The sorrow in joy.

I decided that I had something to say before the year is over.

Usually around this time of the year I start thinking back on the year, thinking about the difficulties and trials, hoping and praying for a better year next year.  Stressing about everything still to be done before the year ends, dreading Christmas.  That’s right.  I secretly dread Christmas.  Also our Christmas tree and decorations haven’t made it out of the basement yet.

A week before Thanksgiving, I heard the first Christmas song of the season on the radio.  It was “Hark, the Herald, Angels Sing.”  And of course I sang along.  Loudly.  I was overwhelmed by joy, reverence, and thankfulness that for a few short weeks the world will celebrate my redemption with me–whether they know it or not.  Whether they believe or not.  The story of my salvation is shared, if only by the occasional song, to everyone who pays any attention to the grocery store speakers.  (I must point out here that I did not in fact sing out loud in the middle of a grocery store.  I was in my car.  Though I have been tempted on more than one occasion . . . )  I was transported out of my own cares, to give thanks for a Baby Who was born to die.

Deity in human form, salvation in a stable.  Truly something to sing about.

In August, our church choir started practicing for our Christmas program.  It was also the week I found out that my aunt was going to pass from darkness into light sooner than we had hoped.  And let me tell you–singing those songs was heart-rending agony.  “Joy, unspeakable joy!  It rises in my soul, never lets me go.”  How could there be such joy when my heart was breaking in pieces?  The weeks that followed were difficult.  Quick planning, waiting, praying, waiting a little longer.  The desire for her to hold on at war with the desire for cessation of pain.

Even in those torturous moments of agonized waiting, it was there.  Joy.  It was at the funeral, the burial, the aftermath.  It certainly didn’t take the form of happiness, though there was still laughter.  There were tears, pain, grief.  The only way I can describe it is confidence.  The outcome is known–“the grave is swallowed up in victory.”  Death is not the end, my friends.  It is the great unifier, the enemy, the finisher of life.  But it was defeated by a poor Middle Eastern Rabbi with a lowly following, the King of all who let it go so we could share in His inheritance.  He brought our life from His death, our joy from His suffering.

Singing those words is hard every time.  And that’s okay.  And next year might be the most difficult year of my life.  (It has some stiff competition, though, so I doubt it.)  That’s okay, too.  Tragedy shows us who we are.  But really it shows us Who our Savior is.  Love.  Comforter.  Fortress.  Beloved.  Kinsman-Redeemer.  The King of kings, come to suffer so I can live freely.  “Hallelujah!  For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!”

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The Good in Good Friday.

Tomorrow is Easter–a day of celebrating life.  For some of us, it’s celebrating new life–Christ’s resurrection from the dead, bringing about our life of new purpose.  And I am so excited to celebrate tomorrow with my church family.  Sunrise service, fellowship time, and an Easter program where I get to bang a few drums, which is incredibly fun, by the way.

But I want to go back to Friday.

I’ve mentioned my incredibly thick skull a time or two before, and I want to re-emphasize this.  I learned a profound truth couched in a few simple words from two different angles.  It usually takes at least 2 for anything to stick.  Angle 1:  Sunday School.  Angle 2:  “Hind’s Feet in High Places” and “Mountain of Spices”, both by Hannah Hurnard.  About angle 1–I always have a hard time focusing in Sunday School because my brain tends to wander.  I’m not taking notes.  I’m not doing anything with my hands.  I have mild ADD, I’m sure. (I do know that ADD is no longer a diagnostic term.  I’m using it anyway.  I’m stubborn like that.) But we’ve been going through Galatians, and I tried–most weeks–to pay attention and interact with the passages we were talking about.  Now angle 2–I cried more reading these two books than in reading almost any other book.  I knew I was looking at a picture of who I want to be, and so much of what I’m still lacking in my daily living–to shed my titles of Much-Afraid, Resentment, Bitterness, and others, and walk with the Shepherd with a new name, living with His purpose and not my own.  To climb the Mountains of Spices with the Shepherd, each mountain representing the fruit of the Spirit, living them so that others sense that difference in me–that I am His, and He is mine.  

None of that–the shedding of the old life, the renewal of purpose, this new life walking in the Spirit–is possible without those excruciating hours Thursday and Friday.  Imprisonment.  False accusations.  Brutal scourging.  Mocking.  A walk down the Way of Suffering that is oh, so long and yet ends oh, so quickly.  Nailed to a cross.  The price of my sin on Him.  Death.  And we call that day “Good Friday.”  

