Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There is no high road.

I started reading Romans (again) this week, and out of curiosity, looked up chapter 2 in "The Message" paraphrase. Boy, did they take a clear and stinging tone with it. I have to wonder if Paul intended it to be that blunt.

But at the same time, it does give a little clarity into the modern nuances of the passage. Check it out:

1 Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.2 But God isn't so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you've done.
3 You didn't think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard?4 Or did you think that because he's such a nice God, he'd let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he's not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.
5 You're not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of God adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it's going to blaze hot and high, God's fiery and righteous judgment.6 Make no mistake: In the end you get what's coming to you -7 Real Life for those who work on God's side,8 but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance, Fire!
9 If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you're from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended.10 But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up.11 Being a Jew won't give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

It's been a while since I've had the desire to read Scripture, but my heart is thirsty and craves truth. Dave and I had a wonderful afternoon Sunday talking with a friend over things that were deeper and more mysterious than we know. And from that, I'm just aching for more. I miss school for that reason, I think: the challenge to think and think beyond where you've thought before. So Romans ought to kickstart some thinking. At least, I'm praying that it does.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sometimes I wish I was a princess...

It's funny - I've always had a wild, surging longing inside me that becomes palpable when I read certain authors or stories. It's a longing to be noble, heroic, magical; a longing to outwit evil men and to rescue the small ones who cannot help themselves.

Mom read John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart" to us years ago, and it resonated deeply with my brothers and with me. I've felt this restlessness for something more all my life. And this morning, Oswald Chambers talks about it, too.

"If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all noble things are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but the difficulty of it does not make us faint and cave in, it rouses us up to overcome...
"Thank God He does give us difficult things to do! His salvation is a glad thing, but it is also a heroic, holy thing. It tests us for all we are worth. Jesus is bringing many "sons" unto glory, and God will not shield us from the requirements of a son. God's grace turns out men and women with a strong family likeness to Jesus Christ, not milk sops. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the noble life of a disciple of Jesus in actual things. It is always necessary to make an effort to be noble." (My Utmost for His Highest, July 7)

I'm always amazed beyond words when God becomes more to me through difficult circumstances. I should work on that - He says all throughout the Bible that (essentially) He is with us in the fire, He is living and active, and we have no reason to fear. But I always fear. And that is the root of my downfall.

A recent instance: Dave and I are moving to an apartment, and we were worried about the timing of giving notice in our current situation and signing a lease for the new one. As we went to look at the apartment, I prayed, "Lord, You have smoothed our paths, providing exactly what we need as we need it every time. I ask that You continue in Your faithfulness and make our next step clear." And the girl at the apartment offered to hold it for us so that we got the apartment without overlapping timelines or having to move in one week!

But I wonder: If I kept that mindset, that my God provides and my God is always ready to blow our tiny minds, wouldn't I live a grander, more noble and adventurous life? Wouldn't there be more taking on the enemy and more rescuing the helpless?

Monday, June 20, 2011

From whom every family derives its name.

Dave and I were married 2 weeks ago in a beautiful ceremony performed by our counselor. Hayne read Ephesians 3 to us, and it turns out that several well-wishers penned it in their cards, too. I hadn't read it in the context of a marriage before, but now - as a wife - I believe I'll come back to it over and over:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted andgrounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think,according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In my absence...

I'm getting married in 4 days.

And the lessons I've learned over the past six months with Dave (much less the past three weeks) are invaluable and too many to recount.

Most recently, we learned to say we're sorry, and to say it fast. We were each trying to help the other and ended up missing the kindness each intended. 

So pardon me if I disappear for a while. I'll be back. I promise!

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." -Apostle Paul

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where are the still waters? I need them!

I've fallen into that trap again - the one where I start to feel comfortable and in control of my life. Where I let my desperate need for God fall to the side, become less desperate. Where I get frustrated easily and nothing seems to go the way I want it to.

And then factor in an upcoming marriage. We're not even married yet, and I'm learning so much. Dave is my spiritual thermometer. When my heart is not right with my Father, the relationship Dave and I are building gets prickly, and there are tears and angry words and disharmony.

This morning, I was reading Oswald (surprise!) who simply asked, "Why do we doubt God? He has proven Himself. We have no room to fear." And then I was lead to James 3: 
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness."

