Going Deeper

Let's Play Pretend - Part II

A little while back, I wrote the first part to this article of Let’s Play Pretend. In this particular article, I want to take a closer look at how we prevent living divided lives as leaders. Revisit Let’s Play Pretend - Part I.

It’s never our desire to harm others. Rarely does a leader intentionally hurt or offend. It can often be attributed to any of the following:

  1. Overworked schedules, and striving for success.

  2. Unending conflict within the church.

  3. Over-identifying with the needs of those they lead.

  4. Lack of accountability or unwillingness to admit failure.

  5. Pride and an unwillingness to submit to regular self-examination led by the Spirit.

  6. Unawareness of the impact of family of origin.

  7. Lack of boundaries and healthy stewardship of power.

  8. Doing more for God than being with God.

  9. Self-protection in the form of severely private lives and lack of close community.

  10. Need to please others, unwilling to deal with conflict, etc.

  11. Misunderstanding of temperament and self-care accordingly.

This list is truly not exhaustive. It’s symptoms I have seen in my own life, in others, and in research as I have studied what it means to lead wholeheartedly.

Whatever the cause, the result remains in a harm that is extended to self and others.

Behavior modification would never be enough - simply because we are powerless to lead with integrity and wholeness on our own. We must have the Spirit of God within that leads us to inward transformation - the overflow of life that truly bears lasting fruit. The fullness of the Spirit in the life of a believer calls for regular self-examination as the Psalmist cried - Search me Oh God, and see if there be any anxious way in me. It calls for transformation from the inside out, a willingness to consistently allow Christ all the way in and invite the Spirit of God into the deepest recesses of our soul.

For example, take the spiritual and religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Divided lives were the way of the Pharisee’s, the religious leaders in Christ’s day. And the harm they did to those around them in their communities was devastating. Christ never held back from calling them out. In one common occurrence when Jesus is teaching to the crowds, - Jesus states directly to the religious leaders and those speaking out against him:

“Jesus replied, “I did one miracle on the Sabbath, and you were amazed. But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. (Actually, this tradition of circumcision began with the patriarchs, long before the law of Moses.) For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”” John 7:21-24 NLT

In essence, Jesus is saying “check your own actions, motives, and heart”. You look good on the outside but it’s not lining up with what’s beneath the surface on the inside”. 

As leaders, we often spend more time dealing with the external rather than the internal. We deal with others behavior, we call out others motives, and we fix systems and activities. Rarely taking the extended time to examine, call out and hear from God for ourselves.

“Do right” all you want, but if your motives and heart is not pure or in alignment-it falls flat and harms.

We see this again in Matthew 23:25-27 - Jesus is rebuking the spiritual leaders for the divided lives the lead. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.”

Dr. Alicia Britt Chole posted this thought just a few days ago, and it speaks so much to the harm of a divided leader.

“Positional authority without personal integrity will inevitably become abusive.”

In Part I of this post, we used Peter Scazzero’s definition of integrity…“Integrity is when who I am on-stage is the same as who I am backstage. It is when there is no separation between what is going on inside of me and what I am expressing outside of me. There is no separation of my inner and outer life.”

This includes hidden and secret sin, but it goes much deeper than that. It’s becoming aware of who we are in Christ, and allowing ourselves to express that fully. It’s realizing that it’s okay not to be okay, and we surround ourselves with a community that we can be vulnerable and transparent with in the ups and downs of this life. We reach beyond ourselves to counselors, coaches, mentors, and pastors. We allow those that we lead to see that we are not perfect, and that we are just as human and in need of grace as they are.
We seek to discover the impact of our family origin, and the ways we self-protect to keep people out.

There is no true perfect solution to this - but there is grace-filled surrender. As we surrender wholeheartedly to Christ, we invite Him all the way in to full transform us from the inside out.

