enemy. "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him," said Moody's friend Henry Varley.

I don't want to move to Uganda or be killed by a people group honestly...but I want to live a life that truly shows what I believe. I want everyone who knows and meets me to walk away with one absolute for sure thought: Cara loves Jesus with everything, and she just might possibly do anything for Him.

Jim Elliot wrote in his journal: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." I had read that before, but reading it this time did something different in my spirit.

Jim Elliot wrote that in his private journal. No one else was supposed to see it. He wasn't trying to craft the perfect line or get the best publisher's attention. And yet, he wrote one of the most astounding quotes I've ever read, and it obviously DID get published.

Here's what the Lord so gently revealed to me through this part of the book: There was a time where I was desperately hunting down notoriety, mostly through my writing. I knew God had given me a gift with words, but it was so hard to pinpoint exactly what I was supposed to do with it. My life got blown away in a tornado, and suddenly I had a platform on which to write. So I threw my whole self into it for a season. 

And you know what happened? Nothing. 

Because my heart was nowhere near the heart of God. No big book deal showed up at my door. People moved on and their hearts grew weary of hearing about the tornado, as people's hearts do.

During that time, I didn't realize it then, but now I see that one of my greatest fears was to not be known. In fact, the thought of moving back to my hometown was terrifying to me because then absolutely no one would ever find me here. How could I become a published writer if no one even knew me--if I were hidden in a tiny town on the side of a mountain?

If you know where I live, you're probably laughing now. You know what, I adore the side of this mountain. It has brought so much peace to my heart. Yes, I'm quite hidden. You can't even find my house unless I give you directions because my address doesn't show up on Google Maps. How 'bout that?! God absolutely cracks me up, y'all. But in this time of being "hidden" I have also done the most writing for Him than ever before. 




Oh, His ways are not our own!

This is a bit of what He's changing in me. But it's a constant battle if I'm honest. I can so easily slip back into wanting my own welfare, my own glory. And so I ask Him to keep my heart steadfast, to keep it longing for HIS glory instead of my own, for OTHERS' welfare instead of my own. I desperately want to honor God--not just on Sundays. With my whole life. It is scary, though. What will it cost me? What will that mean?

Today I'm realizing that one of my biggest "Anything" prayers that I'm offering up to God is the dream of my being an author. My heart pounds a bit harder and my hands shake a bit as I type this...because I honestly still want to clasp my hands around it just a little bit longer. 

But I need to release it because I can't keep it.

It wasn't even mine to begin with if I'm honest. When He knit me in my mother's womb, He saw fit to put a love for words in my mind, and I believe He took a chance on whether I would use them for Him or not (I know He knows all things, but He lets us choose too). So my "Anything" in this moment is handing my talent over to Him, not knowing how He will handle it. Will He ever give it back? Will anything ever come of it? 

I don't know.

And that's okay.

I'm believing that heaven is real, God is who He says He is, and that He is worth it. So nothing I could hang onto could possibly be more important than Him. Jesus, teach me to put all things in their proper place and You in Yours.

This is my "Anything" today, Jesus, and I am laying it at Your feet.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden [on the mountainside] with Christ in God (Colossians 3:2-3). 

Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dirty Sheets

I was so mad I was shaking. I grabbed a corner of the fitted sheet on my bed and I ripped backward, yanking it off the mattress with exaggerated force. I nearly smacked myself in the face. But no matter. You might think this is just about changing the sheets on my bed, but it's much, much deeper than that.

You're wondering why I'm mad. What on earth happened that has Cara so ticked off? I'm ticked at my adversary who calls himself an angel of light, fancy pants Satan. That's who I'm mad at. I'm sick and tired of his lies and how he makes me fall for them. I may have eaten his brownies yesterday, but today I'm throwing them up and I refuse to eat them again.

Let me back up. Yesterday was a bad day, y'all. Like, a really bad day. I don't want to be this honest, but something is urging me to--probably because someone reading this needs me to be this honest. So I hope you won't discount me after reading this. I'm so unbelievably human...

Ten months ago my husband and I felt God asking us to leave his solid job in the city and move our family back to our home town...where there is basically no market for his expertise at all. Seriously. It's the reason we moved to the city in the first place four years ago. So why on earth would God ask us to move back? Because of family, that's why. We felt the deep conviction that our children need to grow up closer to their grandparents, and that we needed to be a part of the church here. My husband had a spark of a dream to start his own business, and somehow it seemed like the time was right to do it. We were scared, but we felt like God was lining everything up and asking us to jump. So we did.