Looking on at my life, you wouldn't see these characteristics, you wouldn't feel the quiet assurance these verses emanate. Inside my heart there is a clear awareness of this lack of peace, and my heart literally quails at the thought. I am desperate for confidence in my Father that sings, "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well." It's there. I've seen the effects of trusting God with everything. It's just in hiding, weakened by my selfish desires and sinful nature.

Father, draw me into Your heart. Renew my thirst, my desperation, for You.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Excel still more.

A few Sundays ago, in a really powerful sermon on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7, Frank mentioned Paul's urgent command to "Excel still more."

With so many aspects of my life changing - an approaching marriage, a challenging job, friends who do not believe but listen - I've re-charged myself with reading Scripture every morning and with shoring up my own understanding of my beliefs. I'll get a good chance at that with Dave training for Campus Crusade; their basics of belief program is solid, and I'm excited to work through that after him.

But today has been circuitous and odd. We had a terrific thunderstorm this morning that spawned a tornado or two, and as I type, we're waiting on the next bout of weather - it's supposed to be worse. Until this morning, I've never been in a place where I've lost touch with my loved ones and am powerless to help them, much less know if they're safe. And when we finally got in touch again and I tried to work again, my heart wouldn't settle. So I pulled up the Veritas band on iTunes (something Dave sent me after a men's retreat a month ago).

One of the songs leads with a written excerpt that caught at my heart. So I'm researching the Heidelberg Catechism now and can hardly believe the beauty of what I'm finding. It's certainly a piece I want to spend some time soaking up. For today, get a feel for the lovely wording:

What is thy only comfort in life and death?

That I with body and soul,
both in life and death,
am not my own,
but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ;
who, with his precious blood,
has fully satisfied for all my sins,
and delivered me from all the power of the devil;
and so preserves me 
that without the will of my heavenly Father,
not a hair can fall from my head;
yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,
and therefore, by his Holy Spirit,
He also assures me of eternal life,
and makes me sincerely willing and ready,
henceforth, to live unto him.

How many things are necessary for thee to know,
that thou, enjoying this comfort,
mayest live and die happily?

the first, how great my sins and miseries are; 
the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries;
the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such

Friday, April 22, 2011

"...and in three days I will raise it up."

Today is Good Friday. I've been thinking about Jesus' death and resurrection a lot already this week and what it means for us. There are so many things to notice about the events of that week - both immediate and eternal, and I hardly know where to start. So forgive me if this feels pieced together; it is.

In John 2, when Jesus says He will destroy the temple - the singular meeting place of God and man in the Jewish religion - He's talking about Himself. He literally destroyed the need for a physical place to commune with God, and instead He built a direct connection to the holy Father, satisfying the Father's demand for atonement. His body - also a temple of sorts - was destroyed and rebuilt. The temple's necessity was voided.

I attended my first Campus Crusade meeting this week with Dave and heard a powerful message on a real God who gives real life. Most of what Darrell said caught my attention, but one passing observation has haunted me. He pointed out that throughout His life on earth, Jesus spoke of God as "the Father" and "My Father." But when He was on the cross - in that moment that the sins of the entire world fell on Him, and the holy Father-God turned His back on the ugliness of His son - Jesus cried out, calling, "My God, my God! Why have You forsaken me?" In that moment that their perfect unity was broken by our sin, Jesus couldn't call God His Father - like us, He was reduced to calling, in humility and fear, on the righteous God of the universe.

Darrell also pointed out that for the three days that Jesus was dead, He experienced every weakness, anguish, struggle, and pain that humanity has ever known. Not as punishment - because He never sinned and therefore merited no punishment - but so that He could know intimately the things we go through: "For we do not have a great high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."

There was a second reason for Jesus to understand our weaknesses: with that knowledge, we have no fear. "Perfect love casts out fear." Hebrews says, "Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Another observation of Darrell's was the meaning of the word "resurrection"- he said it holds the connotation of "return to life, never to die again." In my limited access to study tools, I can't confirm the original Greek subtleties, but the idea makes sense. Lazarus was revived (he died again later, at the end of his natural life), but Jesus died once and was resurrected. He will not die again. And when we have lived out our natural lives, and died, we too will be resurrected to live forever with Him.

