Learning to Lay Down My Stone

There is a hard lesson that I have been learning lately.  It has to do with judgment.  There are some facts of life that are starting to come clear to me the older I get.  There are realizations I am having about myself that are very humbling.  I am discovering that life is not nearly as simple as I always thought it was.

As kids, teenagers, and into some of our adult years we see the world as black and white.  Things are either right or wrong.  The boundary lines are clear.  Someone likes you or they don’t.  A person is happy, sad, peaceful, or angry.  A musician has talent or they don’t.  People are either good or bad.

I am learning, however, that there is always so much more going on behind the scenes than we realize.  As a teller, sometimes a customer will come into the bank talking on his cell phone and I immediately classify that person as rude and inconsiderate.  What do I know about the situation or either person having the conversation?  Maybe someone’s mother died or his wife just lost her job.  How could I come to such a rash conclusion without truly knowing what is happening?

Sometimes I’m even tempted to judge people I spend a lot of time around, such as my coworkers.  It is one thing to draw conclusions about someone I do not know; it is another matter entirely to think that I know someone I really do not.  The truth is, no matter how well I think I know someone, there is always so much more that I am not aware of.  They may be acting in a manner that totally offends me.  How selfish is it to think that it is all about me?  99.9% of the time, it has nothing to do with me.

Life is not a straight-forward thing.  No one gets it right every time.  Sometimes, there is no right answer.  Sometimes there is more than one.  Sometimes good, better, or best are irrelevant; sometimes things are just the way they are, simple as that.  I have learned that life is neither fair nor unfair.  Life is just the way it is.  I have stopped blaming it for my unhappiness.

Probably the most life-changing lessons I have learned lately have been inward realizations.  I used to think that I was a pretty good person.  I used to think that I was dependable, responsible, and trustworthy.  I used to think in a prideful way that I was someone worth knowing because I had achieved a level of goodness that many had not.  What I have realized lately is that I am just like everyone else.  I have things that I am working through.  I have weaknesses I battle every day.  I am no different.

My cousin once said to me, “I have learned more from my failures than I have from my successes.”  The more I think about this, the more I come to find it is true.  When I look back over my life, especially in two significant ministry relationships, I can honestly say that I blew it.  I can pinpoint specific things that I did that damaged greatly a trust I had been given.  It seems to me that I should get better with time, but I am discovering this is not true.  In some ways I feel that I am getting worse.  I am discovering more and more every day that there are so many layers to myself.  There’s so much more to me, good and bad, than I ever knew before.

As I grow older, the challenges I face grow bigger.  Sometimes I want to say to life, “Slow down!  I didn’t quite get the last lesson right!  I’m not ready to move on to the next!  Can we go over that one again?”  It seems that every new step in the journey I feel even more unprepared for than I felt for the last one.  I don’t know if I make more mistakes now than I used to or if I am just noticing them more.  It seems every day I make bolder mistakes.  I say something completely rude that in the past I would never have dreamed of saying.  I gossip and I wonder what in the world would bring that out.  I never used to do that.  I talk badly about someone to my friends.  I carry grudges and hold anger in my heart toward people.  I am becoming far more judgmental of others rather than more understanding.  Who is this person I am becoming?  Is this the person I always was?  Am I stepping backward in my growth process?

I have always longed for and sought to do good with my life.  However, I am more and more aware every day of my capacity to do evil.  Before long I find myself spiraling out of control, and I lay myself before the throne of God, begging for His grace, forgiveness, and mercy.  Why is there so much bad in me?  Where did all of this come from?

Paul wasn’t kidding when he said that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.  I understand now what it means to say that it is only by the grace of God I am anything.  Without His strength and Holy Spirit in my life, I would continue to make bad decision after bad decision because that is my nature.  I cannot be good without Him.  There is no good in me apart from Him.

Probably one of the biggest learning experiences I have had occurred in the past few months.  God led me to work with a group, and I pursued it enthusiastically.  As time passed, and I sought to find my niche, I discovered that I could not find one.  This was so confusing to me, because I knew that God had led me to this group.  Eventually, after several doors closed, I finally sensed that God was leading me somewhere else.  I made so many mistakes in the whole process, even though the intention of my heart was right.  More than anything I wanted to follow God, and I believe that I did.  However, in the process I demonstrated irresponsibility and poor leadership among other things.  I lost the respect of someone I greatly admire because I did not handle the situation well.  I learned that even though my heart was in the right place, my actions demonstrated my immaturity.

I could make a case that I am young and inexperienced.  This is very true.  I am only learning how to follow God.  I stumbled around when I did not sense a clear direction.  I fell down a couple times, and it is tempting to not get up again.  Satan definitely would love for me to stay on the ground, wallowing in my insecurity.  However, God does not teach through insecurity.  This is not of Him.  He teaches through mistakes, failed ventures, and broken relationships.  He brings beauty from ashes as we learn wisdom, reliance, and forgiveness…not only for others, but also for ourselves.  There is absolutely no peace without forgiveness.

I am also learning that I am capable of so much more than I thought.  Through following God’s calling every step of the way, He leads me into new things that grow more and more impossible.  Coming through on the other side, I learned that I could do so much more than I thought before.  Had I not taken the step, I would never have known.  I often look back to the scared teenage girl I used to be, convinced that I would never amount to anything.  Then I see where I am today and remember all the amazing experiences I have had along the way.  Who would have known?  Who could have predicted that a depressed, insecure, and fearful girl would end up here today?  I have only one answer through my mistakes and successes:  only by the grace of God.  I don’t think it’s prideful in the least bit to recognize all the good God has been able to do in my life and through me.  I may be one fry short of a happy meal at times, but God can and has used this mess of a girl to bring Him glory.  I pray that He does so even more through me in the future.

In John 8:1-11, John tells a story of a woman caught in the act of adultery.  In this time, if anyone was found committing such a sin, the law gave orders that they must be stoned to death.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought this woman to Jesus to ask His opinion on what should be done.  They wanted to catch Jesus saying something that in that time was illegal, in order to arrest Him.  In this situation, they believed they had a clear-cut answer of what was right and what was wrong.

I often wonder what Jesus was drawing in the sand.  Was it a list of the sins of all those present?  Perhaps it was a simple giraffe.  Whatever it was, the words that came out of His mouth have been ringing in the back of my mind lately:  “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  One by one, each person laid down his stone and walked away until there was no one left standing with the woman but Jesus.

