You be you. I’ll be Me

I woke this morning to His voice.

Living water!! Manna!!

He said, among other things, I’ve been trying to fabricate His spirit. Trying to generate it, recreate it out of my own. Struggling, struggling, struggling to create the atmosphere that only He can create. Getting frustrated and discouraged when I can’t do what I CAN’T DO. He capped it all off with this statement:

You be you. I will be Me.

Oh how I long for the sweetness of seven years ago, where I would wake up eager to see what He had to show me. I didn’t overthink everything. I loved my spiritual childhood!! When did this pressure to perform creep in?

One of my favorite teachers spoke this month about a misapplied trend to pursue the Lord by choosing the “right” things to do. [Do yourself a favor and watch this about four times: https://www.facebook.com/ThinkDifferentlyCounseling/ Using your will 4/11/17]  When I heard him say that, something in me rose up. I want to be a girl who goes hard after her Father’s heart. I want to seek and find more of Him. But today, I understand the point. There shouldn’t be a struggle of deciding what I should do “for” Him. Instead, there should be a desire and a willingness to receive what He’s handing each moment…so I can live “from” Him. Bob Hamp’s teaching (and Jesus’ for that matter!) is all about Receive, Contain, and Broadcast. Some of us are trying really hard to do that last one without getting the first two down.

Just ask.

Living without His spirit is not living. I have been in a dry and powerless place for a while now. And why? Because I’m working hard to bring it back instead of just asking.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
~Jesus, Matthew 7:7

That’s what we’ve been asked to do – receive what He has for us. Let it come in and change us. And we can’t help but share it with others because it’s a miracle.

I am breathing deeper today because of His voice. I am thankful He sees my heart and knows I am sincere in my efforts, even when they are misapplied and so so wrong. But…He speaks!! He speaks to redirect and guide me back to truth and peace. That is unbelievably beautiful.

Out of the Whirlwind

He causes it to come,
Whether for correction,
Or for His land,
Or for mercy.
Job 37:13

Have you ever read something in scripture that just doesn’t make sense? I contend that if you’ve ever read scripture, the answer is YES. My pastor has a little saying: If you don’t understand it, that’s simply because you don’t understand it! There are deep truths hidden in the stories and the words, and it takes a little effort, a willingness to press in and ask for the meaning, if you really want to know.

One of my unsettled places has been the book of Job. It’s especially unsettling if you read it piecemeal. I mean, you could grab some verses and build yourself a very wrong theology. Yesterday I took the opportunity to sit and read the entire book in one fell swoop. Finally, peace is falling!

I could go in a million directions here, but what stood out to me at the core of it all is how very limited our view of reality is. We see so little of the big picture, but our minds scramble to fill in the blanks and make sense of what we see.

Job and his three friends debated with each other over why bad things happen to good people. They all had bits of truth in their arguments, but an overwhelming lot of falsehood. That’s why it was always confusing to me. The arguments were built on these things – personal experience, tradition, teachings of men, common sense. Do you see the problem? They tried to see and explain a spiritual issue through a human lens. They tried to solve a spiritual (heart) issue with a physical (behavioral) formula.

JUST SHUT UP + REPENT = PROSPEROUS, BLESSED LIFE WITH NO HARDSHIPS

They all started from a false assumption!

Job wasn’t targeted because he needed to repent, but because he was on the right track. They all had to confront faulty theology: that in this world, the righteous are always (physically) blessed and the wicked are always (physically) afflicted. It doesn’t always look that way through a human lens.

I have to tell you – by the end of the ordeal, it was so frustrating to see Job operating through his limited vision and understanding. Frustrating because it caused him to experience rejection and betrayal where it was not. To misdirect hurt and anger. To pray the wrong prayers.

Frustrating because I’ve done the same thing in my own life.

I have also gone through those moments where the rug I’ve been standing on as foundational truth has been pulled out from under me. Where I’ve felt the need to lay blame for my error somewhere, anywhere. Just like Job, I also let anger and bitterness in and wrongly directed them at God, opening the door for a real need for repentance. None of us are perfect, or have a perfect understanding of theology. But the arrogance to accuse God of injustice and demand that he explain himself to us or in the way we prefer must be dealt with. We have no idea how BIG the big picture really is.

Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
“I know that You can do all things. Nothing can put a stop to Your plans.
‘Who is this that hides words of wisdom without much learning?’
I have said things that I did not understand, things too great for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear now, and I will speak. I will ask you, and you answer Me.’
I had heard of You only by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.
So I hate the things that I have said. And I put dust and ashes on myself to show how sorry I am.”
Job 42:1-6

In the end, it came down to a heart shift for Job, as it did for me. Just like Job and his friends, we seem to have a default setting to worry about WHAT we do or don’t do (our behavior), and tend to ignore HOW we do it (our motivations). [Shameless plug for Bob Hamp’s fantastic new book describing this shift, Think Differently Lead Differently. Do it if you dare!] God wants to share hearts, not examine our checklists like a good schoolmarm. What an amazing opportunity we’ve all been given, to share his heart!

I write this hesitantly, feeling like it is for a future me. He spoke out of the whirlwind, out of the storm. I know it’s hard to reconcile that really bad things happen to good people, and harder to be thankful for the experience. Especially in times of grief. But there he is, waiting to draw us closer to truth, to his heart. Ready to restore abundantly. He’s there healing, speaking, loving. Remember the picture is much bigger than you can ever imagine.

Year of Fulfillment

There are a handful of teachers I trust to speak into my life. Last year, one of them proclaimed 2014 to be a year of “gaining ground.” At the time, I thought that sounded really great! It translated in my mind to growth, progress, success – the positive end result. Sigh. You know, that doesn’t just happen. We gain ground by fighting for it. That means for many of us 2014 was a year of battle, of struggle, of war. It may feel like more ground was lost than gained. That’s certainly true for me.

Now to the good part! Last week, 2015 was proclaimed to be the year of fulfillment. The year of walking into that new ground.

I’ve determined that this year I’m not going to just focus on that end result, the promise. I want to do what I failed to do last year – this year, I’m asking what that requires of me. Just like the year of gaining ground meant a resolve to fight for what is mine, the year of fulfillment takes action on my part too.

For one thing, I have to choose to walk into it. Sounds ridiculously simple when you type it out, but this is not easy for anyone I’ve ever known. It means leaving what you know, and very often what you love.

It requires action, and most of us are pretty content swimming in the circles we know.

This morning I decided to pick back up where I left off in my reading through the Bible. I had a few chapters to finish in 2 Samuel, and I went in there intentionally asking for more revelation on this year and the promises made. If you know the last few chapters of 2 Samuel, you know that’s asking a lot! It’s pretty much a mishmash of events thrown together almost as an post script. But if you know my Father, you also know it is not asking too much.

One little phrase was used twice, and it jumped straight off the page into my heart. God “was moved by prayer for the land”.

In the first story (2 Samuel 21:14), that meant an end to famine. In the second (2 Samuel 24:25), it was an end to a nasty plague. In both cases, the land returned to prosperity. After David took action.

David didn’t just pray for God to change an unpleasant reality. He took responsibility for his part in it. He repented. He threw himself out of his comfort zone. He made sacrifices of his time, energy, and money. All with a heart to obey and honor God.

So here’s to an exciting 2015. This will be a great year of restoration and fulfillment for those who dare to choose it. Let’s choose well!

Seed Slowly Dying

seed

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
~Jesus, John 12:24

I’ve been thinking about that little quote this week. And it finally…FINALLY…is hitting home. Jesus had just been thronged by massive crowds welcoming him into Jerusalem as the King of Israel. It was his last Passover. He is talking here about his own impending physical death, through which he could build a bridge for all of us to be restored to the Father. He is the seed, dropped here for us. He was aware of his choice. On one hand, a slightly more glorious life on earth, avoiding the cross but not achieving his mission. On the other, a painful humiliating death, but through it grafting us back on to the Tree of Life and multiplying – producing many seeds from the gift of one.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
~Jesus, John 15:5

Seeds are amazing. Each one shelters and feeds a unique plant waiting to be revealed. To be seen.

For a viable seed to blossom and grow, it must sacrifice its own cozy shell. That protective wall must soften and crack if the life inside is to flourish. The seed itself must cease to be, in order to become what it was created and designed to be. It sounds magnificent and terrifying at the same time. Aren’t you glad we don’t have a choice like that?

