M I G H T Y đźŚŠ

Over the last few years, I’ve been able to visit the ocean and it never failed each time God taught me something new! There’s something about watching a rush of waves fall into the shore that completely demonstrates God’s majesty and I get lost in it! I press in listening and waiting.

This last visit was with my HUSBAND on our HONEYMOON! That statement alone is something I never thought I would say, but here we were sitting on the beach together. When I look at Alec, I’m reminded of God’s provision in His timing. If it were up to me, I would have been married right after I graduated college, but God had something else in store much later than my plans. ALEC!

I think it’s easy to get caught up in the world’s timeline of things, but when I look at the waves, they obey God. They do as God says. He says to BE STILL and the waters are still. The waters aren’t doing it when the world says to, but when God says it’s time, they listen.

So what does that mean for you?

What if you started living not on your timeline, but on God’s?

What if you started listening to His way sooner instead of the world’s timeline?

How would that change your life?

The answers to those questions are crucial. God doesn’t just want to be your God when you want it, but ALL. THE. TIME. He wants to lead literally every step of the way. The waves don’t sometimes listen to God, they always listen to God.

Are you sometimes listening or always listening?

At the end of this trip to the ocean, I see God mightier than ever. I think that’s why waiting is good and I think that’s why God tells His people to wait all throughout Scripture. The lessons He wants to teach you in the waiting are absolutely crucial, but you have to let God be in control always!

Do you believe in His might in and for every circumstance?? God is mighty! Rest in it!

Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!

– Psalm 93:4

Let Go

When I was in Ecuador this past summer, we went to this little park with different rides and activites. One of them was riding this big swing over the side of a mountain. Ecuador is the home of the Andes Mountains; it’s absolutely breathtaking, but this also means the mountains reach around 16,000 feet above sea level. So riding a swing over the side of a mountain, sounds a little unsafe. Let’s be honest, it probably wasn’t the safest idea considering the park was only $1 to get into, the swing was duck-taped together, and Ecuador doesn’t exactly have OSHA regulating the safety of these different rides. BUT I got on the swing!

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Since we are about 16,000 feet above sea level, you’re basically in the clouds. So it’s not uncommon for the mountainous view to be veiled with clouds and that’s exactly what happened when we went to the park. If it hadn’t have been for the cloud, I probably wouldn’t have swung out over the mountain, but I braved up and got on the swing.

Even though I couldn’t see the view, I still got pretty high above the ground—higher than any swing I’ve been on here in the States—and it’s scary. I held on so tight. With what seemed unsfe, I felt I made the swing safer by holding on. I thought I would have a better chance of surviving if I death-gripped the sides in case the duct-tape broke. It gave me a sense of control in the midst of something that felt so unsafe. Of course I had a friend taking pictures because I was only going to ride the death trap one time and wanted the fun to be captured.

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After I got off the swing, I looked through all the photos. You could clearly see the death-grip in the pictures. Meanwhile, the rest of our team got on the swing to enjoy their own ride—don’t worry, everyone made it off the swing alive. But I was captivated by watching them. Those of us from the States had a similar reaction to mine; we all held on for dear life. However, when our translators rode the swing, there was an enjoyment. They trusted the process and knew it was going to be okay so they weren’t afraid to let go. I remember one translator in particular, Patricio, having a picture of him on the swing with the biggest, freeing smile with his hands in the air completely enjoying the experience.

It hit me—I want that picture.

I got back on the swing for a second time—this time wanting to let go. There was still a little fear there—afraid of the unknown, unsure of what the outcome would be—but I wanted that freedom because that freedom produced joy. I had already survived once holding on, but I didn’t get to experience the joy. I watched others freely let go, and completely embrace the opportunity to be free. I wanted that too.

Sure enough, I let go! I have the picture to prove it. And on top of that, I’m here to tell you about it. That fear didn’t diminish completely, but I knew I would be okay because of my first experience and because of those who had gone before me. I surrendered that death-grip to expereince the freedom producing great joy.

