I’ve always known priorities are important. I’ve grown up hearing it— and seeking to live it. But then there’s those times when I’m taken off guard and I realize how much I still have to learn.
This summer was one of those…
Our schedule this year has been more full than any other year I remember. It's been exciting and crazy all at once. After being away on ministry trips for almost the entire spring, we set off for six weeks of ministry interspersed with family time. Little did I know how much I would learn about myself and my priorities along the way.
Often we think of priorities as choosing to put God, family, and ministry before other less important matters. But what about the times when we have to choose between giving our greatest energy to God or in ministry to people? What then? Is it more important to pour ourselves out on behalf of hurting humanity until we are spent, or to give our Jesus our freshest energies? Is it selfish to take time to talk to God about the little things that bother us when so many are fighting for life? How does one balance between taking time to “be still and know” and fulfilling responsibilities that seem to increase exponentially? Might there be a difference between real loving service of our Jesus and the load we so often place on ourselves of doing everything we think others expect us to do?
Hard questions that call for hard answers.
I’ve always known that I want Jesus to be priority number one. Over and over He has reminded me that He comes before school and work and any of my own plans. I think I’d finally begun to learn that one. And then He reminded me last fall that He comes before even my closest friends and family. That one is a little harder to learn, but when I began to grasp it I started to experience the beauty of loving Jesus most of all.
But our enemy is never content to see Jesus exalted. And sometimes he catches us where we least expect it.
For me that was in putting ministry before my own deep connection with Jesus. Sure, I didn’t consciously lay Him aside for something else. In fact I spent many hours seeking Him and trying to understand why His face seemed further away. But when it came down to sharing the deepest corners of my own heart with God or running off to seek to fulfill the needs around me, I chose the latter. I’m the type who hates to say no... who finds it easier to run myself dry in the hopes that someone else will be spared emptiness themselves. After all, isn’t that what it means to be selfless?
When we choose to put the needs of the hurting before our own intimacy with God we neglect Him and prove to be far less of a blessing to the very people we were seeking to serve.
When Jesus does not come before absolutely everything else, everyone suffers.
When we allow ministry to come before Jesus we cheat Him of the devotion He deserves. And not only that… we cheat the world of seeing a life who loves Him above all else.
Maybe it’s not real selflessness that puts ministry before our own intimacy with God. Maybe it’s a warped perspective.
When I see the needs of the hurting and think that I must jump to be all things to all people I miss the place He designed for me as His friend and coworker, and end up trying to do His job for Him. When I don’t choose to resist feeling guilty for not touching every heart I see, I miss the opportunity to live in real contact with His. When I try to spread myself too thin, there is nothing left to invest more deeply in the people He specifically wants be to touch. Really, when I think I have to reach the whole world I miss the unique opportunities He has handpicked for me.
Maybe saying no is actually saying yes to something greater.
What if the greatest ministry is only found in loving Jesus with the whole heart and then willingly accepting any cross He gives us? No less. No more. He already carried the cross that saves the world. Maybe my strained efforts to carry a cross I was never meant to lift not only hurt me but the heart of the One who already bore it. Isn’t it a diminishment of what He has already done to think that I must reach the whole world?
After all, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
I can’t claim to have learned all these lessons yet. I’m still getting there. Letting Him change old thought patterns and our natural nature doesn’t happen overnight. But it can happen. It will happen if I let Him. My Jesus never gives up.
We’re heading out now on our fall season of travel, and I go with a fresh recognition of how desperately I need Him to be my priority.
We fly and I look down on the lights of the city below and I remember that He holds the whole world in His heart. I don’t have to carry that weight... I simply have to carry Him in my heart and be willing to go wherever He leads and love whatever He asks me to love. This is life.
I share because I know I’m not the only one who struggles to give Jesus His rightful place. I don’t know what it is that blocks you from the deepest intimacy with His heart, but I know that if He can begin to teach me, He can teach you.
Nothing, nothing in all the universe is more important than Jesus.
Everything but Him is merely ashes. And honestly, anything that steals our heart from Him is our idol.
