Hi My Dear Friends,
I’m teaming up with the #AskAwayFriday crew again this week for a 10 question exchange. I enjoyed coming up with questions for Erin to answer this week, as well as responding to the questions she had for me — which I thought were profound and probing (and, confession: I struggled not to write a book in each answer!).
Erin and I met via Five Minute Fridays and #FMFParty on Twitter, where she is a continual encourager. An absolute sweetheart, insightful, tenderhearted toward the Lord and toward people, and I’m blessed to know her.
So, without further ado, here are my answers to Erin’s questions. When you finish reading here, I’d love to have you click over to her place to read her answers to my questions as well.
1. You’ve written that you’re passionate about being still before the Lord. How was that passion sparked?
I think I began to be interested in stillness, or “silence and solitude,” as a spiritual discipline a good 10 or 12 years ago when I began reading authors like Henri Nouwen and Brennan Manning. The more contemplative side of Christianity has always really drawn me. Stillness before Jesus as a spiritual practice kicks my performance mentality in the pants. It’s kind of a discipline of choosing NOT to perform but simply to rest in His presence, trusting that He’s moving and forming Himself in my deep places as I still my heart before Him, regardless of whether I can put my finger on exactly what He’s up to inside me in any given moment.
2. How has intentionally being still affected you in your marriage, family, ministry, friendships, etc.?
Wow. This is a great question. Practicing stillness as part of my intentional times before the Lord has made me more in tune with Jesus’ nearness and invitations to me throughout my days, and more responsive to the movement of His Spirit in my heart. So it’s affected my marriage, family, and other relationships by just making me a more peaceful, present person in general. In ministry situations this has been SO helpful because I tend to go into a conversation or meeting much more relaxed and at rest in God’s presence and His commitment to the heart of the person we’re “ministering” to, and less feeling like I’d better get it together and MAKE something profound happen for this person.
So, to put it simply, when I’m choosing to live this way (which I don’t always succeed at!), I’m able to be more peaceful inside, more present to others, and more in tune with the leadership of the Holy Spirit as I relate to those around me.
3. Tell us about the process of writing and publishing your e-book?
I wanted to write an ebook to give away as a thank you gift to those who subscribed to my monthly newsletter. BUT, I didn’t want to make something happen for the sake of self-promotion — bleck. So I waited on the Lord over it, asked Him to highlight something in my heart that might be helpful to others in their experience of Him. Annnnnd, voila – out came Stillness Manifesto.
It was by far the most “authoritative” tone I’d EVER written in at that point, and that scared my socks off at first. But as I began to share the book with a few people, they loved the tone of my writing and found the ideas in the book practical and helpful
Although by now I should have figured out how to put the book on Amazon, I haven’t. So here it sits, in obscurity — ha — and I’m kind of embarrassed about that. Need to put making it more widely available on my to-do list.
[Side note: If anyone who reads this has experience making an e-book available on Amazon – I’m all ears!]
4. What has been the most surprising thing about blogging? The best and hardest parts?
I think the most surprising thing, and the BEST thing, has been the relationships I’ve developed with other writers. When I first started blogging intentionally about a year and a half ago, I had no idea how much I’d need friendships like the ones I’ve developed through Five Minute Fridays and other places. Friendships with people who would get the “writerly” side of me and identify with me in the deep places where the Lord tends to do “surgery” on my heart via my writing.
Which actually brings me to the hardest part — letting the Lord have His way and saying what I really need to say, instead of only what’s comfortable for me to say. I struggle mightily with the fear of people’s opinions of me, my heart, my writing. Trusting Him to cover my heart, learning at a new level to live (and write) before Him and not before man, has been the hardest part — but also the most rewarding.
5. You wrote back in October about “connecting the dots between the technical and the spiritual” in writing. How has that carried over in the months since? What does writing look like for you now?
Ya know, I’m not sure I know. I know in recent posts I’ve leaned more toward throwing many of the “rules” I wrote about out the window in favor of diving deeper into purely discovering my writing voice at new levels and allowing more and more of my true heart to come out in my writing. For me right now, writing looks a little less edited (though I still do an abbreviated version of my write/re-write process) and a little more raw. A little less “rehearsed” and a little more brave. Just learning to be authentic in my writing at deeper and deeper levels. It’s scary and freeing and exciting, all at once.
6. How did you begin leading worship? Would you consider that a calling God has placed on your life?
I began taking piano lessons at age 8 and played classical piano till I graduated high school. As a teenager, I’d sit in my room behind a closed door and play and sing to the Lord for hours. As a young adult, I began to have opportunities to sing on worship teams at church, and eventually began playing and singing at the same time (which was scary!) as part of a worship band, then moved from there into being asked to lead more and more. Leading worship is a passion of mine and after 13 or so years of doing it, would ya believe I still get nervous?
