How Confession, Gratitude and Joy Go Hand in Hand

Confession, Gratitude, JoyA friend reminds me last week, how gratitude is an act of defiance–wielding a sword against the struggles of this world. She searches for beauty, knowing she will find it if she searches for it with God’s heart, eyes focused on Him rather than the pain and suffering the world wants her to focus on–and be pulled down by– instead.

And then another friend, a friend who lives across the waters, this morning–this morning that I am up hours earlier than usual because it is Thanksgiving break here and I feel I have a million things to do and a million things to accomplish before the house stirs. (Because it is launch week for Loop, and did you hear that Loop is releasing earlier–this Friday, November 28–and you’re going to need to come back on Friday to find out some additional fun news? ) And she speaks on the radio (scroll to 26.:13 to hear Nicky’s segment) about how gratitude is what pulls us out from a posture of survival and to one of joy. It is where we see Jesus’ face.

I needed to remember these things.

So, with the voices of my sisters as a balm for my heart, I am reminded of how God sees me–and how it is difficult for me to see what He sees–and be grateful for it–when I don’t confess to Him my insecurities and my distractions by this world. Below are words I wrote in January. They are ones I needed to read again today. I am eager to hear how you are this day, and how He is reaching for you, too.


“You have to confess it. You have to say the lie aloud. You have to throw it to the throne of Jesus. You have to reject it even if you still believe the lie.” My friend looks me straight in the eye, and I hold her gaze for a half second before staring at my mug, wishing I were small enough to hide under the table. Now what? I think she’s right.

I know I had better not stall.

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When you recognize a lie as a lie, even if you can’t imagine no longer believing the lie, throw it up to heaven.

Renounce it. Reject it.

I heard this message again the other day, on my metal folded chair in church, grasping paper coffee cup fast in my hand: Jesus knows the way out of hell. God’s plan, His desire, is to save us from hell, save us from separation from the Father. And God sent his Son to die and take on every single one of our sins so He could lead the way out. He is the way out for us, sisters. Jesus knows the way out. He knows the way out of whatever you are facing.

He can reveal to our hearts the lies we believe that separate us from the Father. He can reveal to our hearts the twisted truths we believe about ourselves. And here was mine: I don’t want you to like me for who I am. I want you to like me for what I do. And my fingers pause now, as I write this, the tears spilling out. For it is hard, isn’t it, to say the lie out loud? It is hard, isn’t it, to be vulnerable? It is hard, isn’t it, not to wonder, what will she think of me, now?

So I cling tight to Him, His love letter to His girls, reminding us about truth, the truth of us:

The truth of you cannot be articulated in just words. The truth of you is a name and not a name. The truth of you is more than a description of personality, a page of characteristics, a list of mannerisms and popular expressions.

There’s something you must remember: you must live your truth. You must live, with determination and might, your truth. You must know who you are designed to be . . . if you want freedom, if you want liberation from lies, if you want joy.

confession, gratitude, joy

confession, gratitude, joy

So in the coffee shop chair, where I spend my Fridays, I push my ear buds into my ears so the guy in the armchair across from me doesn’t think it’s weird I don’t have a laptop in front of me and my hands are open and my eyes are closed and my head is down, my hair shielding half of my face. ‘Cause once my Father has pressed in and showed me glimpses of pain, glimpses of sorrow, glimpses of damage I cause when I believe lies about myself and about Him, I can’t wait one more second to renounce the lie causing the whole darn mess. Jesus knows the way out of hell, not me. And I cause a lot of mess when I have let myself be separated from God because I think I know better. . . I think I know the way out instead of Jesus.

So I say it right there in that coffee shop on that Friday afternoon, less than a hour before I need to jump in the car to pick up the kids from school. “Jesus, I confess I want to be liked for what I do. I confess I care more about what people think about what I do rather than who You think I am. I want You, Father, to love me for what I do! I confess I don’t want you to love me for who I am! I repent, and I reject this lie. I reject the lie that my value comes from doing rather than being. I reject the lie and I break the agreement I’ve made with the enemy that my value does not come from being a daughter of God. I give this lie to you, and cast it on the throne of Jesus.”

