What Kind of Friend am I? {The Longing of Jesus}

The Bench

You are My friends if you do what I command.
I no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know his master’s business.
Instead, I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you
and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit
—fruit that will last—
and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:14-17

The sermon wouldn’t leave me. And I told her as much. For there is plenty I want to achieve…do…be…in these verses alone.

Today, I wanted to help her see what I’m learning. What I’m striving for. She listened so well. Nodding in all the right places. Smiling with each new discovery. Encouraging me as I made my way through the text. Success seemed imminent.

Her soft, worn hand enveloped mine when I was through. And as she searched my hazels for my soul, she said plainly:

“This seems overwhelming to tackle all at once. Don’t you think? I’m guessing, though, we can get to the heart of things by answering one question posed here…”

The pause was planned, I’m sure, as I scanned my Bible quickly, trying to come up with the question before I heard it. She said finally,

“What kind of friend are you to Jesus?”

Her grip firmed when my defenses rose. And it took all I had in me to meet her gaze and allow this question to sink in to my marrow.

She tilted her head skyward as she recalled her childhood best friend. The time spent, the laughter spilled, the secrets kept…and my heart warmed as I thought of those in my lifetime who have been in this category. We both became lost in thought as we reflected on how close we’ve allowed another to come…

I believe it was Aristotle who said friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. And I can’t begin to fathom why Jesus would want to have that kind of relationship…with me.

Still…He says plainly: He chose me. Has held nothing from me. And longs to call me not a servant, but a friend.

It seems He could care less with how much I could do for Him, rather He aches to be one with me.

The King of all Kings. The Son of The Most High. My Jehovah in every way, calls me friend.

And she’s right. It’s worth asking: “What kind of friend am I?”

Friends, I know what kind of friend He is…and I wonder…could I be the same for Him?

Could I hold nothing back? Make my presence known to Him each day? Could I stand boldly in His corner when the bullies come and try to denounce His name? Could I be so encapsulated by the very thought of Him that I think of nothing else but loving Him?

Could I know Jesus, the way He knows me? Enough so that I prove Aristotle was right?

Could I give my life –all that I have– simply for the very thought of His?

She’s right, you know…it’s worth asking. For it is at the very heart of things. And above all else, it’s worth striving for.

How about you, friend? What kind of friend are you to Jesus? What kind of friend do you allow Him to be for you? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

The Great Reveal {my Fears, my Faith, my Father}

The Presence of God

Fear can swallow us whole…

Sometimes, my faith doesn’t feel enough…

Often I miss seeing my Father right here with me…

All of this results in me missing out on The Truth.

Friends, I’m over at my 2nd home: 5 Minutes for Faith today sharing more about this. I’d love it if you had time to stop over as I share my recent thought process.

Here’s a sneak peek:

I gulped hard, forcing a smile as I watched my five year-old slide down the wet strip of yellow. Cold water splashed my shins as he squealed in delight. And still I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

She was too young. She didn’t deserve to go so soon. Yet she’s gone. Just like that.

Try as I might, all I could see was what else I could lose…

Won’t you stop by to hear the rest? Simply CLICK HERE or on the button below!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

What if I Lived it? {Christ in Me}

Christ in Me

He calms storms. Heals the sick. Raises the dead.
He’s cried over our hurts. And has compassion on us all.
He stood there, innocently accused, and opted to take the fall anyway. For me….you…

He’s proved that death doesn’t win. Love does. And has conquered every struggle I have yet to face.

And to think…His power lives inside of me.

I believe it…I do…and I’m striving to live it…I am…

Because maybe then the mountains I climb will feel like level ground. Maybe the pressures I feel will fall like a fresh breeze across my face. Maybe if I tapped in to His unfailing power, rest would find me.

Friend, what if we really believed it? and then lived it?

What if we woke up each morn and accepted His new mercies? (Lam 3:22-24) What if we put on our armor of righteousness, helmet of salvation, and wrapped ourselves in His zeal? (Isaiah 59:17). What if we breathed in His Spirit each day and let Him lead?

What if we faced each day knowing He’s got us?

Today, that’s my prayer for you. May you believe it. live it. experience it. And give Him the glory for it.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
Ephesians 3:16

This song shares this very prayer. But what pulls at my heart-strings the most is when the artist talks about his 6 year-old daughter prior to singing.

