Tag Archives: freedom

Out of Neverland

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“Never!” – an oath we make far too easily and carelessly.  There are certain things that I said I would “never” be willing to do.  Never, no, not a chance.  I looked at my life, peered blindly toward the future, and declared, “Never will I ever!”  Therein lies my conundrum.  Years ago I told Jesus “yes” while silently attempting to add stipulations.  My mouth claimed I wanted Him, but places in my heart were not yet surrendered.  I ensconced myself in the safety of my Neverland, a place I could be comfortable and in control of, a place that was enjoyable and sweet – or so I thought.  Ah, dear heart, have you ever done the same?

Is the comfort of Neverland really our best hope?

Is the comfort of Neverland really our best hope?

If you’ve watched (or read) the story of Peter Pan, you know that Peter and his lost boys want to stay in Neverland, the place where they will never have to grow up or stop having the comfortable, carefree fun they so enjoy.  I confess that I had not understood the draw of Neverland.  To me, it seemed like a place to hide.  If things got too hard or growing up became too tedious, Neverland was the alternative; yet I always wondered if that was merely a shadow of a life fully lived.  (By the way, I am a fascinating annoying great movie-watching companion, if you appreciate an analytical dissection accompanied by running commentary.)

There are times when my conversations with God are laced with please-don’t-make-me cries.  I’ll do anything You want, but please don’t make me ________….. – just fill in the blank.  It’s my own indirect way of begging “never.”  Then there are the times when I tell Him that I simply don’t want to do what He is asking.  Being comfortable is easy.  It’s familiar, and I can understand it.  I’d rather play games in Neverland than grow into a mighty woman of valor, because on the horizon I fear an Adventure with Jesus that I can’t control, a future wild and unpredictable to my finite imagination.  I don’t want to sing in front of people, don’t want to be a classroom teacher, don’t want to live in cold places, was never interested in traveling to India, don’t, no, never…. – or, at least, I thought I didn’t.  So flesh conflicts with spirit as my head struggles to comprehend the stirrings of my heart.

Piece by piece, word by word, the Lord has been tearing down my every “never,” stripping me of excuses.  My never-oaths hold no weight in the eyes of my King of kings.  Recently having found myself frustrated by His lack of acknowledgement regarding these never-oaths, I declared to God, “There you go again, changing my heart to be passionate about something I didn’t even want!”  Yet my indignance was born of my need to surrender – not of true frustration.  Finally coming to the end of myself, I am giving up my whole heart to Him.  In these moments, what else can we do but laugh?  Life with Jesus is one surprise after another, and still we are totally safe in the constancy of His nature.  To quote Graham Cooke, “God is unpredictable but consistent.  You never know what He is going to do next, but you ALWAYS know what He is going to be like.”

Happy in my saree -- a secret wish I never thought to experience!

Happy in my saree — My little-girl dream come true!

The true adventure is found not in my self-satisfied Neverland but in the Wilderness with the Love of my life.  True adventure is utterly terrifying.  I am now in a place that I had not expected, a point in life I never wanted to be.  And I find it beautiful.  This is the difference in doing life with God.  What we so often miss is the power of our own choice.  When we choose Him, He sets us free – but He’ll never force us to walk in that freedom.  He wants His best for us – but He’ll never force it on us.  It isn’t about Him forcing you into a life you don’t want.  It isn’t about your becoming His henchman, obligated to cater to the His mysterious and changing whims.  In fact, He alone is the One from whom all good things come (Jas. 1:17), and He doesn’t change – ever (Mal. 3:6).  His ways and wisdom are no mystery, for He “has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10).  So if God isn’t some vague, unknowable force, waiting to strike us down or toss in a shocking plot twist just for thrills, if He truly doesn’t strong-arm us into choosing His best, what IS this all about?  It is about allowing Him to change your heart to desire the things He desires.  As your heart changes, you will sincerely long to see His will done on earth and in your life as it is in heaven (Mat. 6:10): the full-blown picture of His glory and goodness.

