Advent Reflections Week 4: The God Who Is With Us

I am enamored by The Chosen series, for many reasons. It’s startling to “hear” Jesus speak the words of scripture I know so well. It makes me weep to see the heroes of our faith in their humble beginnings. Matthew the hated tax collector. Mary the possessed woman. Simon the cheating, angry man. What beautiful transformations— just like you and me. We are not who we used to be.

And yet this beautiful offering is more than stories being told in a fresh way.

There is something familiar.

The way Jesus laughs and jokes with His new followers. The firm look He gives when they ask fearful questions. His outrageous instructions on how to live in His Kingdom. The comfort, oh the comfort of His touches and embraces. He is with them in every way.

In this whole new way of living.
In the unknowns of food and shelter.
In the threats of the Romans and the religious leaders.
He is With them, just like He promised from the beginning.

With. Us.

I recognize this Jesus. The fierceness, the tenderness. He locks eyes with me and sees straight into my very being. He heals my heart with a single word of His truth. And oh, the comfort of His embrace.

All of His Kingdom is summed up in two words. Follow Me.

We can make up lots of stories about lots of noble themes. But in the end, the bottom line is whether we allowed ourselves to be deeply known and loved by Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Perfect Love is the single greatest hope of change for any and all situations. His love transforms us.

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
‭‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭14‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Maybe, just maybe…give Him a present this year. Spend some time with Him.

Pearls of Wisdom: Expanding Your Capacity

Become larger to carry more. The idea of capacity may seem so obvious, but I find it often trips people. Growth comes through discomfort. Our capacity expands through deliberate stretching.

The Lord has shown me many pictures about this. The nautilus outgrowing its chamber. A balloon swelling, taking shape as breath fills it. A pregnant woman’s incredible transformation as she grows a new life. In all these examples there is effort, change, pressure, even labor to see the fullness revealed.

God’s primary goal is to breathe His life into us like holy balloons. He desires to expand in us, expand His love, His image, His creativity and wisdom. His kingdom.

Think of Joseph saving the nation of Egypt and even his own people. Mary delivering the Messiah. Peter addressing the Sanhedrin. They had to each be pushed out of their idea of enough so that He might reveal His life through them.

We must be willing to be uncomfortable so that He might increase. So when we see circumstances outside of our control, what is God expanding in us?


Faith instead of fear.
Worship instead of whining.
Healing instead of sickness.
Kindness instead of gossip.

Be mindful of obstacles that would deter this divine renovation.

People lose touch with God, or don’t experience His presence, because they have crowded their lives with “foreign wives.” Solomon was the wisest and richest man on earth, yet he lost his soul because “his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord” and he was led away by his foreign wives.

“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” 1 Kings 11:4

Make an effort to let go of lesser habits, affections, ideals to make room for greater revelation.  Then, allow God to heal and test the revelation. He wants to be sure we own it, to have authority in the revelation He has given.

Pastor Bill Johnson tells a story about repairing a flat bicycle tire. He explains the process of repair is to first hold it under water to find the hole. Once the hole is detected, the tire is taken out of the water, dried and patched. Here’s the kicker.  The tire is not put back on the bicycle. Instead, the tire is again held under the water. Why? To see if the patch held.

Bill says some of our circumstances reveal defects. They need to be patched. Some of our circumstances are us being held under the water a second time, as Bill says, “to see if the work of God held.”

It’s a valid question as you go through seasons of stretching to ask God, “are you repairing a hole in me? or are you testing to see if Your repair held?” It will help you so much to know that He is always working for your good. His main goal is that His life and Love will fill you and then flow from you.

We have to be fit to carry the Kingdom. We were born to become like Him.

I love this song as a great reminder. He is always working for us to be fully revealed in Him.

“C.S. Lewis Song” (click here to listen)

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared

Speak to me in the light of the dawm
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
as I wait for hope to come for me

Am I lost or just less found?
On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
is this a soul that stirs in me,
is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?

Cos my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become

For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it

And I, I was made to live,
I was made to love,
I was made to know you

Hope is coming for me.
Hope, He’s coming

Continue reading

Undaunted. Are You Ready?

A Woman’s Rightful Place in the Kingdom. Women are asking questions about Undaunted. No, it’s not like Unhindered. Yes, it’s for women only.  Audio will be available to share with your men No, this isn’t the standard party line about submissive roles. Yes, it honors God’s image of men. No, it’s not for wimps. Yes, it will challenge you, make you uncomfortable and just might rock your world.


