“It is hard, when difficulties arise to know whether one is meant to overcome them or whether they are signs that one is on the wrong tract. I suppose the deeper one’s own life of prayer and sacraments the more trustworthy one’s judgment will be.”
Yours, Jack by C.S. Lewis
Yet even then, I doubt. For me, the challenge is to take a step instead of standing still while waiting for a sign or a confirmation. Praying like a widow that God won’t allow me to be unintentionally disobedient and that He won’t allow my actions to cause harm to anyone else – or to myself. And not just physical harm, but spiritual or emotional harm. The thought that I might do something or say something that would hurl an obstacle in front of someone seeking Him. That’s the paralyzing fear.
But I have to move. Life isn’t Olive Garden. God does not serve me. I have to get my hands dirty. Sometimes all I end up doing is trashing my kitchen. Sometimes, the results are “meh.” But sometimes? Sometimes I get a God story that blows me away.
So. First, PRAY. Abide. Listen. Seek wise counsel. PRAY again. Abide and listen again. But then, take action (that’s not out of line with His Word) and keep praying that God will either throw barriers in my way if I start heading the wrong direction or that he would work my latest mistake for His ultimate good and Glory.
But doing nothing? Going through the motions? Playing it safe? Settling for “meh?” How is that abundant life in Christ?
Ran across an old video camera and lost a few hours watching old recordings. I have absolutely no memory of this one, but it’s an excellent reminder to pray for an awareness of God’s prompting in my life. You got an extra six minutes and 16 seconds? I’m praying this encourages you!
PinkGirl: “Mom, Is it okay to like to sing songs from Chicago?” (the musical, not the city)
Me: “yes. why?”
PinkGirl: “Because it has inappropriate things in it. Some of my teachers (from UnnamedChristianSchool) say it’s a sin to watch and listen to things that are inappropriate.”
Me: “hmmm. Does listening to and singing the songs from Chicago make you want to kill someone?”
Me: “Does it make you want to cheat on your husband?”
PinkGirl: “ummm. no.”
Me: “Does it make you want to sing and dance?”
Me: “uh oh.”
PinkGirl, cracking up: “Mo-om!”
Seriously. The music from Chicago is excellent. And we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Todrick Hall’s Disney Villain version of Cell Block Tango called Spell Block Tango! Check it out below. Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmations, The Snow Queen from Snow White, Ursula from Little Mermaid, The Queen of Hearts from Alice and Wonderland, Scar from the Lion King and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. Spots. Six. Fish. Uh-uh. Figaro. Wishes.
If you know your Disney movies, really listen to what the Queen of Hearts is actually SAYING. (she’s the fourth one). LOVE it.
and no. I’m not talking about Holy DARK KNIGHT, Batman.
I had never even heard about the dark night until I started reading about finding joy and delight in God, spiritual dryness, spiritual darkness and the silence of God. I first stumbled upon the term while reading “Prayer” by Philip Yancey. He said:
“I take some comfort in the fact that virtually all the masters of spirituality recount a dark night of the soul. Sometimes it passes quickly and sometimes it persists for months, even years. I have yet to find a single witness, though, who does not tell of going through a dry period.”
Is a “dry period” necessarily this “dark night”? Are these terms interchangeable? Both have been so eclectically described, I can’t lock down a globally accepted definition. People who have attempted to describe their experience have trouble articulating it. I’ve read John of the Cross, who is the originator of the term “dark night.” I’ve read Teresa of Avila and an unknown monk. Those three were not easy or complete reads. Thankfully, Thomas Green wrote extensively about the dark night and interpreted for me. C.S. Lewis, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Henri Nouwen and a number of others have written about dryness and/or the dark night.
It would appear that one dark night does not fit all.
Here’s the Cliff Notes version, courtesy of Eric Sammons
“Unfortunately, “Dark Night” has become a term used very loosely to designate any difficult or depressing time in life. But this is not the meaning St. John of the Cross gives to “Dark Night.”
…not brought about by external events, such as the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. Instead, they are brought about by God alone, who uses the Dark Nights to purge the soul of attachments to the things of this world….”
“…God becomes the primary initiator of prayer, not man…the soul experiences dryness in prayer. It is a painful state that tests the soul to see if it desires prayer for the consolations or because it desires God Himself. At this stage, the ability to meditate becomes difficult, even painful, as no fruit comes from it and the Holy Spirit wants to move the soul from meditation to contemplation.
I have to ask. Is there scriptural basis for this?
Make no mistake. I’m a strong believer in the “dry spell” of it all. I’m a witness to it. I KNOW it happens. and I know first-hand how devastating it is. How it can rock faith. I’m smack in the thick of it.
and it. SUCKS.
My skepticism is with the surety and scriptural foundation of the dark night as the reason.
I’ve seen a commenter on another blog ask about the scriptural foundation of the explanation of the dark night and he was effectively dismissed. The general assumption expressed by those who responded to him was that he didn’t understand and obviously hadn’t experienced it. It didn’t occur to anyone that the reason he didn’t understand was that their explanations were vague and weak.
and I find myself thinking of an emperor in his underwear.
offended? If the invisible shoe fits, wear it.
It would be so much simpler if I was just smack in the middle of disobedience and I could repent, claim the promise of Romans 8:1 and move forward. Instead, I’m compelled to keep reading….
“Why is this painful stage necessary?…It is necessary so that the soul can be purged of defects that still exist within it, defects which prevent the soul from being passively receptive to God’s grace.”
purged of defects?
I have defects. I reek of defects.
“…a person might flee from the Dark Night and regress into lower levels of prayer. The proper response to this temptation to regress, however, is renewing your trust in God, continuing to utilize acquired recollection in prayer, abstaining from seeking consolation, and seeking counsel from a good spiritual director.”
lower levels of prayer?
lower levels of prayer. like with consolations and meditations?
and the “proper” response is to
(1) renew my trust in God
(2) continue to utilize “acquired” recollection in prayer
(3) don’t seek consolation and
(4) seek counsel from a good spiritual advisor.
(2) I think that means remember what God has done in my life in the past.
(3) Don’t try to pray the way I used to pray. Because those prayers are “lower.”
(4) God, if you want me to have a spiritual mentor who’s experienced this before, you’re gonna have to send me one. Break the silence.
