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?

 

here it is. true freedom.

A number of years ago I said a prayer. And I meant it. I told/asked God with deep conviction, “Lord God, I see that everything comes back to love. Everything. So I’m yours. Teach me how to truly love.” What I didn’t know at that particular moment in time was that my selfish heart took a major blow that day. And in its short-sighted, self-protective, natural stance, it hates it when that happens.

But freedom to truly love means our selfish heart has to lay itself down.

 

love presses in

 

Years later, I’m still still being refined. I’m still learning what it means to truly love. I’m still learning how to crucify the self-life. I’m still learning how to be so satisfied in Christ — so totally complete in Him — that loving others has no strings attached and no expectations for the other person to meet. A continual, beautiful, sometimes painful, but always glorious journey.

So the other day God peeled back yet another layer of my heart when it comes to love. One of our pastors was preaching from Matthew 7. He read Jesus’ words, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Then he compared this “positive” command — “do to others” — with the “negative” version — “do not do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” Stick with me. This gets amazing.

He was talking about how the negative version of the command is self-protective. It’s, “I don’t want you to kick me in the gut so I won’t kick you in the gut.” And to be honest, I can pretty well do the negative version. I can pretty well keep from initiating hurt to others. Mostly.

But the positive version of love — the “do to others” — is waaaaayyy different. It’s risky and selfless and radical…and Jesus-like. It’s giving when we aren’t receiving. It’s pressing in and moving towards in spite of what the other may or may not do. And it’s done without expectation of anything in return.

 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
1 Corinthians 13:5-7

 

I can’t love like that when left to me. I’m selfish and a product of Janet Jackson’s “What have you done for me lately?” mentality. It’s only possible to love like that if/when I daily (minutely) die to self and find fullness in Christ alone. That’s the only way.

“Why,” you ask, “would I ever want to live like that — loving others regardless of whether or not they can or will love me?” The reason? You and I were created to love like that. God designed us to love radically and sacrificially, like He loves. In fact, loving like that is freedom for our souls.

When we are so satisfied in Christ that we aren’t grasping at people (or things or situations) in this world to fill us, we enter into the beauty of salvation. We step into the place in which God created us to dwell.

I know it’s hard. In fact it’s impossible apart from Him. But the journey to learn how to truly love begins with a prayer. It begins with a few words uttered to our Father with deep conviction, “All of this life is about love. So Lord God, take me and teach me how to love.” Then, just hang on tight. A freedom journey awaits.

 
Fill me, Lord…

What or how has God taught you about true, Jesus love?
 

one key to being the best 2015 version of ourselves

Well, Christmas has officially come and gone. Though I’m not exactly sure when our needle-shedding, dead tree will actually make it out of the house. Call it “denial.”

So with the festivities behind us, we all know what now lingers ahead of us: the infamous New Year’s resolution. Dun dun dun. Oh the pressure.

 

2015 new year

 

Truth: We all want to be healthier or fitter or smarter or more organized or some combination of all the above. I get it. I’m right there with you. I’ve already said I want to be read-ier in 2015 because my vocabulary is quickly diminishing (into non-words like “read-ier”) and I’m alluding to television programs way too often in normal conversation. As if I’m friends with the characters from Parenthood.

But I’m here today to smash all the expectations that we place upon ourselves. Because if we’re really honest, we’ll be the same person three days into the new year that we are today. Sorry to burst your 2015 perfection bubble. Oh we may eat more green stuff or put a gym membership card on our keychain or clean out the hall closet. But our core struggles, our inner weaknesses, our daily battles will be basically the same unless…

Unless we begin with one primary goal.

 

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

 

I’m reading a little book called “We Would See Jesus” by Roy Hession. It was a Christmas gift — one of the catalysts that launched me into I-need-to-read-more-books mode. In the very first chapter Hession asks a question that’s been plaguing me for days, “Is God Himself your ultimate pursuit or are you simply pursuing His benefits?”

In other words, am I giving my greatest energies to seeking after God Himself — seeking relationship with Him — or am I giving my greatest energies to seeking His blessings? The thought has caused me pause.

Yes, blessings follow when we walk intimately with our Lord. Peace comes. Hope rises. Joy wells up. But if we’re seeking God’s benefits to the neglect of seeking actual relationship with our Lord, then we’re missing the real beauty of life in Him.

If the 2015 version of me (and you) is going to be any different — any better — than the 2014 version, then our first “goal” for this new year has to be an ever-deepening relationship with the all-sufficient Lover of our soul. Anything less will never be enough.

 
Fill me, Lord…

Have you set any 2015 goals?
What does “seeking deep relationship with God” look like in your day to day?