Oh I pray this gift will be easier to accept for our children…

What if they lived their whole lives knowing that if we let Him, Jesus will take over. Lead the way. See us through.

His power and glory can prevail. Through us…in you and me.

Christ in Me

Tim Timmons

Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen below:

The same great light that broke the dark
The same great peace that calmed the seas
Hallelujah, is living in me
The same great love that gives us breath
The same great power that conquered death
Hallelujah, is flowing through me
The same great love that casts out fear
The same compassion that draws us near
Hallelujah, is living in the air
The same great mercy I received
Amazing grace for a wretch like me
Hallelujah, is flowing through me
And what, what if I believed in Your power
And I really lived it
What, what if I believed, Christ in me
What if I believed
I would lay my worries down
See these hills as level ground
What if I believed, Christ in me
Oh, I would praise You with my life
Let my story lift You high
What if I believed, Christ in me

How about you, friend? Do you believe it? Live it? Experience it? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

On How Fearing the Dark Might Not Be a Bad Thing

eclipse-M

The idea of light has followed me around lately. Reaching me in the most obscure and obvious places. And while I try to help my five year-old sort through his own questions of darkness, a part of me wants to teach him what I’m learning now in hopes his journey of life would be more illuminated as a result. Regardless of how the darkness feels.

The other part of me doesn’t want him to know the truth yet…how the darkness is a foreign animal no human could ever tame…

Friends, I’m over at my other home, 5 Minutes for Faith, sorting through this very thing today. I’d love to have you stop by and share your thoughts with me! Simply click on the button below.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

No Buts About It {How My Prayers Have Changed Pt. 2}

This is the second post in my James Prayer series — on how my prayers have changed. You may read the first post HERE.

https://simplystriving.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/no-buts-about-it-how-my-prayers-have-changed-pt-2/

My elbows dug into my knees, palms firmly planted on my chin. And I rocked slowly, trying to soothe my pounding chest as I searched for words. I have no idea how much time fled as I started over and over, determined to get it right…I realized then I was doing exactly what the verses warned me about. Finally, I relented and told Him outright:

Lord, I don’t even know how to pray…I know how to praise and thank You, but I don’t know how to bring my worries to You. Because they seem to bubble with doubt…

It stung as it rolled off my tongue. I’ve considered myself a prayer for years, with prayer journals to prove it. And here I sat on this moonless night realizing I’ve completely lost my way, drifting off to sea.

I’d become a “But Christian”.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James 1:5-8

For how many times have I said

“Lord, please heal _____, but if it’s not Your will…”
“Father, help me _____, but if You have other plans…”

Oh mylanta, I’m as wishy-washy as they come. How can He even look at me let alone listen…

I opened my Bible, hoping I missed something. Where does it say how to believe firmly when you know not every prayer gets answered with hoped-for results? How do you decipher between needs and wants? Do I admit how big of a deal these things are to me when in the grand scheme of grace, they are so very small?

Then I saw it…how I’ve been complicating prayer all these years. How I’ve tried to act double-minded, like I can read His mind, how I’ve presented pleas instead of just presenting myself.

  • I’ve asked for solutions and not answers.
  • I’ve treated Him like a taskmaster — focusing more on the gifts than the Giver.
  • I’ve acted as if I know better…and then tried to cover it up with a ‘but’…

James shows us how to get our buts out-of-the-way. What to ask when we’re deep in need: Wisdom. Ask for His wisdom. Every time.

And he even promises…God gives that out generously to all (vs. 5). I have no reason to doubt His will in this regard.

Solomon knew it–all one really needs to get through this world that’s not our home is wisdom. Intimate life-knowledge. And He is the Bread of Life. He is the source of wisdom we all seek. He is all we need.

If I want to gain life-knowledge, I need to know the One Who Is…I need to see Him.

https://simplystriving.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/no-buts-about-it-how-my-prayers-have-changed-pt-2/

Doubt holds no weight when all we seek is to know Him. When all we ask for is what He’s promised to always freely give.

So when trouble comes and I’m grasping for a way out, I can pray:

“Father, I’m sinking, yet You’ve never let me go… Here, You take this ____. Give me wisdom, Lord, so I can see You and know You’ve got this. Show me how You want me to respond. For I know and believe fully–You are all I need.”