Sounds audacious, I know. But sometimes God blows me up spiritually to such a degree that I know He means business.

Undaunted is a message that God planted in my spirit years ago and He now says is finally ready to be released. It is about freedom. It is about daring to follow God into the most oppressive environments, even the church. It is about taking up God’s divine weapons to live fully gifted, fully loved, fully seen in the world today.

It’s about what happens globally when women rise up to God’s ordained place in the Kingdom. So many social issues of the day are linked to the missing voice of God’s women. This is not feminism. Not a militant posture. This is an invitation, permission, to discover God’s heart for women. And how we all, men and women, will be better when we are in our rightful places.

Come if you are spiritually dying for more. Come if you are curious, doubtful, or leery. Come if you want to spend some time in the presence of God.

Let the Spirit speak to your heart about who you are, why you are, and where you belong.

January 22, Friday Night, 7:00 – 9:30 pm
January 23, Saturday Morning, 9:00 – 12:00 pm

Fuse Church, Kirby Road, Knoxville

Love offering event.
Beverages and light snacks served.


Do You Need To Re-think Christmas?

God gave me a huge download this last week.  I had a birthday which can be exhilarating and excruciating at the same time. Smile. I guess that reality aligns with our actual birth days which were full of joy and full of pain. However one precious gift I received was a word from the Lord. An actual word: honor.  I am still translating all that the Spirit poured out but I thought it was no accident to get this word right at Christmas time.

Honor is to elevate above, esteem, hold in high value. The Spirit brought to mind the verse, “he who honors me, him will I honor.” (1 Samuel 2:30)  It’s an odd verse.  But it is packed with promise. This isn’t a duty-bound, fear-driven demand. This is an invitation. From God.  He is saying, if you honor me, it’s not a one-way street. I am going to turn around and honor you back.  Selah.

I don’t know if you know this about God. But here is the word picture.  A mom says to her daughter, “You go fill up your hands with candy and give it to me. And then I will fill up my hands with candy and give it to you…”

Who do you think has bigger hands?


Continue reading

“All the Lonely [Women]…Where do they all come from?”

(Guys. Because most of you only need one friend, and a spare, you are excused from this conversation.  Unless you are married. Then you need to read this for your wife’s sake.)

Why do we do this to ourselves?  We are so lonely. We have this ache and groan for friendship, deep heart connections, spurring one another on…But it is so hard to make it happen. Why? I’m afraid the answer will not be easy going down.

As much as we want to have an excuse…we really don’t. We are lonely.  But I think we are lonely by choice.  Take a deep breath.  Keep reading.

My friend and I just said that we needed more community and we agreed that it was hard to do—hard to find. As I drove off, I thought to myself, ‘it’s hard to find community because I am so picky.”

How about you? (Be honest…)  We don’t like this group because they are immature. Or that group because they’re fake. This group because they are shallow. That group because they are so goody goody—too serious—too wild—too Christian—too old—too young. Really?

Oh my goodness… I make myself tired. And lonely. How about you?  Do you know the number one comment I hear from women who need community?

“Nobody gets me, it’s too risky.”

I used to think we were too busy, which we are, but the bigger issue is the self-made hurdles we construct to keep us in and others out. We are afraid of getting hurt. So we isolate and assume that “nobody cares about me.”  We use  these hurdles to make it impossible to connect: Children, work, church, husbands, homework, cleaning house.  I am guilty of many of these. And you?

IMG_2593Yes, those those things are valid and demand our investment,  but we make time for the things we truly want and need. Sounds crazy, but when I am out of toilet paper I tend to make time to get some. Why? It is way up on my crucial list of “got-to-have-it.” Then why do we go so long without friend connections?  We are women. We got to have friends. And generally, a lot of them.

I am hearing a verse surface in my spirit. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)   I wonder if that is our model for community?

We first love others and then they love us. That’s a novel idea. We do community to give love instead of to get love. “But how?” says my friend-deprived heart, “I am empty. Dried out. Needy.”

Uhm… that’s not what friends are for. That’s what Jesus is for.

Jesus is the friend who gives me help and worth and comfort.  The earthly friends are gifts from God to keep me and you company in the process and journey of life. They are icing on the cake. Not the cake.  I have received and given counsel and encouragement and laughter from many friends over the years. But not even a thousand earthly friends can fill the place reserved for Jesus.