God did some cool things over these last 10 months, but it has also been incredibly stressful. Not knowing where your grocery money is going to come from is a little bit humbling and if I'm honest, angering. We are not incapable people. We are not uneducated, and we are not fools. But as these months have passed, the funds we started with for the business have slowly dwindled. A few months ago we felt God answer in a big way by sending a sizable contract our way, and so my husband rejoiced, did the work above and beyond expectation, and then waited for the payment from his labor. The Bible says a worker is worth his wages. I believe that. But four months later, with no payment from his labor, you start to wonder if the Bible is true. (Insert whatever heartbreak, frustration, unbelievable circumstance you are going through here and you understand what I mean.)

Anyway, yesterday was a day where all of these hopeless feelings, frustrations, worries, anxieties, dashed dreams, you name it--they all hit the fan. We were covered in poop. I could not seem to reel myself back in from the slope I was tumbling down. I became down right angry with God. I said it. I was not just angry, y'all--I was furious! And I told Him about it. Several times. I recounted the ways I have called on Him, believed Him, trusted Him, followed Him with my whole heart...and yet here He was ignoring me. Rude.

Yesterday I heard all the right lies at all the right moments, and they all sounded like truth. He is not good, He is not faithful, I cannot trust Him, He does not care, He does not answer. The Psalms say "I cried out to the Lord and He answered me!" Was I crying out wrong? Was I not loud enough? (You do not want to see my prayer journal entry.) I felt like He was flat out ignoring me, and it was getting me seriously riled up! I was not asking for a million dollars; I was asking for provision, plain and simple. Let me insert here that we are NOT starving, and no one is coming to take our house away...or our cars. But it's been hard, and the harder it gets, the more things break and the more the kids need things, and get sick, etc. And the less business comes in.

Pause. I'm not writing this so you will feel bad for us. I'm seriously writing this because somehow we Christians aren't honest with each other. And when YOU have a day, a week, a month, a year--for crying out loud--where you feel THIS way, you feel alone. And I don't want you to feel alone.

THAT'S why I'm writing this. That, and I like to watch Satan eat dirt. It's a win win. ;)

As if all that weren't frustrating enough, though, here's what really got me ticked off. Reading "Anything" by Jennie Allen, I have surrendered a lot of things in my heart. I have asked for God to reveal His plan for us, to guide us to His Will, rather than our own. In the midst of reading it, He brought back a dream that I've had on my heart for about 5 years (I can't be 100% open just yet about this, but I'll tell you as much as I can), and this dream requires us to be financially stable. It will require us to have extra money. See where I'm going with this? He has even been quite specific with this dream in the past month in extravagant ways that cannot be coincidence.

And yet, this dream is impossible where we sit right now. I go to church and work with the children, and we sing about how nothing is impossible for God, and He delights in doing the impossible. I cry and I ask Him if it's true. I feel Him say yes...and yet, our circumstances say something different. And it feels like He's just being cruel. (Can you relate?)

I went to buy some groceries yesterday, and I used a gift card I'd received for my birthday, and it freaking wouldn't work at the register. I almost had a melt down. It finally worked the third time at the service desk. Whew. You probably can guess how sweet and Christian I was in my mind during those long few minutes. Oh how weak I am, guys.

Anyway, yesterday sucked. But this morning as I chewed God out in my prayer journal, I mean poured my heart out to Him...I saw something. I had written a prayer several days ago asking God for integrity, humility, patience, obedience, courage, and passion like Queen Esther. What the heck was I thinking?! I even wrote that He could break me to build me up again to make my character line up with Him. Y'all, I obviously was experiencing a serious lack of common sense in those moments! But here's what I saw. God does answer prayer. He answered that one. Dang it. Why THAT one, Lord?! So I asked for this! I literally asked Him for this. Sigh.

And then something else hit me: The children's songs ARE right. God does do the impossible. He does delight in shocking us. He is faithful. He CAN do anything. He is "Super Big." He is super strong, super wonderful. I closed my eyes and I saw the chasm between where I am and where He wants to lead me, and it was so deep and wide. And scary. And it grew before my eyes in my mind.

And that's the point. God is widening the gap so that what He does IS super big, super wonderful, super impossible. I'm shaking writing this, because I'm scared honestly of just how big that gap is going to continue to become. But steadfastness is what the purpose is right now, today, this week, this month. And I am so weak in this area. But "My God is big, He'll do anything big or small" is playing in my head, and I am going to believe it. I am choosing to believe HIM, to trust Him, to keep my faith even when it doesn't make sense.

If God doesn't come through, then He is a liar. And I don't think He wants to be called a liar, do you? He will prove Himself faithful, and I have to stand on that. I want you to know I'm writing this BEFORE He comes through. It's easy to say this stuff after He proves Himself. I'm choosing to say it before He does, when I don't even see a speck of His provision in the distance.