Good morning, India! I would never have thought that the bar-covered windows, the bright plaster homes, and the spice-scented air, filled with the sounds of family stirring in the early morning -- could become beloved so quickly.

Good morning, India! I would never have thought your bright plaster homes and spice-scented air would become beloved so quickly.

God didn’t demand that I go to India, a country about which I had always shrugged my shoulders and declared I had no particular intention of visiting.  Instead, He brought people into my life, offered opportunities, and began to speak to my heart about this new place and culture for me to love.  He began to reconcile my heart to His, causing the desires of my heart to match the desires of His.  Like a checkbook being balanced, all the columns began to add up correctly and the totals make sense.  It was an Adventure born of my decision to say “yes” to the One who alone is good in all His ways.

Whether it's teaching the kids in my church family or teaching students ranging from Kindergarten to high school, teaching is my passion.

I love kids. Teaching is my passion.

God did not demand that I teach classrooms full of students.  It began years ago when He whispered to my heart, “This is what I’m doing.  If you want to do what I’m doing, you’ll do this” and I found myself attending college for Elementary Education.  Reconciling.  In the four years since, I continued to say that I would never be a regular classroom teacher.  Yet now I find myself eager to take on classrooms of bright-eyed and belligerent students alike, falling completely in love with every student as I see the Father’s heart reflected through each one.  I cannot resist the intense compassion and desire to nurture that swells within me as I teach.  It has been an unexpected but freeing journey for me to admit that my never-oaths were holding me back from the fullness of what God has for my life and His glory.  Reconciling my heart to His.

Sometimes we don’t understand the depths of His freedom until we comprehend the depths of our own bondage.  I chose to surrender.  Every day, every moment in which I forget that choice – I choose again to surrender, letting Him reconcile my heart to His.  Hand in hand, He’s leading me out of my Neverland into a wild place with Him.  The cry is no longer “Never!” but rather, “Here am I!” (Is. 6:8) – and all the wild, glorious adventures that follow.

helen-keller-quoteAs we begin to step out of our Neverlands, we walk into greater freedom.  We become free in our laughter and our loving, free in our dreaming, free even in our hurting and our longing.  The loveliness of life lies in allowing yourself to dream with Him.  The Adventure is in the limitless of His kind nature and the richness of His heart toward you.  In what areas of your life have you been holding back?  Where is the Neverland that you’ve been hiding in?  Is it fear keeping you there – or is it just the comfort?  What dreams would you dream if your heart was truly free?  Where have you chosen “safer” or “easier” or “less risky”?  Where have you told God “no” or “never” – and what might you be missing because of that?  Do you truly long for the things He longs for – do you really desire His best in your life?  Talk with God about it; ask Him what He has to say.  These are not easy answers, but honesty is the birthplace of freedom in our lives.

Join me in the journey out of Neverland, braveheart.  No more hiding.  It all begins with one decision: say yes to Him.  This is a life without regrets, a life lived in freedom.  The one “never” I can proclaim with confidence is that it is never too late.  May our hearts be reconciled to His, one in desire and aim, because there is no other Adventure worth living.

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At Home in Adventure

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Some people wander by nature.  Others wander by choice.  We all seek what we were created to crave: adventure.

Now that I’m back in in Michigan for the time being, everybody asks me, “How does it feel to be home?”  While a conversation in passing typically includes my (truthful) reply that it is so good to be with my family, I am going to give a more complete answer here for a question that is asked in both love and curiosity by the people who are most precious to me.

How does it feel to be home?  I don’t actually know what that means.  Do you refer to the house in which I’ve never lived with my family in a state that I left when I was twelve?  Until my family picked me up from my college campus in North Dakota at the end of the semester and brought me back to Michigan, I have not lived in any one place for seven years.  Though I moved plenty of times prior to that, during this particular seven-year period I lived in three countries and moved a dozen or so times.  I came back to the U.S. and, after six weeks of sleeping on a couch at my grandparents’ house, I moved to North Dakota (a state I’d never lived in) to attend college (having been a lifelong homeschooler).  This is the first time since 2009 that I have had all my possessions in one place and am not living out of a suitcase.

