Aaron and I watched the movie Blood Diamond not too long ago. It’s fairly old now – like ten years old – so I’m late to the party on caring about this, or knowing about this, but I’m usually about five years behind the curve on most things - like puberty and marriage and knowing the proper pronunciation of pho. Anyway, this movie is about diamonds being mined in Sierra Leone and smuggled into Liberia to be sold. It takes place in 1999, when rebels were trying to take over the country. They were ravaging villages and kidnapping children and forcibly using them as soldiers and diamond miners. I can’t recap the entire story for you here, but bring tissues if you plan to watch. As the story progressed, I looked at the diamond ring on my finger and suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had no idea this was even an issue. I mean, I vaguely remember advertising a while ago where people were really quick to say their diamonds were “conflict-free” but I never really knew what that meant. I didn’t even know to ask about that when Aaron and I went ring shopping.

The first thing I did the next morning was call the place where we bought my engagement and wedding ring. I told Aaron after the movie was over that I was going to call and he said, “What if they can’t assure you that it is?” and I said, “Well, then we’ll sell it.” I wasn’t going to wear a child’s blood-soaked work on my finger. I understand that this was just a movie and not necessarily portraying facts with 100% accuracy, but even still, the whole thing was heartbreaking. The movie finished and I laid on the couch thinking, “The world is a terrible place.”

Every day there’s something new to warrant our sadness and outrage. But what are we supposed to do in all of these crises? How do we help in this midst of all the terror and tragedy in the world? Donate twenty dollars and hope to feel better? Write about it on social media? Share an article? Create a hashtag and pat ourselves on the back? Offer thoughts and prayers and move on two seconds later to our own problems? And, we do have our own problems. We're addicted to drugs and I'm not just talking about our smartphones. We're lost in a connected world, lonely and competing and not measuring up. We're drowning out the noise with all manner of prescriptions and vices. Our students are taking guns and killing their classmates for attention because they figure they can't get our attention any other way. 

I watched a documentary recently about Cyntoia Brown. At 16, she was convicted of first degree murder for killing a man she thought was going to rape or kill her and there’s much more the story, including the fact that this man picked her up as a prostitute and her “boyfriend” is the one who sent her out to go make him some money. Gross. But in one of the interviews she said these boys she was with – these guys who she let take advantage of her and harm her –  she said they were all just seeking affirmation. They all wanted someone to tell them they were worth something. They all had wounded pride and they were building themselves back up through money, girls, sex, and power. They wanted approval. And dang it, isn’t that what we’re all seeking though possibly through different means? We're all just crying for attention. Validation. Affirmation. Tell me I'm important!

So dear Jesus, what do we do? What do we do that would be helpful in this chaos? What do we do that would matter? And the only answer that comes to me immediately is, “Share the gospel.” Share the gospel. Okay, yeah, but what else? Nothing else. I’m not even doing that. I could be doing that much, but I’m not. So that’s the only thing to do. That’s the most important thing we can be doing right now in the midst of all the fighting and pain. Share the gospel. Be the gospel. To our neighbors and friends. To our siblings. In our own homes - to our spouses and children. Especially to our children, who will go out in their schools and either spread darkness or light. Since there’s power in the name of Jesus, then just say it, speak it, bring it to the most ordinary places you go every single day. I don’t want to get so caught up in my life that I forget that I'm here to bring the gospel. "Your kingdom come, your will be done," if that's our prayer then we have to be the ones to bring the kingdom near. 

For those who know the gospel, for those who understand that there is a Savior we all desperately need, the only reason we wouldn’t share it is because we don’t think it’s true – we don’t think it’s what people really need or want. Or we do, but we’re too scared that they’ll think we’re dumb and we don’t want to be dumb – we want to be cool! We want to be liked. We want followers and retweets and shares. I know I’m guilty. I’m guilty of thinking, “How do I say this in a way that Christians will understand and non-Christians won’t hate it?’ which is just another way to say, “How do I make Jesus cool enough for everyone?” But I can’t. I can’t do it. He doesn’t need help being cool. He just needs you to speak his name. His word is living and active and he can do what you can’t. Only he can change hearts. Only he can change minds. Only he can calm war-torn nations and ravaged cities and shredded hearts. He’s the only one who can make a real difference in any of it. He can take that twenty dollars you donated and change lives. He can take that hashtag and make it impact the entire country. He can take your start-up and let it influence the world’s most powerful leaders if he wanted to. He just wants to use you to do it, start it, write it, say it, bring his name into the conversation. 

