Where you stay I’ll stay

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a mover and a shaker. I am definitely not the person in a group who gets everyone else jazzed about what we’re going to do, I’m not the person who has the great ideas, and I don’t always see where we want to go. I like repetition and comfort, and I am totally ok with a long haul of living in a space God has called me to.

I just didn’t think that place would be here.

I grew up hearing that joke on mission Sundays that “God would call me to where I least wanted to go.” (you know, if you’re terrified of snakes he calls you to the Amazon, etc). So, naturally, my young, overachiever self decided that the best way to ensure I would be ok wherever God called me was to say I would go anywhere. Even if it had snakes (maybe he would see my willingness and let me go somewhere without them…?). I wanted to be able to go wherever he wanted and move however he was moving. When he said “jump” I would say “how high?” – it was all planned out.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.
– Ruth 1:16-17

I read a lot as a kid, and we ran out of kids books in my house to read at one point so I read a lot of my parent’s Biblical fiction for a while … and I loved the tellings of Ruth. She was this amazing woman who just left everything she knew and loved to follow Naomi back to Israel (ok so the fictionalized versions might have made her a little cooler than the Biblical version says but I mean, the woman’s husband died and she followed her also widowed mother in law through the desert when she could have just gone home and remarried another nice guy in town so….). I thought following God would be like that – involving physically leaving a place to serve him elsewhere.

We used to sing this Chris Tomlin song pretty often at my old church that uses the words of what Ruth said for the chorus. I always sang the song thinking I would give up where I was. I never, ever thought he would say “stay”…until I sang it yesterday and that line hit me like a brick wall. It’s like I was standing at the starting line for a marathon and my coach walked over and said “Yea, I know you thought we were training for this race but I don’t know, you must have missed my emails because this isn’t your race…or really even your event. You’re actually competing in standing long jump………” #awkward

I’m not even that even picky at this point. I don’t need to hear Sao Paulo, Cape Town, or Dublin. I don’t need to hear Miami or even Chicago (not that I would say no either….?). Pretty much anything – even just “Hamilton” would be enough for me right now.

Where you go, I’ll go
Where you stay, I’ll stay
When you move, I’ll move
I will follow you
Who you love, I’ll love
How you serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow you
I will follow you.
– I will Follow, Chris Tomlin 

I know for a lot of people staying would be the best scenario – the easiest. But it’s one of the hardest things God has made me do (and it’s not like this is new, either. I had to stay for school, stay for a job, etc. I’ve been wanting to go run that race for 6 years now and I’m still being told to stay.) Beyond that, I don’t always feel like I have a ton of roots built up where I am (perfect for moving, right God?) I’m not close friends with anyone I’ve known my whole life (moving halfway across a country at the age of 8 does that to a person), but even beyond that, I’ve been in multiple churches since then, switched school zones, worked at a camp in the US … and instead of “deep roots” in one spot, I feel as though have lots of tiny, shallow ones spread over a huge area (and if you have lots of friends spread all over the place, you know how over time the depth of those collective friendships tends to weaken through no fault of your own, just distance).

All that to say it doesn’t feel like there’s much holding me back…and my desire to go makes me hesitant to begin to put down the roots that will make me want to stay. But I keep hearing stay.

Stay? Stay. Just stay. The one place you don’t want to go – I want you to stay.

He probably thinks he’s funny…and I’ll probably agree in 10 years (or, like, 20). But right now I don’t find it funny. I find it hard. Maybe you have a similar struggle – is he asking you to move? Near or far, moves can be hard when you have things you love that make you want to stay. Maybe you’re like me and all you want is a “GO” and you’ll go. The shoes are on, bags are packed…but the call just doesn’t seem to be coming.

I am trying so hard to be ok with staying. To embrace where I am. To let him work changes in my heart to be ok with being here. To find places to invest in and find fulfillment and a lot of the time I’m fine … and some days (and weeks) I’m not. And in those moments all I ask is that he holds onto me. That he would strengthen my faith and give me hope to rise and trust that this, right here, is the best place I can be. To stop looking at the grass on the other side, and realize that the grass here under my feet is pretty green and luscious too…

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Romeo & Juliet & Me

Easter is probably my favourite holiday.

There are other holidays pretty high on my list – Christmas is an amazing season of family and joy, July 1/4 is warm and full of barbecues and fireworks, and Thanksgiving is when I get to eat most of my favourite foods in one meal and then take a nap. But Easter…Easter isn’t my favourite foods, we don’t usually see family, half the time it’s snowing, and no one has fireworks.

