Sometimes inspiration hits us in unique ways... I created this photo during a worship conference, and while the beautiful music was playing, I felt like the Lord was saying that strongholds of darkness over the city were being decimated because of the unity that was taking place. In my mind's eye, I caught a glimpse of the Bride of Christ tearing down strongholds, and I attempted to recreate the image.
For the weapons of our warfare
are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
2 Corinthians 10:3
I believe we can step into the place of a "beautiful warrior" both in a corporate church setting and in our personal lives. One example of this is a makeover story I captured of a courageous woman in Jerusalem, Israel...
Oriel was born in Texas and moved with her family to Israel as a child. Always feeling that she was ugly, Oriel used to beg God to make her beautiful, and couldn't understand why He had made her so differently than her ideal of beauty. Moving to Israel confirmed her fears, when the kids at school bullied her, and the threat of possible terrorism only made her feel more different than the rest of the world. She felt isolated from the world and cut off from God, believing that He could never love her.
Eventually, panic attacks started overwhelming her and she became confined to her basement room for a year, refusing to attend school as a teenager, and terrified of life. One day her brother came to her and said,
“Oriel, you say that you believe in God. If you truly do, then you must believe that He loves you, because His Word tells us that He does. It's an offense to Him to refuse His love.”
Shocked, Oriel realized that she had to either trust that God loved her, even if she didn't feel it, or reject His love. It was the tiny step forward she needed, and she decided to put her trust in God's love. She checked into a facility that started helping her to overcome her anxiety, and God began to heal her life. Today, she's a thriving young woman with a steady job and confident smile!
The stronghold of fear is invisible, but can hold us captive as much as any prison bars. Often we may feel that we have to fight it out alone, but sometimes God uses community to help us take those next steps rather than an instant quick fix. Sometimes people feel angry that God doesn't change things for us in a moment, but other times we have to courageously bring skilled, wise people into our situation who walk with us into wholeness.
As in the picture of the Bride, we'd all love to swing our sword and tear down the strongholds of the enemy, but I love how Scripture calls the corporate church the Bride of Christ: the community of the church holds great power, not just one person. Allowing the right people into our lives brings amazing freedom, and YOU might be just the right person who carries what someone else needs for their journey. Together, we can all be Beautiful Warriors!
Prayer: Lord, show me who You have placed in my life to help bring down the strongholds in my life, and show me how I can do the same for others.
Read Oriel's full story in my new book, Finding Beautiful: Discovering Authentic Beauty Around the World.
This week I'm sharing a photo creation that's a bit darker than usual. I call it, Refusing to See. Sometimes God wants to take us further in some area, and it's tempting to ignore His call and pretend not to see what He is doing. In the end, it's all about trust: do we trust Christ enough to allow Him to lead us?
As I traveled the world to film makeovers and interviews with young women, I had the beautiful opportunity to capture the story of a young lady who had allowed God to pry her fingers off her eyes and encounter His love. Amy met me in London for her shoot, and after capturing her “before” photos on the fast-paced streets, she began to share about her home town on the English coast. It sounded epic and surreal, and I decided to finish her shoot there. We jumped the train and traveled for several hours, landing at surreal fields and white bluffs overlooking the ocean.
Amy shared how her struggle with Anorexia began with insecurities she faced from a school teacher who bullied her at a young age. Even after he was expelled, she decided that if she could be “perfect,” she'd never have to experience the brunt of disapproval again. After her grandmother unexpectedly died and her mother became pregnant and had another child, Amy's world felt even more fragile. Terrified of rejection, she began controlling everything around her, especially her diet. If I can control my body, she reasoned, I can be perfect, just like the girls I see in magazines who look happy.
Doctors diagnosed her with Anorexia and depression, but instead of solving her problems, the inner turmoil increased and Amy found herself walking to the brink of the white cliffs and contemplating suicide. However, something intangible kept her back from jumping and she walked away, choosing instead to enter a discipleship program for young women. One of the counselors led her to the window and showed her the rolling moors.
“Amy, do you see all this beauty?” she asked. She then reached for Amy's hand and pointed to her palm. “God created all this beauty, and your troubles are just a speck in His hand. They're not unimportant, but they're so small in comparison to His greatness. If you can trust Him, you'll be able to watch Him take care of your troubles.”
Amy's eating disorder was really an issue of trust. Choosing to trust that God was big enough to take care of things she couldn't was a big step: it allowed her to let go of obsessively controlling her body and begin the mental process of embracing health. Being imperfect was ok, because He was on her side. Pealing her fingers off of her eyes, she began to realize that God's love was there all the time, waiting for her to trust Him.
I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel God's tug to let go of a situation and trust Him. If I cover my eyes and refuse to see how He is leading, I end up trying to accomplish it in my own strength, and missing out on His love and purpose. I believe God loves our hard work, responsibility, and desire to excel, but if we feel the tug on our hearts to follow Christ rather than our own ideas about a situation, it leads us to a choice: will we trust God or do things our way? As we choose to put Him first, we'll discover that trust is a beautiful thing.
Prayer: Lord, I want to follow You fully! In areas of my life that I need to trust You, please show me how to put You first so I can rest in Your peace and fully experience Your love.
This week we'll talk about a young woman in her 20's from Ireland who became an evolutionist to disprove the existence of God, and how today she's become a passionate follower and preacher of Christ. Before that, I'd like to share a picture that was one of my early creations named, “The Call.”
When God places His call upon your life, you find yourself seeking after the things of God with a deep hunger to know more-- it's not normal! God places a supernatural gift of hunger in your heart. Of course, you can say no, and many people do. But those who say yes are drawn by the Lord to a close relationship with Him and find themselves wrapped up in His calling.
I created this picture to describe the way God called the prophet Jeremiah.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Then said I:
“Ah, Lord God!
Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
But the Lord said to me:
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
For you shall go to all to whom I send you,
When God calls you to follow Him, not even your fears can keep you from the call! It pulls and tugs on your heart until you fully surrender to His leading and you find your heart coming alive.
I met Danielle in Northern Ireland and we filmed her radical story on a pier overlooking the Irish sea. Her father had studied to become a marine biologist, but he died when Danielle was only six. Angry that God had not saved her father's life, Danielle became bitter and decided to pick up his legacy of studying science, also to prove the theory of evolution and lash out at Christianity.
In her twenties, Danielle was fighting major diseases and walking with crutches, even as she became a powerful spokeswoman for environmental science. One day she lashed out in anger toward her mother, and realized something very dark was controlling her. Crying out to Jesus, she made a tiny step forward toward Christ. The story is too long to write in this email, but not only did her Father give her the peace she needed so much, but He completely healed her physical body. She now runs her own business, Manna Cards, and preaches about the love of God. Even while she was afraid and angry at God, He pursued and chased after her, drawing her with love.
Read Danielle's full story in my book, Finding Beautiful: Discovering Authentic Beauty Around the World.