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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already done

Last week, I posted a list of 12 things I want/need to do in 2012.

It’s 10 days into the year now and I’m rather stunned to say, 1 of those 12 things is already done. A 2nd of those 12 things is in the works and will happen within a matter of weeks. Sometimes, Jesus amazes me. (Did I just say sometimes? I meant, all the time!)

– buy a car.

          CHECK!!!!!!!!

– move to Nashville.

          COMING SOON!!!!!! Really soon.

The day that I wrote that list, those two things felt distant and overwhelmingly challenging. At the same time, I knew that what Jesus is doing in my life would require that they happen.

The last few months have been a series of one thing not working out after another thing not working out. It’s been frustrating and, often times, discouraging. But at the same time, the last few months have also been very full of Jesus teaching me truths about Himself, truths about who I am in Him, and leading me to walk into new areas of trusting Him and living out Life In Him. As I continually sought His leading in my life and decisions, I felt more and more strongly that I needed to be heading to Nashville by the end of this month. “It’s just time.” And I was beginning to believe that maybe I’d have to jump in the hard way (without a car). I was willing to (but man, it sounded hard) and I was looking into it. And then, Jesus made the impossible possible.

On January 4th, I came home with a new [to me, and practically new in general] car that will soon take me to Nashville. If I had any lingering doubts that this was Jesus’ plan, they are long gone.

The day that I began the process of buying a car, a wise person made a very wise statement that I have been thinking about ever since.

Remember. This is what He [Jesus] wants. So, in Him, it is already done.

After I got the car, the next thing on my list to figure out was the answer to the “Where will I live?” question. It didn’t take long for that to fall into place. (I have a place to stay while I get on my feet.) Now the question is, “Where will I work? How will I support myself?” And I sometimes want to freak out about that because, I’ll be honest, I’ve been living on my savings a lot longer than I planned. There’s really not a whole lot left and that makes me feel – uncomfortable. But I really can’t freak out. I just have to remember that in Him, it is already done. I don’t know HOW yet. But it’s done. I have to trust, and I have to walk into it knowing that He will provide as He has so far. I also have to be responsible and do my part to figure out the HOW, but while I do that, I can find rest in trusting Him in the midst of every unknown that comes my way.

I know, I haven’t shared much about the story of the last few months or about WHY I’m moving to Nashville. That will come. I guess, I’ve just needed a while to chew it all up on my own before I plaster it on the internet for all the world to see and comment on.

But, for today, my point is simply this…

That process you’re struggling through that doesn’t always make sense, but you know Jesus has something to do with…
Remember. When it is what Jesus wants, in Him, it is already done. Find rest in trusting Him.

The answers might be coming sooner than you think is possible, or they might take longer than you hope (don’t forget… I’ve been trying to figure out what is next for MONTHS now), but either way… It’s already done, in Jesus. And with that, I breath a big SIGH of relief!

clarity // TRUST

Have you ever said, “Pray for me to have clarity.” or “I just need God to give me clarity about what I’m supposed to do.” or “I can’t move forward until I have more clarity.”

Chances are, you’ve picked up on that language and that idea over the years if you’ve run in Jesus loving circles. But, I’m starting to wonder if we’ve really gotten this idea FROM Jesus, or if we just made up this “need for clarity” on our own.

I’ve been reading a book called Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God. In it Brennan Manning recounts a story of a man (John Kavanaugh) who spent some time working alongside of Mother Teresa. She asked him one day, “And what can I do for you?” and his response was “Pray that I have clarity.” Mother Teresa’s response was an immediate and emphatic, “No, I will not do that.” She explained to him the reasons why she would not pray such a prayer: “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of. […] I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Manning goes on to say that…

Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father’s active goodness and unrestricted love.