“And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

What can be good about a mother watching her Son tortured and killed?  About a small group of followers who heard this Man say and do amazing things, yet watch Him helplessly as death comes for Him?  What is the good in the miracles He did, if His life is cut short by the religious rulers?  The good is not in the pain His followers felt as they hid leaderless.  It is not in the Romans killing another prisoner.  The good is in the Gospel.  That this death was supposed to be my death.  That His unknowable agony was the punishment for my guilt.  That even as I sin willfully, repeatedly, He loves me.  He cares about me.  He wants to adopt me into His family, to share in His inheritance.  Love came for us!  God reached across a chasm we could never span!  How can this story be told too many times?  How can I ever get bored by this recounting?  I should be judged, found guilty, dead, but I’m free–alive in Him!  He came to me and loved me at my lowest, suffered my shame for me!  It still hurts so, so much.  But it’s so, so good.

And here it is–the gospel, lived out:  Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Long-suffering.  Gentleness.  Goodness. Faith.  Meekness.  Self-control.  That’s it!  No complex equation of words needed.  These are great, great gifts that He gives us.  Here is His example to us of how we should live, how we should let ourselves be changed to be more like Him.  Instead of selfishness, love.  Instead of bitterness and anger, joy. Instead of worry, peace.  Enduring any trial because in the end, I’m more like Him.  A step closer to knowing Him, loving Him more fully.  Seeing His Hand in life’s experiences.  In pain, seeing hope in Him.  Returning good for evil.  Returning kindness for cruelty.  Love for hate.  After all, didn’t He do that for us?  How can we do any differently?

Tomorrow we celebrate our joy.  Our new future.  Because He was greater than death, the Conqueror risen again, giving hope to us hopeless, love to us hate-filled, removing our burdens and setting us free.  And that, friends, is good.

Mirror and Light.

“I think that most of us, anyway, read these stories that we know are not ‘true’ because we’re hungry for another kind of truth: the mythic truth about human nature in general, the particular truth about those life-communities that define our own identity, and the most specific truth of all: our own self-story. Fiction, because it is not about someone who lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about oneself.”  Orson Scott Card

I wanted to write this post two weeks ago.  I wanted to write last week, and I knew what I wanted it to be about, but couldn’t find the words to say what I wanted to say.  I think I finally found them–some of them, anyway.  So here goes.

This year I’m trying to read through my books I haven’t read yet.  For most people that may not amount to much, but being the book nerd I am, it’s 80 books.  And looking at the titles, knowing what I’ll struggle to get through, I’ve been trying to put the painful ones in between some easier reading.  The first book I had a hard time with was “To Live Again” by Catherine Marshall.  For those that don’t know who Catherine Marshall is, here’s a quick introduction:  author of “Christy”–a favorite of mine–and “A Man Called Peter,” a book about her husband.  Her husband was a pastor and Senate chaplain until he died suddenly in his early 40’s, leaving her with a 9-year-old son and no idea how to survive on her own.  “To Live Again” is about how she handled her husband’s death and how God led her to publish both her husband’s sermons and a book about him which later was turned into a movie.

And then came Bridget Jones.  The newest book was a good read, but unexpectedly sad.  While reading it I went back and forth between laughing and crying–laughing because poor Bridget just can’t win, and crying because of her painful journey.  And while I do get emotionally invested in most books I read, I don’t usually react this strongly.

Card’s point about fiction–about any story, really–is that we read to identify ourselves in these characters.  These people that come alive in our heads–Katniss Everdeen, Elizabeth Bennett, Luke Skywalker, Jean Valjean, Ender Wiggin, Romeo and Juliet–become manifestations of some part of our character.  Strength.  Love.  Bravery.  Desire for adventure.  They are mirrors–of who we are, who we want to be, how we see ourselves.

Who wants to “read himself” in the death of a spouse?  Who wants to truly understand what happens when the earth doesn’t hold anymore?  Who wants to experience that fall?  This was my unverbalized struggle.  To see myself in that circumstance, or any circumstance of deep suffering–how could I keep going if that happened to me?  Catherine Marshall put it best:  “Trust Me–that is all.  Are you really willing to put your future into My hands?  Are you willing to tell Me to manage it as I please? . . . Do you really think that you can do more than the Lord of the universe?  You have scarcely realized your presumption . . .”