When cancer/illness plagues someone who owns a piece of my heart, I can pray:

“God, You are bigger than this cancer cell. Let us see You, Lord, right here right now. Rest Your healing hands upon ___ and overwhelm them with Your comfort. Peace. Gives us eyes of wisdom, Father, so we can watch Your glory unfold and know You’ve got us in the palm of Your hand. We’re right where we need to be.”

I go through my prayer list and put it to practice as I seek this intimate life-knowledge He freely gives. And smile wide as I realize…there are no buts about it.

My back straightens as I pick up pace. My shoulders relax as I chat easily with my Creator. And for the first time in my tenure of claiming His name, I can pray with confidence and know He’s heard me when I call.

How about you, friend? Do you ask for wisdom when you pray? How do you tackle those areas we so desperately want to go a certain way? I’d love to hear.

P.S. I’m just getting started with what I’ve learned from the Book of James lately. I hope you’ll stick around. You can catch up on other posts HERE.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist {From Someone Who Didn’t Think She Was}

I was steaming veggies when my husband opened a package and set the book down where I could see it. Its arrival was expected, as I had agreed to write a review, but wasn’t anticipating the author’s name to stop me in my tracks.

Before cracking the book open, I felt I knew her. Turns out I kind of did…

While I am not well-known for being a perfectionist, I am a bit of a control freak–though I prefer to claim I have a leader personality…

Do you think there’s a difference?

I like to pretend I don’t associate with the perfectionist side of control, because I strive to exude grace. And I don’t need perfection. I just prefer you try to do things the best way…my way.

This is embarrassing. It gets worse.

When I agreed to review this book, I assumed it would be a light, quick read, possibly funny, with great tips to bullet point in a review for all my dear readers-turned-friends who have caught this perfectionism bug. Me not being one of them, but one who gets it enough to share the light on the other side.

It was that. I just wasn’t expecting there to be so much more.

Friends, the way He keeps pursuing me…how He insists He has better things in mind for me…the way He has never given up on me…May I never get over it. It is truly amazing grace.

“But God knows our need, which is ultimately to experience and know more of Him, and He gives Himself freely and generously. And constantly.”
~Amanda Jenkins, Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist (Learning to be Free)

You all know the name of my blog, so it is no secret I am striving to become all He has made me to be. But He keeps showing me in places unexpected…His goal isn’t the same as mine. For He’d rather have me get to know Him and what He can be in me. What He can do for me…not the other way around.

Oh mylanta, does He ever love me.

I remember Amanda from college (this is why I will call her by her first name). Which is rather bizarre as I don’t believe we ever had an actual one-on-one conversation. But I could tell you where she sat in chapel each day. A few rows up from my now-husband and I. Now that I’ve read her confessions, I regret I never made a point to truly see her when I had the chance.

Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist is written in a way that feels as if you are reading Amanda’s personal journal. She doesn’t share her discoveries, she walks you through them. She doesn’t tell you the answers, but rather shows you, through scripture, how she came up with the solutions. She doesn’t shy away from sharing the ugly realities we all have in the caverns of our souls…she surfaces them and hands them over to her Savior for us to see. For His glory.

I loved it.

Some of the places she’ll walk you through:

  • How we often misplace our worth (pg 12)
  • Money doesn’t satisfy. It’s never enough. (pg 17)
  • The stuff we’re good at pales in comparison to the stuff God’s good at (pg 28)
  • When it comes to intimacy, God follows our lead. (pg 37)
  • God is not the taskmaster (pg 73)
  • God’s bigger than the scary stuff. He’s got it covered –worry doesn’t work (pg 50-52)
  • God is the only good in me. That’s it. He’s it. (pg 59)

And the thought I lingered on for days:

“Little did I know how filthy my righteousness was” (pg 87)

I’m not even bringing up all that I gleamed from a few of my favorite chapters, as they deserve a blog post all on their own. (The Chapters on Obedience, Testimony, and if I’m brave enough, Pride)

Friends, God spoke loudly to me through Amanda’s words.

If I had to pick the best part about this book, I would say the discussion questions in the back. She doesn’t hold back and challenges you to answer the hard. I’m tempted to take some of the most difficult ones and share my answers here in this space — my simply striving confessions.