Easter is my favourite because Easter doesn’t have the bells and whistles other holidays do. I don’t have traditions I fall back on and there really isn’t a ton to look forward to.

And yet there is.

Easter has become a year-marker for me. Sure, January 1 is a new calendar year, February 11 is my birthday, April is when I graduated and got a job…but Easter is a spiritual time marker. For some reason, I seem to figure things out around Easter. In the process of reflecting on the death and resurrection I revisit my faith and my life, and I look back on the past Easters and how I’ve grown or changed since then. Some Easters are big and some are small, but God constantly reminds me just how far I’ve come and how far we still have to go. Easter gives me hope for the fallen world I live in and pushes me forward to love into the next year.

Once, I heard a message at a Good Friday service that struck a deep chord with me. It was about Romeo & Juliet, and I think about it every year on Good Friday. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to know a lot about the play to follow along)

In the most famous scene from the play, Juliet stands on her balcony and laments to the moon with what is one of the most well known soliloquies in Shakespeare’s repertoire:

“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet

Tis but they name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s a Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot.
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without thy title. Romeo, doff thy name
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.”
– Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

The premise is that Juliet is lamenting that Romeo is a Montague (“wherefore” means “why”, not “where” – crazy, I know). She begs him to deny that which identifies himself (Montague) and be with her instead. Besides, what point is a name but a word we just call ourselves? If he were to strip off his name he could exchange it for all of her. Similarly, God looks at us and loves us, but he sees the things that keep us from him too. He beckons us to himself – deny yourself and follow me!

We easily fit into Romeo’s shoes, too. He loves Juliet, he looks at her and sees unparalleled beauty and grace…but he can’t get to her. We look at God and we see his greatness, his goodness, his faithfulness … we love that. We love the idea of a perfect God who loves us back. It’s why we sing things like this song that’s been stuck in my head lately:

And You oh Lord made the sunshine the moonlight and the night sky
You give me breath and all Your love
I give my heart to You
Because I can’t stop falling in love with You
I’ll never stop falling in love with You
– Better than Life – Hillsong

God takes it a step further than Juliet did, though. He calls us farther than to just deny our names. He calls us to pick up our crosses, too. Yet we’re just like Romeo – but even more helpless – we can’t get to God ourselves. But in his divine love and mercy and grace He saw our plight, so he sent his son to make a way for us. He loved us so much that he gave his son as a sacrifice for us. It’s what makes Good Friday so good.

Now when he calls us and we respond, we undergo the change Romeo did not. We strip off our old selves and put on a new self, becoming the children of light in a dark world. AND, we get to have all of God, participating in his story. When I think about it that way, it seems like what I gain is worth the price I’ll pay.

This Easter season I’m taking moments to stop and think about how far He has called me to get here, and look forward to where he is calling me tomorrow. Trading in my weary, old identity and finding myself instead in the overflow of his mercy and grace. The forgiveness I don’t deserve spurring me forward into the next year.

This is a God who makes old things new. He breathes life into dry bones and he breathes life into you and me. He’s calling us forward with him – will you come with me and follow?

On Hope

If you know me, you probably know that I work shifts. If you know me well, you know that while I like the freedom this gives me to serve in certain ways and see different people. If you talk with me about it for longer than 5 minutes, though, you also probably know that I often struggle with sleep and depression when I hit the middle of a 3-11 week. And lately? Lately it’s been enough that I begin to feel dread sinking into the pit of my stomach by the time Saturday evening rolls around.

I’ve always looked towards the weekend before as a time to fill myself up. See friends, do things with people, talk to as many people at church as possible…but sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes the weekend before is the loneliest and sparse…so waking up Monday morning can be difficult. This week it was bleak – even though I actually had plans for the week – Monday was hard.

I felt (read: feel) so very empty.

How many times do I put my hope where it shouldn’t be? I hope for things yet to come but I hope for the wrong things. I hope for goodness and I hope for peace. I hope for stability and I hope to move out. I build up my own kingdom of hopes and dreams…but when the things I hope for don’t happen when I want them to, when the walls of hope I’ve built to protect me come crashing down, I realize I’ve foolishly built them on my own strength.

And I’ve given up hope on the days I have left,
But I cling to the hope of my life in the next
– Deathbed, Relient K

I’ve not given up hope that the days I have left won’t be God-glorifying or worthwhile, but I have given up the hope that they will ever be everything I need. In my most despairing moments this week I had the above song lyric ring through my mind. I was tired, discouraged, and defeated … but even though hope felt lost it wasn’t. Hope was still available for me. I can cling by a desperate thread to the hope that I’m promised beyond tomorrow – my hope is for more than what I will have next week or next year. My hope is in the lover of my soul. My hope is that someday the suffering that I experience will pass away and I will be home. Home where I belong.