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Immediately after the ride, I looked through the pictures, comparing the two photos. The first one with a death-grip and the second with a complete joy.

And it hit me–I do this exact same thing with God.

I can’t tell you how many times God has called me to get on a swing. He calls me to trust Him on the journey and to fully surrender—to let go—and embrace the journey. And when I’ve approached that unknown, I’ve held on with a death-grip thinking my hold on things helped the situation. I thought my control of that swing made the outcome better. I thought I would have a better chance of surviving whatever God was calling me to if I death-gripped it. It gave me a false sense of control in the midst of something that felt so unsafe.

But when I looked at those pictures of me on the swing, I learned that keeping a death-grip is absolutely robbing me of the freedom and joy I could experience along the journey God has called on my life. When I hold on and try to remain in control, I’m not demonstrating the freedom Christ has to offer.

Just like me riding the swing, I had to remember that I was okay the first time and others had gone before me and were free so I could trust it.

The same is true in our spiritual lives.

Sometimes all it takes to let go is remembering that God had you the first time.

Sometimes all it takes is others modeling what that letting go looks like in order for us to experience freedom in Christ.

Here’s what I know to be true: if we continue to death-grip our life swing, we are going to miss out on the joy filled freedom of life God has called us to experience. We don’t need to hold on tight, but rather freely surrender to the unknown, knowing God is there. Knowing He is not some duct-taped swing that could crash, but rather He holds us with His righteous right hand. He doesn’t let go of us. He carries us and brings us through the unknown territory whether it’s veiled or revealed.

LET GO.

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fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10

Different Seasons, Same God

Here recently, I flew to California and sat between two of my good friends pretty much looking out the window the whole time. I couldn’t get enough of the beauty we were passing over. Not only did I feel small in comparison to this big world, but I started to gain a deeper understanding of just how much God is in control.

When I looked out the window, I could see my little city, getting smaller and smaller as we took off into the air. Just like any other plane ride, the details of the city started to fade away and all I saw were big patches of green. Sooner or later, we made our way to the correct altitude, and the clouds over came the scenery, but I was just as mesmerized with being up in the midst of the clouds. A few hours passed and so did the clouds as we made our way to the Grand Canyon. From the sky it looked absolutely beautiful, so I can’t imagine what it would look like up close. But it didn’t take much longer for us to pass through the desert where there wasn’t much green happening, but more brown. And before I knew it, the mountains of California were covered with snow—then suddenly there was the Pacific Ocean. I could see it.

 

Now I know, there’s some of you out there who know good and well what you see when you look out the window of an airplane, and I’ll be honest, I’ve seen it before; but not quite like I saw it this go around.

This time I saw different places, different states, different seasons ALL existing at the exact same time.

Go with me here for a second; this means while some people are wearing swimsuits, some are clothed head to toe with all the winter wear. Or what about those who are enjoying a picnic on a nice warm day, and others are bundled up inside drinking a hot cup of coffee watching the snow fall. Or the plants that are just beginning to bloom, while other places can’t even grow plants because it’s so dry. And yet, no matter what’s going on in all these different seasons and places, they are all happening simultaneously.

The same is true with our lives. When someone is going through a horrible and unexpected circumstance, someone else may be experiencing tremendous amounts of celebration and joy. In the midst of deep sorrow, deep joy happens at the exact same time!

And yet, God is overseeing it all.

He sees the plants blooming and the ones that can’t grow.
He sees the pain and suffering alongside the blessing and celebration.
He sees the snow while seeing the sun.
He sees the wilderness and the promise land.
He sees.

No matter the season, God is there and He is not surprised by anything at any moment. God is with you in your place, in your season of life, in your circumstance; He is there.

When I looked out the window on the flight to California, what I saw was not just different seasons, but different seasons existing at the same time while God is in control over it all.