Questions like:

  • What do you want to be known for?
  • Who do you work hard to impress?
  • What weakness do you try to hide? And what would it look like for you to delight in it instead of hiding it?
  • What does God see when He looks at you? (I’ve answered this one HERE).
  • Who do you love more than God? (ouch)
  • Why is it difficult for you to put God first? (she’s killing me here)
  • What are your current expectations of God?
  • What are the attributes unique to you that make you beautiful in God’s eyes?

Don’t you think we should talk about these?

I’d love it if you would put this book on your must-read list. I’ll tell you what–you can get started now by reading the First Chapter for FREE HERE. (When you’re done with it, let me know and we’ll talk about how beautiful your feet are. Oh yes, I’m serious.)

There’s also a wonderful Q/A with the author found HERE that’s worth your time.

Some more reviews and one place you can purchase is found HERE. (I’m not an affiliate–just trying to make it easy.)

And you can expect to hear more about this from me sometime soon. I’ll let it sink in a bit as I know (and Amanda talks about it), God’s not done writing my story.

How about you, friend? Are you a perfectionist? Are you intrigued by anything I mentioned above? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Note: I am a part of the Tyndale Blogging Network. I have received this book for free in exchange for my review. All opinions and thoughts listed above are my own.

Intimate Life-Knowledge {How My Prayers Have Changed}

DSC01700

The word haunted me worse than a recurring nightmare. And no matter how I tried to look at it, I knew…it wasn’t describing me. Yet it needs to for it’s how He wants me:

Complete

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4

This I already knew, but the self-reflection portion of my Lenten journey revealed how incomplete I really am. And it scared me big time because I’ve read the verses preceding this many, many times. And let’s face it — I didn’t want to go through more hard times. I don’t want to test my perseverance. My faith muscles are still sore from the last one…

Falling to my knees between the chair and ottoman, I rocked back and forth as I made my plea known: God, please, this can’t be it. You’re trying to show me something else, aren’t You? I know I’m not complete and I’m willing to work on it, but Father, do You really think I’m ready for another trial? Is there another way? What am I missing here? Please…Help me see…show me…I’m listening.

Would you believe I witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit right then and there as I saw the next verse unfold.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5

There’s no other way to describe it but a miracle. Without the Holy Spirit showing me, I would have missed it, I’m certain, because I’ve done many James Bible studies, and I never got it…until the Spirit knew I was ready to receive it.

Friends, for the last 30+ years, I’ve been praying through trials the wrong way.

My prayers have been far from complete.

It was as if I could see the transcripts of my prayers through every significant trial I’ve endured. And I saw it in black and white. Wow…I never asked…

  • I always prayed for a way out instead of asking for His rest to get me through.
  • I always asked for healing instead of asking for the Healer.
  • I always wanted to know why, how, when and never once asked for the wisdom to see beyond them…to just see Him more clearly.

Sure I would ask for wisdom when life decisions were needing to be made. Financial choices, job changes, moving options. I’m smart enough to know where to go for those answers. I’d even asked to know Him more when life was slow and easy.

The best description of wisdom I’ve heard is simply “Intimate Life-Knowledge.” And I can’t help but think…He is the Bread of Life. He’s the reason I have life. So how could I go wrong if I simply asked to know Him more intimately?

But when hard times were slapping me square on the face, I would ask for the escape route instead of the know-how of overcoming them.

Never once did I get to the root of the problem…which made me incomplete and always in need of another try…via trial.

WHY?!? How could I have missed this?!?

Easy…I don’t deserve this bigger picture understanding. So I wasn’t expecting a dirty sinner like me to be given the kind of gift worthy of King Solomon. Why would I ask for that?

That’s where grace comes in.

With one little phrase in the verse, given just to me. Friends, look at it again and say it out loud with me:

God gives generously to all without finding fault…

How soon I forget…

  • I’m not trying to earn anything–He gives this stuff away for free.
  • I can’t pay Him back for saving my life, but I can give the rest of it to Him.
  • I don’t need healing, I need the Healer.
  • I don’t need Easy Street, I need His rest and joy to fall upon me.
  • I don’t need a way out — HE’S my escape plan — I need Him.