I've been working through this, trying to absorb it. I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand, this side of heaven. But I look forward to grasping it all, standing face-to-face with Him, holding His hand, and knowing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

You turned me into somebody loved.

I'm a little bit pathetic this morning. And I hate it.

Read Oswald and 1 Corinthians 1, but there's no heart behind it. I've been trying to lay my heart out before my Father (in my mind it looks like Mom's pie dough rolled out on the counter). It just feels thin, bland, and sticky. There's very little color to it. No one would want it in that condition.

And then 1 Corinthians reminds me that God didn't choose the noble, the wise, the graceful, the attractive, the perfect, or the do-gooders to bear His love note to the rest of the world. He didn't pick the ones with 4.0s, the ones who never have an angry thought, the ones who have never broken a rule (or even a nail). They wouldn't have been good messengers, and God knew it.

Instead, He chose me, and He chose you. He chose the meek, the mild, the humble, the tearful, the ashamed, the foolish, the rebellious, the silly. He chose the ones who can't follow the rules to save their lives, the ones that mess up and can't seem to learn from it, the ones that are tired to death of trying to be good and just sit down in the mud and give up.

He did it so we can't brag on ourselves. I'm not a perfectly baked apple pie. I'm icky, sticky, salty, crumbly dough on a countertop that won't roll out and won't let go of the pin and refuses to slide into the pan. I never do the right thing twice, and I rarely do the same thing twice.

But you know what's cool? It's ok that I'm messy. God takes me just like this, and then He uses me! That  second part blows my mind: even as akimbo and tousled as I am, He sometimes lets other people see His glory through me. Talk about humbling. No one knows how insignificant I am more than I do - and yet my Father knows me inside out, and He lets me help Him.

Thank You for a morning to reflect on how much You love us, and how desperate You are for a relationship with us - You take us even as dirty as we are! Thank You for making us Your little children, for picking us up when we fall down, for kissing our wounds and making them better, for seeing further than we can, and for dreaming bigger dreams than we even dare. Help us to love You! Amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let the low end drag.

Oosh. This being faithful thing is hard.

I'm weary.

And while there are good things in the future, there is no end in sight.

I don't think there ever is, though. We're not promised an easy ride. John 16:33 says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

It's really cool to think that in the end, we win! But it's hard to remember that in the middle of everything going not quite right.

And you know what I've learned? It's ok to let the low end drag - especially when you're worn down, when you can only shuffle instead of walk, when looking for light and hope is more disappointing than just resigning yourself to the murky twilight around you. Because our Father is a kind and gentle Daddy; He is strong enough to deal with our disappointment, our lapses in faith, our utter exhaustion.

And sometimes, it's only in our utter exhaustion that we can finally let Him do what He most wants: to tenderly lift our dirty, bruised, raggedy bodies, cradle them to His strong chest, and carry us a ways until we've rested enough to stand at His side again.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Out of the dust...

We recently finished the Wednesday night "Deeper" series at Calvary. It was a video (not my favorite thing) on Jonah (not my favorite book) about the interrupted life (not something I had a problem with). It turns out that I forgot about how much I hate video while the lady was talking, and I suddenly realized that Jonah and I had a lot in common.
Anyway, the last three months have been the best of my life with a side of growth and topped with learning to trust God. And this morning, two of the most recently significant passages of scripture came up again: one in a word search for "rest" and the other on a friend's Facebook profile.

Psalm 37:3-7
Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.