“We ourselves have known and put our trust in God’s love toward ourselves” (1 John 4:16). We have a God who LOVES us, no less than he loves the men and women listed in Scripture. Think about Hebrews 11 and the list of people of great faith it contains. Think about their stories. Do you think they had clarirty? I had never thought through that before, but stopping to think about that… No. They lived in great uncertainty and confusion never knowing what was going to happen next or how exactly it was all going to work out … but in the midst of that they found great faith… great trust in the God they knew was with them… and that TRUST took them beyond their unclear circumstances and into LIFE with God!

Manning, Brennan (2010-10-12). Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God (pp. 5-6). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Dear Me (at age 18) // Love, You (at age 29)

When I was 18, I wrote myself a letter. It was an assignment for my Senior English class. We were to write to our future selves. We could say anything we wanted to. Our teacher promised to mail it to us 5 years later. Having forgotten all about it, 23 year old me laughed when I opened it and discovered that 18 year old me had thought it was a good idea to fill it with confetti. It was 5 or 6 pages long – and very colorful (that hasn’t really changed). I wish I had the letter still to show you, or at least quote, but I think with all the moving I’ve done, and the continual process of purging unnecessary THINGS, it has found its way into some landfill by now. But I can tell you that 18 year old me said,

Well, I’ll have graduated from college. I’ll probably be a teacher, or going to graduate school for Special Education. And I’ll probably be married, or at LEAST engaged. And maybe I’ll be thinking about kids. I’d like to have my first when I’m 24 or 25.

18 year old me was confident that those things – my education, my job, being a wife, and a mother – would be my identity by the age of 23.

This week, I turned 29. It’s the last year of my 20s, the 30th year of my life.
And it is not what I expected when I was 18.

I have a BA and an MA, but neither are the ones I planned at 18. And I don’t hang either of them on the wall and they’re really not very important. They do nothing to define me.

I am a teacher. It’s a part of my nature/character. And sometimes, it’s a part of my job. But it’s not my identity.

I’m not a wife, I’m not even a girlfriend, but I still hope to someday be one. But when that happens, that relationship will not provide me with my identity, and NOT having that relationship or role does not detract anything from my identity or worth.

I’m not a mom. I’ve been a bossy big sister who thinks she’s a mom/a babysitter/a childcare worker/a teacher/a nanny/an “aunt,” but I’m still far removed from being a mother.  I pray that someday, I’ll have that privilege… but when I do, it won’t be my identity. And while I don’t have that role to live in, my identity is secure without it.

Clearly, I was wrong about a lot of things. But I was most wrong to think that my identity could EVER truly be found in any of those things.

If 29 year old me could write a letter to 18 year old me, it would say this:

Dear Me (at age 18),

When I think about you, me at 18, I can’t help but laugh. You’re pretty ridiculous. {So am I, honestly. But it’s a different ridiculous.} 

This may be a bit of a shocker but my favorite color is green (not pink), I haven’t had my nails french manicured in YEARS, I drink my coffee BLACK, I think Frappuccinos are gross, I like onions, and I run several miles a week – entirely by choice. I’m not like you anymore. And those are just the little things. BIG THINGS are going to change for you, in you, and around you over the next 11 years. I won’t tell you about those specifically. You can’t handle it yet. A lot of it is going to be hard. Really hard. And a lot of it is going to be amazing. Really really amazing – kinds of amazing that you can’t yet imagine. And even the hard stuff, somehow God is going to fit it together to make something beautiful. Trust Him!

And about that: This is a lesson you should learn as soon as possible.

You belong to Christ. You are IN Him. He is IN you. (That’s all going to mean a lot more to you THIS year (28/29) than it ever has before! Be excited about that!) And that, little girl, is where your identity lies. Not in a job. Not in a relationship or a role that you fill. Not in your education. Not in your size. Not in how much people like you. Those aren’t bad things, but they are not what define you, what root you, or what make life worth living.