And right there, between the cushions, I asked Him to help me. And I boldly asked for it…for intimate life-knowledge of Him…

How about you, friend? Have you asked for life-knowledge? Not just know-how, but for a greater understanding of Him? I’d love to hear.

Would you mind if I keep sharing what I learned while going through James? I’m feeling like He wants me to share how my prayer life has changed…but first, we need to talk about the “But” that proceeds these verses.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: After I went through this, I discovered this Bible Study by Pastor Mark Hall of Casting Crowns which confirmed what my heart felt. It’s worth 8 minutes, friend. I implore you to listen as he also talks about what I plan on sharing next…

When Christ is In You {Who Am I, Anyway?}

Lenten Journey

Lent wasn’t what I expected. And yet, it was everything I had hoped. For He met me in my darkest state and didn’t look away. Then He proved what He’s capable of…for He took loving me ’till death do us part to a whole new level.

Wow, does He love me. And my goodness, does He ever pursue me.

There was one night in particular. Shortly after Lent began. I went to bed too late, utterly exhausted…still I couldn’t sleep.

Friend, do you ever get that desperate, parched feeling? Just a dire need to read The Word? I hope you say no for the only good reason–you get your fill every day. And that was the thing. I had been in The Word every day. More than normal, in fact. And yet, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling. I have no idea how to describe the urgency I felt…but, friends, I HAD to read James.

I snuck out of bed and I told God (I’m so embarrassed at how many times I say that…) I did, I told God I would read the first chapter only and the rest tomorrow when my mind wasn’t hazy. I promised Him at the first crack of light, I’d read the entire Book. Oh, and I gave Him the obvious reasons–so I could hear Him better and apply it deeper. Yada, yada…

Some day, friends, some day I’ll learn this lesson He repeatedly tries to teach me: I don’t know better…ever.

You have figured this out already, but still I can’t believe how hard the Book of James hit me. How much I needed those words. Right then. I was sobbing by the end of the first chapter. And there was no stopping me. I had to go on. Twice.

For the remainder of Lent, the Book of James showed up and walked me through. Friends, I can’t even make this stuff up. I would find it in a blog post here, in a tweet there. Twice it was the Bible verse chosen for my Sunday School class to memorize. It was also in the very books I was reading. James was everywhere.

Because of God…Because God…He knew better.

A great portion of Lent for me was spent in self-reflection. And this year was different from last. For last year, I couldn’t get beyond my own sin and unworthiness. This year, I was desperate to figure out who I really am for Him. What I can be. do. live. I know I’m His child, but which one? Where’s my place?

Would you believe I found every answer I was looking for in James? It took me weeks of reading it daily. Over and over. It took flat-on-my-face prayer time to soften this heart of mine and hear what He had for me.

I’m still trying to figure out how and what to share. And I’m not even done learning, that I know. But we’ve gone this far together, friends. I have to share a bit of it with you. Do you mind just one example now?

Holey Wholly Holy -- LIFE

It’s been an excuse of mine for decades. And I struggle with this in my own parenting, trying hard not to do the same for my son. For He deserves what God has to offer, not me. And friends, God never puts us in a box. Ever. We’re too valuable for that. So who am I to say what my son is capable of…

Still, I’ve convinced myself what I’m capable of. I’ve labeled my own limitations and have accepted my place low in the ranks of God’s army. What’s worse…I’ve been okay with this for quite a while.

Then I read this:

Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!
James 5:17

To think…Elijah. The one we hear about as a child in Sunday School and stand in awe at the very thought of him. He was just like me: Fully human. Fully His.

Who am I to say what God will or won’t do through me, friends? Who am I to think “Fully His” isn’t enough?

That part alone took me days to sort through. Then, He hit me with this:

Who am I to think my time isn’t best spent in prayer?

Elijah…just a guy…prayed earnestly. He asked God to show up with His power. Not with Elijah-power. No. He fully believed God showing up would be enough to prove who reigns. And God did. In rain. Show up.

Who am I to think God won’t show up and use me or use me up for His glory?

Friends, I can tell you now. This Lent, God showed up. What’s even more mind-boggling is He simply showed up for me. Just me. Not to impress an audience or give me something blog-worthy to share. No. He was focused on me.