God's control:
Job 38

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
"Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
"Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! 
"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? 
"On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? 
"Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, And I said, `Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop'? 
"Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it? 
"It is changed like clay under the seal; And they stand forth like a garment. 
"From the wicked their light is withheld, And the uplifted arm is broken. 
"Have you entered into the springs of the sea Or walked in the recesses of the deep? 
"Have the gates of death been revealed to you, Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 
"Have you understood the expanse of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. 
"Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, That you may take it to its territory And that you may discern the paths to its home? 
"You know, for you were born then, And the number of your days is great! 
"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, Which I have reserved for the time of distress, For the day of war and battle? 
"Where is the way that the light is divided, Or the east wind scattered on the earth? 
"Who has cleft a channel for the flood, Or a way for the thunderbolt, To bring rain on a land without people, On a desert without a man in it, To satisfy the waste and desolate land And to make the seeds of grass to sprout? 
"Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? 
"From whose womb has come the ice? And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth? 
"Water becomes hard like stone, And the surface of the deep is imprisoned. 
"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion? 
"Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, And guide the Bear with her satellites?
"Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, Or fix their rule over the earth? 
"Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, So that an abundance of water will cover you? 
"Can you send forth lightnings that they may go And say to you, `Here we are'? 
"Who has put wisdom in the innermost being Or given understanding to the mind? 
"Who can count the clouds by wisdom, Or tip the water jars of the heavens, When the dust hardens into a mass And the clods stick together? 
"Can you hunt the prey for the lion, Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, When they crouch in their dens And lie in wait in their lair? 
"Who prepares for the raven its nourishment When its young cry to God And wander about without food?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Be like Peter. But only sorta.

Oswald's thought this morning was: What does it mean to walk with Jesus? (from the context of John 6:66-70)
To Peter, it meant Jesus offered salvation - "words of life."
But Oswald says it means a constant "certainty that I do not know."
Peter was almost right, but he talked too much - he should have stopped with, "Lord, to whom shall we go?"

I would be far better off remembering my own temporality.

Dave and I were talking about this last night with a friend: the best way of living is keeping a loose grip on things. Know that we are brief, know that we are not in control and the things we have are gifts. And in that mindset, do not grasp them too firmly - be open to letting go.

I once heard someone say, "It's only when you have empty, open hands that you can be given gifts."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Robin Hood always gets the best of the sheriff.

I've been watching my fiance struggle with finding a job and believing God will provide. There's almost nothing I can do beyond supporting him in prayer and filling in with good food, a positive attitude, and a safe space to be angry or sad or just tired.
There seem to be a lot of closed doors that are pointing him to something neither of us expected. And after a convicting sermon on Sunday (you gave your life to Jesus; how can you justify taking it back and going in your own direction?), we're wondering if the way God is taking us isn't down this difficult and different road.
Today Oswald (God love him!) had some timely insights on hanging in there:

Tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe that his hero is going to be conquered. The greatest fear a man has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for - love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men - will not win out in the end; the things He stands for look like will-o'-the-wisps. Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted.
If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified. There is nothing noble the human mind has ever hoped for or dreamed of that will not be fulfilled. One of the greatest strains in life is the strain of waiting for God. "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience."
Remain spiritually tenacious.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Voices from the past are often clearer in the present.

This is the same idea as "Hindsight is 20/20." Oswald has hit the mark again.

He quotes Luke, when the disciples are standing around on the third day wondering where on heaven and earth Jesus has got to and why He hasn't shown up like He said He would. Two of them are walking to Emmaus and discussing recent events. A mysterious traveler joins them, asks what they're talking about, and they say, "We were hoping it was Jesus who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Then some women told us His body wasn't in the tomb anymore, and we're all amazed. He said He would rise again. But we haven't seen Him and are beginning to wonder if it was all true." The men didn't realize they were talking to Jesus Himself. They were dejected and feeling the eyes of the known world watching their belief in their Savior crumble.

Oswald says, "Every fact that the disciples stated was right; but the inferences they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that savours of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If depression and oppression visit me, I am to blame; God is not, nor is anyone else." Really, you should just read the whole thing and come back to this blog...otherwise I'm going to end up copying and pasting the whole article: My Utmost for His Highest, February 7.

What I mean in the blog title by "voices from the past" is this: (and do pardon my writing today - it's Monday, and I'm struggling) Last year (almost exactly a year ago), I was dejected and physically sick over a decision I knew I had to make. And my friends - every last one of my friends - were telling me to do the same thing (the opposite of what I wanted to do). I was asking God (literally - crazy prayers) for a billboard with what I should do. Through it all, I missed the point that I was chasing the answers to my prayers, instead of the God Who answers prayer. If I had cleared my mind of what I wanted to hear and listened to the voices around me, I would have found that they were advising me to do what our Father wanted for me.