You were made for so much more than a mere pedestrian life,

You were made for so much more than a mere pedestrian life,

“There is no domestic heart,
So what have we become: just pedestrians?
There is no domestic heart.”

I am no longer quite “American” – sometimes I don’t know how to define my place. “Home,” as most people define it, is a rather fluid concept for me.  I told my mom last summer that it has been three-and-a-half years since I left the U.S. – three years since I have been in Africa.  I left a piece of my heart in Africa – or Africa has become a part of me.  I have friends and family in different countries and on different continents.  As I began teaching our Missionary Month with the kids at my church, I was struck with an intense wave of homesickness not for a location but for a type of life I’d left behind.  To be perfectly honest, I am still finding my place now that I am back in Michigan, no longer in the steady certainty of my missionary life in Africa or the consistent structure of my time at college.

“The Wilderlove is hidden within us.
And we reckon with it; we wrestle with it.”

But let me explain the girl behind the story.  Once upon a time I dreamed of a quiet, “secure” life – a life that played out in one location, in one house, with a few people I loved.  My goal was to never move again – ever.  Even when I came back from Africa, I practically vowed I’d never cross an ocean again.  My whole life I despised what I could not control or predict – because I was afraid of what might happen.  I couldn’t control places or people or even my own life.  And this is the girl who today lives with a heart full of adventure and a desire to live boldly.

We were not made to hide in a safe, neat life. We were born into freedom, designed for adventure.

We were not made to hide in a safe, neat life. We were born into freedom, designed for adventure. (Photo from This Old House)

You see, there was always a restlessness deep within my soul, a wildness I dreamed about in the deep of night.  I grew up in Africa – I found myself there in a way that I never had before.  I had always thought of myself as rather studious, perhaps a bit boring and reserved – because surely my dreams were too big, too wild.  Instead, I found that there was within me a mighty woman of valor waiting to be released into the fullness of her God-created beauty.  What I mistook for my “dream life” was, in reality, only the unwillingness of my mind to embrace the dreams and desires as big as God’s heart for me.

You are the Wilderness, and I fall fast drawn
To the rise of Your vast expanse

I feel so underdressed so civilized and small
By the powers that You possess.”

The craving for adventure was always there, buried deep within me.  Now it has been unearthed – now it has found its home.  This adventure is soul-deep, indelibly etched into the core of my being by the One who has called me to the greatest Adventure of all time.

Adventure has awoken in my heart and found its place.

And oh, how I crave it!  I laughingly admitted to my family that I might have a serious case of wanderlust.  The girl who hated sleepovers because she never liked being away from home for a single night has become a woman with a heart for the nations and a longing to travel the world.  Living out of a suitcase is not a hardship but a privilege.  There is joy in staying, and there is joy going.  For me, adventure isn’t about breaking beyond the mundane or the daily hum of life; it is about finding freedom in who God created me to be.  It is not about the location or the particular duty – it is about the adventure of simply being with God.  A life wholly surrendered to my Creator is inevitably a life of adventure.

What areas of your life is God asking you to surrender to Him?  In what places is He calling you deeper into the vast expanse of Him?  I shared above some of the lyrics from John Mark McMillan’s Wilderlove, and the song is beautiful in that it recognizes how we often struggle with the piece of us that longs for something wholly Wild.  We seek safety in becoming mere pedestrians in life’s adventure, but we were made for more.  Our God is the Wilderness: untamed, unpredictable, yet consistently good and glorious.  You, braveheart, were created with a wild, untamed heart to long for a life with Him.  You may, as I do, feel afraid of something so beyond your understanding.  But the there is a piece of you that will never be fulfilled until you allow yourself to acknowledge that He has made you for adventure – and He has made you well.

