run with endurance {a tribute}

For the last five months a dear sister-friend of mine battled a viscous form of leukemia. She spent the vast majority of those days in hospital rooms being poked and prodded by nurses. And by God’s grace, I had the privilege of witnessing her faithful fight to the end. She crossed over to be with Jesus last weekend, leaving behind her husband, her two young kids, her extended family, and many friends.

Today her family will receive friends and tomorrow those who loved her will celebrate her life, cry for the gaps her death will leave, and stir up hope and joy that she is with her Lord, one day to be seen again.

For now I process. I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

 

run with endurance

 

Her story is not mine to tell. So I won’t give you details of her powerfully influential life. But maybe just maybe the stuff God is stirring in me as a result of her passing will encourage or inspire or challenge you. So. I write.

I’ve walked through the valley of death before — the most difficult being my dad dying when I was 19. But every death experience presses uniquely on the people affected. I don’t claim any understanding of what it’s like to lose a child or to lose a spouse or to lose a sibling. Or what her sweet family is specifically feeling during these dark days. My prayers continue and continue for each of them. I’m simply sharing what God is doing in me in this specific loss of this specific friend. No more. No less.

  1. Life is short. I know we don’t like to think about the brevity of life. But wow. This life is a breath. Five months ago she would have never ever guessed that this would be what February 2015 would hold. We only have a few minutes on this planet. And her passing has reminded me afresh not to waste the time I’ve been given. Not to waste the health I’ve been given. Not to waste the relationships and gifts I’ve been given.
  2.  

  3. Stop with the excuses. There are a few things that God has placed in me to do or create. And I know that I know that I have at times made excuses in my not following through. Netflix does that to me. True, God’s timing is perfect. True, He is sovereign. But while this urgency is burning in me, I’m crushing the excuses and simply saying, “God, use me however You will. No excuses. I’m Yours.”
  4.  

  5. This world is not our home. This world is broken. It’s sick. It’s diseased. It’s longing for full redemption. Our hope is not found on this earth. Our hope is found in our Maker. In Christ, we’re sojourners here. When we set our desires solely on temporal things, we will live a disappointed existence. But when we set our hearts and our minds on eternal things, hope rises. Endurance wells up. Soul victory comes.

My friend is in the “far better” place, as Paul says in Philippians. (Philippians 1:21-23) She is. Just as that person you love who died in Christ is in the “far better” place. So until we see them again, let’s run this faith race with endurance. Let’s love hard and live well. Let’s not forget why we’re here.

 

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:21

 
In honor of Bethanne Jennings — You fought the good fight. You finished the race. Well done, good and faithful servant of Jesus.
 

meet my idols

I’ve been asking God a tough question lately: “Lord, what am I chasing other than You?” Or in the less politically correct verbiage, “what are my idols?”

You know me. Always full of light conversation over here on the blog.

I mentioned that my word for 2015 is “deeper.” Wanting God to take my faith deeper, my intimacy with Him deeper, my experience of His presence deeper. But going deeper means He has to shed some stuff from my heart. Because we can’t go deeper if we’re clinging to something other than Him to give us life.

So I’ve asked Him to show me my heart. Which is always a slightly scary prayer. And He’s been showing me some things about myself — things that steal joy or peace or freedom.

 

meet my idols

 

One idol that He has revealed is the idol of my reputation. {insert dramatic organ music here.}

My dinky. little. reputation. Which I would assume is linked to the other idol of wanting the approval of certain people. Which is just a twisted desire considering that the God of the universe wants to be in relationship with me (and you) and the voices of man can’t change who we are in Christ. How could our confused heart want anything more than that?!

I’ve seen my spirit get a little panicky when I hear through the grapevine that someone has misrepresented things I’ve said or misunderstood my intentions. But it isn’t a holy, selfless panicky feeling — like I want to make sure God is represented well. It’s a selfish, self-preservation feeling — like I want to make sure I am represented well.

Yet the One I follow was reviled but didn’t revile in return. He was misrepresented and betrayed. He was lied about and spit upon. All the while entrusting Himself and His reputation to the Father. He didn’t scrounge to defend His glorious name — though He had every right to do so as the majestic Son of God. He didn’t feel sorry for Himself when people rejected Him. He communed with the Father and released Himself to Him.

