Make Me Brave

The deeper I walk into the mysteries of God and the more confidently I embrace them, the more foolish I appear to the world.

Everything is upside down; there is a way that seems right to a man.

My husband took a significant risk at work last week: in a place where the name of Jesus may not be mentioned, he unraveled the whole beautiful story to a person lost in desperate darkness.

He planted hope and it may yet cost him his job.

As we were sharing this story with the kids, one of the little ones asked if Daddy was going to die for his faith.  We laughed in the moment, but really, this call to live in Christ is a call to come and die.

{And we may die for Jesus one day, just as brothers and sisters all over the world are dying in His name even now.  I dare not believe that this façade of peace is here forever; I need to live ready.}

Yet, courage has to build one step at a time as I learn what life really is and what it means to follow a Redeemer-King whose wisdom is folly to the world: it means exchanging my comfort for the cross; replacing worldly wisdom for seemingly-confounding Supernatural Revelation, and swapping personal peace for a Love so wide it leads into eternity.  It also means resting in the shadow of His wings and abandoning ‘it all’ to the one who loves me the most and knows every detail of my life… my times are in His hands.

I have never been more proud of my husband.  Watching him, ready to ‘die’ (lose his reputation/job), because his love for Jesus just won’t be contained any longer is about the most solidly beautiful thing I have seen in my life.

He makes me brave.

It’s been a powerful week as we have walked together, prayed together and pressed into all the perfect promises of Scripture as though our lives depended on it…

…Because they do.

The road to heaven starts here; travel light and risk it all.

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Frequency

These last couple of weeks, I’ve spent any spare time reflecting from a horizontal position on the couch.

The new life inside seems to strip me of vigor even as it grows in the secret place; my life for my child, it’s as it should be.  My fingers haven’t been keen to write either; as God writes more important things inside of me, my stamina to enter the arena of ideas dwindles.

Ideas and projects are good and important, but where is the heart that is fully devoted to God?

Is there any greater good than to lay myself down inside the heart of my Heavenly Father and live solely unto Him?

Increasingly, I am resting in Jesus.  I don’t know how, after 30-odd years of life on this ball I missed this secret place, but now that I have finally found it, I’m not letting go! 

He’s meeting me; really and truly my heart is – perhaps for the first time – resting in Him.  It’s like the immeasurable greatness that Paul talks about in Ephesians is actually beginning to spill over me and all I want is to spend my extra moments listening to His lovely voice, reading His perfect Word and asking Him all the pent up questions that have been hounding me for years.  It’s like He’s taking my burdens away from me one by one, and I don’t have to wrestle with them anymore… it’s like freedom.

And it’s coming without effort, without striving, without anything being perfect on the outside of me, because the veil has been removed from my eyes and I am embracing Scripture as written, not as the popular evangelical doctrine machines would explain it.

I used to think I was free, but I had no idea that this kind of freedom was available to God’s children.

I used to think prayer was like me leaving a message on God’s answering machine, maybe He’d get back to me, maybe He wouldn’t (“God always answers: sometimes it’s a yes, a no or wait”, right?), and in the waiting I would develop character, of course.  Well, I’ve been learning that God is communicating to me all the time – like a radio station – that simply requires me to ‘tune in’ to the right frequency: Him!

And now, hearing from Him in my spirit through words and dreams, and pressing into His word, I am finally building a relationship with Him… like when I first started getting to know my husband… all the world is new and I just don’t care about hobbies or entertainment or the latest whatever, because the lover of my soul wants to be with me!

Regrets of the Dying

In the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, apparently the number one regret at the end of people’s life is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

I’m pretty sure I never saw a movie where I was rooting for the protagonist to submit to the doomish, narrow opinions of others who wanted to shut down the dream.  (That would make for a pretty lame movie.)

Struggling to work out the vision God has given us amidst the real-world cast of characters that surrounds us has made it clear to me that fear has been a dominant feature in my life; let’s just say I’m not exactly ready to star as a hero any time soon.