SEND. me. one. PLEASE.
I admit. I’m torn. Between
(1) wanting there to be such a thing as this dark night and
(2) thinking it’s just a scape goat for people who need to rationalize whatever spiritual obstacle they are facing.
Faaaarrrr more likely, I’m grasping at straws to rationalize failing.
I started this journey because I wanted to find joy and delight in the nature of who God is without the crutches of circumstance or experiences. This is the scripture that comes to mind right now:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
count it all joy.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
If you read my last post, “growing pains” you know I’ve been having trouble seeing God’s hand in my life over the last few months.
God has been silent.
When I first became aware of the silence, I immediately assumed sin was separating me from God. I confessed all the sin I could identify. I raked through my life and identified the sin I had been rationalizing or been numb and oblivious to. I asked God to reveal to me anything I hadn’t found.
Be careful what you pray for.
I let go of some things in my life. Good things. One thing in particular that was responsible for actually helping me to discover how to worship God – to praise Him – for who He was instead just thank Him for what He did for me; for the blessings He afforded. This was something I had never understood or been able to do before. That’s what made leading worship a good thing. a very good thing.
I let it go because it had morphed into a crutch I had become dependent on to facilitate that worship.
I let go of other “good” things too. They had become obstacles in my relationship with Him.
But if you are one of the handful of people who actually read this blog regularly, you know all that.
Since then, God has been silent.
I’ve been seeking God every day. Relentlessly.
that’s an understatement.
Still. God has been silent.
After more than 6 years of sensing God’s presence and movement in my daily life, it took less than two months for me to become resigned to the silence.
Not seeing or sensing God’s hand in my life, I stopped looking for it.
I expected the silence. It became my new normal.
I began reading everything I could about finding delight and joy in God. About spiritual dryness, spiritual darkness, the absence of God and the silence of God. C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Philip Yancey and authors new to me, like Thomas Green, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila. People who experienced and wrote about the “dark night.” Some of them talked about the dark night lasting the rest of their life.
I stopped writing in my prayer journal.
I had nothing to say.
I began abiding.
I threw myself into the mindless work of purging my environment and my life of superfluous things.
I began learning how to “pray without words” as C.S. Lewis would say. I stopped filling up the space between me and God with my voice. my incessant talking. I shut up. and I listened.
And God was silent.
In the beginning, I hated it. It was unsettling.
I was brokenhearted. I don’t say that kind stuff about myself. But there’s really no better way to describe it.
C.S. Lewis described it this way:
“We can bear to be refused but not to be ignored. In other words, our faith can survive many refusals if they really are refusals and not mere disregards. The apparent stone will be bread to us if we believe that a Father’s hand put it into ours, in mercy or in justice or even in rebuke.”
from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
After a few weeks, there was peace in the quiet. Like sitting with a close friend. The kind of friend you can ride in a car with, not talking, and feel no need to fill the void with spoken words. completely grounded. no need for a stealth “#awkward” tweet from the passenger seat.
so, there was peace.
but not joy.
In my last post, I said that I hadn’t been able to pray any specific petitionary prayers because I didn’t trust my motives. I said that last Monday I had hit bottom. The silence had become unbearable.
I asked God to let me sing again. In my weakness, I instinctively reached out for the one thing that had allowed me to experience true JOY in God – regardless of my circumstances.
Singing to Him. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to do it since June 30th.
I went to bed that Monday night, the silence ringing in my mind. Disappointed in myself for caving. For chickening out and turning my back on whatever God is trying to teach me in this time of silence. Instead of trusting in the process of this journey, I reached out for old, tried and true, comfortable habits.
I wimped out.
I was convinced God was teaching me something. Something important. Although I had no idea what and I had no idea how long the lesson would last. It seemed that, at what appeared to be the hardest part of the lesson, I was asking God to give back what I had given up. I was going backward. I was turning my back on what He has for me now.
As I fell asleep, I took back my request. I told God that I didn’t want to settle for temporal blessings of comfort and happiness in exchange for this new relationship. Even if the new relationship meant years of silence.
Last Monday night was my darkest night.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
I’m totally confident I needed to give up leading worship when when I did.
(If you need to catch up, this is probably the post to read: “obedience and blessings. passion and delight.“)
The last six weeks have been some of the most honest, wrenching, unsettling, peaceful, secure and unstable moments of my life. I’ve heard and read the words “refining/refined by fire” more times than I can count.
I’ve been overdosing on the reading and the thinking.
The praying has been simple. There’s only one prayer I’ve been able to to pray for myself:
“Not my will Lord, but Yours.
No matter what that means.”
I found myself unable to take any action remotely related to ministry.
even one-on-one conversations were guarded and thin. On the sharing side, I only went below the surface in increments as I tested how correctly (or incorrectly) friends understood what I tried to explain – and how sincerely interested I sensed they were. On the listening side, I didn’t trust my instincts enough to reply with anything more than questions.
I didn’t trust my judgement. I was paralyzed by doubt about my ability to discern God’s prompting and my resulting choices.
past, present and future.
if in fact, I had gotten some things wrong, they were monumentally wrong.
I had completely – completely – lost the confidence to recognize and make sense of God’s movement in my mind, my spirit and the circumstances of my life.
wisdom was obscure. discernment was nonexistent.
God has pruned me to a nub.
It’s been extremely painful.
very, very good.
did I mention painful?
God has been silent.
At first, I immediately assumed my sin was separating me from Him. I confessed every sin I could recognize and still, God was silent. I prayed for him to show me any sin I wasn’t seeing.
Still, God was silent.
and in the quiet, I’ve been stripping away every superfluous thing in my life, from the contents of my house and yard to my commitments to the layers of “stuff” I’ve piled on top of my relationship with Christ.
I stumbled upon the concept of the “dark night.”
But that’s another post. or two. maybe.
I’ve been back and forth between peace and fear and hope and resignation. Last Monday night, I was in a bad place.
it was a very dark night.
resignation had morphed back into grieving. wretched. deep grieving.
but this was different. This wasn’t just grieving because I couldn’t bring myself to sing. That was part of it, for sure.
This grieving was mostly because of the silence. The conflict between my unrelenting desire to sense God’s presence and movement in my life and my exploration of the idea that this silence was God helping me grow.