That woman was guilty, no doubt about it.  If we were totally honest right now, we would each admit that we all have found ourselves in her shoes at one point or another.  We have been guilty before a crowd of people who long to throw their stones of judgment at us, and they would be “justified” in doing so.  However, Jesus draws a picture of grace in the sand before us, calling all who might judge us to consider first their own guilt and shame.  We are all the same.  We are all guilty.  Only Jesus who lived life without sin has the right to pass judgment on us.  How humbling it is that when we find ourselves alone with Him after all our accusers have walked away, we do not stand condemned.  Rather, He offers us forgiveness.  He calls us to change.  That is true grace.

Just as we have been forgiven, we must learn to forgive others.  We must be slow to anger, frustration, and offense.  In contrast, we should be quick to give grace, understanding that there are circumstances beyond what we can understand.  We have no right to cast our stones on those around us who are just as guilty as we are.  Only God knows the plans He has for each and every one of us.  He delights in taking the people least qualified and calling them to do great things.  Who knows, but the person I least expected to change the world could be the one God calls to do it.  Who am I to stand in the way?  How could I ever know?

I am learning to lay down my stone that I so carelessly fling in all directions at times.  I am discovering that I know and understand so little, and it is a process figuring out how to deal with that.  I want to be a grace-giver rather than a judgment-assigner.  Could I walk away and let Jesus make the final call?  Lord, soften my heart to Your purposes.  Let forgiveness be my primary response to any offense, justifiable or not.  Take my stone away from me as I learn to be more like You.

Evangelism: Loving My Neighbor Next Door and Around the World

After work the other day I walked down to the liquor store.  I didn’t go to buy some wine or to check out the merchandise.  I walked in to see a good friend of mine that works there.  After talking with him, I went to hang out with one of my closest friends for the rest of the evening.  She is Muslim.  As the last few months have passed, I have developed such a love for these two people, and for many others in my life that do not know Christ.  Perhaps in times past I have not allowed myself to get close enough to care so much.

For the majority of my life, I have had mixed feelings about the concept of evangelism.  The picture in my mind was always of missionaries who went into a tribe to preach the Gospel, and in a year everyone was wearing jeans and a t-shirt just like them.  Church had the same liturgical style that the missionaries loved back home.  The natives stopped hunting and started farming instead.  Everyone was required to learn English and read the Bible in the King James Version.  They all basically gave up their culture for this “Jesus” that didn’t even sound like the Jesus I read about in the Bible.

What about evangelism in the States?  My mind goes immediately to door-to-door “three steps to know where you will spend eternity” pitches with people that have never met one another before and will most likely never see each other again.  Then I think about those outspoken types that everyone gets annoyed with.  You know who I’m talking about:  the kind that always speak their mind about everyone else’s business when everyone else knows that the one talking has more problems than anyone else they know.  Maybe the one talking is too “perfect”…too good to be true.  She has no sense of humor and cannot relate to normal people’s conversations.  None of these really seem appealing to me.  They make me feel uncomfortable.

I hate it when someone tries to tell me how to feel, and I hate it even more when someone tells me what I should believe.  I’m not a fan of sales people, because everyone knows they are only trying to sell you something to benefit themselves, no matter how much they smooth talk you into believing they want what’s best for you.  What’s the benefit of evangelism?  Well if I can convince you to believe something, then perhaps it would feed my ego.  If my church can convert more people than the church down the street, then we must be more in touch with God.  We must be holier than they are.  It is a sign that God is truly blessing OUR ministry.

Evangelism has always left a bad taste in my mouth, and whenever people have said that we’re going out to do evangelism, my stomach has turned because I feel like we’re entering like conquistadors into a place, seeking in essence to “conquer for Jesus”.  In the past when I have done it, that is how I felt.  What happens is, many people end up losing even more respect for Christians.  I can almost hear what they’re thinking:  we’re ok with what we believe, but it appears that you are not ok simply believing what you believe.  Why would you try to force your beliefs on us?

So I just accepted a position to move to South America for two and a half years to do what again?  Evangelism.  Sweet.  This is one of those things that if I were writing the story of my life, I would definitely not have included this one in the chapter list.  However, God wouldn’t let it go, and I love Him too much to refuse to do something that He has made it so clear He wants me to do.  If I could be honest for a few minutes, I will share how God is beginning to soften my heart toward something that I have been so hostile toward for many years.

Looking at how Jesus conducted His ministry for three years, there is such a stark difference between His style and so many of the styles I see churches organizing today.  Somehow, Jesus connected with people at their point of need, whether it was a health infirmity, a loved one in trouble, or a simple curiosity.  He found the place of their hunger and spoke truth where before there had only been empty rules and regulations.  People were attracted to Him because they knew that He cared about the things that mattered deeply to them, and also because He spoke a truth that resonated within the hunger of their hearts.

One of the things about Jesus that is so amazing is that He didn’t love people just so they would believe what He was telling them.  Obviously, He longed for people to accept truth, and He knew better than anyone the consequences of denying it.  What’s even more stunning is that Jesus didn’t try to talk people into believing the truth either.  If He did anything, He tried to talk people out of it (at least the ones who were only half serious about it).  Time after time someone would walk up to Him and say, “I will follow you wherever you go!” and Jesus would respond with a list of reasons why the person shouldn’t:  the person may not have a place to live or they might have to sell everything they have.  He was honest about the cost.  Jesus wasn’t looking to win everyone to His cause; rather He gave light to a people He loved who were surrounded by darkness.  He proclaimed undiluted truth that was more real than the impressive and obvious hypocrisy everyone was so used to seeing.  He knew that they were searching for something more, and He knew that He was the answer.

When I think about the love that Jesus had for everyone, that He would step out of the heavens, come as a little child, live with them and give His life at their hands, I am amazed.  Then I think to myself, do I love anyone that much?  Have I allowed myself to care about anyone besides myself to the degree that I would step out of the wonderful comfort zone that I have grown to love, enter into their world, live with them and give my life for them?  That is quite a sacrifice.  That is complete denial of myself, and as much as I talk about it in church or even in my blogs, I wonder if I have even scratched the surface of understanding such a love.  This is the same love that God is calling me to have and to show for the next two and a half years.  It’s not about conquering a neighborhood or a city for Jesus.  It’s not even about building a bigger church with more members than the next city over where people are doing the same thing.  It’s about learning how to love people like Jesus did.  It’s about taking on the heart of God and seeing these people through His eyes.  It’s about proclaiming raw truth to a society that has believed a lie.  It’s about bringing light to a people that have only known darkness.  And lest I start to believe that my great knowledge or belief system is the light these people need to see and the message they need to hear, may God humble me in any way necessary to understand that it is Him and only Him who will satisfy the deep hunger in their hearts.  It is His love, not mine that they need.