So here are some action items.  I am talking to myself as well as to  you.

1) Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  You are not the only lonely, busy, misunderstood woman out there. Go to Jesus and look for His comfort. Then—

2) Reach out to someone. Not with a motive of what you are going to get, but reach out and bless someone. Pray for them and tell them you love them. Don’t put any obligations or demands on them to respond. Love others first just as Jesus loved you.  Watch how that starts coming back to you.

3) Purposely schedule some friend time in the very  near future. Make a date with a new friend, old friend or could be friend.  And then keep the date. How many women do I know who flake out at the last minute?  Unless you are in the ER, keep the friend date.

4) Get a list of women and start praying for them. When you get the “friend ache” let that be a trigger to pray. God will meet you in your need as you intercede for others.

5) Last one…humble yourself.  Stop discounting other people. If God lives in us all, then the people all around us are potential friends. Maybe not BFFs. But they are people that could walk a stretch of the journey with us. If we learned to savor people a little more, we might stop dismissing the opportunities that God is giving.

You know I am so glad my friend broke the ice today and glad she reached out to me.  She just spilled out through her tears that she needed some friendship.  I had no idea. But her comments  were like a shock treatment.  I kept thinking, “Me too!”   And I realize, I have a choice. So do you.

Let’s get out of that stuck place. And choose to be connected. We need each other.

 “Let us love one another, for love comes from God.” ( 1 John 4:7)

(Another thought:  if you don’t have any place to start, then come to  the “I Need More” Class on Tuesday, September 30th. It’s a great place to meet some diverse and wonderful women. I am honored to walk with them. )






When You think You Need More Money…

I have a lot of wealthy friends.  We live in really different financial spheres and  sometimes the money gap is comical.  For example,  I was thrilled to go to Florida and one friend vacationed at  a Mediterranean  oasis.  I bought a new house (that I love!) and one friend bought a new house that makes my house look like her bonus room.  Another  friend  eloquently remarked, “Jana I live in a land with lots of zeros, so I  am not worried about the cost of this.”

I laughed out loud. I can’t even imagine making such a statement.

The odd thing though is my wealthy friends also make heart-wrenching comments.  Two of them said  recently that they have a hard time with close friendships because people are jealous of them and that people judge them for how they spend their money.IMG_1962

These comments rattled my soul. For several reasons. I love my friends. Deeply. And they love me. Deeply.

I would hope that their love for me would not fluctuate as my income fluctuates. As in,  when I have no money,  I would have no friendship? So then, why would having a surplus of income mean a sacrifice of friendship?

Do we really believe that more money is the answer to most everything?  If we are not careful, we will have our eyes on more money rather than on more of our Maker.  Look at these statements from wealthy people in my world:

“I have so much money, I don’t really need Jesus for anything.”

“I had an opportunity to make millions, but I don’t think that is what’s best for my family or my own soul. I don’t think this is God’s plan for me right now.”

“I am thankful for the money we have, but my friends think I don’t have any problems.  They think their  life is harder than mine. And it gets very lonely.”

Do you hear the temptation? the poverty? the need?  Suddenly the ground becomes very level at the Cross. Perhaps money isn’t the answer to everything. Here are real life people who have plenty of money, yet still have plenty of lack.

Theologian Henri Nouwen poignantly calls out that we are all poor in some areas and rich in some areas. Some have material wealth, some have spiritual wealth. Some have wisdom, some mercy.  Yet above all things, he asks, where is our trust? The Lord is the source of all, for all.

Extreme security.  These are the two words that God gave me in March.  It was an invitation actually.

“How would you like to live in “extreme security?” He asked.

“What does this mean?” I said. Instantly I thought of paying opportunities that would give me more stability, more options. But that’s not what He had in mind.

“That you would be so convinced of My Provision that I would  become your ‘extreme security’.”

“I would love this Lord, but I don’t know how.”

“Trust Me.”

Trusting the goodness of God is our highest goal. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is why Jesus said you can’t love God and love money. You have to choose.

You can love God and use money. But you can’t love money and use God.

When I love God, I can learn to trust in His abundance for my every need. Enter peace.

When I love money, I am constantly grasping for more to meet my own needs. Enter exhaustion.

My wealthy friends already know this. They have all they need financially and more. (Which is why they give so much away.) They already know that money doesn’t meet ALL their needs. Only God can do that.

So regardless of your financial status, how is your peace? What is your source? Where is your love?

