The Earth Cries Out

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I haven’t written a blog post in a while, but that doesn’t mean God hasn’t been doing a lot in my life. So much has changed , and I’m overwhelmed and amazed at what He has been doing in my life this year. But this post isn’t about me or about my life. It’s about the Word of God and spreading what He is speaking to us, even now, even today.

One of my favorite worship sessions to jam to is Bethel’s “Great Are You, Lord + Spontaneous.” I can never put it on while I’m doing something else, because I always end up dropping what I’m doing and just worshipping for the hour and eight minutes that it lasts. I played it last Thursday, and I worshiped to it today. And both times one line stuck out at me, and the Lord spoke to me today about it. I have to share it. We are in times that are too important not to share what God is saying.

The bridge of “Great Are You Lord” is one that God leads Jeremy Riddle back to at the very beginning of this video. It says,

“All the earth will shout your praise

Our hearts will cry

These bones will sing

Great are you, Lord”

Already that bridge is super powerful, but the first line has just captivated me. In Luke chapter 19, Jesus enters triumphantly into Jerusalem, and a multitude of disciples says, “Blessed is the One Who comes, the King in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (v. 38 One New Man Bible). When the Pharisees tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples, in other words, quiet them, Jesus replies, “I say to you, if they are silent the stones will cry out” (v. 41).

Basically, if human beings don’t fulfill our role, our privilege, one of the reasons we have been created, of declaring His glory and praising Him, then the earth will. He is God, and He will get His praise and honor. And He certainly deserves it.

It was this verse from Luke that ran through my mind over and over as I sang the bridge to “Great Are You Lord.” As I started praying, I could just feel the presence of the Lord, and I knew that He wanted me to pray for the earth to literally begin to cry out for Him, whatever that may look like. He placed this vision in my head of ISIS’s plans being messed up because of a sudden storm or wind. As I started to pray, I knew I had to write down what He was saying. And this is what I believe He wrote through me.

“The earth will begin to shake and cry out for My Glory. The earth will rebel against the evil that resides in it. Even cursed places will be a blessing for My Glory. Things in nature and the earth will begin to happen that scientists can’t explain because it’s nature responding to the spirit world. No longer can evil rest peacefully in my creation. Earth is crying out for its Lord to be glorified. There will be a supernatural natural uprooting of evil. Things in the earth, like the wind or storms or sand, will begin to mess up the plans of evil men because they cry out for the Glory of the Father. No longer can evil hide in the deserts, the jungles, in the forests. Nature will begin to expose the hidden evil. Places where there was trauma or death or torture will become places of blessing, of healing, of salvations, places where My Glory, the Glory of God, falls.”

I believe this is a prophetic word from the Lord that we need to declare and press into. With so many crazy things going on this world, we are not to shrink back in fear. I’ve heard so many Christians say, “It’s just going to get worse…” What a mindset of defeat! We are already victorious! We are already to be living in a mindset of victory, no matter what is going on around us. So please hold this word from the Lord close to your heart and declare it and pray it with me over our country and over our world.

Jesus already won, and we are on the winning team! Let’s join with the earth in crying out for the glory of our perfect Heavenly Father.

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Walking on Water

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“And when Peter came down from the boat he walked on the waters and came toward Y’shua. But when he saw the strong wind he was afraid, and as he began to sink he cried out saying, ‘Lord, You must now rescue me!’ And immediately Y’shua, stretching out His hand, took his hand and said to him, ‘Little faith, why did you doubt?’” Matthew 14:29b-31 One New Man Bible

I’ve been thinking a lot about the song “Oceans” by Hillsong United. Particularly the lyrics,

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior”

Since this song first came out approximately two years ago, I have sang this refrain over and over again, earnestly petitioning the Lord to do exactly what it says. Lead me where my trust is without borders. Take my deeper than I could ever go on my own. So deep that my faith has to be made stronger in order to go there.

I don’t think I realized exactly what I was asking for when I prayed these words.

In the past six months, I have begun my journey into the entertainment industry, as anyone who keeps up with me at all should know. It’s a place where nothing seems certain, networking is everything, money is necessary. It’s a place that, at times, seems too big for even God to infiltrate.

As I’ve been stumbling along these past months, attempting to find my way in the dark, I’ve asked so many questions. Where am I going to get the money for this? How am I supposed to support myself? Which opportunities are ones the Lord is leading me to take? Which ones compromise too much what I believe in? Where am I supposed to go now? Why did I think I could ever do this in the first place?

