A letter to the women at Allume

Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
 and evil actions are all sin. Proverbs 21:4 Can you forgive me? I don’t like to admit this, but the reality is that I judged you. I looked at your skinny legs in your skinny jeans, at your fashionable tall boots, at the stacks of bracelets wrapping your slender wrists, ...

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Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
 and evil actions are all sin.
Proverbs 21:4

Can you forgive me?

I don’t like to admit this, but the reality is that I judged you. I looked at your skinny legs in your skinny jeans, at your fashionable tall boots, at the stacks of bracelets wrapping your slender wrists, at your taut, luminescent skin. I listened to your gracious southern drawls talking about intentionality and living life in grace and nurturing your precious babies and the holy calling of being a mama. I looked at your popularity—how many people you know, how many followers you have, which publishers you are with, what you have accomplished. You sang popular worship music and knew all the words and I made assumptions about your churches and faith.

In short, I walked in with a judgmental, divisive spirit. You came in to the conference as empty vessels, preparing to be filled up. I lugged in bushel baskets of ugly. I looked through lenses of envy and jealousy. I let my longing to be better ignite my insecurities about my weight and age and the church background I come from. I assumed you weren’t interested in anything I might have to offer, so I held tightly to myself.

I pride myself on my ability to look for similarities, to focus on what people have in common rather than dwelling on the differences. So I’m feeling especially appalled and ashamed that I fell so far and so quickly.

True, I may be in my late 40s and you might be 23. I may have a muffin top and no excuses while you wear a FitBit and manage to work out even with a little one (or two or three or four). You may be especially stylish and I may feel frumpy. But since when has surface stuff mattered to me? And why did I let it consume me?

Maybe it’s this: I sense that you are genuinely that selfless and gentle and kind, and I’m just not as nice as you are. And I don’t like it when I become—what was it Logan said?—Judgy McJudgyPants? And the more I didn’t like me, the more inferior I felt next to you.

But when I took the time to fight through my feelings, when I turned again towards God and away from the master liar, I rediscovered the beautiful truth: We’re not that different. We both love God—love Him so much that He has become our source. We’re not in competition. We’re on the same team, and we’re representing the same Kingdom. We’re inspired by the same Source, and even so, we’re not meant to be exactly the same.

What you’ve found with God does not in any way diminish what I have found or what remains available to me.

You will have stories I won’t, and you will use them to reach people I can’t. That’s good. It’s how it’s supposed to be. Forgive me for succumbing to the falsehood that there are not enough pieces of pie for each of us. Please grant me forgiveness for my ugly—and unfair and unfounded—thoughts.

We all know the story of the woman at the well. She went in the middle of the day, alone, because she was an outcast. But Jesus met her there. He saw through her charade and spoke truth to the innermost part of her heart, and she discovered something in the water He offered that she had never found anywhere else.

When I picture the women who taught us, I can’t shake this image: Women who draw their strength from the well of life, which is the Word of God. The idea that won’t leave me is that of each of you casting your bucket into the well with abandon—and withdrawing life-sustaining power. You don’t drink of the leftovers or rely on others to bring it for you. You lower your buckets and when you draw them back to you, they’re overflowing with living water, and you bathe in the overflow. Even more impressive, you go back again and again. And again. Because you can’t get enough. You’re not content to merely survive. You long to grow, to thrive. To live.

I spent so much time dwelling on this idea that I missed something. Apparently, I am the woman who walked alone to the well, certain that I would be judged, and I almost missed taking a drink because I made such an idol of who I thought you would think I was.

But you? You welcomed me with kindness. Your face shone with the reflected glory of God as you shared your stories. I spent a lot of time feeling like an outsider, but that’s not your fault. I could have gone to the well early in the morning, like the other women of the village. But I chose not to.

The beauty of it all, though, is that Jesus still met me. He still waited and He still had something to offer.

Because He always does. He whispers the truth of who He is, and who we are when we belong to Him. He reminds us that this life has nothing to do with other people and everything to do with Him. Period. I need to look upward, not sideways. I need to ask Him to change me, to help me learn to be content, to instill in me such a confidence in His love for me that I no longer measure myself against others. He sees me—with all the ugly on the inside—but He doesn’t run away. He pulls me closer and tells me the truth about myself. And reminds me what I already knew: I am forgiven.

So now I need to forgive myself. I hope you will forgive me, too.

I went into Allume focused on promotion and meeting people who could help me further my career. And boy did I miss the boat. Because this conference wasn’t about success, or even really about publishing. It was about nourishing the souls of women who write about God, about feeding the desire we each have to connect more deeply with Him through knowing others.

And it was a learning opportunity. A place where God could show me my weaknesses in His ongoing efforts to prune me, to refine me, to redeem me and mold me into His image. I have a long way to go. But you know what? I’m feeling a surge of gratitude in my heart that I have the opportunity to walk alongside you on this path.

I’m finally feeling what I should have felt from the start.

I’m thanking God for the beautiful women He allowed me to connect with—in spite of my insecurities and inner turmoil. And I’m asking God to nurture you, to open doors and allow you prominent platforms from which to tell your God-stories. I’m praying for your success in publishing, and I’m trusting that God will reveal new things to you along the way. I’m in awe of your authentic relationships with Him and I’m inspired to renew mine. I’m pledging my help to you, in whatever ways I can, from a genuine desire to see you go forward, to see you change lives.

