On Being Overwhelmed: The One Question That Makes Sense of Everything

Overwhelmed. It’s a state I’m quite familiar with. I thought we’d be less familiar the older my kids get. But Overwhelmed has a way of folding itself into every season of my life, in different forms and manifestations. For several years, God’s been teaching me to ask a specific question that disarms blurred anxiety and opens the gates for peace, clarity, grace, and hope. This one question changes everything; it breaks life down into pieces small enough to hold without succumbing to the confusion.

Last night I came across a seven-year-old writing of mine detailing the conversation with God that broke through to my supremely overwhelmed, in-the-trenches heart. I didn’t quite have language for it then; with a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a growing fetus it was a feat just to form sentences. Take a moment here if you would, before we get to the Question…

 *   *   *   *   *  *

…I recently realized in my own life how heavy these responsibilities [wife, mother, citizen, light-bearer, employee, volunteer, caregiver, etc.] become if they are not tempered with the reality of my humanity and the grace of God. As a perfectionist and stay-at-home mom, I had become so entangled by the daily tasks of motherhood that it felt impossible to gain any perspective or hope of the future. Disheartened by the growing list of things to do that, let’s face it, might not ever be checked off! Beating myself up for all the ways I had fallen short. Disappointed by the ugly realities of sickness and pain and death and hate and injustice that at times seems to swallow the world up whole. And for some reason, I felt the need to understand all these mysteries, and own all these responsibilities, both true and false.

I was asking the Lord why it all felt so heavy, and if I was really supposed to feel so tired and heavy-laden in the face of what I considered ‘normal responsibility.’ His response was essentially, “Because it IS too heavy for you.” He is the Infinite One, and I am the limited mortal. By His design, He knows the future and I do not. He knows what my soon-to-be family of five will need in the years to come, and I – while I can worry all day long about what we might need, and if we will have enough – I do not. He knows the days that are left for me. He knows when and how the desires of my heart will be fulfilled. He knows it all.

And so His invitation to me through this realization was this: Let Me carry it for you. Let Me provide what you need. I am the One with unlimited strength. I am the Prince of Peace. I carry the government on My shoulders. At the end of the day, I am the One responsible, and I have chosen you to help Me with a few things, because I enjoy partnering with you and seeing your gifts and passions shine.

So I am learning to read my to-do lists through those glasses; to take off the load and rest for a while. I am deferring to my wise, capable, ever-present help in times of trouble, and taking His lead in what to carry tomorrow. He has counseled us to cease striving, and know that He is God. Of course the world must go on – the alarm clock will blare; the day’s tasks will press upon us, our bodies feeling the strain; challenges will appear without warning; toddlers will still have to be potty trained… perhaps I can at least let go of the things that aren’t mine to carry, share what I must carry, and find true joy in the fullness of all the good that has been given to me.

*   *   *   *   *  *

What a beautiful thought:  What is mine to carry?

Put another way…

 

What’s my job?

 

This is the question. To fully answer it, I must also understand:

“What’s NOT my job?”

and most importantly,

“What’s Your job, God?”

I’ve found the Overwhelming rushes in because I’m trying to do a lot more than my job. In difficult situations, I tend to want to fix everything, to worry about the future, to make sure every need is met, to control the outcome, to make everyone feel better, to make everything right. I’ve seen it over and over since this sweet conversation with the Lord. The enormity of All The Fallenness and All The Jobs sends me into depression and anxiety. This is actually God’s design, to make me aware of the fact that these are NOT my job. It is too heavy, as Corrie ten Boom’s father taught her. Pretty much all of them are God’s job. Not mine. I am not God. He’s way better at all of these jobs.

A friend tells of heartbreak. I listen in silence, seek to know their heart, and if I sense I’m to stick with them through the pain, I begin to seek God’s heart. “What’s my job here, Lord? What is your job? I trust you with all the jobs that are yours. All these things I tend to pick up… I see now, they’re not not my job.” Sometimes, my only job is to give them a big hug and cry with them in the silence. And I do that job, and it’s enough – it’s all I’m meant to carry. Other times God gives me specific assignments in their life. (More thoughts coming soon on this subject of friends’ heartbreak.)