And amidst this chaos in my brain, the Lord has continuously reminded me of these lyrics. He’s said, “Isn’t this what you asked for? Isn’t this what you wanted? You want to do great things, make a huge difference in the world. This is where it starts. Where you feel like you have nothing left, but trusting Me.”

It blows me away every time. There are days when I wake up, and I feel like I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next. How any of this is supposed to happen. And He reminds me that I’m in the perfect positioning to see Him move in extreme ways.

One aspect of my career that I am currently working on is raising enough money to attend the summer program at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. A tuition plus housing of $4,000. Plus extra for plane tickets and food and whatever other living expenses I would need for four weeks in New York.

Literally impossible. With how much I’m making at my job, with how much my mom has already helped me as much as she can, it’s literally impossible.

I came to this point where I looked around me and all I saw was tumultuous waves, and I started sinking.

For years I’ve dreamed of seeing supernatural deliverance, healing, and breakthrough. I want to see heaven come to earth through worship and encounters with Jesus. I want to have the strength to stand in front of the demons of this world, in whatever shape they will come against me, and proclaim the love and glory of Jesus Christ. I believe that takes some serious faith and trust in Him.

The Lord showed me that this moment that I’m in, looking at the waves and sinking, is the moment where that type of faith begins to grow. There is nothing I can do, except trust in Him.

Just this morning Jesus asked me, “How much do you trust Me?” His question reminded me of that one scene in Aladdin, where Aladdin holds his hand out to Jasmine, right before they jump off the building, and says, “Do you trust me?”  

Jesus wants to jump off the building with me. He wants to walk on the water with me. He wants to tear down the strongholds of the entertainment industry with me. But it all starts with that question, “Do you trust Me?” I want my answer to be “Yes.”

In order to do what I asked Him to do, in order to take me where my faith is made stronger, that means it has to be tested. I have to be put in a position where it either has to grow to meet the situation or crumble under the fear.

So here I am. I will not fall. I will keep my eyes on Y’shua, my Love. I will press into Him, that I may go deeper into His heart.

On a more practical level, I’ve been asking God to show me step by step what to do. I’ve sown into another girl, I’ve posted things on social media, and I’ve seen a return on these actions! A return I didn’t expect to see.

Now I’m waiting to see what He tells me to do next. Because He’s all I have. His words are all I have to guide me. When you’re standing on the waves, the wind whipping around you, the sharks circling the waters underneath, waiting for you to sink, all you can do is look at Y’shua.

Although I’ve been slightly terrified during this time, I realize that there’s no place I would rather be than out here on the waves, chasing Jesus.

But next time, maybe I’ll be more careful what I ask for… 😉

What Traffic Taught Me About God

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“He made the One Who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we ourselves would know the righteousness of God by means of Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 One New Man Bible

“…So I have sworn that I would not be angry with you or rebuke you. For the mountains will depart and the hills be removed, but My loving kindness will not depart from you, neither will the covenant of My peace be removed, says the LORD, Who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:9b-10 One New Man Bible 

I truly believe that so much of the stress, worry, and fear that I, and many people, experience comes from lies we believe – lies about ourselves, lies about our lives, lies about God. Even lies that we don’t consciously know we believe. Lies that exist so deep in our heart that even our minds don’t hear them, until one day they bubble to the surface.

I recently had one of these days. A day that revealed to me that one of the truths I know about God in my head hadn’t quite sunk into my heart yet.

I hate traffic. It is one of the big stressors in my life, especially if I’m in a big hurry to make it on time to something. If I’m already running late, traffic can literally bring me to tears.

So I was driving to a class downtown a few nights ago, and I actually left in plenty of time. Plenty of time except for the five and six o’clock traffic I didn’t account for. Instead of being twenty minutes early, I was twenty minutes late. I’m not going to lie, there were a few tears shed in that extra forty minute time span.

While freaking out (and berating myself for not leaving even earlier), I simultaneously tried to analyze why the heck I was overreacting in order to calm myself down. Even though it didn’t completely work and I didn’t exactly learn why I freak out so much (I think it has something to do with control…), I did have a revelation of a sneaky lie I’ve been believing about our Father:

Whenever I don’t leave for an important even early enough, I believe that God sometimes sends traffic to me, making me late, because He’s punishing me for not leaving on time.