I don’t want to make an idol out of anything. Not even the things that seem innocent— like ministry. I want Jesus first, last and best in everything. Even if that means I lay down some of the things I think are so crucial.
I want to be all He created me to be-- His friend. I want that for you.
And maybe it’s only when we learn to love Him best that we learn to love the hurting world like He does.
Maybe it’s only then that our ministry carries the power to shake the world.
His name was Samuel Rutherford. He wasn’t perfect but he was a man of rare love. Love that was forged in the fire.
Samuel was an extremely dedicated Scottish minister in the 1600’s. He deeply cared for those in his care, and was dearly loved by his congregation in return. But even early in his ministry he was faced with heartbreak. After being married for a short 4 years, his precious wife became very ill and after battling with the illness for 13 months, died. Shortly afterwards, two of their three children and his mother also died. He was left alone and in very ill health himself to take care of his remaining child and care for his parish.
His trials didn’t end there. A few years later he was banished from his parish and exiled far from his beloved congregation because of his faithfulness to what he believed. This was exceedingly difficult for him. If there was anything he loved to do it was to expand the beauty of his Jesus to the people in his care. Now he was separated from them and prohibited from preaching.
The political situation in Scotland changed several years later and he was allowed to continue his ministry. During this time he remarried and he and his new wife had five children. It would seem that things had finally changed for the better. But not for long. Two of his dear children died as infants. Two more died while he was away in London. Before his own death at the age of 61, all of his children from both marriages had died. I can’t even begin to imagine what his father’s heart went through.
The way he related to this life of bitter experiences is clear from his own words…
“Think it not hard if you get not your will, nor your delights in this life; God will have you to rejoice in nothing but Himself.”
And again… “they lose nothing who gain Christ."
Spurgeon later quoted from one of his letters saying,
“dear Samuel Rutherford, when he wrote to a lady who had lost, I think, seven children, congratulated her and said, “I am sure that the well-Beloved has a strong affection for your ladyship, for He will have all your heart. He has taken away all these children that there may not be a nook or corner for anybody else but Him.”
His heart was captured by the love of the infinite. He willingly confessed that he was not his own…
“Since He looked upon me my heart is not my own. He hath run away to heaven with it.”
To lose all on earth was considered a very small sacrifice indeed to gain Christ. He wanted nothing but Jesus… Jesus was heaven.
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee it would be hell; and if I could be in hell and have thee still it would be heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.
I can’t help but be struck by such a love. It makes me examine my own. Is He really all I want? Is He my heaven?
So often I seem to think I deserve things here on earth… you know, that certain things are my right and it’s not fair if I don’t have them. And then I remember… I deserve nothing. Nothing but death. But because He loved me so much, He bore that for me and gave me the greatest gift in the universe— Himself. And I dare to think I deserve something more?
Oh my soul, claim nothing as your own.
For you there is God and God alone.
And really what could be sweeter? If I lose all I count dear, I still have Him… if I am called to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He comes too… if I am asked to pour myself out for His people and receive nothing in return, He will give me Himself.
How can anything but gratitude ever formulate in my heart?
God alone! God alone!
In Your courts, oh my Lord, is my home
You are my treasure, my portion delight of my soul
My life, my salvation, my fortress
My God and my all.
I want Him to be my heaven. Nothing but Him. Because if it is, who says heaven can’t start now and increase in sweetness every time I’m called to bear a burden because in bearing it I find more of His heart?
Spurgeon again quotes Rutherford…
“…he speaks of the coals of divine wrath all falling upon the head of Christ, so that not one might fall upon His people. ‘And yet,’ saith he, ‘if one of those coals should drop from His head upon mine and did utterly consume me, yet if I felt it was a part of the coals that fell upon Him, and I was bearing it for His, and in communion with Him, I would choose it for my heaven. ‘“
Oh heart. Be still and think. Could I say that? Or do I still want things for myself?
or can I sing...
Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be,
More love oh Christ to Thee
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee.
I’m willing to learn to claim nothing as my own. I want God and God alone.
Jesus, mold our hearts so that you are all the heaven we want…
Because, after all, we are all the heaven You want.