No matter what season of life you have been in, are currently in, or will be in the future; you can rest knowing God is there and in control–so you don’t have to be.

WILDERNESS

Right now, if you’re walking through a season of wilderness, let me encourage you that God sees you and He hears you. He sees the hardships you’re walking through and as much as you may feel forgotten, I promise you God remembers. I’m not just saying this from someone who has read it in Scripture, but as someone who has walked the wilderness and I’ve seen God’s deliverance. Your wilderness, is wilderness. It’s hard and it may be messy. It may be coming as a surprise to you, but I know and believe there is purpose in the midst of the wilderness. You may not know the answers you are searching for until days, months, or years later; but God is working it for your good–that’s a promise. So as you walk through this wilderness, lean in. Lean in real tight to God. Get to know who He is. Instead of worrying and complaining, rest in God’s never-changing character. As hard as it may be, thank Him for the wilderness. He stays the same. He does not change. He does not lie. He loves you. He cares for you.

CELEBRATION

Right now, if you’re walking through a season of celebration, let me encourage you to remember where the celebration is coming from. Remember the one who brings the blessing in your life. Talk to Him. Tell Him how excited you are and how great things are. Thank Him for the celebration He has given you. Celebrate His mercy and grace towards you. Celebrate Him being with you in the midst of the blessing. Celebrate how much He loves and cares about you. Praise Him for this season. But don’t forget your need for Him. You may be tempted in this season of blessing to think you can do it all on your own, but let me remind you that you can’t. Jesus said He couldn’t do anything without the Father, so you can’t do it without God either. Be desperate for God. Even when things are going great, you still need Him every step of the way. Continue to trust and rest in Him.

FOR EVERY SEASON

No matter what you’re going through, God is in control. The truth of God’s character remains the same no matter the situation, season, or circumstance. He sees you and knows you better than you even think you know yourself. Trust Him–His ways are far better than anything you could ever imagine.

I need you to know I’m still learning this. I’m learning how to trust God’s sovereignty in the midst of the wilderness and the celebration. But I can tell you, when I rest in God being in control of everything, it takes away any anxiety and is replaced with unexplainable peace. I’ve learned the only way I can make it through the changing seasons of life is by trusting God’s plan for me. To this day (and I’m confident my future will be the same way), God has not failed me–and I know He won’t fail you!

So as we journey through life, let’s remember these truths:

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Malachi 3:6
For I the Lord do not change.

Numbers 23:19
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Psalm 34:17-18
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lordyour God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

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

Lamentations 3:22-23
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

John 5:19
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

Psalm 63:1
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Philippians 4:6
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.

Colossians 1:17
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

A Powerful God in a Crazy Life

About a month ago, I stood with my feet sinking deep into the sand of the ocean. As far as my eyes could see there was water, which eventually met the sky. I remember feeling so small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean. I even talked to one of my friends about God’s size and how He is so infinite that I will never be able to understand His power.

img_0419I sat along the shore just watching the waves come in. I remembered Jesus calming the storm and the disciples taking a mental note that even the winds and waves obey Him. I remember confessing to the Lord that I am not as obedient as a wave. If God tells me to do something, I reluctantly do it after being told to do it. But watching the waves come in, I was reminded of my disobedience.

The ocean (and I would even say the mountains) has this ability to draw me out of my self-absorbed pit because when I’m there, I’m reminded of God and all that He’s capable of doing. But I don’t live next to an ocean. I can’t go see it everyday. I have a beautiful backyard, but there aren’t mountains or an ocean–just a barn and some trees.

When I got back from the ocean, the power of God seemed to disappear as we drove away from Florida. The closer we got to home, the pressure of getting everything done increased. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to go back to my self-absorbed pit.