Here are a few simple steps to begin giving space to this transformation: 

1. Lead self-aware. You gain self awareness by hearing the voice of the Spirit through intentional times of self examination and repentance. Here are just a few ways to practice this regularly: receive insight from assessments, invite in a counselor to help you unpack your past and family of origin, learn from skilled authors and teachers that can guide you, find a coach or spiritual director, etc.

2. Establishing regular spiritual practices of silence, solitude, and slowing down to be with Jesus so that you can discern His voice in the midst of daily life. 

3. Invite accountability and a close community that you will allow to know you inside and out-failures, temptations, and all. Make an intentional choice to be vulnerable.  

4. Invite Jesus beyond the surface and into the depths. Challenge your own perceptions of Scripture and the world around you - and then invite the Spirit to speak.  

5. Journal the process.

These are just a few steps! I am learning regularly that this process is an ongoing journey of transformation that we must acknowledge and intentionally invite into our lives as people, but especially as leaders. If we want to love and live wholeheartedly - loving God and others with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind - we must make intentional effort to seek after integrity and wholeness. The Spirit of God will empower the transformation if we give the invitation!

 …written by Christan Causey

…written by Christan Causey

Let’s Play Pretend - Part I

As a child, I loved to create stories in my mind. I was typically the main character running the plot, the story always ending on my side as the heroine. 

They say pretend play is one of the best ways a child can learn. After having three children go through different preschool environments, I would have to say that the play-based classroom had the most long-term impact.

My children create the most elaborate pretend games and stories. Anything from superheroes, puppies, family, cops and robbers, “city” (not sure what that is), and more. In fact, they pretend play more than they ever play with actual “hands-on” toys.

As a child, it is cute, a sign of intelligence and creativity. There is a point, though, when pretend play is no longer cute and it’s time to grow up.

We live in a world of pretenders. We all can find ourselves at fault of pretending. In a world where social media has become a prominent way of communicating and connecting, editing out what we would rather not others see - it seems to make a bit of sense that we would become so good at pretending.

The truth is, we can blame social media, but the desire to wear a mask, live a divided life of pretense started at the fall when this broken world was created. We have been battling the lure of division since the beginning of time.

As leaders, we are terribly susceptible. I believe the enemy specializes in the deceptive nature of pretense and divided leaders. For it is in the division of a leaders life that integrity is most at stake and usually broken.

We talk a lot about integrity in leadership. I often hear it referenced or defined in relation to external behavior or honorable actions. Making good behavioral choices, avoiding temptation, and making effort to live honest lives are all incredibly important to our integrity as a leader. And, yet, I think we are still missing it when we talk integrity as a leader.

I have adopted and began studying this concept of integrity defined by Peter Scazzero- “Integrity is when who I am on-stage is the same as who I am backstage. It is when there is no separation between what is going on inside of me and what I am expressing outside of me. There is no separation of my inner and outer life.”

Ouch. That is much easier said than done. And we have to truly reflect on what that really means. I think it means that it goes much farther than behavior modification or external action. It goes farther than simply how we act or perform on stage, in relationships with others, and in ministry.

You and I both know that there can be a war going on in our soul, a fight for survival - and we will continue along with a smile on our face - preaching joy all the while. And, if that is the case, is what’s happening on the outside congruent with what’s inside?

Parker Palmer says it like this: “As we become more obsessed with succeeding, or at least surviving, in that world, we lose touch with our souls and disappear into our roles.”

We focus our efforts on the external both personally and in leadership activity so much that we ignore we might be losing our souls in the process. If we are burnt out, harboring unforgiveness and resentment, if we are angry and scared, wrestling with doubt and confusion...if we pretend to go along to get along...if we keep believing the end justifies the means...if we harm and hurt others through manipulation and passive aggression because we don’t want to face what’s hard and uncomfortable...if we avoid and ignore...if we talk about Jesus and never spend time with Jesus...when we preach things that don’t even align with our own beliefs or expression of faith...the list goes on.