Your identity is IN Jesus. Read that sentence again. And again. And again. When everything else is stripped from you, you are IN Jesus. And that is gloriously beautiful. And that makes you gloriously beautiful – no matter how you may feel sometimes. Jesus is EVERYTHING; let Him be YOUR everything. His life is IN you. It is. And it’s true what Paul said. All that other stuff that you’ve currently got your eye on, it’s RUBBISH. Don’t let its shininess distract you from what is ACTUALLY beautiful and TRUE!

There’s a lot I sometimes wish I’d (you’d) figured out sooner, but if I told you now you just wouldn’t get it. You’re not ready. So just live and go through it all, and know it’s going to be great because you are/I am IN Jesus and He’s doing something…Something you really don’t understand yet, and I don’t really understand yet either, but I’m seeing more all the time how beautiful it is!

Love,
You (at age 29)

travel day | on the ground of Jesus

Today is a travel day. I like those. I get antsy when there is too much time between them. And I’m antsy now, which is funny because it hasn’t been that long. Two months ago, I was in Texas. Only 2 months.

Ugh, but 2 months is a long time! In normal life, it’s not necessarily. But in unsettled life, it is.

So, little unsettled me is ready for a change of scenery for a week.

And little unsettled me is going to be asking God particularly a lot while enjoying this change of scenery, “When and how should I move towards a settling point?”

I want to walk in His timing. I know I am very capable of trying to rush and very capable of trying to delay. And while in moments I have desires to do both of those things, I don’t ACTUALLY want to do either of them. So, I’m praying that I’ll see through His eyes, and walk in His ways and moments with a steady trust in His ability to get me where I need to be and when.

I read this seriously great devotional yesterday. It said:

We have to leave our own ground in every way.

Do you answer back, "I am so weak!" The Lord is not going to meet you on that ground; He will meet you on the ground of His Son. That is what the Holy Spirit means by such words as He speaks through Paul: “…be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). God hears us exclaim, "But I am so weak, Lord!" but He does not pay any heed to what we mean to indicate by that confession, which is: "Come down on to the ground of my weakness and pick me up!" He says, "You forsake that ground, and come on to the ground of My Son, and you will find strength there." "I am so foolish, Lord!" The Lord says: "You will remain foolish until you get on to the ground of My Son, Who is made unto you wisdom."

We take our own ground before the Lord and are surprised that the Lord does not lift us right out of our own ground and put us into a better position, but He never does. We shall stay there forever, if that is our attitude. The Lord’s word to us is: "Forsake your own ground and come on to My ground. I have provided a Heavenly Man Who is full of all that you need; now come on to that ground." It does not matter what you are, or what you are not. There everything is adjusted and made good.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Stewardship of the Mystery, Volume 1 – Chapter 12

And that, my friends, is the way I want to walk – on the ground of Jesus, with Him as my strength.

And now, it’s time to finish getting ready to fly…

Texas here I come!!!! (I still think it’s funny that I get excited about going to that state.)

WHY ARE YOU GOING? Forget about where.

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted and I feel like I should have something to say, so I sat down and… nothing…

I have a folder filled with random notes and thought processing. I looked there. It’s all too big. Too much to unload right now. I have another place filled with quotes from books and blogs and conversations. And that’s where I said, “Got it!”

The following comes from Chasing Daylight, by Erwin McManus.

You would think if anyone knew the will of God, it would be the apostle Paul. After all, he was God’s instrument for writing much of the New Testament. … Yet, what you find is that Paul was as uncertain about which way to go as many of us are in our life journeys.

In many ways Luke’s travel journal is a divine comedy. It tells us that Paul had no idea where he was supposed to be going. At first he was sure Asia was the right direction, then he redirected to Bithynia. And only when he was unconscious did he finally understand that he was supposed to go to Macedonia. It took the whole Trinity to keep Paul from going to the wrong place. On top of that, while Paul was conscious, he just couldn’t get it.

Paul didn’t know where he was going, but he did know why. His compass was the heart of God. He was fueled and driven by the passion and urgency that God had placed in his heart – to take the life and freedom that comes in Jesus Christ to every person on the face of the earth. What God makes clear is that when we’re committed to seizing His divine moments, He’ll make sure He gets us to the right place at the right time. What God can do through a person who’s willing to act is limitless.