Sometimes I wonder if we have lost perspective. We struggle to get up in the morning to spend time with God. We struggle to take time to really pray. We struggle to be content and really happy. And all the while we sincerely claim to love God most of all.
Sometimes I doubt that we even know what that really means.
You know the love and overflowing happiness on the faces of a newly married couple? The way they look at each other, always want to be together, find everything fun when they can do it as a team, make the simplest tasks a great joy just by being in each others presence, feel like nothing in life matters as long as they have each other, and can’t seem to stop smiling— just because they love each other so much. They are fun to be around… it’s almost like there is something in their joy that we all longing for deep down, even if we don’t know it.
Truth is, we were all meant to love like that. We were all meant to be that happy. We were all created with a deep longing to love and be loved and when that need is fulfilled, we can’t help ourselves from smiling.
We were all meant to love Him like that. But I have to wonder… how many of us do?
How many of us “look" at Him with adoration in our eyes? Do we really want to be in His presence as much as newlyweds want to be together? Do we find everything fun because we can do it as a team and find the smallest tasks a joy just because we’re together? How many of us feel like nothing in life matters as long as we have Him? Are we really radiant with a joy we can’t suppress?
Have we fallen in love with Him as much as a pair of newlyweds have with each other? Because really… if we claim to love Him best, our love should double theirs.
Perhaps we need a dear girl in the underground church in Romania to put things in perspective for us… We don’t even know her name, but the legacy she left has had me thinking for months.
Though young, she was totally committed to her Jesus, no matter what it cost her. Despite it’s being illegal, she spread copies of the gospels among her people, and did whatever she could to teach the children about her God. The secret police found out, and determined to arrest her. But to make it as painful as possible they decided to wait a couple weeks. You see, in two weeks, she was marrying her best earthly friend.
"On her wedding day, the girl was dressed as a bride—the most wonderful, joyous day in a girl’s life! Suddenly, the door burst open and the secret police rushed in. When the bride saw the secret police, she held out her arms toward them to be handcuffed. They roughly put the manacles on her wrists. She looked toward her beloved, then kissed the chains and said, 'I thank my heavenly Bridegroom for this jewel He has presented to me on my marriage day. I thank Him that I am worthy to suffer for Him.' She was dragged off, with weeping Christians and a weeping bridegroom left behind.”
Her husband-to-be waited for her release for five years. She went through terrible torture and when released she looked like a woman thirty years older. But she had no complaint. Instead she said it was the least she could do for her Jesus.
It moves me every time. Because honestly? We’re still trying to get up early enough to have an hour to talk with Him before the day starts. And sometimes we think that is a sacrifice. Heaven help us! We need a totally different perspective on what being a Christian is all about. At least I do.
Because the thing is… He loves us far more than any love we’ve seen here— even more than newlyweds. But we don’t know it. Sure, we’ve heard it a million times. We’ve read it in the Bible. We’ve heard it from the pulpit. We know He loves us. And most of us pass it off as old news, like something not worth giving a second thought to.
I wonder if any of us really know… Or maybe we have become so used to hearing the truth that it's never really sunk in. And maybe because we’ve never really known what it meant to be loved by God, we’ve never known what it means to love Him back.
He has a beautiful way of gently shaking us into the reality of that love though. He’s doing it for me… and if He can do it for me, He can do it for anyone. There really is nothing that compares to being deeply loved by the Almighty God. It’s an awesome thing.
And when I can grasp even a millionth of that love, I want nothing more than to be with Him and love Him back. And though He has to be very patient with this little slow learner… I am learning. There’s nothing sweeter than falling in Love with the greatest One in the universe.
I don’t want to be too complacent to take time to see His love. I don’t want to be content to love Him a little when I was made to love Him with all my heart. I don’t want to pass His love off as an old truth… to be so caught up in my own little world that I forget what it means to be in love with Him…
And I wonder how He feels when we claim to love Him but find it so hard to spend time with Him… when we treat His love as an old truth that we’ve heard a million times… could it be that our Prince stands with aching heart, longing for us to fall in love with Him and want to be in HIs presence even a tenth as much as He wants to be in ours?
