Fierce Happiness

The phrase arrested me. Two words strung together in a sentence that don’t really seem like they should go together.

Fierce happiness.

Fierce: Intense or ferocious aggressiveness OR heartfelt and powerful intensity.

Happiness: pleasure, contentment, satisfaction.

I’ve been having great conversations with ladies lately about the things I love about Jesus.

His patience. His consistency. His grace. But I’ve been searching for something else in my understanding of who He is.

And there it was. It jumped out of my phone and into my heart like God speaking straight to me. I started thinking of friends who exhibit “fierce happiness.”

My friend Mary Catherine Garrett who co-leads the inner city youth ministry One7 with her husband, David. Ultra endurance athlete Meredith Dolhare who founded RunningWorks, a non-profit investing in the health and well-being of homeless neighbors. My pastors Steven Furtick and his wife, Holly. Suzanne Spantgos and her husband George, great leaders in our church on outreach, tech, and eGroups teams. Tony and Christine Schmitz who lead at our Weddington location. Christy Baker who leads at our non-profit partner Charlotte Rescue Mission. And I could go on, and on.

Each of these people has known deep sorrow and on the other side have come to a place of fierce happiness. If Tim Keller is right in his book, PrayerFierce happiness is found in the perfect truine relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It seems it is found in truly knowing someone and allowing oneself to be deeply known.

Somewhere along my journey with Jesus, I think I’ve both gained and lost some of who He is. Before I really knew him I’d mastered a sort of fake happiness. I didn’t entirely realize I was faking it. I felt happy, mostly. I gave up the fake me as much as I could. But I’ve traded in something fierce in me for a sort of abstract tranquility. I want my fierce back. But a new kind of fierce that’s grounded in who He is inside me. It’s a different kind of grrrrr… Let’s see if we can find it together… in letting ourselves be deeply known.

As we begin a new series called Moodswingers, we’re also about to launch into a new season of eGroups at Elevation Church. Get there. Be known. Be fiercely happy.

Inspired by “Prayer: A 14-Day Devotional by Tim Keller” on the YouVersion Bible app.

Encourage a friend

IMG_6840.JPGMy apologies for the morning blog publishing blunder. I was working on this piece over on the Elevation Outreach blog, and accidentally published the lovely Jay and Brandi Rabon photo (by Sean Lyon) here a bit early.

Jay and Brandi are incredible Elevation Church friends and one of the original families to launch our church with Pastor Steven and Holly.

From the outside looking in, with their beautiful smiles and cheerful, helpful dispositions, you’d never know they were going through a difficult season in their lives. Their once very active, spunky 10-year-old Addison suffers from two rare medical conditions. You can read details in this local newspaper article.

We are believing in total healing for Addison and we believe her story will bring God glory. You can give her spirits a boost by voting for her in the “Rare artist 2014″ contest.

Do it. Tell everyone you know about it. You’ll be inspired.

Addison Rabon’s art photo on the “Rare Artist 2014″ contest. Children with rare disorders are competing for a $100 prize. Addison already knows what she wants to do with the prize money – buy pink iPod for her 7-year-old sister Alana.

Addison Rabon’s art photo on the “Rare Artist 2014″ contest. Children with rare disorders are competing for a $100 prize. Addison already knows what she wants to do with the prize money – buy a pink iPod for her 7-year-old sister Alana.

Take a Drive

Screenshot 2014-11-08 08.46.34It’s morning and I’m blessed with an opportunity to write. Now, what about? I’ve got lots of work things on my list, but I need a break from that this minute…

So I look at a a few things that inspire me. Jeff Goins blog for writers is great. Christine Caine‘s new digital women’s magazine Propel makes me smile, too. Anything Elevation Church or Proverbs 31 are also great go-to’s. And then I also enjoy Slate, Good, and Design Milk.

But one of the things that helps me open up my brain and push out the things that clog my head the most is to take a drive. I started racing go karts when I was twelve years old, so this is likely how this all got started for me. One of my favorite recent drives was the one we took to Elevation Roanoke along Route 221.

