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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what i read in february

This month puts my tally to seven books so far this year! I am passionate about each of these books on my shelf this month. The common threads, unintentionally, have been solitude, idolatry, technology addiction, pressing against lies, ministering with compassion. These books have made me wonder why people don’t read and how in the world they function without books. Everyone that owns an iPhone would benefit from Changing The Subject, every minister should read The Way of the Heart in seminary, every Christian should invest in Counterfeit Gods, and The Broken Way continues to take my breath away. Humor me? Read on for all the good words about these books that my nose was stuck in this February.

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  • The Way Of The Heart: Connecting With God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J. M. Nouwen 

We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of the Lord. Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others. But with such a spiritual abode, we will become increasingly conformed to Him in whose name we minister.

Henri Nouwen’s pen, I am convinced, was made of gold. This account is easy to read and gives a deeper level to Christianity’s simplest lessons in a way that convicts and inspires. This book touches on how we have replaced compassion with systems, living life together for meetings, action for God as intimacy with God. Nouwen redefines ministry, what it looks like to live out a true ministerial life, and the problems of how we have been approaching it in the 21st century. I highly recommend this read if you are seeking more prayer, solitude, and compassion in your life… or, maybe, especially if you don’t know why those components even matter on the daily. (This book would be especially profitable for church staff, pastors, and those in leadership roles in their communities!)

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  • Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope That Matters by Timothy Keller

We become like what we worship.

In this book, Keller takes the three main things that we have set before God as a culture and points to the truth of how life in Christ trumps everything the world has to offer. What made me love Tim Keller even more in this book, is that he is aware and awake to the problems of our secular and church culture. He knows what is going on outside of his generation and has such a gift for pointing us to the Scripture that applies to the same issues we are wrestling with today. Counterfeit Gods made me ask myself what motivates me to wake up in the morning (is it an idol or my God?) and made me look at money, sex, and power completely differently. This goes on my list of “Christianity Classics” and I’ll be recommending it for years to come.

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  • The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into The Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

In Christ, I  am chosen, accepted, justified, anointed, sealed, forgiven, redeemed, complete, free, Christ’s friend, God’s child, Spirit’s home.

Oh, The Broken Way. This was my second journey through The Broken Way, and so much more came alive to me on this time through. I led a small group in my church and we watched the accompanying videos and discussed our readings each week. Something I appreciated that wasn’t at the front of my mind when I read it last October, was how Voskamp doesn’t just tell us truth, but invites us to live the story with her. I appreciate her honesty that doesn’t make me feel like it’s impossible to live a messed up, cruciform, yet-truly-abundant life. To see my first full review of the book, go here. If you’ve read The Broken Way and don’t want to let the truths of the book get dusty in your mind, check out my book-based playlist. 

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  • Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts

Do most of us truly wish to be in the swim of the digital “now”? Or is it more that people are afraid of not being in that swim? Could both be true at once? Almost everybody I know makes the same superficial complaints about the distraction, the triviality, the frustration, the self-alienation, you name it. At the same time, there is clearly such a powerful, and, it seems, increasing desire to be in touch – to express ourselves, to hear from others, to  be caught up in that pulse for a time eases our essential loneliness.

A T T E N T I O N: Everyone that owns an iPhone needs this book. While The Way of the Heart was about the spiritual implications of noise in our lives, Birkerts takes on a more intellectual angle. It’s about our generation’s “fragmentation of focus” & being “choked by noise”. How technology is literally rewiring our brains, our kids’ brains — how it’s changing the way we communicate & see art. It initially made me want to pull every iPad from every little kid’s and grown adult’s hand, and honestly? I don’t think that a bad thing. We need to be more aware of the issues of connection, attention, and communication because of the silent change brought on by our devices. Simply put: this book has encouraged me to forget about my phone more often, embraced people over systems, buy in physical stores when possible, create with no distractions, and read more books. If I ever go completely off the grid, y’all can blame Sven Birkerts.

Currently reading….

 

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

…and currently contemplating on what titles to choose for the weeks and months ahead!

What authors and topics have been keeping you flipping pages as we dig in deeper to 2017? Tell me what books have been on your mind in the comments!

the broken way: a playlist of hope & remembering

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp has been a powerful catalyst in my life since I first opened one of my first launch team e-mails in September 2016 and started scrolling through chapter one, to highlighting on my Mac late into the night so that I could finish the book before I met Ann herself, to present day: rereading my physical copy as it is already showing signs of use and love. This book has shown me that I don’t have to afraid of my brokenness, because through my weakest places God can reveal His power to the world in a way that He couldn’t if I would live my days as a put-together-always-smiling-actress. That maybe the hurt I despise could lead to intimate communion. That I can give freely and confidently, because I am loved deeply. You can find my full review on the book here: daring to live the broken & cruciform way.  Visit TheBrokenWay.com for the moving trailer, free printables, all the best reviews, and a direct link to getting a copy all your own.