I've always admired people whose writing is raw and honest. It has a freshness and grace that polished words just can't carry. But truth be known, the numerous unfinished blog posts stored away on my computer are proof that I am naturally inclined to polish my posts for so long that they become outdated. The likelihood of any of them every reaching my idea of eloquence is rather slim, thus the long silences on this blog.
Perhaps though, to be genuine is more beautiful than to be polished. Maybe the whole philosophy behind my hesitance to blog is actually an issue that runs much deeper in us than we like to think.
It seems to me that society has painted an image of what we are supposed to be, and we feel that to be anything less proves us to be inferior. We feel like we have to have it all together to be valuable.
Truth is, we don't have it all together. None of us do. We are all broken and messed up.
But somehow, we feel pressured by society, and because of that, we fight to look like we are fine. We think that if people know what we are really like, we will loose our value. So we answer the questions of "how are you?" with a typical "I'm great!" and carry on our way with a smile on our face, while we fall apart inside.
And while having such a mentality messes with our human relationships, it really distorts the beauty and intimacy we were made to have with our Jesus.
When we feel like we have to come to Him in our church clothes, with smiles on our faces, and our problems safely hidden inside, we totally miss the reason for coming. What is the point of bandaging ourselves up and then coming to the Healer? How can we even get close to Him when we have a mask in the way?
Real intimacy is always preceded by real honesty.
We don't come to Jesus polished and perfect. We come broken, bruised, and messed up. We don't come to tell Him how good we are. We come because we are angry, confused, discouraged, and afraid.
I come because I have tasted a love "that makes me more that what I was, and sees beyond what I am." I come because I know I am broken. I know I am selfish. I know that I am a mess. And I want to remove the mask and let Him see me just as I am. I want to tell Him every last little thing. I want Him to know. I want to open my heart up to Him completely and let Him into the deepest and darkest corners. I want His love to melt my hard heart. I want it to break down every barrier. I want it to transform me completely.
His heart desperately longs for us to know that there need be no masks with Him... in fact, our masks actually limit Him. How can we expect Love to do a deep work in our hearts when we are unwilling to give Him access to our deep places?
Our hearts can only be healed when they have first been opened. And while we are in no way to boast of our failings, we can only be healed from them when we are willing to admit them.
David is a beautiful example of how raw honesty binds our heart to the heart of God. He was a broken man. He had made mistakes that some of us would never dream of. He had been through exceedingly painful circumstances. But he didn't try to hide his brokenness from his God. Instead, he opened up his heart and laid every ounce of if before the eyes of his Jesus.
He wasn't afraid to come to God and admit that he was so heartbroken he forgot to eat, and that his bed swam with tears. He didn't try to gloss over his pain. He wasn't afraid to admit to God when he was angry with his enemies. And when he had fallen, he openly acknowledged that he was a great sinner and that he needed to be cleansed. He didn't try to be polished before coming into God's presence. He was perfectly frank about what was going on in his heart. That honesty gave him a level of intimacy with God that few people taste. Because of such, he was called a man after God's own heart.
I want that. To be called a girl after His heart. To be as close to Him as is humanly possible. To give Him complete access to the deepest things in my heart. To be totally honest with God.
To stop thinking that my value is in having it all together and realize that the most valuable thing I can do is throw open the windows of my heart to my Jesus and admit that I am broken...
...and find my value in being fully known and yet fully loved by my Jesus.
We all have gifts we cherish. Precious family and friends, comforts and possession, dreams and plans… They give us countless moments of joy, fill up our days, and quite honestly our hearts too. We feel we have been blessed— and rightly so. This time of year often brings a fresh wave of gratitude from our hearts to the Giver…
That’s what Thanksgiving is about anyway, so we’re on the right track, yeah?
Or maybe not.
I wonder how much gratitude we would give if every gift the Giver has given was stripped away.
Sure, we may be determined that we would not curse God… we would not turn our backs…
But would we be grateful— even joyful?
Because the thing is… God is the One who is supposed to be first and foremost in our hearts. He is the One that should give us the most moments of joy and fill up our days, and our hearts.
And if we were just left with Him… we should find ourselves singing for joy that in loosing all else we can more fully embrace the greatest Gift.