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This week I pack my bags to begin another part of my great Adventure.  I will be spending almost two weeks in southeastern India, doing ministry training to teach leaders how to teach others to hear the voice of God.  Through listening prayer, journaling, rich storytelling, and intentional conversation, my heart is to teach young participants to have a personal relationship with God.  Afterward I will even have the pleasure of spending a weekend with new friends.  There are dreams I was too afraid to dream fully, but God is calling me out of fear.  I’ve been born into freedom.  Even as you join my journey into India through my words and pictures, join me in letting go of control and letting your heart dream boldly with the One who designed you in His image with that wilder-love in the depths of your soul.  Adventure calls, beloved.  Freedom is calling your name, drawing you toward a life lived to the fullest.  What will your answer be?

Alaska's Gates of the Arctic Wilderness by Sean Tevebaugh

What does the Wilderness look like as you adventure with God? (Photo: Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic Wilderness by Sean Tevebaugh)

It’s Not About the Swimsuit

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Let’s talk about legalism.  It’s demanding, prudish, and ultimately ineffective, yet so many Christians get caught up in it.  I can define the entire legalistic Christian mindset with one example: swimsuits.  This is especially controversial when it comes to swimwear for girls: one-piece or two-piece?  Modesty or scandal?  Oh, the drama is endless!

I go to a small-town Bible college which I really do adore.  When we do school events that involve swimming, such as pool parties at a nearby YMCA, we wear swimsuits but, as I discovered, NOT two-piece swimsuits.   As it happens, two-piece swimsuits are not prohibited in the school handbook but apparently they are not allowed.  However, I was not told this prior to the party.  We were, in fact, only encouraged to wear our most modest swimsuits.  (I don’t consider any of mine immodest, but that’s blog material for another time.)  So, owning only two-piece swimsuits, and being a girl fresh from a missionary life of beach living on the Indian Ocean,  that’s what I wore.  A bikini.

After an hour of swimming, some of the girl’s resident hall staff suddenly realized that I was – gasp! – wearing a two-piece swimsuit.  Then, in the ensuing silence, with nearly a hundred pairs of eyes fixed on me, I was required to remove myself from the chin-deep water where I was swimming, and walk past everybody to get some sort of additional garment to put on atop my swimsuit.  Let me simply confess that in my indignation, I stalked away from the pool and didn’t come back.  I also considered delivering an impassioned soliloquy about injustice and the absurdity of legalism, but I would most definitely have said something regrettable. Anyway…

Long Beach, CA, 1937

Long Beach, CA, 1937

Something snapped in my spirit at that moment.  I was absolutely livid – though not for the reasons you might think.  First of all, I should have seen it coming.  I was the only female not wearing extra clothing over her swimsuit.  Then I felt hurt for a few moments – if there had been a real issue with my swimsuit, wouldn’t one of my friends have said something?  If there had been an issue, they certainly should have spoken up.  It wasn’t as if we all weren’t swimming together already!

But, you see, it’s not actually about the swimsuit.

I’d also like to make it clear that it wasn’t about my person.  Prior to the pool incident, some of the other girls had seemed surprised by my attire (I really should have known what was coming).  One of them said, “Well, if I were skinny like you, I would wear a two-piece and I wouldn’t care what anyone else thought.”  This deeply disturbed me.  As if being a smaller size was the sole validation for wearing a particular swimsuit!  This idea, too, was completely missing the point.  The fact that I am small-framed does not make it acceptable or unacceptable for me to wear a two-piece swimsuit.  The fact that another girl is larger-framed also does not make it acceptable or unacceptable.  If the only reason women choose two-piece swimwear is because they are vain or prideful about their bodies, it would be completely wrong – impure motives being the problem.  This post, then, is not meant to exalt or even recommend two-piece swimsuits, nor being “skinny,” nor any other sort of nonsense because those things are simply NOT the point.  One could easily look at this issue through any number of examples: what movies are appropriate, what music is fine to listen to, whether people should be allowed to wear jeans to church – the possibilities are practically endless.  Because, just as it is not about the swimsuit, it is not about size or shape or skin color or any of the external particulars that we might argue over.

