Isn’t being bold the same as being obnoxious?

People don’t believe me when I tell them I’m shy. I’m introverted, yes, but that doesn’t automatically mean I’m shy. And in most circumstances when I’m around people, I’m only in places where I’m very comfortable. When I’m comfortable, I can come off like a total extrovert.

But that’s not who I really am. I’m the quiet one in the corner who likes to get my bearings before I jump into anything. I like to gauge a crowd, a room, a speaker before I answer a question or put up my hand for a comment. But even then, even after I’ve taken the time to get to a place where I’m not terrified, I still feel an urge to stay quiet. There’s always a voice in the back of my mind that tells me nobody needs to hear what I have to say and that if I walk up to someone to talk to them, I’ll just be interrupting. Or I’ll bother them.

But is that the way we’re supposed to live? Believing things like that about ourselves? Isn’t that humility? Or is it lies the enemy whispers to keep us silent when we really ought to speak up?

mountains-nature-sky-sunnyToday’s verse is 2 Corinthians 3:12.

Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.

What does it mean to be bold? Is boldness synonymous with being obnoxious? That’s how I usually identify boldness. Being bold means you’re prideful or you’re full of yourself or you’re irritating.

But, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m pretty sure God isn’t okay with any of those character traits. So if God isn’t okay with any of that, how can we be bold if that’s what it means?

Easy answer, that’s not what it means. Being bold is being confident, and, sure, you can be confident in a wrong way. You can let your confidence become pride, or because you’re overly confident you can rub people the wrong way. But true boldness has very little to do with focusing on yourself.

What this verse is talking about is the boldness we have as Christ-followers. It’s probably referring specifically to how we can approach Christ with our troubles, that we can just go to Him whenever we need Him. That’s audacity. To approach the King of Heaven and ask a favor? Crazy talk. But I like to think that this verse is talking about more than just our prayer life.

Because of what Jesus did for us, we can be bold in everything we do. We don’t have to be timid and fearful. We don’t have to crumble whenever someone challenges us. We don’t have to hunker down and squeeze our eyes shut because someone disagrees with us. And, no, we don’t even have to stay quiet because we are shy.

We can live boldly because our confidence is in Jesus. Christ gave His life for us so that we could live abundantly. So what are we afraid of? Why are we hiding in the shadows? Sure, I dislike the spotlight, and I don’t like talking to people I don’t know. But when God has put me in a situation where I need to talk to people, the last thing I should be doing is sitting alone at a table scribbling notes.

I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I’m absolutely terrified to start up a conversation with someone I don’t know. Those are the lies Satan wants me to believe about myself, and it’s high time that I stopped listening to him.

What are you hiding from? What are you afraid to do, even though God’s told you to do it? Stop running. Stop believing the lies, and face those fears the enemy has planted in your heart. God has a plan for you, and it’s awesome. It’s time to get bold.

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Wearing the other team’s colors in the home bleachers

Have you ever seen a sporting event on television where the stadiums are full of a team’s home colors? Around Wichita, it’s black and gold, with a hefty helping of blue and red or Wildcat purple. But there have been times when I’ve seen a sporting event where the stands are full of one color of shirts and hats—except for one or two people, who are wearing the opposing team’s colors.

I’ve always thought those people were very brave. Wearing the enemy’s colors, right? Wouldn’t it be easier to wear the same color as everybody else? Wouldn’t it be wiser not to set yourself apart as different from the rest? Why would you draw attention to yourself like that?

How many times do we use that logic when we’re talking about following Jesus?

Standing_out_from_the_CrowdToday’s verse is Isaiah 29:13.

And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”

It’s so much easier to blend in, to put our heads down, to not stick out. The more you stick out, the more attention you draw. And, let’s just be honest, sometimes attention isn’t fun.

And maybe it’s okay at a sporting event. I’m sure it’s okay in other circumstances to claim allegiance to a team or a cause even if you don’t really support it in your heart. It’s not an earth-shaking trauma if you aren’t a Broncos fan but you wear a Broncos fan jersey to a game. But if you take that same approach with following Jesus, you’re going to have trouble in your life.

