Sunday, January 17, 2016

CARRYING HOPE {why I'm not an optimist}

"even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise."

Here I am again.  I don’t write so much because I want to, but because I have to.  The voices in my head won’t shut up.


I can’t shake it.  I can’t get it out of my head.  You might say I’m holding onto hope; I’d say Hope is holding onto me.  But I’m ahead of myself here.  {rewind…}

In recent years, I’ve often been told that I’m a joyful person.  I don’t know whether or not that’s true.  I should like it to be true, because joy is one of the loveliest things I’ve encountered this side of heaven.  It’s certainly my aim to be joyful, but I fall so unbelievably short.  Sometimes I see the cup half-empty, other times half-full.  But I suppose I should saying: “My cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5)

I’d like to be called ‘joyful one.’    But there’s one thing I’m sure of:  I am not an optimist.  I just get tangled up in all that silver lining.  I stare hard in the mirror now and the face looking back at me is hardly what I’d call a happy one.   It’s more like a tired one. 

And I am tired.  I’m tired of all the yesterdays we hold onto, the ugliness we create today, and the tomorrow’s we live in fear of meeting.  This business of living isn’t easy.  I’m so desperately weary of the horror and brutality, the terrorism, addiction, hunger, poverty, war.  I’m tired of the nodded heads masking unchanged lives.  I’m tired of fights about everything, and everything about fights.  I’m tired of the bitterness we chew on that silently eats us alive.  And I’m so tired of days in bed and illness, of families torn apart, of worst fears actualized, of the empty look in people’s lost eyes, of watching neglected kids walk home alone in the dark, of hearing the ugliest curse words in every other sentence, of suffering and watching others suffer.  No, I’m surely no optimist. 

The optimist looks at a black, billowy mass of storm cloud and says:

“It’s really not as bad as it looks.”

“Don’t worry; it can’t do much harm.”

“Everything will be okay.  It’ll pass over and be gone soon.”

Thank God for optimists.  We need them to give us hope, to strengthen us for that moment when our courage fails us.  Some of the most encouraging people I know are optimists and I dearly love them.  But I am not an optimist.

“It’s really not as bad as it looks.”  Oh, isn’t it?  Maybe it is as bad as it looks, or even worse.  A tremendous storm is coming.  It’ll be dark and ferocious. 

“Don’t worry; it can’t do much harm.”  Oh, can’t it?  The wind will tear the roofs off houses and barns.  The flood waters will topple trees and power lines and will carry away homes and cars.  It will be hard.

“Everything will be okay.”  But it won’t.  Sometimes things are genuinely not okay.  When the skies unleash their monstrous power, people and animals will die & a great deal will be lost and destroyed in the storm.  Sometimes things are bad and sometimes they’re going to get worse. 

“It’ll pass over and be gone soon.”  But perhaps it won’t pass over right away.  Maybe it’ll be dark and stormy for a while.  Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned right here in the eye of the storm.

But I’ll tell you something.  We can still have joy.  And hope.  We’ve so deeply intertwined joy and optimism that we’ve come to see them as one and the same.  And yes, they often do go together beautifully—but they aren’t always found hand-in-hand. 

Joy isn’t blind to the reality of the coming storm and all that it will bring.  It doesn’t stand there blinking to see if the clouds will vanish.  Joy sees the storm for all it is worth and all it is capable of.  But when the darkness comes, joy stares the storm cloud in the face and thanks God for the rain. 

I want that kind of joy.  When I hear the thunder rumble and watch lightening split the sky, I want to stand in awe of the power of God.  I want to hear His still, small voice in the wind.  I want to TRUST HIM.  The rain will come.   My life is mostly rain, and it usually seems to catch me without an umbrella.  But let it come!  Yes, the storm brings destructive winds and darkness and floodwaters.  But it also brings refreshment to the parched, weary soil.  It softens the hard, cold ground and breathes new life into the earth.  It blows away the dead leaves and washes the dirt down the gutter.  It cleanses, making things new—and green again.  The storm makes the world more beautiful.  And taking notice of that beauty—that’s joy. 

So yes, the pain will come.  Hard days are real.  Sometimes things are not okay.  Suffering and death and darkness are present on planet earth while we eagerly await His return.  Jesus even promised us we’d have suffering and tribulation in this world, and He wasn’t kidding.  But He also promised that:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

So maybe I don’t have to look at the storms and say: “Yay!  Everything is great and the sun is shining!” – when it’s not.  But maybe instead, I can (and should) look at the storm for both the good and the bad it will bring and thank God that even the darkest storm is full of His love and healing power. 

