Wednesday, February 15, 2017

for when you're learning about love: we can't do it

"It is more difficult to love than to be confessional; it costs more to love than to be missional; and love calls for more humility and self-denial than piety."  ~Dr. Mike Ross

Last week, when sharing what Love really is, I spoke of the difficulty of truly showing love.  I hope you thought about it and I hope you experienced the hardness of it, not because misery loves company, but because experiencing something in a fuller and truer way does wonders for your ability to understand and transform knowledge in your head to wisdom in your heart.  And "from out of the heart your mouth speaks" Matt 15:18

Whether it is a lax in parenting, my cooking skills--which I always thought highly of before--, the knowledge that all children are different no matter how similarly raised, the predisposed condition of sin in our hearts, or a perfect storm of all of the above, we have been fighting some MAJOR food battles in our home.  All the preparation of our own hearts and his through planning and conversations in no way truly prepared any of us for the insanity of getting one child to take one bite of one thing that everyone else at the table finds perfectly acceptable and even delicious.

It took about a week to hone in on a method that my husband and I both felt was equally helpful and necessary to get the deed done at each meal where a different food tasting was required.  The process was still not enjoyable but at least there was a consensus among the grown ups.  However, it took well over a week for either of the supposedly intellectually superior humans in the house to understand the real problem. It was truly not a picky eater we were at war against, it was a stubborn and sinful heart that wanted nothing but its own way.

This came clear one evening when the precious face sitting at the table expressed rather passionately "I just don't like doing what I don't want to do!"

Bless his heart, mine, and everyone else's.  He nailed it.  There in the midst of his current turmoil, he spoke straight to the heart of each of ours.  We just do not like doing what we do not want to do. 

There are so many reasons our heart does not love, does not produce an inner disposition full of compassionate acts to build others up.  Never once will you hear me say that your reasons, whatever they might be, are not very real to you and therefore important in understanding your actions and your heart.  And if you do, please throw these next words straight back at me (in a loving way of course).

Our inability to love others, whether as a whole or a specific individual, stems from real life, below the surface struggles.  The actions and consequences produced may be completely visible above the surface, but there is an iceberg hiding underneath that can take down any size relationship no matter how seemingly unsinkable.

The lack of love can come from a lack of compassion and empathy, not being able to understand another's emotion.  It can come from a lack of forgiveness, a wall in your heart between you and another built through unforgiveness that love can not permeate.  The lack of real love felt in one's own life keeps you from being able to love another.  The saying "Hurt people hurt people" poetically wraps up the cycle of unloving prevalent in every relationship that has existed since the fall.

And in full disclosure, all honesty, transparency, and vulnerability, getting back to the lessons five year olds can teach you about what is going on in your own heart, love is often something we just don't want to do.

But no matter how hurt we may have been, no matter how justified we may feel in our unloving, no matter how much is below the surface, down deeper, beneath the places we have even thought to look, stands a Truth that goes far beyond not wanting to love.  It is the fact that we CAN'T love.

It his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when talking about community, spends a good deal of time comparing humanity to spirituality and in that includes the ability and inability to love another.  He tells us that "human love is directed to the other person for his own sake.  It wants to gain, to capture by every means; it uses force. It desires to be irresistible, to rule."  Because of this "Human love cannot love an enemy...where it can no longer expect its desire to be fulfilled, there it stops short--namely, in the face of an enemy."

If I'm understanding his reasoning, than I have to assume when he uses the word enemy he is not referring, or just referring, to someone who has hurt you in a monumental way.  He is encompassing any and every person that keeps you from getting what you want at any specific moment.  On any given day your enemy could be those you love the most.

Of the millions of lessons learned from these past thirty five years of life, twelve years of marriage, and ten years of parenting it is that as much as I think I love my family and friends, as much as I think I would do anything for them at any moment, I on my own will never live up to my own expectations.  I will fail to love them in countless ways, every single day.  Sometimes its because I just don't want to love, I am loved out.  Sometimes its because I'm hurting, physically, mentally, spiritually, and hurt them in return.  Sometimes it's because of a lack of understanding of what they are truly feeling and going through.  Sometimes it's when I am giving them the very best of the love I have but have forgotten that my humanity can not truly do the job Love is required to do.  My very best is still the filthiest of rags.