But so often I find my own heart more attached to everything He has given than I am to the ultimate Gift Himself. I shrink from the thought that some of those gifts may not last forever… that seasons come and go… and so do gifts.
I look again at Job’s words— some of my favorite in all Scripture— and this time I begin to grasp a bit more what they really mean… “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
One can only say such words when Jesus is the One loved more than all else.
I remember again the story that has been burning this lesson onto my heart of late…
He was a simple preacher, dedicated to giving every ounce of himself for his Maker and the people around him. And communist Russia would test his resolve. While returning from a secret church meeting in the home of a friend, Richard is quickly taken by two police men and shoved in the back of a taxi cab. Blindfold on, he is clueless to where he is being taken, except for the nagging idea in the back of his mind. He had known this day was coming. And as soon at the blindfold is removed and he can see the dull grey concrete walls that surround him he knows he was right. He is left to wonder at the length of his sentence.
Inside his cell, Richard Wurmbrand contemplates his fate. He had given himself to ministry and served with all his strength. But in the flurry of activity, it was easy to miss the depth of experience possible. His mind drifted back to the words of a friend… “there are only two kinds of Christians: those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe.” Now he would know which he was.
Richard later wrote, “Did I believe in God? Now the test had come. I was alone. There was no salary to earn, no golden opinions to consider. God offered me only suffering— would I continue to love Him?”
Years of imprisonment followed. Richard had plenty of time to answer that questions. 14 years in fact.
Over and over he was questioned for his faith, and given every incentive imaginable to give it up. But to Richard it had become more than a faith. It was his best Friend he was being asked to turn his back on. He couldn’t do that.
Torture was the result.
And in the midst of unimaginable suffering Richard was content… even incredibly joyful. He writes, “Words alone have never been able to say what man feels in the nearness of divinity. Sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt I would burst if i did not give it expression.” Many times during the three years he spent in solitary confinement the guards found him dancing for joy. “I did not mind if my captors thought I was mad, for I had found a beauty in Christ that I had not known before.”
During torture he had a phrase that he would repeat over and over to keep his mind from the pain… “Jesus, dear Bridegroom of my soul, I love You.”
His captors were infuriated at his commitment to God and his fellow men, and arranged for a trial. Richard was quite ill when it took place, and when asked to speak he could only think of three words to say… “I love God.”
After eight years of appalling treatment and suffering Richard was set free… but he couldn’t rest while he thought of the many prisoners who sat in darkness without hope of the Savior he loved. He began to tell God that he was willing to go back to jail if that was His will. And after a few short months he was arrested and taken.
For six more years Richard faced horrible suffering for the God he loved so much. While the men around him crumbled and lost their faith in socialism and other political positions, he stood firm. All the tactics, torture, offers, and physiological methods the communists could employ could not induce him to leave the God he loved so much… the very God who had allowed him to be separated from his wife and son for fourteen years… the God who allowed him to live years without seeing the light of the sun, or eat a square meal, or sleep in a comfortable bed… the God who allowed his dreams to be dashed, and all his possessions to be taken. The God who knew that the real source of happiness is not found in material gifts, but in the incredible gift we have of cherishing Him as our best Friend.
Richard’s words sink into me… “I knew now that I was not play-acting. I believed.”
And I wonder how we have allowed God to become anything less than our all... How we’ve become so consumed with all He gives that we miss Him.
Because so often we are like customers coming to Him and expecting Him to give us what we want.
How often do we come to Him purely for the joy of being in His presence? Just because we love Him?
The words of one of my favorite songs have been engraving themselves on my heart of late…
...What if right at midnight Jesus softly struck a match
Could that change everything, the light one flame could bring?
The deepest dark surrenders when One candle flickers brights
The same flame that in daytime would be lost in worlds of light
The night is not the enemy, for darkness tells this truth
Only One light lasts forever, only One light is truth.
God, if you have to make our world dark so that we can discern the Only One who lasts forever… do it. Our treasures are all yours. We want the true Treasure. We’re willing to face losses, prison walls, loneliness, the loss of all things save You so that the continual motto of our heart will be…
Jesus, dear Bridegroom of our souls, we love You…
...We love God.