My friend/sister recently said something that has stuck with me: “Being grateful for the good things doesn’t mean I should ignore the bad things; it just means I’m not giving the bad things more attention than they deserve.  Joy is real, pain is real, but joy is eternal and wins out in the end.”  What a promise!  What HOPE!

Optimists seem to have a gift for giving hope.  It’s usually hope for things – hope that the storm won’t be too bad, hope that it’ll be over soon, hope for a brighter tomorrow.  But joy looks on tempests and smiles, recognizing the wrath of the coming storm yet seeing and praising God for all the good He will bring from it because He loves us.  We can have hope looking forward to Home – ten thousand years and then forevermore.  But we can have hope now, too – enough for today.  Joy is not only about having hope FOR something.   It’s about just carrying hope.  I want to carry hope inside myself.  My deepest hope is not for something, really.  It’s in something.  Actually, in Someone.  Someone Whose name is Hope.

The lyrics to my first-ever choir solo as a little girl have stuck with me all these years:

Call it what you will
I call it rain—
when troubles come and pat against my soul.
Go in if you like
but I will remain
and let the washing waters make me whole.

Just when I’m sure that I can’t bear the rain,
a tiny leaf starts pushing through the ground.
In a place where the ground was too dry to sustain it,
a new tiny flower can be found.

And I feel Him in the rain
and I see Him once again
and the flowers come to show
that all that rain was helping me to grow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Leaving Susa

"At once they left their nets and followed Him."  {Matthew 4:20}

God is radically altering my life and path – and I want to share a little piece of that story with you.

For about as long as I can recall, I've wanted to be an artist, writer, and missionary. (In fact...the first page of my prayer journal, started at age 5, says in my loopy, scrawled child's hand: "God, please make me a artest and riter when I gro up.")  I have always felt an indescribable sense of belonging, purpose, and joy when I worship my Creator by creating – and proclaim Him to the world.  

But life has thrown many things my way which have smothered my dreams.  I've been impoverished, terminally ill, and I've lost a great deal.  Each experience has drawn me closer to my Savior and awakened in me a desire to serve Him more.  Yet paradoxically, those trials have also taught me to fear.  

I was afraid of being unemployed or homeless someday; so in high school, I set out to work hard and become successful.  I let go of my "unrealistic" dreams; I didn't want to become the "freelance journalist" or the "starving artist" stereotype.  I decided to pursue a career which people around me affirmed was "safe" and "stable" – teaching.  So I declared Secondary Education as my major at Northwest Christian University.  

Please don't misunderstand me. I love teaching; I truly do.  I dearly LOVE working with youth and I have been happily teaching art classes, Bible studies, and many other lessons/classes since age 16.  Secondary Education is a good degree.  If I chose to continue with my major in teaching, I have no doubt God would do great things and use me.  I do not limit God so much as to think He has only one way by which He can glorify Himself through my life.  Any one of us who wants to serve and honor God will never lack opportunity to do so  in whatever our school or workplace!  But sometimes the decisions we face in life are not a choice between good versus evil/bad, but rather a choice between good versus best.  God's will, first and foremost, is that I glorify Him, delight in Him, love Him  and pour His love out to others.  Even so, I wholeheartedly desire to find & follow God's best will for my life  the way in which I can most cultivate the gifts He's given me so that I can offer those gifts back to Him.  And His best for me, as I have discovered over this summer, is to pursue art, writing, and ministry.

This fall, I am changing my degree to a double-major in Journalism & Fine Art and transferring to the University of Oregon.  The funny part about all of this is that I wasn't even looking for radical life change this summer.  No, indeed; He threw me entirely off guard.  I wouldn't have chosen this path on my own, either; I was much too afraid (and I had, in fact, entirely put the thought out of my mind).  But through a wonderfully radical series of miracles, open doors, Scriptural affirmation, family support, and some confirmations directly from God the past few weeks, I am absolutely certain of the path He is leading me on.