And I stayed there. It was too good to not stay, this daughter He made, at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus offered me his hand, and He took me where He always takes me, in the garden, by the river, through the path where the green grass tickles my legs and flowers perfume the air. I can feel the perfume now on my skin.

confession, gratitude, joy

confession, gratitude, joy

We walk up, up the hill, the grass blades leaning over the path so I can’t see the ground, can’t see where my bare feet fall. I see Jesus ahead of me, His looking back at me, smiling. He knows I love this, this walking through beauty, with water rushing fast, to my left, and sunlight shining bright through arches of trees. He knows I will love where we are going.

He leads me to the top of the hill where the waterfall is thundering, and He knows I want to jump. I want to jump right in. The water isn’t cold and the sun is warm on my cheek. And I turn my face up, and I am in God’s house and I am with my King and I am safe and I doing what I am made to do and where I am made to be.

And then I am alone. I am in a meadow, my back pressed into the soft earth. I lay in the flowers, eyes closed, the sun a blanket on my skin. Then the earth trembles beneath me. The soft ground shakes. I must rise. In front of me runs a giant white steed. It is huge and powerful and beautiful. Its eyes flash, and it whinnies as it stops right before me, its hooves stomping into soft earth. I want to ride it. I want to jump on and go, even though I’ve only galloped on a horse once, in my whole life.

But I can’t.

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Suddenly I am not in the meadow but in a dark, shadowy place where there are walls and I am standing, cold, alone. My hair is tangled and my clothes are dirty and tattered. Shredded pieces of linen, a grungy robe, filthy and brown, hangs from my shoulders. I lower my head, hands open at my sides.

Then, there are hands lifting each piece of clothing off of me. They were so heavy. I had no idea how heavy each piece was, as it hung on my tired frame. I then feel hands around my ankles, and strong fingers unfastening shackles around my bare feet, shackles I had never seen, attached to chains I never knew I wore.

And I am in the meadow once more. I am wearing a long gown and my hair is loose and clean, the sun shining bright and the air perfumed with light as it falls like love upon blooming flowers. I am on the steed. And I am wearing armor now, and I have a sword in my hand. This. This is the daughter He sees. This is the daughter I am. This is the daughter He calls me to be, the one who is free because she is willing to fight. The one who is dirty and broken and vulnerable and alone when she strives to be what she wants to create herself to be. The one who is actually beautiful and true when she lets herself know freedom, when she lives out the truth of the identity her Father sees.

Come on, sisters. Let’s break these lies. Let’s ride, wind in our hair.

confession, gratitude, joy

confession, gratitude, joy

You, my daughter, are made to be strong, with Me. You, my daughter, are made to do things I’ve prepared, just for you. You, my daughter, are made to go forward, not back. And to go forward, you must fight and break the agreements you’ve made with the enemy. You must know I have come to claim you, the daughter I made. You must know your life has been paid for. You must know you are free. 

And sometimes, with my truth in your heart, you must reject lies about who I am. You must do this. Don’t wait. Do it right now. This it what it means to fight—for freedom from lies. It is rejecting lies and surrendering to Me. It is fighting for your identity, the one the prince of this world wants to take from you.

So, when you are weary, when the world presses in, remember I am here with you. Know I am the warrior who never sleeps. Know I rescue and ask you to trust Me more than anything else. That is how you fight. That is how you know who you are. That is how you are set free.

Sister, how is He pulling you close now? Can you dare to let your heart imagine the wonder of you He has created?
How can I pray for you?

HOW CONFESSION, GRATITUDE, & JOY GO HAND

The 1Thing to Do When You Mess Up

The 1 Thing to Do When You Mess UpThe day started off fine. But we didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before. So, we do the awkward stumble of trying not to be irritated at one another. In these situations we hold it together pretty well, for a while.  But it doesn’t take much for a light-hearted conversation to turn into a discussion we never wanted to have.

Early morning at the coffee shop, we get in the wrong line and silently blame the other one for not moving over to the right one fast enough. And then the silent blaming isn’t silent any more. And I wish I didn’t do what I do, so easily, think about winning an argument, justifying my position, rather than seeing where Jesus is, in that line with me, observing His posture, feeling His hand reaching for mine.

I forget He is here.

I forget He is in me.

I forget I am filled with light–when I choose Him.

I forget I am more than this, what I see, what I feel, what I hear, what I speak. I am all these things, but I am more, too. Because I am the warrior-daughter who is called to follow her King and lead with fierce, tender love.