The hard truth? Sometimes I am so weak that I don’t feel like I could bear the weight of a page, my own or someone else’s. On other days, I am on the go either working at my computer or commuting several hours a day roundtrip. No matter where I find myself on that spectrum, I still always need to be reminding myself of the truth that Ann pens simply and poetically: “You’re guilty, but not condemned. You’re busted up, but believed in. You’re broken, but beloved.” That reminder could come in prayer, gift-blitzing, the ministry of presence, practically a thousand ways… but one way that I have found extremely healing for my soul is in music. Perhaps you need to remember the truth of who you are, too?

I am about to kick off The Broken Way study with over a dozen women in my community tomorrow night. I made a playlist brimmed full of melodies and lyrics that resound the message of The Broken Way for them, and for you. The lyrics hold stories of heartache and resurrection, redemption and true community from artists like Jason Gray, Kari Jobe, Lecrae, and Tenth Avenue North.

Take a scroll and listen while you kick off this brand new semester, do the dishes, drive to that presentation, or go pick up the kids from school. Exhale. Grab some hope and light. Bookmark it, tuck the words away in your heart, and save it for a rainy day. I’ll do the same.

 

daring to live the broken & cruciform way

Let love break into you and mess with you and loosen you up and make you laugh and cry and give and hurt because this is the only way to live.

Today is the release date of The Broken Way! Maybe you’ve seen my feeds fill up with hashtagTheBrokenWay over the past few weeks and maybe you’ve heard the hype and you’re thinking, “What is the big deal with Ann Voskamp?” Maybe you don’t feel like you have time to sit down long enough to finish a book. OR, maybe you love living life over at Ann’s blog and you’ve been waiting patiently for this day! No matter what camp you rest in above, I am here to tell you that this book is worth your time, it is worth your energy, it lives up to the hype. 

To be honest, I open most Christian women’s books these days and don’t last more than a few chapters before I am bored. It is not that the messages aren’t true or good – it is just that I cannot relate beyond the surface. Thankfully, though, I am beginning to see this change. I believe that Ann Voskamp is one of the frontrunners in this category running bravely into deeper, modern, theologically-sound literature. Ann has a voice unlike any other, but she tells stories where we can all whisper quietly in relief with the book laying open on our laps saying, “Wow, I thought it was just me.” 

In The Broken Way, Ann asks questions like: “Why are we afraid of broken things?” How do you give when you feel like you have nothing left? How do you find abundance in the present instead of waiting for life to gift you more mightily in a far-off someday? Am I enough? Is all this heartache and suffering doing anything but accomplishing pain? What is love, the ministry of presence, and real community worth? How do you become real, how do you let yourself be loved? How do you become like Esther and break a thousand gates? How do you walk around joyful in Jesus and give generously when your heart is aching?  She answers all these questions and more with humility, a breathtaking vulnerability, as an encouraging and empowering friend. In the best of ways, you can’t read over these words without looking in the mirror at your own junk and asking God to make it all new.

The Broken Way isn’t so much a book of self-help to cure all ills, as much as it at every turn points you to the only One who can truly satisfy and give you enough abundance to reach out like the arms of Christ to love those all around you.

Would you take a moment and hear from Ann herself?

What if you really want to live abundantly before it’s too late? What do you do if you really want to know abundant wholeness? This is the one begging question that’s behind every single aspect of our lives — and one that The Broken Way rises up to explore in the most unexpected ways.

This one’s for the lovers and the sufferers. For those whose hopes and dreams and love grew so large it broke their willing hearts. This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with an unlikely good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken — and still lets yourself be loved.

You could be one of them, one who believes freedom can be found not only beyond the fear and pain, but actually within it.

You could discover and trust this broken way — the way to not be afraid of broken things.

I could write longer, but there is only one thing to do, friends. Two things, really:

  1. Go to TheBrokenWay.com and get your hands on your own copy. I don’t write this as an ad, but prayerfully as an aid to your one, valuable life. 
  2. Open your heart – it will lead to shaking fists and brokenness, but it will also lead to real love and overflowing abundance. It is worth every ache, every step, every scar. Take the dare with me?