Lord Of Life

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Why is it so hard to stay in love with life?

I’ve been feeling a little worn out lately. Remember my tissue paper analogy? It’s like I’ve gone from being strong and resistant, like a dish towel or one of those magic squeegee towels, to having the texture and resistance of tissue paper. Please, Lord, don’t ask me to try to dry (or do or withstand) anything. I cannot take it right now.

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I know there’s no shame in that. There’s no shame in feeling a little subdued. But it’s not fun. It’s not fun to feel… I don’t know, the opposite of vivacious.

But the beauty of being a child of the Lord? My soul rejoices even while it cries. He sees me. He will use this time. Praying in my car? Crying for no reason that my head is aware of, but that my soul seems to feel perfectly validated in? That is where I’m at right now. And it’s okay.

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Lord, I will accept what You have for me right now. I will use this time to press in to You and seek Your face and love the people You bring into my life.

But I want to fall back in love with life.

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Help me breathe in my many blessings and breathe out gratitude.

Help me love the fluttering leaves and purple-black sky.

Help me love lighting candles inside while it rains outside.

Help me love small pumpkins and things flavored with nutmeg.

Help me love warm blankets and wool socks and taking walks with a scarf wrapped snugly around my neck.

Help me love people.

Help me love my best friend’s smile.

Help me love sharing a meal with that person who always occupies my heart, but less often occupies the same space as me.

Help me love getting to sit by someone’s side while they cry and unload their heart.

Help me love the first light of day.

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It’s so hard to carry grief in your heart, to know that you will spend you entire life grieving certain things, and still trust that who you are and where you are in this moment, today, is exactly where you should be.

Help me not get stuck in self-pity, Lord. Help me give my grief to You, over and over and over again.

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And Lord, the part of me deep down that still holds onto this belief that I am unlovable? Heal it, Lord. My head knows differently. My head knows I am Yours and I am treasured

But my heart is still so sensitive. My heart still feels twisted and young and deprived of love.

And Lord, knowing You are all I need, and all I ultimately could want, it just makes it so hard to have any distance at all between You and me. Help me look forward to heaven and spending eternity with You without feeling completely homesick and dissatisfied with this life You’ve given me.

Help me seek You whole-heartedly.

And overwhelm me, Lord. Overwhelm me with Your presence and love.

And use me. I don’t want to do life selfishly, just wanting You. I also want to make myself available to be used by You.

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In other news, I recently read Soul Keeping by John Ortberg. I really liked it.

“This is where grace comes in. I cannot replace an idol by turning away from it. I must turn toward something.”

You cannot give up an addictive or unhealthy behavior by willpower alone. You need to replace it with something (or Someone) else.

“The soul without a center finds its identity in externals. My temptation when my soul is not centered in God is to try to control my life. In the Bible this is spoken in terms of the lifting up of one’s soul. The prophet Habakkuk said that the opposite of living in faithful dependence on God is to lift your soul up in pride. The psalmist says that the person who can live in God’s presence is the one who has not lifted their soul up to an idol. When my soul is not centered in God, I define myself by my accomplishments, or my physical appearance, or my title, or my important friends. When I lose those, I lose my identity. A soul without a center is like a house built over a sinkhole. ‘How collapsed you are my soul, and how you sigh over me.’ On the other hand, the soul comes alive when it is centered on God. ‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…for to you I lift up my soul.'”

“Your soul is a needy man, a needy woman. Thomas Aquinas wrote that this neediness of the soul is a pointer to God. We are limited in virtually every way: in our intelligence, our strength, our energy, our mortality. There is only one area where human beings are unlimited. As Kent Dunnington puts it, ‘We are limited in every way but one: we have unlimited desire.’ We always want more: more time, more wisdom, more beauty, more funny YouTube videos. This is the soul crying out. We never have enough. The truth is., the soul’s infinite capacity to desire is the mirror image of God’s infinite capacity to give. What if the real reason we feel like we never have enough is that God is not yet finished giving? The unlimited neediness of the soul matches the unlimited grace of God. Our soul’s problem, however, is not its neediness; it’s our fallenness. Our need was meant to point us to God. Instead, we fasten our minds and bodies and wills on other sources of ultimate devotion, which the bible calls idolatry. Idolatry is the most serious sin in the Old Testament, leading one scholar to conclude that the primary principal of the Old Testament is the refutation of idolatry. Idolatry, accord to author Timothy Keller, is the sin beneath the sin. Anytime I sin, I am allowing some competing desire to have higher priory than God and God’s will for my life…We all commit idolatry every day. It is the sin of the soul meeting its needs with anything that distances it from God.”