At some point, a kid only learns how to ride a bike if dad takes his hand off the back of the seat and stops running along side.
If God had in fact taken His hand away, I was caught in that unfamiliar, terrifying and confident place between wanting the security of His hand on the bicycle seat of my life and wanting to learn to ride the bike.
I wanted to learn the lesson.
But I didn’t like it.
Both of those sentences are understatements.
After weeks of not being able to pray petitionary prayers for anything specific because I didn’t trust my motives, I broke.
I asked God to let me sing again.
I didn’t ask Him to let me lead worship again. Still can’t do that. That led to sin. selfish sin. I don’t want to ever put the art above the artist ever again.
I just asked Him to let me sing. I was hoping I could bring myself to sing in my car.
This post is getting too long…I’ll tell you what happened in my next post.
(Someone recently had the courage to tell me they don’t read my blog posts because I have a tendency to ramble on.)
PinkGirl is at call backs for The Little Mermaid. Ya know she dreams of being cast as Ariel. This was her instagram graphic and request yesterday:
“Hey guys tomorrow is the first rehearsal for Little Mermaid and it’s when I find out what part I get. Please Pray for me not to get the role I want but to get the role that God wants me to have and for me to accept that that role is the role God meant for me to have. I’m very nervous and I need to put total trust and faith in God. So please pray for me. Thank You.”
This is very different than where she was over a month ago, when she asked me to do something for her.
PinkGirl: “Mom, I want you to tell me every day that I won’t get it.”
Me: “No. I won’t do that. I would rather you be passionate about your dream and be heartbroken if it doesn’t come true than not be passionate about it. I won’t help you kill your dream to help you protect yourself from getting hurt. Joy and heartbreak are better than never being passionate about your dreams.”
And then she and I started growing in parallel. We both couldn’t help but notice the similarities in our situations. I’ll drill it down.
It was July 30th of last year when I made the first of many decisions that steadily led me to put my passion for leading worship ahead of my passion for God. 10 months later and I could clearly see that I was putting the art before the artist. Took another week to act on that knowledge and in the end, the only action I could bring myself to take was to pray: “Lord, I can’t give this up on my own. Please take it away.”
And He did.
PinkGirl felt how hard it was for me. Throughout her short 12 years, I’ve seen her deep capacity for empathy wreck her again and again. In this case, it’s hitting very, very close to home.
My daughter watched me let go of my passion in order to put God first in my life.
But she also knows that I didn’t do it by force of will or strength of character or any other noble ability.
I was honest with her. I confessed to her that I wasn’t able to do it on my own and asked God to help me. To intervene in my life. To take away the things that separated me from Him. To comfort me. To help me find joy in Him.
That’s when she started praying for God to give her the role He wants her to have – whether it breaks her heart or not. She’s praying for His will, her ability to accept it, for Him to comfort her if He says no and for her to find joy in Him.
She’ll tell you she flip flops between moments of peace and fear and hope and resignation. Sometimes all within the time it takes to draw a single breath.
She’s faced this kind of heartbreak before. When she was cast as Grace Farrell, she knew she had lost her last chance to be cast as Annie. She was much too tall. When she was cast as The Wardrobe in Beauty and the Beast, she experienced a crisis of faith that rocked her, but thankfully, turned out to be a pivot point in her spiritual growth and her relationship with Christ.
Today has the potential to deal her one of the happiest memories in her young life – or one of the greatest disappointments.
Either way, she and I are both learning the same lesson:
God is enough. Passion for God is better than passion for ANYthing in this world.
Last night, during bedtime prayers, after asking God to give her the part HE wants her to have, she prayed:
“God, please bless my voice – but I know it’s not mine. I know you’re just lending it to me while I’m here on earth.”
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve discovered that I desperately want to delight in God more than I delight in the things I’m passionate about.
and I’ve come face to ugly face with the fact that I don’t.
Some of my Christian friends are very uncomfortable with this admission.
Some get exactly what I’m talking about and are on the same path.
Some have been there. I’m learning from and am encouraged by their journey.
Some have no interest and are waiting for me to just chill out and forget about all this.
Some think they know exactly what I’m talking about, but in reality, they think I’m talking about obedience and blessings.
I’ll try to clarify.
I’m not talking about obedience and blessings. or personal satisfaction. or security. or peace. This is not about serving God, helping others and living a “good Christian life.”
I’m talking about DELIGHT. JOY. A passionate desire for God. Because He’s GOD.
I don’t define “finding delight in God’s gifts” as the satisfaction that comes from living a good, moral Christian life that provides me with a sense of accomplishment and a good night’s sleep at the end of the day.
I haven’t found that consistent prayer and Bible reading automatically result in intimacy with God. I’ve experienced spiritual dryness smack in the middle of some of the most prayerful seasons of my life. I’ve had to pray my way out of a pit before. It’s dark. It’s painful. It’s slow. and I hated it. but it was good.
I don’t hold to the belief that if I’m obedient, God will bless me. I know there ain’t no tit for tat when it comes to obedience and blessing. Checking off a Christian to-do list won’t earn me protection from trials. I have absolutely NO deluded sense that “if” I’m obedient, “then” God will reward me in this life.
I’ve read the book of Job.
I haven’t found that intimacy with Christ means I delight in Him because of WHO HE IS. I am more intimate with God than with any human. He knows what I look like naked. and I don’t mean nekkid. I mean He KNOWS me. I tell Him everything. EVERYthing. Even the stuff I don’t want to tell Him about myself because I don’t want to hear it. or face it. I thank Him. often. For SO. MUCH. I confess to Him. often. For SO. MUCH. I plead with Him. often. For SO. MUCH.
In 2007, 27 years after I became a Christian, I entered into an intimate relationship with God that has changed my life. But I want to be closer. So I asked Him to show me what separates me from Him. (Be careful what you pray for.) He’s been showing me for over a year and I’ve been arguing with Him.
I’ve decided to stop doing the activities that I’ve come to depend on to fill me with delight and desire for God.
That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped living a good, moral Christian life. Doesn’t mean I’ve stopped reading my Bible, or praying or seeking God’s will or striving to be obedient to God. Although the praying, seeking God’s will and striving to be obedient look very, Very, VERY different than they did a few months ago, I’m NOT going to stop doing any of those things.