I want to love people like God loves them.  That is such a dangerous thing to say.  Surely it will break my heart day after day.  I know that I will wrestle inside and out with the darkness that has infiltrated lives for so long.  In many ways, God’s light is still breaking through the darkness in my life as well.  Despite how difficult I know it will be and the cost that Jesus has made so clear, I desire more than anything to know Christ and to become like Him.  I want to know His love and passion for the world; I want it to consume every part of me.  There is no place for lukewarm bodies in the Kingdom of God.  I can’t love Jesus and keep myself at a distance from those for whom He gave everything.  That just doesn’t make any sense. 

My prayer for the next two and a half years is this:  may God strip away everything in me that is not of Him and may He renew my passion for those who do not know Him.  May He use my life to proclaim truth in the midst of lies and shine His light in pitch-black darkness.  May His love fill me to the point of overflowing so that everyone He loves becomes everyone that I love as well.  I don’t want to operate from any other center.  I want to understand that evangelism is not about conquering the world and my meager efforts to “save the lost”.  Who am I to believe that I can “save” anyone?  Rather, it is about loving my neighbor next door and around the world.  It is about drawing so close to my Savior’s heart that others come to know Him simply by knowing me.  That is what I desire for my life.  That is the prayer that I have been praying.  Take from me whatever You will and send me wherever You will.  Help me to love like You.

Before You Decide That Following Jesus Is All Rainbows and Butterflies…

Today I announced publicly for the first time that in less than three months, I will be moving to South America for two and half years to do mission work.  I have been in the application process for over two months, and I just returned from spending several days in Kansas City interviewing for this position.  Today I told my bosses at both jobs and my coworkers.  I talked to my apartment complex and put in my notice.  I started the process of looking for someone to take over my lease.  With only a month left in Nashville, the time has finally come, and oh my goodness, I think I have to give reality some credit.

It’s like I keep swerving in and out of this reality.  One moment, I am making lists and figuring out what all needs to be done.  Literally the next minute I wonder if I’ve been dreaming and I go back through my emails to make sure I’m not going crazy.  Because it is all happening so fast, there is virtually no time to stop and think.  I have to hit the ground running, and the life that I had before is simply gone.  Part of me absolutely loves the adventure; another part of me wants to sit down and cry.

I’m not a materialistic person, and although stuff doesn’t matter to me much in general, I’m finding that it is still difficult to go through everything I own and start a preliminary sweep of all the things I won’t be keeping anymore.  I have to save only the things that have lifelong value and that store well.  I have to consider what little I can fit in a suitcase.  There’s something about this autonomy that I have fought to have that is so hard to give up.  In many ways it feels like I’m taking a step backward.  I didn’t realize that things like this would be so difficult.  In the past when I have done missions, not only did I not have this much stuff, but I also knew I would probably be coming back soon.  I didn’t have to consider what would last for several years in a storage unit until some unknown point in time when I might return.

Then there’s all the details that need to work out that really require God.  Most of those things include financial impossibilities.  Moving is expensive.  Breaking a lease is expensive.  Sending out support letters requires stamps, and that gets expensive really fast.  God must seriously be testing my faith, because I only have about $500 in my savings account.  I have literally no idea how I’m going to make it.  I have no clue how I’m going to transport the things I’m going to keep all the way back to Nebraska.  So far, it’s just me, and I can’t drive my car and another vehicle.  I don’t have money to rent a truck anyway.  God probably really likes times like this, when there is every reason in the world to fall flat on my face.  All I can see is the ground approaching quickly.

Be careful what you pray for.  I could pray for a lot of things that don’t matter, and it’s easy to accept when they don’t come to be.  I have found in my life that it’s a lot easier to deal with negatively answered prayers than positively answered prayers.  It is the moment I pray for patience that I find myself stuck in traffic.  I pray for courage, and God allows me to have health problems that lead me into deep waters.  I pray that God will give me strength, and things only grow more challenging.  I prayed to have a strong faith and reliance on God, and here He has responded with something that is so enormous and terrifying.  I feel like David standing in front of Goliath when all the soldiers around me have fallen trembling to the ground.  This is a moment of decision:  I could shrink down too, giving in, declining this opportunity, and settling once more into a life that is comfortable and safe.  Or I could stay true to what I know is God’s will.  It seems like the answer would be obvious.  I have discovered in this that I have never experienced anything that has tested my obedience and faith more.

Before you decide that following Jesus is all rainbows and butterflies, count the cost.  One aspect of doing God’s will that most Christians are aware of but none are totally prepared for is the spiritual warfare.  I have had my share of warfare in the past, but I have entered an entirely new dimension of battle now.  God has made it incredibly clear to me that this program is His will for the next step in my journey, and the Devil has been street fighting.  You always know it by the timing.  I will have a wonderful moment or even a wonderful day where it seems like the light from the sun is coming straight from heaven.  Then, like clockwork, a rock comes from nowhere and smashes into your head.  Discouragement and doubt can be triggered by comments from many different sources such as friends, family, and even other Christians that we deeply admire.  It only takes a phrase…a simple reminder…and your heart falls down.  This reminder triggers past experiences, relationships, and failures.  Satan drills into your head, “See, you’re such a failure!  You couldn’t even do that.  How in the world do you think you could possibly do this new thing that God has asked of you?  You’ll never make it.  You’re weak.”  You play the comparison game.  You are tempted to throw it all away and opt to hide in a hole for the rest of your life.  It sounds dramatic, but I think a few people know exactly what I’m talking about right now.

Reading the story of David and Goliath, I am fascinated by this bizarre faith that David portrays when he boldly says, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day, the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head…All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands (1 Samuel 17:45-46a, 47).”

As children in Sunday School, we are taught from this story that we should be brave, and we focus on the slingshot and the stone.  However, what stands out to me now more than ever is David’s boldness to stand before his towering enemy and narrate to him what the next and last few moments of his life are going to look like.  He proclaimed the outcome before he even knew if God would come through or not.  In the next moment, that little pebble could have bounced off Goliath’s forehead and Goliath in turn could have crushed David in the presence of all those people.  Now that’s not a story to tell in Sunday School.  What did David have that would possess him to be so bold in the face of such an impossibility?