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Ears To Hear

I’ve been having some really vivid, really bad dreams lately.

But there has been a progression, I’ve noticed.

My dreams this week started out being just bad. Terrifying, really. Dreams in which I was somehow being targeted or victimized. Dreams where I was powerless.

But towards the end of the week, my dreams took a different shape. They were still bad. I was still, on my own, powerless. But the difference was that Jesus loomed larger in my dreams than my victimizer. My dreams were no longer the same intensity of terrifying because my dream self had called on Him. My dream self has stopped trying to do it on her own strength. I called His name and He came. And I knew He was in control. I wasn’t anybody’s victim because I was (am) His child.

During one particularly powerful and vivid dream, I actually felt sympathy for my dream’s “bad guy”. I knew he was blinded. I knew he thought he saw things clearly, thought he saw how they “should” be, but that he was wrong. So wrong. And while he meant me (and many others in my dream) harm, I knew he was confused. And, even though I knew he might retaliate at my boldness, my dream self actually placed her hand over his heart and prayed aloud for him. Not worried I’d offend him, not worried he’d lash out, I prayed that he would be able to see clearly what he was doing. And I prayed God would forgive him.

When I woke up, I felt Jesus smiling at me. Sometimes my awake-self is so fearful, so confused about what really matters, but my dream self isn’t. My dream self has unwavering faith. My dream self has seen the face of God and is changed.

Last night, however, I had a much different dream. I was at my elementary school playground. It was sunny. And I was practicing handstands against the brick wall. Twenty-seven years old, practicing handstands.

Life is so beautiful it makes me cry. Even when it’s excruciating, it is beautiful. There is evil, yes, but this is still the world our God created. These are still the people He knit together in their mothers’ wombs. Every sunrise, every baby, every time someone smiles at you and the smile reaches all the way up to their eyes, every kind gesture, every kind word, every starry night- they are not “just part of life”, they are messages to us about God’s character, His heart for us.

When I watch a mother look at her daughter the way only a mother can do, when I hear someone say their father is their biggest supporter, when I see a husband tenderly kiss the top of his wife’s head, my heart twists with the grief of it all.

But those moments are messages, too. This heart of mine, which feels so grieved and twisted, was created by God. Those things hurt because they weren’t supposed to be that way. He designed us to be loved. We hurt because we were created for more. 

But with every tear, with every moment where I feel paralyzed with the weight of life, God is there. He is so, so present. He says to me, “Come to Me. You are still Someone’s child. look at you the way that mom is looking at her daughter. I am a bigger fan of yours than your earthly father ever could be. If only you knew how often I look at you tenderly and kiss your head. You are so, so beloved. You want so badly to belong, to be treasured, but you don’t realize that you already are. You are MINE.”

In every thing, every laugh, every tear, God whispers to us.

Lord, help us hear You.

He Is The Answer

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.”

I’ve been singing that song the last few days- only, instead of coming back to the heart of worship, I need a whole life remodel. I need to come back to the heart of life.

Aye. How very quick I am to re-prioritize my life, making loving the Lord and seeking Him a second or third or fourteenth priority when it should always, always be first.

I can tell, almost immediately, when my priorities are off. When seeking God stops being first, taking care of myself also plummets. If Seeking God is fourteenth, Taking Care Of Myself hovers right around twenty.

It makes sense, really. If I’m no longer prioritizing my spiritual health and well-being, my physical and emotional health probably aren’t ranking so high on my list of concerns either. And a person cannot do life very long without prioritizing self-care. It becomes as futile as trying to run a car on empty. We have to receive (nutritious food, exercise, time with people, fresh air, Jesus…) in order to function well.