Throughout this year, I will also continue to work for Youth for Christ as the Director of Shasta Middle School's Campus Life ministry.  That's another God-story, and a really beautiful one.  Check out this video to learn more.  I'd love to tell you more; ask me about it if you're interested! :)  

So I'm leaving the safe and easy path on which I trod to beat my way through the unknown brush and forest.  (That's not to say teaching is easy.  Oh goodness no!  But it would've been more "financially secure" in the world's eyes.)  But I serve a God Who is so much bigger than me and Who can (and will) provide for me.  He's asking me now to step out in faith, to lay down my nets and follow Him.  Inspired by the missionary William Borden (read his story!), I have three phrases written in the back of my Bible: "No reserves.  No retreats.  No regrets."  I want to live by those. I also hold onto Matthew 6, which He reminded me of recently: "Look at the birds of the air..."  Oh, my LORD cares so much more for me than for the little sparrows He so tenderly cares for.  I can trust Him completely.  I may have planned my own way, but the LORD is the One who directs my steps. (Proverbs 16:9)  And His plans are vastly better than mine. :)

I love meeting people from different worldviews, backgrounds, and walks of life, and I love hearing people's stories  so I look forward to building new relationships at the U of O. But let's face it: this change will not be easy.  The University of Oregon is a place shrouded in spiritual darkness.  As I've spent time talking with strangers (like in this video), I've seen a great need there for His truth.  The devil and his legions have their hold on many hearts; the spiritual warfare is so intense and oppressive it's almost tangible. But isn't that what we're here for, anyway?  To fall in love with God & share His love with others!  The world we live in – every moment of every day, every place we go  is a mission field.  I would truly appreciate your prayers as I enter this new mission field.  

Recently, when I was deeply troubled about the darkness at UO, I asked the LORD His purpose for sending me.  His response was breathtaking.  After praying, I randomly opened the Word and starting reading  in Nehemiah 1.  It's the chapter where Nehemiah is called by God to leave the city of Susa  to leave his comfortable, high-society job in the palace in a truly beautiful city  to go to the broken, crumbling, dark, dangerous walls of Jerusalem to rebuild for God's glory.  And faithfully, though he was sad to leave and afraid to go, he went.  And so must I go as well.  I even found a note I had written in my Bible's margin some 2 or 3 years ago.  It says: "Someday, God may call me to leave my Susa.  When He does, I must go and follow Him."   

I have loved my time at NCU with all my heart.  I love the dorms, the campus community, the chapel services, the professors, the experiences I had in speech/debate, the small & engaging classes, my beloved choir family, and the friendships that I pray will last a lifetime.  It has been my Susa.  But it's time now for me to leave Susa....and while my small human heart breaks at the loss, I'm strangely excited because I know God is in this.  He goes before, behind, and beside me!

Perhaps His will for me this year is not nearly as exciting & encouraging as being a student in the NCU community. School & ministry out in this dark, broken world is hard.  But it’s so rewarding.  He’s calling me to something now which requires me to simply follow and obey.  As C.S. Lewis once wrote,“what you call obeying Him is but doing what seems good in your eyes also.  Is love content with that?  You do them, indeed, because they are His will, but not only because they are His will.  Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless you do something for which His bidding is the only reason?” 

Closing this blessed chapter of my life, I’m leaving NCU with a full heart.  I am immensely grateful for my time at Northwest Christian University; I have learned and grown so much and met so many wonderful people in my faith family.  I'm excited to continue investing in those relationships.  But moving forward, I’m eager to see His plans unfold.  I pray that you will find the same joy as you trust Him with your present and your future.

"I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the LORD is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine.  It makes no difference where He places me, or how.  That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient." ~Hudson Taylor

I'm so glad that no matter where He leads me, He holds me in His arms.

P.S.  To my NCU family: I'm not moving to the moon!  I know it won't be quite the same... but the U of O is right next door, so whenever you're free to hang out, I'd love to come study with you, share a meal together, attend chapel, and stay close!  I love you all dearly!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Garage "Sailing"

My family recently had a big garage sale, and my precious friend Tessa came over to help with the sale.  While she was here, we had a deep conversation about sharing the gospel, and the LORD led us to become evangelism accountability partners, to encourage one another to share reach out and share Jesus with the world around us every week.  

As we were sitting at the garage sale, we decided to write a pass-it-on poem just for fun, and below is the poem we wrote together.  To us, this poem - which began as a simple way to pass the time - is now a potent reminder that everyone has a story, and life is a mission field.