Ok, just pause on that a moment. Let the ridiculousness of that statement sink in for a moment.

But now, step outside of that particular situation and apply it something in your life.

I did this and this in my past, and now God must be doing this in order to punish/chastise/teach me a lesson.

This can literally be about anything and everything. This one moment opened my eyes up to a mindset I’ve had for a lot of things in my life. If I do one thing wrong, I just can’t let it go. I go into watch mode to see who is going to punish me first for it. And sometimes, I didn’t even do anything wrong. I just wasn’t perfect.

Psalm 103:9-11 says: “He will not always chide, neither will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His loving kindness toward those who revere Him.” One New Man Bible

God dealt with Jesus according to our sins and our wickedness. When we revere Him, love Him, accept Him, our sins die on that cross.

He is not holding your mistakes above your head, finding ways to make your life miserable and hard. He’s not cackling at your tears and frustration. He doesn’t find pleasure in pain. God is not so petty that He’s holding onto it. That’s not who He is.

When you ask forgiveness, when you take your sins to the cross, it’s over. There’s no anger. There’s only love.

Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t consequences to actions. If I leave at 5:30, I’m going to get caught in traffic, especially in a giant metropolis. If God tells you to take actions A and B to get to E but you take G and H, then it might not go as smoothly or quickly.

But He doesn’t throw stuff at you to make it harder or more miserable. He doesn’t beat you up. He takes whatever you give Him, wherever you are and can so beautifully turn it into something good.

So stop beating yourself up. Stop thinking God is mad at you. If Jesus’ blood wasn’t strong enough to take God’s justice for your sins, then what was it good for?

Let Jesus be the sacrifice, and let God be your perfect, loving Father.

And maybe, just maybe, He’ll miraculously create a path for me to zoom through five o’clock traffic.

When Jesus Wept for Me

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“In all their affliction, He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His compassion He redeemed them and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9 One New Man Bible

I want to tell you a story. During my junior year of college, I was visiting my mom’s church when I was home from break, and I felt so depressed and alone. Full of shame. Full of guilt. Surrounded by isolation. I had no hope and saw no reason that life was going to get any better. I breathed and I lived because I had to. I had to get through this, but I was terrified that I would be “getting through this” the rest of my life. That there was no end.

My whole life had kind of been full of pain up to that point. My father had serious mental and emotional instabilities that scarred me before I was even old enough to have memories. He was scary and made me feel very uncomfortable. When he was forced to check himself into some sort of hospital when I was in fourth grade, I was glad he was gone. There was finally a sense of peace and stability in the house. It didn’t last long.

The divorce started the next year, and it was hell. My brother and I constantly had to see lawyers, counselors, and psychiatrists. The majority of them told us that we were being mean to our father, and that he deserved to see us. Did I mention that my father was a master manipulator and skilled at extracting pity from others? Poor man, he was drowning in self-pity. And my brother and I had to pay the price for it.

Those four years, from fifth grade to eighth grade, were some of the worst of my life. Not only is junior high an awkward and painful time to begin with, but I had to contend with best friend abandonment, a terrifying father, counselors, ect. and a brother who dealt with his pain very differently than me. I exploded, he withdrew. I lost everyone during those years except my mother. I didn’t know where God was, but it certainly didn’t seem like He was there with me or that He even cared about my pain.

When the divorce finally ended, my brother and I had to see my dad in a safe house every other week or something like that. It was a house with a police officer and counselors where unstable parents were allowed to see their children. I always brought a book or music or something to do. My brother, my protector, always sat between me and my dad. In the midst of those years of my brother’s silence, those were the times I felt his love the most, but he couldn’t protect my heart from the things my dad said.

“Do you think this is what God wants? He doesn’t want you to treat me like this.”

“This is your mom’s fault. She’s turned you against me.”

“If you don’t have a relationship with me, you’re never going to have a good relationship with your husband.”

You get the idea. I came away from the “safe” house bleeding more and more each time. He was anything but safe.

What turned out to be our last time there, my dad got to me too much, and I got up and ran out of the room. He tried to follow me, but my brother stopped him (I think). After that incident, the police officer and counselor who worked there sent a message to the judge, recommending our visits stop. They said they had never seen a parent work so hard to get under their children’s skin.