BUT, "right here is the point where spiritual love begins..." ~Bonhoeffer

Up next, will be How we love and just in case you were wondering it starts with Jesus.  If you will forgive my rudimentary paraphrasing of Colossians 1, He is the beginning and the end of it all.  In Him alone do all the things in this crazy, beautiful, divinely created, full of sinful-hearted human world hold together.

Until then, do not despair because you cannot love, none of us can.  Do not give up because you have been hurt, we all have.  Do not fear because you are terrible at loving another, we all are.  Hold on to the Hope of the promises our Savior fulfilled.  Rest in the Peace he brings in the midst of your turmoil.  Rejoice with the Joy that he is above all circumstances.

I'll be praying for you,  pray for me.

Other posts from the Learning about Love series
*  getting started
*  what is love?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

for when you are learning about love: what is love?

There have already been tears this morning.  Tears over inexperience, frustration, lack of understanding, risk of humiliation, fear of disappointing myself, others, someone.  Tears over venturing forth into a topic I have not and honestly will not, if lessons so far have been any indication, master. Why is there this need (desire, push) to try to tackle it?  Seriously people, this is hard as heck already!  Why in the Sam Hill am I doing this!?  --sorry my southern tends to elevate when emotions are, who is sam hill anyway?--

Surely there are classes about this somewhere, which are taught by much more qualified, educated, and theologically trained humans.  Am I just reinventing the wheel? Or more like remaking a much shoddier wheel that could bring the whole car down?  Lord Jesus, protect the passengers.

(I really wanted to say "Jesus take the wheel" right there, but the sarcasm might not have come through and instead it would feel like the cheesy factor had been pushed up to uncomfortable levels.)

Love is a huge topic. Love is something that could be written about daily and still never truly unpacked. Love is the reason "the word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) because "God so LOVED the world..." (John 3:16). The massive quantity of verses, interpretations, the ways it fits into every single aspect of life is what starts the knots in my stomach. There's a meteor shower of thoughts in my head, which all have the potential to be beautiful if seen, but moving so fast it instead feels like a 360 degree fireworks show and you're not sure where to look.

So why write about Love?

The answers that come are, for one, because I am supposed to. I'm saying another scary yes on the road to obedience and faith where swerving will most certainly happen.

Two, because chances are, the majority of you are also feeling unqualified, uneducated, and untrained on this subject, and by sharing my struggles, it will encourage you to try to tackle yours as well.  Together, we are learning, taking on topics, and searching our souls to try and change our inner dispositions to be more like Christ, and walking alongside another in the midst of it makes all things better. 

Three, because there are just some subjects you can't take a class on, score a 100 on the test, and then move on to the next thing--I'm talking to you every geography map quiz I ever took.

Some information is so important you HAVE to seek, gather, put on lists or in bullet journals or note taking apps, or just let soak into your mind. By whatever means necessary for you, it must be done to become part of your being, mixed in with the knowledge already gleaned, and play itself out with the rest of the wisdom gained through practice and experience, failures and successes.

Yes, much more qualified people can explain it better and understand it better than me or you, but the question is, do we understand it, and if not, well, let's ask for guidance and go forward and try.

Tuesday is piano day on our family calendar. Two of my three boys are in lessons now, and while they both really enjoy lesson day, there is more than one occasion during the week when the reminder or command to practice causes less than acceptable responses. "It's hard", "I don't know how to play this one", "I don't know what these notes are", and a few others are the phrases whined to me while I stand in the kitchen trying not to grit my teeth or roll my eyes but to instead give the appropriate grown up response.

Whether it is Tuesday piano, math homework, or the numerous sports all the boys love, there is often a push back when time comes to begin practice. Doing the basics becomes boring. Repetition can crush your exuberant spirit with its monotony. In their little hearts (and in ours as well) there is a desire to just be good at something. We want to succeed, to excel even, but when we see the amount of work required to get to where we want to be there is either a pause to ponder, or even a decision to quit before we start, because the goal seems so far out of reach we doubt that it is even worth trying.

