give up what is lesser; receive what is greater

I’ve started a pretty intense and consuming project. It’s exciting but has distracted my attention for the moment from the series I started (and will **fingers crossed** continue soon) here on Organic Church Life.

In the meantime, I’m in the gorgeous downtown library here in Nashville. It’s a favorite spot of mine and I’ll likely be here a lot these next few months.

2013-08-23 14.24.49

I was digging into some things today and read a quote that I found to be challenging and beautiful. I decided it was worth a quick share…

“The Lord, Yahweh, is not portrayed as a God that Abraham already worshiped. When he appears to Abram he does not give him a doctrinal statement or require rituals or issue demands; he makes an offer. Yahweh does not tell Abraham that he is the only God there is, and he does not ask him to stop worshiping whatever gods his family was worshiping. He does not tell him to get rid of his idols nor does he proclaim a coming Messiah or salvation. Instead, he says that he has something to give to Abraham if Abraham is willing to give up some things first.”

Walton, John H. 2000. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (p. 46) Inter Varsity Press.

The Lord chose Abraham, not because he’d been living a holy life devoted to the Most High God. He was an idol worshiper (see Joshua 24:2, 14).  But the Lord saw beyond the limits of time and space. He knew who Abraham (who was Abram at the time) was in Him. He knew who he’d be and what he’d walk into. He didn’t demand it all at once. He didn’t tell him much about himself. He knew Abraham would experience who Yahweh is, over time. In effect, He simply said, “I have great things for you, if you will walk away from the lesser things. Come. I’ll show you.”

This is what the Lord says to us today. He doesn’t hand us a list of does and don’ts, hammer us with statements of doctrine, or demand religious sacrifices or rituals. He simply asks that we give up what is lesser (our lives) to receive what is greater (His life).

Abraham’s story is a shadow of our reality, and it’s glorious.

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“Who she was wasn’t defined by doing at all.”

Who she was wasn’t about doing at all.
Bird by Bird, Ann Lamott

Recently, I had a conversation with an old friend in which I was asked, “Why do you even WANT to be my friend?!”

This person IS my friend and has been for quite some time. We’ve had a lot of fun together and we’ve seen each other’s crappiest crap. There have been mistakes and fights and hurt feelings. There have also been many times of forgiveness and understanding and love. Our friendship status is really rather defined at this point. It’s who we are to each other: Friend, even Family.

I questioned the question and discovered that my friend had believed the lie that there is some performance evaluation that every friend must go through to maintain their status. If Friend-A is not performing at the same level as Friend-B, then Friend-B is likely to cut Friend-A loose, cut their losses, and move on with life.

Maybe that’s how it works in the world’s friendship system. But in Christ, there’s a whole other story.

Who my friend is to me, isn’t about performance at all. We have a relationship. This relationship exists IN and because of Christ. It is a relationship of friend and of Family. It’s unbreakable, under any circumstances. Sure, there may be periods of time that one or the other of us choose to DISAPPEAR and be unreachable – and there may even be seasons when that is needed for some reason, but we will still be friends and we will still be Family.

There is Freedom in that truth. We are free to be. We are free to do, but not defined by our doing, or measured by our performance. We are free of needing to fix each other. We are Friends. We are Family. We are reminders to one another of an Identity given to us in Christ. Unchanging, even when unseen.

So, dear Friend. I want to be your friend, because I am your friend and because you are mine. I want to be your friend because Christ has made us Family. What other reason do we need? 

How much longer? // rest

I love when Christ reveals Himself through everyday stories. So, here’s one for you…

— — —

I have pink-eye. More accurately, I have bacterial conjunctivitis.
It’s awesome.
So awesome, I tell you, that I woke up EARLY in the morning and said in a semi-panicky voice, “I can’t open my eyes!!!” My husband said, “It’s okay. We’ll take care of it later. But right now, you don’t need to open your eyes. Just sleep.” I said, “BUT, it hurts!” And he said, “It won’t hurt if you just sleep.” I said, “okaaay…” and rolled over. He reached over and rubbed my back for a moment and soon, we both dozed back to sleep.
When the alarm to get up went off, still pretty early in the morning, he went and got me a wet cloth so that I could clean my eyes, open them, and see.

