Friday, January 29, 2016

What can Happen when Starbucks Closes their Bathroom...

We all have moments. Moments that shape us or change the direction of our lives whether we realize it at the time or not.

For me, one of those moments happened one evening in downtown Beirut. Myself and two other women had just finished up a meal with a dear local woman and we were going to head over to the government buildings to prayer walk. As we were walking down the street suddenly I really needed to use the restroom. Being the daughter of a truck driver this doesn't usually happen to me. You get really good at holding your bladder when you are the youngest sibling and you may or may not have to wait a long time (we're talking hours, people) before the next scheduled "pit stop." But, go I needed to, so we headed to the Starbucks at the end of the road. When we got there for some reason the Starbucks decided that their bathrooms needed to be closed on this particular night so we, to my embarrassment, proceeded to go back to the same restaurant we ate at.

I know that I set you up to expect a certain thing when I started this blog and you are probably wondering why I'm talking about needing to go to the bathroom...

When we got back to the restaurant we went inside and up the stairs to the restroom...we had eaten out on the porch area of the restaurant like most people do when the weather is nice so this was the first we had been inside. Feeling much better now, as I came down the stairs I looked up for the first time to see the inside of the restaurant (I had been pretty focused on one thing when we had come in).

In that moment I was fully aware of the fact that I had, in fact, been in this restaurant before in my dreams. The color of the cushions, the placement of the tables, the place settings, pictures on the walls, wall of windows to the left...everything was exactly where I had seen it numerous times in my sleep as well as the times I imagined it while reading books or praying. I stopped dead in my tracks, aware that God was doing something that I could not fully know or understand but that I needed to pay attention to. Time seemed to slow down and blur together for me at that point.

As I stopped a man from the restaurant rushed up to us. "Would you like to go outside?" He said, his hand motioning to the wall of windows. "What does he mean?" I wondered in my mind, "That's just a wall of windows, how can we go out there?" "I'll open for you, you want to go outside?" The man said again, this time almost more in a tone that told us we must do so to appease his politeness.

"Ok! Sure." I don't really know which one of us said this as at this point I was more aware that something in my life was about to change and had, in fact already started to change as I stared at the place I had been to so very often. Sure enough. The man rushed to the wall of "window" and reached down for a lever. As he pulled, the wall of windows swung open as, like one of my friends back home likened it, 'something you would see in a James Bond film.'

The wall of windows swung out yielding a back patio area. Before us stood a number of things. To our left stood a large church (as Lebanon is a Christian nation), to our right the largest mosque in Lebanon, at our backs the downtown area which included the government buildings and right in the middle a bunch of ruins, because Beirut has been buried at least 7 times.

I don't quite know what to say when trying to explain what happened next. I'm not sure that there will ever be the right words to explain what one feels and sees and hears when Holy Spirit seizes a moment. There, standing behind that restaurant God showed me maybe for the first time of my life who He was making me into.

To the Left: I will always have a heart for the church. She is supposed to be the most beautiful representation of Christ to the world. I long for her to be pure, free from fear and passionately loving and caring because she is healthy and free herself. I want her to love the world as Christ loves us.

Behind me: I have also always had a love and passion for the idea of government. I believe that governments are made to serve their people, protect and keep them safe and act in their best interest. I am slowly becoming more aware of my heart for seeing that happen. Whenever I am in or near a capital I go to the buildings and pray. Leaders make so many hard decisions every day and they need so much wisdom.

To my Right: The mosque. This trip was my first trip to this region. A pipe dream and curiosity caused me to go initially and man, did God have a different plan. As I looked to my right I asked God to give me a love for this region and this people. I knew and still know there is no way that I can love in the way I need to on my own strength. In that moment, again, I cannot nearly explain but my heart was filled with a knowing that God perfectly loves, and He wants me to share that love with this people that the world loves to hate. In that moment all God needed to ask was, "will you?" And my whole being overwhelmingly replied, "YES! Of course."