This thanksgiving the deepest gratitude of my heart is for You. You are all. You are enough.
High King of heaven… my treasure Thou art.
*Photo credit-- Yours truly :)
It seems like just yesterday that I gazed out my car window watching landscape speed by... moments ticking down until the first Family Retreat of the year would begin. My expectations were high, and so was my realization of my dependance on the only One who would give me grace for another season.
And almost before I knew it, I found myself on a plane headed home from the last FR of the year, amazed at all that God had done in the hearts of others and in my own.
It's been a year of blessings too numerous to count. And as my mind drifts back over all the avenues He has led me down in the process, I am filled with gratefulness for a God who is far more incredible than I could ever deserve.
Sometimes in the moment it's hard to see the gift that I have to be a servant... to travel, share, sing, pray, serve, listen, and love. But retrospect always makes that privilege more distinct, and my heart swells with thanksgiving.
I have a hundred special memories and beautiful faces etched on my heart...
The last six months have left me with a deeper realization of the pain in a hurting world... and yet, beyond that, I see even more clearly the power and beauty of hearts that will love the world the way He did.
After all... there is nothing the world craves more than love.
Addictions... crazy busy lives... obsession with fashion...
So often it is a cry for someone to notice, to care, to love.
And sure, we can tell them that Jesus is enough-- and He is--but aren't we to be His hands and feet? Aren't we to be the ones who demonstrate His love to the world?
How can they ever understand a Jesus that loves them so much He would give His life for them until they see our hearts beating with a love for them that is so great that we give our lives for them?
It's not an easy path-- to love the world like that. All of a sudden my neighbor's pain is not just his, but mine too. The griefs, losses, and joys of those we love become our own.
But when did He ever promise an easy path?
Not easy... just rich and full, and more abundant than our highest expectations.
And isn't that better than an easy life anyway?
Jesus, give me a heart like Yours. Fill it with love for a hurting world. And when I have no more to give, break me, and make me sustenance for a dying world. I just want to love like You...
Sometimes I wonder how we can shrink down our God to make Him more manageable for our little minds…
Not that it’s a conscious decision. It seems to happen gradually over time. Almost as if we cannot comprehend the reality of a God that can breathe the universe into existence while loving and watching you and I as if we were the only ones. And because we cannot comprehend it, we find ourselves shaving off a little of His power, while simultaneously doubting the intimacy of His love... at least, in our own minds.
My little mind can only barely comprehend the vastness of this place we call home… never mind the fact that the sun is a million times bigger… or that 9.2 billion suns could fit inside Canis Majoris, the big dog star…that traveling on the space shuttle it would take 30 years to reach the edge of the solar system… that the solar system itself is the size of a quarter compared to the milky way, which would be the size of north and south america (plus alaska)… And as if that isn’t enough, that there are 300 billion stars in the Milky Way alone, and that there are an estimated 500 billion galaxies… That just blows my mind. I feel helpless to really grasp what it means.
And it was my God who made all that?
The God who watches my sleep each night counting the minutes till I’ll be up to spend time with Him… the One who is never too busy to hear the littlest thing on my heart at that moment… the One who wants me to be radically honest with Him about my doubts and fears even though they are pathetic compared to the pain He sees in the world each day… the One who longs to spend hours with me just talking when He has a million other things to do…
Yeah, that God.
And I can’t grasp it.
And so though I may sit in awe for a few moments, my humanity shrinks Him down to my size so that I can begin to understand Him.
But I’m realizing… shrinking God down causes major trouble.
Because really… when I shrink Him down, I shrink down my capability for love and worship. I mean, how can I stand in awe of something I’ve made my own size?
We're not the first ones to have this problem after all. Back in Moses day the Israelites did the same thing. They took their pieces of wood and covered them with gold and made their own gods. And yes, they were more manageable...
But whoever said we were to be the ones to make God manageable? Isn't He supposed to manage us?
The other day I found myself trudging down our road trying to recognize the presence of God in the business of my life... trying to trust Him with everything... Sun shines bright in my eyes as I walk, as if hinting to me of the size of my God, but I miss the memo.