I was greeted with the enormous pressure of grad school. My friends who read this know exactly what I’m going to say–it’s kicking my butt. From the very beginning of the class, I have felt like an elementary student taking a graduate level class in poetry, British poetry at that. Poetry is it’s own language, with its own terms, and I’m completely clueless. I’m convinced that it takes me double time what it takes everyone else because other than Dr. Suess or Shel Silverstein, I’m completely inexperienced. But it is hard and taking up pretty much all of my free time.

Then it’s summer time and I do multiple things with our church during the summer! I absolutely love it! The relationships we get to build with our students is probably one of my favorite things about the whole year! The depth of community that’s built in the summer and watching God work in the lives of our students is literally one of the greatest joys.

Oh and I bought a house in April, so I’ve been slowly updating and changing some things here and there. Nothing super major, but just things like putting cabinets back on, organizing things, or hanging some sweet patio lights.

But all of these things take time. And the lack of time with an increase of pressure, created a greater self-absorbed me and a powerful God being squished to fit into a small time-frame. In essence, I started seeing my circumstances and present situation as something that held more power than God.

DISCLAIMER: I know that sounds ridiculous. And if anything you should just stop reading this blog, because I’m telling you I have absolutely nothing to offer you. I literally just confessed to you that I saw the pressures of life greater than God.

And that’s true about what I felt, but completely not true about God. I was believing (and still struggle with this) a LIE. I literally saw my present stressors greater than God and I believed this lie.

The fact that I believed God was smaller than my present situation started eating at my soul. Things that are foundational to my faith, I started to question:

  • God, how can you be good?
  • God, how are you loving me? I can’t feel it. Show me your love for me. I literally cannot see it.
  • God, I don’t think you’re faithful. I don’t think you’re true to your word.

And let me be super honest with you, I came home from the beach, June 1 and as I’m writing this it’s June 25. So we are talking less than a month I went from being absolutely certain that God is good, God is loving, and God is faithful to God isn’t good, God isn’t loving, and God isn’t faithful.

What changed?

I can promise you it wasn’t God. Scripture promises us that God does not change. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” Even Malachi echoes this with “For I the Lord do not change.” It’s impossible for God to change.

What changed? ME!

Sitting at the ocean, I had all the time in the world to rejuvenate and rest in the power of God’s presence. Then when I came home, God’s presence was (and is) here, but the pressure of life caved in. I was still in the Word, but I was going to God with a very anxious heart and not leaving the pressures at His feet. I wasn’t allowing myself to find rest in God mainly because I thought I had the power over life.

I distinctly remember three occasions over the last month where I created space and clearly heard God’s voice. One occurred on my back patio, and the other two happened in the midst of my nightly quiet time. It never ceases to amaze me just how patient God is with me because even in my questioning of God, He still speaks.

How gracious is God for Him to speak to me?

I literally had just finished praying asking the Lord to reveal to me His goodness, His love, and His faithfulness to me. He quickly responded with His power, but that was exactly what I needed to hear! My daily quiet time was in Acts 12.

Again, remember I literally have nothing to offer you, but God’s Word is so amazing and full of Truth that this is what y’all need to listen to–not my words.

Just a little background on the passage: the church is brand spanking new, and it’s spreading like wild fire. But as the church is growing, persecution is also taking place. King Herod started going after believers. In fact, right before this passage he murders James and arrests Peter. But God’s work is not done–it’s simply beginning. Check this out from Acts 12:6-11:

Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Wow!! Not that the pressure of a busy schedule quite compares to Peter being bound in chains to two guards behind an iron gate, but being completely real and vulnerable…. I totally feel like this in life. It feels like the chains of life are just so much stronger. But there’s good news–God is our rescuer.

God is CLEARLY powerful and COMPLETELY in control.