I read an 1873 sermon on the Beatitudes by Charles Spurgeon and he said, “The sight of a vast concourse of people ought always to move us to pity, for it represents a mass of ignorance, sorrow, sin, and necessity, far too great for us to estimate.” Essentially that any crowded room should bring us great sorrow and urgency because within that room are souls, hungry and lost – souls searching and waiting for an answer to their hurt. They don’t look like it on the outside, and they certainly wouldn’t say it, but the gnawing in their hearts is real if they’d only admit as much.

In a sermon a couple of years ago, Matt Chandler said that people who have been Christians for a long time can start to walk around with this attitude of, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus." And it helped me realize that I lived a lot of my twenties where I said, through my thoughts and actions, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus," and waved him off like he was just a side item at the cafeteria of my life – something I could throw in the backseat and let him ride along as long as he was quiet. He could stay because I was going to need him at the gates of Heaven someday, but other than that he was an afterthought. He was second to anything I was doing. I mean, not always, but especially when it came to dating. I adamantly would not allow him in that corner of my life because I felt like he already failed me there. Because of the lies I believed in that arena, I’ve been shamefully timid, but not anymore. I yanked Jesus out of the back and put him behind the wheel. Now I want to embolden people to share the gospel and speak the name of Jesus. I want people to come out of the darkness and live with hope and faith and I’m a little afraid to suddenly step up and say all of this because I know I pretended it wasn’t the answer - that maybe it was just the answer for me and not necessarily other people. But it’s the only answer to everything going on in the world right now. It’s the only answer.

I called the store where we bought my engagement ring. The woman I talked to assured me that because of the Kimberley Process, implemented in 2002, they were confident that the diamonds they sold were conflict-free. I breathed out a little, knowing this bit of information, although at the end of the movie, they note that even with the Kimberley Process, conflict diamonds still enter the diamond trade. But a lot of bad stuff happens, regardless of the rules and regulations in place to stop it, so we just have to do our best to make sure we’re not participating. There will always be sin. There will always be terrible things happening in the world. And that’s why the gospel is so important. Only it can step into the darkest places. It can change the darkest heart. It can stop sin and sadness and hatred and violence in its tracks.  Only it can give the validation and affirmation we're all so desperately seeking. And maybe people will say, "That's nice for you, but Jesus isn't for me. Keep that to yourself." Well, I'll be bold here and just tell you, you're wrong. Jesus is for everyone, and if you don't think so, then you haven't understood him correctly. If you think, "Well, I just don't believe that," that doesn't make it any less true. Pray for the faith to believe.

I just finished a Beth Moore study, but I read a lot of her tweets and follow her on Instagram, so I don’t know where I read this, but somewhere, plain and simple, she wrote, “May Jesus be obvious.” The cry of her life is, “May Jesus be obvious.” Amen. Can that be the banner over our lives? Since that’s what the world needs more than anything, can we just stand up and boldly live it? Stop living halfway. Stop rationalizing sin and start getting honest. Can we share the gospel? Can we contribute our little piece to this larger story by just living and being the very picture of love in the midst of seemingly insurmountable hurt? Look for lonely people. Show love. Share the gospel. And make Jesus obvious.

For the record, I don’t think the world is a terrible place. It’s a terribly broken place, but there’s a lot of Light too. And we need more people bold enough to speak up about it. 

“Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech…”
2 Corinthians 3:12


I spent six summers as a lifeguard in high school and college. Looking back now, it is still one of the best jobs I've ever had. There was such a camaraderie among the lifeguards each summer and I don’t know that I often complained about going to work. Sunshine, friends and snack breaks – what more could you want? The pool I worked at was considered a water park, although it only had two short waterslides, but what defined it as a water park was that it had a zero entry pool. This means that you walk right into the water and it gradually gets deeper and deeper. It’s great for the moms who want to sit on the side in about an inch of water and watch their kids swim, but it’s bad for kids who walk in and splash around and are suddenly too deep to touch the bottom. We saw it all the time – enthusiastic swimmers would walk out just far enough that they couldn’t touch so they'd start flailing their arms and swallowing the deep end and we’d blow three whistles to let the head guard know we were jumping in to save them. 

I have a good friend that never learned how to swim. I think he could keep himself from not drowning long enough for someone to get to him, but I don’t know that for sure. Because of all my lifeguard experience, I always tell him, “If you’re ever in a situation where you think you’re going to drown, don’t panic. I will save you.” I feel really confident of this even though he's both heavier and taller than me. While it's not Aaron that can't swim, he and I have practiced this in both a pool and the ocean - him letting all his weight sink and me pulling him up and swimming to the side. Of course the only way this is possible is if he stays calm. You’ve probably seen it before where the person drowning starts to panic so they grab on to the rescuer and try to use them for leverage to get above the water and in an effort to stay up they push the other person under. So I said to my friend, “I’ll save you, but if you start to panic, I’ll have to punch you in the face so you don’t drown us both.” I laugh at my own self when I think about the sight of that. I mean I can’t imagine punching anyone in the face, let alone enough to knock the calm into them.