Who am I to not love Him back like that? Fully His…

I catch myself now, looking in the mirror, asking myself the same question: Who am I? And I answer it with ease:

I’m fully His. And I know enough to believe that’s more than enough for Him. For He knows better…

This is the last post of my Lenten series using Holey, Wholly, Holy by Kris Camealy as a guide. You may check out the entire series HERE.

Friend, if you need to talk about refinement more, please email me at simplystriving (at) gmail (dot) com.

NOTE: If you have not read this book, I highly recommend you click HERE.

How about you, friend? How did God show up for you this Lent? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

The Cost of Much Forgiveness {Fed Up With Flat Faith}

drift-wood-Courtesy of Greg Abel Photography

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown Me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 7:47-48

This “sinful woman” had no right…who was she to invade on such a respected home and its elders. Yet nothing could stop her from loving on Him. All else faded into the backdrop. It might as well have been just the two of them.

“She did not care what her actions looked like to others.
Her love for Jesus made that inconsequential.”
~Kathy Howard, Fed Up With Flat Faith

I’ve fallen that hard before. I remember the very moment I fell flat for my now-husband and made the conscious choice to stay smitten. How I could tune out everything in the room but him–when I could calm down the pounding of my own heart that is. I’d often have to remind myself to simply breathe…

Yes, I want that. Again. With Jesus…my First Love.

Friends, I want to be able to drown out this world and focus on the Home I’ll have with Him… I want to recall the nicest thing He’s ever done for me…and hear His voice saying, “Father, forgive her…she didn’t know…”

I want to gasp for air at the very thought of Him.

“We must remember. We must go back to the beginning of our salvation, contemplate our sin, and once again consider Christ’s saving act for us. Then we must not forget.”
~Kathy Howard, Fed Up With Flat Faith

The tearful woman in Luke…the one who drowned her sorrows right on the very feet of her Savior. The one who didn’t let the expectations of this world stop her from pursuing Him. The one who didn’t deserve a response from Him let alone a pardon.

That woman…who gave all, shed all, bore all, confessed all… The one who held no position of authority or decent resumé…I aspire to be her. She got it. And because of it, she got Him.

I’ve been reading this book lately, Fed Up With Flat Faith by Kathy Howard, and I have to tell you, friends, the author–she gets me. Some of you might know my One Word I chose for this year. I haven’t talked about it much, as I couldn’t wrap my mind around how I was going to achieve it yet, but now I see I don’t have to…this book covers it all.

“No substitute will ever permanently  quench our spiritual longing for God. Only an intimate, passionate relationship with our Creator can fully and completely fill us up to overflowing.”
~Kathy Howard, Fed Up With Flat Faith

  • You see, I want to live out a vibrant relationship, not practice religion.
  • Forget less of me and more of Him, I want NONE of me and ALL of Him.
  • I want Him to use me or use me up for His glory.
  • I don’t want to watch what He’s doing, I want to be involved in it.
  • Temporal activities overwhelm, I want to focus on eternal matters.
  • I don’t need more once-in-a-lifetime memories. I want moments that impact eternity.
  • I don’t want to read the Bible, I want to absorb it.

Which are exactly some of the things Kathy talks about on pages 40, 55, 64, 81, 90, 97, and 104.

“Jesus willingly gave His life so we could be forgiven, but we hesitate to give ours to Him. If we have truly received forgiveness of our sin through the blood of Christ, then how can we have any response other than surrender to Him?”
~Kathy Howard, Fed Up With Flat Faith

Friends, when I started reading this book, I desired to be this woman in Luke Kathy talks about a couple chapters in. Now that I finished the book, I realize…I am that woman.

For my sins are many. I don’t deserve a second glance let alone a pardon. And yet…my First Love proved otherwise.

I’m starting to see how my word “Radiate” could look on me, friends. I invite you to stick around and join me on the journey.

And by the way– this book, Fed Up With Flat Faith by Kathy Howard, I recommend.

How about you? Are you fed up with flat faith? How do you remember what He’s done for you? How do you pursue Him? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: I jumped on the chance to get this book for free when offered in exchange of a review of some kind. But please know, this post above comes straight from my own heart. No coercion necessary.

