Blessed

Sometimes, a whisper is all that is left in my gut at the end of the day.

There are matters, at times, that leave me feeling tired, weighty and weak; because I don’t know the way out of the web I’m stuck in or have woven. Even that basic detail I can’t seem to clarify or sort out.

But, I know God knows all the inner workings of my seemingly complex problems.

And this is good.

But somehow, my flesh still feels some need to sort it all out before my eyelids close.

And this is stupid.

Why is ‘dying’ so hard?

Because this:

“The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possession; not decisions for Jesus Christ, but a sense of absolute futility – I cannot begin to do it. Then Jesus says – Blessed are you. That is the entrance, and it does take us a long while to believe we are poor! The knowledge of our own poverty brings us to the moral frontier where Jesus Christ works.” – Oswald Chambers

Real life requires dying first. And the enemy and my own flesh want to avoid that dying at all costs.

Because my flesh still wants to be rich and have a claim – whether it’s personal pride or desiring the good opinions of others – I easily get side-tracked on a loop of mental pretzel twists when I hit a chance to die a little more.

But, Jesus told me that I am blessed when I am poor in spirit and when I feel hated by others and when I am weak.

There is mystery in this that I am still unpacking.

Over Here Again

I’ll be posting some light fare back over here once in a while… In the meantime, my heart is writing so much that my fingers get overwhelmed with even trying to keep up lately.

Ah, the story goes on, even if I don’t record it; it seems both a good and bad thing.

Little Light

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…”

It’s funny how that tune still runs so easily through my mind decades after learning it.  It’s also funny how, as a girl, I envisioned a little yellow candle, and a basket, and the devil trying to “blow it out” every time I sang it.  I knew the actions and liked to sing, so it was a comfortable part of my repertoire.

But, now, it’s like an anthem to come and die.

If the Light in me shines brightly, I am welcoming the forces of darkness to come and throttle me (and not, likely, with a wicker basket).  In proclaiming my allegiance to the Father of Lights, I am fastening my name to part of His stellar constellation, and I am no longer hidden, I’m out there, exposed and raw, flickering with the fire of the Spirit.

All of a sudden, my life is being lived ‘out loud’; all of a sudden, I present a problem to the enemy.

My heart is aligned with the one, true God, but there is still a struggle with my flesh that not only likes the safety of conformity, but has been conditioned to desire ‘falling in line’ with the crowd since walking through that Kindergarten door.  And, something about shining in the darkness is just so bold and uncomfortable to my flesh; it attracts attention and telescopes.  It means not hiding from the world, from its opinions and prejudices, it means welcoming conflict and misunderstanding, and sometimes it means sticking out like a sore thumb (which is my increasing reality).

But this desire to move out of the shadows is good, because it means that Jesus is stronger in me; I’d rather risk life with Son than linger under baskets.

Shine Like Stars

After years of dreaming about holding a “Family Camp” in our area, and finally collecting enough brave friends to take the plunge, 67 of us pulled off our first ever 3-day camp.

It was better than I had imagined it would be.

For years my husband and I have been longing to participate in a camp experience that included the parents and the children, but was more than just ‘tenting’.  However, there was nothing remotely local to fill this desire.

One night, back in the winter, we took out a notebook and started to sketch out some ideas.  (The ideas are always the fun part, because they take no commitment!)  But, once we started talking about it, we realized why these things don’t just happen… it takes a lot of work and resources to get lift off.

But, we had friends who were in on the dream too; and with so many hands on deck this thing was ready to fly.

At the camp, we lived in a little ‘neighborhood’ of cabins, our front porches turned in to a central area where the kids played tetherball and blew bubbles together.  We watched teenage young men horse around with wee ones, and gaggles of girls laugh as they walked together, and even more boys play pick-up soccer with their dads and sisters.  We sat on the decks and chatted at all hours; it was old-fashioned and perfect.

We sang songs to Jesus and heard stories about his love.  We ate together and played hard.  We endured the chaos of a noisy dining hall and the inconvenience of rain.  We got lots of bug bites and poor sleeps, but we enjoyed the campfires and the early morning pick-up soccer games covered in dew.

It was especially poignant to see the fathers able to spend lots of time with their children playing and talking, building in the sand, boating and eating, and praying and worshiping in the context of a community of other like-minded hearts.

***

A preacher recently pointed out that the Apostles presented one of the big benefits of becoming a Christian was ‘joining the body’ in this life i.e. being part of the deep-love-community of Christ.  I confess, I have often thought of this as more of a trial than a benefit (all these people who I drive crazy, and who drive me crazy too – yikes!).

Yet, I have had an unquenchable hunger for this kind of broader connectivity; though have not found it in well-meaning programs or religious activity.  This gospel kind of love-life is up close and personal, it’s organic and real and even messy and it can’t be tidily tucked into a church pew.  This kind of life, I have found in my North American pocket of the world, is not easy to do.