It's a slow journey, isn't it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Re-Viewing Our Lives, Part 2

I can't stop with that thought. Continued reading Guzik's commentary (on the more direct translation), and came across this bit. I'm being shaken today.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
a. Do not be conformed to this world warns us that the "world system" - the popular culture and manner of thinking that is in rebellion against God - will try to conform us to its ungodly pattern, and that process must be resisted.
b. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind: This is the opposite of being conformed to this world. The battle ground between conforming to the world and being transformed is within the mind of the believer.Christians must think differently.
i. "I don't want to be conformed to this world. I want to be transformed. How do I do it?" By the renewing of your mind. The problem with many Christians is they live based on feeling, or they are only concerned about doing.
ii. The life based on feeling says, "How do I feel today? How do I feel about my job? How do I feel about my wife? How do I feel about worship? How do I feel about the preacher?" This life by feeling will never know the transforming power of God, because it ignores the renewing of the mind.
iii. The life based on doing says, "Don't give me your theology. Just tell me what to do. Give me the four points for this and the seven keys for that." This life of doing will never know the transforming power of God, because it ignores the renewing of the mind.
iv. God is never against feeling and doing. He is a God of powerful and passionate feeling, and He commands us to be doers. Yet feelings and doing are completely insufficient foundations for the Christian life. The first questions cannot be "How do I feel?" or "What do I do?" Rather, it must be "What is true here? What does God's Word say?"
c. Transformed: This is the ancient Greek word metamorphoo - describing a metamorphosis. The same word is used to describe Jesus in His transfiguration (Mark 9:2-3). This is a glorious transformation!
i. The only other place Paul uses this word for transformed is in 2 Corinthians 3:18: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. For Paul, this transformation and renewing of our minds takes place as we behold the face of God, spending time in His glory.

(from StudyLight.org, Guzik's commentary on Romans 12)

I like what he says next: out of this transformation of our insides comes external proof of those changes, both proof on our behalf (that God is moving in our lives) and proof on our Father's behalf (that He is a good and perfect Father).

And the whole rest of his commentary is brilliant. I'll let you read it for yourself, but it was certainly eye-opening: spiritual gifts, living with other believers, living with unbelievers. Very practical.

Re-Viewing Our Lives

"J.B. Phillips has an outstanding and memorable translation of Romans 12:1-2:
"With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give Him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to Him and acceptable by Him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the Plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity."
(from StudyLight.org, David Guzik's commentary on Romans 12)

The last sentence brought me up short - in twenty-something years of exposure to Scripture and Christian values, I never heard anyone express the "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" bit this way. I'm not sure what it is about this version that is so distinct for me - something about this seems more human and understandable than the original: "Do not be conformed 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."

Perhaps it is that Phillips' translation speaks of faith, not doubt. In the original, the verse encourages us to assuage our doubt by testing (and approving) God's will - testing to see that it is good, pleasing and perfect. But Phillips' interpretation is "prove in practice." Do believing and see. For most of us, faith grows out of experience: as we see God's will unfold and follow it, as we receive affirmation and blessing then we believe and that belief takes us further in the next trial. And Phillips seems to suggest that we should walk, step by step, and see God's plan, see the good unfold. It is based in a willingness to submit and follow, versus the doubt-based "test and approve."

Of course, this is just one girl's unscholarly and rather feeling interpretation, but I have good reason to believe that I'm on to something (I am human, after all - I doubt more than I believe, I walk unwillingly and griping, and I am constantly surprised by how good God's plan is for my life). And I was encouraged last night to re-view the events in my life - hearing God's words, hearing His voice and guidance, is the highest privilege. So in that mindset, maybe this is less a call to restriction and removal and doubt, and instead is a call to greater faith and a willingness to follow wherever my Father leads me. I know I'm hanging onto His hand for dear life and tripping to keep up.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

As the rope frays, we get rather frantic.

The inimitable Joshua Rogers has done it again. (Go read "Dear Jesus, I am a Loser," then come back here for my follow-up remarks.)

No, really. Do it.

And if you want to read some of his other posts, you should. It's ok, I'll wait. (But please come back!)

So. Prayer is a frequent topic here, because (as I've said before) I suck at it. And I was just wondering about this idea of telling God every last dirty detail of how I really feel when I read Josh's blog.