That’s not my job. Now that’s a powerful statement! It frees me up from everything that would entangle and overwhelm. It frees me up to not be God – a tiring and dangerous way to live. It creates boundary lines when others assume I’ll take on jobs that shouldn’t be mine.

So much more to say here… I’ll just give one final thought. The undercurrent through all of this – can you see it? – is the Goodness of God. We really can trust Him to do His jobs, and do them well. And we really can trust that His jobs for us are life-giving and best. He fashioned me for such a time as this, for such a job as this – therefore He has already given me what I need to do that job well. He believes in me; He knows I can do it through His strength. He knows my weaknesses and breaking points. He is thrilled to take me deeper into His ways. If God gives me a job, He’s setting me up for success. And if I don’t do it well the first or fiftieth time, He is gracious to afford me more opportunities to bring out the full expression of who He made me to be.

All the while, He whispers, Let Me carry that for you.

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The Way He Should Go

It’s the morning after the last TCAP (Tennessee’s standardized tests), a soft rain just the permission we needed to sleep in. As a third grader, this was Jake’s first experience with the tests that somehow mean everything and nothing. Jake is more of an athlete than a scholar, and I’m still trying to figure out what to expect from him academically.

My boys could NOT be more different from each other. Everything I think I know as a parent is consistently thrown out the window once Jake gets involved. His energy is boundless, his joy contagious, his mouth noises incredibly annoying. Every morning he begs to ride his bike to school, and every afternoon he plays with neighbor friends for hours. His middle-childless is large and in charge.

Watching him find his place in the world will be quite the thrill, I’m sure of it. I am at the edge of my seat wondering who he will become. If his impact at birth is indicative of his impact out there, WATCH OUT WORLD!

“Train up a child in the way he should go” is thrown around a whole lot when it comes to parenting. I always thought this way looked clearly defined, and I thought the burden was on the parent to discern the perfectly Biblical, perfectly black-and-white, perfectly identical way for their children. I used to think I’d have a final say on the way my kids will turn out. I used to think it was all on me, figuring out the way they should go and making sure they follow suit.

I did not anticipate parenting correctly, that’s for sure.  A few years in I began to see that there is nothing narrow about this Proverb. Our job as parents is not to dictate or restrict. It’s to model, to create safe guardrails, to give freedom as much as each child has the capacity to hold it. And mostly, it’s about listening to my child’s life and the One who created it to uncover each one’s unique path.

This makes sense – after all, God is so much bigger and smarter than me! He doesn’t take a narrow, defined, dictated approach with his children. He doesn’t should on me all the time. He’s much more interested in a partnership of unfolding mystery, knowing full well who I am and who I will be.

This is the approach I want to take with my children. The ultimate goal is for the child to choose for himself the way he should go. That’s the way that will stick, the one he won’t depart from: the way that he chose out of his own free will, not the way that was chosen for him.

I am not so much creating my child – that was God’s job, and He did it well. I can’t control my child.  But I can tend to him, prune him, give him good soil, watch for weeds, teach him to do these things for himself so he can continue to grow into his full self.

Perhaps the most sacred act of parenting is leaning into the prophetic destiny of my child – watching and listening for what God has put deep within him as He formed him in my womb. Laying down my own agenda (all my shoulds and vicariously-lived dreams) and asking God to give me eyes to see my son they way He does. Becoming a student of my child, noticing what he’s drawn to, what he does naturally, what is difficult for him, what brings him alive, what he dreams about at night and in the day, what sparks something in the people around him, what he adds to the room, what favor is on him, what has been spoken over him prophetically, what his love language and personality type is, what has been scary, what the enemy’s strategy against him looks like.  Listening, watching, being alert, intentional, … being a student of my child in tandem with the God who created him.

Then I get to process all this input with God and consider the implications of these gifts and callings. What will my child need if his strength is xyz? What might the pitfalls be? How can I equip him if his weakness is abc? How can I teach him to fend off the enemy’s strategies against him?

Beyond all the wearing daily tussles and discipline issues, having a bird’s-eye view of a child’s way they should go is deeply refreshing to my mother-heart. Parenting is high-stakes. I can’t imagine doing it blindly. What a gift to have a God who is more interested in my child’s destiny than I.