Ack – I’ve never felt more like a seed in my life!!

For several months now, THIS is where I have paced, fighting tooth and nail to keep my shell intact. We have all grown up in an imperfect world, with mostly well-meaning but imperfect people informing us what the world is, who we are, and how others will treat us when we are truly seen. It feels a lot safer to hide in my shell than risk the threat of ridicule, rejection, or violation. That fear has, unfortunately, shaped my person and my choices, and sabotaged every relationship I’ve ever attempted.

This isn’t the wilderness. It’s the valley of death. It sucks to be here and to be here so long. But I think of it as soreness after a hard workout – always worth it to get to the next level. Today I am thankful for the courage to pray: “If you show me, I will look.” Thankful for the desire to soften, bloom, and fight to receive everything that I’ve inherited. Thankful for great teachers and friends who walk with me, or stand ahead with arms wide open.

Above all else, I’m thankful that Jesus chose to sacrifice his own comfortable shell so that I could have the opportunity to do the same. That he brings peace, rest, and strength to those who walk with him…who die with him. And thankful for words that capture a fraction of his love for me. For us.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
   He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.
~David, Psalm 23

Stay in the Boat

A friend and I were talking last night about diligence and exhaustion. She reminded me of the story where, after a hugely miraculous day (feeding the crowd of at least 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish), Jesus sends his disciples off to cross the Sea of Galilee (that’s eight miles, folks) in a boat. He disperses the crowd, spends some hours alone, and then walks out to meet them. On the water. One of many awesome pranks I imagine he played on those guys.

Peter actually joins him for a bit, and that is super encouraging to me, but this story makes it very clear: Jesus simply lives plugged in and empowered on a different level than they do. Just like the rest of us.

And just like the rest of us, they went through a stretch where they were out in that boat and struggling. They were “a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary” (Matthew 14:24). They were plowing through, diligent in their rowing, but I’d bet money that they took turns at the oars, giving each other time to rest and recuperate.

Ugh – this whole year I have just wanted to take a break. Do you know it’s ok to admit feeling worn out, seasick, and beat down by the wind and waves? Just don’t leave the boat. My tendency when I am dealing with something ugly or hard is to jump ship. I don’t want to burden the rest of the crew. In more honest terms, I really don’t want them to know how weak and imperfect I am. I don’t want to officially fail, and I certainly don’t want anyone else to see me do it. So I leave to fight, flounder, and almost certainly fail alone.

I seriously hope you can’t relate to that.

It’s easy for me to accept that we are meant to support each other through rough storms. I’ll fluff up the pillows to help you recuperate in style. But the thought of ME climbing up into the palanquin to ask for help…for all to see…is the stuff of nightmares.

Y’all. We must let our team carry us when we need to rest. We must have a team we trust with that.

Otherwise, the role we’re playing is not “teammate”. At best we can call ourselves a part-time cheerleader, but at the heart we’re living the role of big-fat-lying-fear-filled-manipulator. It’s letting everyone see us as superheroes when we’re strong, and hiding when we’re weak. It’s prideful. It’s dishonest. It’s foolish. Spank. It’s keeping us from connecting on a real level, and presenting an unrealistic and unhealthy example for others to follow.

So…that’s what I had to say when I started, but as always, HE takes us deeper. I read that chapter (Matthew 14) again from the beginning, and also in the other gospels. It turns out that day was even longer than I thought. It was the very day Jesus learned that his cousin John was beheaded by Herod Antipas.

Yes, he spent the day healing, teaching, and managing people and making food multiply. But do you know how it started?

They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.
Mark 6:32

He didn’t jog out on the water alone that morning. He let his friends and his Father carry him for a minute. Jesus spent a lot of time alone, but he made it a point to find a team he trusted. He showed us how to walk out real stuff well: humility, love, even grief. Because we ALL experience it.

I’m so thankful that, despite my efforts to hermit myself away and fail in silence, I also have a team that I trust and love, that encourages me to sit down and hand over my paddle every once in a while. That loves me whether I’m superwoman or barely making it through the day. You know the saying: You can only give what you have. Well, I am learning true love at your hands, and I am forever grateful. Lives are changing.