How much courage would it take for me to look the Devil in the face right now and tell him that I come against him in the name of the Lord Almighty and that I will cut off his head?  The key to David’s courage and hopefully mine lies in the statement that follows:  “…it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s…”  What David is saying is that we operate in a different reality than God does.  We see problems as only having specific solutions, much like the Israelites and Philistines believed that swords and spears won battles.  However, this battle is not ours and it is certainly not the Devil’s.  The battle is the Lord’s.  He has already conquered.  He has already won.  To Him belongs the victory.  This is His stage and His drama.  This is His moment, and He is calling us…He is calling me right now…to step out on the stage in His boldness.

Following Jesus is not easy.  In fact, I think it is the hardest thing one could ever do.  There are so many other paths in my life that I could take that would be so much easier.  However, I would be missing out on so much of what God is doing in the world.  Complacency is not the life I’ve decided on.  I want to be on the front lines with a clear view of what’s going on.  I want to be in the midst of the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  I want to not only fight Goliath, but I want to cut off his head.  I’ll lay down my dreams of rainbows and butterflies for the treasure that’s in store…

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

Tonight I had a great heart to heart conversation with one of my good friends here in Nashville.  We shared many things that we have learned throughout our journeys in the struggles, questioning, and discerning of the callings God has placed on our lives.  In the midst of our conversation, we talked about an author we were both familiar with and a concept that she had shared in one of her books.  It seems that so many Christians have come to accept the familiar saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  Like this author, I have over the years come to find this statement false, especially during times when I am exactly where God wants me to be.

You might be thinking, “Chelsea, now you have really done it.  You have spoken heresy.  There is a verse in the Bible that clearly says God won’t give us more than we can handle!”  Just to clear the air, let’s take a look at this passage of Scripture.  1 Corinthians 10:12-13 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

This is such a fantastic Scripture, and one that every believer must come to understand.  Here inlays a bold promise of God.  The subject is temptation, and this concept is a very broad concept that I usually interpret as “attacks” from the Enemy.  There are many things that we are tempted in mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Almost immediately when we hear the word “temptation” we think of sex, and no doubt that is a big one.  However, temptation can occur in many other forms such as temptation to fear, to back down on a calling, or to give up on a project that God inspired someone to do.  It could be temptation to bend the truth to save face in a job situation or to try to cover up a mistake that could end in consequences.  Temptation takes on many forms.

It is important to note, however, that temptation always originates from Satan.  James 1:13-15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  The purpose of temptation is always to stand in the way of a genuine and growing relationship with God.  Satan will do anything to throw this off track.  However, this promise from God that the temptation will not be more than we can bear is a truth that we can take comfort in:  God will be faithful to give us strength and to provide us with a way out of the situation.

In essence, this verse is saying that Satan will never throw anything at us that we will not be able to handle in God’s faithfulness.  The flaming arrows from the Enemy must pass through God first, and God is always in control, even of the attacks from the Enemy.  We must hold true, and trust that God will give us everything we need to stand firm.  This is a promise that we can trust, and it is one that I have found to be true in many deep and dark times in my life.  Having gone through many seasons of temptation, I can honestly say that God used those moments, days, and years to make our relationship and my trust in Him stronger.

We have, however, taken this promise that we will not have more than we can handle and added something that is dangerously untrue.  We have concluded that it is God who will not give us more than we can handle.  Scripture clearly says that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, but it has proven time and time again through nearly every story of faith that God is in the business of giving His followers more than they can handle.  That should excite us, not scare us.  It is through this sacred trust that God draws us closer to Him.

In every calling, there are several crisis points when we find we have reached the end of our ropes and know that we cannot work any harder or follow any longer.  It is in those moments that we have a choice to make:  we can either quit or collapse at the feet of God.  This is where God meets us and begins the real work inside of us.  Many times, He needs us to reach our breaking point of all that we can do ourselves and to surrender to His limitless strength.  This is when He fulfills His purposes for our lives and ultimately for His Kingdom.

I am coming up on a big weekend where I will be facing some overwhelming possibilities.  I know two things beyond the shadow of a doubt:  this is exactly where God wants me to be and this is far too much for me to handle.  I have seen myself crumble in the past.  I have seen myself fail.  Satan reminds me of those times every waking moment.  However, I am depending on God’s strength every day to be able to take the steps He is leading me toward in order to do His will for my life.  I need Him to help me trust Him, that He can and will work everything out, even though the unknowns have proven to be daunting and downright scary.  I desperately need His help to carry me through.

Please pray for me that God will give me wisdom to discern His will and direction in the coming days.  Also pray that God will give me the strength to fight the temptation to shrink back in fear.  Pray that He will use my life as a testimony of His faithfulness.  I long to be close to Him, to be used by Him, and to be obedient every step of the way.  I will surrender myself to His higher plan that is far greater than anything I could dream up.  I thank Him for His calling that is so much more than I can handle, but truly possible in His grace.  This is the Great Adventure!

Forgiveness and Grace

I remember a time in my life when I couldn’t remember any serious sins that I had committed.  I would literally sit down and try to think of something.  It’s amusing to look back on those days, because now I can see so many things over the years that I wish I could take back; things that I have said or done that have torn friendships apart, ways that I have broken hearts, and situations where I definitely could have handled things much better.

It’s easy to recognize the sins that other people commit against us.  There are some significant ones in my past.  Many times those sins committed against me have in turn caused me to commit sins toward the first party.  Maybe I handled the situation the best way that I knew how, and perhaps so did they, but the truth that lies beneath it all is that we all have the potential to seriously mess things up.  We don’t always do the right thing, and no matter how much knowledge we might have of right and wrong, we still can and do make serious errors in judgment.

I look back over some of the things that I have done and think, “Wow, I didn’t even know I was capable of doing something like that.”  How do I keep from making those mistakes again?  It seems to me that often the harder I try to avoid these things, the more frequently I do them.  Suddenly I realize that I need forgiveness just as much as everyone else I have struggled to forgive in my life.

Thinking back over my past, especially in college, I hope that no one will hold the things I did and said against me.  I desperately hope that doesn’t define who I am.  I did the best that I could, but I had some stumbles along the way.  Honestly, I think this about every day.  “I hope that people don’t believe that yesterday was everything that I am.”  I know more today than I did yesterday, and I hope that I am growing.  I guess it is all a journey.