So we weren’t forced to see him anymore. But that didn’t stop him from showing up to school and sporting events. When he showed up to my cheerleading at games, I always felt like I was going to throw up. He showed up to my high school graduation and convinced one of our family friends to speak to me for him. So, during my happy graduation party, this well-meaning but manipulated man pulled me aside to tell me how much my dad missed me, and blah blah blah. I seriously kind of wanted to punch him in the face.

Enter college. Enter my ex-boyfriend, who really had no idea of all the hurts and emptiness he was triggering.

I’d never had a boyfriend. I had never truly had a father, and I only had a shallow relationship with my brother because, truthfully, we didn’t really know how to have a relationship with each other. I was primed and ready for a trap from satan and seeking a relationship to heal all the pain I didn’t know was still there. I loved Jesus, I loved God, but I didn’t know how to heal. I didn’t know yet the kind of intimacy you could have with the Father and His Son and Spirit.

So bad relationship. So make-out session because I, on some subconscious level, believed that that’s what love was. So lots more painful and terrible things that I put up with and did because I just wanted to feel like someone cared about me. So break up because obviously that was a bad idea. That relationship ripped open every wound from every empty male relationship I was supposed to but didn’t have in my life. The pain was raw and physically hurt, even in just breathing.

And that’s where I was as I visited the young adult service in my mom’s church on that particular day. I knelt on the ground, bent over, hand clutched to my chest, my face almost touching the floor. Sobbing. Asking God where He was. I could feel the tears dripping down my cheeks, my chin, and the tip of my nose.

All of a sudden, I felt very distinctly three drops of water. They almost seemed to be coming from my hair line, one at the very top of my forehead, and one at the corner of both of my eyes. That didn’t make sense. I was facing the ground so my tears couldn’t have gotten all the way up there. I touched those three places, and my finger came back dry.

I ignored it and kept rocking back and forth on my knees, crying, when the sensation came again. I would have sworn someone was pouring water on the back of my head, and it was running down my face. But still, there was nothing there. My nose and cheeks were wet with tears, but not the top of my forehead or corners of my eyes.

“Lord,” I prayed, “what is this?”

Immediately I saw myself bent over, just how I was, but in this picture Jesus was bent over me, sobbing just as much as I was. And it hit me. I was literally feeling his tears that poured over me. I was feeling physically what was happening in the spiritual realm. Jesus was crying over me. Jesus was crying for me.

He cried for every single bit of pain that I had gone through. He cried because I felt abandoned, alone, defeated, ignored, rejected, dirty, unloved, unlovable…

He cried because of how much His beloved, me, His precious princess, was hurting.

I can’t even put into words what that did to me. Seeing that kind of love. It broke me all over again, but in a way that promised these 20-year-old scars could heal. Jesus was so broken because of what I had gone through. He was hurting so much because I was hurting so much, and I literally got to feel His tears washing over me.

He said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that you have this much pain. I’m so sorry that your heart hurts this much.”

None of this was even His fault. He didn’t force my dad to treat us so poorly. He even tried to help my dad but was rejected. He didn’t cause my brother to respond like that, and He definitely didn’t advise me to get into that relationship. And yet, He said, “I’m sorry,” because He was feeling my pain too.

He didn’t put shame or guilt on me. He didn’t blame me, even after all the times I had blamed Him. There wasn’t even, “Hey cheer up, Sarah. I’m going to heal all of this and use it for your good.”

He just showed me a glimpse of His unconditional, undying love for me.

A pastor I know often talks about how God doesn’t have to always be serious and crying. He is joyful and full of laughter too. I completely agree. However, I’m still at a point in my life where I generally respond to things with crying instead of laughter.

(I haven’t been hit with the Holy Spirit in such a way that I can’t control my laughter. I definitely want that. I long for joy in every part of my life, but I feel like that’s in process.)

I still cry when God speaks to me. I cry when I’m sad, and I cry when I’m happy. And that’s ok. Because He showed me that He cries with me too.

So wherever you are, or whatever you’re going through, Jesus loves you. The Father loves you. If your heart is broken, I promise you His heart is broken too. If you’re angry with Him, be angry, and then let His love come in and rock you peacefully. If you’re crying, He’ll cry with you. If you’re laughing, He’ll laugh with you. He just wants to be in every part of your life.