When I, in my weakness as a human, do not use the Holy Spirit’s strength in me to rise about my present circumstances, I neglect the crown He places upon my head. I deny His life in me. I reject His sacrifice, His strength that is mine.

Justin and I sit across from each other in the chilly upstairs room of the cafe and I ask for his forgiveness. And I ask for my King’s forgiveness, too.

I confess I am, at my core, selfish and weak, without the light and life and hope of my Savior.

So I begin again, not trying harder, in my own strength, to do better. No, I am through with attempts to try harder at loving. Rather, I surrender. I lean back into Jesus and turn into him.

I don’t ask Jesus what he wants to say. I don’t ask him to help me do a better job of loving my husband. I don’t ask him to help me be more giving, more considerate and selfless. I turn into him. I choose to turn. I choose to remember him.

I choose to see Jesus–not choose to look for him, but choose to see him.

For our Savior is not hiding. And he is not aloof. And he is not disappointed in our mess ups. He loves and he loves and he loves. And it is in the act of his loving that we turn into him. And we are healing here. And we are safe here. And we are ourselves here.

So, this day, want to join me in practicing turning?

Turning into Jesus.

After all, it’s all any of us can ever do.

It’s all we ever need.

May I pray for you, His girl, as you turn towards your King? What prevents you from turning? Or, how does it feel to turn? Can you respond here, with one word? And I will pray.

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Don’t Keep That Secret. It Might Be Time to Confess

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It was when I confessed what I had done–and what I do–that I began to know Jesus for the first time. Growing up learning about him was one thing. Seeing his face? Hearing his voice? Feeling the Spirit’s heat burning from my insides?

Confessing to Jesus what I was loving more than him–in this case, my pride–led me to experiencing God rather than looking at him from a distance. Confession was letting God create space in my heart so I could experience Jesus living in me.

When we stuff down our sin, refuse to confess our sin to God, we say yes to pride. We say yes to our desire for independence and self-sufficiency. We say yes to everything our culture tells us is perfectly good, an example of strength and success: work hard; keep your head down and try harder when you fail; don’t let on you’re weak and you can’t get the job done on you’re own; don’t let anyone see you when you’re down.

We shout to that distant God up there, somewhere in heaven,”I’m good! I’ve got this covered. No room for you!” And we remain feeling alone. And God keeps feeling distant. And we work harder to live our lives well, whatever that really means.

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You know who we’re listening to when we ignore God’s voice and respond to all the other voices that boom much louder, don’t you?

Oh, Jesus, I pray now that you silence the voice of the enemy right now. For everyone reading these words right now, silence his voice; make his whispers unable to be heard by our hearts. Let us hear just your voice. Let us recognize you and say yes to you, with wide-open hearts.

To do this, to say yes to the Holy Spirit filling us, to say yes to Jesus living in us, we must confess all the ways we are trying to live without God, all the things we’ve kept hidden, all the things we’ve tried to fix in ourselves, on our own, all the things of which we are ashamed, all the things we’d much rather forget than ever, ever address.

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help (Hebrews 4:16, MSG).

It was in college when I–a lonely, overwhelmed transfer student in a new, big school–that I first confessed my sins to Jesus. I was tired of keeping secrets, tired of pretending to have it all together; tired of praying to a God that felt so very far away and not at all like a God who was with me, in me, wanting to whisper love to my heart.

For me, there was a particular secret that I was working hard to hide from everyone. And Jesus was asking me to give it up.

And some of you here, reading? I know you have secrets too. You have things to confess, ways that you’ve been trying to fix yourself, things that happened in the past (whether the past could have been years ago or just a few minutes ago) of which you are ashamed.

 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God (1 John 1:9).

Can you give it up now? Whether this is the first time you’ve confessed your heart to God, or if this is your thousandth, can we do this together, kneeling together before our God and asking him to show us what it is that we’ve been keeping from him?

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Go to a quiet place and close your eyes. Ask him to search your heart, to put his hand on the one place in your heart right now he would like to claim. What moment still feels heavy? What situation have you been trying to fix? What memory still haunts you? What burden are you carrying, this moment, that brings you to tears? In what area are you trying to be strong, on your own? What relationship is causing you pain?

Now, here’s an extra challenge–and you don’t need to do this at all. But, if you feel your heart beating fast and your chest all hot and you are feeling like you want to step forward even more, trusting Jesus in community around you, would you be bold enough to type up the confession, on the blog’s comments page, right here?

