trusting God

Befriending Jesus Amidst Our Wilderness Seasons

“You have been teaching me that it’s possible to feel secure even in the midst of the most difficult, painful circumstances— through staying aware of Your continual Presence with me.”– Jesus Listens, July 19th The Wilderness “Go to Jesus,” they say.  “Clap your hands and shout,” they say.  Somehow, when we are in pain, the quintessential church phrases do not move us like they typically do. The exuberant testimonies of how others were able to pray themselves into wholeness and victory can feel like a taunt more than an encouragement for those who do not even have the strength to open the bible. Sometimes, we may not want Him, but instead, we may just want to want Him. On top of that, we may hope to hope one day—just not today.  How can we experience the Presence of God when ...

God Is Surrounding What’s Surrounding You

“Help me to stay mindful of You as I go step by step through this day. Your Presence with me is a precious promise—and a comforting protection.” – Jesus Listens, October 29th My brother was thirteen years old when a band of bullies on bikes encircled him like buzzards taunting their prey. He was outmanned and outnumbered. I thought it was the end. But then my dad pulled up in his Pontiac. He didn’t even get out of the car, but simply rolled down the window and gave a look that said, “I dare you.” The bullies scattered like mice when the lights came on. Prayer As we pray for ourselves and the ones we love, it’s easy to think the spiritual forces surrounding us are too strong to defeat, too shrewd to outsmart, or too slippery to take hold of. The prophet Elisha’s servant felt the same way. I...

The Weight of Perfection

by Emily Ley “I yearn for perfection, and only You are the fulfillment of that deep longing. You are perfect and holy, yet You choose to stay close to me as I walk through this sin-stained world. When I look the right way—toward blessings, toward You—the Joy of Your Presence shines brightly upon me.” – Jesus Listens, August 30th “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” — Hebrews 12:1 NIV Struggling perfectionist Hi, my name is Emily, and I am a struggling perfectionist. Even as I write those words, I squirm a little, because I am still very much battling my perfectionist tendencies. I’d like for my home to be spotless, m...

Interruptions Can Be Opportunities

“Rather than letting setbacks and interruptions upset me, I want to use them as reminders—that You are the sovereign God and I am Your beloved follower. Help me to trust in Your unfailing Love, gladly subordinating my plans to Your infinitely wise Master Plan.” – Jesus Listens, October 26th I don’t like to be interrupted. Whether in conversation or while I am working on a task,  interruptions derail my focus, stunt task completion, and frequently leave me unsettled or  annoyed. I lose the point of what I was discussing when people interject. I lose my fervor for  the task at hand when other demands cut in to dance. Some interruptions lurch I know you’ve been here, trying to tap out a text that matters—the response to your boss, the  apology to your spouse, the reply to ...

Live Without Secrets

“How thankful I am to be fully known by You! Everything about me is visible to You—including my most secret thoughts and feelings.” – Jesus Listens, April 19th I long for a church that lives without secrets. The Beauty of Honesty One of my favorite things about church is our new members’ meetings. All the new members pack in a room for a Saturday, and they share their testimonies. There are always lots of tissues, lots of hugs, and lots of honesty. Whenever I see new members join, I think, This is the church as it should be! A bunch of people in a room, telling each other why they are messed up, and celebrating that God loves us anyway. But most of church life is not like that. I see pastors fall from grace because of secrets they kept. I see people worry more about fitting in at church th...

Choosing Worship Over Worry

“I’ve found that thanksgiving and praise put me in proper relationship with You—opening the way for Your Joy to flow into me as I draw near You in worship.” – Jesus Listens, May 9 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. —Romans 10:17 NIV Faith felt easy Faith felt easy at one point in my life. I didn’t realize that my confident exterior was a cover-up for the fear hiding in my heart. Waves of challenges hit one after another until most of that self-assurance washed away. Problems seemed to surround me on every side: impossibilities at work, difficulties as a new mom, and struggles in marriage. One morning while home alone with my kids, I sank under the floodwaters of fear, and I wasn’t sure I could come back up. Abbey and ...