The greatest ways we pretend can often be found in our temperament. I remember in my early years as a young leader. I thought my introverted and melancholy ways would be unacceptable, so I insisted on creating an extroverted self which would please others. Unfortunately, this created more anxiety within me. Something as simple as a church potluck could set me on edge and leave me feeling shame if I spoke with just a few people rather than hopping around the crowd - connecting with every individual. That anxiety and shame would then turn to resentment or even anger towards those under my leadership. It was misdirected and misguided and yet, it influenced my attitude and decisions as a leader. It took multiple years of counseling and self-discovery to learn who I was - was not only acceptable but purposeful in how God called me. It was necessary that I no longer pretend for God to use me the way He desired.

It’s not simply temperament or personality, though. We can be experiencing struggles in mental or physical health, grief, loss, pain of any kind and when we refuse to share even a bit of that vulnerability - we lose a beautiful moment where our community sees us as human and in need of grace and love just as they are. And, when that occurs, Jesus moves beautifully to bind community together.

We are living divided lives. Our efforts to pretend, whether intentional or unintentional, not only disrupts Christ work in us - we inevitably harm others in our leadership.

Countless individuals are harmed and even abused by leaders who live divided lives. The reality is all that lies within us that doesn’t align with what’s on the outside, in whatever way it exposes itself, it will push through our carefully planned portrayal of something else. What lies beneath will lurk around, leak out and potentially - at any point - completely boil over.

Another complexity and severely harmful occurrence that is prevalent today is a lack of vulnerability and transparency as a leader and it not only disrupts accountability. It sets leaders up as heroes, saviors of the world. Inadvertently, a hero complex is developed and we have somehow found ourselves first when we're meant to be second.

Leaders (pastors included) were never meant to be the total authority in a person’s life and we were never meant to save. When we don’t allow others to see our humanity, we set up an environment of pretense for the communities we lead in.

Living with intentional Christ-like vulnerability becomes so important as a leader and in community. Yes, it takes risk and intentionality, but it is vital for healthy leadership and communities.

Living a whole life, undivided, real and authentic is countercultural in many ways due to the risks present. I believe this is what Jesus calls us to as leaders and this is what creates a healthy and safe community. 

Living an undivided life as a leader creates accountability. It tells others this is a safe place, one where you can true to who you are and I will true to who I am and we will experience Christ’s transformation together. It encourages truth and honesty. It builds true community. It is one of the best representations and expressions of Christ’s vulnerable and sacrificial love.

It takes work, risk, effort, and sacrifice. Are we willing as leaders? And, if so, what steps will we take to intentionally seek an undivided life?

 ...written by Christan Causey

...written by Christan Causey

Finding Quiet

Ahh...Spring. We thought you were here. But, alas, not quite yet. 

Can you believe this weather we are experiencing in New England? This Oklahoma girl certainly cannot, and as anxious as I am to get into the beautiful spring and summer days - I remember something.

The sleepy days of winter often turn into crazy, busy days of Spring. Finishing the school year, starting spring sports, running errands, fun activities, church calendar amps up, and things can quickly turn very hectic.

Take a moment and prepare yourself. If we work preventably, maybe it won't catch us by surprise and run us down. 

Learning the art of regular silence and solitude can help us regulate our schedules, move towards wholeness and peace. 

So try this. Close your eyes. Turn off all noise and set the phone aside. Be alone. Then make a guess how long you sat there. 2 minutes, 5 minutes? I can guarantee you it was more like 30 seconds that felt like 2 minutes.

Silence and solitude are two spiritual disciplines that bring vitality and life to our relationship with God. Much fruit can be born from these disciplines, yet they are probably some of the most neglected in Christian faith.

Our spirits are suffering from too much noise and not enough rest, moreover, our souls are literally crushed under the weight of our inability to stop and be silent.

We don’t like to be still and what do they say about silence? Right, it’s deafening.

There is a definition of silence and solitude found in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero that fits the context of these two things as spiritual disciplines.