There was this beautiful 30-mile section that twisted and turned along Bent Mountain Road. It took about 15 minutes longer than the main highway route, but it was worth it. Sometimes, I need to take a few literal twists and turns to unwind the knots in my head. I’d love to hear about your favorite drives, and the things that inspire you.

This post inspired by the Five Minute Friday writing community. This Friday’s prompt was the word TURN.Screenshot 2014-11-08 08.44.54 It took me more than five minutes (confession) because I’ve got two boys and a dog and a husband and old episodes of SURVIVOR are blaring in the room with me. And I love it.

Prayer

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5‬:‭16-18‬ NIV)

Can you remember when you first started praying? My first prayer was simple, and slightly terrifying.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

If I should DIE?!!! NOW???! I pray my SOUL to TAKE?

This prayer did not encourage me. It gave me nightmares. And just to see if I was overreacting, I showed the prayer to my 10-year-old, Cooper – who said, “That’s creepy.”

These are the humble beginnings of my prayer life. So clearly I’m no prayer expert. If you go to the Amazon.com bookstore to look up books on how to pray, more than TWO THOUSAND results come up. I’ve read only two of them, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, and The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martian. Both are really great, inspirational resources, and I loved them. But I think the one book that has helped me pray the most is Anne Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.

Ann’s book guides us to begin always with gratitude. “Eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle,” she says. My pastor, Steven Furtick has preached on this many times as well, particularly in a Thanksgiving 2010 staff teaching I will never forget – one of his points was – “Gratitude sustains joy and blessings.”

Those teachings guided me to begin my prayers always with a thank you. Now please don’t misunderstand – I don’t always FEEL grateful. I choose to SPEAK gratitude over my situations. And don’t get the wrong idea about my prayer life, either. When I hear people talking about “quiet time” or if they ask me “How often are you getting quiet time with God?” I chuckle – because I have two boys, and the only time it’s quiet in my house is between the hours of 10pm and 7am. So unless I make it a high priority to spend time in God’s word before 7am or after 10, it doesn’t happen. And, often when I pray in my head – I fall asleep… or my mind wanders… or I start thinking of things that aren’t prayers like what I’m going to make for dinner this weekend. So I like praying out loud – with friends, with my children, in my car, and with my husband.

Most of my prayers during the day are as simple as “Thank you, Jesus.” Or “Help me, Jesus.”

I wasn’t always like this. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to do everything on my own. I knew Jesus. I loved him. I invited him to be my savior and lead my life when I was in college. But without a community to believers around you to encourage you, guide you, and challenge you, you can fall farther and farther from God.

Living in Charlotte, being a part of what God is doing through Elevation Church and hearing great preaching every single week – I’ve grown closer to God, and I’ve learned to lean on Him when I feel like the world is crashing in on me. And this is give or take, about 15 times a day.

During a particularly challenging time in our marriage, I felt like God was telling me to “Talk less, and Pray more.” I went through another period of time where I felt like God was prompting me to pray some specific things for my husband for 30 days. And now, I’m in the middle of praying Psalm 91 for 91 days along with my friends in Young Life Africa.

I pray because I know I need Jesus. I pray because I know I can’t do anything that means anything without him. I pray because WITH HIM, I know I CAN do anything he’s called me to do. I pray because I know I am in control of so little. I pray because I want the God of the universe who made me and loves me and wants good things for me to know I’m grateful. I pray because being quiet and grateful and seeking God’s wisdom gives me clarity, and courage to take on whatever lies ahead.

I don’t feel like a prayer superhero. And maybe that’s the great thing about calling on prayer as a superpower. For me, choosing to pray when I feel weak, ungrateful, fearful, or angry means that I can release those negative thoughts and feelings – and accept the promises God has spoken over my life instead. Pastor Steven’s book Crash the Chatterbox is all about learning how to do this – and I highly recommend it.

At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭20‬ AMP)

Thank you to my sister, Tris who asked me to share my thoughts on prayer. She’s been writing a 31-day series of blogs called “Celebrating your superpowers.” They’re beautiful. You can check them all out, here.