I need to let go of the things I’m passionate about. They are crutches that I’ve come to depend on to lead me to delight in the Lord. I need to lean on HIM. I need to find a way to experience delight and joy in HIM ALONE. Even in the absence of those things.
I experience true joy and I delight in the essence of WHO God IS when I lead worship. Leading worship is not something I do as service. I am PASSIONATE about it. It fuels me. I’m up at 5:45am on Sunday morning so I have time to pray before I have to be at rehearsal at 8:15am. During most praise sets, I find a connection with the Holy Spirit that makes me forget myself. It’s my mountaintop. every. week. I don’t do it out of obedience. I do it because when I do it, I find joy and delight in WHO GOD IS.
And I’ve come to realize I depend on it too much. I don’t know how to find that same joy and delight in God without it. I’ve realized that I find joy in the artist through the joy I find in the art. And that’s no longer enough for me. I want more. I need to figure out how to be fully satisfied in God even if I never get to lead worship again.
When I’ve discovered how to do that, will He let me lead worship again? Don’t know yet. Maybe not. and I need to be okay with that or this entire search is a lie.
I find joy and delight in WHO GOD IS when sharing my faith through writing and speaking. I’m passionate about both. Ideas wake me up in the middle of the night and demand to be written down. I start writing and realize I haven’t eaten all day. I start speaking and realize I’m supposed to be wrapping up. 10 minutes ago. I need to learn how to find joy and delight in HIM, not just through speaking and writing about Him.
When I’ve discovered how to do that, will He give me something to say and write about again? Don’t know yet. Maybe not. and I need to be okay with that or this search is a lie.
A friend hit it head on in a blog comment a few days ago:
“If desire implies that you are not content without it, I would think it sinful.”
I am not content with the thought of not writing a book.
I am not content with the thought of not being a Christian speaker or teacher.
I am not content with the thought of never leading worship again.
and there it is.
I need – desperately need – to be content without these things. I need to desire GOD and find joy in Him directly, not through the joy and delight I experience when I write about him, speak about Him or sing to Him. I prayed for Him to show me what separated me from Him and He has.
I need to be fully satisfied in Him because of WHO HE IS.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
“…how is it possible for a creature to desire and enjoy the creation without committing idolatry? This may seem like an irrelevant question to some. But for people who long to sing like the psalmists, it is very relevant. They sing like this:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73: 25– 26)
One thing have I asked of the LORD
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD, all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27: 4)
…If your heart longs to be this focused on God, then how to desire and enjoy “things” without becoming an idolater is a crucial question.
How can prayer glorify God if it is a prayer for things? It seems to glorify things.”
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
it’s not infrequent that my husband asks me that question in Joey’s voice. I can even hear the voice in text messages.
But this time the question came from someone else. And it was definitely NOT asked in Joey’s voice.
It was all weepy. and concerned.
Because I’ve been doing . . . (click the blue links below if you want to catch up)
some might say, “not so good.”
some might say, “that girl is a MESS. steer clear. WIDE berth, if you value your time.”
unless you actually enjoy deep diggin theological exploration and sometimes circular and exasperating discussion.
At this point, I feel like I ought to offer up an ambiguous twitter version of this post and a pinterest link so you can escape to higher ground:
but I’m long overdue for pruning. has to be done.
I have to be careful of feedback from the people who want to make me feel better. The feedback that comes from discomfort when I confess something ugly I’ve discovered about myself. The knee-jerk feedback that immediately argues with me and tries to convince me that it’s all good and that I’m being too hard on myself.
This kind of feedback is not helpful. Feeling better is not the answer. It’s a counter-productive cover up. A temporary diversion. What I need is to find the ugly, face the ugly and GET. RID. OF. IT. It’s a stumbling block in my life and a wedge between me and Christ. and it is NOT good.
I’m not interested in rose colored glasses. I hate pink, remember?
Even more than the ugly? I need to get rid of good.
Good is the enemy of great. If I’m not careful, good leads to comfortable complacency. and it can morph into Stepford-like facades that are impossible to break through.
I have absolutely NO patience for facades. And for all the things I don’t know about what God wants for me, one thing I DO know is that “comfortable” is not His ultimate vision for my life.
Good has to go. To make room for better.
or so they say. whoever “they” are.
Lately, the leaders of “they” are “Captain Cliche” and “Captain Platitude.”
and even though I’m finally at a place where I’m able to believe “them” when they tell me that the “better” is what’s on the other side of this pruning and “refining by fire” it doesn’t make the pruning or the fire any less necessary.
How am I doing?
I’m not crying anymore.
that was exhausting. physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting.
I’m not grieving the end of this season of my life anymore. (Actually, I haven’t been grieving since June 3rd.)
I don’t think I could have skipped over the grieving and still arrived at this place, but now grieving has become impossible. It doesn’t fit. (and then there’s the fact that I’m SICK and TIRED of it and refuse to do it anymore.)
THANK. GOD. I can finally see His hand in all of this. He’s the one holding the pruning shears and the torch.
I’m finding meaning, connection and application in nearly EVERY circumstance and conversation. In every book I read, there’s a seemingly obscure or tangential statement or passage that hits me full force and somehow freakishly connects to some other obscure and tangential thing – something someone said or did or something else I read. Every Bible verse I’m directed to – by everything from pinterest to a facebook post or a tweet or a blog or a private message or…you name it.
They’re all pointing to the same idea: I’m between the now and the not yet and I’m being prepared for the not yet.
the Holy Spirit in stereo.
Has all this compound influence led me to discover the not yet?
So I’m making choices a day at a time.
Today, I’m choosing to lean into this ending. I’m choosing to focus on what’s important. But to see clearly requires a stripping away. A purging of all the extra stuff I’ve piled on top of everything in my life and my relationship with Christ.
and even though I don’t like it, this in-between place is good. very good. and I don’t want to miss it.
I could focus on “this is last time I’ll lead this worship song.”
I could say, “Lord, please help me forget me. Please help me to stay out of Your way. PLEASE let this be about the person who needs to hear the lyrics of that bridge: “REDEMER. MY HEALER, LORD ALMIGHTY. MY SAVIOR. DEFENDER. YOU ARE MY KING.”