When Pain’s Worth It {Beyond the Cross}

FOG09- Courtesey of Greg Abel Photography

“A great many times in our Christian life we will endure hard times.
Those times are always a preparation for the next thing. The unseen.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

She slides the charm on her necklace just like I do…when I’m tugging for more room to breathe. Her eyes focus on my left shoulder and I want to hug her for making it that far. After one last gulp she releases the confession weighing heavy on her chest and she was right…it’s a big one.

One might think it’s not a big deal and a part of me wonders if she’s hoping I will slather on the salve of complacency. But she deserves more than that. For I know one gust of life will remove it all and leave her skin cracked underneath. What I long for most is to hold her and have a good cry. Simply because I know she’ll need it later.

After asking the obvious “Are you sure you never have?” I lovingly ask her the hard question I know has been keeping her up at night.

“Are you ready for refinement–to go through something hard? Is your heart prepared enough to ask for it? Because you could, friend…you could ask Him for those growing pains…”

That’s the thing. In this upside down Kingdom of Grace, the growing love affair often hurts. Cupid’s arrow does not make your heart flutter–it penetrates leaving you forever changed. And you soon realize this lover’s road is not paved in gold. No.

You have to
cross many
lashes, thorns,
nails and hammers,
vinegar stained lips and downright bloodshed…
You have to stare death down and face the very
murder in your heart
to get wrapped
in His warm,
eternal embrace.

“This journey through Lent is a journey that doesn’t end at the cross. No!
This journey ends at the empty tomb…in the victory of grace for sinners and
redemption for those who believe.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

And she mentions the what ifs we all fear. The ones that affect more than ourselves and possibly include an unbearable trial–even a death. As if dealing with one death isn’t enough. Surely she can’t ask for that kind of hard journey. Can’t she just ask for your everyday, basic trial? For even those are hard to come by in her near 3 decades…

“How can we serve and love and reflect Christ
when we begin and end with ourselves?”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

I search her green eyes and wait for the light within to calm before I whisper what she already knows. For only He does…only He…only. And I remind her what waits on the other side. How glory holds no constriction of time and what we see as important now is confined to the present…these temporal joys–they seem to pull us away from eternal glory.

Holey Wholly Holy -- Glory

We read the words of Jesus’ brother. For surely he knows what he’s talking about. And she makes note right then that it’s the most important thing he wanted his loved ones to know…for it’s the first thing he wrote in his Letter…

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4

I then confess how, last Lent, I had to ask for the hard. I had to pray that prayer. And there were brief moments when I regretted it. Because. It. Hurt. This year, I didn’t ask. I was expecting a road worn down smooth from the scars only to realize those had merely scratched the surface…

“The call to refinement for the Christian is not about making us look better,
it’s about us reflecting Christ better.”
~Kris Camealy, Holey, Wholly, Holy

She starts naming the scars of trial she’s seen on me. And as she’s listing, I see it…what James was trying to share. I grab both of her hands as I proclaim it for me more than her:

It’s true! Joy can be found during faith-building. I’m living proof.

In this upside down Kingdom of Grace, the love affair often hurts. Cupid’s arrow pierces through Christ, then you, leaving you forever changed. And you soon realize this lover’s road is paved in hard-won glory.

And when you
get there,
He wraps you
in His warm,
loving embrace
adorning your garments of salvation with
an eternal robe of holy righteousness…
For beyond shame
and pride,
beyond death,
humbleness
is found
Grace
is accepted
Joy
is obtained
Glory
is revealed.

We let it sink in, praying it takes root as we stand there in the comfort of silence. Our eyes meet and we hug tight, knowing it’s only the beginning. And as I work my way home, walking around the puddles of thawing snow, I can’t help but smile as the street light’s reflection glitters my path…

Father, I’m but a shadow…but thank You…Thank You for letting me dance in Your Light…

This is a part of my Lenten series using Holey, Wholly, Holy by Kris Camealy as a guide. You may check out the entire series HERE. I’ll be back next Wednesday to finish up the series.

If you do not have this book yet, Kris is giving away FREE PDF COPIES HERE for just a few more days! Or you may purchase a kindle or hard copy (highly recommend) HERE.

How about you, friend? Have you discovered the joy found in refinement? How has your faith grown this Lenten season? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

NOTE: This story was told with permission. Her name was withheld out of love. But if you think of it, please pray for her…for her painful, refining journey has begun…