Jesus hit the nail on the head when He told us to forgive each other without keeping score.  If we kept track of every blunder, then surely each one of us would be out of chances before long.  There is not a person in the world who has lived a life without sin, and the one who thinks he has is blind.  Best efforts and intentions cannot keep a life pure.  It is only through living life with Christ that we can grow through each experience as we learn to not only acquire His wisdom for every situation, but also to administer mercy to others as well as ourselves.

I need to learn to suspend judgment on others and realize that they are walking a journey too.  They too know more today than they did yesterday.  Some people allow themselves to get stuck in cycles that leave them stuck in a perpetual breakdown.  In these relationships, I can either be a co-offender or an extender of grace.

One thing that I have had to learn is that forgiveness is not weak.  I may forgive someone of something, but because of the damaging nature of the cycle they are stuck in, I cannot allow them into my life, at least not in the capacity they used to be.  Forgiving does not mean forgetting; rather it means that we do not allow someone else’s actions to enslave us.  Trust is earned, and for good reason:  some people do not deserve our trust.  Through forgiveness, we do not hold an action against someone.  We choose not to keep score.  It is the first step in the process toward reconciliation, but it is not the entire process.

On the same note, grace is not weak.  Grace extends mercy that we do not deserve, and we all need yet do not deserve grace.  I must learn to extend grace to those around me.  True grace, however, is not a doormat.  Grace that is healthy encourages others to become healthy as well.  It involves boundaries and consequences.  It is sometimes tough love that must say no.  Grace holds true to a standard that is unshakable both for the grace giver and the grace receiver.  Every relationship, in order to be healthy, must have grace.  Sometimes grace is the hardest thing to give…and receive.

God offers us forgiveness and grace.  When we come to Him, He does not hold the past against us, but He also knows that we can be so much more.  God understands boundaries, and there is an unshakable standard that holds the relationship together.  He does not simply expect us to hold true to that standard; He has proven that He is true to that standard as well.  Grace as it is meant to be is transforming.  It is difficult.  However, for things to be right, it is necessary.

My God has forgiven me, and I am living in His grace.  This is a journey that I will be traveling my entire life.  Every day I am growing.  Every day I look a little more like Him.  I pray that as I have received forgiveness and grace, I can extend it to those around me.  I pray that others might extend it toward me as well.  This is what it means to live in community.  It is not easy; in fact, it is much more difficult to live this way than to live in endless cycles of dysfunction and brokenness.  However, there is fulfillment and joy in living life in the Spirit.  May more people come to know this truth.

Holy Distractions

So many times in my life I have sought after good things that have become holy distractions in my life.  They may begin as a true calling, and as I follow I find that it is the calling I love more than He who has called me.  There are times that He has blessed me, and I have loved the blessing more than Him.  I have let my imagination go wild down paths of beauty and love, dreaming of a place and time spent with someone.  I find I love the person in my dreams more than God.  I allow my desires to cloud my strong desire to follow Christ.  This song is a prayer that I prayed tonight that God might give me the courage to lay every holy distraction that has taken the throne in my life at God’s feet, that He might restore a passion to serve Him unhindered once again.  No matter how holy a dream may be, when it is loved more than Christ, it is a holy distraction.  May my heart be purified again.

Holy Distractions

Lord, I have again let my imagination run wild
And I have imagined myself in a place that I would love to be
Sweet dreams come true, someone to love
But that someone wasn’t You

I have gazed far into the future and placed myself
Amid the glories of respected names
And I discovered that deep inside the things I longed for in pride
Were everything but You

How could it have come to this?  Subtly the poison seeps in
The beauty of a good thing turned into a holy distraction
A blessing too idolized
Where have You gone?  I have fallen behind You…

I dreamed of flashes of lightning, courage unfailing
And a foe too impossible to resist
An adventure calling me forward, yet I’m empty inside
Because it’s the wind I’m chasing, not You

How could it have come to this?  Subtly the poison seeps in
The beauty of a good thing turned into a holy distraction
A blessing too idolized
Tell me where have You gone?  I have fallen behind You
Bring me home once more to Your sanctuary
Remind me once again of the first Love of my heart
Help me to see the greatest dream that could be
Is You

I don’t want to wake up one day to find I’m so far away
From the passion we once carried each and every day
I don’t want to miss the moments, the years
The fantastic battles and tears
Because I could not wait to receive Your best
How could I settle for less?

Don’t let anything become a holy distraction

Bring me home once more to Your sanctuary
Remind me once again of the first love of my heart
Help me to see the greatest dream that could be
The most wonderful dream that could ever be
Is You

Blessing Not-So-In Disguise

Yesterday was an interesting day.  I’d been having some car issues for about two weeks.  In the beginning my brake light came on, so we checked the fluid and it was low.  Added fluid, light went off, all was great.  A week later, brake light came on again.  I called my friend and told him the problem, and we scheduled a time to take it to a shop yesterday to see if there might be a leak in a break line.  We met at 8:15 at the shop and started off a great Saturday.

Because there was a wait time, my friend…let’s call him Bob…decided that we should drive down to the Starbucks up the road to grab some coffee while we waited.  While we were there, the shop called and told us to come back over there, so we jumped in the car to head back and…the car that we had been driving was dead.

Now, the car didn’t actually belong to…Bob.  It belonged to our other friend…let’s call him Larry.  He picked up the phone and Bob started off the conversation with the words that every friend wants to hear:  “Hey!  Remember how you left your car at my place last night?”  While Larry came over with another car, I walked over to the car parts store to get price estimates on the parts needed to fix my car.  When I returned, we swapped to Larry’s other car and headed back to get mine while Larry fixed his first car.

It turns out that my car was worse than I expected and I was advised strongly not to drive it.  Therefore, I drove it home and basically couldn’t drive it anywhere else until I got it fixed.  My friend…let’s call her Natalie…offered to let me borrow her car until my friend Bob could fix mine.  Even though I had to call in to my Sunday job, it turned out that I was able to go to church this morning instead.  My friend Bob and his wife came and picked me up and we headed that way.  Some other friends gave me a ride back.  What an incredible thing to experience.  I have never been so thankful for car trouble in my life.  I wouldn’t have traded this blessing not-so-in disguise for the world.

This morning we talked about something that was very fitting to my situation, and it was something that I needed to be reminded of at this point in my journey:  community.  All of the aforementioned people with their pseudo names are a part of our Sunday School class, and I knew that I could call on them to help me if I was ever in trouble.  It turns out that this was the point when I really needed them, and they came through with flying colors.  I realized this morning how blessed I am to be a part of a community that lives out the things that we talk about.  We live life together.  We share each other’s burdens and we celebrate together.  I can’t get past the feeling that this is a taste of what Jesus had in mind for the church.