In between, and in the middle lay ruins. Massive chunks of rocks and stone that used to be buildings. It is crazy how much those ruins stick out in a City as beautiful as Beirut. They don't belong. I couldn't help but be the most overwhelmed by this. There are analogies that I will probably be working out for the rest of my life but there's one I will share with you tonight. I have a heart for the desolate places, for the places that need rebuilding. I also have a heart for those who people have forgotten about, over looked or passed over. I want to help "rebuild" in every sense of the word. I want to help rebuild their hearts, as orphans and neglected being transformed into sons and daughters, seen and valued. I want to help rebuild their lives through economics, skills and businesses, causing them to dream once again. And I want to help rebuild their place within society both on a local, national and international level. These are just a few examples, it's my heart and for that I can't apologize.

Besides being overwhelmed by His love for this region, I don't remember a lot more from that moment except to say that it was no-doubt a sovereign one. I believe the other two ladies would agree. In that moment, God showed me in an instant a picture of who I am in a profound way.

In the next months I hope to write about things that define who I am and this was obviously the week where I talked about my call to missions. I couldn't think of a better place to start. I have a heart for the nations. It's what's caused me to pursue missions and one of my most defining and shaping moments was this one in my restaurant, downtown Beirut.

I haven't shared the story above very often. Sometimes it felt too dear to try to put into words, but I've been feeling the need to start documenting and writing down how this crazy part of my life has started. I hope it will draw you into your own encounters with the Lord. Who knows, maybe you'll need to go to the restroom in your restaurant, too? God has encounters lying in wait in the seemingly every day moments. Encounters that will show you more of who you are, of the love He has for you and encounters that will change your life! Be ready for them. They're waiting for you.

I leave you this week with the two passages that have shaped me the most in my calling. They speak of what I feel called to more than anything else. They are precious to me, but I will share them if you want to steal some of the verses for yourself. :)

Lots of Love,
Lara

Isaiah 42: 1-4 "Behold my servant, who I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law."
6-7 "I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are bling, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." 

Isaiah 49:8-10 "Thus says the Lord: "In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners, 'Come out,' to those who are in darkness, 'Appear.' They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them." 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Simple Steps: Welcome to 2016!

In starting this year I've wanted to begin to write more. It feels awkward and unnatural as I've been out of consistent practice for the past 4 years. These blogs will be simple. They will at times have terrible grammar, I'm sure. But for the next year I am challenging myself to take the simple step of writing, on simple subjects that I have found define who I am. Will you come on this journey with me as I try to get what's within me, out once again? As I try to unstop what has felt trapped the last 4 years? If so check back every other week for the next year and beyond.

_________________________
A new year has begun without my permission. How dare it? It seems like I blinked and December was over. I can't say that I was ready in any capacity for the New Year. I definitely didn't have my ducks in a row, my goals accomplished from last year nor my vision for this coming year all neat, tidy and set before me. The last 4 years have been a whirlwind of activity, change and just to be honest, full...the fullest of my life. I know that I'm young and still single so to many of you that's not saying much but they have been. Trust me.

In trying to be faithful with what God has given me slowly I have realized that God has given me quite a lot! It's definitely a blessing but increased responsibility also brings the increased temptation to be stressed out of my mind. I've learned what capacities I have that I didn't realize that I had and I've also realized, probably more than ever, where my limits are. The limits are probably much more clear than my capacities thus far.

At the end of each year I love to look back on things; I like to see where I've been, what the Lord has done, etc. Mostly I like to do this because I love to be thankful and to see the faithfulness of the Lord. Because He's always, always faithful. 2015 included things that were beautiful and experiences that I will never forget!

I also like to look forward...

I'm a planner. One of my highest strengths is development. I want to make a plan and stick to it as much as I can. I want to see weaknesses so that I can lean into them and create strengths. I want to see where and how far I can get and what is keeping me from that.