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.”  Going through any difficult circumstance feels like going back to the beginning–like I never learned anything from the last painful moment.  I have to learn again to trust, to learn again that God is love, to see again His faithful hand guiding me.  And to look to Him for truth.

There is a concept in literary theory that all writings are either a mirror or a light.  Either you see yourself more clearly, or you see the truth more fully.  I am so thankful that we have the clearest mirror, by which we see our despicable condition, and the brightest of lights, by which we see that the narrow road we travel is the truest and the world around us is in darkness.  Truly God is good all the time; all the time God is good.

Hello. My name is Rebecca, and I’m a hypocrite.

I can already say that this year is not going how I expected at all.  My hope for this year was–“I really, really want this to be the year where nothing happens.”  Yeah, that lasted until day 12.  I had a monstrously bad afternoon that day.  But God is already using this circumstance to show me my weaknesses and His strengths.

At work, there is this cute kid.  We have a game of sorts that we play.  He asks, “Where’s mommy and daddy?”  And I say something like, “Mommy grew wings and turned into a butterfly and flew away.  Daddy grew a tail and turned into a fish and went swimming down the river.”  Or, “Mommy turned into a kitty cat and daddy turned into a puppy dog.”  There are a couple strategies in this weird answer. The first is to divert away from the fact that mommy and daddy aren’t here.  The second is to help incredibly literal small children use their imaginations.  There are a few moments when children get sincerely emotional and need reassurance that mommy and daddy didn’t forget them, still love them.  And my answer to that one is, “Mommy and daddy are working hard so you can have a home, and food, and nice things, and so you can come here and play with me.  They always come back for you.”

I wish I had that kind of trust.  The trust that takes the promise that mommy and daddy will never forget, and will always love, and just accept.  Oh, how I doubt.  It took two sentences for me to lose faith in God.  Was I ever disappointed.  Devastated, even.  What happened?  I must have done something to cause this.  What did I do wrong?  The plan was in place, everything was set.  Why even show me “what could have been” if that’s what was going to happen?  

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind . . . it is not irritable or resentful . . . Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

You see that sign hanging over me?  If you can’t read it, it says “hypocrite.”  I have prayed several times for God to increase my faith, to change my heart, to make me more like Him.  And here I am, worse than a 2-year-old, doubting God’s care after the many, many times He has proven Himself faithful.  I know He cares.  I look back at some of the most horrible moments of my life, pain-filled, seemingly hopeless moments, and I can see His loving hand guiding, growing, strengthening.  Truly “I shall not want.”  

I wish that I could choose what circumstances to go through.  I wish I could learn without God needing to beat the lesson into my stubborn head.  I wish my heart weren’t so drawn to financial security and materialism and comfort.  But mostly I wish that God would use this moment of weakness in my life to cause me to trust Him, to love Him more perfectly.  To turn my heart of stony selfishness into a heart that longs for Him.

I am not ready for the new year.  This is normal with me, though, this time of year.  I turn into Charlie Brown–“Oh, Lucy, I’m so depressed!”  What I start to think about–missed opportunities, regrets, things I wish I had done differently.  It all crowds my brain.  Around New Year’s Day is also when I feel the most lonely.  Actually, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s–something about the holiday time always makes my single status so much more painful.  Grating.  And next year I hit a dreaded milestone birthday.  I swear, I can feel the wrinkles on my face growing.

I am very ashamed of how my relationship with God was this past year.  I was so distant from Him–I pulled far away and was reluctant to come back.  I may have said pretty words and pretended otherwise, but I know the truth.  I am still that broken, twisted mess I was at the start of the year.

“Life is choices.  Choices have consequences.  Make the right choices.”  I am so tired of that saying.  I heard it for years and years–from the pulpit, from teachers in high school, from youth group sponsors.  It’s practically meaningless to me now, except as an irritant.  I tend to roll my eyes a little whenever I hear it.  That is my very broken, sinful nature coming out–it’s not a good reaction, just to be clear.  And I really dislike trite sayings in general.  And yet, there is truth in it.  