Funny thing is, that initial step is what keeps us from moving. Once we get going, once that practice begins, once our body starts to feel the familiarity of what it has learned and shows the signs of improving and of gaining skills, we see the goal getting closer, we see the need to keep going even when we continue to battle the desire to give up, and we look to see the hand of our Creator pulling us through, reminding us of His faithfulness, and calling us to just Trust and walk.

Basics come first, but they lead to big things.

So here we go. Small steps. First things first. When you are learning about love you need to know what love is.

Love is laden with misconceptions. It is forced to take on roles it was never intended to take on, required to fill gaps it isn't fit for, misinterpreted and pronounced nonexistent when really, it is right there ready and willing, trying to pour itself over the hurts and needs of people waiting for it. When love is waiting arms wide open for us to fall into, we reject it, misunderstand it, because it doesn't look the way we think it should look or act the way we want it to act.

When understanding and recognizing love, looking at it in a worldly sense will always skew its original design. There are many words the world uses in one way, but viewed through the lens of the Gospel take on a much different meaning. One such word is Joy.  In the world, we think of joy as happiness that comes from success or good fortune.  With a redeemed heart, we know joy can be found in the deepest sorrow, because joy is not circumstantial - it comes from being in Christ. 

Love is one of those such words.

In the world, 'love' is a greater level of 'like'. It is an 'amped up' feeling of fondness towards a person or an object. If you do not like something or someone, love will never be present. If you stop liking someone or something, love will cease to exist as well.

The best definition I have been given for love was from our former pastor during our hardest season of marriage, and it is one I will not attempt to re-word. Instead, I'll use it, with his blessing, and share it to as many people as I am able.  His definition radically changed the way I love, understand and respond to others, and inspired the title of this little space here on the interwebs where I can share with you.

Love, gospel driven-inspired by God LOVE, is an Inner Disposition that produces compassionate acts that builds up the object of your love.

Love, real and true love, starts inside yourself - your inner disposition - in your heart overtaken by the Spirit. If it doesn't start there, it is not love.

Love produces, not just anything, but it produces compassion. Not just thoughts of compassion, but acts of compassion. If you are not inspired and overwhelmed by the need to feel compassion for another, and to extend compassion to another, then you are not feeling and showing love.

Love builds up the one you are showing love to. To build is to put together, to develop and gradually form, slowly even. Love does not mean puffing someone up. (This is where things can get sticky).  Loving another does not mean telling them what they want to hear, just to make them feel better about whatever they are doing or what is happening. Truly loving is to build, to renovate, to take out parts that are not helpful, so that the parts that are can grow and climb closer to the sun.

Learning what love is will help us see it everywhere, in big ways and small, and will give us the confidence that it is always there to help us place it correctly in the spaces and ways it is intended to be and go.

Later down the road we'll tackle those times when even our best attempts at love will still cause hurt and rejection from another. But, for now, know that when love starts with a pure heart, when its desire is to show compassion, when its goal is to build up and not tear down, then LOVE will shine! Because in the end, it's God in you, not you, who is producing it.

When we understand that Love was not created by us, but put in us by our Creator, the knots in our stomach unravel. Our understanding of it is fine-tuned, and a huge amount of untrodden places are opened up to practice, show, and see love in its desired form.

Please pray for me, for yourselves, for others to truly understand Gospel driven love and the ability to pass it along to the ones around you. I'll be praying for you.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

for when you are learning about love: sunday song

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, AS IT IS HEAVEN...

Children killed, sold, lost, and stolen
All races
All ethnicities
The Church
Religious leaders
Everyday citizens

We are a mix of thoughts and desires.  Our opinions overtake our compassion.  The desired end for our own goals supersedes the goals for the good of others.  Even the most outspoken for others battles selfishness along the way.

Not us, but you Lord.  Not our will, but yours.

Help us see that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.

Let that fuel our words and actions more than just help us "survive" the present.  If we know none of our sufferings can compare to the coming glory, we have strength to sacrifice our comfort, our safe cocoons, to live out the gospel in word and deed.

There are those who can not fight for themselves right now.  Let us each find that group that has been placed on our hearts, the ones who at this moment can not fight for themselves. and let us carry their burden; not of our own strength and for our own glory, but with the power of heaven and for the glory of our Father.

