Today I ran a photo contest on social media to brainstorm the title of this new photo. I actually created it late last night when it was dark and I didn't feel like going to bed yet! I had a few ideas of what it could be, so I asked my social friends to give their feedback. The two winners chosen were the titles “Beginning” and “Equipped,” which I'll combine to entitle it, “Equipped for a New Beginning.” Seeing that today is Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, I think it's a great reminder that God is equipping us for the new season!
Here's to new beginnings and a fresh season (and decade) to explore more of God's plans and creative callings for our lives! I love how Scripture reminds us that God's GRACE is what equips us, not anything that we can or have to muster up in our own strength. We simply receive the Father's gift of love that's already been paid for by Jesus.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
2 Timothy 1:9
No matter what kind of season we've just come through (good, bad, or simply busy!), we can always "reset" and trust God's grace for the new season ahead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to what You have given me, and show me how to apply it for the season ahead!
Recently I was faced with a leadership challenge that caused my heart to mumble, If I only had...
Maybe you can fill in the blank: if I only had more funding, people, resources, time, space... then I'd be able to accomplish my goals and see my dreams become reality. In my moment of frustration, I heard the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit say, Use what you have. I took a quick breath and adjusted my perspective: I don't have to have MORE, I reminded myself, I just need eyes to see what I already HAVE and build the skills and wisdom to utilize it well. I realized that God was not wanting to give me more, but to help me see how to be faithful with what I had the moment.
What you have, combined with the Holy Spirit's anointing and God's provision, is always enough for the next step. Jesus always used items within His reach to meet the need and spread God's love: five loaves and two fish, a coin from a fish's mouth, and a mud for a blind man's eyes. Sometimes He borrowed things, like a boat to preach from or a donkey to ride on, to add to His story. He changed the world with 12 men and amazing stories that still apply to our world today. Jesus used what He had and leaned on God's provision for the rest, always following the Father at each step.
In my creative journey, I've discovered that God gets so much glory from multiplying the “little” we have in resources to do much for His Kingdom. When we are faithful to use what He gives, it's amazing how anointed creativity accomplishes far more than having a big budget. Recently I was showing my film “Thin Places” about the Celtic saints in Ireland and Scotland, and people began to say,
“This looks like a million dollar budget film, and it's hard to believe that Rebecca isn't Irish because she's telling the story of our history so clearly!”
Inwardly, I laughed, because I knew I'd filmed the whole project with 2, well-used DSLR cameras and worked with 4 drone pilots to get the footage. Only one of the pilots were professional, and everyone else in the film were volunteers I'd dressed up in robes and put dirt on their faces to create the LOTR look I hoped would work for my audience. Some of the robes I'd created from wool blankets I'd found in a wardrobe, and others were crafted from heavy woolen blankets I found at a Army/Navy supply story. (It can be tough to find heavy woolen fabric!) When filming on beaches in Scotland, people constantly asked,
“Are you filming for Outlander or Star Wars?” It was pretty funny.
Partner all that with the fact that I can be pretty resourceful, but I sometimes need extra grace to balance everything that goes on in my brain... hoping people are up for the adventure as they come along with me to do something creative... like stand in a river, walk through a swamp, or climb a mountain with a bunch of chain mail and armor. I'm so grateful for friends who help me tell these stories! Somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit infuses an authenticity and relevance into the projects we create with Him.
So what is your dream? What can you do to take the next step? Sometimes God brings a huge moment to launch us into our dreams, but most often it's the intentional steps forward that gain the most traction and bring us toward our goals. You can watch God move, one step at a time!
Prayer: Lord, is there a dream that You've placed on my heart for this season? What is the next step I can take in moving forward, using what I have, to accomplish that goal? Are there people in my life who will come along for this journey?