Sometimes during these improperly balanced phases of my life, I will catch myself aimlessly scrolling through things on the internet (*cough*Pinterest*cough*), looking for something unspecific. And not finding it. Looking for something to stir my soul. To inspire hope. To refresh my life. And I know, deep down, that what I’m searching for, longing for, aching for, isn’t going to be found online. I need Abba. Desperately, every moment of every day, I need Him. Downplaying that only leads to my suffering. It only leads to a life less full and rich and worth it.

Do I need to spend more time thinking about how to achieve my goals, or how to love my God? Do I need to devote more energy to worrying about paying my bills, or worrying about fully loving God? He is the answer. He is the answer to all of it. The more I seek Him, the more everything else will fall into place. Pinterest sure cannot say that! 😉

I don’t want to plow through life, low-energy. I want to wake up in the morning and be happy and energized. I want to go through my day present and grateful and tuned in to the voice of God. And I want to go to bed at night fulfilled and at peace. No matter how many “how to love life”, “how to make a difference”, “how to sleep well” Google searches I do, the answer just isn’t going to be found there. The answer is Him. Always, always, always, He is the answer.

Hallelujah!

“Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging. Your love is a mountain, firm beneath my feet. Your love is a mystery, how You gently lift me. When I am surrounded, Your love carries me. Your love is surprising, I can feel it rising, all the joy that’s growing deep inside of me. And every time I see You, all Your goodness shines through, and I can feel this God song rising up in me: Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Your love makes me sing!”

In other news, I bought a new cat tree today. It is standing tall and proud in my bedroom and it’s about the size of my bed. It is quite the eye-sore. But it’s also totally worth it. Because my cat boys love it. However, should I ever actually get a human boy in my life, I might have to hide the cat tree in the garage for a while- to downplay the “crazy cat lady” thing. 😉

And now, to bring this whole blog full-circle in a way that I hadn’t anticipated and couldn’t have planned, Brittany just came into my room to tell me a story about a couple in Australia who paid a lot of money to save their goldfish’s life.

“That is one spoiled brat of a gold fish! But I am so happy for it,” Britt said.

“Me too,” I agreed. “And I totally get it. Loving a pet isn’t a rational thing. That (I pointed at my cat tree) isn’t rational. But it’s so worth it.”

And you know what? You know what I realized as soon as those words were out of my mouth? That kind of crazy, irrational “cat tree the size of my bed”, “I will spend any amount of money to save my goldfish’s life” love should be how I live out my love for God, too. Only more. Bigger.

Lord, help me love You more than anything. I want to love You with wild, reckless abandon.

That is, after all, exactly how You love me.

Only even more magnified. Magnified beyond comprehension.

“King of endless worth, no one could express how much you deserve. Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is Yours. Every single breath.”

O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?

“People long for more than earth…We have our moments. The newborn on our breast, the bride on our arm, the sunshine on our back. But even those moments are simply slivers of light breaking through heaven’s window. God flirts with us. He tantalizes us. He romances us. Those moments are appetizers for the dish that is to come.” -Max Lucado

The things about this life that make it worth it? They are reflections of heaven. They are meant to reflect our Lord and His love for us. The good things in life? They are Him. Life on its own is inherently beautiful- our God is.

Lord, with every good day, with every soul-stirring, heart-filling moment, with every laugh and meaningful hug, help me fall more in love with You, not with life. Not with what this world has to offer, but with what my Lord and Savior has to offer.

Help the good in life not strengthen my attachment to life, but to You.

Oh, Abba. How great You are.

Death has no sting.

Life Apart From Him

I was talking today to my coworker about how hard life is. How IMPOSSIBLE it is to do without God.

Even with God, life is hard. Just look at society. People turn to so much else to get them through life, to help them find joy- food, sex, relationships, alcohol, work, television, gambling, etc. But those things don’t lead to joy. They don’t actually make life easier at all; they only further complicate it.