I see a woman in floral attire

She has a soothing voice that could inspire

Look at the man in the worn-out jeans

But everything about him is not as it seems

So many faces, stories untold

Even the young, not simply the old

Frown lines, empty eyes, scars on the inside

All of the pleas they're trying to hide

Yet hope for tomorrow can come from another place

To capture their heart and lift up their face

Then joy can be theirs, beauty can fill those eyes

No longer will they feel alone or despised

If only they'll look to the One who frees us

Please, call out His name, beg for Jesus!

So I won't sit back and watch from afar

I will love these souls, wherever they are

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wedding Song

I'm overwhelmed by my thirst for Heaven, for Home - and my consuming desire to see Him face to face. Sitting at my beloved piano, overcome by my longing to be with my Savior, I wrote this song.

Desiderio Domini!  I long to be with my LORD! 

Now I leave this world behind
I’m flying home where I belong
My heart and soul cry out for You, Lord
I’m finally here at Your gates
How lovely is Your dwelling place
Besides You I desire nothing

I will hunger no more
Neither thirst any longer
For You fill my cup with Your love
You are the Bridegroom and I am Your bride
Your love is wonderful
Your love is deep and wide
This is my wedding song
This is where I belong
I’m finally home at last
Now I can see Your face
Breathe in and out your grace
You wipe the scars from my past
Now I’m in Your throne room
And I fall on my knees
But You pick me up again
Surrounded by glory, clothed all in white
This is our love story
Filled with beautiful light


Better is one day with You
Than a thousand spent elsewhere
In Your presence is fullness of joy
Whom have I in heaven but You, Jesus?
My soul yearns for You alone
Your love is glorious


I thirst for You like a parched land
I’m finally here holding your hands
You’re so beautiful, You are beautiful
You pull me into Your embrace
I feel your love, I see your grace
This joy and peace is overwhelming

This is my wedding song
This is where I belong
I’m finally home at last
Now I can see Your face
Breathe in and out your grace
You wipe the scars from my past
This is my wedding song

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Resting in His Steadfast Faithfulness

He is so faithful - always faithful.

And I have so much to learn about resting and trusting in His faithfulness, not fearing the future, leaning on Jesus.

Corrie ten Boom once said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."

I’ve often struggled with fear, worry, and uncertainty about the future.  I like feeling secure and knowing exactly what’s coming next.  But when you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, nothing is predictable.  Life is an adventure full of miracles and crazy expeditions.  The only thing that never changes and never fails me is Jesus. 

“On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

No man can serve two masters.  You can’t effectively serve both fear and God.

The most common command in Scripture is:  “Do not fear.”  DO NOT FEAR.  Jesus often told us not to fear, not to worry about tomorrow.  He repeated it often because it's so important.  Fear robs us of joy and strangles our trust in God.

God just asks us to follow Him one step at a time:
“Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”—Psalm 119:105
It's not a headlight.  You can't see down the path and the light doesn't shine ahead for you to see what's coming up in your future.  But as a lamp to your feet and light to your path, the LORD will lead you one step at a time.
Why do I have such weak human faith in Someone who is perfectly faithful?  I do believe in Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, but when it comes to living daily life, I easily get caught up with distractions, challenges, and anxieties and I start relying on myself rather than Him.  I start fearing the future.
That's when I'm reminded of an old hymn I love:
“Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy Faithfulness!  Morning by morning new mercies I see.  All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.  Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”

My world is so unpredictable, constantly changing and shifting.  But through it all, God is still…God.  Still the same.  Unchanging.  Always faithful. 

“All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.”  And it’s true.  Sure, I often don’t feel like my needs are met.  But God truly has provided everything I need.  In fact, He's gone above and beyond and given me everything I need for life and godliness.  I am richly blessed in so many ways.  How often do I take it for granted?

Now I just want to let the Bible speak for itself.  I want to share a few of my favorite verses about God’s faithfulness:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6-7

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”—Matthew 6:34
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”—Psalm 46:1

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” – John 14:18

 "The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know your name will put their trust in you: for you, LORD, have not forsaken them that seek you.” – Psalms 9:9-10

 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”—Romans 8:28

 “…cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” –1 Peter 5:7

“Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” –Jesus, (Mark 5:36)
“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:18)

 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ - Jeremiah 29:11

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” -Matthew 19:26
"So then, banish anxiety from your heart." --Ecclesiastes 11:10
"Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and the bitterness.  Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.  This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:19-23

And finally, another quote:     {Can you tell I like Corrie ten Boom?}

"When a train enters a tunnel and it’s dark, you don’t throw out the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer."~Corrie Ten Boom
What are some of your favorite verses about God's faithfulness?