It’s crazy to think that I had just seen God’s overwhelming power by watching the waves and the winds obey Him in Florida, but it’s hard to see God’s power back here at home. But then this passage came along, and God made His power quite possibly more known to me through this passage than at the ocean. Here’s what God showed me:

1. It doesn’t matter what you’re chained to.

Peter was chained to two men. The passage doesn’t say that they were giant, but I’m guessing they had to be pretty large. King Herod really wanted Peter gone because Peter sharing the gospel was a threat to King Herod’s kingdom, so it makes sense that he had the biggest men watching Peter. But even big men were not a problem for God. Verse 7 says, “And the chains fell off his hands.”

When I read this, I was awestruck. I’ve been feeling so weighed down with grad school and life, that I just came to accept the weight. But Christ wants us to give Him our burdens. Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-29 to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When we actually allow God the time and space and we surrender any power we feel we have over our chains, God moves. He makes the chains fall, and we can finally see who holds the Power.

2. After the chains fall and you face an iron gate, God is still with you because He goes before you.

It’s so easy once our chains fall and we experience that freedom to completely freak out when we get to that closed door, but God is not at all surprised by that gate. We like to spend time analyzing how to open the gate and question how God could even open it, but we completely miss God’s power when we do that (this is me by the way!). God is at work. He knew the gate was going to be there for Peter; He knew the Red Sea was going to be there for the Israelites running out of Egypt; and He knows your personal gate before you get there. He’s God. It’s when the gate comes, we get to see God’s power when HE opens it.

Can you imagine this scene, the angel and Peter escaping 2 soldiers and now walk up to an iron gate and verse 10 says the gate “opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street.” That’s power. God is not just in control over the wind and the waves, but even the gates that are in our lives. God didn’t need Peter to sit and analyze how to open the gate, God just opened it. God is in control. Paul puts it this way, “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” God has us. He is with us. When we can finally see that God goes before us and holding all things together, we are reminded of who holds the power–it’s not me and it’s not you; it’s God.

3. Seeing God’s power over the chains and the gates assures us of God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s faithfulness.

I don’t know about you, but like I mentioned earlier, all I ever do is question the chains or question the gate that are currently present in my life. I don’t understand why I’m being chained and that creates doubt of God’s character. But it’s in the deliverance from the chains that I see God’s power in a completely new light that causes me to walk in a more surrendered life. Being set free from my chains allows me to see God’s power in a new way that brings me life–it strengthens what I believe about God.

When I read Peter’s experience, I can’t help but hear his reaction to this great rescue: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod.” Peter is set free and he vocalizes that He is reassured this is a work from the Lord and not just a vision. I’m not quite sure if Peter struggled to see God’s goodness, love, or faithfulness, but I am sure that Peter recognized God’s power.

So what happens when we recognize who holds the power?

Our chains and our gates may be a way for God to demonstrate His great power over our lives, which allows us to see God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness towards us in a much deeper way.

Now here’s the thing, I’m definitely not perfect at this. I still don’t understand just how God’s power works in my life, but what I do know is that when I prayed, “Lord, this life is too crazy right now–set me free,” God revealed to me His power. The Holy Spirit was telling me: Rachel, I see where you are. I see you working on grad school, I see you doing ministry, I see this house. I’m here with you and just like I set Peter free from the weight of the chains, I’m here setting you free. I’m here providing you rest. Come to me. Rest in the power of my hand.

Just to be clear, when God set me free, my circumstances didn’t change, but what changed was my perspective. Before reading this passage, I thought I held the power. I thought I was the one having to do this all by myself. I thought I was the one searching for a key, trying to get out of the gate.

But what I was set free from was a mindset of control. I don’t have control, God does.

So yes, life is still crazy and grad school is still hard.

But the chains of thinking I have to control it all has been released because I know God holds the power.


P.S. If you made it this far, congratulations! But I wanted to show you one more example of God’s power. It’s simply the ending to the story with King Herod. See King Herod wanted people to look at him as a god, and Acts 12:23 says, “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” If that’s not a demonstration of power, I’m not sure what is.

God is simply using His Word to tell me to breathe because He’s all-powerful and can get someone eaten by worms.