Share the Well
Caedmon's Call

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

Do you think the water knows
Flowing down to the mountain thaw
Finally to find repose
For any soul who cares to draw

Some kindred keepers of this earth
On their way to join the flow
Are cast aside and left to thirst
Tell me now it is not so

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

And all God's creatures share the water hole
The blessed day the monsoon comes
And in His image we are woven
Every likeness every one

From Kashmir to Kerala
Under every banyan tree
Mothers for their children cry
With empty jar and bended knee

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend

It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

You know I've heard good people say
There's nothing I can do
That's half a world away

Maybe you've got money
Maybe you've got time
Maybe you've got living well
That ain't ever running dry

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

Share the well, share with your brother
Share the well, my friend
It takes a deeper well to love one another
Share the well, my friend

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

for when you are learning about love: getting started

God's love for me determines how much love I can hold for another person.  His love is what gives me love and therefore overflows me with love to give away. 

This all seems quite simple and obvious until there is a difficult person in your life to love.  I don't mean on days when your husband forgets to make the bed or your kids disobey all day and whine as if they'll never get another chance to do so or some crazy person takes forever in the grocery store line in front of you.  Those are all moments we are given to show great love but they are short lived and don't cost us too much in the way of heart sacrifice. 

I am talking about people who have hurt you or your family, people who you hear about who have done the unthinkable, people who when you think about them you can feel your blood pressure rise, you can feel your heart drop and you can feel the desire to throw all your beliefs out the window just to hang on to the hard feelings or feel yourself retreat so you can pretend that they're not really there.
So many people have others like that where the ache hurts but the cost of loving feels like it could hurt more.  I have that person.  I wish I didn't.  I wish I could say that I love like Christ loves me.  I want to love like He loved me first but it's hard.  On some days it feels impossible.  God is taking me on a journey, an extension of the one he started over a year ago, to help me learn about gospel love.  How to love like Christ in all circumstances and to all people.  It's easy to love the easy ones but we most often aren't called to the easy things.

A little over two years have gone by since writing those words above and still the road to learn to love well, no matter how extensively trodden, is still winding, disappearing into the horizon, the endpoint infinite miles away.  This was to be my own private journey, my lessons in how to somehow, in some way, love like Jesus when most of the time all my will wanted to do was fight, ignore, or defend.  Due to changes in different aspects of life this was pushed onto a back burner because necessity for it at the time, or so I thought, was not as great. 

This is the part where I admit that I just did not want to do it anymore, but was lovingly not let off the hook by God who was telling me to 'big fat do it anyway.' Sigh--slight eyeroll--Fine.  My maturity knows no bounds.

Then after reading some words from my sweet friend Kiley there was that reminder that I'm not alone in my struggle, and not alone in my goal.  

"God calls us to love. Not say we love, but to actually love. This is a hard one for me. I mean, it’s easy to love gypsy children in Romania when I go there each summer. It’s easy to love the innocent 6 year olds that walk into the door of my classroom each day, and the goddaughters whose faces smile when I drive up in their driveway. It’s easy to love the friends that I surround myself with, easy to love the family that loves me back.
But man, it’s hard to love the one who screams words that are everything I’m against. It’s hard to love those who make choices that I believe are just wrong. It is really hard when someone questions my Christianity because of how I mark my ballot. It is especially hard to love when I am so obviously not loved in return...I want to love as Christ so perfectly loves me….we all know good and well that I don’t deserve it. I want people to look at me and know that I love well….no matter what they believe, no matter the color of their skin, no matter how they voted or why, no matter who they love, no matter if they love me back."

Of course my human self being what it is, it was not until just recently--last night as I was falling asleep--that it was placed in my head in no uncertain terms that it was time to broach the subject again.  Not just on my own time, but during these times with you all, so that together we can go deeper into the art of love.

Two separate conversations happened recently on a topic I swore, and still swear, I will never write about. Talking about 'it' is also something I vow to do as little as possible, but the situations arose and, for whatever reason, the heart led words to come out and once they are out there it is impossible to bring them back.  
Through the extensive conversations on the topic that will not be named, I thought of trying to come up with some witty comments or fantastic point dripping with well-read knowledge full of facts and the droppings of qualified names in hopes to gain a bit of respect and to not show a lack of intelligence or a seemingly naive outlook.  Both of those options escaped my abilities because the heart took over and in the end what came out was Jesus.  The Gospel.  His Word.  Letting it apply to all.