And then it hits me while I sit in church the next day... God is so big, so big, that His presence fills the earth. It's not a matter of whether or not He is near, but whether or not I see Him.
And I realize that I've been shrinking God down... and it's no question why I begin to doubt. Because He is not the God I've made Him out to be.
He is greater. More powerful. More trustworthy. More loving. More intimate.
And if I am not standing in awe of Him right now, it's because I have shrunk Him down to my own size and created a God of wood and gold that I can manage instead of standing in awe of who He is and letting that melt me.
When God seems powerless and I feel like I need something more... it's not because He's loosing power... it's that I've robbed Him of it in my own life by lack of belief-- by shrinking Him down. God is always enough... the fault is not His.
Perhaps that's why the Christians in Bible and Reformation times saw such a manifestation of His power and closeness. Because they believed in it.
And maybe when we believe in a God who is so powerful and loving that He can shake the world... Maybe, just maybe, that's when He will.
*Photo credits-- Hannah Rayne
Sometimes I wonder when we transitioned from the carefreeness of childhood to the rushed and hurried lives we live as teens and adults. It seems like every year we get busier... we say we have more to get done, and yet somehow we're always still behind.
For years I'd been one of the people who had an everlasting "to do" list, or so it felt. I had high aspirations of what I wanted to get done, and when I wanted it done by. When I was in grade school that meant I was always trying to see how soon I could have the school year done. I even remember writing myself out a whole schedule of how I was going to get 7th grade done in four months. But for some reason, I always felt behind. I could never get it all done... and often, that really frustrated me.
And then, last year I found myself too sick to do anything for months on end. All my "to do" lists had to be laid down. And now, on the other side of my illness, I found my incessant drive to get to that "to do" list a little dampened. At first I worried that I was loosing my ambition. I'm now realizing that God had a lot more in mind.
I mean, when did we stop seeing life as a journey and start thinking it was a race to see who can get to the end first?
When did we stop recognizing the treasure of now?
And more importantly, how did our "to do" lists become so important that we feel too busy to give God our best?
I've told myself the lie a million times... "I don't have time."
But then, when was the last time you heard a little child complaining of a lack of time? And don't we have the same twenty four hours as them?
Maybe it's a matter of priorities. Of not being so controlled by that "to do" list. Maybe it's about figuring out what really matters.
Because really, we only have one life to live. And I don't want to spend it constantly rushing to the next thing.
I think we all intuitively know that God should be the very top of our priority list... But how many of us really live like He is?
As one of my favorite quotes states...
" God gave us time. And who has time for God? Which makes no sense."
If my God is the one I think He is... the One who breathes out stars... who speaks mountains into existence... how can I think that He will fit into the tiny spaces of my day that I squeeze out for Him? How can it do Him justice?
And how can I think that I will know His presence when all I give Him is a fleeting thought here and there?
So yeah, I've started seeing time in a new way. The work will never go away, but this moment will.
Not to say that the work is not important... but to say that God in this moment is more important than the work will ever be.
Maybe true ambition is not how much I can get done in this little life, but how much of God's presence I can recognize... how much of the almighty God I can know.
So I'll stop to see the sunrise... to head for the woods in the crisp morning air to tell Him good morning ... to pause for a lingering look at the bouquet of flowers in the kitchen... to write a line or two in my journal of gratitude for a God who's always there...
Because I can have as much of Him or as little of Him as I choose.
There is no limit.
Sidenote... I'm taking a plunge in this whole perspective of time and will be making time to update my blog far more regularly. So keep an eye out for much more frequent posts. :)
*Photo credit-- Hannah Rayne
Miles pass under my feet, as I sit back in my comfortable (or not so much :)) plane seat and try to get the necessary sleep for the next few days. I'm never a very good sleeper on these red eye flights. And actually, I'm thankful for that. When the plane is dark and quiet and sleep evades, it's the perfect time for prayer.
I've felt my need of it in a special way of late. Something seems to drive me to my knees-- not as an obligation but as a necessity. And I realize more and more that it really is a necessity. Seriously.