I'm also perpetually hard on myself. I can't just pick out one weakness and move towards fixing it, instead when I look, I see every single weakness that exists. So instead of just having 2 areas to focus and change I have about 30 areas of life; and it's not hard for me to end up feeling like I'm the laziest person on earth who wastes all of her time on empty things that have no eternal value when in reality I'm just trying to implement far too much at once.

But this year as I sat down with my journal as I do every start of the year, to contemplate what things I'd like to work on, what I'd like to see, where I'd like to go, etc. I realized that what I want to spend my energy on is getting back to the One thing at the center of all things; which is and always will be Him. When I had that thought it felt too simplistic. The conversation with the Lord after the thought went something similar to what follows below:

Me: "I need to have some dreams for this year."

The Lord: "You do?"

Me: "Yes. Things I can measure. Some goals, perhaps?"

The Lord: "Really?"

Me: "God? Are you hearing yourself? What am I going to tell people that I'm doing this year?"

The Lord: "Can I just be your one thing and focus this year? Isn't falling more in love with me what matters?"

*awkward yet beautiful silence*

Me: "You mean that's enough? But where are we going? What are we doing? What am I supposed to put in my newsletters?"

The Lord: "If you fall more in love with me, won't it be natural that you fall in love with who and what I'm in love with? Isn't that enough?"

*tears* (because it's always tears with me)

You see, when I measure myself on the scale and standard I set for myself I will always fail, and fail miserably. I cannot measure up when I am making the rules and trying to implement the changes in my own strength.

He's the One thing, the gauge that we should measure everything to. And that's enough. Period. Especially for us planners and developers. He's on His own plan and He tends to plan completely different than we do. I feel this major pull of Him bringing us back to a simple place with Him. I actually love the culture that I live in, where we are constantly pressing in for more, where we want to see what is next in Him, where we recognize that there is always more. But I think that sometimes with the Lord, His answer for our call for "more" may actually feel like less. I think God is way more concerned that we get the most important things REALLY well, and really deep so that it's so much a part of it that it spills into every part of our lives and the lives around us.

It's time to get back to the start; to purity, to calm, to who we are in Him. It's time to come back to the beginning. To be who I am, even if that feels simplistic or like what I have to give is a small offering. After all, what can we give Him that He doesn't already have? It's time for us, once again, to simply fall more in love with Jesus in every area of our lives, and for that to be enough. Because when we fall more in love with Him, it will be natural that we fall more in love with what He's in love with.

So, if you're a planner like me, if you are driven and passionate and want to move into the "more" of the Lord; let 2016 be the year that you simply plan to fall more in love with him in a beautiful, simple, pure and fresh way. It's so easy to overcomplicate things. Heck, I overcomplicated what was supposed to be my "simple" first blog of the year. Let's not overcomplicate this. He is our One thing and we need to simply fall more in love with Him.

In closing I came across a timely prophetic word as I started my year. I leave it with you:
"New things are being established as you take simple steps." Remember that the Kingdom isn't built the way the natural world is, not through striving or frustration. It's built through simple steps of obedience and faithfulness which need to come out of the motivation of this one thing: love. 

Let's endeavor together to simply fall in love with Him more this year. To offer ourselves wholeheartedly, even when it feels like we don't have much to bring to Him in the offering.

-L-

(I'd also encourage you all to purchase United Pursuit's album "Simple Gospel" as you start this year)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Am I a Sweet Song or a Loud Noise?

Relationship can change everything.

I'm currently sitting in a local coffee shop listening to one of the most awkward performances that I've ever sat through. The lead singer, bless his heart, is incredibly uncomfortable in his own skin, a mediocre guitarist and shouldn't be allowed to talk in between songs. The mics are much too loud, the back up singer has no concept of how loud her voice is and continually, I'm sure of it, trying to blow my ear drums out (and I love LOUD music).