I have always been a rule-follower, the stereotype “good girl.”  It comforts me to have a list of rules because I can follow them – oh blessed list! – and feel good about my appropriate performance.  My performance need not even face accusations, because I am always on the right side of whatever powers that be.

Now, as we get into this discussion, understand that when I talk about “rules” and “laws,” I don’t mean the obvious Biblical commands that we are called to obey (love your neighbor, do not steal, etc.) or the federal laws that we are bound to obey as citizens of our country (in accordance with the mandate of Scripture to obey authorities – for example, check out Romans 13:1-7).  I am talking about the gray areas of personal regulations or the other Christian-ese rules that we compile with the other laws we should obey, to make up a single, lofty list: “Requirements for Being a Good Christian.”

Here’s the thing: there is nothing actually wrong with this.  Scripture tells us to obey authorities, to follow rules, and to do what is right – all valuable and worthy goals.  There is a particular mindset, however, that often comes along with “good” rule-following.  The issue comes at the point when we cross over from obeying the rules to thinking that doing so will justify us – that is, legalism.  This brings up a question:

Are we acting as we do because we know it is right and we are showing love to others or merely because it is the law?

We have two major problems that become glaring when we look at legalism.  The first problem is that we tend to cling to the idea that we can “lead” people “into sin.”  But that really is a fallacy.  It is impossible to lead someone into sin.  You can tempt people by what you wear or say or by the choices you make, but it is impossible to “make” someone sin.  Consider the Biblical story of David and Bathsheba.  Obviously there was no room for excuses from David such as, “Well, she was taking a bath where I could see her from my roof, so I really couldn’t help myself…”  Clearly God would brook no such nonsense, and though David was angry that God sent a prophet to rebuke him, David knew his actions were wrong (especially considering he wasn’t out leading his army like he should have been).  (Check out 2 Samuel 11-12 to dig deeper into this example.)  Unfortunately, it is within the realm of Christendom and the Church that this “leading-people-into-sin” idea is most perpetuated.  The entire concept is both disgusting and extremely un-Biblical.

In response to that fallacy, we must realize that we were created for freedom, freedom to choose.  We should not think of this as freedom to do whatever we please but rather as freedom to choose what is right.  We are always free to choose what is right.  Romans 6:14 tells us, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”  Do you see what this is saying?  Christ gives us power to choose not to sin.

This is why it’s not really about the swimsuit itself – what we actually need to know is whether we females, by wearing our so-called scandalous two-piece swimsuits, are damning men to perdition by forcing them into the sin of lust (and other, darker things, as some might go so far to say).  Is it the swimsuit that does it?  It is the girl wearing the swimsuit?  Whose fault is the sin?  We struggle with the answers to those questions, and others like them, because we don’t really like to think about sin.

So we Christians seek to keep ourselves “safe,” not wanting to bear the guilt for causing anyone to sin – a most covert form of selfishness, because it is bound in a pretty wrapper of being beneficial to others.  You know, “Avoid even the appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22) and all that important stuff.  In order to achieve this “safety,” we construct neat, tidy, towering walls of rules and regulations: no two-piece swimsuits, no shorts higher than the knee, no crazy tattooing, no movies that are over PG-13 (except the Passion of the Christ), no being alone with a member of the opposite sex, no, no, no, no, no….And thus we build ourselves a cozy, sure little bubble of things we can and can’t do, because if we follow all the rules, everything will be fine and dandy.  Or even if we don’t follow the rules, at least we know how to fast-track our way back onto the Heaven-bound path and get right with God: we simply have to follow the rules, a personal checklist to earning God’s favor….