Rest Is A Gift, Not A Burden

“You are the only resting place for my mind that truly satisfies and strengthens me. As I rest in Your peaceful Presence, true hope grows within me.” – Jesus Listens, March 11 I learned early on that fewer things in life carried more value than a strong work ethic. It’s one of the first rhythms I remember learning as a child: work hard, accomplish goals, receive praise. Rinse, repeat. Working Hard As I met goal after goal, I learned to associate “working hard” with “receiving praise.” And I liked receiving praise. I liked knowing my parents and teachers were proud of me. So I carried this strategy into my adult life, straight into my career. The harder I worked, the more praise I received. All of the good job’s hit my body like endorphins. Every positive remark felt like a dose of worth an...

Three Ways to Unthaw Your Frozen Calling

“I’m learning to yield to Your will and timing. Rather than striving to be in control, I need to spend more time seeking Your Face.” – Jesus Listens, February 23 Conflict stirred within as I attempted to blend into the audience. The secret struggles in my heart felt exposed as the conference speaker addressed the crowd. Frozen callings “There are frozen callings in this congregation,” she declared. The weight of that statement hit my spirit like a bag of bricks. No, Lord, I whispered. I can’t hope any longer for things that never come to pass. God spoke softly in return. I will be with you. It’s time to take your calling off the shelf. Two years before, I had packed away my ministry dreams. Ambitions of public speaking, teaching the Bible, and writing books drove me to push past God’s timi...

6 Truths to Help You Understand Grief

No matter what losses I experience, in my life, I know that nothing can separate me from Your loving Presence! – Jesus Listens, October 21 When you are grieving, it can feel like that single emotion controls every aspect of your life. From your relationships and physical health to your ability to work or do the simplest tasks, grief is ever present. If you don’t have proper care and a plan of action, grief will assume control of your life. But before you can take effective action, it’s essential to understand the strong emotions you’re feeling. Want to understand grief a little more? These are six things you need to remember: 1. Grief Is Universal We feel grief so personally that it’s easy to think we are alone in our suffering. But sooner or later, everyone will feel the sting of grief. R...

The Three Best Words for the Brokenhearted

“I can invite You into those broken places and collaborate with Youin putting the fragments back together in new ways.” – Jesus Listens, July 3 In fresh grief, well-meant words can sometimes wound. Even now, I shake my head at the unhelpful comments I made as a young mom handing over a hot casserole and the painful comments said to me a few years later after my husband died. So when a radio host recently asked me for the three best words to tell someone in grief, I perked up. Maybe it’s “I love you,” I thought as I waited for his answer. Those words sure comforted me as a new widow. Or maybe it’s “let me help.” Practical love is so needed when life falls apart. But neither guess was correct. The three best words to say to someone in grief? You’re not alone. The deepest comfort comes w...

God Seems Most Present As We Are Climbing Life’s Mountains Alone

The following article first appeared on The Dallas Morning News on November 14, 2021. Every winter while living in Australia, my husband and I enjoyed going to a ministers’ family camp in the magnificent Grampian Mountains with our two children. Afternoons were free, and I usually went hiking with friends during that time. One year, when my friends were ready to hit the trail, I wasn’t feeling well, so I told my them to go ahead without me. Afterward though, I regretted my decision, and I decided to go for a little walk by myself. I found myself walking toward the closest mountain, one I had climbed several times in past years with others. My plan was to go just a short way up, enjoy the view, and then return to my room to rest. I realized it was a little risky to go hiking alone, especial...

First Steps to Faith

I care as much about your tiny trust-steps through daily life as about your dramatic leaps of faith. You may think that no one notices, but the One who is always beside you sees everything—and rejoices.                                                                                          Jesus Calling, December 29 “You have searched me, LORD, and you...