With Jesus, it’s all or nothing. Sure, you can get your “hell insurance,” but if that’s all you want out of a relationship with Him, you aren’t going to be very easily satisfied with your life.

I don’t understand the Christians who say they believe in Jesus but consistently go against what the Bible says is right. If you don’t believe the Bible, if you don’t support the teachings of Jesus, if you don’t want to live like a Christian, why do you call yourself a Christian?

I have atheist friends, and I am proud to know them because they are honest about themselves and their lives. I also have encountered Christians who say they have trusted Jesus for their salvation (and I don’t doubt it) but who refuse to live their life by Jesus’ example. And I don’t understand.

They are the same people the prophet Isaiah is talking about in this verse. They honor God with what they say, but their hearts are facing the opposite direction.

Now, are we supposed to run around offending everyone we come into contact with? No! Absolutely not. Jesus wasn’t offensive. Yes, He said things that offended people, but He wasn’t offensive as a person. As a person, He was beloved. Even people who didn’t agree with Him still wanted to talk to Him.

So if you were at a game where God and the World were competing against each other, whose colors would you be wearing? Would you be bold enough to don God’s colors and cheer? Would you be courageous enough to wear God’s colors even if you were sitting amidst a section of only the World’s supporters?

Think about it. Because that’s what we’re called to do.

Be brave enough to get out of the boat

Whenever you read the Bible, I’m betting there are people in it you recognize. Not because they’re people you’ve read about before or heard talked about before. But because they behave the same way you do.

If you ask the average dedicated Christ-follower on the street which Bible personality most reflects their own, I’m betting most people would say Peter.

Ah, Peter. The rough-and-tumble, brash, impulsive fisherman. I swear his foot spent more time in his mouth than it did in his sandals. He’s easy to identify with because he just shoots his mouth off all the time. And that’s reassuring, because if Jesus could use someone like Peter, surely he could use anyone, right?

But I really don’t think we give Peter enough credit. Yes, he was loud and rash and reckless. He didn’t always think about what he said before he said it. But he got to do things nobody else got to do, and he got to do them because he was willing to jump when Jesus called.

After all, when was the last time you walked on water?

730729_13973862Today’s verses are Matthew 14:22-31.

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Peter and his adventure walking on water has been heavy on my mind in recent months. Imagine. Walking on water. And not calm water–stormy water. There was a heck of a storm blowing all around him when Peter climbed out of that boat and went to meet Jesus on the waves.

But Jesus called him out. So he went. He might not have made it very far, but how many of us can say that we’ve done that? How many of us can even say we’ve tried?

As 21st Century Americans we are wired to expect life to be a certain way. If your family is godly, it’s usually safe to assume you’ll have some sort of Christ-like influence in your childhood. We expect to go to school and then on to college and to graduate with a degree that we may or may not ever use. We expect to get a job working from 9 to 5. Somewhere in there, some of us may get married, may have children, and some may find success–at least what we have always been told is success.

We expect all these things just as we expect that water will never be solid enough to walk on.

But what makes us think that a life following Christ is supposed to be what we expect? Isn’t it supposed to be more?

That’s why I love Peter. Not because I see myself in his faults but because I want to be the person with enough courage to get out of the boat.

You shouldn’t be able to walk on water, but if you’re following Jesus, you can. You shouldn’t be able to achieve impossible things in your life and your career when you don’t follow the crowd, but if you’re following Jesus, you can.

What is God calling you to do today? He’s calling me to do something crazy. Or at least, it’s something a lot of people will think is crazy. But I’m sure the rest of the Disciples thought Peter had lost his marbles when he jumped out of that boat. I can’t help but wonder what they must have thought when he didn’t sink.

What we all have to remember is that it’s not your will that keeps you walking where you shouldn’t be able to walk. It’s your faith. How much do you trust Jesus?

If you get out of the boat in a storm, you’re going to get wet. You’re going to be thrown around. You’re going to be uncomfortable, and you might even get a little scared. But you can be uncomfortable and scared and keep trusting Jesus.

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Facing the demon in the storm window

I got home from the Realm Makers conference in Philadelphia on Sunday around 3pm. Both my roomie and I were both exhausted, so instead of being productive like we probably should have been, we decided to watch some Firefly.

