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.
How many of you have a dream in your heart but feel like it's completely unattainable? You can see it so clearly, and maybe in burns in your heart, but it feels impossible at the moment.
Today I'm wrestling with a dream that I want to see happen. I can see it and almost touch it, but the steps to that goal aren't clear. This is the moment where a dream stays a dream, or you can begin to take that idea to God, pray, and receive His strategy for its fulfillment.
“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Sometimes it's easier to give up on a dream than believe God answers prayer. Timing, His perfect will, and other people sometimes tie into the answer He gives, but if we really believe that He loves us and has a plan for our lives, the "impossible" walls around our dreams may just be there to test our tenacity. Prayer is an amazing place of action, where we lay our dreams before God and listen for His heartbeat and strategy.
This idea reminds me of Heidi, a story from my book Finding Beautiful.
Her biggest dream was to be a wife and mother. After praying and fasting for her husband from the tender age of nine and marrying her true love, Heidi was devastated to discover the hidden life of addiction and abuse within the life of her husband. Her dreams came crashing down at a young age when her marriage fell apart and she found herself all alone in a strange country. Yet God was not finished with her dreams, and she discovered Hie power of restoration and a special gift of love that was woven into this chapter of her journey. God loves dreams and is faithful to carry them when we trust Him!
Check out Finding Beautiful here:
Every time we flip on the TV or step into a check out line at the grocery store, we are met with the media's depiction of worldly beauty. To be honest, it sometimes feels to me like the world has done a better job of identifying and enjoying beauty than the church, but since God is the author of real beauty, I thought we could camp out on a few aspects of His definition of beauty.
This marks the first of a 12 picture series that give us an “out of the box” definition of beauty. Each of these ideas coincides with a chapter from my new book, Finding Beautiful, so there's always further reading for those interested!
Every one of the heroes of the Bible had one thing in common: they experienced amazing adventures with God. Moses met God in the desert and set a million slaves free, Esther was promoted from exile to queen, Ruth traveled to a foreign land and fell in love, David went from the outcast son to king of Israel... each one was pulled by God outside of their comfort zones to follow His leading into an adventure that rivaled anything they could have imagined. Many were lauded later in Hebrews 11 as having the faith that pleased God in powerful ways.
I created this photo with the idea of stepping into the unknown without knowing the next step or even where the sea will part in order to move forward. In our world today, we might call it feeling insecure or unstable. In the Bible, it's called faith, and it involves embracing the beauty of God's adventures without always knowing the outcome. This can be a little intimidating, but it can also be exhilarating as we watch God show up and move us forward in amazing ways! Finding and following His adventure for our lives is a beautiful thing, and we can always be confident of this truth:
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
One young woman I interviewed for Finding Beautiful was Lauren, who planned on living a very normal life until God called her into missions. Eventually this led to a trip around the world, where she simply asked God which nations she was called to serve, and often saw miraculous situations occur as the way opened up before her. Her before/after life makeover shoot looked like this.
What are the places of adventure in your life? Do you feel completely settled and comfortable in your current situation, or are there areas you are stepping into the waves and trusting God to part the waters for? I believe this kind of adventure is so valuable and beautiful to God. Maybe it doesn't mean taking a trip around the world, but it may involve embracing His lead in an area of life you feel unsure or not confident in. How are you watching His adventure unfold in your life?
Prayer: Father, thank You for promising that You will never leave me. Show me how to tap into the beautiful adventure You are calling me into!
Recently I was reminded of a picture that I'd created that tells a beautiful story. It's been used in past devotionals, but since our nation has recently celebrated the National Day of Prayer, I thought it would be timely to remind ourselves of this important truth: the power of the secret place of prayer.
The Grimm brothers recorded the tale of a princess who was locked in castle room and told to turn a pile of straw into gold. It was not something she could accomplish on her own, but a creature appears and helps her accomplish the task, and she does such a good job that the King asks for her hand in marriage. In the fairy tale, the imp who does the gold-spinning is an evil creature with malicious intent, but the Lord is offering to be our Helper with a different motive: I believe is calling His Bride into the secret place of prayer in order to entrust her with great treasure! It's in the secret place of prayer with Him that straw is turned to gold.
I feel like the Lord recognizes that our time is precious, since there are so many good things vying for our attention, and therefore our time is costly. Yet if we entrust Him with our time and invest it in the secret place, He will bring us things of even greater value. In comparison, the treasure He will entrust us with for investing our time with Him is like gold compared to straw. In that place of prayer, we can rest and receive His peace and grace for our daily lives.
“Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? ...the gold and crystal cannot equal it: the exchange of it shall not be for jewels or fine gold.” Job 28:12, 17
The Lord promises us wisdom when we ask Him, so I believe the place of wisdom is found in the secret place, where He takes the time we invest in prayer and brings treasure from it. Also from this place comes gold tried in the fire mentioned in Revelation 3:18:
I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich;
How do we buy gold? We purchase it with our time, investing it in the secret place of prayer and meeting with the Lord. It's here that our hearts become rich with the depth of His love, wisdom, and fellowship with the King of Kings. He literally takes our straw and spins it to gold!
A few days ago I interviewed Brittny, a young woman who is featured in my book Finding Beautiful. We had captured a makeover and photo shoot, and we did a live follow-up interview for the book launch team.
During the interview, we touched on her former sense of worthlessness that stemmed from a difficult childhood.
“When did that change for you?” I asked. “How did God heal your heart?”
“It wasn't all at once,” Brittny responded thoughtfully, “but as I chose to obey God, I realized how much He loved people. One day in high school He moved me to reach out to a friend and tell her about Christ. In that moment, I realized how deeply He loved her, and how greatly He must love me too.”
I was struck by that thought. Brittny didn't experience a massive wave of God's love that instantly healed all her wounds: instead, when she obeyed Christ's tug on her heart, she experienced His character. By following Christ, she began to learn of His heart. I realized how opposite this is within a self-centered society: we often demand healing as if we deserve it, and then decide whether or not to serve God. Yet in the principle of Discipleship, sometimes we simply serve the Master from a heart of love and healing comes as we follow Him, one step at a time.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The word “yoke” in this passage is: to join, servitude, coupling. One of the keys to accessing the heart of Jesus is simply to follow Him. As we step out in obedience, we discover how amazing He is! He is gentle, kind, and brings us rest. Yet the call is not a passive one: we are called to discipleship, and to actively pursue relationship with Him by studying the Word and following His Spirit. Like a team of cattle yoked together, we team up with Christ and walk with Him. This is discipleship: learning of our master as we follow His lead.
I'm feeling compelled to embrace the basics of this place: my first life's goal is simply to follow the Master and learn of Him, yoked up with Christ in everything He gives me to do. We are never asked to walk alone, but always closely yoked with Him as we walk out life together. This call is simple yet profound, and it stands as an open invitation to all of us.
Prayer: Lord, help me to walk with You every day, ready to hear, obey, and learn of Your kindness and love as we move forward together.
Watching the ocean never grows old to me. When I need a quiet afternoon here in California, I'll drive to the beach and park myself on a cliff. There's something mesmerizing in the constant cycle... waves build on the horizon and rise as they approach the shoreline... I watch the process unfold as the white caps burst and roar with furious joy before melting back into the depths.
Life is like this: we go through seasons of stillness, even boredom, and then suddenly we see God stirring as a new thing approaches. The momentum builds, and we watch Him lead us into a season of fresh movement and growth.
I am leaning into that new season today... the beauty of watching God do new things, and the challenge of the “growing pains” that occur as we align with the new season. Like a new wave on the horizon, I feel God's call to different ministries and a fresh way of how things will play out in the new season. It's thrilling beyond words, and sometimes terrifying!
I'm sure you can relate to this place: sometimes a “new wave” is both exhilarating and challenging, right? We watch the new things grow on the horizon of our lives and develop into a fresh season. How reassuring is God's promise of steady help and encouragement during this process!
Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18, 19
May you be encouraged and equipped for your new season! He is faithful to bring us everything we need as we embrace His plan for our lives!
Prayer: Father, help me to see what You are doing in my life, and receive the fresh wave of Your grace and love as I embrace every season You lead me to.
Recently I've been thinking of how God strategically positions us exactly where He desires us to be for reasons we don't always recognize at the time.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-1
It struck me that the Lord has very specific “lampstands” where He places us. It might not seem like we are in any place of significance, but if we are in His will, we are there for a reason.
In this picture, the light is being held on the edge of a precipice, and the ship in the distance is receiving the warning because the light is at the right place at the right time. If the light was not there, the ship might be lost.
What is your “lampstand?” Maybe it's the grocery story where you run into someone and tell them about Jesus. Or perhaps is social media where you proclaim the truth of God's love. Maybe your lampstand is your home, where you can create a safe place for your family and then invite others into that place. Wherever it is, let your light shine! You never know who is watching and how your light impacts their journey.
Thunderhead: Write the Vision
I'm a total visionary, and even as a kid I was exploding with creative ideas. I remember making designs with watermelon juice on my paper plate during picnics and using flannel cloth from the rag bag to make prairie-style doll clothes. As we grow, sometimes our dreams become bigger and seem harder to accomplish. If we're prone to creative ideas, it's easy to write them off as “impossible” instead of hold on to that childlike creative streak.