 

“When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
(1 Peter 2:23 ESV)

 

There was and is only one Jesus and we obviously aren’t Him. Can I get an amen? But in Christ we’ve been sealed with His Spirit. He indwells the believer. And His will for us is that we find our life and pleasure and fulness in relationship with the Father.

In Tim Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness — yep. I’m still reading. Miracles do indeed happen. — Keller talks about how Paul lived out of his identity in Christ. Paul didn’t care what people thought of him. He didn’t even care what he thought about himself. He didn’t link his sin or his accomplishments to who he was. He lived out of the truth: I am a child of God in whom my Father is well pleased because of Jesus.

So today I confess my lovely heart issues to God in your (virtual) presence — acknowledging that the approval of man is a worthless pursuit. And I ask Him to cleanse me — healing those deep places of my heart that are still tempted to look to mere humans to gain pieces of my identity.

And I challenge you to ask yourself the same question. What are you chasing after other than God? This is when you probably wish that this was a cooking blog.

 
Fill me, Lord…

OK brave daughter of God, what is He wanting to shed from you these days?
 

worth the wait (…really?)

You know when you haven’t talked to a real-live adult person in a while and when you finally get together you overwhelm them with thousands and millions of words and you barely come up for a breath and they want to run and hide? Well, that can also happen to me with blogging.

If I haven’t blogged in a while, I have thousands and millions of things spinning around in my head to tell you. So I start typing one thing and then another thing comes to mind then another. Then I START USING ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION MARKS because I’m usually drinking coffee when I write. Then I erase it all and start over. Or I tell you this kind of nonsense.

*Ahem.* Reigning it in. Reigning it in.

I’ve had a fairly slow, purposeful start to my year when it comes to my walk with God. I’ve been reading. And reading some more. And talking to God about it all. And being pressed in real life to see if I actually believe the things I’m reading.

The latest reading/conversing with God is often about a book I’m reading called Man Overboard! by Sinclair Ferguson. (Which, for the record, feels so good to say, “A book I’m reading…” Because if you know me personally you know that I’m not a big reader. I can read. I write books. But usually I read about 3 chapters of a book and then move to the next book. Not this year. Not 2015. No, ma’am. I’m turning to the last page, people. See my queue in the sidebar? –> Big strides.)

ANYWAY…Man, Overboard! is based on the life of Jonah. And it’s rocking my little selfish world every time I open its pages. Yesterday in my reading, Ferguson referenced Psalm 106. So I turned there all non-chalantly. And three little verses did me in.

 

great are his ways

 

Seriously. Chills.

I’ve been asking God to take me deeper in 2015. This life’s too short to stay where I’m at or where I was in 2014 or 2013. But going deeper means real life situations and struggles that stir up my own mess in order that He can shed more of me. Painful.

These three verses gave me a glimpse of those “deeper” waters. They hit me so hard because I don’t want that to be my story. I don’t want to demand things from God because the “wilderness” is too hard, only to find He gives the things I’m demanding while also sending a “wasting disease” into my soul.

 

But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.
(Psalm 106:13 – 106:15)

 

I’ve walked that road — receiving what I demanded. I’ve done that and have the t-shirt. Well, I shredded the t-shirt because it was stupid. It isn’t fun. God has given me things or allowed me to walk into situations where I’ve “taken the bait” only to end up with a desolate soul heading for Tarshish (for those who can appreciate a Jonah reference). And it isn’t worth it.

Bottom line, God’s plans are good. They’re usually hard. They’re usually impossible to walk apart from Him. But they’re good — in the eternal, God-glorifying, complete dependence upon Him kind of good. When we learn to rest there — communing with Him and then trusting Him to guide our feet even if it means walking a little longer in a “wilderness” — we experience the intimacy with Him that He created us to experience. When we’re not fighting against Him, but rather jumping into the river of His sovereign will, we get a small taste of our inheritance.

This life’s too short for mediocrity. It’s too short to demand my own ways when all the while God sees the beginning from the end, hears my prayers, and knows what He’s up to. He sits enthroned above it all in perfect, pursuing love and has plans for His glory and my good. Deep breaths. Open hands.

This year I’m asking God to take me deeper. Which means…well…I’m not sure what it means. But I know it means submission to His plans, even when they’re hard, rather than demanding my own way. And I know the end result will be the lasting good — the kind of good that human hands can’t measure.

 
Fill me, Lord…

What’s your 2015 “theme” or prayer?
Reading any good books these days?