The Gift of Seeing Upside Down

The West Wing is one of my all-time favorite TV series. I’ve seen every episode at least three times, and am currently working my way through another full run-through while I sew in the afternoons. In season two, the press secretary, CJ Cregg (Allison Janney), has a little encounter with the Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality. The mapmakers highlight the inaccuracies in scale and proportion of our current world map. CJ’s mind is consequently blown, especially when they propose to flip the northern and southern hemispheres – to put the south on the “top” and the north on the “bottom” of the map.

“You can’t do that – it’s freakin’ me out.” CJ flatly pronounced.

I hear that, CJ. When the whole world gets flipped upside down, when you’re not sure which way is up,  it’s pretty freaky. Disorienting. Traumatizing, even. Generally speaking, we humans like walking on solid ground; we like having our bearings.

In a moment of clarity, years later, have you ever looked back on a topsy-turvy season of your life and realized how God worked so powerfully through it, and it blows your mind? Have you ever wondered how God saw you then and sees you now? Ever wondered if His vision is nothing like yours?

He is, after all, the author of the Upside Down Kingdom, as some like to call it. (Jesus certainly lived that way.) Where the least is greatest, the wisest is a fool, the poor are rich, death leads to life, the weak are made strong, the humble are raised up, and the most sinful human can be called righteous by God.

In her lovely work Walking on Water, Madeline L’Engle reminds me that our eyes see everything upside down. I’m not sure how I could forget this, as I spent an entire semester in college studying the eye. But she mentions the physiological fact that our eyes actually  see upside down, and then our brains take the images and translate them to right side up. (Maybe left side up was her point, which I also appreciate as a lefty. 🙂

“I don’t understand why we see upside down; I know that nobody has been able to make a camera that doesn’t see upside down, and maybe there’s a message for us in that.” (p. 128)

This function of the eye made me consider again an upside down map, an upside down life, an upside down kingdom. Maybe there is a message in all of this: we were made to see everything upside down after all! Maybe it’s that if we turned off our brains – stopped trying to figure out how to translate everything to right side up, stopped trying to make everything look how it’s “supposed to” – we would more readily see things the way God sees. He’s not always looking at earth with the North Pole at top center — His view is much broader! He doesn’t define success or perfection the way we do, and He doesn’t define “right side up” the way we do, and maybe — could it be? — that’s a really good thing!

I wonder, in your life, is there something God sees in you that looks perfect to Him, yet upside down to you?  Perhaps He’s wanting to orient you to His True North – not the one you’ve identified and made your own. Perhaps what you see as emptiness, He sees as pregnant-with-promise fullness; what you see as disappointment, He sees as an opportunity to solidify your hope in Him; what you see as chaos, He sees as a place peace is about to be made known.

Our eyes are, after all, made in His image.

He’s already given us eyes to see… to see everything upside down.

If this resonates with you as it does me, let’s take a moment and ask God to unpack it further: God, what is your perspective on this thing? How do you see the problem? How do you see me? You are always as work in my life – where are you? What hope do you have for my future?

Lay down your logic, and let His image of your life reflect on your mind’s eye. If it’s upside down… maybe that’s exactly what He’s been trying to show you, and He has so much to give you in the midst of it as you embrace His perspective.

God, forgive us for always trying to make things make sense, for projecting our north upon your mysterious ways. If life in the kingdom is meant to be lived and seen upside down, grant us grace to let go of our understanding and fully participate in the adventure, free to fall deeper into your all-knowing arms and give the world a true picture of who You are. Help me tune in to these eyes you’ve given me to see. Thank you for such a gift. I do see… help me in the ways I can’t see.

Speaking of not my will but yours be done… I say it again to my soul: it’s not about me, as if you should do things my way. It’s all about you, Jesus. All this is for you.