When I was age 17, I had a dream that felt enormous, but I couldn't help hoping and praying it would come true! I'd always dreamed of singing my little original songs on stage, and I desperately wanted to share my music with my favorite recording artist that I heard on the radio. I happened to meet him one day at a backstage event, and he prayed for me out of the goodness of his heart. Like thousands of other teenagers, I really wanted to meet this man who played the piano and wrote pop songs. After about two years of desperately praying and hoping that I could somehow share my songs with him, a mentor gave me a piece of advice.
“Sometimes,” she said in matter-of-fact tone, “you just need to write your request and lay it before the Lord. If it's meant to be, He'll make a way. If not, then move on with your life.”
So I did: I wrote my request, laid it on my bedroom floor, and prayed. Nothing happened, so I buried the dream for about three years, moved across the state, and stopped writing songs. During that time I had some profound encounters with God and started to pick up music again and express myself in worship to God. One day I happened to be driving through the town I used to live in and noticed that my favorite pop star was doing a benefit concert and dinner in a local church. I decided to go, but I only had enough money for a concert ticket and not the meal beforehand.
A funny thing happened that night. I arrived to the church early and asked to meet with the pastor.
“Do you happen to have a little corner where I could pray?” I asked politely. “I'm coming to the concert, but I don't have a ticket to the dinner.”
To my surprise, the pop singer appeared and to my astonishment he remembered me from three years ago!
“Would you be my guest for the dinner?” he asked, and then he proceeded to walk me to the ticket table and purchase me a ticket with cash from his own wallet. Then he asked me to help him with the sound check, so I sat at the shiny grand piano in a daze, playing one of my little songs just like I had dreamed of doing years before. During dinner, I asked him every single question I'd ever wondered about the music industry. God had seen the prayer I had written down and laid before Him several years earlier, and just when He was about to call me into full time ministry and knew I would need some extra courage, He made my dream come true!
My point is this: God hears our prayers, but there is something special about writing down our dreams and visions. God told Habakkuk,
Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. Hab. 2:2
Time and time again, I've seen God's plans unfold in ways that leave me startled with a sense of wonder and awe, and many of these were dreams that I've written down and laid before Him. It's a beautiful thing.
So if you feel like your head is in the clouds and exploding with ideas, write them down and lay them before the Lord. He knows exactly where He desires to take you, and you might be shocked at how He brings them to pass!
On a side note: I just opened up my non-profit, The Potter's House Creative Ministries! Part of the vision is to host monthly events for the community where we teach both kids and adults to write or draw what God is speaking to them. Find out more at:
The Arizona highway stretched long and thin through the desert mountains, and I was fighting fear as I drove my little RAV4 over the blacktop. I had been booked to speak at a church in AZ, and I realized I was a long way from the nearest gas station! With no cell phone reception among the rocks and cactus, it was a long drive and I had never been to this church before. I flipped through the radio stations to pass the time and could only get one signal: a pop music station playing Walk the Moon's track, Shut up and Dance, a tongue-in-cheek song about simply enjoying the moment.
I laughed- the song hit home, and I realized the Holy Spirit was calling me to rest and just trust Him on that trip. To dance, and let Him lead. Sure enough, everything turned out great. God protected, provided, and there was an opportunity for some special ministry time at the church. To this day, Shut up and Dance makes me smile every time I hear it.
Later, I decided to create a photo to this idea after discovering some Scripture that really brought the concept to life.
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him..." Psalm 37:7a
The Hebrew word "rest" in this verse means: "to be dumb, to stop, quiet self, rest, be silent, tarry." I'm one of those visionaries who is constantly chewing on ideas, making sense of chaos, and processing pretty much everything. This specific directive couldn't be clearer: STOP TALKING- and that includes the chatter of the inner mind. Still your soul, Rebecca. Pause. Embrace silence.
"Wait patiently" is a single Hebrew word with a radical meaning: "to twist or whirl in a circular or spiral manner, specifically to dance..." This word is translated into various words in English. For instance, is could mean dance, or it could mean to birth, like Psalm 29:9 which says that God's voice makes the "hinds to calve," and calve is this dancing Hebrew word. Other times it's interpreted as "fear," or even "formed." I'm not a scholar, but this Hebrew word seems to denote a verb of passion, motion, and even creativity.
For me, perhaps this verse is summed up in the lyrics of the pop song where the lover playfully sings this invitation, "Shut up and dance with me!" As much as God loves our business and action for the Kingdom, sometimes the place of rest means silence and a dance of faith with Him- whatever that looks like. Whether you're driving through the Arizona desert or through a difficult time in life, trusting God is the best place to be!