Or, if that feels like just too much–and I love that a lot of you do this–would you feel like typing up the confession and sending it just to me? Because then we can pray for each other and for God’s continued protection of us and our hearts as we confess. It can be a beautiful yet vulnerable place when we confess to our God. We are letting go of the old self and asking him to bring more of his new life in us.

Now, if you do this, there will be opposition. Those other whispers we talked about earlier? Yes, well, satan is not going to want to have you confess a thing. And if you do, he isn’t going to want you to feel good about it. He is going to want you to feel alone and crummy and afraid and doubtful it was ever a good idea in the first place.

So, together, let’s do the opposite of what we’ve been doing before.

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Let’s not hide. Let’s speak aloud our confessions to our God and imagine we are here, in a circle together, doing it together before our God. I know I would be emboldened by your confession. I would be reassured. I would see Jesus in you when you went ahead, saying yes to Him and no to the whispers of the enemy who are telling you to do exactly the opposite.

So, how about it, sister?

Are you with me?

I’ll go first (and here is the confession from that day in college):

Father, I confess I am worried about doing a good job with what you’ve given me to do. And in the evenings, with my children, I often react out of fear of still, not being enough or doing enough,with my job, my work, and I have trouble slowing down and being present with them. I give you my time with them. I give you my work. I give you my relationships. I give you my marriage. Help me to love you and stay here, with you, no matter what I am doing. Help me keep my eyes on you, my heart open to you. Let me see you wherever I go, wherever I am. Silence all the lies about needing to work harder to be loved. I confess I need you. I confess I am desperate for you. Help me stay forever desperate for you. I lay these burdens down. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Time to confess YAMG pin (1)

 

Collecting Conversations With God–and Loop, My New Book!

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[T]here it is, the hollow emptiness of silence. The slight sliding of my hand as pen scratches across lined journals. The pressure in my throat as I whisper silent pleas at God. Prayer means me talking to God, and then feeling only a cathartic release–if it is possible to call the effect of journaling, searching for words to describe the state of my heart, cathartic. Either way, I pray with expectation that God is present, but in a distant-sort-of-way. To a Lord who feels to me intimidating, and a little aloof, a Lord who turns because it is his duty to turn, not because he wants to.

I get it.

Praying can feel like a mighty lonely thing then. A desperate, sad affair. Because if we feel God is distant from us, but we pray anyway, it is because we are at the end of our rope and don’t know what else to do. We are in a fix; we are messed up; we need help and a sovereign Lord who will care. And we read in the Bible that he cares, he loves, he sacrifices, he is completely all-in in his love for us. But it can still feel like he is a God that stays on the pages in our Bible when we pray, when we are on our knees in our living room, when we are at the kitchen sink crying those help me prayers.

No matter how earnestly, in prayer, we choose our words; no matter how often we read the Bible; no matter how many songs we sing in worship or how dutifully we complete our homework for Bible study, God feels far away when we don’t hear him answer back when we pray.

Which makes me wonder: What does it mean to hear God, to know he is present with us, to sense him, or to believe he is here, even if we can’t detect  his presence?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God (Hebrews 11:1-6).

And as this message, in Hebrews, continues, it teaches us of the faith of the persecuted, the hungry, the tired, the weak. It teaches us of the perseverance of faith, of continuing to pursue God and believe in his goodness and his presence even when it cannot be tangibily or even, readily, seen. Abel, Abraham, Enoch, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses . . . they all continued to have faith even though they, “commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11: 39-40).

Further on in Hebrews we are reminded of the One who founds and perfects our faith. We learn that following God—believing he is with us and he loves us–is a decision. And with that decision is a desire to lay aside the sin that prevents us from living, praying, in faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

And this gets me thinking: I wonder if confessing our sin precipitates the transformation of prayer life. I wonder if surrendering our sin, in faith, to God, is necessary for prayer to stop being static, rote, impersonal. I wonder if this is how prayer changes from talking to God to listening for himI wonder if this is how prayer changes to conversation? After all, he is the Word come down.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

The continually laying down our sin, letting our old self die, is neither fun nor easy.  I know. But when I slow down and I get quiet. When I think about God and how I want to be more like Him, I want to confess the ways I have loved other things more than him. And when I confess, I am thinking about him, and when I think about him, I think about his demeanor and his face. I think about his character and his love. I think about how he wants to be with me, despite all that I’ve done. And that makes me want to be with him more, which prompts me to want to spend time with him and listen, and expect, because he loves me, he wants to speak.