I don’t like feeling this way … but the more I live with crutches in my life – when my vices of fear and loneliness come to play – the more deeply I understand Paul when he said he was ok with his weaknesses.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I used to take comfort in this verse thinking my weaknesses were things to be overcome – that they wouldn’t really be weaknesses anymore. But I don’t think that’s what it’s saying. My weaknesses will still be weaknesses. They don’t “go away”. Hardship isn’t any less hard just because Christ is with me. I don’t get to be glorified and look strong when I “accept” my weaknesses. It’s not like job interviews where your weaknesses are actually strengths…it’s still going to suck. Every day. But it’s in those weaknesses that he is there. In my fear he is my courage, in my loneliness my companion, in my doubt my truth.

When I contritely say the words “more of you less of me” I am saying that I want to have Christ shine out from me. He does that in my strengths but he does that in my weaknesses too. He carries me through the fire and the flood – but I still have to go through them.

As I begin to lose myself in him it matters less what my weaknesses or strengths look like to other people and it matters more how close I am to him today. And if I think about it? It is in my weakest moments that I have felt him closest and reflecting on those moments when I have learned the most.

I find hope when I’m let down
Not in me … in You
It’s in you
I hope to lose myself for good
I hope to find it in the end
Not in me … in You
– You, Switchfoot

I keep saying to myself that I want to live in such a way that if I died tomorrow I would be happy. Relieved. Satisfied. Overjoyed. Content that I would get to see my saviour face to face and tell him I tried – and to have him look at me and say that I had done well. The mere existence of love and joy here on earth can give me hope that someday I will be somewhere those are the only things – the things I experience here are merely a glimmer of what is to come!

I belong to a country without borders & politicians, I am a citizen of a kingdom where justice prevails and the weak are made strong. And one day we will be in the presence of love, know it fully in our beings, and be with him forever. But we get to start now. We get to begin to bring the kingdom to those around us on earth.

And today? Today all I can do is cling – cling with desperate hands and feet. I can hang on, clutching at the hope I have. I can breathe in and out, knowing that strength can be getting out of bed before 10:30 tomorrow. The words he speaks are hope – and that hope will get me through tomorrow.

Every word you speak is the air I breathe.
Air I Breathe, Matt Kearney

 

 

Uncomforting Comfort

I am a creature of comfort.

I love cozying up to a coffee, a fuzzy blanket, and a good book. I enjoy doing the things I like. I like feeling safe and loved. I prefer to do the things I am good at (or at least think I’m good at) instead of the things I’m not as good at. I like feeling at ease – as though my life is wrapped around me like a warm blanket. I will go out of my way to leave my house 10 minutes early so I can buy a coffee on a Friday before I go to work. I would rather talk with people I know than meet people I don’t.

Do you know what brings me the most comfort? Planning. Not just any plan – a well thought-out, itemized, goal oriented, risk-managed plan.

This is how I approach my life. I’m twenty-three and if I could have everything planned out for the next 5 years I would. I mean, ideally I would have at least 10 with a contingency plan but 5 years is me trying to be optimistic. In my head a 3 year plan is realistic. Do you know those people who say “come any time around 8 – we’re flexible”? I’m not that person. If I say 8 I mean 7:55 – earlier if necessary to account for traffic and weather.

I hate change.

I don’t like the idea of leaving. I don’t want to do things outside my “comfort zone”. I would rather not confront someone and just deal with it myself than bring up an issue. I dislike when employees or processes change at work. I really don’t like the idea of having to change how I set up my schedule. I don’t want to let new people into my bubble.

Don’t get me wrong – there are some changes that I didn’t hate!

I liked changing from not owning a car to owning one. I enjoy not having to go to school anymore. I much prefer life after the discovery of coffee…The only times I like change are when it makes me feel more comfortable – I liked buying a new car because it made it more comfortable to get to work, to do what I wanted after work, and to be less dependant on others. No school? Significantly less stress and more time. Coffee? Um, have you tried it?

The only time I like change is when I have control over that change or I know it will bring me more comfort. (and, you know, I’ve spent a few months working it into my life plan) Change scares me at the best of times, and at the worst of times it’s a thing I avoid like the plague.