It seems to me that in life, as a general rule, there is actually only one “fork in the road” when it comes to decision-making.  It goes one of two ways.  Do I choose to live out the gospel, to emulate Christ?  Or do I choose to place comfort, enjoyment, ultimately me in first place?  When I get ready in the morning, do I think about my brothers in Christ who have to fight a continuing battle with lust?  Or do I dress in a way that may be “cute” but draw the wrong kind of attention?  At the end of a long, difficult day do I set aside time to thank God for the blessing of a job and a home, meditating on His word and the “great things He hath done?”  Or do I veg out until I go to bed, thinking how personally fulfilling work is, how great I am?  Because I obviously deserve the downtime, right?  Do I consider the hurting people around me, the people that need that connection through me to Christ?  The connections God has brought into my life for this purpose–am I lovingly pursuing these people?  Once again, I am so ashamed of myself.

But God.  But God is the God of second chances.  But God is the God who forgives and puts the memory of my sin as far away from Him as the east is from the west.  Some of my very favorite verses:  “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.  For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”  

The new year will still be depressing to me.  But it’s also a fresh start.  I may not read all 80 of the books I want to read, or keep my room picked up, or save as much money as I want to from my pitiful childcare salary, or whatever other resolutions I think up.  But it’s a reminder to me.  A new beginning in an ongoing war I feel I am losing every day, every week, every month.  “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.”  Through His mercy, His love, my future and hope is secure.  I have one decision to make this year.  

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Three Trees.

I can’t be trusted in bookstores.  I understand this thoroughly, and can’t enter one without leaving with a handful of books.  It’s a . . . talent? curse? addiction?  Maybe all of those.  I had yet another nerd moment when I went in to Barnes & Noble to pick up a book for a friend and to buy stocking stuffers for my nieces and nephews.  Because what better gift is there than the gift of stories, and daddy/mommy time, pretty pictures, and a love of reading?  I submit that there is no better gift.  Plus, as much as I love those kiddos, they have a ton of toys and don’t need any more.  Back to my nerd story.  I came across these Babylit books that take a literature classic–“Romeo and Juliet,” for instance–and make it into a counting book, or a picture book.  But they’re awesome, and I am now a fan of them.  The nieces and nephews aren’t getting these for Christmas, that’s for sure.

I bought a children’s book called “The Tale of Three Trees.”  It’s for Eli, but don’t tell him. It’s a well-known story–I heard it in Sunday School when I was a little girl.  I read it through again last night and felt compelled to share.  The story goes like this:

Three trees grow side-by-side and dream of being a treasure chest, a sailing ship, and a tall tree that points to God.  They get cut down.  The first gets turned into the manger that Mary laid Jesus in.  The second gets turned into the boat that Jesus calmed the seas in.  The third gets turned into Jesus’s cross.  “On Sunday morning when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew God’s love had changed everything.  It had made the first tree beautiful.  It had made the second tree strong.  And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.  That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.”

I love that at Christmas, we aren’t celebrating a baby being born–we’re celebrating our salvation.  We not only remember the stable, the hay, the swaddling clothes, the star–we remember His miracles.  His love for the Father and His love for us.  Pursuing His sheep to His death, claiming victory over the grave, over our own sin-brought curse.  We are celebrating the Lion and the Lamb, the Rose of Sharon, our Friend, Giver of light and life, King of kings and Lord of lords.  “Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”

Emmanuel–God with us.  Thank You for Your indescribable gift.

Resolutions and Testimonies.

I’ll start with a funny story.  This week I went to meet a friend up in Reading on a weeknight–which amounts to a lot of driving in a day. It was around 7:00, I was tired and hadn’t eaten, and seemed to hit every light red on State Hill.  I was getting really irritated, and I was not the most pleasant at that point.  I don’t know why, but it brought me back down memory lane to Riverview, when I was working as the cook.  A few days a week I went early and served a hot breakfast.  The morning I was thinking about, I was trying to get oranges peeled and cut for 70 or so kids.  I had 30 or 40 oranges to peel and chop, all for different ages that needed to be prepared a little differently, depending on age and what size pieces they could manage.  So I was trying to peel these oranges and they were shredding on me when I tried to peel them. I was getting incredibly, irrationally angry at the oranges.  Really, really angry at these stupid oranges that wouldn’t just let me peel them and chop them up.  The funny thing about that day was that right after I served breakfast, I got myself stuck in a closet.  It still makes me laugh every time I think about it.  