Except that, too, is a lie, which leads into our second problemexternal controls (rules and laws and even other people) cannot change hearts.  No matter how many rules we follow, we can never change our hearts by simply obeying.  And not only can external controls not change your heart; they actually have no power to combat sin in your life!  Colossians 2:20-23 sums up the crux of the matter – which has nothing to do with which cut of swimsuit is appropriate:

‘Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – “Do not taste, do not touch, do not handle,” which all perish with the using – according to all the commandments and doctrines of men?  These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.’

vintage signYou can make rules like the ones mentioned above.  You can swath women in fabric from head to toe, and you can take away every gun.  You can ban abortion and alcohol.  You can listen to only “Christian” music and demand that everyone else do the same.  But none of these things will stop people from sinning.  In fact, rules (even well-meaning ones!) are incapable of stopping sin because they only regulate actions or modify behavior.  Wrong actions are the result of sin, but sin actually begins as a heart problem: dark thoughts, fleshly desires, wayward emotions.  The nature of humanity has been tainted by sin since Adam and Eve made bad choices in the Garden of Eden; and our sin nature, the longings of our flesh, can’t be defeated by the external controls of laws.  These laws appear to be right – noble, even – and yet, as we saw in the Colossians passage, they “are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh”!

Rules can’t set us free from the power of sin.  Until people have an encounter with the living Jesus, their hearts will never be changed.

You might be protesting my strong stance on this.  After all, according to Romans 14 and 15, we shouldn’t put “a stumbling block or cause to fall in our brother’s way” (14:13); we should walk in love and bring peace, not causing grief for our fellow believers by our actions (14:14-23); and we should bear each other’s burdens and seek the good edification of other believers (15:1-2).  Also, following the previously-quoted section of Colossians, there is the admonition to clothe ourselves with godly ways (the “new man” we have through Jesus Christ) and live in love and peace with fellow believers, helping each other grow spiritually (3:12-17).  This is all poignantly true.  We ought to behave with love toward others, which means not doing things that we know will harm them (even if we think those things are fine) or cause them to struggle and stumble (because that would not be loving).  If any of my guy friends had said that my swimsuit made them even the slightest bit uncomfortable, out of love I would have stopped swimming or found another garment to wear and made things right so that they could be well.

But there is another side to this, and that is what I am trying to illuminate without disregarding the need for treating one another with godly love:

Rules are not love.  If rules had been enough to make love manifest, we would not have needed Jesus to set us free from sin and bring us into right relationship with Father God.

Rules can be good, helping keep us safe and promoting order.  Humans are sinful, and because not everyone is walking in God’s ways, we need to have those external controls.  But I will say again: rules are not love.  Showing true, godly love and consideration for the people around us does not mean keeping a long list of unyielding rules.  Following all the “right” rules cannot, in and of itself, display the love of Christ or truly help anybody.

Though we often have good intentions, using external controls to force a certain result is like keeping something dangerous locked up in a cell: no matter how well-guarded that evil thing is, there is always the possibility that it might escape.  As a Bible college attendee, I have noticed that life at school is somewhat of a bubble where we make rules to help keep people out of trouble and free from temptation to sin.  The problem is that the bubble isn’t real life.  In real life, guys are going to see girls on the beach in two-piece swimsuits.  And when they do, how are they going to react if they have been conditioned that any display of skin is wrong because it will sexually charge them to the point that they have no control and are “led into sin”?

We have a tendency to spend so much time removing temptations that we forget to teach our brothers and sisters in Christ how to deal with temptation victoriously Because of that, we hear so many stories about pastor’s kids (or the pastors themselves), Bible college students, and other “good” Christians choosing to tear their lives apart with sin.  Think about it: if the basis for our actions rests solely in the law, what happens when we come out of the little bubble of our local churches or Christian friend groups (or our Bible college campuses)?  Well, suddenly those external controls are gone, and, with nothing to control you anymore, you run willy-nilly into all manner of darkness and delusion.  Why?  Because external controls remove the need for internal responsibility if we become too comfortable – after all, we are creatures of comfort who would rather not expend any unnecessary effort.