 

 

To Mallory, On Her Surpassing Glory

I met Mallory almost fifteen years ago, a Belmont communications major ten years after I was (there weren’t many of us), full of energy and joy and laughter and spunk and beautiful words and big dreams and passionate worship. (Worshipping with her at Grace Center was the best.) She and a handful of others were Jay and mine’s pride and joy.  During our years of dating, engagement, and early marriage, we got to love on these Belmont kids together, to have them in our condo, feed them, cry with them, counsel them, love them to no end. Mallory, Ashley and Lauren laughed at all of Jay’s jokes and ate the first chicken and burgers from the gas grill we got with wedding money. They jumped up and down screaming when they saw the ultrasound of the first baby in my belly. (You could hear Mallory’s scream for miles, I know it!) They kept him company when I was pregnant with Cas and had a 7pm bedtime.

They were glorious days.

Mallory had the courage say yes to a call to missions in Mozambique, say yes to a marriage proposal from a Mozambican, and even more courage to say no when it became apparent she needed to break off the engagement. I had a front-row seat to her obedience, heartache, and courage, and I can tell you there is not a purer heart in all the land.

She met Kyle, married and moved to Atlanta. Weeks after the wedding, she was diagnosed with melanoma. She fought hard and beat it. She leaped for joy at her own ultrasound, and the cancer came back. She bore her beautiful daughter and beat it again, staring fear in the face. She beat it again and again, always hopeful, always believing God for full restoration, always enduring the treatments and side effects with determination. This winter they found disease again, this time in her brain, and gave her three weeks to live. There was maybe a 5% chance the radiation would even make a dent in the tumors’ progress. We all prayed again and she endured horrible treatments again and this time the scan came back almost completely clean! It was a true miracle; fruit of her faith for all these years! All the nurses called her Miracle One! But the same week revealed a new hot spot in her pancreas. More miserable radiation, more pain, more hope consumed Mallory’s life.

I can only imagine how much pain she was in, and how much hope she had, when she breathed her last breath yesterday.

Today is her first full day free of pain, free of fear, free of struggle, free to worship her Jesus with full abandon, face to face, flinging herself into his arms. After so many long, torturous days on this earth, I wonder how long today will feel to her! Surely it will fly by!

Mallory and I connected sporadically over the past seven years of struggle. I got to talk to her a few weeks ago for a glorious 45 minutes. I am so thankful for that conversation we had while she sat in her full bathtub – the least painful place for her beautiful failing body. We talked about sowing and reaping, about our generous Father, about the many things God has brought her through, about obedience and surrender, about the grace to receive help in time of need. We talked about the toll cancer takes on a body, a bank account, a marriage. We talked about the ways she saw God moving in her friends and family as a result of the cancer battle. She told me how God cares about our small dreams – like the way he gave her a VitaMix after her blender broke. We talked about dreaming big with God. She challenged me to dream outrageously, and partnered with me in asking God for the wildest dream I could think of. That’s Mallory – endlessly encouraging others and praising her good Father.

She never backed down from pursuing her Jesus. Her tenacity was breath-taking. She was convinced that whatever the enemy was up to, God could turn it around for His glory. Her last Facebook post is true, true, true:

16427353_10154544172232961_8599167502286667013_n

 

My dear Mal,

He brought you to this position – now seated in heavenly places for full-real – so that many would come to know your Jesus. He brought you through all that pain for reasons all of us can’t see. But now you can! You can see it all just like God does – the mature fruit of all those seeds of obedience and faith and encouragement you’ve sown. This is not the way you wanted it to end, but it is the way you hoped it would end, isn’t it? Your big dream was to take your family to Disney World. I guess heaven is God’s upgrade to that request, and it’ll be the blink of an eye until you’ll get to walk those magical streets with Kyle and Lilian. I guess He knew all along, and He had purpose for every single day you endured… and now you can see all that. God better be making it worth your pain.

I look forward to worshipping beside you again, arms flung high in a gym in the sky, tears of joy sopping red carpets, angels all around us, and every tear of grief wiped away. Some people say we will be rewarded in heaven according to our lives on earth, that there will be places and crowns of honor reserved for heroes of the faith. You are my hero. Maybe my room will be a few floors down from yours — wouldn’t that be fun?!! I’ve told you at least a hundred times – can I tell you once more?

 

I am so proud of you.

Well done, Mallory.

Well done.