The Cool Factor (The Hobbit: Part 3)

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“And not according to selfish ambition (the desire to put yourself forward, and not according to conceit, but in humility esteeming one another more than yourselves, not caring only for your own things but even each other’s things.” Philippians 2:3-4 One New Man Bible  

This blog post has been on my heart for a week, and throughout this week, my heart and attitude have been like a roller coaster – up and down, up and down. I think currently I’m at a higher point so this is probably a safe place to write this post.

About a month ago, I wrote a blog about what my mother understood spiritually from the first Hobbit movie. Last week, I discussed what my best friend heard the Lord say about it. This week, the subject heavy on my heart is exactly what I stuck out to me in the movie. Perfect timing. It’s all about belonging.

Right before Bilbo reunites with the dwarves, he hears them arguing, debating whether or not he has abandoned them. Of course, he reappears and tells Thorin that he came back because he wants to help the dwarves reclaim their own home, a place where they can belong.

I think I’ve spent the majority of my life looking for somewhere to belong, somewhere I can call home. Even in elementary school (a private school), there was a distinct difference between those who went to church and school there and those who just went to school. When I was younger, I made my best friend in kindergarten, and that was pretty much the only friend I needed. I didn’t care at the time who else liked me or didn’t like me as long as I had her. Looking back, I realize how unhealthily dependant I was on her, especially since she clearly didn’t feel the same way.

In fifth grade, I was suddenly very uncool, and she suddenly needed to be very cool. Maybe she had always needed that, and I just didn’t see it. I don’t really know what was going on in her heart. I’ve never really had access to it.

She found other friends that offered her that “cool’ opportunity and grew a slight obsession with boys that I, frankly, didn’t really care about as much. I tried to care. I pretended to care. I tried to be everything that I thought she wanted, that I thought I was supposed to be, but I wasn’t enough for her.

I pretended in my head that we continued to be best friends until high school. She even wrote me a very sweet note in seventh or eighth grade that states something like, “I know I haven’t been a very good friend to you, but I promise I’m going to get better. We’re going to be best friends until we’re old and gray.” I naively believed her. What does that one verse say? “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). I was very sick.

Really though, our friendship ended in fifth grade because how can you have relationship with anyone when you don’t know who you are anymore. I lost myself that year. I lost myself in trying to be someone I wasn’t, I lost myself in the divorce and general upheaval that was going on in my home. I came out broken and alone, and for ten years, I’ve been searching for somewhere to belong.

Throughout junior high, high school, and college, I’ve run into plenty of “cool” people. My current, awesome, and beautiful aforementioned best friend lovingly calls it “the cool factor.” You know what I’m talking about. You probably have some people pop into your mind. And if you don’t, then you’re probably the one with the biggest cool factor in your group of acquaintances. I say that with love intended.

I came to despise these “cool’ people, stare at them in bitter jealousy, resentment, judgment, ect, In the last couple months, I’ve learned the cool factor doesn’t go away after college. There are still fully grown adults who carry themselves with the cool factor. They remind me of high school all over again. They set themselves above others, limit their friendships to only the most beautiful, most confident, most socially acceptable, or whatever it is that matches their criteria. I’ve still struggled with bitterness towards them.

But then last week, the Lord showed me something I didn’t expect, something I didn’t want to admit – I’ve been exactly like them. Ever heard the phrase “hurt people hurt people?” When I was first hurt, I bought into the whole social class lie and placed myself at a certain level near the bottom. I wanted to get to the top because clearly getting the people at the top to accept me would bring value and worth I can’t get anywhere else… Another lie we so readily accept.

In order to get to the top, I couldn’t associate myself with those “lower” than me. I know. It’s disgusting. However, as more and more cool people rejected me, I both needed and hated the people at the top. Now I didn’t want to associate myself with anybody.

In the last few years, I’ve been somewhat of a hermit. Partially trying to deal with and heal from my past, but also because I’ve simply not wanted to hang out with people. I stopped seeing what people were worth in themselves and started looking for what they were worth to me. And it seemed nobody had anything good to offer me. In my broken mind, they offered me either a lower status or an arrogant, self-centered rejection. So I cut myself off, and I have felt homeless, wandering for a place to belong. Much like those dwarves.