As much as I desire closeness, I often feel more comfortable with distance and privacy and looking good from far off.

Yet, I saw this love in action this week, this profound ‘body life’, as fellow believers looked out for the needs of others (sharing toothpaste with the family that forgot theirs –ahem), children helped with the workload, and we got to experience each other at the ugly times of day (early morning puffy eyes!) and at the weary times of exhaustion as well.

And that great-big awesome fellowship extravaganza lit a fresh spark of hope, showing me that it is possible.

Love is bigger than our isolation and it will not let us be satisfied in our tidy pockets of comfort; we were made for faith-life together, that often looks like a mess and feels like sand in your sleeping bag, but is actually the stuff of heart-knit and passion-life.

I believe there’s more to come and it’s bigger and better than we ever imagined; it’s more than just a camp experience, it’s meant to be every day.

And I believe that Jesus is taking us there.

When Grace Spills

I once heard a man say that a lack of patience was really a lack of love, and that rather than praying for more patience, I should ask God to fill me with more love.  I was immediately offended by this idea, because as a parent, I love my children, wildly… I just needed more patience.

But the more these words tumbled through my cells, the deeper they penetrated my heart, and I have come around to a place of full agreement.  Patience is a product of love and where the well of love is deep, so too will be the reserve of patience.  After all, patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and the Spirit is love.

Love (and any of its fruit) cannot be contrived, learned from a book, or teased out of an emotional pep-talk-to-self; trust me, I’ve tried this for years and years – if this worked, I would be an expert.  Willing there to be more love in my heart, is like waiting for my pine tree to grow dollar bills.  I can desire it, but life doesn’t work that way.

However, as I gain increasing insight into the Father’s immeasurable affection for me, my own love-tank fills and spills over into my experience with my children.  It’s like all that grace just can’t be contained in me alone and patience begins to come naturally, even when a child may bust out into unrestrained freakiness.

It’s almost like I don’t mind the ear-blowing tantrums and frustrating explosions of chaos, because grace has fitted me with new glasses and all I see is love when I look at this tense, drooling, red-faced two-year-old who desperately needs to consume the entire bottle of (ahem, real) maple syrup himself, thank you very much.

Love colors everything beautiful, even when the object of my affection is in the throes of something ugly; after all, this is how God responds to ugly: He loved me first, before I deserved it.

It was His love that made me beautiful on the inside and it is this power-love spilling over in me that will produce a spectacular harvest of Spirit-fruit in my heart towards others, regardless of how they live or behave.

When grace spills over like this it nourishes good things.

Heavy Rain

Deuteronomy 28 is amazing; it’s about as awesome as Deuteronomy 27 is terrifying.  Check this out:

“If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God…  The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands.”

In John chapter 3 we read that “[God] gives the Spirit without measure.”

And yet, how often am I satisfied with scraps from the table of pietistic religiosity and the anemic fruit of moral effort?  How readily have I been satisfied with a good parking spot when all along God has desired to bless all the work of my hands?

And yet, what is required to receive this overflowing abundance is all of me: surrendered in obedience.

 “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”  (John 3:19-21)

It occurred to me that “wicked things” can also be religious work done in my own effort; strategic plans for good and upright attempts to live well in my own strength are still “the work of darkness” (the evil of pride and self-sufficiency).

Whatever I do that has not been “carried out in God” is not a work of the light.

This surrender to the Light is daily, always-kind-of-stuff, like breathing… when living life in the Spirit, it’s really non-negotiable. Dwelling and abiding in Christ (hearing and obeying God’s voice) opens the treasury of heaven above me: and I begin to hear the rumble of heavy rain in the distance.

Jesus Is Near

We were born on a battlefield, beautifully disguised as ‘earth’.

Yet, if we could see through the hologram of this material world, we would perceive a cosmic war waging over every precious soul, and Jesus there alongside each one of us, waiting to be invited to do the fighting for us.

Jesus is as near as my beating heart.

His love already crushed Hell, yet the enemy would tempt me into believing that, “Victory isn’t such a sure thing.  And Jesus is sort of elusive and unreliable, but look over here!  The world is so shiny, so full of shows and sidetracks; forget the big picture, plant your feet in all this temporal stuff and make yourself at home!” 

And how easily I succumb to the overwhelm, the distraction, the self-pity, and the grief; the fruit of this heaving world.

Here I live, where the battle seems so ‘flesh and blood’, where quotidian urgencies and relational explosives make here-and-now so frustratingly real and gory.  It’s easy to rage at the noise, the chaos, the madness, and the people that surround me, yet it’s all a distraction from that fact that Jesus is near and He’s already won.