No, this isn't a post to rag on how poor the entertainment is tonight. While I could care less about the music tonight there are, however, about 30 people in here who cannot get enough of them! They yell with no embarrassment in between each song, cheering this little group on, encouraging them to sing more. What's the difference between their experience and mine, you may ask? Relationship. They most certainly have relationship with this awkward and loud duo. While my experience isn't super positive, theirs is nothing short of incredible. (I mean, they are SUPER excited)

In the same way, this past week I've had a few experiences in which I've encountered people who everyone loves...from a distance. In the past I've been so impressed with them and the way their lives seemed. But this week the encounters that I've had have left me wanting at their character. Sadly, my perspective has drastically shifted because of this one thing...relationship. Suddenly my relationship has been closer and I've seen more of who they really are.

It's amazing how things can change when we get into close proximity to others, either for better or for worse. This past season has been a beautiful one, but also a hard one. The Lord has really been teaching me how to draw closer to Him, especially when that includes my pain. And do you know what I've found? That even though I've been in pain, as I've drawn closer to Him in our relationship I've realized even more just how sweet the Lord truly is. He has not left me wanting. He has not disappointed me at all, not even for a moment.

You can admire Jesus from afar, being inspired and enjoying His (actually) beautiful music. But as you draw near to Jesus the fact is that you will become more and more impressed with Him. You will see the beauty of His character, the kindness in His eyes and the generosity of His nature.

My prayer that is as Christians, we can become more and more like Him. While I know I fall short so many times, my hope is that I'm the same in every moment. If people see me from on a stage or at a distance I hope they would experience me in a way that would be positive. But my hope even more would be that I would be even sweeter when you have to live with me and see me day in and day out, even in the toughest of situations or the greatest victory moments. Does my relationship with people bring them life, or cause them to cringe at how loud my mic is?

While I know the analogy isn't really all that great I couldn't help but be struck tonight as I tried hard not plug my ears at times. Relationship can change everything and it's a valuable tool for every believer. While we shouldn't care, and be focused on what people think, I do want to be just as sweet on stage as I am in the moments that feel hard. I want to be real. And more than anything, as people take the time to draw nearer to me, I want to be like Jesus. I want to be a sweet, refreshing song where people can know they are always safe.

L

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Psalm 37

Hello all!
Just a bit of encouragement for you today. I realize it's been ages, yet again, since I've blogged but as I read this today I couldn't help but think that some of you could use the encouragement that I, too, found in this Psalm today.

May the words wash over you and touch deep parts of your heart that need healing and restoration or just a boost of courage and hope today. Pay attention to all of the promises within the Psalm, grab on to them, declare them over your life. I was also struck by all of the instruction given in the Psalm as well, may they redirect your path, clear any confusion and help you plant yourself more solidly on firm ground.

If you're waiting for a breakthrough, this one is for you. If you struggle with comparison, being misunderstood or not valued, this one is for you. If you just need a fresh awareness of just how for you God really is, this one is for you.