Really let the Lord reveal your mental conversations as you compare yourself to others, or even despise others for their surplus or lack. Are you asking God to meet your needs?  Are you accusing God of not taking care of you? How about this— are you thanking God for what you do have?

And, likewise, let the Lord reveal your areas of spiritual wealth. What areas are you so full that you might share with others?  You may be rich in ways you have never considered. I love what 1 Timothy 6:6 says: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Godliness. Contentment. Great Gain. This sounds like a great path for us all, regardless of the number of zeros in our lives.

God is faithful to meet all our needs. May we be rich in trusting Him.




The Missing Ingredient for Breakthrough

“I’m stuck.”     “I can’t.”       “I don’t know how.”

I have come to a real epiphany around these phrases. As a warning, you may not like my revelation, but it is in the Word.  So I guess you’ll need take it up with the Author and Finisher of our Faith instead of with me. Smile.

I’ve spent a lot of time telling people how to get well.  Some respond and some don’t. No problem. But I have also spent a lot of time trying to talk people into getting well. Most don’t.  This is a problem on both our ends. It’s not a counseling issue, it’s a repentance issue.

Why?  Because, while God has forgiven us completely of our sin and no longer counts it against us, there is still a spiritual principle of repentance that is for OUR good health. Let me explain.

Repentance is like a spiritual thermometer. It checks the tenderness of our hearts, our willingness to see with spiritual eyes, our openness to hear from the Lord. When I get in a wad, it is repentance that invites God to redirect my heart and mind. Otherwise I continue to harden—defend — isolate—blame. These heart conditions always lead to stupid actions. Always. That’s why we want our “repentance reflex” to be very quick and strong.

So what is repentance?  To turn back. To return. To agree with God.

It is like Google Maps saying, “Re-routing.”  Somehow we have gotten off the blue line of wisdom or truth so repentance, or returning, helps us get back on God’s blue line of direction. And with repentance comes a promise.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19-20 NASB)

This makes my heart beat faster. Have you ever felt this burden? The sheer weight of the bitterness, confusion, anger, disappointment, unbelief, sarcasm, shame or accusation?

As soon as we confess it, agree with God, turn our faces back to His, He wipes it away and we are given a fresh breath of His loving presence. Again and again He does this. His mercy never fails.

People who love to repent do get well over time.

But what about those who scoff or ignore or despise even the idea of repentance? Here is my epiphany.

So much time is spent on God’s people who are Clearly lost and yet they act like they are not. This is denial, or worse, pride. I am finding it is better to let them soak in the hard place rather than to give hours of unheeded counsel. Here’s why. I believe our good intentions hamper their healing. People want to talk about their problems and they should. We all need it. In fact the Bible encourages us to confess our sins to one another that we may be healed. (James 5:16)

Yet here’s a dividing point. Danny Silk has this beautiful phrase, “You don’t have a solution for anybody on the planet that doesn’t have a problem.” People who want to massage their problems are not repenting. They want to feel better for the moment but they never want to get right with the Lord. They rarely ever want to confess that they are the problem. And more importantly, they never want to believe that Jesus can or will heal them. Even Jesus asked, do you want to get well? (John 5)
He didn’t ask, do you want spend endless time arguing, blaming, defending, explaining why you are sick and why I should feel sorry for you?

He asked a crippled man, Do you want to be well? When the man started giving his list of excuses, Jesus gave a clear instruction, “pick up your mat and walk.” It was completely counter to what the cripple expected. Here is where choice is a life or death matter in healing. The cripple had to respond to Jesus’s instruction in order to be healed.

Everyone has the freedom to choose life or death. God or drama. Free or stuck. Worship or numbed out.  People have to choose to go to God. To listen and respond in repentance. They need to feel the squeeze of their choices in attitudes and actions. We call this beautiful phenomena “being led by the Spirit.” And we all have to respond when the Spirit tells us to get up and walk.

I think it’s important for us to tell people about the incredible love of God and then get out-of-the-way. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. Not our begging, enabling, cajoling, controlling. Only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction and only the Holy Spirit can empower healing. Our job is to tell them what’s available, love them either way, and then let them choose their own path. Life or death. Healing or addiction. Conquering or quitting.