I am convinced that God sends these moments of ridiculousness and these odd, funny situations in my life to remind me to keep laughing, and not take myself too seriously.  It may also be for the well-being of my friends, like the one I was meeting in Reading, since I have to tell someone these dumb things that happen to me.  Like the time I was looking for something specific at a craft store, and they had sold out.  This was also after work, at night, when I was not at my most pleasant.  When I had pulled into the parking lot, someone had pulled out in front of me at a stop sign, and that irritated me even more.  So inside, when I saw that they didn’t have what I wanted, I found a replacement and bought every pack of that item (it wasn’t that many, and they weren’t expensive).  I later told my friend about it and said, “I hope I ruined someone’s day!”  She still quotes me on that one.  So when/if you see my funny stories on facebook, know that it’s my ongoing attempt to keep laughter around me, and to not be so overwhelmed by circumstances that I can’t see the joy and humor in my life.  

The two things I’ve been thinking about this week, and honestly dreading a little, are my New Year’s resolutions and giving my testimony tomorrow in Sunday School.  My resolutions usually are a bust.  This blog being an exception.  I still don’t read my Bible every day.  I still occasionally yell at drivers (“Just turn your stupid car!”), I haven’t read all the books on my shelf (I’ll probably attempt this one again next year), and I haven’t crocheted a single thing.  But I’ll keep trying, cashing in on the New Year’s craze to be a better person, and trying again next year to be a more godly, humble, caring believer.  

Tomorrow is getting here way too soon for my liking.  I always dread talking about my testimony in public.  Mostly because I consider it a smashing success if I manage to not cry.  I’m so tempted to keep it light and fluffy, but I know that if people know my hurt, and if I know that they know, it invites an openness, a vulnerability, to know that someone else has experienced pain possibly in a similar way.  I am reminded of one friend God brought into my life–every time we talk, it seems like the Holy Spirit bonds us more and more.  We always end up saying, “I know exactly what you mean!” and for whatever reason we’ve been through a lot of similar struggles, similar pain, and although we felt alone before, God brought us together to bond and encourage each other.  Most times when I think about my struggles, I picture myself in a boat, rowing all alone, not knowing where I’m going, surrounded by darkness.  And this friend makes me feel that she’s in there with me. We’re both trying to get to the same place.  

So what to say tomorrow?  I’ll probably plan it all out, and then say nothing that I meant to say.  But that’s all right.  It’s how it usually goes.  God still uses overly emotional, pain-filled people to touch others.  And even if no one is changed by my telling, I know I am every time I talk about what God has been doing in my life.  It allows another selfish block in the walls around my heart to fall out.  I become a little less stone-like, a little more raw, but a better vessel for His use.

Not Another Singleness Blog Post!

OK.  I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this for a while.  I really, really, really don’t want to open myself up in this way.  I have absolutely no desire to write this, and I always have kinda felt that writing about singleness belongs in the TMI section (too much information, for those not in the know).  But.  God’s been convicting me about it, and I know it’s time to actually stop procrastinating and write.  Ugh.  Now is your chance to escape.  Last chance . . . 

I have never felt “called” to singleness.  Right now, I don’t feel that I was made (if that’s a thing) to be single.  My life plan has always included getting married, and just to be completely honest, escaping.  Here’s how the thought process went down in high school:  1.  Go to college.  2.  Meet an awesome guy who lived far, far away from Pennsylvania.  3.  Marry that guy, and set up a dream home.  4.  Visit home occasionally, mostly to gloat about how amazing my life was.  Silly, yes.  Immature.  At the time, I had no idea how vibrant my relationship with God should be, how beautiful it is for a humble, broken person to continue to serve God, to do His will, to let go.

Never would I have thought that I would be . . . as old as I am . . . and still alone.  I’m a spinster!  Ha!  Yet I’m glad I’ve had that time to grow, to be a better person, to see Christ move.  I’ve had to rely on a host of “second mothers” and friends.  I’ve learned dependence, not on another person, but on the provision of God.  How good He is!  Truly, His plan is better than mine.  But that’s so easy to forget.  I chafe, get restless, desire what I don’t have.  

And that’s the crux of it, really.  Control.  Do I trust God enough with my future in this area?  Can He really provide the joy and happiness He promises if I stay single?  Will my life really be fulfilling, meaningful, real, if I have to remain, as I see it, alone?  Do I really believe that His plans are “for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope?”  My prayer has been that, if I’m supposed to be single, He would change my heart, and give me a contentment I don’t feel often.  I think, instead, my prayer going forward needs to be that I can use this discomfort, like in other areas of my life, to reach out, to serve and minister, to be a light.  To use the time wisely, not in pursuing empty fillers, but in pursing Him.  In pursuing thankfulness and joy for what He has given me in His great grace.