Blessings.
-Lara

Psalm 37 
(passion trans.)
A Song of Wisdom

Don't bother to worry bout the wicked ones
That are successful in this world only.
Don't think for a moment they're better off than you.
They, and their short-lived success
Will soon shrivel up and quickly fade away
Like grass clippings in the hot sun.
Keep trusting in the Lord and do what is right in His eyes.
Fix your heart on the promises of God and you will be secure,
Feasting on His faithfulness.
If you make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, 
Every longing within you will be fulfilled.
Give God the right to direct your life
And as you trust Him along the way,
You'll find He pulled it off perfectly!
He will appear as your Righteousness,
As sure as the dawning of a new day.
He will manifest as your Justice,
As sure and strong as the noonday sun.
Quiet your heart in His presence, 
Keep hope alive as you long for God to come through for you,
And don't think for a moment
That the wicked in their prosperity
Are better off than you.
Stay away from anger and revenge.
Keep worry far from you, for it only leads you into lies.
One day the wicked will be destroyed,
But those who trust in the Lord
Will live safe and sound with blessings overflowing.
Just a little while longer and the ungodly will vanish;
You will look for them in vain.
But the humble of heart will inherit every promise
And enjoy abundant peace and prosperity.
Let the wicked keep plotting against the godly
With all their sneers and arrogant jeers.
God doesn't lose any sleep over them
And He knows their day is coming!
Evil ones take aim on the poor and helpless,
They are ready to slaughter those who do right.
But the Lord will intervene
And turn all their weapons of wickedness back on themselves,
Piercing their pride-filled hearts until they are helpless.
It is so much better to have little,
Combined with much of God,
Than to have the fabulous wealth of the wicked
And nothing else.
For the Lord takes care of all His forgiven ones
While the strength of the evil will surely slip away.
Day by day the Lord watches the good deeds of the godly
And He prepares for them His forever-reward.
Even in a time of disaster He will watch over them,
And they will always have more than enough
No matter what happens.
All the enemies of God will perish
For all the wicked have only a momentary value, a fading glory.
Then one day they will vanish!
Here today, gone tomorrow.
They break their promises, borrowing money
But never paying it back.
The good man returns what he owes
Along with some extra.
The Lord's blessed ones receive it all in the end,
But the cursed ones will be cut off
With nothing to show for themselves.
The steps of the God-pursuing ones
Follow firmly in the footsteps of the Lord.
And God delights in every step they take to follow Him.
If they stumble badly they will survive,
For the Lord lifts them up with His hands.
I was once young, but now I'm old.
Not once have I found a lover of God forsaken by Him,
Nor have any of their children gone hungry.
Instead, I've found the godly ones
To be the generous ones who give freely to others.
Their children are blessed and become a blessing.
 If you truly want to dwell forever in God's presence,
Then forsake evil and do what is right in His eyes.
The Lord loves it when He sees us walking in His justice.
He is pleased when we make it our habit to do what is right.
He will never desert His devoted lovers,
They will be kept forever in His faithful care,
But the descendants of the wicked will be banished.
The faithful lovers of God will inherit the earth
And enjoy every promise of God's care;
Dwelling in peace forever.
God-lovers make the best counselors.
Their words possess wisdom,
And are right and trustworthy.
The ways of God are in their hearts
And they won't swerve from the paths of steadfast righteousness.
Evil ones spy on the godly ones,
Stalking them to find something they could use to accuse them.
They're out for the kill!
But God will foil all their plots.
The godly will not stand condemned when brought to trial.
So don't be impatient for the Lord to act,
Keep moving forward steadily in His ways,
And He will exalt you at the right time
And when He does, you will possess every promise,
Including your full inheritance.
You'll watch with your own eyes as the wicked lose everything.
I've already seen this happen.
Once I saw a wicked and violent man
Overpower all who were around him,
A domineering tyrant with his pride and oppressive ways.
Then he died and was forgotten.
Now no one cares that he is gone forever.
Here today, gone tomorrow.
But you can tell who are the blameless and spiritually mature.
What a different story with them!
The godly ones will have a peaceful, prosperous future
With a happy ending!
Every evil sinner will be destroyed, obliterated.
They'll be utter failures with no future!
But the Lord will be the Savior of all who love Him.
God will live in them as Strength,
Even in their time of trouble.
Because their faith in Him,
Their daily portion will be
A Father's help, and deliverance from evil,
This is true for all who turn
To hide themselves in Him!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Crazy Beautiful Life: a.k.a the Longest Life Update Ever.

My life is beautiful, full and just a bit on the crazy side.

So sorry for the radio silence (again). I've been trying so hard to become more disciplined again with blogging but anyone who has been finishing up school themselves these last few months can attest to the absolute craziness that ensues as you reach the end of a school year.