The last month has been a fantastic blur of colorful experiences in Ireland and Scotland while touring my new film Thin Places: Stories of Celtic Community and Extraordinary Faith. While the scenery was wonderful and the weather reasonably nice (although I did lead worship outdoors in the rain several times!), the true beauty of the trip was getting to draw a bit closer to the people who live there. Sitting with old and new friends over tea and good conversation was simply a delight! I fell in love with Irish sarcasm and old stories. :-)
Only a crazy person would go to another country and tell people about their history-- and I felt a bit silly as an American telling the Celts who they are and what they carry. My Irish friends were a bit shocked when I took them to museums they'd never been to and hills where the angels still camped, telling them that the Celtic Church is often considered the closest to the first century church that we have on record. No one teaches Celtic church history in schools, so they were dumbfounded and I felt a bit shy. After we had a good, hard laugh at ourselves, we were amazed at what God was revealing. They marveled at their history, and I marveled how God was revealing a message for today from the ancient past. We listened and learned from each other.
If we approach life as eternal students, God can use the stuff from every day life to build our wings. Maybe the story that will change your life is inside the person next to you. Or perhaps the next book you pick up will give you the needed “next steps” for your journey. There's always a chance that God may send you around the world to listen, learn, and even tell a story that touches others (– He's funny about things like that!). The stories we hear change us... the stories we tell change the world.
I challenge you to become a good listener, cultivate great conversations (and good tea), and discover the gold in those around you that will build your wings for the next flight. And learn to tell good stories... this world needs more bold, crazy people who partner with the Holy Spirit and craft captivating tales.
Prayer: Lord, teach me to listen with a pure heart. Show me how to cultivate good conversation, not because I need to be heard, but so that I can be a safe place for others. And from that place we can all learn to fly with You.
“Most artists begin their journey like lovers waiting to be pursued. Our hearts are so eager yet shy, waiting for someone to help us spread our wings – a fairy godmother to make us spectacular with just a flick of her wand, or the Simon Cowell to pick us out from the crowd and give us a platform. We might not admit it, but most of us think that having someone “discover us” would make our creative lives a lot easier.”
These are the opening words of my new book, Launch Your Vision, coming in November. Lol, I know, I just released a book, but this one is self-published and has been in the works for a long time, just waiting for the right moment to share it. I used to believe that I needed someone to open a huge door for me to be successful, and while many people have been helpful in propelling me forward, no one ever gave me a million dollars or created the perfect platform to spread my creative wings. I used to be frustrated by this, and even disappointed in God's lack of provision, until I picked up some some powerful, Biblical keys that changed the entire way I looked at the process.
For years I felt stuck in my creativity and had no idea how to pursue my dreams-- but not anymore! What is the key to partnering with God and watching Him bring fruit to our creative journey? I've come up with a strategy I use in all my creative projects, called Ready, Aim, Fire! The cool thing is that it works for every type of creative project!
It's not a magical formula, but rather a strategic outline that you can customize for your personal journey. I like to tell people:
Formulas are what babies eat.
Strategies are used by kings.
It's interesting to see this principle unfold in Scripture. When writing to his son who was soon to become king, King Solomon writes:
If you solicit good advice, then your PLANS will succeed. So don’t charge into battle without wisdom, for wars are won by skillful strategy.
Proverbs 20:18 (The Passion Translation)
The word PLANS in Hebrew means: intention, imagination, invented. It's the same word translated, “artistic works” in Exodus 31:1-4, when God called an artist and filled him with the Holy Spirit to build the Tabernacle.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design ARTISTIC WORKS...”
God doesn't often send a fairy godmother to magically touch our dreams, but He does offer us wise counsel and strategy on how to unpack them!
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to the keys of wisdom that will unlock Your call on my life. Help me not to be passive, but an active seeker, listening for Your heartbeat and trusting You to unfold the journey!
Stay tuned for more info on the coming book!