A Request.

Who feels like an inadequate, self-righeous hypocrite?  Ooh, me, pick me!

I will never in this life understand why God calls me to minister to others.  I feel like I have nothing to offer in the face of suffering, confusion, pain.  What can I give when I can’t even spend consistent time with God, or carry on a conversation with someone I don’t know well?  I feel foolish every single time.  It sure is a good thing that God works through our weaknesses, because I feel like nothing but weakness right now.  I feel audacious.  And silly.  And also ridiculous.  Thank You, God, for being good, wise, caring, all-knowing, and merciful.  

I read something in Luke a few weeks ago that has stuck with me.  We studied it in church a few months ago, and I was moved.  When I reread it, I had a moment of insight.  The story goes like this:  Jesus goes to a Pharisee’s house to eat with him.  A woman who was a known sinner sees Him, brings a priceless container of ointment, and sits at His feet.  She breaks open the container, wets His feet with her tears, and washes His feet using her hair, her tears, and the priceless ointment.  The Pharisee is offended that Jesus would let a sinner touch Him, and Jesus points out the effect of forgiving much–gratitude and love.  

What came to mind is the song “I Can Only Imagine.”  

“Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?”

I am a sinner.  A failure.  A wretched person with no end to the wickedness inside me.  Deceitful, proud, manipulative, hateful, constantly choosing to do what is wrong when the better way stands right in front of me.  How could I ever hope to attain heaven, when I am so bent on doing what is despicable?  

“But thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”

Here’s what I want–when I see Him, I want to run to His feet, and wash His feet with my hair and my tears, and in my silly, unsubstantial, completely inadequate way, repay Him for His death, His guiding, His love.  I know I’ll want to dance, to sing, to rejoice, to kneel, to stand in reverence and awe, but as a known sinner, I want to pour out my little offering at His feet and show Him my gratitude like this woman did.  I have been forgiven much.

Oh God, let my life be an outpouring of fragrance, spreading the knowledge of You to everyone I meet!  You lead, equip, and love me with an unknowable, vast love.  Forgive me for my ingratitude and willful disobedience.  Let me echo Your love more fully.

Can You See It?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and that was on purpose.  I needed to recharge, refocus, and rest from writing for a little bit.  Summer has been absolutely crazy between work and all the other things that I’m involved in.  I haven’t had much time to rest, but I’m going on vacation end of September (yay!) to visit some family.

Eventually I’ll learn that I should never say, “It can’t get any worse.”  I’m always, always proven wrong when that thought pops up.  But the crazy circumstances of the past few months have made me turn to God more and more.  If nothing else comes from some of the particular trials I’m going through, they are making me long for heaven, God’s presence, and endless praise of His goodness in my life.  My heart will never again be “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

I am struck continually by how difficult we make our walk with God.  It’s actually a simple, and dare I say it, passive life.  Follow.  Be a witness.  Love.  Listen for the Spirit.  What should be a simple “Go and do” gets warped in our minds into an endless checklist.  Read the Bible–the right version.  Pray before eating.  Go to church.  Live the right way.  Sing the right songs.  Give 10 per cent.  And overall, look and talk like a good Christian.  Where does this come from?  Why can’t we forget our own image and be so devastated by our love for God that that this Pharisaical checklist means nothing?

Picture it–one person.  Loving God so much, being so attuned to the Spirit that they see the hurting friend, coworker, stranger that needs a few words of comfort, love, hope.  No fear keeps them from that conversation.  Giving when asked, or even not asked, feeling no compulsion to grasp and hide every last cent when a need appears.  Having no second thought of going to worship God with His people, singing His praise no matter what music is sung.  Heeding the Spirit’s call to weed out sinful thoughts and actions.  Needing desperately to soak in what God wrote to us, without thought of how much or how often to read.

Can you see it?  A church filled with people like this.  A church that grows exponentially–not just in numbers, but in closeness to God.  How can the young not desire what the adults have?  How can they resist that?  No hypocrisy–only love.  Genuine, unfiltered, pouring out of all we have because how could we ever give more than He gave us?  Seeing God at work every day in every situation, every detail of life–how can God not use that gathering of people to grow His kingdom?

Why am I not that person?

September 2017
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