I recently read, Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen and a section that really hit me was on the idea of rest and how God provides rest for our weary souls if only we'll let him. Does anyone feel weary right now? Can I get an Amen? I think we're all a little weary sometimes. In the same chapter Allen asked, “In what way are you fighting against God right now?” I read that line and it's when this visual of drowning came to mind. Is your weariness a result of fighting? How often is God trying to rescue us but we’re flailing our arms in a panic? God’s trying to gently say, “Relax. I will save you,” and yet we’re flipping out while spouting off a million “what about’s”. You know, like, what about these bills? What about my relationship with my mom/dad/family? What about my kid? What about my debt? What about my dreams? What about my boyfriend/girlfriend? What about meeting this need? What about this illness? Flail. Gasp. Panic.

For over ten years I was flailing in the arms of God while he was waiting there to rescue me. My what about's were, “What about giving me a husband? What about a new job? What about my dreams and my timeline?" I had zero confidence in God’s ability or even desire to give me a husband. I was willing to give God everything else in my life, but specifically sectioned off this area and wouldn’t let him touch it because I did not believe he would provide. Too many times I had been let down. Too many times I thought I was trusting him and doing what he wanted and still I was heartbroken. Too many times I felt abandoned by God in the relationship arena while I was used up. So I was flailing hard against him, refusing to rest and if I were him, I would have certainly punched me in the face. 

Fortunately, he doesn't work that way and there came a point in my life where I had to admit to God that I was a wreck - that I was trying to shove him under the water and save myself, that I didn’t believe. I said to him, “I don’t trust you, God. I don’t trust you to provide. I don’t trust you in this area. I want to, but I don’t.” And it was in that moment that I finally stopped flapping my arms around like a lunatic and started to rest. I prayed the words of Mark 9 where the father says to Jesus, “I do believe. Help my unbelief!”

I do believe, God. At least I want to! Help my raging unbelief in you. Help me to take that unbelief and turn it into unwavering faith. I do believe. I repeated this in my prayers. I wrote it out in my journal. I do believe. Help my unbelief, God! It’s kind of like one of my previous posts about how negativity begets negativity. If you keep telling yourself you don’t trust him and you don’t believe him, well then you won’t. Believe me on that. So instead remind yourself – remind your heart – that you do believe that he will save you. He will provide the answer to all of your what about's! He will. But faith isn't a permission slip for passivity. Rather it will give you the strength to keep doing the next right thing. 

It's also not to say he will answer those "what about's" how you would like and on your timeline. I thought I would be married ten years ago and have three kids by now, but at this point I’m 32 and only three months into marriage. After we got married, we moved across the country to a new place even though I told God and Aaron multiple times, "I'm never moving to Hawaii." I'm sure you can still hear me laughing myself all the way across the ocean because God loves to take our never and turn it into yes. So in my marriage and moving, God answered my unending, “What about?” question and now I’m thinking, “Wait… this wasn't my plan! I mean I’m a Nebraska girl. I can't live in Hawaii. Oh no, oh no.” And let me tell you what, it has been hard. It's been good, of course, but it has also been very hard in a lot of ways.

And in the midst of it being hard, I'm back in a position where I have a choice to start flailing my arms. I feel faced with that choice every day – the one where I can panic and take back this area of my life, put a rope around it and not let God in because oftentimes it's more comfortable when we feel in control. But instead I’m reminded each day in a fresh way that I don’t have to flail. I don’t have to save myself. He's here. Whether it’s something on the radio, or something I’m reading, or the comforts of friends and family, I know in my heart that this is the right next step and that being here now has always been the plan for my life.

In her book, Allen writes,

“Why risk our comfort? Because on the other side of God-oriented, Scripture-informed risk is everything we are looking for: nearness to Jesus, greater faith in His power; deeper, richer experiences and relationships; satisfaction and enjoyment of the short life we have been given.”

Take the risk. Step out in faith to do the next right thing that God is calling you to do. Even if all you can say as you take that step is, “I do believe. Help my unbelief!" In the midst of fear. In the midst of letting go of comfort. In whatever way you're fighting against him, right in the thick of it all, resist the temptation to flail and just rest in faith.

Where are you struggling to believe him today and why? I'm guessing it's because, like me, you feel let down or left out or left behind in some way and now you're rehearsing all the reasons why He can't be trusted and exhausting yourself while you drink in the deep end of the pool. But, we have a God who wants you to stop flailing your arms when he’s asking you to rest. He will save you. Rest. Breathe. Believe.