Lets see what God has to say about my comforting plans:

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
– Proverbs 16:9

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
– Proverbs 19:21

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
– James 4:13-15

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
– Proverbs 27:1

I like the way my life is. I’m comfortable in it. But God doesn’t say I get to live a comfortable, “well-planned-out-by-me” life. He doesn’t say I get to stay where I am. He keeps telling me there’s more to life than what I see now – that he isn’t done with me yet. And every time I decide to believe him and take a step forward I see that he’s right. But do you know what he does next? He whispers “Christy. I’ve still got more.” And he’s always right. Every. Single. Time. Even if I’m not more comfortable, the places he leads me are better. And how I view him and understand him gets richer and deeper.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
– John 10:10

I don’t think a full life doesn’t mean that all of my hours are planned. It doesn’t mean that I know what is going to happen in 10 years. I think maybe it has more to do with walking with God through it all. Less worrying about tomorrow, more living in today. Less heavy contemplation about small little things and more openness to things changing. Less focus on how to organize things so life goes “the right way” and more on how to listen and accept that the road isn’t a straight path forward.

When I am comfortable, that is when I ought to be the least comfortable. It is then when I am leaning less on God and more on myself.

 

Living Redeemed pt II

As 2016 drew to a close I thought I would write a post on how the “Live Redeemed” idea I wrote about in January of 2016 worked out. It was going to be upbeat, encouraging, and all about the greatness that was 2016.

It’s funny the difference a week can have.

2016 ended on a high, 2017 started on a not as big of one. I was fresh off the Christmastime high with seeing far away family, eating delicious food, and enjoying wonderful company of friends. I felt like I had grown in my job, over the year – confidence wise and in knowledge. I was blessed with numerous serving opportunities at church doing what I love and am passionate about. To cap it all off, I paid off my car in less than 2 years (which if you know me you know that that was a huge goal I had set for myself to achieve-and if you don’t you do now!).

Then 2017 started and I realized a couple things I thought were going to be fine and were proceeding correctly were not what I thought. After being depressed for a full 24 hours, it hit me that while I had been working through living my life for Christ, I had found comfort in other things instead of finding it in Him. I was comforted when things were working out and going “my way” because (obviously) that must mean that things are going the way He wants them to go. But when a tiny glitch formed in my plans, I was completely thrown off.

In my afore mentioned post, I talked about not quite knowing how “living redeemed” would work, but I thought it would have to do with A. getting up and actually doing stuff aka living (which, to be fair, I did do this year!) and B. allowing my life (and all the parts of it) to be redeemed from darkness into light (by allowing God to speak into them and considering him in things/decisions).

What I found out is that once you start doing a lot of A it’s kind of hard to remember to keep B in the forefront of your mind. I also found out in (mostly) one crushing blow that while I had been trying to do this, I had slipped into my typical-Christy-ness of over planning and trying to control everything again.

Was I really listening to what God was calling me to do, or was I filling in the awkward moments of my life trying to pretend I knew what was going on?

I think for a while there it was the latter. I was saying the first, but living the second. And it’s got me thinking (shocker, I know) about how I can better listen, be attuned to His callings, and live a God-honouring life. Here’s what I got:

  1. Actually spend time with him. How many times do I prioritize other things? How many times have I hit the snooze button instead of just getting up 10 minutes earlier? (I’m not answering that)
  2. Build in rhythms to my life that allow me to focus on making God-honouring decisions – like planning my week/month and making time to stop and reflect. Setting intentional time aside to LISTEN and plan
  3. Constantly remind myself that I’m following HIS lead, not mine
  4. Say yes to when he calls, but remember that doesn’t mean saying yes to everything that happens to come up in life (i.e. God doesn’t call me to burn out, so I shouldn’t do that…and sometimes opportunities aren’t meant to be taken)
  5. Keep living! Keep doing things and embracing where he has me. That’s how I started this journey and I don’t want to stop moving forward on it.

What are ways you remain open to God’s promptings in your life? How do you make sure he’s at the centre of all you do? I would love to hear about it!

On His Love for Me (1 Year sans Purity Ring)

Fourteen year old me went through a pure freedom class (like oh so many others) and at the end did what everyone else did and chose to get a purity ring and make the commitment to go along with it. Sixteen year old me recommitted to the promise and bought a new prettier ring.

Eight years of wearing a ring later, 22 year old me decided to take it off.