Over the past few months, I've been reminded of some powerful lessons about walking out our identity in Christ. I'm pretty vocal about speaking life over people, reminding them who they are, and offering coaching on how to see God's gifts and calling in their lives. Some people receive this encouragement with excitement, find the strength to walk out this identity with humility, and even “slay the dragons” that attempt to keep them back from being all God calls them to be. Others walk away with a sense of entitlement and attempt to carry out their calling without fully embracing the discipline and courage to crucify their flesh and follow godly principles that lead to true fruit. In my personal life, the more I discover God's plan for my life, the more I come to constant forks in the road that require me to either take the “high road” and walk it out or simply turn my back on God's plan. Walking out your identity takes a lot of courage.
We all love the story of the Ugly Duckling: the awkward, misfit chick who lives among the ducks and eventually discovers his true identity as a swan. However, this discovery still requires a choice: will he shift his mindset from duckling behavior to that of a graceful swan? Or will he still carry the habits of duckling-hood into his adult life as a swan?
One difference between ducks and swans is that ducks can drink saltwater from the ocean, while swans typically do not. In this picture, I captured the photo of swans on a Scottish beach where the ocean is known to be especially salty. This “ballet of swans” (which is what a group of swans is called) swam along the shoreline for quite a while until they came to a place where a fresh water stream flowed into the sea. They could drink the water because it was near to the spring's mouth, and it was a beautiful moment to watch them quench their thirst.
Just like the swan, we must have courage and discernment, feeding ourselves with that which is healthy for our new identity. It takes fortitude, determination, and a commitment to follow the Holy Spirit as He leads us to discern the fresh water that will truly satisfy our thirst and make us strong. Choosing to be discerning and take initiative is part of embracing our true identity.
Prayer: Father, please show me who I am in You, and teach me how to walk this out every day. Give me the strength and fortitude to become discerning and hear You clearly as I grow in my identity in Christ.
To unpack more of your identity in Christ, read Bible studies on the topic of authentic beauty, and find personal questions to help you grow, pick up a copy of my new book Finding Beautiful! It's hardcover with full color photos and 12 makeover stories of young women who help us define God's perspective of beauty for women today.
I created this photo to show an unusual door in a wilderness, representing times where God shows up in unique ways when life looks hopeless. I love the promise in Hosea where God speaks to the nation of Israel who is going through a very difficult time:
There I will give back her vineyards to her
and transform her Valley of Troubles into a Door of Hope.
Hosea 2:15 The Living Bible paraphrase
A real life example of this can be found in the makeover story I captured of Katherine Chapman, a young woman with a heart for beauty and a message of hope that we can all relate to.
As we filmed on a back porch in Southern California, I could immediately tell that Kat wanted nothing less than sincere authenticity in every part of her life- including our interview. She told her story with the same transparency she lived, daring to touch every emotion in its purest, uncluttered form and treasuring the sacredness of each one. She wanted us to meet her joy and pain, and feel at peace with both, because she was.
As a child, Kat had longed for beauty. One day, crammed into the station wagon with her siblings, she had spied a ballerina figurine in a dance studio window and voiced her dream.
“Someday, I'd like to be a ballerina.”
“You can't do that,” one of her siblings scoffed, “because ballerinas are beautiful.”
Mortified, Kat's shoulders slumped with shame. I guess my dreams of being beautiful, glorious, and known are of no value, she mused.
Years later, when Kat married and entered motherhood, she found herself facing a new kind of shame. After seven miscarriages (including four in one year) she felt like a failure, since her body was unable to protect the little child she wanted so badly to love. After one particularly traumatic miscarriage, she wrapped the tiny body of her child and dug a grave in the cold dirt of her backyard. Weeping, she told her husband,
“I don't want to be God's needy little girl – I want to be strong, and bold, and brave.”
“Maybe that's it,” her husband responded. “Maybe God doesn't want you to be strong... maybe He just wants you to be His little girl and let Him hold you.”
Slowly, Kat started realizing she didn't need to perform for God's approval, and that He wasn't ignoring her pain. She could feel every moment and talk to Him about it, leaning on Him for strength, and enjoying the moments of beauty that He sent her way.