May we all work on our “repentance reflex.” There is so much more life available in God. I believe repentance is the key that unlocks the door.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 
Psalm 42:5

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 
Proverbs 28:3a

The Four Letter Word We All Fear: R-E-S-T

IMG_5601My friend Kate looked kindly at me. “Rest is a good thing. God has created all of creation to rest. Day and Night. Seasons. Even the human body needs sleep every day. It’s God’s idea. His design,” she said.

“I know but it feels like I’m doing something wrong if I can’t do all I am supposed to do.” I said, my eyes stinging with tears.

“All I am supposed to do… Hmmm. Says who?” she said with a smile.

This conversation took place a couple of months ago. It became a catalyst for a life altering revelation from the Lord. What’s ironic is that He started the Rest conversation probably three years ago. I see now it is a growth area that He simply won’t stop talking about. Which means it is really, really important to Him, which means it is really, really important to us.

Lesson One: Years ago, a group of older women were laying hands on me and praying.  Two of them kept saying that I didn’t know how to rest. In my highly spiritual state, I got offended.

Ding. First sign you are a performance junkie is to get defensive when someone tells you are too busy.  I complained to the Lord as they were praying, “God I am trying to do all you have called me to. Are you mad at me? Is this not enough? Am I not doing it right?”

His response was to teach me how to “rest in the presence of the Lord.”

Revelation One: Rest means there is a confidence deep in our soul that God is with us, hears us, responds to us, loves us. This “resting place” becomes our starting point. Ground Zero. We build life on this foundation. All that happens good or bad begins with this one truth: God loves me completely all the time. When we settle this issue, what follows is a quiet assurance, a resting, in the our spirit. Otherwise we strive, worry, defend, blame, or run from God.  Rest means we can’t run from Him. We are built on Him.

Lesson Two: Two years ago I was at the beach soaking in His presence. I asked God how I could maintain the richness of our connection once I got home to routines and demands.
“You must reorder your life,” He said, plain as day.

This comment created an awareness of how a) my stuff owns me, b) my to-do list, email, FB, and pleasing others is more of a priority than my God connection and c) my Drive-thru Christianity could not satisfy the deeper hunger in  my spirit.

His response was to teach me how to surrender my ways to His ways.

Revelation Two: Rest requires, no demands, a deeper understanding of God. I like to think of myself as a God lover. But when God told me to reorder, I saw how Un-Jesus my life really looked. So reordering meant saying no to doing a 1000 things at once, purging possessions, risking reputation, forcing my schedule to serve me, instead of me being a slave to my calendar.  Rest has meant truly “seeking first the Kingdom of God” and all the other things have been added. Or not.

I don’t want to blow past this.  The Roman Empire was as busy as the American Empire is but Jesus maintained His peace and joy.  He invites us into the same kind of God Life as we live our lives.  We don’t get bonus point for being exhausted, nasty, booked-up believers.  What pleases the Father is when we look like His Son.  Period.


Lesson Three: All this brings me to a couple of months ago when I had lunch with my friend Kate and then dinner with my friend Dana. I told each of them about my exhaustion, my lack of motivation, even to be candid, my irritation. I didn’t understand what was happening in my heart although I had gone through this reorder and focus on the Lord. Thank God for godly friends. Through them, I saw that I had just completed one of the most outpouring seasons of my life. It was all done by God, for God and in God. But now it was time to… Really? They both said the “R” word.

Again?  Still? I am still working on Rest?   I saw that I had made great progress.

Resting place? Check.

Reorder? Check.

Replenish? Uh, say what? I still had missing pieces.

His response was to teach me that rest is about starting, not just stopping.

Revelation Three: Rest isn’t just not doing things that cause stress or fatigue. It is about adding in those things that feed our heart, soul, mind and spirit.  The word Sabbath came up in a brand new way. Not the living under the law kind of Sabbath.  But a God-given breather, mini-vacation, refresher kind of Sabbath.

Let me ask you these questions. Try to write out your answers.

What do you do that makes your heart soar?

What brings joy to your soul?

What delights you?

What do you do that’s fun?

If you are like me, you might be staring dumbly into space.  I had to discover these answers. But let’s suppose you can actually formulate answers, so let me ask you this. Do you do any of these on a scheduled, committed basis? Rest comes when these things are in place.  Don’t have time? Then reorder.

Joy, delight, fun are kingdom words. They are child-like words. We don’t get points for being grown ups all the time.  Jesus called us to become like little children. To laugh, to play, to enjoy, to be excited over the smallest things. This may be our greatest act of worship.  Maybe that is why rest is so important to God.  And to us.