Somehow we've had our eyes blinded to think we can live without it. And not just that... we've somehow come to think that there is a limit to the size of our requests. "Like I couldn't ask God to start a fire of revival that would sweep across the world, could I?" Why not?
I believe in a big God. One who speaks worlds into existence. I believe nothing is too big or too hard for Him. And if I really believe that... I won't be afraid to ask for big things.
Journal entry, April 30
Not for myself but for His cause... His children.
UKFC starts tommorrow... I'm praying for lives revolutionized. I'm praying for Him to start a fire in the hearts here that will not only change us, but that will be a witness to the onlooking universe and the world.
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:17)
I do believe in a big God.
44 years ago today...
Thousands of eyes watched the clock as the seconds counted down.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
A deafening roar shook the ground while a brilliant light illuminated the launchpad. All heads had turned upward to watch the fireball vanish into a mere speck, and then disappear from sight altogether.
And that vanishing speck? The Apollo 13-- headed for the backside of the moon, where no man had been before.
Only sixty years before, we still had no idea how to fly. The Wright brothers were looking admiringly at the birds, and longing to know their secret.
Now, a mere six decades later, we had been to the moon twice, and were launching this mission which was far more complex than any before it.
Somehow, back then, we were not content with one accomplishment, but were constantly aiming higher-- going deeper.
NASA had been spurred on a few years before by the inspiring challenge of President Kennedy...
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard... because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...
We were determined-- and to that end we bent our earnest efforts day and night. And true to our pledge, before the decade was over, we had landed a man on the moon.
Now we were in reach of another goal... to land two men in the mountains on the backside of the moon and bring them home alive.
Actually, Apollo 13 did not quite go as planned. An explosion onboard the ship destroyed 2/3 of their oxygen, which majorly depreciated the power supply. The moon was no longer the goal, but the saving of the three men stranded in space.
Mission control now had a challenge greater than any Kennedy had given to them. The crew which was currently 200,000 miles from earth must be brought home with only 1/3 of their oxygen and next to no power to run the ship...This was to be the most technically difficult feat NASA had ever attempted.
But the crew on the ground determined that failure was not an option. The men would be saved-- even if they had to use every last ounce of their strength for it.
After four days of extremely intense work for the ground crew and the men in space, Apollo 13 and crew splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
NASA had completed their greatest feat of all time.
And how did we go from the nation who had no clue how to fly, to the first to land men on the moon and bring them home safely after a terrible explosion in space?
We accepted a challenge to do hard things. We threw our heart and soul into the work. We labored night and day. We persevered. After each new victory or failure, we set higher goals and fought for them. We were willing to sacrifice, take risks-- to give our lives if necessary.
And something about NASA's thrilling escapades shakes me out of my "44 years ago today" reverie, and brings me back to the here and now.
We too have been given a challenge. Sure, we've not been called to go to other worlds, but instead to change this one that we call home. True, we've never had to bring three men home who were stranded 200,000 miles away, but we have been called to point lost souls to their eternal home. Yes, there is no need for hours spent in mission control, but oh, the desperate need for hours of time spent in the closet of prayer.
Somehow we look at our challenge as less glamorous. After all, our fathers had the same challenge, and our grandfathers, and our great-grandfathers...
And so we search for something better-- while the world dies for a revelation of Jesus.
Perhaps God is just waiting for a generation to pick up the baton and carry it to the end of the race. And perhaps we could be that generation...
Sure, a look in the mirror tells us that we are not good enough, old enough, experienced enough etc... Believe it or not, most of the men in mission control for the first missions were quite young-- and inexperienced.
And a look into mine own heart tells me that maybe it's not that we're too young or inexperienced. Maybe it's that our dedication does not go deep enough, our ambition high enough, or our trust strong enough.
Are we willing to throw our heart and soul into His work? To labor night and day? To persevere? To set new and higher goals after each victory or failure? To sacrifice? To give our lives if necessary?
He never said it would be easy... but that's okay because we accept His plans...
...not because they are easy, but because they are hard... because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...
I'm longing for something deeper. And I'm determined to spend hours in my closet of prayer until I find it.
I believe this generation can be the one to accept His challenge and change the world.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
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Hands Open. Heart Full.