Solitude is the practice of being absent from people and things to attend to God.

Silence is the practice of quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to God.

I began awhile back  incorporating these disciplines into my week and schedule, and I am still working to incorporate them regularly into each of days. I am getting better. However, it is super hard. I sat at the park this morning and had such a difficulty focusing. My thoughts kept leading me astray. I finally turned my music off, closed my eyes, and finally a few minutes later I  was able to shut everything out. And I began to find my way. The way to Him - my God who offers sweet peace to our frazzled minds.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, Is. 30:15

I know there have been many times I was simply unwillingly. And it wasn't too long ago that I could barely stand to sit still or quiet unless I was sleeping or reading. To sit completely still with nothing in my hands, it's difficult. To turn off all noise until the "silence is deafening" is not a simple task. Yet, I don't want to miss out on the salvation and strength of my God.

There are a great many benefits in these disciplines of silence and solitude.

John Piper states: One benefit of silence is simply searching the depths of our own souls, asking what our blind spots have become in the rush of everyday life. In the busyness, is there anything important I’m neglecting or repressing? How am I doing in my various roles? What needs refocusing?

Yet, these are the very questions that tend to be the reason we don’t. It is quite difficult for many of us to be still, let alone be silent. If and when we finally do stop and sit still, we need music, we even need the noise of our racing thoughts.

There was a time in my life long ago (much before kids), I would turn on the TV simply for the noise of it. I think sometimes we are afraid if it is too silent then we will no longer be able to drown out our fears, disappointments, and worries. Those things we most want to avoid will become a deafening noise to our ears. Our instinctive response is to protect ourselves by shutting it out and shutting it down. And how best to do this by avoiding solitude and silence? Yet, we need to run headlong into these difficult things. Acknowledge them and bring them to Christ, because that is where healing begins.

Before I begin to implement this discipline, I was often never alone. I had three children, a husband, ministry responsibilities and more. And, although, it can be wonderful to be surrounded by people all of the time - it is not healthy and does nothing to help you grow. We all need moments, several moments, throughout our days where we - like Christ - pull away from the crowd and pray.

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16

Many of us are not willing to stop long enough for God to speak. He longs to cut through the noise of our lives. We need to just stop. Put the phones down, set the laptops aside, let the home projects be for a bit, walk away from the people, and STOP. Step away, be replenished and find rest.

After many years of working to implement this discipline, I suffer greatly if I neglect it. I have been in a longer season of recent months where I neglected this time, and I saw an increase in my anxiety and ongoing feelings of disconnect and chaos. I am working to get back in this rhythm. 

Most importantly, when silence and solitude are incorporated disciplines that are centered on our Father - deep intimacy is formed with Christ and our lives bear much fruit when regularly abiding in Him. We become rooted, established in Him. Which offers the sustaining grace we so desperately need to love God and others well.

We should approach the disciplines of silence and solitude as rhythms in our day, rather a specific formulaic moment we carve out. These rhythms should be a soft balance of intentionality paired with creativity. A rhythm insinuates a depth of feeling, pattern, and consistency. In the rhythms of silence and solitude, the intentionality offers consistency and discipline - while creativity allows us to approach God in regular moments throughout our day rather than “getting our fill” at one time - just hoping it will last through the day. If we are walking deeply in Christ, we have intentional and planned moments with Christ - then there are these beautiful spontaneous moments throughout the day when we stop and feel the rhythm of His heartbeat. We sense we just need a moment with our Creator. We rest and we are quiet.

The disciplines of silence and solitude cannot and should not replace our regular times of focused and centered prayer. Or the regular study and meditation of His Word. They act in supplement to these ever important disciplines that should be a regular part of our week.

May it become a natural rhythm that flows out of a deep desire to know God more, to hear more from Him, and to bare more of our soul to Him. 