And yet, life is designed to be hard. Not always, but at least often enough that we know we cannot do it without Him. Every time we find ourselves trapped and desperate or reaching for something that is ultimately not life-giving, it’s a call to run to God. He will meet our needs. He, alone, can meet our needs.

If I didn’t know God, if I didn’t know that He keeps His promises and that the Bible is His love letter to us, our sword to get through this life, I don’t think I could do it. At least, I couldn’t do it well. I would be turning to all of the above things in search of something to make life less hard, something to make it less overwhelming.

But I know that all I need is Jesus. And, because I am just as susceptible as the next person to try to find life in something other than Him, I pray daily to maintain a clear perspective. A hunger for the only One who can satisfy. I don’t always remember that in the moment, in a moment of despair or panic, but every time I turn to something that isn’t Him, I quickly find myself back at His feet or in His lap or begging for Him to bend down and kiss my forehead and hold tight to my hand. He alone can satisfy.

He is our joy. Our hope. Our fulfillment.

Let’s not be confused, thinking we are here to be employees or siblings or daughters or sons or parents. We are not here to get a nicer car or bigger house or out of debt. We are not here to achieve or be recognized or to gain respect. We are here to love. We are here to be HIS children, to do HIS work.

I have been so tired lately. My eyelids are heavy, my body is heavy, and my brain is sluggish. However, as with anything difficult that life throws at me, I have come to realize that my tiredness is a call to seek God. When illness or lack of sleep aren’t the culprit, tiredness, I’ve learned, is often a sign that I’ve been trying to do life on my own strength. Even though I try to go through my day with God, hearing His voice, and praying for His strength, something has been amiss the last few days. I’m not trusting Him as much as I should. I’ve been turning to things that aren’t Him, hoping they will give me reprieve or answers or rest.

They won’t, though.

There are so many hurting people. And sometimes people are hurting because life is HARD, but sometimes they unintentionally exacerbate their own suffering by trying to save themselves or failing to seek their Creator. It breaks my heart.

And THAT is why we’re here. THAT makes my tomorrow and the day after it feel less routine and mundane and more exciting. That gives me energy and joy. God has a plan for my today. He has a plan for my tomorrow. Nothing is routine. Everything that God is a part of comes to life. Including me.

Tomorrow can feel so overwhelming. When I contemplate my to-do list, when I try to anticipate moments of my day that will be better than staying in bed all day with my cats, I feel a little bit hopeless. But I don’t actually know what tomorrow brings. And I cannot expect to have strength for tomorrow while it is still today. Whatever tomorrow brings, rather I plow through my to-do list or have things unexpectedly added to it, God will be there. Holding my hand. Kissing my forehead. Giving me strength. Tomorrow is in His hands. And so am I. And right now, Lord, I give tomorrow to You. I give all of my tomorrows to You. I will not lay awake and try to sort my life out or live days that haven’t come yet. We have done today together, and we have done it well. And now all You are asking of me is that I rest.

Thank You, Jesus, that You give us rest.

Thank You that we aren’t just here to be warriors for Your Kingdom, although that is certainly our highest calling, but that we are also here to laugh and delight in this life You have given us. We are here to fall deeper in love with You. We are here to work, we are here to play, and we are here to rest. You designed it that way because You love us. You triumph when we are victorious and you laugh when we’re laughing. You aren’t just up in heaven, distant, dictating our lives- you are here, present, Emmanuel, doing life with us. When life is hard for me, You feel it. When I am full of joy and gratitude, You feel that too. We’re not doing this life alone. You love us SO much, Abba. Thank You that You love us.

As I seek You, Lord, life gains depth and purpose and meaning. Each day feels significant. The more I spend time with You, the less I feel like I am lacking. And the less I feel like I am lacking, the easier it is to give to the people you bring into my life. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard. You are the key to everything.

I am not lacking, Lord; I know that. I am complete and whole and beloved and being made perfect in You. I am not alone. I am not unseen. You are aware of my needs and You promise to meet them. I am fully loved, fully taken care of, and deeply cherished. Help me, help us, not forget that, Lord. We are significant. We are beloved. More of You, Abba. More of You. Help us to love You even more, Lord. Fill us afresh with a zest for life.