Our focus has been so wrong, because it isn’t about the swimsuit or the person or any of those other external things – it’s about the sinfulness of human nature.

Our sin nature is dangerous and evil, so we seek to lock it up behind a wall of rules, restrained by shackles of law – yet in the end, it is we ourselves who end up shackled by the law and trapped in a prison of rules that can only point out our flaws.

But then there is Jesus.  His statement from the cross that ‘“It is finished”’ (Jn. 19:30) declared His triumph over the powers of sin and evil – it was a statement of completion, a sweeping victory that could not be reversed. When you allow the saving power of Jesus Christ into your life, becoming His, your sin nature is put to death (Gal. 5:24).  It is not merely kept in a dungeon somewhere, leaving you with the lingering fear of its escape; it is utterly destroyed!

Then, by the power of His Holy Spirit at work within you, you come to a place where you do not need external controls to help regulate your actions, because your heart is in the right place.  When your heart is in that right place of relationship with God, you will not need the safety net, the “bubble” of external controls because the Holy Spirit (sometimes called your conscience!) is your internal control.  As Christians, we are called to walk in the Spirit (in step with the Spirit, doing the things of the Spirit) because we have been made alive only through the life of the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).  We are meant to victoriously live out that which Jesus Christ’s death has already won – not because we are strong on our own, but because His Spirit is strong within us (check out Colossians 3:1-5).

1920's swimwear via Pixgood

1920’s swimwear via Pixgood

Ultimately, external controls are not God’s best – freedom is God’s best.  As I mentioned earlier, true freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want but rather the power to choose what is right.  In the end, external controls such as rules can help us regulate our actions or modify our behavior, but they can never be a substitute for the internal responsibility prompted by a heart that has encountered Jesus and been forever changed.

Here at the end of this passionate call to let the Holy Spirit be our guide, I have just two more things I want to mention.  Firstly, I have now purchased a two piece swimsuit with a full-length top so I can honor even the implied rules out of respect for those in authority at my school.  Secondly, I have now also been chosen to be part of the resident hall staff in the girl’s dorm, and I sometimes need to have discussions about what attire is appropriate – and I have times where I need to enforce certain standards.  And in all this, I can’t say that rules are always right or always wrong, and I can’t say that I think two piece swimsuits always good or always bad.  It is not and never has been about the swimsuit, about me, or even about rules.  I desire to promote a culture of honor and grace everywhere I go, and I can only do that when I allow my life to be intimately transformed from the inside out by Jesus.  No matter how silly or even twisted the issue at hand, making space for grace is always the right choice.  Every one of us is learning how to walk in greater freedom and greater love with our Savior by our side.  So be released to live in the spacious place of God’s grace that comes with allowing His Holy Spirit to be your internal control, and journey well, my dear friends!

 

Live Wild

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Leopard's Leap at Oribi Gorge, South Africa - 2010

Leopard’s Leap at Oribi Gorge, South Africa – 2010

Fear is a peculiar thing.  It compels us to avoid “risk” and idolize so-called safety.  I had never thought of myself as a fearful person until I realized that I was allowing my life to be completely ruled by fear.  It was not a fear of heights or darkness or strangers; rather, it was a fear of not being in control.  Until my family moved to Africa in 2009, I had no idea that, in the quiet steadiness of my young life, I had never really had to give God complete control.  I was so un-free in my carefully controlled life that it pains me to think of it.  Yet, at the same time, I look at where God has brought me now, and I smile for all He has done in me.

Despite being someone who has moved twenty or so times, lived in multiple countries, and done all sorts of fascinating things, I never really liked adventure.  To my mind, “adventure” was synonymous with “uncertainty” – and that was something I couldn’t bear.  Adventure meant risking trust because I can’t be in control.  Adventure meant that things might be different than I’d hoped or planned.  Adventure meant adaptability.  And if I was one thing, I was unadaptable.  Was.