One day in the shower, Kat began to pinpoint the battlefield in her mind. Itemizing the lies that tormented her, she isolated the attacks and began to call them out.
Fear- I'm afraid of singing in front of a microphone
Doubt- what if God doesn't meet my needs?
Hopelessness- am I valuable enough to merit God's love?
I will only bow my knee to You, God! She vowed. These other 'gods' that want my attention are not going to win!
There in the shower, she began to sing the words:
I will follow
I will pursue
I will seek You
Above any other
Above any other god
Above any other love
Above any other name
Little did she know that this song would become an anthem during a worship movement that swept her city, and this simple chorus would bring healing to people who needed a voice to express their pain and trust in God. Kat's Valley of Trouble had become a Door of Hope.
Read Kat's full story in the book, Finding Beautiful: Discovering Authentic Beauty Around the World.
As a potter working a piece of clay on the wheel, I get messy right along with the clay. The process of transformation isn't clean or simple, it's raw and real as my hands reach inside the pot to bring purpose from this piece of dirt. Not for the faint of heart, the process of “becoming” requires vulnerability from both the potter and clay.
In a society that often revolves around Instagram and social media, it can be easy to paint the picture that life is perfect or that we have everything together. But isn't it often the messy places in life that God uses as a testimony of His faithfulness? If we don't let people see the mess that God is transforming, we keep them at arms' length, and true, authentic relationships never happen.
Jesus models healthy vulnerability for us. He chose 12 raw, imperfect men to hang out with for 3 ½ years and they got to see what life was like for Him. Every time Jesus was rejected, tested with the temptation to compromise, or was offered extravagant praise, they got to watch the process and see how He walked it out. Without Jesus' vulnerability, his close disciples would never have seen first-hand what it meant to live out the gospel every day. He said,
You are the ones who have remained with Me in My times of testing.
Jesus also had great boundaries: he wasn't afraid to be authentic and real, but he was never co-dependent on the people around him. He knew when to reserve His battles for prayer, pouring out His heart to the Father, and when to honestly share with others difficult things that were happening or going to happen. In the same way, sometimes we need to guard our hearts and emotions, working through life's difficulties with close friends and the Lord. Other times, when we open up and share about the "messy" parts of life, it allows God to be glorified as we walk out the difficult parts of life with Him.
For my book, Finding Beautiful: Discovering Authentic Beauty Around the World, I interviewed Charla, a young woman who was incredibly brave to open her past and give us a glimpse of her journey for the chapter Beautiful Vulnerability. She shares about growing up in a home where her father was the song leader at their Christian church, but the abuse and controlling behavior behind the scenes was deeply damaging to her heart. Charla wanted nothing to do with the picture of Jesus that was painted by her parents. At the age of 16, she became pregnant, and her family helped her to have an abortion to save face in the church. Devastated by the experience and the mocking of her school mates, Charla began to read the Psalms and cry out to God from her misery.
Slipping into a little country church, she heard the visiting preacher play guitar and share the gospel. Something new and precious touched Charla's heart... Jesus died for ME... He loves ME! Although she had memorized John 3:16 and could quote Bible verses all day long, she had never had an encounter with the love and forgiveness of Jesus. Sobbing, she ran to the altar and was radically touched by God.
You can read more of Charla's story and her healing road from abortion in the book, Finding Beautiful. Through her vulnerability, we get a picture of God's love and the tender way He woos and wins us to His heart.
Prayer: Father, help me to experience Your love in the messiness of life, and be vulnerable to share both the joys and triumphs of the journey, knowing You are faithful each step of the way.
For Charla's "after" shoot, my friend Nancy Warner styled a stunning table just for her. In a beautiful garden overlooking a small lake, we wanted to show how the Lord spreads a feast of restoration.
To read the full story of Redemption and discover moments of beauty in your world, pick up my book Finding Beautiful: Discovering Authentic Beauty Around the World.
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.
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