I’d definitely consider leading worship (and songwriting too) a gifting and a passion that is core to who I am, an integral piece of the way God made me. My heart is fully alive before Him when I lead others into an experience of His heart in corporate worship, similarly to the ways my heart is alive as I write. I’ve realized in recent years that writing and leading worship come out of the same core desire in my heart — to see trust-barriers broken down between the human heart and the heart of God. To see people come into a deeper understanding and experience of God’s heart toward them. To see hearts set free to love Him and experience His love with abandon.
7. You chose “freedom” for your One Word in 2014. What do you hope to learn from meditating on the idea of “freedom?”
Well, the Lord has recently been revealing to me areas of my heart where I’ve not been free. Ways in which my fear of people’s opinions has kept me from being the truest, fullest version of myself. Areas where I’ve “shut up” and “toned it down” in order not to make people uncomfortable, or to avoid confrontation. This fear has infiltrated MANY areas of my life and I’ve only seen it clearly in the last few months.
My greatest hope, and what I’m ultimately trusting the Lord for in this season, is that I’ll grow this year in living more and more out of the core of who I am. That this will deepen my authenticity in my writing, my worship, my friendships, whatever ministry He allows me to have to the people in my life. God is already doing this “heart surgery” to remove fear, challenging me to be brave and give expression to what’s really in my heart, and I’m just asking Him for more freedom to be my authentic self over the coming months.
8. What would you say to someone who is currently struggling to work out the idea of being free, and how do you think the church has succeeded or failed to communicate that we are free in Christ?
Honestly, I think I’d want to take that person to coffee and ask a ton of questions. Any area where we’re in bondage is an arrow pointing to a place in our heart where we’re not fully surrendered to Jesus,not trusting the fierceness of His commitment to our hearts. This lack of trust and surrender is generally due to a misunderstanding of His heart toward us — some way in which the enemy has convinced us He’s not trustworthy. So I’d want to probe that person’s heart a while and dig down to root issues. To spend time sitting with that person, taking their hand and walking beside them to the cross to allow Jesus to begin to reveal His heart toward them and bring healing to those places where their perceptions of His heart were broken.
As for the last piece of your question — I think as the Western church we hear about freedom in Christ a lot, but the practical outworking of that — how to LIVE in the freedom Christ purchased for us at a practical level — is often fuzzy. Again, I really believe it boils down to the degree to which we understand and trust God’s heart toward us.
Example: In the areas of my heart where I’ve not been free, my primary struggle has been the fear of people’s opinions. In other words, “God, I don’t ultimately trust that Your opinion of me is what defines me and qualifies me. (I may know this in my head, but my heart doesn’t fully believe it yet.) I need people’s approval because Your approval isn’t enough to complete and satisfy my heart.” But it’s His blood — the price Jesus paid to ransom me — that defines me, that has established my value. Not what so-and-so thinks or says or concludes about me.
If we know the fierceness of God’s commitment to our hearts, our freedom, our utter fulfillment — then the freedom Christ purchased for us on the cross will begin to permeate those areas of our lives and fear will run screaming. Bam. Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
9. Do you have a life verse?
I had one as a teenager but I’d have to rethink that question now to see if the Lord would highlight a verse for me as I’m well into adulthood (insert snicker and snarky comment about gray hairs) and my walk with Him has changed and deepened.
But when I was 15 or 16, I found myself being made fun of and sometimes excluded because I was outspoken about my faith in Jesus. (Granted, looking back, I also came across as fairly self righteous and that’s likely the cause of some of said mocking/excluding.) My youth pastor suggested a verse that I could hold onto in those moments, and I still have it memorized — Romans 1:16 — “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to those who believe – first to the Jew, then to the Greek.”
10. Your writing displays such a mature faith. How long have you been a believer? Can you describe the moment in which you really “got it?”
I’m honored and humbled by your words here because at 33, I feel like I still have such a long journey ahead of me with Him. So much still to learn, so much of His heart I’ve yet to know.
I remember asking Jesus to “come into my heart” when I was 4 years old. My parents and my Sunday school teachers had taught me the gospel… and I remember knowing for sure that I’d sinned, needed a Savior, and did not want to go to hell. So into my little 4-year-old heart Jesus came, and He began to make Himself real to me. It was around age 17 that I began to own my walk with Him a little more deeply, and a lot of the “head knowledge” I’d had about Him for years began to sink down into my heart. I’d say my senior year of high school was when I began to know Him much more experientially. Since then, it’s been a journey of surrender that comes in layers as He pursues and draws me to let Him take me deeper.
This is your official reminder to hop over to Erin’s blog and read her answers to the questions I had for her. (Side note: I really like my questions. :)) Erin, you are a phenomenal question-asker :). I so enjoyed exchanging questions with you, girl.