Jesus Juke jokes aside, after some frustration, a slight bit of temper flaring, and a little soul searching I've come to the conclusion that it is an honor to be that person.  As Christians, redeemed, restored, and renewed, we have no place to stand except on His righteousness.  Thankfully, there will be times others will need to bring my stray thoughts and extensive subject knowledge back to this core center as well.  It's why we have many parts but are of one body.  Living in Community leading and following and walking alongside.

The older we get the more we realize we know so much, yet know so little.  As eyes are opened to a bigger world with equally as big successes and failures, the need of guidance in my life just grows that much bigger.  Loving.  Learning to love, better or at all, is one of the many that will be broached in the rest of our life here on earth.  Why not let it be now.  

So a warning, one that should not surprise you, but needs to be placed front and center.  I will be bringing Jesus into all of this.  Every post.  Every lesson.  Every struggle.  Every time I feel unloved. Every time I feel unloving.  Every moment when it does not seem worth it anymore.  Every moment when He reaches deep into my heart and reminds me of how worth it it truly is.  Every.  Single.  Thing.

This my friends is not a subject I am an expert on, far from it.  We each have immeasurable experience with having to love, being asked to share and show love to another, but we each have the same immeasurable number of experiences when we failed miserably at times and not completely miserably at others.

Wisdom does not come when life works out perfectly, it comes when you fail but then get up and try again.

Let's try again.  This time not on our own strength but with the strength given to us, living in us by the Spirit, sent from the Son.  It will be hard but I can not think of more things that are worth as much as this. 

Loving others and showing others how we are loved.

In the weeks ahead, will you stick with me?  Walk with me?  Learn with me?  Fail with me and then get up and try again?

I'm praying for you and the future lessons we will approach, pray for me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

because emotions are dangerous

Confession; many times in my writing I stop just short of full transparency. This is a difficult thing to admit since my desire from the very beginning of this venture has been to be transparent. To let you see the real me in hopes that you yourself will become more transparent with your thoughts, with your feelings, and with the words and the story God has given you was a personal command given and a promise made. The burden of not having always fulfilled it is a tough load to bear, and one I long to put down, after first seeking your forgiveness for not encouraging you to be your completely true self when I did not quite make it there myself.

Revealing all that is within you is one of the most intimidating things you can do yet one of the most freeing. To let all your dirt shine, as mentioned in the past, is to understand, admit, and say I am not in control. I do not care what others may think about me. I know who I am and I know whose I am. My identity is fully planted in the name given through relationship with Christ. His daughter. His own. I was bought with a price. I am His daughter. I am His.

One thing in particular tempts us to keep things inside. It causes us to misdirect others from our core and mask the real with a farce. Or even, despite command and promise, let 99% of the heart show while keeping that last little piece to ourselves, that last little piece that will reveal the whole picture, and truly letting go of all control.


The human heart, human soul, is full of them. Being a female I am tempted to think we are able to stake claim to a million extras but research revealed that while we, as a female species, are a little more sensitive to negative emotions there was actually not that much difference between guys and girls. So fellas, this is for you too!

While emotion is just one seven letter word, the noun in its essence manifests itself in a hundred ways. Varying from simple to complex, and sliding through the whole spectrum of positive to negative, we are full of anger and envy, excitement and love, frustration and shame, caution and boldness, confusion and loneliness, expectation and hope. And through each of the many emotions, parts of our heart will show. To live with and through each emotion while exposing a heart planted in the abiding love, protection, and grace of Christ requires an understanding of two different ways emotions can be dangerous.

Paul David Tripp in one of his daily devotions from New Morning Mercies mentioned not letting you live your life for the moment and by the emotions you feel at the time because "in a moment, your thoughts can seem more important than they actually are. In a moment, your emotions can seem more reliable than they are. In a moment, your needs can seem more essential than they truly are." In a current world of 'yolo' and quoting 'carpe diem' from the past, this is a radical thought stemming from the oldest of truths.