Now I can confidently and joyfully say that I love adventure.  It is still scary sometimes in that it holds the possibility for so many unknowns, but I am safe in the hands of the One who knows all.  Adaptability and flexibility are things I have been learning relentlessly over the past few years, and many of these moments have been exhausting and difficult for this list-loving, plan-making girl.

Lion kisses at the Lion and Rhino Park in South Africa

Lion kisses at the Lion and Rhino Park in South Africa

I still have those moments where I think I just can’t cope with not knowing precisely where this adventure will lead me – I even had some moments earlier this week!  But now that I have had a taste of this freedom, there is no going back.  I will live out this adventure with passion, my eyes fixed on my Lord, or I will not do it at all.  I can’t do it alone; I need the joy of the Lord to be my strength, and I need Him to be strong where I am weak.

A few weeks ago I told God, “I feel like I jumped off a cliff, and I can’t see the bottom.  Please catch me!”  And God in His gentle way replied, “Sweetheart, you never left my Hand.”

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…” – Deuteronomy 33:27 NKJV

I am discovering more each day that adventure is never a risk with God because He is both wholly sovereign and wholly good.  A life of adventure is not a life of ease – it is not a place for clinging to false security but rather for recognizing the trustworthiness of my God.  God alone is my safe place, and in Him I am free to live wild and love well.  He has freed me to fearlessly embrace the fullness of the adventure He has called me to.

In Christ, our freedom is given all at once but lived in over time.  It is the way of every great victory that the victors must learn to live in the fullness of what they have attained.  All too often we act like we are still captive to the fears that we were in before Jesus.  But that is the key: before Jesus.  Once we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are set free by the redeeming power of His blood.  This freedom is not merely a release from our sin nature; rather, it is an invitation to live in the fullness of the victory He has already won.

Ready for some fun on the ropes course with my cousins!

Ready for some fun on the ropes course with my cousins!

I went on my first zip line recently, but it didn’t seem very zippy – or very high.  It definitely needed more adventure.  I am laughing to myself as I contemplate this – I, the girl who was once unable to cope with unplanned situations, have become a lover of adventure with a desire to seek new things.  I still have much to learn about walking in this kind of freedom, but I am enjoying noting the outward manifestation of true heart-transformation.  The victory of Jesus at the Cross was total; fear and cowering no longer have a place in my life.  I am learning to be a thrill-seeker in the best sense, because, deep within my spirit, I know the truth is that there is only One who is wild enough to satisfy my craving for adventure.  Imbedded in the very core of who we are is an unquenchable longing for adventure because we are made in the image of our God, and our God is a God of adventure.  So no matter how diligently we try to squelch it or how wrongly we try to satiate it, our longing can only be satisfied in the One who is adventurous by nature.

Rich Mullins said, “God is a wild man.”  He went on to say that most of us would prefer a tame God who would always do the expected. But then again, that would be terribly dull – and terribly unlike the amazing nature of our God.  There is a difference between “wild” and “crazy.”  God is wild because He is untamable – utterly unconquerable.  Living adventurously is about living wild as our God is wild – not about doing crazy (i.e. dumb, thoughtless, insane) things.  Our God is a God of adventure, and He is calling us into a Great Adventure with Him.  Adventure is about a process – it is about the doing and the going.  To be fixated simply on “getting there” is to miss out on the beauty of what God is doing now.  We are called to live lives that are as wild and limitless as our God.

May His kindness release you to live wild and love well.  Be free, my friends!

If there is anything that has taught me to be flexible, it is being in the Teacher Education program. Thanks to Rachelle, my amazing professor for two years, who showed me every day how to embrace all the lovely, random moments.

If there is anything that has taught me to be flexible, it is being in the Teacher Education program. Thanks to Rachelle, my amazing professor for two years, who showed me every day how to embrace all the lovely, random moments.