It may seem like such a little thing, but it really meant the world to me.  What means even more to me is to know that my friends have my back not just in practical matters such as my car or rides to and from church, but also in life.  Some friends of ours are struggling with a decision of whether or not to move somewhere to start a new phase in their ministry.  We are covering them in prayer.  I am facing some personal things here in the coming days that are very difficult and exciting.  In many ways that I cannot share at this point, it has been difficult, but how amazing it is to have a group of people that share your passion and believe in your dreams with you.  All of us want what is best for everyone else in our group, even if it means that we will be moving far away from the group or taking a different direction.  We are all serving Christ together in relationship with Him and each other.  It’s such a beautiful thing.

As we talked in church this morning about living in worship and going out into the world in mission, we were each reminded in personal ways of our callings.  I was challenged to continue down the path I am headed and to not be afraid, even though I may not have all the support I feel that I need.  I was reminded this morning how blessed I am to have this group of friends that has walked with me and stood by me through the process.  I have everything I truly need.  Now is where the rubber meets the road and I must choose to be courageous. 

This isn’t the most eloquent of blog posts that I have had, but I wanted to thank everyone in my Sunday School class for their support through this small situation and the bigger one as well.  Your prayers and encouragement mean more than you know.  You truly have shown me what it means to be the Body of Christ outside the walls of a building we occasionally call church.  You have shown me what friendship is all about.  Moving out to Nashville without knowing anyone was a scary thing, but you took so much of the pressure off as you offered yourselves to me in friendship and any other thing I might need.  Just knowing that someone was there gave me so much peace and confidence.  God brought you all into my life at just the right time, and I thank you for including me in the group and allowing God to use you in so many ways in my life and the lives of so many others.  It is encouraging to know that the first century Church is not an extinct concept.  I have seen it lived out in each of you.

What a wonderful thing it has been to know you.  As I read this over, it sounds like I’m leaving or something.  That is not my intended voice here.  I simply wanted to take an opportunity to express my gratitude and appreciation for everything you have done and who you are.  You are a blessing to me.

Find Rest, O My Soul

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.” –Psalm 62:5

I don’t exactly know what it is about this verse that makes me so angry.  Perhaps it is the clear command for my soul to find rest.  Why?  To what end?  I could blame my need for constant activity on a society focused on accomplishment.  The pace at which almost everyone I know lives their lives is enough to send someone to their grave at an early age.  It’s no wonder so many people have unidentifiable diseases and conditions:  our bodies are under constant stress to the point that it seems we have no control anymore.  We live our lives enslaved to obligations and basic human needs are left in the dust.

I don’t know how many meals I’ve skipped over the years because I’ve either forgotten to eat or run out of time.  I lost count of how many weeks I’ve worked all seven days.  Even though the entire time I’m doing it I am thinking about how much I hate being so busy, it’s like an addiction; it’s a drug.  I can’t stop.  Why do I feel that I need to maintain an impossible pace in life?  At which point am I going to crumble into a million pieces?

When I look deep inside, I think a lot of this is driven by fear.  I am afraid of being lazy.  I look at people that have not amounted to much in their lives because they are couch potatoes or settle for a menial job for their entire lives when they could have done so much more.  I don’t want to turn out like that.  I am afraid of wasting time.  I feel that in order to be an accomplished person, I must be with people all the time, building relationships and working toward something meaningful.  I am afraid that if I said “no” to an invitation to a social outing that I would be considered a recluse and, for lack of a better word, anti-social.  In the times that I have managed to say “no”, this is exactly how I have felt.  I am afraid that if I say “no”, they’ll stop asking me.  I’m afraid that ultimately I will end up alone.  Part of me longs so desperately to be a part of something; the other part of me is so exhausted it doesn’t know which way is up.

Another trap that I have found that has contributed to this endless cycle involves having a lot of interests and wanting to pursue them all.  I am a dreamer, and I have so many ideas and plans that I can’t afford to stop for a moment in my crusade to truly live.  We only live for approximately 100 years; 20 of those years we are growing up, and the 20 or so at the end we are not able to do very much because physically our bodies start to shut down.  Therefore, that leaves 60 years to experience it all and change the world.  We’d better get started.  I like music, art, movies, writing, travel, etc. and I must do it all.  What on earth is the Bible talking about in finding rest?  I don’t have time to rest.  I’ll sleep when I die.

Perhaps this has contributed to the worsening of my ADD symptoms and occasional twitching.  I realized yesterday when I was in Starbucks that the cashier had ample reason to believe that I was psychotic.  My eyes wouldn’t stop darting from one place to another quite rapidly, and I could not maintain eye contact or carry on a basic conversation.  I was so incredibly tired that my body had gone into hyper vigilance mode.  It was such a weird feeling, but I’m sure it’s a natural defense mechanism.  Hot chocolate brought me out of it temporarily, but the true problem lies in the fact that I cannot relax.

Find rest, my soul.  Where are you hiding?  I sit down to spend time with God, and so many thoughts flood through my head, I cannot even carry one to completion.  I become so overwhelmed that I have to walk away.  I escape into my imagination where my mind is just as busy.  Rest?  I hardly understand the concept anymore.  I can sometimes sit down and watch a movie all the way through, and once in a while I can pick up a book that helps slow down my heart rate, but not for long and I am not truly resting.  I sit on my patio and watch the sun rise while the birds chirp away and the moment feels wonderful, but I cannot stick to it.  Something inside of me is terrified.  I must leave and go do something.  Do what?  I don’t know…but something.

I wonder if maybe the Enemy of our souls has us in the palm of his hand.  He doesn’t need to convince us that God isn’t real or that He doesn’t want what’s best for us.  All the Enemy has to do is keep us so busy and worn out that we don’t have time to think about it.  It’s like showing a dog his tail and encouraging him to chase after it.  By the time we realize that we have been spinning in circles and going nowhere, we don’t have anything left and our tails hurt because we just did it to ourselves.

The church is a great place to witness this.  Especially for women, it is considered spiritual to be on every committee and to be as involved as possible.  We must be at all the luncheons and Bible studies.  If we can sing, it is expected that we be on worship team and in the choir, and on top of that we must teach Sunday School for the first graders.  The most unnatural thing I have ever done is to attend my church and only be involved in Sunday School.  I felt like such a heathen.  I felt guilty.  Even though I was ultimately taking care of myself and protecting my sanity, I viewed myself as an undedicated Christian.