Emotions that come from the immediate are more often than not untrustworthy. They come from snap judgments. They come from first instincts. They come from a defensive mess. They come from Fear. They come with little thought. Truth can be found underneath, but it takes time, more than a split seconds worth, for wisdom to appear; for Hope to rise up. Though 24 hours of wait is a great idea it is not necessary for every situation. What is necessary is remembering the life we are asked to live, and for whom we are asked to live it, is one that stretches for eternity. Though there are hills and valleys producing every manner of emotion, the One guiding us is there for more than a moment. Those little moments may mean much to our human hearts at the time, but in the end it is the long marathon for Him that matters.

Because there are two sides to every coin, we also must delve into the other danger emotions can cause, and it happens when you do one simple act, ignore them.

We all have a line drawn in the sand, a line that cannot be crossed without repercussions of some kind. The problem is, we draw it before we should. Gripped with fear or whatever other emotion, the line is drawn in the spot where our two feet are still comfortably standing. A spot that where no discomfort is felt. Many of us need to extend that line out a little bit farther to a spot that takes us out of ourselves, a place where a step of faith must be taken.

Amidst the desire for going deeper, there is no more skimming the surface. Not giving into the emotions, not understanding them for what they hinders and hindering is what I have been after. I realize so very often I don't give in, don't let my emotions in as much as needed, don't let myself feel them the entire way because of where the unknowns they will take me and of what I might learn about myself when I see them through.

There is a big difference between giving into your emotions and understanding them. If you are going to let God reach you where you are you have to understand the full depth of where the emotions have left you.

It is at that point where growth happens, where inner dispositions begin to shift and change.

So pay attention. Pay attention to what makes you laugh, what makes you cry, and what makes you feel all the feels in between. Then take that vast array and lay them down at the feet of the one who rescued you and keeps you in his hand and let him pick them up for you and show you where to go.

Praying for each of you and the emotions you find surrounding you, pray for me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

for when you are being taken to deeper places

It's been a year of waiting, a year of being asked by my all knowing Father to just wait.  Yes things are going to happen He said, Yes I am still working, always working, He promised, but you my girl, you need to just wait.  Wait for what is to come.  I spent the year waiting, waiting for what I did not know, sometimes thinking there was a giant party around the corner and if I sat still and patient the whole time He would jump out with a big gift and yell SURPRISE!

In the end, there was not exactly a party and then again maybe I should have thrown one myself because now sitting here and listing--obviously a list is involved if its me--the events of the year I can see His hand through it all and how the hardest of hards and the best of the best and even the sprinkle of surprises mixed in can only be designed by the one most creative of Creators and the Spirit within who thankfully navigates my directionally challenged soul.

Within this past year marked the second hardest event of my own life with the closing of my church and the loss of the stability of my church community, these people who have seen me and known me and me them through the darkest of times and the joyous of moments.  It also brought about a wealth of His good things, the first being a new calling in my life, a trajectory that only His will could vastly change.

Adding to the statistics of the year from the severe doubts that come with loss and confusion to enjoying my friends and family more as I fight to let go of the control I was never supposed to have, was brought about a better understanding of patience with life itself and the lesson that immediate solutions are not always, and honestly almost never, necessary.  Except in a true emergency, and not just what we want to place urgency on, there is always time for thought and prayer and the learning that what is happening will be clearer, or even over, after a mere 24 hour wait.  Added also, is that what seems broken, whether in a relationship, a requirement placed on yourself, or just a piece of furniture, was either not a needed item and can be let go or needs the time and care to be placed right again, something only the Gospel can bring.

Have you taken the opportunity to recognize the Good from your year?  Specifically those treasures hidden in the rock hard things bring.  Focus on that for a moment, look for His Good.

With every ending comes a beginning whether we are at the end of a year, the end of a day, or the end of a moment.  In the short journey for a new word to place as a compass for life in this next 365ish days there was a leading towards so many directions that it was assumed somewhere the world's magnetic pull had disappeared sending the needle spinning wildly.  Thoughts of the need for contentment rose in the most uncomfortable of ways and in the midst of reactions that do not drip with pride.  The desire to give what we have to others and take--accept--the treasures others have to give sent a warming smile throughout my being.