At the end of March I had the amazing honor of traveling to the sweet country of Mozambique which is in the South East of Africa along the Indian Ocean. We travelled to visit and help at the Iris Global base in Pemba. To say that I came back changed is a massive understatement as I feel in many ways my eyes were opened or reopened to the passions that lay within my heart. I won't go into a ton of details as I can forward you my newsletter if you haven't received it but some of most precious things I learned there was:
-There is power released when we meet practical needs.
    I have always had a heart for meeting practical needs. Something I'm always struck by is that it's probably hard to get people to care about the message of Jesus if their stomachs are empty. More on this later...as the practicality of Jesus' miracles are something I'm diving into more. God loves to see His power move through meeting practical needs. I'm convinced of it.
-Peace, Joy and Hope are powerful forces in the Kingdom...and they are substances that can move, no BOWL over things standing in their way.
     In countries where there is no difference between the natural and unseen world (because the people grow up aware of both) you recognize and see just how powerful the forces of the Kingdom are over darkness.
-Latreens are nasty
      Speaks for itself
-God loves orphans, the disenfranchised, the hungry and broken.
      Of course He loves all of us, but His heart is MASSIVE for these people and I believe it is the highest honor to serve them.

Upon my return I was asked if I would be interested in working here at the church. I saw this as a direct answer to my prayers. Since about February I have been feeling like my time here in Redding is not supposed to be done. I don't really know how to explain but the last 3 years of my life have been full on and intense. Working almost full-time, doing school and having my life completely rewired. Feeling the call to missions and actually what I'm alive to do, starting that journey, beginning to fall in love with a people group and discovering gifts within myself that I've never actually given myself space to discover. I feel like a completely new person and I am, in all honesty, tired.

So to think about running off to the mission field where inevitably I would be dealing with learning a new language, culture shock and trying to build a ministry straight out of that felt unwise. As I processed with the Lord before heading to Mozambique I told the Lord, "Ok, but if you want me to stay here I want a great job and I want it to be easy to get, in fact I don't even want to ask for it." And of course, in true God fashion, I didn't have to.

Last week I graduated from my 3rd and final year at BSSM. It was by far the best year yet as I got to marry a lot of what I've been learning with real, practical work. I also got to see my administrative gifting flourish as I actually gave myself permission to use it for the first time in my life. I now see that my love for details, improving and building is not critical but is actually a really valued gift in the Kingdom. God loves details and He loves to see His children come into the fullness of what they're created for and I see now that I get to partner with this part of His heart.

2 weeks ago I started my position at work. I will be helping with the Administration for the Leadership Development Programs that Global Legacy offers. Global Legacy is a ministry of Bethel Church and is a way for revival leaders from all over the earth to connect and be encouraged. You can check it out/create a profile at globallegacy.com I will also be working for Paul who was my mentor this past year.

My hope and plan in staying here for now is several things:
-Working will help me reach my goal of being debt-free before I go to the missions field.
-I will be able to actually save this year (as the last 4 years in Redding have not enabled me to do this) for future costs which include my on field training with W.I.M. and language school potentially in Jordan.
-Be able to attend several workshops about the specific people I want to work with in the future.
-Attend Disaster Relief seminars as this is something practical I was wanting to get trained in as well.
-Build further connections and strengthen other connections with people from the Middle East who are currently in or come through Redding.
-Become more firmly established in my relationships here. It is really important for me to feel and to be a 'sent one' and that happens through relationship.
-I have heard the Lord saying that I will need what I am going to learn doing this job. I know that I will have an organization in the future and the skills that I will learn will be invaluable.
-I will have time to just be and wait on the Lord. I've known that I'm not supposed to rush into anything and that His timing is perfect and I do not want to run into something and a place that would deflate what He's so meticulously been building within me.
-Potential Ministry trips.

-And lastly and most importantly I will have time to do my pre-field training, and do it well. To actually read the books and get what I need to out of them. I also will have more time to write, do music and connect with people who want to partner with what the Lord is doing in the Middle East and what He wants to do through me there.

I know that taking a job might seem like a contradiction to where I know that the Lord is taking me but I just don't see it like that. I see this as a step just as much and I feel the Lord on it. I haven't had a job where I feel this empowered in who I am. Where I can pursue what I love but that also do my job well and where the 2 come together. I am so very excited for all that will come and for the connections that are going to happen. I have a feeling it's going to be a wild ride and that someday the Middle East will benefit from this as much as I will.