Busyness is bad enough, and then we spiritualize it.  We say that God desires everything from us, so therefore we must sacrifice ourselves for His Kingdom.  We must spend all our time doing all we can for Him.  When we find we cannot go at full-speed all the time, we conclude that we are weak and that we don’t have enough faith.  We pray for strength to do all that we think that God is asking of us, when what He really desires from us He never gets from us because we are too busy doing things “for Him”.  We are never fulfilled.  By the time we realize what has happened, we find that we have constructed our own idea of who God is, but the real One we do not know.  Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Wouldn’t that be the worst thing that could ever happen to a person?  A woman spends her life slaving away in the church, wearing herself out for all the programs and activities it offers, and when she finally stands before Jesus, He tells her that He never knew her?  To us, that is the most angering thing that could be said.  She earned that reward!  She deserves to be praised, not sent away in shame.  What kind of loving and gracious God could do that?  Surely He is rational and understanding and will let her in.

However, God’s grace isn’t something someone can earn.  The well-known passage of Scripture we usually quote with this concept is Ephesians 2:8-9:  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”  The passages we often miss are ones like Matthew 6:26, 28:  “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?…See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”  We read this passage and know that we should not worry, but do we understand that God lavishes His love and provision on His children, not because we have proven ourselves to Him, but simply because we have great worth as His creation?  Simply because He loves us?

God knows us inside and out.  There is no need for us to prove ourselves to Him.  There is no worth that we can earn that we do not already have in His eyes.  He loves us with an incredible passion and He calls us to live in the presence and fulfillment of this love.  1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  In other words, it is meaningless!  All of our striving, all of our work, all of our sacrifice…for nothing.  One of the sweetest passages in the Old Testament is Hosea 6:6, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.  I want you to know me<sup value="[b]”>more than I want burnt offerings.”  God wants us to KNOW HIM.  We cannot give God anything that He does not have; all that exists is His.  We cannot offer Him a service that He needs, because He has everything He needs.  Our lives are about His desire for us to be in relationship with Him and our deep longing and desire to be in relationship with Him too.  He desires us, and He created us to desire Him too.

I know that God desires for me to do great things, as He has a purpose for each one of our lives.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  However, I cannot follow His will for my life if I do not know Him.  I can read the Bible and all kinds of spiritual books all day long, create my own idea of what God wants, and put my everything into seeing it through, but if I do not know Him, then everything I do is meaningless.  How can I know His will if I do not know Him?  Life is not about what we do; it is about who we are and how close we are to Christ.  Do we know Him?  Do we stop our busyness long enough to know Him?

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone…”  Until I can live my life in response to God rather than an obligation to Him, nothing I do will matter; and I cannot live in response to Him if I am not close enough to Him to hear His voice.  I don’t want to wear myself out for Him, giving all my time and energy to a program or another good thing.  I don’t want to be sent away from His presence at the end of my life, having sacrificed it all for nothing.  Like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, can I rest in the knowledge that my hope and faith are secure in Christ?  Can I settle down long enough to see that God delights in my blessed unproductiveness as I soak up His presence and drink the living water of His love?  Can I lay down my expectations and my desire to be admired long enough to see that I mean everything to God?  Who else’s opinion of me matters?  I don’t need to accomplish anything for my life to matter.  The truth has already been spoken:  “…my hope comes from Him.”

The Easy Road

This past year has been one of intense learning, growing, and developing for me.  I have taken big risks in faith trusting that God would come through, and I have watched Him work miracles.  I am learning to communicate better with my friends and family.  However, probably the most significant thing that God has been doing in my life recently is helping me to develop confidence in who I am and encouraging me to develop my talents and skills.  I have spent my life hesitating on my long-term goals, taking risks in some areas, but only those that were short-term and a safe distance away from my core.  When it comes to believing and accepting the talents that I have been given by God, I have been afraid like the third servant in Matthew 25.  I hid my talent in the ground.

There are a few long-term goals I have, such as working with children, living on the mission field, and participating in orphan care somewhere in the world.  One long-term goal that God has been pressing on my heart for years is to be an author.  Some people write maybe a book or two in their lifetimes focused around certain events or tragedies that have occurred in their lives.  My calling, however, is more of a beckon toward a secondary career.  It is one that God will use in conjunction with whatever ministry job He has me doing in the world throughout my life.

Fear is an amazing thing, because it gives us an excuse to be lazy and watch our lives pass us by.  All we have to do is wait one more day…every day, and all of a sudden we realize that half our lives are gone and we had so much potential that we wasted.  I struggle to use the word potential, because it sounds so individualistic and anti-faith, but I am going to be bold and stand by it.  God has given us gifts and talents, and He is not the only One that has to do the work.  He doesn’t simply place a calling on our lives, wave His magic wand, and we are suddenly accomplished.  He entrusts us with something that we must nurture, cultivate, and work toward.  I can say with near absolute certainty that anyone who has ever tried to be an author will say that it is incredibly difficult and takes a lot of hard work.  In many ways I wonder if I am smart enough to do something like that, but I know that God would not call me to something that He won’t equip me to do.  I must trust Him to make me ready each step of the way.

The easy road would be to simply continue doing what I’m doing:  going to work and coming home and watching Netflix.  It is a simple life, and there is a certain contentment in simplicity.  However, I don’t want to live my life wondering “What if?”  What if I had actually done what I daydreamed about for years?  I would never know what I could have done because I never tried.  If I truly believe that anything is possible with God, and I understand that God is calling me to a certain purpose, then I must be capable of so much more than I think I am and I need to stop selling myself short.  God will not lead me anywhere that He will not see me through.  Psalm 138:8a says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.”  This is a promise.  I must be obedient in my response.

I am taking the leap.  I am putting myself out there.  God will determine the outcome.  Every day I will choose courage instead of fear.  I will work hard at what it is that God has placed in my hands.  With His strength, I will face each challenge as it comes.  I am going to be focusing heavily on my blog, and I have made a few inquiries with people I know who may be aware of writing opportunities.  I want to write on spiritual topics and assist ministries in their endeavors.  Looking at my writing, I see much room for improvement, and I need feedback from experienced writers and editors to help me develop my skills.  I need practice with a variety of different styles.  If you are reading this and you are aware of someone who would like to talk to me, please leave a comment on my blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.  I am looking forward to seeing what God will do.  I am excited about the relationships that will be made along the way.  I am choosing to abandon the easy road for the rocky one.  I believe it will be worth it.