Because He Said So…

Screenshot 2014-09-26 11.09.18My dad isn’t a big words guy. He doesn’t use a whole lot of them. But the ones he does use certainly stuck with me growing up. He always told me he loved me – and he often used the phrase “Because I said so.” This Five Minute Friday post is dedicated to my dad. I shared this story this week with students at my boys’ school… It’s cut and pasted here with a few minor edits to get it out there in five minutes. Because it’s Sabbath Friday in my house – and I’d better get back to resting.

Because He Said So.

Psalm 30:2 says “Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”

Have you ever had a pain that just wouldn’t go away? Maybe it was a pain on your body – Maybe it was a pain in your heart. Maybe it was both. For me it certainly was both.

My sons Cooper and Asher have two older sisters – One is Ciara, the other is Kira. Ciara is my daughter who just finished college in Washington State.

There was pain in that relationship because I didn’t get to see her as much as I wanted to because of some of the choices I’d made. I had gotten a divorce – It’s a decision that breaks God’s heart and he tells us not to do it. But I did it anyway.

I had pain in my heart because of the choices I’d made and because of the circumstances those choices created. I had pain in my body, too. For several years I had a condition called TMJ – temporomandibular joint disorder. That’s a very big word for very bad pain in your jaw.

I lived with this pain for several years – I’d gone to the dentist to get a fancy bite device and I tried many other things on my own when one day, a miracle happened.

It started out as a terrible, no good, very bad day. I was upset about several things – about my daughter Ciara – I was missing her so much – about my job – about so many circumstances in my life I felt like were out of my control. I was driving down the road this day feeling very sorry for myself and I had this very strong feeling (I believe it was God) who told me to stop that. Not a whole lot of other words like please, not a lot of discussion about why or how I was hurting myself – just simply – Stop That.

Stop feeling sorry for myself and praise Him. Though I didn’t really WANT to do that in that moment, it seemed like God was telling me to.  So I did – I turned up Elevation Worship CD very loud in my car, and I started singing out loud. And as I was praising God and singing and saying thankful, grateful things about Him – HE did something amazing.

Why? Because He Said So. God’s word says when we call to him for help, he will heal us.

God healed me. He took the pain in my jaw away. For the first time in years I felt no pain – God healed the pain in my heart and in my jaw. I praised Him. And I continue to praise Him and give him glory for the healing he brought me in that moment.

God promises he will heal us. I believe he calls us to participate in that healing. I didn’t sit around waiting for him to heal me. I praised him – even when I didn’t feel like it – at a time in fact when I ESPECIALLY didn’t feel like it… I praised Him and he healed me.

My dad’s “Because I said So” was not very comforting or fulfilling at the time. But today it is.

Jesus, thank you for your word and your promises. Thank you for keeping your promises to us even when we make mistakes. Help us remember your promises, father and cling to them. Today I pray for friends who are hurting and need healing in their hearts and in their bodies. Believing in healing and hope today for each and every one of them. Amen.

Ready.

Screenshot 2014-09-12 10.19.04When does it begin?

That feeling we’re never quite ready.

That feeling that screams we’re never quite _____ enough.

Not smart enough. Not experienced enough. Not organized enough.

In one of my all-time favorite sermons from Pastor Steven Furtick, called “Cancel the Audition” we are reminded that if we are followers of Christ – Jesus has already chosen us. We are ready for whatever he has called us to do. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” “But I am too young…” says the voice of insecurity in Jeremiah. And the Lord says, “Do not say I’m too young. Go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Paraphrased from Jeremiah 1:4-10)

Pastor Steven preached that to us in 2012 – and I’m still fighting back those feelings of not being quite ready. I AM ready. Just saying it out loud gives me courage.

This day – let’s choose together to be ready. Not ready with a question mark. But ready with a period. It’s crazy how much difference the punctuation can make.

Say it with me, brave friends. “I am ready.”

(This post is inspired by an inspired group of blogging ladies my lovely left coast sister helped me connect to. Find out more about Five Minute Friday here.)