Sunday, June 30, 2013


Running barefoot down the beach. Drinking in the fresh, salty tang of sea air.  Sea foam curling its frothy white lips on the sand.  A few wispy flumes of clouds drifting idly.  The ocean – shimmering, rippling, dazzling, gold-dusted by the setting sun. 

When summer rolls around each year, I long to visit the ocean.  I love the feeling of the ocean wind wrapping me in its wings and whipping my hair behind me.  I love the feeling of the warm sand and the sunshine and the icy ocean water. 

On one occasion, my family went on one of our long-awaited beach trips.  I couldn’t wait to just relax on the beach and lie in the warm sand.  But my little brother had other ideas.  He wanted to enlist my help in building sandcastles.  Somewhat reluctantly, I got up to help, only to become quickly consumed with the project.  Before I knew it, I’d spent hours creating an impressive castle—never once thinking that it was only a matter of hours before the tide would wash away all my hard work.

I think we often make the same mistake in life, expending our time and energy building our own little “castles”.  We all have sandcastles - some different, some the same.  Friends.  Good grades.  Fashion.  Sports.  Guy-girl relationships.  Possessions.  Popularity and Reputation.  Technology and media.  College.  We pour our time, energy, and money into building our own “castles” of possessions and basking in our own accomplishments.  We may claim to care only for Jesus, but in reality we flirt with materialism.  Slowly, "flirting" turns to infatuation - we become infatuated with the world.  We’ve been sucked into wanting to achieve “the American Dream”.  The little luxuries, goals, and things of this world are not always as innocent as they seem.

The trouble with sandcastles is that…well…they’re made of sand.  Eventually, they will crumble or wash away and we will be left with nothing.  Life is short.  A mere breath.  A vapor.  Do we want to spend our lives building sandcastles that will only wash away with the changing tide?  Are we living for the here and now or the then and there?  Are we living for the short today or the long tomorrow?  

The greatest danger of building “sandcastles” in our lives is that they often take the place of Jesus.  They become more than castles—they become our idols.  In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us that:  "...where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  What's your treasure?  And where is your heart?  If Jesus is your Treasure, your heart will be wrapped up in Him.

As the old poem by C.T. Studd goes, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”  I don’t want to ever take this life for granted.  We only have a breath of time here on earth.  I don’t want to have any regrets.  I don’t want to regret building sandcastles here on earth when I could have been working toward the Kingdom to come.  I don’t want to get caught up with caring about the stuff on this planet.  I just want to live for Jesus. 

Giving up earthly treasures for treasures in heaven is always worth it.  We ought to invest our time, energy, and money in the Kingdom we are going to spend eternity in.  As my dear friend Shelby often likes to say, "Better to be radical than regretful."  God wants you to spend your time and treasure building His kingdom, not your own.  He is calling you to take up your cross daily and follow Him in surrender.  What He asks of us is not easy.  But it’s always worth it.  

With my eyes fixed on that old blood-stained cross on a lonely hill, I’ve found I am far richer than when building my castles of sand.   

"On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand...all other ground is sinking sand."

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I am blown away by the incredible picture of surrender in Matthew 4:18-20 –

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him.  What a breath-taking picture of surrender!  These disciples were fishermen.  When they threw down their nets to follow Jesus, they literally left behind their jobs – their livelihoods – to follow Christ. 

It makes me wonder:  Do we take this calling seriously?  And are we willing to throw down our own “nets” to follow Jesus?

Our culture has taught us to view surrender as a sign of weakness, an act of giving up.  When we hear the word “surrender”, we imagine a battle field in which one army retreats and waves its white flag.  But surrender to Christ is very different.  Surrender to Jesus brings freedom and life.  Surrender to Jesus is beautiful.

So what is surrender?  A dictionary definition for surrender is: to cease resistance, to submit fully, to yield completely.  What does surrender look like?  It looks like letting go.