Step By Step

The calling of God is a curious thing, and many have attempted to explain it over the years.  It is amazing to me how explainable yet unexplainable it really is.  For me, it is something that is established so deeply inside of me that it is more a part of who I am than everything I think I am.  To go against this calling would be to deny my very purpose…the very definition of who I am.  Over the years, I feel that I have come closer to scratching the surface of this core, but it is a process that will take my entire life.

It’s like a reality that is more real to me than the things I see, touch, and taste every day.  However, it is also more mysterious to me than the prize hidden behind door number two.  It is a question that only my Creator can answer, and one that He answers His own way.  The answer is not simple; rather, it is the most complex mystery man can ever face.  To try to, in a sense, “figure out” the will of God, man would drive himself crazy.  However, Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 that we are called to do just that:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

There are some things about God’s will that are clear as crystal.  It is God’s desire that everyone would come to know Him and experience His love for them.  It is God’s longing that we would all be united in heart and mind as we seek His face.  He calls us to love mercy, act justly, and to walk with Him in humility.  These are irrevocable truths and apply to everyone.  The difficulty then lies in the part each of us plays in the great plan.  We all have a purpose, and we are all aware that somewhere deep inside we have a purpose, but tapping into that purpose is something that we all wrestle with.

There are several keys that I have found to understanding our “calling” in life.  These keys have got to be the most frustrating things I have ever come to know, yet they are lovely beyond comparison.  They are what have led me to the plot of land where the pearl of great price is buried.  It is that pearl that I would give everything I have to possess.  Unlike anything else in life, it is worth everything I have and so much more.  I do not deserve it.  I cannot give or do enough to earn it.  However, by the grace of God, we are given this gift.

It is a gift, yet it will cost you everything.  I am beginning to wrap my mind around what it means to give everything.  It is not simply a matter of selling everything in my apartment.  It also involves being willing to leave my family behind, to give up my reputation, and to sacrifice my dreams to a will that I do not understand.  As anti-normal as this might sound and believe me, it is fantastically confusing:  there’s nothing in the world I want more than to surrender myself to God’s purpose that is so much bigger than me and deeper than I can comprehend.  It sounds like enslavement, but it is true freedom.

The first key to understanding our purpose is the reality that we were made to know God and to be in relationship with Him.  So many people I have met over the years inside churches and outside churches misunderstand this most important key.  It is not about “religion” which involves a set of rules, habits, and rituals we need to carry out.  It is about truly knowing God; seeking Him with all of our heart.  Imagine Almighty God of the Universe allowing Himself to be known by someone as insignificant as you and me.  The moment we think we have grasped a hold of what this means is the very moment we have lost touch with this truth.  It is a wonder and a grace that we cannot take for granted.  So many people live their lives dedicated to church programs, wearing themselves out trying to find what has been offered to them freely all along:  a relationship with our Creator.

Another key is understanding that we are the ones being pursued.  We are on the receiving end of all of this.  God has already made the first move, and He continues to do this throughout our lives in big and in small ways.  He is the ultimate man, always taking the initiative toward the ones who He delights in:  us.  We must learn to live in response to Him.  I have struggled throughout my life with this concept, because there have been times when I felt that God was doing nothing; moments and years that were seemingly empty.  Some call this the Great Silence of God.  I prayed and He didn’t answer.  I sought but I didn’t find.  Waiting for Him seemed like the greatest waste of time.  I continued to seek after Him, however, with a desire to know Him and to please Him and I found that God never wastes time or sorrow.  It was during these times when I heard nothing that I found He was doing His greatest work yet.  He was still initiating.  He was still pursuing me.  I needed to learn to trust His hand in the dark.

Yet another key to our purpose is knowing this truth:  God IS Creator.  He did not simply create the world in six days in the beginning and quit.  He is constantly creating.  I have yet to see two sunrises alike.  No two snowflakes have been found to be the same.  Each fingerprint holds an identity.  Beyond these simple wonders, I have discovered that I am being changed every day.  As I learn more about God and seek Him with all that I am, I find that it is He who is creating the masterpiece inside of me.  There are places of my heart that even I am unaware of, but they are not hidden from God.  He is aware and He is active with every brushstroke, every painful refining, and every splash of color.  It has only been since I have settled down in my striving to do this, that, or the other thing (and many of those things I thought I was doing FOR Him) that I have discovered the ultimate peace and joy in sitting at His feet and watching all that He is doing.  I love being in on the great secret.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Talk about one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible.  Two concepts we must learn to understand before we take this completely out of context:  what does it mean to delight ourselves in the Lord?  What are the desires of our hearts?

Delighting ourselves in the Lord involves living every moment with the awareness that we are His delight.  It is understanding that we are not human DOINGS but rather human BEINGS.  Just like Mary sat at Jesus’ feet while Martha focused on the chores, we must discover the peace that is offered to us in simply being with Him.  At times it feels unproductive and wasteful.  We are such a results-driven society.  However, God is not simply about the result.  He is also about the process.  He is completely about the relationship.  How many times do I stop to listen to the birds sing outside my window, or pause to watch the fireflies dance under the trees?  I could accomplish much more than anyone expected out of me and miss the heart and beauty of God.  To miss His heart is to miss the desires that He has placed in ours.

How do you explain a heart’s desire?  It goes beyond something we want.  In fact, we can want a lot of things that deny our heart’s desire.  We must learn to get beyond the petty things that seem so important to us at times.  The real treasure is unveiled slowly, dramatically, and timely.  It is a mystery that is hidden from us for a time.  Once we have seen it, we know that we have longed for it every day of our lives.  It is a homesickness that grows stronger the closer we draw to its revealing.  It is something so deeply personal that no one can show you except your Creator who placed it inside of you the moment He first thought of you.  It is something you cannot exaggerate or over-expect.  We have no idea how to expect something so beautiful.

So I follow Him step by step.  I walk with Him step by step.  There may or may not be ground beneath my next one.  It is a dangerous journey that will without question be painful and without a doubt cost me everything.  However, there is no treasure greater than knowing God and being known by Him.  I have no idea what the future holds.  If I could see much further into the future, I might take off running and miss the beauty in the One that I am walking beside.  It is not about the destination like I thought for so long.  It is not even about the steps along the way.  It is all about my Companion.  The desires of our hearts are not about an accomplishment, but rather they are a gift.  It’s learning to relish in His smile.  It is dancing is His embrace.  There is so much more to this journey that I am discovering every day.  I am enjoying every moment and I wouldn’t miss this for the world.
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