It cannot be a matter of adding another item on our to do list or a ritual we factor into our schedules. The very act of solitude and silence speaks to surrender. It declares a longing to abide with the Father, to stop all actions and noise and listen and be WITH God. Therefore, it must be an overflow of the inner work of Christ in one’s life. The more He works in me, the more space he fills in my heart, and the more I want and need to be with Him.

How do we practically implement this into our day? Peter Scazzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality discusses these disciplines, and offers great suggestions. Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline is another good one. There are many resources out there, but ultimately you must pray and ask God to give you wisdom in how He will lead you. He made you, created you - He knows what will speak most to you, what will be the most life-giving. It will change with the seasons, it will founded in who you are and what God knows is best for you. But, He will be faithful to give you your own road map.

And remember, as Scazzero states, “The purpose of these disciplines is to remember God and commune with him all through our days.”

How can I be filled with more of God - more of His Spirit? Simple, by making more room in my heart for Him to dwell. Centering my life around Him, regularly surrendering my soul, setting my mind upon Him, inviting Him into each part of my day - this makes room for Him to dwell in me.

 ...written by Christan Causey

...written by Christan Causey

Darkness into Light - Conference Thoughts

The leaves are falling, there is a slight chill in the air, and we are right about ONE MONTH away from our annual Women's Conference. I can hardly believe how this year has flown by.

In one month, we will have the opportunity to gather together in sisterhood from all over Southern New England even reaching into Northern New England.

Can you imagine hundreds of New England women gathered together in community under one name, Jesus Christ? It will be powerful. I have this growing anticipation. God has incredible plans. I know it deep down in my heart.

The fight has been real, though. Ironically enough, I have had identity battles this year like I haven't in a long time. I have been hit on every side of my insecurities and my weaknesses. The word "unraveled" runs through my mind like a bad song on repeat. 

God is unraveling me this year. String by string, I am coming undone. And it hurts. At times, it feels like my insides are being torn and stretched. I feel as though I have been shoved onto a stage - completely laid bare for all to see. It's uncomfortable, to say the least.

I have had to ask myself the question, "Who Am I?" and "Whose Am I?" over and over again. As I have prepared for the conference message, despite every obstacle that tries to detour, God is speaking powerfully.

Here is one thing I am sure of at this point. The Bible reminds us we have an enemy that has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Our Father came that we may have life and have it abundantly. The life abundantly part happens when our identity is founded and rooted in truth. Many of us know this. And, yet, we don't live like it. Or we strive for it in all the wrong ways, through all the wrong things.

I know, within my Spirit, God desires to break these walls of false identity, misconceptions, and broken truth. Lies and patterns of thought that have defined our identities for years. The confusion that colors our ability to declare confidently of who we are. Or, maybe, it's our own accomplishments and pride that better characterize our identity than Christ who graciously empowered us.

Whatever it is that confuses and discolors our identity and the roots of that identity, God longs to tenderly cut through the noise, tear down the walls, and lovingly unravel us so that we stand free and confident in Christ. Do you sense it? Do you believe it?

Oh, I do, there is a rising faith in my soul - a stirring in my Spirit. He is saying, I will do great things for you and among you.

It's essential that who we are - who God says we are - aligns with who we believe we are. If the enemy can destroy this truth - he can tear away the freedom and abundant life that is promised in Christ. 

In 1 Peter 2:9, it states that we are chosen. We are special. And we are His. That He so graciously pulled us from the pit of darkness into a marvelous light.

And, yet, it's not enough to simply declare positive statements of belief: I am Strong, I am Brave, I am Hopeful, etc. It requires a lifelong deep inner work of transformation where we allow Christ to reach into the darkness of our existence and shed light on mistruths, lies, pain, mistakes, and more. Often we desire to leave the light off. No one WANTS to face their own darkness - their pain. And, yet, we cannot value the light without the darkness. 