And sometimes God’s speaking is not in words. And sometimes God’s speaking is not even a whisper I sense inside me. Sometimes his words to me–his voice–is his presence, his eyes, his arms spread out to greet me, his extended hand, his walking beside me, his catching each tear and staying with me, no matter what.

A conversation with God can be an unspoken one, for his words are more than words. They are life and light. They are beginning. They are God.

So, how do we converse with God? How do we not?

Some of you here have been longing to hear God’s voice, too. And some of you here have been joining me in my listening for God and have been receiving email devotionals in your inbox each Monday and Thursday morning. These email devotionals I call Loop. (And you can sign up here.) And now, these devotionals are collected in a pretty, hardback volume for you to carry around with you everywhere you go.

Loop book

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Loop book

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The book, Loop: What Women Need to Know, is officially releasing on Monday, December 5. And I am so excited, so thrilled, that you will soon have the opportunity to grab one of these books and be reminded of his whispers to you, his presence with you, his ongoing conversation that he wants you never, ever, to forget. Are you excited, too?

Do you think of prayer as a conversation? When you have prayed this week, has God felt close or far away?

P.S. I’ve been sending out special behind-the-scenes emails to subscribers about Loop the past two weeks. Make sure you subscribe to get the latest scoops–especially, as you’ll be the first to know when I have Loop’s new book page up . . .  . and you’ll learn more about Loop and why folks are so excited about it.

P.P.S. My dear friend Nicky Cahill, writer at Salt and Sparkle, interviewed me for her blog. I loved her questions. You can check it out here.

want to hear a secret? {made: day 7}

Let me tell you a few secrets about this 31 Day series, Made.

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1.  It is hardly planned. I never know what I am going to write before I write it. I don’t know where this post is going, let alone the one that will get written, somehow, tomorrow. This is part due to my personality–liking freedom and flexibility, and partly due to having a bit too much on my plate, (or is it laziness?) to think about more than this day, this moment, right now.

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2. I don’t really know what I am doing. (See #1). I struggle with feeling secure with who I am. Something in me, for as long as I can remember, has craved confidence in being okay with just being me. So I write from a heart desperate for God, desperate for His voice, desperate for His truth to replace the lies I have, for so long, believed.madeday73

3. I need to die. God is peeling back layers of me I hardly want to see, let alone deal with. I have died to things before. On the cross, I have laid down my selfishness. On the cross, I have laid down my pride. My letting God take these false things in me and birth, instead, something whole and beautiful, is often precipitated by my refusing to surrender and wanting to do things my way. {The running away from God is never pretty. I don’t recommend it.} He sees how my heart is wounded. He sees how I am not content, and how envy and ungratefulness enters when I refuse to celebrate what He’s given and who He’s made to be, rather than wish I were someone different, something more.madeday74

4. I want to be a blessing. I want God to fill me completely. I want to wake up each day, joy-filled, no matter what the day may hold. I want to live with the security of God’s promises, tucked in my heart. I want to bless my family and my friends and the brothers and sisters God places in my path with the reality of God living in me.
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5. I want to trust God with who I am. I crave His guidance and want to write from His strength, His love, in me.
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6. I am claiming my joy, in Him, as I write. These words. These words, right here.

 

Thank you for staying with me this first week of Made.

I wonder what the next week, friends, will hold? 

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It’s hard to be real, sometimes

Iscriptn this post I share my heart around being real–and how it isn’t always so easy. . .even when community is safe.  I went to My Girls today not wanting to share my heart–not wanting to be open and authentic with my friends.

Do you ever struggle with being real?

And in this video I am using my real-life words to share my struggle here, with you–no script, nothing prepared. . . It is important that I share with you my rough-around-the-edges self. It is important that I not hide. It is important that I don’t edit this and tie up the post with a pretty bow.

So I hope you push ‘play’. And I hope you share with me, in an email, or at You Are My Girls community–or in the comments, with all of the girls here–how you might struggle with this, too.

How might we share our real heart with one another here. . . in all its glory (and temporary uncomfortableness, too)?

Let’s not keep what we are wrestling with to ourselves.

It’s seldom better that way.

Love to you, His girls,

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Linking with the beautiful community over at Jen’s