So we did–and that’s when we heard it.

*thump-thump*

Like someone walking around upstairs.

Nobody else should have been in the house. At first, I thought I’d imagined it, but we heard it again. So we both crept upstairs, me carrying a flyswatter (stop laughing; a flyswatter is a perfectly legitimate weapon). We did a quick search of the first floor.

Nothing.

We went back downstairs and resumed our watching.

*thump-thump*

Again. Like someone dropping shoes on the wood floor. Or like something banging on the outside of the house.

We repeated this process about four times, growing more and more unsettled with each suspicious thump-thump until we ended up standing outside trying to find out what on earth could be making the sound. And that’s when we saw motion in the storm window.

It turned out to be a cottontail rabbit. A young one I think. It had gotten stuck in the storm window and was trying to jump out. Every time it jumped it would bang its stupid bunny head on the window.

Yes, I’m uncompassionate. It made me laugh. And then it made me think. What I would have done? Would I have been brave enough to stay in a house where there was a creepy ghosty noise banging away on the windows when I couldn’t explain it?

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse 2 Timothy 1:7.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Fear is dangerous. Granted, not all fear is bad. Some fear is good. Fear is a natural response to stupidity–or at least it should be. But some kinds of fear are paralyzing and not in a good way.

We fear things that we can’t control, and because we can’t control them, we make no attempt to change them. Fears can become like shackles, binding us up and keeping us locked in a dark corner instead of living in the light like we were created to do. If we aren’t careful, our great big lives can be made teeny tiny by our fear.

And one thing I’ve noticed, especially among Christians, is that we fear the world. We fear the darkness in other people, in organizations, in countries. And darkness is certainly worthy of respect but not fear–fear and respect are totally different. The trouble with fearing darkness is that it’s easy to turn away from it. It’s easy to ignore it. It’s so much easier to pretend that it doesn’t exist because we can’t control what might happen if we face it.

At the Realm Makers 2014 conference, the keynote speaker, New York Times Best Selling author Tosca Lee, had this to say about the darkness of the world and the Christian’s response to it:

“Darkness is a fact of existence, as is light. If we cover our eyes in response to darkness, we are afraid of it. And we are commanded not to fear.”

The world is full of fears, but God has given us His Holy Spirit. And He who lives in us every day is bigger and stronger than any darkness we may face in the world, so why are we afraid? Why do we give into the fears our enemy whispers in our ears?

I’m not saying to accept the darkness or condone it. I’m saying we shouldn’t ignore it. I’m saying we shouldn’t change the subject or write it off like it doesn’t matter. Darkness does matter, and we who are armed with the Light have a responsibility to conquer it in the name of Christ.

I’d like to tell you I would have slept just fine without knowing about the Demon Bunny in the storm window, but I’m not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t found it. The point I’m getting to is that I went looking for an answer. I didn’t just ignore it. I didn’t just put it out of my mind. I ventured out of where I was comfortable to find the cause, and when I found it, I dealt with it.

If we can face the darkness of our world with that kind of fearlessness, I think our lives would be different. I know our faith would be stronger.

What are you afraid of today? What dark aspect of the world are you setting aside and refusing to face because it will make you or others uncomfortable?

Stop. When you’re afraid, remember that fear doesn’t come from God. If you have an opportunity to share Christ’s light with someone lost in darkness, fight the fear. With God on your side, your fears are nothing but a stupid bunny trapped in a storm window. All they do is make noise.

Evergreen tree - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Courageous habits are built

Every day we all face challenges that will either stump us or cause us to grow. Even if we make the wrong decision, we can still learn from it and know what to do the next time the challenge comes. But if you don’t know what to do and you choose to do nothing, what will you learn from it?

Evergreen tree - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Evergreen tree – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses come out of the Book of Esther, which I was reading last night. Two sets really stood out to me:

Esther 2:20

Esther continued to keep her family background and nationality a secret. She was still following Mordecai’s directions, just as she did when she lived in his home.

