on the promises of growth and green fields.

You can find this post at it’s original home, and other favorite place to hang out on cyberspace, The Rising! 

big thanks to Phil Frigon for letting me use his stunning photos! 


Every spring in the Flint Hills of Kansas, when wind is unusually slow and the promise of summer introduces itself once again with each evening growing longer, the farmers burn their fields.

To someone traveling from either coast, it is both brilliant and mystifying. The smoke-filled sky at times would warrant for shelter. The smell would send you packing. Either it would look unsafe or it would be chalked up to Midwestern madness.

In all seriousness, though, it is an annual event and it is crucial to the health of our land.

The burnings are preventative and protective. Like a pruning. It helps to keep destructive growths from invading the invaluable prairies and reproductive fields.

I remember, just a few weeks ago, I was on my evening commute observing the fires around me on each side. I whispered with a smile, “It’s all going to be green soon.”

The fields were charred black, smoke filled the air, and I saw the promise of growth.

When I look at my own life, I usually see regression before I optimistically claim victory.

Consequently, every spring I usually fight a hard spiritual fight due to lack of focus, my increased desire to sleep for as many hours as I possibly can, and because of laziness in my quiet times. I mistake pruning for destruction, bad days for a bad life, and spiritual dry spells are wrongly defined in my heart as a withdrawal from the Father.

Job didn’t do this. In Job chapter 1, Satan has asked if he can try to divert Job’s faithfulness. He believes that Job only loves the Lord and lives righteously because he has had a good life. Therefore, he has in mind to make Job curse God’s name. Step one of the process has begun. Job’s whole family has been killed and his property had been stripped away. The evil one wanted and expected Job to curse God’s name, but instead he blesses it. After he had lost what some would call his entire life, this is how Job responds:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

— JOB 1:20-22

He fell on the ground and worshiped.

Job could have chosen to tear his robe, fallen to the ground, and given up entirely. But he chose worship. He did not ignore his grief, numb his grief, or live in denial. He saw the reality of his surroundings and still chose a godly rhythm of grief and trust.

Because of the fields in Kansas and Job’s riveting example, we know that living a God-glorifying life is not stitched together by good intentions. I don’t find the presence of God by ignoring His Word, by staying closer to my phone than my prayers, by covering up hurts with busyness. Living life with bare-minimum risks means that we reap bare-minimum harvests.

“If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface, I must be ploughed and re-sown.

Hand over your whole self. Your whole broken self. Given-ness. Because this is far easier than pretending to be whole and not broken. . . .The heart has to be broken and plowed and resown if it’s going to yield. The change must go deeper than the surface.”

— ANN VOSKAMP, THE BROKEN WAY

What you and I must do is be proactive. Ask God to test our hearts with fire for things that will hinder the growth of His kingdom. We open our Bibles when we don’t feel like it and ask Him to show up. Because when we ask for more of Him, He never says no. Instead of slapping clichés on our wounds, we tear our clothes and expose the wound, so that His wounds touch our own. We can look great darkness in the face, because we know the Light is always near. The call of the Christian is not to always be happy about our life – but to keep walking daily with our God, trusting in His promise of joy and the fullness of life, in the midst of it all.  If our faith is a faith that only believes in the fruit we can see, it isn’t faith at all. Because what looks like destruction can be a resurrection of our hearts, our lives, our land. What may look like nothing on the surface, is new life being rooted in the ground. A pruning that is making all things better than before.

I’m praying that God would give us that same rhythm of grief and trust. I am praying and I am taking action steps. So that when winter seems like it is never leaving, we can look at the horizon and say, “My help is coming. It’s all going to be green soon.” On days when we don’t see the victory, instead of running away in fear we can bless the name of God with quiet trust. When we look at near-destruction we say, “He is making all things new.” And when we feel the aches ravaging on our own heart we have the hope to say, “He is here, even now.”

Because the storms will come – Oh God, let us fall on the ground and worship. We don’t want to ignore You, deny You, or curse You. We are here. We are not submitting to mediocrity in our Christianity – we want more of Christ. We are waiting expectantly on Your Presence to do something remarkable with these ruins. We acknowledge that we are not the point, we never have been. Ours is the victory, not all the answers. When we see charred black seasons in our lives, help us remember you are preparing a life worth waiting for in the tension. Let our lives be a set of praise hands toward heaven – You give. You take. Keep our palms wide open in worship.

 

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a prayer for Ecuador

I went to Ecuador in 2014.

When I heard that Ecuador was where I would be going to go on this mission trip, I had to look it up on

the map. I’d never heard of it before, or given it a second thought.

Most of you can probably relate to this.

I don’t speak fluent Spanish or know as much as I could about the history and culture, but I have an advantage over anyone that has only read about the country in headlines: I’ve hugged the necks of some of Ecuador’s beautiful people. I’ve prayed with them. We’ve sang songs of praise together.

I’ve played soccer with the kids at school. I’ve cried under a palm tree. I’ve climbed Las Peñas, and I’ve spent a Saturday walking through a banana plantation. I’ve experienced church services that have changed the way I view Christ’s church entirely. It’s a colorful, beautiful place. I may have only been to Ecuador for a short time, but I fell in love when I didn’t think another country could ever steal my heart again.

On Saturday night, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 shook this land and has killed hundreds of people, while injuring countless others physically and emotionally.

