Transformation

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

The Art of Wholehearted

The battle lies in the division of who we are privately and who we are publically. As much as we desire to be wholly undivided, most of humanity will be drawn into division. It's part of our nature. Yet, in Christ - fragmentation, this brokenness can be mended into a beautiful wholeness. It's only possible with Christ in us.

Wholehearted. What does it mean to be wholehearted?

Merriam-Webster would define this term as “completely and sincerely devoted, determined, or enthusiastic…marked by complete and earnest commitment…free from all reserve or hesitation.”

Over the last several years, I have learned and studied wholeheartedness. I have looked at it from the perspective of qualified authors, Spirit-led counseling, and - mostly importantly - from the Word of God and trying to learn the heart of our Father.

I like Merriam-Webster’s definition, but I feel it’s missing the context of Scripture. Scriptures come to mind such as Luke 10:27 - “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength - love your neighbor as yourself” and 1 These. 5:23 - “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Scriptures like these give us a glimpse of what biblical wholeheartedness could look like.

Sincere devotion is just simply devotion when not integrated with authenticity. Free from all reserve and hesitation is not possible without inward transformation. Is it? It’s as though, it’s a “this must proceed that”. To live wholeheartedly, we must be wholehearted. Rather to live and be wholehearted, we must welcome and invite the transformation of becoming wholehearted.

I think of people like Paul, Naomi, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Peter, Moses, Abraham, and David. And so, so many more. Men and women who lived their lives fully devoted to Christ, not through perfection, but rather through brokenness and mess. These people were a hot mess. Much like you and me. 

But in all of their hot mess, they devoted everything to Christ and the people around them - in vulnerability and in passion. 

God calls us to community and impact. Yet, we certainly cannot make a fully loving impact when we are withholding and withdrawing from others. Whether it be out of fear or insecurity, whether we are fully convinced we are not good enough - or simply uncertain about our purpose. I truly believe God calls us to live vulnerably and authentically as we passionately live out our purpose for Him and through Him. We do this in community with God and others. 

To be wholehearted, to live wholehearted - we must be made whole. Don’t misunderstand, by no means do I mean we must be perfect. Perfection is not our aim. Scripture states in Matthew 5:48, "be Holy as I am Holy" or "be perfect as I am perfect". Can we really achieve the holiness or perfection of God? No. If we look at the context and meaning of this word “perfect” - the original word is “teleioi” in the Greek which translates as “completeness (fully grown)” in your understanding or in your thinking. Be made whole or undivided.  

God is made up of three parts, Father, Son, Holy Spirit - yet operates as a whole; much the same, according to scripture, we are made up of three parts - body, soul, spirit. 

And, God calls us to wholeness. How can that be expressed, lived out?

For our specific purposes, we are looking at the question of how can I be made whole - how can I live out wholeheartedness? How can I be transformed wholly and completely in Christ?

So often, we allow transformation in the external parts of our lives. We change our habits, we adjust our schedules and diets, we talk better, act better, perform better. Nonetheless, we feel broken - fragmented. Pieces of ourselves remain hidden and unseen both to the community around us, but most sadly to the God who created us. 

We live fragmented lives. We withdraw and protect - and it is not just from community. We do this from God, himself.

It seems silly, I know. How do you hide and withdraw from God who knows and sees all? It’s the beautiful and yet, treacherous act of free will and choice. He will not force himself on us, but He waits patiently for us to open our WHOLE heart to Him - to allow Him to transform us completely and wholly - and to surrender wholeheartedly in our journey with HIm. IF we were to do this, it would change us from the inside out - and as we are changed from the inside out the overflow will be to live fully and authentically with God AND with OTHERS. Living wholeheartedly in community with God and others. 

What would happen in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and workplace if we were to allow wholehearted transformation that flows into wholehearted community?

This is what we hope to look at, focus on, and discover in 2018 with this community of women. Are you in? Are you “wholeheartedly” in? This means we will be committed to sharing our stories. It means we will be vulnerable and honest. And, we will work out our salvation through the gut-wrenching act of God reaching deep inside of us and revealing all of the ways we are broken and fragmented.

We will watch in awe as Christ works transformation in the deepest recesses of our soul and spirit, and reveals a beautiful outward life of wholehearted surrender and devotion. We will rejoice and celebrate as we journey towards the beautiful reward of a wholehearted life. We invite you to join us!

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...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

Sticks and Stones

Do you remember being teased as a child and your mom telling you the old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me?” What a bunch of hooey that is. God reminds me of some interesting things when we talk. I was told many things as a kid, by different people, including myself, and I was told things just these past few weeks by different people.

I’ve never broken a bone, but have experienced much pain with my bones, having both knees replaced, and two toes intentionally broken to correct them. It was painful, I won’t lie to you, but I have been healed of the pain. Each and every day it was a little less until one day I woke up and the pain was no longer there. But the pain that I have experienced at the expense of words… well that is a much different, much deeper pain, with long lasting effects, if we are not careful.