But God has been teaching me in the last week, showing me what my attitude and thoughts should really be like. The truth is there are those people who walk in the cool factor much more than others. They all seem to gravitate towards one another and form exclusive and private cliques. I’ve been hurt multiple times by them throughout my teenage years, and I will still run into them in the entertainment industry, at the grocery store, and, yes, even at church. In fact, much more at church than you would think. But now my response has to be different.

I will still meet those people who believe they’re lower than everybody else and want to hide in the corner out of fear and anxiety. I’ve both been people like that and hurt people like that, but now my response has to be different.

Because God has healed my heart and broken the trauma and the lies I’ve been operating under, I don’t have to buy into that social class system bull crap anymore. I hate it. I hate it with a passion. Even when people try to place me lower or higher than them, I don’t have to accept it anymore. My job is to be outside of that system and love them through their dysfunctions in whatever way the Lord shows me. I want to Bring truth to them in whatever way their social status allows me to because that system is a mirage, and it will one day disappear, leaving all the people on it to crash and burn.

We don’t belong on a social ladder, and we, especially the church, need to seriously look at our attitudes towards those around us. Not just those close to us, but to everyone around us. Even those we dismiss or overlook because they’re either too self-absorbed or too uncool for us. How many opportunities are we cutting off because of our own junior-high-mindedness? We need to find those places in our attitudes and ask the Lord to reveal to us where those are coming from so we can be set free.

My best friend and I always talk about how we would never have been friends if we had met in high school. She would have overlooked me, thinking I wasn’t cool enough for her, and I would have judged and resented her, never able to be myself around her. But, by the grace and power of Jesus Christ, we are best friends and sisters and ministry partners in whatever way the Lord plans for us.

I sometimes wonder how many other friendships I’ve missed out on, but healing has had to come first. Acceptance and wholeness from Jesus Christ has had to come first. Building back my confidence is where I am now to get me to the point where I can step outside this system we buy into. My horizon of friendships is widening even now.

So from Jesus’ heart to my heart to yours: “You belong. You are accepted. You don’t have to try so hard. You are loved and seen and wanted. Your home is here, wherever you are, because His love can find you anywhere.”

The cool factor is lame. Let’s not just grow out of it, but eliminate it completely, and love the way our hearts were created to love.

My Unexpected Journey (The Hobbit Musings: Part 2)

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“I’m not where I wanna be, but I’m not where I used to be.”           Brand New Day recorded by KJ-52

In this week’s multifunctional blog, I want to pick up with The Hobbit and its spiritual implications, tying it into my continued post-SHINE journey. If you haven’t seen the first Hobbit movie or haven’t read my previous blogs concerning these two subjects, now would be a good time to do so.

The complete title of the movie is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Everything about my SHINE and post-SHINE journey has been unexpected. Nothing has gone like I thought it would or wanted it to. And for someone like me, that’s not a comfortable thing.

I’ve always had my schedule and plan of how my life should go. I’m going to be an actress and a writer, as well as a speaker who holds conferences with her best friend musicians. I’m going to marry a beautiful, musician husband, and we’re going to change the world for Jesus.

Now, I still fully believe all these things are going to happen. These are the desires and goals that God has shaped my heart for (including the beautiful musician husband part, wink wink). However, the “how” and “when” have still completely been in my hands. Or at least I try to hang onto them.

Keeping that in mind, let’s jump over to the movie. Near the end, the dwarves and Bilbo battle the disgusting orcs amid flames, fire, and hatred. Even after Bilbo’s courageous act, their situation looks pretty desperate. Then, of course, they get rescued by the eagles, because these gargantuan birds always come in at the last minute, and are swiftly deposited on a rock far enough away from the orcs that they are not in any immediate danger, yet far enough away from the mountain that there can be another movie.

I looked at the distance between them and the mountain, and I looked at the eagles that were now flying away. I looked at my best friend and said, “Why in the heck don’t those birds just take them to the mountain?”

Almost immediately, she heard the Lord answer my question. He said, “If they didn’t go on the journey to get to the mountain, they wouldn’t be prepared and equipped for the battle at the mountain.”

Enter me, post-SHINE, with my expectations and plans crumbling in my hand as I still scramble desperately to hold them together. But it’s only my expectations and plans, not my dreams and desires, that are crumbling. Not the “what.” Just the “when” and “how.” I’ve already given Him the “what,” allowed Him to call forth the true desires of my heart, but He wants it all because, honestly, He will probably do better with “when” and “how” than I would.