President Rafael Correa recently said, “The immediate priority is to rescue people in the rubble. Everything can be rebuilt, but lives cannot be recovered, and that’s what hurts the most.”

Right now, Ecuador is trending. Just like other countries when tragedy strikes, everyone says they are praying. This, if they truly are praying, is an incredible movement. It is a way to bring everyone that live miles apart, who argue on the daily about their opinions online, to gather together in unison for a common cause. But I want to challenge you from this point forward: don’t hashtag your prayers unless you’ve lifted those people up in the light first.

Remember that even if you have to look that country up on the map, there are real people with real families and with real emotions. There are quiet homes and bustling capital cities and devout churches residing there, and it is just as important as our corner of the map. They are worth more than fleeting thoughts after you press “Retweet”. Use a hashtag to spread a movement that is outside of yourself, not to coat your feed with chatty charity that isn’t fueled by love.

Click here to read the rest of this post at The Rising. 

why I am praying bigger.

I have a sign in my room that has been hanging for going on around five years, since my family moved to the house we’re currently in. It just says, “Pray big.”

Over the past few weeks and months, I’ve been looking over my prayer life. I’ve been reading through my prayer journal entries. I’ve been looking at how often I resemble the Lord’s Prayer. And even evaluating what I actually thank Him for, and what I ask Him for in comparison to what I honestly need or want.

Although I’ve been making progress in my prayer life — and I believe that any prayer is better than no prayer at all — I realized that I wasn’t asking God for anything specific. I wasn’t “praying big” like the sign sitting on my window ledge hopefully instructed. I wasn’t exhibiting the childlike faith that was so alive within me a few years ago.

Let me preface by saying: Orienting your whole language around the ultimate will of God is vital. He has supreme authority, He is in control, and – thankfully – our own desires are not the center of his orbit.

But, I found that I was wrapping my friend’s names in vague pleas or my own dreams in lofty thoughts. The prayers weren’t wrong, and there were a few exceptions. It’s not wrong to say, “Just do You will, Father, because I don’t know what You’re doing.” But the reason I was leaving it at that was because I was living with little faith and underestimating my Father. I wasn’t asking Him to intervene in specific ways and actions, because if He didn’t do it exactly as I wanted it to all be done, I was afraid I would retaliate against Him. I was often afraid to ask God for anything specific because I thought that He would disappoint me. I knew if He disappointed me, I’d be more prone to wander, and I couldn’t afford it.

But the thing was, when I was trying to hide my heart’s desire from my God, I was already wandering. I was wandering and I was not trusting. With the blessings He was giving me, I was plagiarizing them and calling them my own creation. When I felt a lack in my life, I wasn’t telling Him about the emotions I was feeling, because I was feeling guilty that I was feeling any void at all. With the abilities and compartments of my life that meant most to me, I wasn’t keeping held with an open hand because I was afraid that He would snatch them from me. I was distancing myself from Him and the truths I knew by heart.

“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” —Matthew 7:8-11

But in my internal struggle the fact was this, and is this: He is a good, good Father. He is a gift to us, and yet He still gives good gifts that are born from His heart. And in everything I ask for, He will not be flippant in the way He acts. He will make sure His glory is known through His response, and that my refinement and discipleship and relationships are strengthened on the other side.

There are many goods that God will not give us unless we honor Him and make our hearts safe to receive them through prayer. . . . God will not give us anything contrary to His will, and that will always include what is best for us in the long run. We can, therefore, pray confidently because he won’t give us everything we want. —Timothy Keller, Prayer

I have started praying big again.

I don’t know if He’ll say yes to any of my requests. But I know that He is changing me in the process of my honesty.

In case of disappointment and the possibility of wandering, may He soften our hearts toward Him in these times of waiting, so that when the climate changes we will realize that having Him is better than all our small expectations and His good gifts. May we be able to thank Him for not saying yes to our small prayer, because of His big plan. We can remain confident in our requests, because He will give us what is best.

And if He graciously grants us the desires of our hearts, may we accept it humbly, thanking Him for His will and for the preparation of our hearts to receive it, and that we would be driven closer into His heart in the celebration.

In all these things, may we thank Him for the how much more in all the ways He gives.

more than anything I want, I want You first — Lauren Daigle, First

See it originally here on The Rising Blog: https://t.co/vCKC9Fs2Ki.

a prayer for the spiritually dry.

Dear God,

May I always see you as holy.

I am not worthy to ask of You for anything, but Your Son did what it took to make this possible, so here I am, clumsy and trusting that confidence is what You have fought for.

Thank-you for answering so many of my heart cries. Help me to notice progress, and to always remember the stepping stones. Help me to remember the ways You have shown up even when I don’t feel You.

That’s it — I’m not feeling You.

Give me the strength to chase righteousness because of Your goodness, and not for the sake of my reputation or for empty applause.

Help me to know everything is from You – yet You are all I need. That sounded so rehearsed. But God, You’re better than the mess and the glossiest things on this earth. Help me to remember this. Forgive me for cheating on You.

Bypass me, Lord, and show people Your love through me. Do something through Your church that human hands could never fix.

Help me remember Scripture in the midst of temptation. I don’t want to cheat on You with the world.

Give me stiff knees to stand firm and a heart of flesh to love well.

Write my words and keep my heart.

Even when I don’t feel Your presence, give me bold faith to keep spitting hopeful sentences to the sky.