The sad part of my story is that it generally takes weeks of the tidy, righteous prayers before I get to the end of my rope and start saying things like, "God! I can't do this anymore! I can hardly stand x, y, and z!" And then the truth comes out.

It's a messy situation. I've been hanging on to my dirty old rope for dear life, watching the point where it's rubbing begin to splinter, repeating my pretty, rote prayers. As the rope frays, I get more frantic and more honest. This is where the Father's wanted from me to be from the beginning - total surrender to Him.

By that point, I'm hoping for a miracle - I need fast-acting relief. I need the Claritin solution. But even God knows that drugs are never the answer: He wants me to learn something from this desperate situation, and He knows that if He gives me my miracle, I'll just repeat the whole scene next week.

So He waits. And He comforts me, but He tells me to wait on His timing.

Here's what I'm supposed to learn (and am only just now getting): If in the very beginning I will be open and honest and ugly in my prayers, the solution will come, the dangling will be less frightening, and my faith will be strengthened. Instead of waiting till I've reached my breaking point, I need to immediately pray with a loose tongue and an exposed heart. (I can feel my Father smiling and nodding: Well, that took a while, but she got it, guys!)

We're silly, fragile little creatures, aren't we? But oh, how He loves us!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Slowed to a crawl.

I dislike Mondays. It's not that I have anything particular against the day itself, but the percentage of things that go wrong seems to be statistically higher on Mondays. Today has been no exception. And the majority of the things gone wrong have been my fault, which is just plain frustrating.

I have been drinking up Needtobreathe like cold water today.

I am more happy than I've been in a very long time. I am making plans with the man that I love. I'm financially stable. I love my crooked little house. But something's been under my skin, a tiny reminder. And Oswald, of course, put his finger on the splinter: my purpose is slipping.

He says, "The vision Paul had on the road to Damascus was no passing emotion, but a vision that had very clear and emphatic directions for him...Our Lord said, in effect, to Paul - Your whole life is to be overmastered by Me; you are to have no end, no aim, and no purpose but Mine...Paul was not given a message or a doctrine to proclaim, he was brought into a vivid, personal, overmastering relationship to Jesus Christ...There is nothing there apart from the personal relationship. Paul was devoted to a Person not to a cause. He was absolutely Jesus Christ's, he saw nothing else, he lived for nothing else."

It's not that the place I'm in right now is bad - by no means! I've been waiting, praying, asking my whole life for this place. And it is here. It's just hard to remember that, despite feeling like I've been given all of my dreams in one year, my true purpose is relationship with Jesus. It's hard, but I have to ask myself, "If everything I have now were taken away from me tomorrow, would I still pursue Christ?"

I'm afraid of the answer.

I don't want to be afraid. I want every confidence that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing" will be able to sway my heart away from the love of my Father.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Just when you think you've got it...

I'm trying to think of an image to describe my spiritual life. The best I can come up with is a spiral: from outside the spiral (God's perspective), it's fairly easy to see where on the path I am, how far from one end, and how near to the other. From my perspective (inside the spiral), I only see layers moving slowly upward and the layers I've already put behind me. I seem to be constantly doubling back on myself, making very little progress, and even covering the same territory over and over.

I'm always surprised and disappointed to wake up one morning to discover a thin shell of callous over my heart. Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally and perhaps more divinely), I often sense this hardening and indifference on Sunday mornings as I'm hurrying to church. Even more divinely, my Father knows the fears and reactions of my heart - He knows what causes my retreat from His arms, and He waits for me. It's usually a Sunday like that when the teachings line up as either a gentle reminder or a kick in the seat of my pants. This week was so kind - there was no guilt or fear. Just a weary sense of, "I've seen this in myself before. I thought we'd gotten rid of it, Father. Here we go again."

If the spiral picture is accurate, we don't really ever get rid of or lose sight of those past things in our lives. And that may be a good thing - while that does not give us liberty to beat ourselves up over them, they do serve as memorials, or milestones. That's where I was - here I am now. We are never in both places.

Welcome to 2011. Apparently I'm going to ramble a lot this year. My apologies in advance. If you'd like to hear the same teaching, check out Frank Ramseur's New Years inspiration: Calvary Chapel Chattanooga.