I love this quote, which perfectly captures the idea of letting go and holding open hands to God:

“I have learned to hold all things loosely, because it hurts when God has to pry open my fingers.” –Corrie ten Boom

We all have our own “nets” that we don’t want to let go of, that we clutch tightly in our hands.  We all hold onto different things – dreams and ambitions, possessions, relationships, fears and worries, the need to feel accepted and appreciated…so many other things.

For some of us, it’s our dreams, hopes, and ambitions.  We make plans for our lives and expect God to bless those plans, rather than seeking His heart and letting Him guide us.  We strive towards whatever plan we have: to go to a certain college, or work at a specific job or internship, or lead a certain ministry, etc.  I’m learning to leave my future safe in His hands, to be fully surrendered, and to let the LORD lead me.  His plans are always better than mine.

For some of us, we hold onto our earthly possessions – our things.  Whether it’s your house, clothing/fashion, technology, or your hard-earned money, are you holding onto the things in your life?  We must learn that the best things in life aren’t things.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the “American Dream” and the worldliness around us.  But where are your treasures stored?  In heaven or on earth?  I love Matthew 6:19-21 –

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

This weekend, I had a huge garage sale and got rid of over half of what I own, and I’m giving away a truckload to the homeless mission tomorrow.  Although it’s been hard giving away a lot of things that I’ve held onto all these years, it also feels so freeing and refreshing, especially when I see my things bring joy into other people’s lives.  And yet, even still, comparatively, I have more “stuff” than most people around the globe.  I’m so convicted by Luke 18:22.  Talking to a wealthy man, Jesus said: “Sell everything you have a give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  I may not be wealthy, but I’m still convicted about the “things” I hold onto.  What am I holding back?  Do I take these words of Jesus seriously?  Jim Elliot once said that “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose.”  What things do you need to surrender?

For many of us, we need to surrender and lay down our fears and worries.  Maybe, like me, you tend to fear the future rather than smile at it like we are encouraged to do in Proverbs 31.  God wants you to surrender those worries and lay them at His feet.  Your future is in His hands.

Comfort zones, frankly, tend to be very small, and it’s easy to make excuses for why we “aren’t qualified” or why we “don’t have the time” to do God’s work.  But though His work for us may seem big, and while the trials we face may seem ominous, the battles we face are not ours but the LORD’s.  We have to learn to abandon our comfort zones in radical obedience, lay down our fears, and follow Jesus.  “Always do what you are afraid to do.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson.  You don’t have to be fearless to follow Jesus; you just can’t let your fears control you.   Let go of your worries.  Fall on Jesus.

Whatever “nets” you may be clinging to, ask yourself: Am I fully surrendered?

If the answer to that is no…then ask: What am I holding back?

In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus says: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We’re called to give Him our lives.  Every part of us.  We may not always be called to martyr our lives…but we must martyr our way of life.  I want to die to myself, for “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)  I want to listen to the Spirit’s leading and respond obedience and surrender.

Why?  Why should we surrender to God?  God is Love…and Love matters most.  Love isn’t just passion.  Love is sacrifice.  Love is surrender.  Love lays down itself for Another.  He laid down His life for us in the ultimate act of sacrifice.  He calls us now to lay down ours.

God doesn’t just want 95% of you.  He wants all of you.  All of me. 

In ancient Israel, the people were sinning and turning away from God, and the LORD told the prophet Ezekiel to go and speak His truth to the wandering people.  What was Ezekiel’s response? 

“So I did as I was commanded.” (Ez. 12:7)

Wow.  No questions.  No hesitation.  He just acted on a heartbeat of obedience, even when God asked Him to do some pretty radical things.  That is such an inspiring example of surrender.

So the question remains:  What do you need to surrender?  What are you holding onto that you’re putting before God in your life?  I love the old hymn “Be Thou My Vision”, particularly these lyrics: “Thou and Thou only, first in my heart…High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.”  Is He first in your heart?  Is He your only treasure?

Surrendering is actually a beautiful act of putting Him first and seeking God.  “Seeking” God, in the original Hebrew language, means “to beat a path to God”.  So surrendering to the LORD often means leaving the familiar path to follow Jesus.

I have a sign in my bedroom that says: “remember to surrender”, and it encourages me every time I see it to surrender freshly each day.  What do you need to surrender, right now, today?  

It's time for us to cease resistance, to submit fully, to yield completely - to surrender.  So wave your white flag, hold open hands to God, and let go of your nets.  You’ll be surprised by the amazing things He has in store for you when you just surrender.