I don’t hate my purity ring. In fact, I really don’t hold much resentment towards anything I was taught about it all when I was younger – I don’t feel as though I’ve been hurt because of the popular teachings of the day (though I recognize many were). I’m also not going back on the commitment I made, nor am I necessarily saying other people should stop wearing theirs. The literal only reason I took it off is because I was tired of waiting. Tired of the physical reminder of my single-ness, tired of weighing life decisions by “what if I meet someone?”, and tired of feeling like I was watching my life go by as I sat around.

So I’m still waiting but I’m not waiting. Which has got me to thinking – if I go through my whole life single (which we know can’t be a BAD thing because Paul says so in 1 Corinthians 7), am I missing out? Is God depriving me of something that would make me more complete?

No, I can’t believe that. First, because God is good and has set good plans for me to walk in that will bring him glory (Ephesian 2) – if me being married will bring him more glory, then that’s what will happen. Second, because marriage doesn’t make us more complete as humans – we are still the same messy incomplete humans who are unfulfilled and incomplete without God. So if that is true, then I can I not experience all the fullness and love I need to from God? God IS love after all, so don’t all forms of it come from him?

And so I come to this fall, ruminating on a year without a purity ring, and I find myself pondering the love God has for me. All my married friends tell me about how God uses their marriages to draw them closer to him and experience his love in new ways, So I’ve found myself listening to love songs (because lets be honest, like 95% of all songs ever are about this, and somehow they all ended up on my fall playlist…), and instead of lamenting my life (don’t lie, you know what I’m talking about), I’m trying to see if and how they relate to God and my relationship with him.

It’s been wildly different than doing this with worship songs because I find the secular songs sing about slightly more tangible aspects while worship ones stay really abstract. It’s odd – you would think it makes it easier to put God in a box with the tangible, but singing so abstract-ly sometimes makes him seem so much farther off, rather than close.

It sounds a little unorthodox until you realize that generally what people are singing about and looking for is a missing part of them, a person who understands them, a person who loves all of them, someone who encourages them to be a better person…and last I checked God fills all of those boxes. In fact, he does more. He loves with a passionate love, an endless love, a perfect love, he casts out fear, he is a rock when storms come. His love is fierce and it is tender.

I read a book by Greg Paul called Close Enough to Hear God Breath when I was university (he also wrote God in the Alley, both of which I would recommend). In it, he explores the aspects of “divine intimacy”, and one of the pictures I still remember him describing is God holding us close to him as a father holds his child to his chest and we can hear the softness of his breathing and his whispers to us over the noise of the world. (I would quote him here but my friend has had the book for over 3 years and “doesn’t know where it is”).

One of my standout songs from the last month has been Everywhere by Michelle Branch. It challenges me to think about how God is everywhere around me and in everything I see, but it’s the bridge brings it together for me:

And when I touch your hand
It’s then I understand the beauty that’s within
It’s now that we begin
You always light my way
I hope there never comes a day
No matter where I go
I always feel you so

Is there anything more beautiful than the love God has for us? I am thankful to see the reflection of it in relationships here on earth, but everything is only that – a reflection. A still from picture that lacks the vibrancy, nuances, and life that the real thing has. Seeing the glimpses reminds me that there is more to come. That his love is deeper still. It reminds me that the most important thing to do is to live for him and with him beside me everywhere I go.

Falling into Fall

When I was in  university, there were a couple people I knew who were slightly obsessed with John Mayer’s song Stop this Train  (kind of depressing IMO). It’s a sentiment I think we all feel at some point — we see our life seemingly passing us by oh so quickly and we can’t do anything to stop it. I feel like this feeling especially hits right about now as “summer winds down” and we head into the fall season. I’ve heard a lot of remorse and wistfulness over the last few weeks as we come up upon September!

But I can’t say that I agree this year. I loved summer, yes. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t look forward to the cold, short days ahead, but fall for me means other things. Summer is full of  adventures and spur of the moments, long days and late nights, sunshine and camp, cottages and vacations (ok I don’t have a cottage but I’m painting a picture, ok?). It is freedom and the reminder that things can happen out of the ordinary routine of my life and that those things can add colour and vibrancy to what had seemed dull and boring.

Adventures are great but if all I’m living for is the moments on the end I’ll miss out on the things in between – and there is a lot more in between than there is large events. Fall is the reminder that those in betweens have value and that the living of those parts can also bring joy. It is a time that reminds me to reflect on what I’ve done. It’s a reset for me more than January is; a time to form new habits and to take stock of what I’ve done in the last year. A chance to look forward again to what I want to accomplish. Like ACTUALLY learning new testament Greek for real (and not just getting through chapter 2 for the 5th time…).