If you have questions, would like to know how you can partner with what the Lord's doing or just want to say hi my email is larahochstetler@gmail.com Thanks for walking this journey with me and for caring about what the Lord is doing. It means a lot! I don't pretend to understand the Lord's timing or what He's piecing together but I do know that it is something beautiful to Him.

Oh, and did I mention that I moving Friday, too?

Why not change everything all at once?

Friday, April 10, 2015

"Your Thoughts Define Me."

I know, I know, I should be writing about my trip...but I'm not. Last week when I got back into the states I had the sudden realization that it was Easter week. For the last 3 years now I've either been traveling home from, or have just gotten back from traveling on Easter week. This year was no different.  Good Friday came and I worked an 11.5 hour shift on a jet lagged brain. Not incredibly enjoyable or meaningful.

Sunday. Sunday I was captured by a lyric of one of the songs we sang in church. "Your thoughts define me. You're inside me. You're my reality."

It's true that His thoughts define us. It doesn't matter how we feel about ourselves or what other people think of us...it's His thoughts about us that not only matter but are the truth. That's why taking our thoughts captive is so vital as a believer, so incredibly important. My Pastor often says: "We cannot afford to have one thought about ourselves that He doesn't have."

My question that day to the Lord was this, "When you were going to the cross for us, what were you thinking? Were we worth it? Was I worth it?" Because ultimately...at that moment that's what was important, and that's what defined the gospel. He answer of course to if we were worth it was a resounding, "YES!"

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

For the JOY set before Him, He endured the cross. He chose to go to the cross, He wasn't forced. He made a decision for us, so that we could be restored to full right-standing with Father God. How incredibly beautiful! I would like to think that as Christ went to the cross He was consumed with the picture of the joy that the Father would have as He got His kids back in the fullness we were designed to have. That we would be restored as joint heirs, powerful and free, a people that would be not only able to give love but also be able to fully receive the love that God had longed for generations to give us, but that sin had prevented us from having.

I hope that wherever you are today, and whatever circumstances you are consumed with today that you will stop and let the resounding "Yes" of the Lord wash over you. His thoughts define who you are, and in the moments of His darkest hour before His death He decided that you were worth it all. Stop. Remember and allow His extravagant love and "yes" wash over you afresh today.

Much Love,
Lara

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Song of Identity

So many people that I know, myself included, are walking through a season where God is working on their identities. While it's beautiful and wonderful it can feel as if all that we know is shaking. For myself, it's been a needed process. It's hard to realize that there are things in my life that have been keeping me from the fullness He has. In many ways it can feel like failure because while I know I've come so far, I'm now made aware of how far I have to go in specific areas. It can feel like He's uncovering us and exposing us and if we're not careful it can feel overwhelming. It can leave us feeling vulnerable and if you're like myself, like we have failed Him in some ways. 

But the reality is that we are so safe. He is completely trustworthy and He holds our hearts so carefully. He knows what we can handle and He also knows how much He longs for there to be nothing blocking our connection not only with Him but with those around us. As I've been processing through this journey there have been moments where I've been tempted to stay in fear, to stay in pride and to stay where I am. I would encourage you to read the following if you find yourself in a similar position. Remind your heart, your mind and your spirit that He is so trustworthy. I pray that our identities become even more firmly established in who He is. Knowing we have nothing to prove and nothing to hide. He is good and even when we are not, He is pursuing after us. May He melt away our fear, silence our pride and comfort our hearts.

Blessings,
Lara
When I look into your eyes,
I see what you think about me.
When I search your heart,
I discover how you feel towards me.

So of course I feel free.
Free to be who you've made me to be;
Reflecting your nature,
Reflecting your glory.
Redeemed. 
Annointed.
Free.
So lock me in firmly.
Solidify my identity.
Hold me close and don't let me go.
Tuck me up under the shadow of your wing and draw me to you.

And as you remain with me:
Melt away my insecurities,
Soften my hard edges.

And sing to me, once again.
Sing the song of my salvation,
The song of my deliverance,
The song that is the source of my strength.