But why not? Why not stare our darkness in the face and allow the light of Jesus Christ to come flooding in. By the act of one man - freedom has been offered - grace has been offered. By the act of Jesus Christ - righteousness no longer has to be earned. We accept our imperfections knowing that we don't earn anything, but that we are justified by faith and by grace. And we can come out of hiding-come out of darkness into glorious light. If we live our lives through Christ, it is Christ living in us that gives us the strength and courage to live outside of the darkness and in the light. To live free, to transform, to grow, to bear fruit and impact a world for Him.

I can't wait to continue to explore these themes of identity with you. The Women of Influence team and the network leadership team is praying for you. And we hope you will come. I pray God will remove all obstacles for you to be there the weekend of the conference. We all need a good, strong reminder of WHO we are and WHOSE we are. I hope to see you there!

You can register here: snemnwomenofinfluence/events

 ...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

Scars and Trust

My trust in the Lord has always been, best put, complicated. I would be dishonest if I was to say it was consistent and constant. If anything, I have most identified with doubting Thomas. Most identified with the "wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." I long to be consistent, to be steady - immovable in my trust - and yet that typically isn't the case. 

The shock and resulting darkness of losing my parents in a short period of time and at such a young age left many scars. Scars, that although healed, still bears scar tissue. 

Our bodies have a natural way of healing through scars. The scar is a result of a wound in the body and the healing process of the body internally making an effort to heal that wound. Pain from scar tissue can actually occur long after the wound/surgical area has healed. All that needs to occur is a small amount of pressure, a squeezing of sorts internally or externally in and around the scar tissue and the nerves that are present there.

I had three C-sections. I have three operations worth (technically four with an emergency post op procedure) of scar tissue and the more you have built up, the more after pain may occur. It's just more sensitive. As a result, I often experience pain internally for various reasons or if I exude a lot of physical labor or activity (running, lifting, etc). 

I explain all of this not to give you weird insight into my physical pain, I promise. :) I share it because it so perfectly exemplifies what occurs in our own lives. When we experience loss, trauma, painful circumstances, and more - our mind, soul, and spirit works to find healing. The hope is that we allow Christ to do His best work of restoration and healing. Yet, we must acknowledge that even when He does, scar tissue will remain. We live in a fallen, imperfect world - and no healing will be perfectly complete until eternity. 

The more we fight this, the more we will actually move away from God in distrust. We must recognize that, at times, there are events or situations that come along and "squeeze" or "put pressure" on the scar tissue of those old wounds. This causes a rush of pain, and as a result memories of the trauma and loss may occur. Or, at the very least, we find ourselves overwhelmed with uncertainty. We are reminded that sometimes things don't work out, and sometimes God just allows pain.

This. This right here. It pushes hard against the real desire within us to trust in our faithful God. We tell ourselves, I know He is faithful - why can't I just trust? Because at the depth of who we are, we do trust Him. We know emphatically that He is trustworthy. Oh, but that scar tissue is pushing back reminding us of the long nights, the darkness that covered, the fear that ensued, the stark disappointment. 

Grace. Give yourself grace, my dear friend. Because your sweet Father is - in those moments where your trust waivers - pouring out His mercy and grace to help you build your trust again. 

When I experience that pain from my c-sections it never is as intense as when it was fresh and it never lasts that long. In fact, the more time that occurs and I am removed from those operations the less it occurs. 

He reminds us the pain will release. It will pass, and we will find our trust again. We just must hold on. Dig in deep in those moments. Turn quickly towards Him, call out, hold on - and wait.

For He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds stay on Him because they trust Him (Is. 26:3). In those moments where the pain or uncertainty is greater and clouding your senses - remind yourself of His faithfulness. Call to mind the hope you have in Him. Call to mind the millions of ways He has rescued you over and over again. And keep your heart and mind stayed on Him. 

And, when the pain is released or you find yourself being able to catch your breath - you will be able to say with sweet confidence again - Yes. I trust you with ALL my heart. The peaceful places. The painful ones. I trust you emphatically. 

“Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalms 28:6-7 NLT

 ...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

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I Wander as I Wander

I don't know what it is about that sweet disciple, Peter, that causes me to identify with Him so much.

Maybe it is the undying faith in his Savior. Or better yet, it's the stubborn pride that actually might be underlying fear that causes him to deny his Lord.

We are alike, Peter and I. "Prone to wander, God I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." I have a picture in my home that states the old famous thought, "Bind my wandering heart to thee".

The wandering for me does not really come so much in the external. It's this internal wandering away. Where I dwell or overthink a situation so much that my eyes are no longer on my Father. They are fixed on the situation and all the potential obstacles, challenges, and more that can come with it.

I will forever be battling my mind.

What about you?

We can be quite exemplary in our following of Christ on the external. The ever faithful servant, the kindhearted neighbor, and the dutiful reader of God's Word. And, yet, internally we stray. Our thought life and heart can be far from the God we worship. And when this might occur, we become discouraged, distrusting, and even dismayed over the challenges of this life.

Much like Peter who sees Christ, His friend and teacher.  Christ Jesus calls for him to boldly come near, to step out into the water. Peter so faithfully following Jesus shouts, yes! If it's you, Lord! Of course, I will come.

As soon as he steps out, though, he starts getting distracted. His steps of obedience were in the right direction. His willingness was to be applauded. Nonetheless, his mind and heart began to wander and so did his eyes. He faltered, he became afraid and then stumbled.

It's not so much that we will never be afraid. In fact, in this life with all of the challenges that storm through, we will know fear. Rather we must realize it is not enough for us to put on faithfulness wearing it like badge of honor. It's not enough to take the steps of obedience if our heart and mind doesn't follow. Because, inevitably, we will become distracted and take our eyes off of our Father-putting them on the world around us. And, that will be enough to cause us to stumble. Or, at the very least, wander away from communion with Him.

Are you fully engaged in the Savior? Or has your journey found itself making the hard steps of faithful obedience, and yet internally the rest of you wanders?

I get it. In fact, through this season of church planting and new leadership roles, there have been many times I have gotten my eyes off of Jesus Christ. My eyes and mind become fixated on the challenges that are ever before me, and it causes the fear to swell. In my feelings of being overwhelmed, my heart will turn away. But, God faithfully and gently says, come near. Eyes on me. Don't look anywhere but me. Walk in faith, but walk in boldness and courage.

My dear pastoral mentor and counselor has encouraged me more than once to remember that one of the beautiful qualities of God the Father is nurturer. In the midst of challenges, He longs to simply nurture and care for us - not measure us against a self induced standard. With this in mind, we should be drawn to Him not away from Him.

Here is my point. Many times we walk, but we walk in fear and uncertainty. We are willing to continue to move forward in faith or face the challenge He brings our way - but what is our posture? Is it a posture of confidence and wholehearted trust?

In our faithful following of Christ, we must also follow wholeheartedly. When there is pain and unknown, we must boldly embrace it and come. When the fear threatens to stop us in our tracks, we must call on the name of our God who is mighty to save and bring peace. When the anger of not enough starts to undo us and we long to turn back-we must take rest in the arms of a God who is so big and gracious - He can hold us in our anger.

It's not enough to follow Christ, and yet shield our heart from being fully engaged. It's won't be enough to boldly step out of the boat or into the storm if we are not continually wholeheartedly fixed on our Savior.

This is wholehearted obedience, soul and spirit. All of our mind fixed on Him. Not just pretentious steps of obedience, but everything all in.

When we are all in, we can jump out of the boat into the storm and waves, walk on the water fully surrendered no matter what occur around us.

We must reflect and ask ourselves, in what ways am I withholding my heart, soul, and mind from being fully engaged and fixed on God before me?

There's an old song that comes to mind, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this world will go strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." The storm ceases to distract, the pain becomes worth it, and a stillness of trust causes us to just...breath...and rest.

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By: Christan Causey