I could focus on the fact that I can’t bring myself to even open my book draft, much less write anything, because all
I can see are recycled ideas from other people and the only working title that seems appropriate is “What They Said.”
I could just write blog posts. and actually publish them – whether anybody reads them or not. If God has any message He wants me to type up, He’ll tell me. probably at 3am.
I could focus on the fact that any public speaking opportunities would be contrived.
I can have one-on-one conversations, look people in the eye and listen more than I talk. I can wait for God to arrange the next time I speak with a microphone in my hand. If ever.
Have my circumstances changed? no. not by a long shot.
Has my perception of events and circumstances and my motivations changed? no. they’ve become even clearer. some things are uglier. In some areas, I’ve gained some much needed objectivity. and empathy.
Have my decisions about ending this season of my life changed? no. I can’t live in the past and I won’t continue to try and create my own future.
Has my perspective changed? yes.
Do I have a plan? only one. to focus on and pursue this:
“Not my will Lord, but Yours.”
that’s how I’m doin.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss
“Can we believe that God ever really modiﬁes His action in response to the suggestions of men? For inﬁnite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and inﬁnite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by ﬁnite agents, whether living or inanimate. He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to co-operate in the execution of His will. “God,” said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God’s mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.”
The Efﬁcacy of Prayer
There is a tendency to hold on to what we have because it’s what we have. It’s only in hindsight that we realize we were stuck in a rut, closed off to the new or different because, well, it’s new and different. When we have the courage and objectivity to step back and look, really look at our circumstances, when we take a few moments to live an examined life, we risk seeing things we aren’t all that comfortable with.
Either inch by inch or in a flash, sometimes we discover our comfort zones aren’t all that comfortable.
My treadmill has needed a new belt for a while but I’ve been putting it off (click to zoom in and see the peeling). Now the motor needs a new belt, forcing me to actually DO something about it. Two belts ordered.
But….3 to 5 days shipping? Insert whining HERE.
This is the 17th post of a series on Christ-centered church. I began writing to work through my personal experience and heart-wrenching burden for my own church but I’m beginning to see these posts as open letters to the American Christian church.
(If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.)
I’ve been praying. and reading past journal entries. and praying. and writing. and praying. and talking my husband’s ear off. and praying.
Today’s post does not come easily. or lightly. (and it’s not short. You might want to go to the bathroom first.)
This is a two-part post. First, a confirmation. Then, some hard truth.
The first thing I needed to do was confirm that these hard things I’ve been saying have absolutely NO basis in my own selfish motivations. I discovered that, after reading the first 11 posts in this series, someone referred to me as sanctimonious.
I admit. I didn’t know exactly what it meant. So I Googled it.
merriam-webster.com – “hypocritically pious or devout”
dictionary.com – “making a hypocritical show of religious devotion, piety, righteousness, etc.”
encyclopedia.com – “making a show of being morally superior to other people”
My favorite college professor, Dr. Grasty, taught me a lesson that has stuck with me for decades:
When we are criticized, our tendency is to be defensive. Our knee-jerk reaction is to deny. His sage advice? Don’t be a deluded wimp. Have the courage to look for any truth in the criticism. Strip away any acrimonious language, any selfish motivation or defensiveness of the criticizer and diligently search for even a nugget of truth in the accusation.
Sanctimonious. Are these posts sanctimonious? am I sanctimonious? (If you’re more confident in my motivations than I was, you can skip the next few paragraphs by clicking HERE)
I began writing this series at the beginning of fall last year. And then I spent months arguing with God about whether to publish them. I pulled out my previous prayer journal for some hindsight.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Thursday, August 9, 2012:
“Am I really naive to think that if we focus on Christ, YOU will orchestrate the circumstances and not only give us the “optimal” worship service, but You will overwhelm us with an awareness of Your presence?
…I pray for arrogant hearts – including my own – to be freed from pride. To be humbled and full of compassion. I pray for the courage to be authentic. I pray for the obedience to follow your promptings.
…Please show me – tell me – what you want me to say. Please TAKE from me my selfish desires. Please burden my heart for YOUR message, not my agenda.
…If I have this wrong Lord, please change my heart.”
Journal Entry Excerpt, Sunday, August 12, 2012:
“Lord, please don’t let me read things into this that just aren’t there. Please Lord, reveal to me the truth.
…Lord, please, please, please don’t allow Satan to be an influence over my interpretation of this situation. Please fill my head and my heart with YOUR perspective. Please God, don’t allow me to be unintentionally disobedient because I’m misinterpreting these circumstances and not understanding Your will.
Skip ahead. This entry is eerily prophetic.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Wednesday, November 21, 2012:
“Please Lord, as I write, lead me to find the words which will open minds and hearts – without shutting down the path of communication. Please Lord, help me find the line between honest and accusatory – between challenging and insulting.
How do I call attention to the pursuit of Christ without people getting caught up in defensiveness to the point they shut off the message?”
Skip ahead. The day before I published the first post.
Journal Entry Excerpt, Sunday, February 3, 2013:
“Lord, please give me courage. Bless me with wisdom and words of grace and unflinching honesty. Please Lord, place your hand at the small of my back and guide me. Please place your hand of restraint on my shoulder when I am overcome by pride or anger so I won’t say things that are unedifying. Please, please empty my mind of distractions and open my heart to your presence. Help me to focus not only my eyes on you, but my hope also. You alone can redeem this seemingly hopeless circumstance. Please bless me with encouragement, Lord. Please, please, please – don’t let me fail to understand and do my part in Your perfect story.”
In my last post, 25 days ago, I asked if you would PLEASE PRAY WITH ME. I asked you to pray that the Holy Spirit would bring revival to my church. And I said that because we are doers and fixers, the question that usually follows that is:
“But what else can I do?”
I hold steady to my answer: NOTHING else. We can’t bring revival. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
So please. Please PRAY. Pray for revival. Pray for God’s will to be done.
I am not. We are not.
no. I know I am less, not more.
And here comes the hard part. the part I prayed about for 25 days before I published this post.
As a unified body of believers, my church doesn’t want revival. My church doesn’t want change. My church doesn’t want to rely wholly on God. My church doesn’t want to pray unreasonable prayers. My church doesn’t want to pray for unreasonable lengths of time. My church doesn’t want to pray with unreasonable persistence. They don’t see a need.
they are fine.