Esther 4:11-16

“All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.” So Hathach gave Esther’s message to Mordecai. Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”

Granted Esther’s situation was a little different than any that we will probably face today. She’d been taken from the life she knew and made a queen because of her beauty, and an evil man in the king’s court was trying to annihilate the Jewish people. And it fell to Esther to stop him.

But even though her situation was very different from any we will likely face anytime soon, the principles of how she acted during that time are still relevant to us today.

Before Esther even reached the king’s court, she has already built a habit of humility by obeying her cousin Mordecai. So when Mordecai told her to keep her heritage a secret, she didn’t hesitate to obey him.

Then when the plot to destroy the Jews came to light and Mordecai told her to ask the king for help, even though she hesitated out of fear, when Mordecai reminded her that God had put her in a position of authority for a reason, she did it.

Part of doing the right thing is making it into a habit so that when you face the really difficult times, it’s easier to do what you know is right even if it’s scary.

Pop culture would have us believe that courage is some mystical force we summon up out of the blue in order to face the great fears that average people shrink away from. Maybe there is some truth to that. Maybe some people are just bolder than others. But courage isn’t magical and it isn’t something that just materializes. It’s something you have to work on. It’s something you have to choose to do over and over again before it really makes any difference.

Just as it’s important to make doing the right thing a habit, doing courageous things needs to be a habit too. But courage doesn’t always present itself in the grand light the movies and books always display it. Courage is small sometimes. It’s not always attractive. And it’s not always successful – at least in the way the world would call successful.

Courage can be as small and insignificant as smiling at a homeless person. That doesn’t sound big. That doesn’t sound earth shaking. Maybe it’s not. But if you’re a shy, introverted person (like me), it’s you putting yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s you caring more about someone else than yourself. It’s you risking that in response, that person might speak to you, and when you’re an introvert, that’s terrifying. But courage is action in spite of fear, trusting that God has put you where He’s put you for a reason and will catch you when you step wrong.

Even Esther didn’t see the results of her courage until later. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 deal with her plan. She didn’t just come out and ask immediately for what she wanted. She had to prepare the king’s heart for what she was going to ask. But that meant patience.

Courage is something we all need to have. But it isn’t going to look like what the movies say it will. It’s often small, and it’s often very personal. But if you take courage and do what God is calling you to do, even if it feels small at the time, He will use your actions to do something incredible with it.

That’s what God does. He takes our small act of courage and uses it to bless a lot of people.

Rose at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Worry offers the illusion of control

Life is busy. No. Scratch that. Life is insane. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so. Everyone I know is busy. All of us are running around like crazy people with our hair on fire, scrambling to achieve something. We are looking for jobs or we’re trying to keep the ones we have. We’re trying to please people in authority over us or we’re trying to maintain the status quo.

So much to keep track of. I always feel like I’m forgetting something.

I fly to Indianapolis today for a crazy, banzai overnight, a work trip. And even though I’m sure I’ve got everything, I still feel like I’ve left something behind. Add that to the general feeling of insecurity and anxiety I already have because I have to go to a strange city and talk to people I don’t know, and I’m kind of a mess.

Rose at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Rose at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is 1 Peter 5:7.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

This is good for me to see today. It’s a good reminder. Because worrying is a choice. Well, at least, first, it’s a choice. Then, it becomes a habit.

Granted, there are steps to take to make sure we don’t forget something or that we aren’t irresponsible with what we’ve been given. And there are processes to follow to make sure that everything is done right. But after you’ve done your best, after you’ve followed all the steps, what good does worrying do?

I can’t control the flights. I can’t control the people I’m going to talk to. I can’t control any of the situations that I’m walking into today and tomorrow. So what good does worrying about it do?

I have to turn loose of it and let God take it from here. But that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re a control freak.

Worrying doesn’t really accomplish anything, though. I think it provides some sort of release, though, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. Maybe it’s some kind of comfort in illusion because by worrying over something we think we have more control over the outcome. We don’t. But it makes us feel like we do.

So my goal today is not to worry. What happens, happens. And I’m going to give my worries to God. And when I start to worry again, I’m going to choose to stop. It’s going to help me keep my perspective straight because if I can wrap my head around the fact that God is in control, maybe someday I’ll stop trying to take it back from Him.