"For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." Hebrews 10:36

"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." James 1:4-5

Back to the sheets on the bed. As I stripped the mattress, I thought: Isn't this exactly what I must do spiritually? Strip the filthy sheets in my heart? I can't lie in doubt, discouragement, hopelessness any more. No, I won't. I am going to get angry at the REAL enemy. And I won't continue to lie down on dirty sheets. I'm going to strip my heart of the filth, the anger, the hopelessness, and let God wash them His way. I don't know how long it'll take, but I am purposing and positioning my heart right now to receive and learn what He wants to teach me.

And I hope my honesty here helps someone. It's ok to be real, to be honest. We don't have the ability to be churchy all the time. God can handle your anger at Him, your clenched fist. But don't refuse to loosen your grip. I realized today that if my fists are clenched, they can't receive anything when He does decide to give it.

Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mighty Man Woman of Valor



There is something about Gideon that I absolutely love...he walks into the picture with a bit of reluctance, with an unfiltered attitude of “Wait a minute, what did I do to get dragged into this mess?” If you need a refresher on Gideon's plight, basically the Lord has once again become frustrated with His nation and their disobedience toward Him, so He has sought the help of someone whom (I believe) He knows will obey.

How did the Lord know Gideon would obey? Aside from the obvious...ahem, He's God...I think we can look at the beginning of the story for the answer. In Judges 6:10 the section concludes with, “But you have not obeyed my voice” and is instantly followed by, “Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide if from the Midianites.”

This is actually a really big moment for Gideon, even though it looks minor and of very little significance. The Lord has chosen Gideon to defeat the Midianites—the nation Gideon's dad had told him to beat out wheat to hide from. Gideon was in the act of obedience and his obedience certainly was not something fun or something that would set him on the path to stardom.

He was doing the mundane because it was what was required of him, and then the Lord showed up and spoke something slightly absurd over him. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.' (Judges 6:12 ESV)

Pause. The word VALOR means: “Great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.”

Gideon was beating out wheat! There was no battle yet. There was no need for courage. Not yet, but the Lord knew there would be. God knows what is tucked around the corner, what we will be slammed with in three days, in six weeks.

What I want you to hear is that God assigned Gideon's title of COURAGE before it was actually needed. God told Gideon that He would be with him, while Gideon just wants to know why his people have been oppressed. Because this hiding provisions from the bully isn't exactly delightful. And the Lord later says to Gideon, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judges 6:14 ESV)

Woah. I don't know if you caught that, but I think we may have a bit of a sassy angel of the Lord here! Gideon had just finished filing his complaint to the angel of the Lord and slightly sassing him (I'm not certain, but I don't think you're supposed to do that), and so the angel seems to be saying, “Look, who is greater than the Lord to send you out? No one, so go do it!”

Long story short: Gideon obeys. It's quite miraculous because he actually ends up defeating the Midianites with a whopping 300 men. The reason I'm bringing Gideon up today is because I noticed something beautiful that I wanted to pass on to you.

Don't we all want to be courageous? But maybe we want to be courageous without that situation that actually requires the courage. If only, right? But the comforting thing is: God will not send us into battle without equipping us first.

He is pouring courage into you today that you'll need tomorrow.

We can be women of valor in the school supplies at Target. We can be women of valor while we are monitoring time out (again), while we carpool, at the gas station. Being obedient to what is required of us in this very moment, in this very day is sometimes the most courageous thing we can do today. And the more we do those seemingly mundane things, the better opportunity we have for God to call us to something even greater around the bend. We are Women of Valor because we have obeyed in the small...so it's likely that we'll obey in the big. And today, God is equipping you with the courage you'll need for that bigger battle that you are not yet fighting today.

As you obey your impatient, rude boss...you're a mighty woman of valor.

As you drive your son to the soccer field and ask again if he has his soccer ball and his water bottle...you're a mighty woman of valor.

As you keep your head up at the grocery store even though strangers whisper and jeer at you because of some rumor going around that cuts your character down...mighty woman of valor, you hold your head high. The Lord knows your heart and He knows what is around the corner, He knows what you are capable of with His help.

Gideon defeated the Midianites all right. They got so confused, they basically folded. It was a one in a million shot, and Gideon killed it. I don't know what your Midianites may be. A broken marriage, a wayward teen, a financial crisis...it might look impossible. And maybe technically it is. But I'm learning that God kinda likes to show off and win when no one else is cheering for Him.

I'm heading to go make breakfast for the three little sleepy heads in my house, but that's not all I'll be doing today. I'll be obeying the Lord in the ordinary, building courage and valor for the extraordinary that could show up next week, next month, next year. And that's what you're doing today, too. So go with courage and destroy your Midianites because the Lord has sent you, and He doesn't lose.