They want to continue doing things they way they do them.
On their own.
Here’s a question my husband posed to me:
“Consider all the man-hours involved in doing all the things we do at our church. From admin to ministry, from service to worship, from study to fellowship. Consider how many man-hours – Church staff, lay leaders, members, volunteers – are involved in activities and ministries both on and off the church campus.
How many of those hours are Christ-centered?
The answer should be ALL OF THEM.“
MrYehbut: “EVERY man-hour can’t be Christ-centered.”
yes. They can.
If the WHY and the HOW of WHAT we do is centered on Christ.
Brother Lawrence was a 17th century monk. His job at the monastery? He was a cook. And his job was Christ-centered. Because he strove to do everything “as unto the Lord.”
“…he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for he was cook to the society); there having first considered severally the things his office required, and when and how each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals of his time, as well before as after his work, in prayer. That when he began his business, he said to GOD, with a filial trust in Him, “O my GOD, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.” (emphasis added)
EVERYthing we do at our church can be – should be – Christ-centered.
But that’s not the case.
So. many. reasons.
But at the core, this seems to be the looming, pervading, deep-rooted reason:
We don’t trust God.
MrYehbut: “If we change, people will complain.“
yes. some will.
MrYehbut: “If we change, people will leave.“
yes. some will.
MrYehbut: “If people leave, giving will go down and the church might not survive.“
yes. that’s entirely possible.
“We can’t let that happen!”
And I find myself thinking of Abram and Sarai.
God told Abram to leave his home and go to “the land I will show you.” He promised Abram He would bless him and make him a great nation. So Abram packed up and went. Turns out, there was famine in “the land I will show you.”
But God had promised. “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you.” Famine? There’s nothing great about famine. It is NOT a blessing. At least from not from Abram’s point of view. So Abram went to Egypt, and despite God’s promises, he asked his wife, Sarai to do him a favor:
“Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Because the Almighty GOD isn’t able to protect Abram. He needed his wife to protect him. By lying.
Why did Abram ask her to do that?
He didn’t trust God.
And motivated by that lack of trust, he took matters into his own hands and made what seemed to be a reasonable and effective decision. Abram was afraid to surrender his will; his idea of how things should be. He didn’t want to risk any suffering. Because surely, God wouldn’t want him to suffer.
What if the people of Christian churches everywhere surrendered their idea of how things should be? What if we trusted God, even if it meant we might suffer? What if we STOPPED? And evaluated EVERY. SINGLE. THING. we do. And honestly asked, for each and every ministry, each and every decision:
“What’s the goal?”
“Is this Christ-centered?”
“Does this lead to the development of intimate relationship with CHRIST?”
“Does it actively provide a witness to salvation through Jesus Christ?”
“God, what do YOU want?”
What if we STOPPED asking each other “What can we do?” and started asking God “LORD, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THROUGH US?”
Do NOT tell me that is semantics. Not when I’m inundated by reasonable lukewarm mediocrity. It is only language if the prayer is perfunctory. But when we are face down on the floor, palms up, sincerely humble and desperately expectant in prayer it will NOT be semantics.
This subtle change in language, combined with a transformed heart, an open mind and a sacrifice of will, would have infinitely HUGE implications in application and fruitfulness.”
Instead, we regularly dismiss the need to consistently pray and ask God to reveal His will, to guide us as we decide what to do and equip us as we do it – from worship services to programing to service to ministry.
One heartbreaking reason? Because too many people don’t believe we will be able to discern God’s answers. Because they haven’t experienced the kind of intimacy with Christ that is necessary to hear and discern His voice.
There are some people mocking me right now. “How sanctimonious. God talks to her. Isn’t that special.”
I believe God DOES speak to His people.
I believe it IS possible to experience the kind of relationship with Christ that allows US to hear and discern his voice.
Am I saying I know what God wants?
NO. I’m saying, PLEASE, CAN WE ASK HIM? TOGETHER? and WAIT on Him to answer? and TRUST Him?
I trust God to do WHATever He wants at my church. Even if it ends in the kind of death that results in empty rooms, no electricity and plywood on the windows.
MrYehbut: “That’s easy for you to say. You have nothing to lose.”
There ain’t nothing about this that’s easy. I’m acutely aware of what I might lose. of what I’ve already lost. and it’s been wrecking me for nearly a year. wreck. ing. me. It invades my days, interrupts my nights and fills my prayer journal.
MrYehbut: “You want our church to die?”
But if God allowed it, I would still trust Him. I would mourn the death, but I trust Him to work it for His good. Even if I don’t understand. Even if He doesn’t provide a way for me to see the good.
DO NOT tell me I don’t understand. I get the seriousness of the situation. I don’t like it. I HATE it. I understand that if we were to truly give God EVERYthing in this Church He might allow it to die.
He might prune it to a stub.
Will people leave if we intentionally enter into and strive to maintain an intimate relationship with Christ?
Will people leave if we dedicate ourselves to seeking his guidance and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit?
Will people leave if we submit everything we do to the will of the Father?
YES. SOME PEOPLE WILL LEAVE. People who GIVE and support the church financially and through their service WILL LEAVE.
And we need to let them go.
I’m going to say another hard thing.
Some people who GIVE and support the church ARE ALREADY LEAVING. I know some of their names and faces and heartaches. Some people who GIVE and support the church are dying. The elderly and the sick. It is only a matter of time until the people we are trying to keep – and keep happy – are gone. or dead.
The death we fear, the death of our church, will come. We will have only prolonged the inevitable. Because eventually, we’ll all be gone too.
Our absence will make us no less responsible for the death of our church.
This is why God is making me say these hard things. In wrecked love for the people of my church. In a spirit of edification. Against my own selfish will. Because it would be so much easier…
so. much. easier.
to just leave.
“…when Jesus had a large crowd, he would most often preach a message that was likely to cause them to leave…
…’From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him’
(John 6: 66).
Many of the fans turn to go home. I was struck by the fact that Jesus doesn’t chase after them. He doesn’t soften his message to make it more appealing…As I sat in the sanctuary surrounded by thousands of empty seats, here’s what became clear to me: it wasn’t the size of the crowd Jesus cared about; it was their level of commitment.”
Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus
by Kyle Idleman
This is the 17th post of a series on Christ-centered church. If you want to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.
This is the 16th post of a series. In my previous post, entitled “church: THERE. IS. MORE.” I drilled down to the core of the issue. Today, I’m clarifying something I think may have gotten buried.
(If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.)
and prayin. and prayin…
I said something in my previous post, but I’m not sure it came through. I need to try again. If you got it the first time, bear with me.
There are people in my church who understand what I’m saying when I talk about being Christ-centered.
There are people in my church who are experiencing abundant life in Christ through an intimate relationship with Him.
Are YOU one of those people? Is YOUR faith in Jesus at the center of your life? Are YOU experiencing abundant life in Christ through an intimate relationship with Him?
But what about our churches?
At my church, as a unified body of believers,
We profess belief in God. We pray to God. We give offerings to God. We learn how to live good, moral, Christian lives. We learn about discipline and character. We sing praise to God. We serve others in the name of God. We love each other. We support each other. We encourage each other. We help others. We serve others. We accept others.
WE, as a unified body of believers, are not Christ-centered.
WE, as a unified body of believers, don’t view the heart of the gospel as the foundation for everything we do.
WE, as a unified body of believers, don’t even have a common understanding of what the word “gospel” means.
The definition of the word “gospel” isn’t limited to: “Jesus saves!”
To share the “good news” of Jesus Christ is to declare the excellencies of Him from every Scripture and perspective possible – NOT just the fact that He saves sinners from eternity in Hell.
THERE. IS. MORE.
Jesus is the VINE and everything we do as a church should branch off from that Vine and be fruitful:
I’m praying that OUR intrinsic need for Jesus would be at the heart of our church culture,
- because more often than they should, our affinity for each other, our acceptance of each other and our service supersede a shared acknowledgement that the greatest thing we have in common is our need for Christ.
I’m praying OUR corporate prayers would articulate that we know we are the body of CHRIST and that we are utterly dependent on Him for everything we need;
- because when we aren’t intentional, we tend to pray as body of believers who need and love God. In general.
I’m praying OUR understanding that it is Jesus who makes Christianity distinct from every other religion would be at the forefront of our collective focus;
- I’m praying that a visitor would never leave our worship service without a clear understanding that we believe and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, not just “God.” In general.
I’m praying OUR love of Jesus would fuel our passion to know Him intimately and to understand the depth of His love for us;
- because I believe too often our love for Him motivates us to strive to live a good Christian life. So He’ll love us more?
I’m praying that as people become active in our church, there would be some specific, consistent but comfortable time and place we intentionally ask them how they came to their faith in Christ;
- instead of asking them how they came to our church, so we would have an opportunity to hear their testimony rather than just their church membership history.
I’m praying that OUR desire to share Jesus would be the underlying reason for every single ministry;
- as we provide for the temporal needs of others, I’m praying we also make sure we share how our discovery of the Bread of Life and the source of living water has changed our lives and given us the hope that is within us.
I’m praying that OUR determination to do EVERYthing in the name of the Lord Jesus would be THE reason for each and every one of our programs.
I’m praying that teaching the Bible-encompassing redemptive story of Jesus would be the ulimate goal of all our classes;
- not just some. I’m praying that even classes on personal growth, discipline and character development would be clearly grounded in Biblical wisdom and the concepts taught would be intentionally recognized as an outgrowth of our relationship with Christ.
I’m praying that OUR collective gifts would freely and sacrificially overflow from our gratitude and knowledge that Jesus is enough;
– because when we have unwavering confidence in Christ, we can begin to give without fear – and find JOY in the giving.
I’m praying that WE would have a hunger for the whole counsel of God – from the Old Testament and the New Testament;
- that we would seek and find the common thread that runs through the entire Bible so we can clearly recognize the Sovereignty of a perfect, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God.
I’m praying that the proclamation of the Gospel – declaring the excellencies of Him from every Scripture and perspective possible – would be THE clear and unmitigated reason for every. single. Sunday morning service;
- because we never know who is listening or how God is moving in someone’s heart, mind and life that particular day.
I’m praying that WE, as the body of Christ, would consistently, cohesively and clearly evidence a commitment to Christ-centeredness – in ALL we do;
- and if something we are doing doesn’t evidence a commitment to Him or allow us to be witnesses for Him, we would re-evaluate why we’re doing it – and whether we should be doing it at all.
I’m praying that as the body of Christ, our corporate worship services would evidence a deep commitment to and complete reliance on CHRIST. I’m praying that, in every interpersonal interaction, we would be witnesses to how we’ve been transformed by our relationship with Christ. I’m praying that witness would be crystal clear to any visitor who attends our Sunday morning services.
If you read that list and thought, “I already do all the things she’s praying for.” and “None of that applies to me.”
That’s EXCELLENT. And you’re right.
Absolutely, unequivocally RIGHT. None of it applies to YOU.
I am NOT talking about YOU. As an individual.
I’m talking about my CHURCH. As a body. Made up of many, many, many individuals.
If, in that context, you understand and agree with anything in that list, then PLEASE PRAY WITH ME?
That the HOLY SPIRIT WILL BRING REVIVAL to our church.
Because we are doers and fixers, the question that usually follows that is: “But what else can I do?”
NOTHING else. You can’t bring revival. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
God is Able. Prayer is more powerful than ANYthing we can do on our own.
If you disagree with the things on the list, if you think I am flat out wrong, please…give me a few more minutes of your time. A few months ago, I took a quiz and I want to invite you take it too.
Resist the tendency to answer as an individual. Step back. Try and answer as a member of your church.
Even more difficult and uncomfortable? Step back even further. Try to look objectively through the eyes of a visitor and answer.
Review all ten statements and apply a number equal to that element’s frequency in your church. [emphasis added]
5 = weekly 4 = regularly 3 = periodically 2 = occasionally 1 = infrequently 0 = never
1. Expectant prayer frequently before, after, and during the actual service. God’s grace petitioned for healing work at every level: mind, emotions, and body. Where stories of healings of all kinds are regular and verifiable as God’s response to prayers of faith from His people. (James 5:14-16)
2. Powerful “thus says the Lord” biblical preaching where people have a distinct sense of hearing God speak with authority into their souls in a way that brings Holy Spirit conviction they cannot deny or dismiss.