I know I’m going to make it in this industry. I just do. (Although I did have a small crying session last night doubting that exact thing, but I’m back on stable ground today.) I’ve just learned there’s a lot of work in between where I am and where I want to be. I already want to be at that mountain with the hills of gold. But am I ready to face the dragon and the battles that await me there? Am I ready to have that amount of gold in my possession?

Am I ready to move out to LA or New York right now and start work? Honestly, no. But am I ready to visit Nashville or Dallas, be an extra in a movie, and soak in every opportunity I can? Just tell me when and where, and I will be there!

I really want to enjoy this process, because I know it’s not here to torture me. It’s not like God said, “Oh, Sarah thinks she’s gonna do this and this and this. Haha, let’s change it up just to mess with her.” As much as I used to think He was like that, I praise the Lord that He has shown me His true nature in that aspect.

I walk on this path that I walk because my Father knows this is where I need to be. This is where He teaches me how to not only hold a sword but wield it with deft and deadly accuracy. This is the path where He teaches me to shoot a bow that hits its mark every time. Think Legolas.

And in real life terms, this is where I learn to walk into an interview or audition with all the confidence and purpose the Lord breathes into every stillness of my soul. This is where I submit myself to a hundred auditions, hear back from one, and still praise Him, knowing He has destined me for great things. This is where I attend acting classes and work to hone the talent He has given me so it becomes my craft.

This is where that confidence that was so lacking at SHINE builds into a beautiful monument that points to my Saviour. He’s what I want all this to be about anyway. When I was in Orlando for the conference, I reached this place where the only thing I wanted was to be in the Lord’s presence. I told Him, “God, I want to be in Your will, in the intimacy of walking side by side with You, more than I want any role. Nothing is worth losing this closeness I have with You.”

And so, for me, right now, God is not in LA. He’s not in New York. At this exact moment in time, He’s not even in Nashville. He’s right here next to me, in a city I don’t really want to be in with a job I’m not even close to passionate about and my best friends scattered across the country.

Have I been having a good attitude about all this? Unfortunately, no, but I want that to change, starting even right now. Easier said than done, am I right? And maybe that’s part of why I’m here. Because God is enough. No matter where I am or what I’m doing. He will always be enough. He needs to be enough for my joy and for my contentment, and that’s part of why I’m still here.

Maybe I won’t be confusing trolls or running from goblins or fighting orcs, but I’m battling my own bad attitude and building up a foundation on the One True Cornerstone. That’s where I am on my journey right now. Unexpected as it may be.

How to SHINE

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“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.”                                                    Isaiah 60:1-2 NIV

As I write this, I’m leaving the most amazing, weirdest week of my life. Like most life-changing events, I feel a million different emotions. A million different thoughts fill my head because I learned something at SHINE that I didn’t expect to learn.

For those of you who don’t know, SHINE is a bi-annual conference with 70 to 100 talent agencies, casting directors, and managers (called VIPs) from across the country. Actors, models, singers and dancers train with AMTC for this event where they are showcased in front of the VIPs through different events. Throughout the week, different VIPs give extremely informative seminars about entering and navigating the industry, and on the last day, performers participate in flash interviews and callbacks. All in the hopes of changing the entertainment industry by shining for Jesus.

As I prepared and fundraised for this opportunity, I had different people, people who didn’t even know the name of the event, tell me I was going to shine. I took it as confirmation that in every event I would perform outstandingly, that everyone would see my talent and just fall in love with me. A little melodramatic maybe, but that’s just me. Despite my coaches’ encouraging yet realistic talks about the hard work and time it takes to get into the industry, I think some subconscious part of me really believed this was my “big break.”

I arrived for the two day Pre-SHINE rehearsals and completely nailed all my practices. Seriously though. I’m a strong believer of knowing and accepting what you’re good at and knowing and accepting when you don’t do so well at something. And I did well those first two days. It was fun, it was practice, and it was pressure free.

Then the first official day came. I didn’t even have a showcase that day, but I could already feel a shift in my focus. So that morning I asked the Lord to, at some point during the day, just speak to me clearly. I wanted to feel His presence.

It happened at lunch. I ended up eating lunch alone that day, a design by my Father, I’m sure after I asked Him to speak to me. Sometimes He needs to isolate us so that we’ll finally come to Him and listen.