— — —

I’ve been thinking about this early morning incident all day and I see such a picture of Christ in Jon’s response to my panic…

When I wake up in the middle of the night, I like to be able to look at a clock so I can  know how much longer I have to sleep. I don’t know why I find that so important. It doesn’t actually matter. It’s time to sleep, not time to worry about or dwell on how much longer I have to sleep.

I’ve been reminded today of the many times I am like this with the Lord about life, plans, or spiritual understanding. I’ve definitely asked the Lord in a panicky way “How much longer until ___________?” once or twice (or a lot more than that) before because I was wanting to see something I could not see. 

I think we probably all spend time wondering the answers to questions like: How much longer will I struggle with this issue? How much longer will I feel this disappointment or shame? How much longer will things keep going well? How much longer will it take for me to learn that you’ve got this? How much longer am I going to be single? How much longer until I’ll have children? How much longer until I’ll be able to have a job that I really love? How much longer will the Lord have me stay where I am? How much longer until I can retire? How much longer? How much longer?!?!?!

In those moments of wondering “How much longer?” the Lord is often gently telling us, “It’s not time. You don’t need to see. Just rest.” (Like Jon did for me this morning.) And our response is often something like my,”BUT it hurts,” But, as Jon told me… “It won’t hurt if you just sleep.” He was right. It only hurt because I was trying to open my eyes and see. When I chose to rest, I was fine. And when it was time to get up, Jon brought me what I needed to help me see.

When we REST in the Lord, there is no need to dwell on the “How much longer” questionsWhen it is time to see, the Lord will provide what we need to open our eyes.

TECHNICALLY, I’m a “housewife?” // so that I know who I really am

Two weeks before Jon and I got married, I – unexpectedly – quit my job. It was a hard decision for me, but a needed and worthwhile one.

I did NOT quit my job because I wanted to stay home and be a “housewife,” although – TECHNICALLY – that is currently what I’m doing. That’s actually quite a hilarious thought to me. I’m a “housewife?” I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being one, I’m just saying it’s not “me.”

I expected that someday, when there were children in the mix, I would stay home. I did not expect to start marriage this way.

And yet, it has been a really valuable time for me…

I didn’t want to quit my job until I had a plan of something to DO next. I’ve always been a DOer and a GOer. I’ve spent most of my life “thriving” on busy schedules filled with lots of people and long “to do” lists. I’ve realized that I found much of my identity in my DOing and my GOing. But it was a false identity. 

I’ve struggled a bit with my lack of DOing in the last 4 months. I’ve loathed the question, “So, what do you do?” from new people who I meet or old friends that I’m catching up with. I don’t know what to say. Uhhh… I plan meals. I grocery shop. I cook. I clean (but less than I should). I do laundry (and often leave it in the dryer for a day or two.) [I’m not a good housewife, you see.] I have coffee with my friends. I read good books. I paint. I write. I babysit my friends’ kids. I spend time with Jesus. — It’s beautiful. It’s a season. I’m grateful for it. It’s full of His purpose. — BUT… That FEELS like a lame answer.

It feels like I’m a spoiled and possibly lazy little girl who got married so she wouldn’t have to workThat’s not true. At all. But that is what I sometimes perceive that others will think when I tell them that I do not have a job, nor am I very actively looking for one quite yet.

And so I find myself constantly having to choose to PRESS IN to my identity IN CHRIST alone. I am not defined by what I do or don’t do, where I go or don’t go. I’m defined by my BEing in CHRIST. This season is such a precious and needed reminder of that for me. I know it’s only a season and I look forward to some new and different things that will come… But for now I simply shall say… Thank you,  Jesus, for the treasure of being stripped of much DOing so that I can know who I really am, in you.

trees | perceive Him

I love trees. I always have. And as a girl who grew up in San Diego, where the weather is beautiful – almost always – but there are really not SEASONS, I have so thoroughly enjoyed living in Nashville, where AUTUMN happens.