I love that. I’m SO thankful for the story of Paul’s life (for this reason, and SO many others!).

So today, that’s what I have for you… Just passing on some challenging encouragement.

And here’s my question, to you and to me: WHY ARE YOU GOING? Forget about where. Let’s just think about WHY. And when the answer to that is right, God will take care of the rest. And it will be stinkin’ awesome when we get there. Hard. Pretty sure about that. But stinkin’ AWE-SOME!

whatever “crazy” you want me in

I’ve been gradually learning something about myself…  I am often times too pragmatic about things. I see A and I see B and I think that clearly they should add up to C [because I’m smart and I know that A and B make C! – obviously!] … right NOW. If it makes sense… it just makes sense and we, clearly, should really just hurry along to C. {I realize that this might seem strange for me to say. I doubt most people think of me this way. I guess I’m kind of a weird mixture of left and right brained so the way I see A and B and C might be different than others. But in MY mind, they logically add up. :)}

The problem with that is, God doesn’t typically work that way – through pragmatic ways. At least not most of the time. Just look at Scripture.

People said, “Hey look! There’s a giant. We need to fight him. Let’s get our biggest guy and develop a strategy for how he’ll bring him down. Then we’ll send him in and obviously he’ll be victorious.” But God said, "No. That’s not how it’s going to work. I’ll send in this little guy, because He trusts ME. And he’ll get the job done that your big guy can’t do.” Sending in the little guy makes NO SENSE. He’ll get killed. You can’t do that. But that’s how God chose to bring victory.

People came to the big massive walls of Jericho and rather than develop an attack plan God said, “Just do what I say. March around and then blow your horns… and the walls will just fall!” How does that make ANY sense? But that’s how God worked.

Joseph was living it up with a multi-colored coat and God showed him through dreams that things were going to get even better. If he was like me, he probably thought that would happen sooner than later. But no. FIRST he had to be hated, tricked, thrown into jail, used and abused… and THEN years later, He got to where God had showed him He was going. Years. But he remained faithful, the whole time, even though he did not understand. How many times do you think he wondered, “LORD, why is this happening? It doesn’t make sense. I thought you told me in a dream…” And God said, “Yeah. I did. Just wait.”

Simon and Andrew. They had jobs as fishermen, and they were good at it. They were doing their thing and Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” What in the world does that even MEAN? Fishers of men? How do you fish men? Why would they leave their jobs to follow some stranger? But they did. Immediately. They left everything and went. Does that sound wise? Not so much. But that’s what the presence of Jesus brings out of people.

There are thousands of people gathered, but there is no food. Oh wait. There are 5 loaves and 2 fish. People said, “We better send all these people home. They need to eat and we don’t have nearly enough food.” But Jesus said, “No. No. Bring me what you have and I will feed them.” Ommm… Not going to work. Obviously. Use your head Jesus. But that’s not the way He works. He didn’t say 5 loaves + 2 fish = clearly NOT enough food. He said, “I’ve got this. Just do what I say.”

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

Right. So I can’t just use my noggin and figure it all out. At least not if I want to live God’s way.

I left Asia. And I started making plans. They made sense to me. Then God said, “Wait. Don’t plan. This isn’t My Way for you.” So I stopped and waited. And now, I’m still waiting but it’s becoming more clear everyday that where I thought I was going is not where God is taking me. And that usually means… well, something that doesn’t make sense is coming. So, I’m getting ready.

Honestly Jesus, sometimes your higher ways feel a bit… well CRAZY. But, okay. I’m listening. And I’m letting go of my A and B obviously should bring us to C (and definitely NOT D) mentality [again]. And whatever “crazy” you want me in… Well, I’m in. I want what you have for me and nothing less than it.

I’m Letting Go by Francesca Battistelli