I asked Him where He wanted me to read in His word. Philippians popped in my head, so I turned to the first chapter, but I promise you the AC kept flipping to the next page where chapter two began. So I started there. From the very first verse, talking about being like-minded and having one purpose, I knew this passage was important for all Christian performers. Then verses three and four convicted me.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” NIV

The entertainment industry is extremely competitive, and so many people only look out for self. When we walk around with a competitive spirit and a competitive mindset, we turn nasty. Competition cannot exist with what Paul just wrote in those two chapters. In fact, he literally says the exact opposite of what competition is. Not that we can’t work to be the best us, to be better than we were yesterday, to compete with ourselves. But I never want to look at God’s precious daughter sitting next to me in an audition and be more concerned with being “better” than her instead of asking the Lord to show me how to speak to her in that moment. That’s not what shining is about.

So Paul continues, giving the perfect example of non-competition – Jesus. Obviously. He says that even though Jesus actually was God, he didn’t even consider Himself to be equal to God when He was on earth as a human. He lowered himself, as a man, as a servant, and by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (verse eight). Jesus, who has more right than anybody to parade Himself around in perfection, gave Himself to one of the most humiliating, painful types of death.

Then, in verse nine, Paul points out that because Jesus did that, His Father “exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.”

Jesus made Himself low, and His Father made His name the most powerful name on the earth. Hmm that sounds like a biblical principle heard elsewhere in Scripture (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6). And it sounds completely contrary to everything the entertainment industry and the world say.

The next section continues with the word “therefore” meaning everything that Paul has said before that word leads up to this next, very important point.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.”

Okay, I know that’s a lot of bolded words, but please, read them all. This passage of Scripture is brilliant. He gives us exact instructions on how to shine. Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit. Obey the Lord. Work out our salvation. Do not grumble or argue. Consider others better (And this is not a “I’m worthless, and you’re so much cooler than me” attitude. It’s more of a “I’m here to serve and help you because I love you like God loves you” attitude). Do all this, and then shine like a star. Like I said, brilliant. Yet I still didn’t quite get it all the way.

The week continued, and I didn’t do as well as I wanted or knew I could do. I was disappointed in myself and discouraged by the lack of confidence that came the moment SHINE officially began, and I now saw my events as competition instead of something fun and exciting. It became all about me. I wasn’t shining onstage, and I was frustrated.

The night before callbacks I started freaking out a little so I asked the Lord what to read. Psalm 37. Ok. I turned there and stopped at verses 5 and 6.

“Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.”

There was that shine word again, but it wasn’t my talent that would shine. Nor my destiny, my presence, or my calling. It wasn’t really anything of mine that was going to shine because my righteousness isn’t really mine. It’s Jesus’. And that righteousness would SHINE by allowing Him to guide my every step.

I want to bed still trying to understand the weight of what I just read.

Fast forward to the next evening, after the flash interviews and callbacks, to the awards banquet. Based on the events I was in, I was eligible for Best Overall Adult Female Actor and Best Overall Adult Lifestyle Model. I didn’t win either. I didn’t even place second or third.

But I did win one award. An award that each Hub city voted for within their own group. An award that I truly didn’t think I would get at all because I didn’t think that many people knew who I was.

I won the Dallas Hub’s Prayer Warrior Award. My own peers voted for me. And when they announced my name, people cheered for me. Not just the polite, expected clap, but a cheer of people who loved and supported me. I honestly didn’t even think that that many people saw me. Of course that probably has something to do with the confidence stuff I know the Lord will be working on with me.

And when I received that award, I realized what SHINE really means. This was what God had been teaching my head all week, and now He brought me to a situation that taught my heart.

I didn’t do amazingly well in my performances because it’s still about me at this point in my heart.

I won the Prayer Warrior Award and people cheered for me because it wasn’t me. I wasn’t doing it for me. I saw people hurting, fearful, struggling, and I wanted to help. I want to set the captives free, and I want to be used to help heal hearts. It was all about the Lord and His love for His people.

Shining isn’t about shining onstage, whatever your onstage may be. It’s about shining offstage, in every moment of your day.

And that’s not to say that I’m not going to continue becoming the amazing actress that I know I was created to be. I’m going to work hard and be excellent and act in movies that change hearts and lives across the nation.

But I don’t want that spotlight to be my goal anymore. I want a spotlight of a different caliber. A heavenly and everlasting spotlight. That’s the spotlight in which I want to SHINE.