Today I would like to share two videos with you. As you watch them, see if you can see Christ in them. I don’t mean the strange kind of “Jesus’ face is in my tortilla!” visions of him, but rather that He is clearly perceived in the things that He has made (Romans 1).

So here you go. Perceive Him! :)

Are you missing the forest for the trees?

“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want.” John 5:39-40, MSG

Are you missing the forest for the trees? There is a big picture to see. And that picture is CHRIST.

I recently read a quote by N. T. Wright…

Part of the difficulty is that Jesus was and is much, much more than people imagine. Not just people in general, but practicing Christians, the churches themselves.

I’ve noticed that a natural human tendency is to assume that we are the exception. He’s not talking about ME! But what if he is? What if these statements are true of you and me? I’m not trying to beat us up! That’s quite the opposite of my intention… I’m learning that with Christ, there’s ALWAYS more of him to see!!! So, let’s look!!!! He’s more than just the individual “trees” (or stories) seen on pages of Scripture. He’s given us His life to EXPERIENCE.

A couple months ago, I got to experience something AWESOME. Jon and I zip lined above and through the Costa Rican rain forest. It was SO fun. We had hiked through some of the rainforest, which was awesome. I loved looking at each of the unique trees and seeing various forms of life. But it’s an entirely different experience to look down from above at the vastness and fullness of the forest. I was SO glad that we did both. We were able to get such a fuller picture of its beauty.

Let’s let him take us zip lining above the forest! I’m certain we will all be amazed at his FULLNESS and beauty!

We can find him anywhere, everywhere, anytime, and all the time. He reveals Himself in Scripture, yes. But watch for Him to reveal himself to you in your neighbor, in the sunset, in your favorite tv show, or the dew on the grass in the morning. He reveals himself in the cry of a newborn, the changing of the seasons, and the feeling of hunger when you wait too long to eat. He even reveals Himself in YOU as you live by His life. When our expectation is always Christ and when the Christ we expect is not limited to a box we’ve learned to place Him in… Our vision of Him continually GROWS.

I’ve been STUNNED by the more I’ve seen of Him over the past 2 years. I’m HUMBLED to know that the forest is still MUCH bigger than I know. The reality is much fuller than my mind can expect. There is so much more of His life to receive, not by my efforts, but by His giving.

not a waste | BE

Today, there is a pile of used tissues sitting on the floor next to me, medicine, plenty of liquids, and a thermometer on the coffee table in front of me. The same was true yesterday. I’ve been mostly planted on the couch so, earlier today, I thought about how this week is wasting away. I have no energy to DO anything.

The Lord brought to mind the first email Jon ever sent me. I was sick. He had read a devotion in a book called “Jesus Calling” (by Sarah Young) that reminded him of how I was feeling and decided to share it with me.

Thank Me for the conditions that are requiring you to be still.  Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again.  Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells. Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for My way in the midst of these very circumstances. Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to Me.

Quietness and trust enhance your awareness of My Presence with you.  Do not despise these simple ways of serving Me. Although you feel cut off from the activity of the world, your quiet trust makes a powerful statement in spiritual realms. My Strength and Power show themselves most effective in weakness. 

Zechariah 2:13, Isaiah 30:15, 2 Corinthians 12:9

What a great reminder this was then and is now! This week is not a waste. It is a time to BE with the Lord, to quietly depend on Him, to be still, to simply trust.

One of my favorite spots on the walls of our home is this (^) reminder of just that. The Lord delights in our BEing in Him. We do not need to strive to impress Him. We do not need to busy ourselves with activities that make us more deserving of His love.  We simply need to BE, in Him, and allow His life to simply flow through us.