I was never scared of spiders or of getting sick or normal day to day stuff; I’m not a wimp, generally speaking.  But, the quiet background noise of fear has penetrated my thoughts over the years, especially as I have stepped out in greater and greater faith, often prompting me to overly care about what other people think about me and causing me to feel strong guilt when I fail to live up to other’s expectations for my life.

But another book I read recently (Fear No Evil) articulated what has been forming in my mind for some time now: “Behind every fear there is a lie.”

Behind every fear there is a lie.

Fear = lie.

Fear is not of God, because perfect love casts out fear.

And so, whether I’m afraid of disappointing others, or getting ‘too weird’, or being totally misunderstood, or fearfully wondering if I will even make it through the mess of this day (if I don’t, I suppose it will prove the critics right, I am in over my head), I’m learning that all that anxious thinking is at best unproductive and at worst massively destructive.

Why do I mess with fear?  Why is it so hard to punch it in the face and just get over it?

It recently occurred to me that of my closest circle of friends in elementary school, I am the only one with children.  The others are doing marvelous, meaningful and glamorous things with their lives.  Yet, it struck me afresh that what will last is the life we build.  Our ideas and art and efforts will endure a season or two or five, but children carry the spirit of life into the next generation, to a place I will never go.

This crazy work of cleaning up goobery faces, waiting out tantrums, matching 8 million socks again, and clearing mold specimens out of the containers at the back of the fridge, is all for a greater purpose: life beyond me, life beyond here.

And that’s the dream we have, essentially: Life, abundantly; life free in Jesus.

Honestly, I don’t know where our story is going, but how can I be afraid of a dream like that, a dream that is woven through scripture like a perfect golden thread?  There’s no fear in that, only victory.

Fog vs. Freedom

As a mother, I have a {metaphorical} blazing target on my back.

I’m fair game to the one who hates my God, because I would dare to lay down my life for others, embrace love, and press into the Holy One.

What utterly confounds the enemy is that I would seek to know the power of God through the fellowship of His suffering, as opposed to bathe in waves of self-centered loathing/delight with my selfish self.

The Thief can’t handle this kind of thing; he can’t handle mothers. 

The very essence of a mother is love, sacrifice and hope.  The enemy abhors this goodness, so, he aims to wreck us; sometimes in big ways, but sometimes in little, endless, drip, drip, drip ways.

There are times, there are days, where I seem to hit a wall of dense fog; could be at any moment, but I’ll walk right into one.  And, boom, I’m down, choked by a stream of dark head-talk, and I’m overwhelmed with unbelief and fear and anxiety… wondering what on earth I am doing, and can I really handle it, and I need help with some of this load, and there must be a better way, and how do I respond to ‘problem x’, and are my efforts and dreams even worthy, and how do I face that ‘y’ situation again, and will I ever get the rest I need?

This fog gets me off course fast; my eyes sink into my own self and I choke on the immensity of my situation.  At this point, the enemy has me positioned right where he wants me: focused on myself and my weakness and the freakiness of the whole overwhelming world.

I sensed that fog, that cloud of oppression, walked right into, and then believed it.  I permitted my mind to agree with the darkness, and allowed unbelief and fear to fog over my vision.  Though my position in Christ remained secure, my flesh took the bait.

But, little by little, as these fogs roll over me, I’m fighting back:

“No, fog {lies}, you are not my problem.  I am free and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I have put my hope in God Almighty and I will not fear.  There is no fear in love!”

Then I stop the mind tapes; I just force them to stop rolling.  I rebuke the garbage fog and press into love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. -1 John 4:18

On the deep, beautiful inside of us, we who know Christ, have already been perfected in love.  Fear is no longer our master.  We are fully, fundamentally, forever free from that bondage, though the Thief will assault us daily, hourly to agree to carry baggage that is no longer our own.