 

love,

Rachel

 

How to Be Job’s friend

We all know the story of Job and his three friends who came to visit. These three men are generally disparaged for their tiring, all-knowing speeches explaining Job’s misfortunes. It’s true, they talked so much that they ran out of words. Despite their pompous speeches, you know what I think of them? I think they were amazing friends. One could make the case that the story of Job is one immense lesson on friendship. Remember, Job gave a big long speech, too, and God reprimanded all four of them when He started up. (Reading Job 38-41 in The Message version will give you a fresh perspective on how God talks to His best friends. It’s actually hilarious.)

Why were Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar excellent friends?

Because they showed up.

When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief.  Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.  Job 2:11-13

They took time off work and travelled to be with Job. This was probably neither convenient, comfortable, nor profitable for them. But they were not afraid to enter into his calamity. They mourned deeply with him. And this is the astonishing part: they sat with him FOR SEVEN DAYS AND NIGHTS WITHOUT SAYING A WORD. Who does that? A really, really good friend. A better friend than I have ever been.

These friends who are known for their verboseness, if we read the story carefully, were initially slow to speak.

I think we can learn a lot about friendship from these guys, particularly about being a friend to someone in crisis.

How can we be a good friend to the Jobs in our life?

1. Go to them.

Show up. Just be there. Don’t be afraid to enter into the mess, into the darkness. It’s a very Jesus-like thing to do. {“I was in prison, and you visited me.” Matthew 25:36}  We all fret about what to do for our hurting friends, and often this discomfort keeps us away. I’ve come to learn that the main doing that’s needed is just showing up. The presence of a friend makes the dark cell of grief a little brighter.

2. Talk less.

I imagine Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were a deep comfort to Job those seven silent days. And I imagine they cancelled out all that comfort the moment they started talking. Trying to explain why God would let bad things happen to Job. “God has a reason for everything,” we say. “God never gives us more than we can handle.” “Have you confessed your sin?”  “Maybe God is trying to teach you a lesson.” “God works all things together for good.” “One day things will get better.”  Anyone who has been the recipient of these words during crisis knows how much they do NOT help. In fact, they hurt. Of course we want to explain why bad things happen; and who wants an explanation more than the hurting person? But in the middle of the pain is the WRONG TIME to make assumptions, to pretend to be God. These guys tried their best to have answers, and God nailed them on their presumption. {“I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has,” God said to them. Job 42:7} Any words based on discomfort, obligation, unbelief, assumption, judgment, or agenda will hurt your Job and your God. Who are we to know why bad things happen? It’s okay to not know.

It’s okay to not have answers. Don’t try to fill the emptiness with your words.

3. Listen humbly.*    

*This one is for the friends as well as the Jobs.

Job also spoke against the Lord, but after the Lord’s rebuke, he was quick to LISTEN, quick to repent and say God, You’re right! I’m listening to you! I take back everything I said (Job 42:1-6). Job was quick to ask for forgiveness, which put him right with God. But Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were still in need of reconciliation, and their humility came at an even harder price.

“So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf.”        Job 42:8

God told them to go to Job and receive a prayer of forgiveness and blessing from him. Job, whom they loved yet judged. (Don’t we do that to each other a lot?) Instead of listening to themselves talk, they listened to God’s voice, counseling them how to be a friend to Job, how to mend what they messed up. And simultaneously how to set things right with God. (Don’t we all need relational mending?)

Job also listened to God’s voice and prayed for the friends who had just slammed him in his time of deepest need.  Job, covered in disease, plagued by loss, with absolutely nothing to give. Job, who should have been receiving blessing from his friends. And yet God turned the tables. It was Job’s prayer that made everything right again in their relationships to each other and to God. Job, the friend of God. {Job 1:8, MSG}

Do you notice how interwoven it all is? Their relationships with each other and with God?

God, friendship, suffering, and forgiveness are inseparable. If something is off with one, all connections fray.  If we are humbly listening, God will show us how to make it right with God and man. And listen we must, for it may look or sound different than we would assume. Perhaps suffering is an opportunity to deepen friendships. (Could friendship be that valuable to God?)

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.  Matthew 5:23-24

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered. Hebrews‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭

Job’s prayer produced wonderful results indeed.