But confusion came next due to those words feeling awfully familiar.  After a bit of research through past writings, the mystery was solved as those were both words chosen in past years.  Contentment, give/take, and slow were each contemplated during the first three years of choosing a word to lead my thoughts.  Explore and enjoy was begrudgingly settled upon at the beginning of our year of infamy  and then after months and months of not understanding why I always felt so unsettled God in his violent love blew life up so that He could rebuild it.  Abide, onward, and wait took up the three years after taking me down roads never ventured that felt oddly comforting even in their unfamiliarity.  So here, this day, if my heart is hearing correctly which, lets face it, is never a guarantee, I am choosing the word deeper.

Deeper.  Deepening all parts of life.  Delving under to the depths of not only more that each of these words hold, but more of the parts of life given to me.  There has always been a temptation of skimming the surface; of doing what is expected, getting the jist, making it good enough for now until I can come back later and really invest.  Well that time is now.  Going deeper will take time, commitment, and discovering what is a priority and what is just distraction.  Going deeper is also not a place to venture alone.

When you choose to go deep spreading yourself thin is not an option, when you choose to go deep it will have to involve choosing less.  However, in the choosing of less, you will automatically get more.  More knowledge of a topic, more understanding of a person, more enjoyment from a moment, more gratification from an accomplishment, and more familiarity with a Father who has given your these opportunities to begin with.  

Madeline L'engle wrote "The times I have been most fully me are when I have been wholly involved in someone or something else; when I am listening, rather than talking...I look forward to deepening relationship with my husband, my children, my friends but knowing more of Him.  
That will be the best deepening of all.

So taking each of those past words chosen, I will rely on Grace given to delve deeper.  One at a time, a month or so at a time, starting with contentment, because in a life desiring to run hard after Christ that is where it needs to begin.

"One of the most beautiful fruits of grace is a heart that is content, more given to worship than demand and more given to the joy of gratitude than the anxiety of want. When you are satisfied with the Giver, because you have found in him the life you were looking for, you are freed from the ravenous quest for satisfaction that is the discouraging existence of so many people." Paul David Tripp

I hate to even attempt to guess how many times I will stumble, fall, and fail.  They will be countless.  I can promise you that, but I can also hold on to the promise of Hope that those new mercies do come each morning.  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; [because] GREAT is [His} faithfulness. Lam. 3:22-23.  

Please remember there are an infinite number of endings that can happen in life which just means there are an infinite number of beginnings following them.  Choose next steps slowly, carefully, forgiving yourself when you hesitate, giving yourself grace when you falter and fall, all the time remembering that you were not meant to do it alone and not meant to accomplish all the things, just one at a time.

Find the one thing God is calling you to do next and go after it trusting that even if it feels like no progress is being made that He is working, always working, in the midst of everything; crafting in your heart, in your mind, and in your habits the emotions, thoughts, and skills needed to put into bodily action what is being prepared in Spirit.

I am praying for your next thing, for finding the direction you are being called, and for being able to delve deeply into it. Pray for me.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

a song for sunday

As I, as we, continue through this world knowing that what is a mystery to us is a carefully laid plan to our Creator I long to rest in Him alone, to put into practice what my mind knows to be true that in Him alone comes rest and hope and if I pour myself out for Him, He will be gracious and merciful to continue to fill me up.
Psalm 62
Aaron Keyes
My soul finds rest in God alone
My Rock and my salvation,
A fortress strong against my foes
And I will not be shaken.
Though lips may bless and hearts may curse
And lies like arrows pierce me,
I’ll fix my heart on righteousness,
I’ll look to Him who hears me.
O praise Him, hallelujah,
My Delight and my Reward;
Everlasting, never failing,
My Redeemer, my God.
Find rest, my soul, in God alone
Amid the world’s temptations;
When evil seeks to take a hold
I’ll cling to my salvation.
Though riches come and riches go,
Don’t set your heart upon them;
The fields of hope in which I sow
Are harvested in heaven.
I’ll set my gaze on God alone,
And trust in Him completely;
With every day pour out my soul,
And He will prove His mercy.
Though life is but a fleeting breath,
A sigh too brief to measure,
My King has crushed the curse of death
And I am His forever.

O praise Him, O praise Him, hallelujah, hallelujah,
O praise Him, O praise Him, hallelujah, hallelujah,
O praise Him, O praise Him, hallelujah! hallelujah.