It’s how I’m turning my prayers upside down today. With each pang of insecurity I feel, I’ll pray for all of you. And I believe that in the process, God will transform me. Because He’s good like that. Oh so good. And I’m so grateful.

Do it scared (guest post by Laurie Coombs)

Laurie Coombs is another one of those lovely souls that I’ve had the honor of “meeting” through shared connections in this business. I am so excited about this book. I think God is in it, through it, around it, behind it, before it—just all over it. His forgiveness is amazing, but sometimes we forget just what ...

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header_1Laurie Coombs is another one of those lovely souls that I’ve had the honor of “meeting” through shared connections in this business. I am so excited about this book. I think God is in it, through it, around it, behind it, before it—just all over it. His forgiveness is amazing, but sometimes we forget just what a divine gift it is. This story reminds us how profound and magnificent God’s forgiveness can be.

Let me set the stage a little with some info from her bio: In 2010, Laurie Coombs was called to love and forgive the man who murdered her father, which led to an exchange of letters between she and Anthony, her father’s murderer. During their correspondence, Laurie was healed from her past wounds, was given grace to forgive Anthony, and witnessed a powerful transformation in Anthony as Jesus brought him to repentance. And now, here’s an excerpt from her new book, Letters from My Father’s Murdered: A Journey of Forgiveness, published by Kregel Publications.

GRAPHIC Christian life passivity

One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “but God.” I have it posted beside my bed, and every so often my girls ask me why I have those two little words there. I tell them, “All through the Bible bad things happen—people sin or something goes wrong—but over and over two words make it all okay: ‘but God.’”

You see, no matter what happens in life, no matter how bad things seem to be, God is still the constant. He is still working all things for good. The psalmist wrote, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26, emphasis mine). Joseph echoed this sentiment when he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20, emphasis mine). Yet in my mind, the ultimate “but God” statement in the Bible is, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, emphasis mine).

Jesus truly is our Redeemer. Seeing Him as such allows us the freedom to trust and surrender ourselves to Him. We need to know our God. We need to know who He is and what He has done. It is only then that we are able to understand that He is for us, not against us, which frees us to obey, knowing He will work all things for our good and His glory.

Coming to understand God’s heart toward me—that He loves me, that He is for me, and that He is my comforter and my guide— suddenly empowered me to live life differently. Sure, I was a newbie at this whole Christian thing, but I knew I served a faithful, loving God.

81u-FkusLHLI knew I could trust Jesus, for He had proven Himself trustworthy. That didn’t mean God’s call to love and forgive Anthony was easy to embrace. I was scared. I didn’t know where this was going. And I certainly didn’t know how it would end. But I also knew I had allowed fear to motivate me far too long.

Fear is a God-given emotion. Its purpose is to protect us from harm. This kind of fear is good. But so much of the fear we experience is irrational fear—fear that holds us back from living the full life Jesus died for us to have, fear that holds us hostage, never allowing us to see true growth of character. This kind of fear never brings good. And if we choose to live in irrational fear, we will never see the promises of God fulfilled to the extent they’re given. We will never follow Christ into our hard places and come out greater on the other side.

Here’s the truth. Sometimes, we simply need to do it scared. Over and over at this time, well-meaning Christians told me to “follow peace.” I wasn’t to move forward if I didn’t feel peace about taking a step. But the whole “follow peace” thing can be a ploy—shrouded in holy words—used by Satan to bind us and keep us from following God. Jesus calls us out of our comfort zones into places of discomfort. And in these areas, we’re not going to feel peaceful all the time. Yes, there is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and is available to believers at all times, but often our propensity to rely on ourselves and do things our own way hinders us from experiencing that peace, which means sometimes following Jesus feels a bit crazy. A bit unsettling. Oftentimes we will feel scared to do that which God calls us to do. But make no mistake—fear does not negate the call. Fear is simply a by-product of our desire to control. When following Jesus into our unknown, scary places, God doesn’t usually clue us in on the big plan. And this can feel anything but peaceful at times. But still, we must move.

Following-Jesus-Can-Feel-CrazyIn my prayer journal at the time, I wrote, “I am seeing more and more that the Christian life is not a life of passivity, but a life of choices empowered by the Holy Spirit. I pray, Lord God, for You to help me to walk in Your Spirit.”

I heard it once said we can choose to live each day motivated by fear or by faith. It’s a choice we must all make. Christian reformer Martin Luther wrote in the preface to his translation of the epistle to the Romans, “Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it.”* I needed this kind of faith. I needed great faith to move beyond my fear and follow Jesus where He was leading. I needed the kind of faith that allows us to step out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus when He beckons, knowing that we can do all things through Him. The kind of faith that confidently says to Jesus, “Only say a word, and I shall be healed,” knowing full well that all things are possible with God. The kind of faith to follow Jesus into the unknown—into my scary places— regardless of the cost, knowing He will work all things for good.

 

 

Remember…

Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted — i.e., keep fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the ...

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GRAPHIC The darker the night

Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted — i.e., keep fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk — don’t keep on looking at it. ~C.S. Lewis

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