When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before! Job 42:10

Another detail about Job’s life that’s gone under-publicized! When was everything restored for him? When he swallowed his pain and pride and prayed for his friends, out of obedience to God. When they were all listening, humbled, reconciled.

The result of right friendship with God and man was not only forgiveness, but abundance!

I wonder what would have happened if this trio never made the trip to visit their friend. Would Job have been restored? Would the four of them have remained friends? Would they have ever heard God’s awesome speech? Would we have this profound understanding of relationship? This is why I think Job’s story may be a giant lesson in friendship.

Friends, let’s learn from it? Let’s not let Job’s suffering go to waste?

If you can relate to Job, I deeply hope this last point encourages you. Don’t give up. Your abundance is coming. Keep listening. Keep putting up with stupid people who don’t know how to be your friend right now. Give them grace, even though you have nothing to give. It’s not fair, I know. But you are not alone – Job has shown you the way. Faithfulness is being refined in you in ways you cannot see, and one day you will bear the fruit. One day you’ll be able to sit with someone in silence, and you’ll know how much it means to them to not have stupid friends to have a friend well-acquainted with suffering. Speaking of, you have one of those friends right now in Jesus. You are not alone. {Isaiah 53:3}
And if you have a friend in a hard place, please don’t be afraid to draw near to them. They need you – not for your theology, not for your perfection, not for your “timely words” – just for your presence, flawed as it may be. Don’t be afraid. If you mess it up, maybe God will make something even more beautiful out of the restoration. Maybe He’s been waiting for it all along. Listen, and God will counsel you on how to be their friend. After all, it’s not about you – it’s about God. 

Let every heart prepare Him a dirty room {He doesn’t mind the mess}

Every time I think about the King of Heaven choosing a stable as His grand entrance to the world He’d been waiting to save, I can hardly breathe. It makes NO SENSE. None. And yet it is just like our God of an upside-down kingdom. I wonder if He designed such a coming because He so badly wants us to know: He has no problem with our mess.

Christy Nockels‘ new Christmas album, A Thrill of Hope,  starts with a prelude that takes my breath away. (I highly recommend investing in her beautiful music!) She begins:

The King is Coming

Open up your eyes to se it

open up your ears to hear it

The King is coming

Open up your mind, believe it

Open up your heart, receive it

(Have I mentioned this is beautiful music?)

Waiting for the Coming, for the Healing, for the Saving, we try and tidy up, try to present our best to the King. But who was there to prepare Him room that night in Bethlehem? Not a soul. There was no room – not even a room. No one there to clean up in anticipation of His coming.

God chose His only son to be birthed in a mess of a place. He didn’t mind it; even more He CHOSE it. Let that sink in?

It is the way of our God, to enter in, to take the kingdom with a show of gentle force, exploding in silence, a bomb of saving life into a dark and dirty “home.” He came with no expectations, no pre-qualifications. He delighted to come right into the middle of the dingy smallness of this place that was Holy. Holy because for hundreds of years God’s words rang out over her:

Bethlehem Ephrathah,

you are small among the clans of Judah;

One will come from you

to be ruler over Israel for Me.

His origin is from antiquity,

from eternity.

Micah 5:2

This was the day God planned for His words to come true. And they came to pass under what we would call terrible conditions. God had been waiting since eternity; the world had been waiting since the fall. So what was God waiting for? Apparently not perfection. Surely He could have come up with a “better plan,” a more beautiful entry for Jesus the infant.  To Him, the small town, the stable, the manger, the shepherds – all of it was the perfect place to bring salvation to the world, to reveal His long-anticipated solution.

I wonder what stables are in the lives and hearts of ourselves and those around us that we dismiss as unlivable, unfit, unlovable, beyond hope — but God looks at and says: Yes! This is the perfect place for me to come make myself at home! Can you identify any such stables? What are the ugly places in your life? In your community? What might God be doing in these places? Could it be He’s closer than you think?

“What if I should look ugly without being bad –
look ugly myself because I am making ugly things beautiful?”
North Wind (George MacDonald)

I open up my heart, receive it

Prepare Him room

Open up, that the King of Glory may come in

not by years of preparation

but in a moment of saying yes.