As I was talking with my Jesus this morning, what He spoke to my heart was “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, Paulette. Yes, their words were hurtful. Yes, they cut you deep, but focus on My words. Focus on My love. Focus on Me! Instead of hitting the rewind button in your mind and replaying them over and over, record over it with My words of love and encouragement. Replay My truth over and over again until the truth of those words completely wipes out the hurtful ones.”

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

 “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16

Their words hurt me deeply; they cut to the very depth of my heart. But I have spent the days trying to be renewed by the transformation of my mind, by allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way and change my heart. And now, like my bones have healed, my heart is in the process of healing as well.

Sticks and stone will break the bones, and the words will hurt as well. But it doesn’t have to stay that way! Will you allow God access to your heart and mind, will you be…

… transformed by the renewing of your mind!

 ...by Paulette Toews

...by Paulette Toews

Not Enough. Literally.

As humans, I think there is always a sense of "not enough" in us. Derived from our childhood or past, every day mistakes, lack of performance in certain areas, etc - all make us "feel" this uncomfortable feeling of not measuring up.

Then there are these seasons where you examine areas of your life, and you can clearly point to the lack. Places where you know better, and yet just don't keep up with what is necessary. The "not enough" feeling becomes more than an inadequacy battle and becomes reality. I am in this season.

In my personal health and wellness (body, soul, and spirit), in my work, in my parenting, being a wife, and probably every other area.

I am frustrated-even discouraged at my inability to keep up. I know what I need for health and wellness, and I am not implementing those things well. I need silence and solitude on a regular basis, and it is mostly nonexistent. I need water o plenty, fruits (yeah I am supposed to say veggies, but for now, I will stick with my daily banana), vitamins, way less eating out, and some form of regular light exercise. For my emotional health, I need to be writing, processing regularly, and confronting difficult feelings. Spiritually, I must have time with God, focused study, extended prayer times, and more.

Don't get me wrong, I am never fully and perfectly hitting all of those. However, in this season, my tank is empty, and my health is taking a hit. I wake up every morning with a list of things I am behind in, with personal frustration in regards to my lack.

And before you begin to offer platitudes to help me feel better, because you think - oh my goodness, we can't have Christan down in the dumps - let me stop you. 

I am all about the "He's enough for you". "You don't have to be enough, because He is enough". "You will never be enough, but He is". That's great and everything. All about that grace. 

But, let's get serious. Sometimes it's just literally not enough, because you are not making good choices or because you don't have the capacity or because you just don't have it in you. And so it's not the proverbial "I'm not enough". It's the, "no, like seriously, I know better and I'm not cutting it". Maybe it's just me who's been there? But I doubt it. 

Shame is the ugly monster that drives me to perform better, harder, and faster. Shame in its ugliness whispers you just need to do things right and then all will be well. And, yet, it never turns out that way. When we try to make things better on our own without relying on our Savior, we inevitably cycle through the failure again. 

But here is the thing, every day and many moments in the day-I hear a still small voice that gently whispers-"I've got you." So, I kick and scream and want to punch in walls because I am a hot mess in this season and I don't like it. But He says, even in the seasons of emptiness and "not enough" - I've got you. My love doesn't change and shift with the seasons of your life. It doesn't increase or decrease depending on how well you are doing or not doing. Always. In every season. I've got you. 

Thank God His love covers a multitude of sin and failure. Thank God His love is whole even when I feel so broken. 

It helps me be okay with own my brokenness. It helps me breathe deeply and say, it's okay. It's permission giving to just simply be "not enough" in the worst kind of way. 

It's His loving kindness that draws me to humble repentance. When I have faltered and failed, I know He is waiting with open arms. There may be frustration and disappointment that I can't seem to keep up, that I'm an emotional wreck, and that I'm battling a boiling temper. Yet there is no shame.

There is no shame, because I know to whom I belong. And, I am okay not being okay in this season. Why? Not because I don't care, but because He's got me and He's got this. I am not alone. 

Are you okay with not being okay sometimes? Do you believe God's love covers you every moment in every season? Does shame sit close trying desperately to drag you under?

When we hesitate to draw near to Him in these "empty" and "not enough" seasons, we can almost always point to shame as a culprit. 

Shame creates self-contempt, it causes distraction, and makes us lose perspective. Shame colors our ability to see God in His grace and mercy, and rather than draw towards Him we draw away from Him. There's no place or need for shame as children of God. 

If you are in a season where you just can't seem to keep up with the necessary, can I invite you to lean into His grace and mercy today? He's got you, friend. He will cover your multitude of faults and failures. And He will fill in the gaps until you are on your feet again. 

 ...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

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