3. Where people line up at the doors long before the service starts and rush to the front to get the best seats for passionate, expressive worship where the voices are loud, hands are raised, tears are flowing, minds are expanded, and hearts are moved as Christ is adored by every one in every corner of the room, from the very first note. The passion of their praise testifies to the reality of God’s presence and melts the hearts of those attending who do not yet believe. (1 Corinthians 14:24– 25)
4. Where individual salvations proportionate to the size of the church regularly and continuously occur in large numbers because people want their friends to experience what they have. Salvations flowing from all walks of life— from the businessman who discovered his millions as worthless to the derelict or prostitute who looked up from his or her addiction and despair to experience the total transformation of their now and forever. (2 Corinthians 6:2)
5. Where racial, economic, language, and generational diversity is growing because what we have in common in the Lord is far greater than the things that separate. Where the white guy covered in piercings and tattoos sits beside the black businessman and the babe who is inappropriately dressed but everyone welcomes and embraces her because they remember when they were like that. (Galatians 3:28)
6. Where the majority of adults gather in smaller groups to stir up and spur on and support the weight of walking with God. Where relationships flourish and follow the biblical pattern of grace and truth. 57 Not the shallow grace of mutual enablement but the truthful grace that fights for God’s best in each other, one relationship at a time. And Christians love and forgive and forbear and carry one another’s burdens from house to house. (Acts 2:26, Galatians 6:2)
7. Where elders lead, discord is not tolerated, and people are held to account. But where leaders also listen and learn, loving the people and letting the unity of the Spirit be enjoyed by all who persevere in working to keep it. (Ephesians 4:1– 2)
8. Where Christ reigns and is exalted increasingly as Head in the hearts of the people, so that gratefulness overflows into graciousness and generosity so that Christians become disciples and disciples become leaders and leaders are frequently sent out so that churches are planted nearby and around the globe. (1 Timothy 2:2)
9. Where the needs of the poor are met and those in prison are visited and aliens are welcomed as friends and strangers are served as brothers and widows are not neglected. Where these priorities are not a program or a phase but the lasting overflow of God’s abundance in our hearts.
10. Where all of these things are manifest. As in, everyone sees it and knows it and feels it and delights in it. Manifest means visible, obvious, undeniable activity that cannot be attributed to a person or a place or a program and is totally disproportionate to the ones who experience this abundance with overflowing joy as glory comes down when they gather.
Add your boxes for a total that helps you evaluate your current Verticality.
40– 50 = A Vertical Church to the glory of God— keep it up and spread the word.
30– 40 = More Vertical than most— review the survey for areas of improvement.
20– 30 = Feeling the heaviness of your horizontalness? Much to follow in this book will help you.
10– 20 = Your honesty is good, but it’s time to get on your knees and deal with what hinders.
0– 10 = We will deal with your kind of church in chapter 4— God may have a new plan.
(from Vertical Church, by James MacDonald)
How did I score?
Let’s just say I immediately skipped ahead to Chapter 4. And I didn’t have to do any math first.
but over the last month, I would have to bump myself up to the 10 – 20 range. Because right now?
#2 is a FIVE.
I believe God is still moving. I’m desperately, persistently praying He’s not finished here yet.
desperately. persistently. not exaggerating.
“…a huge difference— the difference between knowing the gospel and being consumed by the gospel, being defined by the gospel, being driven by the gospel. It’s one thing to see the gospel as an important facet of one’s ministry. It’s quite another to hold firmly to it as the centerpiece for all a church is and does, to completely orbit around it.
The gospel. Though such a glorious thing, it’s also such a simple thing— so simple we almost overlook it. Such a basic thing, we’re tempted to feel as if we’ve somehow graduated beyond it. And yet without this simple thing, this basic thing— without the life-giving gospel driving and defining both us and our churches— there really isn’t much of anything that makes us distinct and alive, nothing that other people, groups, and organizations aren’t already doing…
…In your heart perhaps— if you’re being very honest— you sense a loss of awe for the gospel, a failure to connect its power to your entire ministry…
…So here at this place of recognition and regret, we meet together to start a fresh journey into the heart of the gospel, prepared to be newly amazed by it, resolved to let its principles begin shaping how our churches worship, serve, and operate.
from Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger
This is the 16th post of a series. If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.
Cheeky little creep.
If I can’t catch him, there’s only one thing left to do.
So far, the facebook suggestions are:
Randall (from Monster’s Inc.)
FirstHusband says I should name him “Stinky” because that’s what he’ll be after he bakes to death inside a closed van in the Florida sun for a few days.
I would put Bob the cat in the van with me for a while if I didn’t think he would have an “I’M GOING TO THE VET!!!” panic attack and cower under the seat.
Just in case there’s any doubt, lizards are not my favorite.
Lord, please give me courage.
Bless me with wisdom and words of grace and unflinching honesty.
Please Lord, place your hand at the small of my back and guide me. Please place your hand of restraint on my shoulder when I am overcome by pride or anger so I won’t say things that are unedifying. Please please empty my mind of distractions and open my heart to your presence. Help me to focus not only my eyes on you, but my hope also. You alone can redeem this seemingly hopeless circumstance.
Your way is the best way.
I’m just whining because I don’t know what that is. And it’s slow. so. slow.
Please bless me with encouragement, Lord. Please, please, please – don’t let me fail to understand and do my part in Your perfect story.
You stay with me
when I doubt
You hold me up
when my hope runs out.
You give me my portion
You fill me up
manna for one more day
Your faithfulness is enough.
Much too often, the people of Christian churches talk about God in such a generic way that we are left with only an assumption of Christ. We assume people make the necessary connection between God and Jesus, and assumption is a dangerous practice.
Because for those who don’t know Jesus personally, it gives them a false sense of security. It makes them think they are Christian, when really, they are just living “a good Christian life.”
For those who do know Jesus, it leads to a false sense of ability. A self-assuredness that leads us to rely wholly on ourselves. And as reliance and confidence in our success grows, awareness of the truth fades.
We need Jesus. He is the source of our abilities and strength. It is by the grace of God that we do anything at all.
Jesus is the reason for all of it.