 

I open up my eyes to see it

Open up, let the light in

right here in this far-from-perfect mess, God

come in and make yourself at home

Come in and make it beautiful.

 

I open up my ears to hear it

His Words over me coming to pass:

Though you are small

I have chosen you

To hold my glory!

 

I open up my mind to believe it

such unlikely, stealthy ways you

bring your Rule and Reign

your kingdom come

to this broken, hidden, crowded place.

 

Give me courage to get my hands dirty

just like You do.

For we are still waiting

and you are still coming

in thousands of ways.

When All Is Well, I Say to My Soul

Grief is distant

health is near

gratitude is easy

 

roof is sturdy

table is bountiful

every need is met

 

and yet

I must remember

to say to my soul:

 

Go deeper

to find

Hunger and Thirst

 

Desperate Need

Complete Dependence

Full Surrender

 

without these treasures

a heart would spoil

not knowing how to be given

 

and all

will fade

anyway.

 

O God,

grant me grace

For desperation.

 

To seek

when I am content

To empty

when I am full

To sojourn

when I am home-safe

To hunger

when I lack nothing

To thirst

when I am satisfied.

 

I remember

I lay down

I bow low

 

I fold myself

into You

O Great One.

 

In You I live

and move

and have my being.

 

I want for nothing,

and I am nothing

without You.

To the Wellspring

Rachel Norris

I wake thirsty

and thankful

knowing just

where to find You

I draw down deep

dip my ladle into

eternal, living

waters within

Spring up, O Well

within my soul

Faithful Fount

make me whole

I love how You taste –

honey-sweet joy

rich-roast righteousness

green-tea peace

I soak in the silence

drink today’s filling

full to overflowing

for there is more than enough

Send me, God.

I release the overflow

poured out, running down

lower still

because You are Faithful.

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To the Deep

I long for the deep
the swell
the surge
Of waters sweet
and strong

To dwell in your heart
inner
chambers
beating true
and strong

Oh satisfy
the cry of my soul

I long for the deep
Oh, take me there
take me there

I belong to the deep
Oh, find me there
find me there

Love is a Person.

Reading through the gospels recently, I’ve noticed something seemingly uncharacteristic about Jesus. He never came out and told His disciples, “I love you.” It’s true, go see! We think of Jesus as the ultimate expression of God’s love, but the exacting Old Testament God was much more vocal in His expressions of everlasting love than earth-side Jesus ever was.

It was not until the Last Supper that Christ implied His love when He told the disciples, “love each other as I have loved you.” -John 13:34

 

As I have loved you. So how did He love the disciples? By doing and saying what He saw and heard the Father doing and saying. And since that’s the only thing He did on earth, He was living and breathing love in the form of obedience.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind APPEARED, He saved us… according to His mercy, by the washing of the Holy Spirit… whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ…      – Titus 3:4-6

Jesus was the expression of God’s love, but not because of the words He said. It’s because He Himself was the WORD. That’s why John, the disciple Jesus loved, opens his masterpiece with this:

In the beginning was the Word…

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  John 1:1,14

Jesus’ love was not in words, because He Himself was the living Word: the living doing of the Father’s love. Jesus was Love in the flesh; the embodiment and conduit of God’s lovingkindness toward mankind. Literally toward men – sent to earth – Emmanuel. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Take a pause and let that sink in? The Word was not the talking kind of word, He was the doing, living, breathing, listening, acting kind. His mere existence in flesh and blood was Love.

Simply put, Love is a Person.

Love is Jesus.

Love looks like something, Heidi Baker says.  Love Does is how Bob Goff puts it.

Yes.

 

When Jesus did talk about love, it sounded like this:

“If you love me, obey me.”

Love looks like something! If this is a challenge to you, let it be. It certainly makes me uncomfortable. Consider your day today and purpose to live like Jesus: short on the talking kind of love and long on the doing kind of love. If Love is a Person, then you already have Love within you to teach you how to love well. Listen to Him. Obey Him. This is Ground Zero for being like Jesus.

The way I see it, friends, if we are not loving each other well, we are living in disobedience.

So let us love well!

“A new commandment I give to you,

that you love one another,

even as I have loved you.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples,

if you have love for one another.”    

John 13:34-35