He’s got a millstone around his neck and he wants to wrap it around mine too.

I won’t have it.

I’m free in the midst of all this messy chaos of family life, because my spirit is fully equipped for every challenge and my eyes are on God who is my ever-present hope.  I just have to remember to see through the fog, instead of embracing it.

A Great Work

Over the last few seasons we have had folk we love share their concerns over our choices.  Our choices are wacky and uncomfortable and seemingly unwise; though no one calls any of our choices sin, they feel a sense of gravity about the ‘direness’ of our situation.

Imagine, choosing life is now considered reckless.

Our life is too different, too full of children, too sheltered, too unconventional, too free from culture-junk.

We have had meetings and chats and conversations to address our nutty, ‘problematic’ thinking.

How can I justify to men what our upside-down God has called us to do?  We certainly aren’t walking this out perfectly, but I’m pretty sure Noah looked like an idiot too, and he was actually amazing.

I suppose I am in good company.

Nehemiah, too, refreshes me.  I love this story where he goes about the immense task of rebuilding the ancient wall around Jerusalem.  He is busy working away, filling in the gaps, all the while crammed with vision, and commissioned by God to work at this huge and thankless task.  He is all mission, all focus.

And then these guys say to him, “Come, let us meet together…”

{They don’t want him to work on the wall!}

So, I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.  Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”

But they sent me this message four times [even a letter with false accusations]…  Then I sent to [them], saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”

For they were trying to make us afraid, saying “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands…

Oh, yes, I am doing a great work and I don’t have time to converse and convince others about what God has asked me to do.

These hearts that we are growing in this atmosphere of faith and hope are full of the light of their Heavenly Father; this is radical holy work.

The grueling days of hard, hot, heavy work stretch out before me like a seemingly endless wall, where I fit one humble pebble at a time into the gaps, trusting that this business is the work that God prepared in advance for me to do.

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands!

Number Nine

I’m pregnant.

I think.

Every obvious indicator is pointing to this fact, though I have not yet verified ‘officially’ with one of those little white sticks.

The news is not out {the children don’t know, I’m just sharing here in my secret-friend spot}.  I’m just musing about the way this is going down.

This little lentil-sized spirit within me is loved fully by my heart already.  We imagined that another little person would one day likely join our clan.

But, what comes with this little one, this little precious Number 9, is a suitcase full of junk-thinking that isn’t mine; all the nutty, rude, unfeeling, irrational things that have been said to me in the past about having a big family (i.e. being different) come sweeping in on my heart.

And then, instantly, I’m in a battle, before I’ve even adjusted to the news myself, I’m fighting: fighting mentally with how I’m going to defend this radical choice to embrace lots of life.

So, I’m nauseous and weak, weary and delighted.  Yet, all I want is just to enjoy the ‘congratulations’ that I heard echo so joyfully for Number 1.  Why can’t Number 9 be delighted in from the get-go too?

The Thief has convinced our culture that children are a liability and so choosing too many is unwise, if not ridiculous and stupid.  It’s like the Thief is trying to rob me before I’ve even settled into the joy of this new reality chosen by God to exist.

I just wanted to register that I’m sick of the Thief and his stupid voice.

Bleeding

A friend recently reminded me of this fabulous quote by Ernest Hemingway:

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

As I’ve wrestled with the sight of my own blood, I have shied away from writing most of the real stuff in me.  I’ve been cranking out canned garbage and it’s killing me.  Call it fear, call it weakness, but some part of me just won’t own the deeper stuff out loud.  But, I can’t write weak anymore; it’s untrue.

Here, I’m going to attempt to write the real journey… so, I humbly share an as yet, unresolved life: eager to be honest, yet starting quietly, trusting that you will let my words spill out and know they are not words of judgment or criticism towards anyone else, just the process of an evolving heart.

Let this little place be like a bucket where I collect the things that are mine with open hands, and maybe there will be a treasure or two that will bless you too.