Fall isn’t the hectic back-to-school season. I mean, I’m a single 20 something who lives at home. No season is hectic. Fall is a great expanse of slightly cooler weather, beautiful colours, and being thankful for the good times I’ve had. It’s reflections. It’s growth (ironically as the plants die). It’s a reminder to take time to just relax and be. It’s time to re-centre my life on Christ and remember that while he was with me in my adventures and spontaneity, he is also here in the day-to-day, journeying with me through all of my life.

Summer is a great season, but fall is too. And I really don’t think we should lament that summer is gone and reluctantly face the new season and the “negative” repercussions on our lives.So while I love the idea of living somewhere where it’s always warm…where I can be outside all year round without a jacket, I’m thankful to be in a place where I have physical seasons to remind me of different things.

Ecclesiastes  (one of my favourite books of the Bible) Chapter 3 starts with:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

While we all enter the seasons known as the harvest, here are few questions I’m pondering and encourage you to consider as well as we fall, ever so lightly, into fall.

What “season” are you entering? What are you leaving?
What good things did God bless you with this summer? What did he gently teach you?
Where are you going? What do you want to do?
Who is God shaping you to be? What parts of your life is he calling you to examine or grow in?
Are there habits and practices you want to change or adopt?
What are things you’re thankful for that you get to enjoy right now?
How can you make the routines you have in fall be joyful, fulfilling, and Christ-centred?
How can you live redeemed this fall?

Contentment vs. Complacency

Lately when people ask me how I’m doing, I say I’m doing great. I’m content with where I am and what God has done to get me there. Which sounds super great. Except yesterday I realized that my contentment may have been masking something not ok – complacency. Yes, I’m ok with where I am, but did I reach that point by looking at the good things I have been given (partially) or by resigning myself that this was good enough and ignoring the goals, opportunities, and people God put around me to pursue and engage (…)?

Yesterday I was reading Isaiah 1 and verse 27 stood out…

Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent by righteousness.

In the midst of the storm they were about to face – being torn from their way of life and land – God promises that in the end they will be restored. But the restoration comes with a price.

Justice is the fair treatment or lawfulness of actions – and in this case God acts as the righteous judge in determining the price that must be paid for the sins that have been committed. He even says earlier in the passage (verses 12-15) that he is tired of their burnt offerings and feasts (note: these are the things he says will be pleasing to him in Numbers, among other places). Is God being duplicitous? No, that cannot be, so what is he saying instead? Let’s look at the following verses (16-17)…

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause. 

I think, as with every time God tells the people of Israel about his precepts and his desires, he wants authentic worship. He wants them to be pleased with their stature before him, to recognize his awesome power, and to bring (along with their burnt offerings) a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Then, from that place of understanding who He is and who they are, to move forward and bring his love, justice, and mercy to the world.

So what happened?

The people of Israel had become complacent in their place. They weren’t content with what God had asked – sure they kept doing the things they were supposed to, but they weren’t satisfied anymore. And hey, maybe, like me, they thought they were content. They thought they were down with what was going on and ever so slowly they started drifting without even noticing. Little by little you stop dwelling on his words, thinking about what you’re doing, noticing those around you…and instead you start thinking about other things, going through the motions, and suddenly you really don’t care about that widow -you’re too busy strolling through your day to day actions “living”, revelling in our saved-ness and neglecting what comes after the salvation and hoopla along with it.

As I read the chapter I couldn’t help but be reminded about how we ourselves are saved through justice and redeemed through righteousness. Our sins deserved the ultimate sacrifice of death; and the only way we could have been redeemed was for someone to pay that debt. God just didn’t blankly forgive our sins – as a just and righteous God he couldn’t do that. A debt needed to be paid. The full payment was accepted when Jesus died for us, taking our sins upon himself, and by that justice we are saved. We are reinstated as a people right with God and we can come to him with our broken and contrite hearts.

However, just like the people of Israel we are also called above the physical actions of our lives and the routines of Christianity. We aren’t supposed to just physically take part in communion, but to consider the significance of it, and repent of our sins before taking it. We are still supposed to confess our sins to God and we are still supposed to turn from evil and run in the opposite direction. Plus, we are supposed to move beyond that and act in our lives. We are to do all the “one anothers” – serve, love, encourage, etc. We are supposed to be trying to see the kingdom of God here on earth, experiencing his goodness and sharing it with others.

We too are not to be complacent, but to be content. Yes, to be content, but not to be content with being complacent and staying where we are. Obviously we will be content when we are complacent because when we are complacent we don’t need to deal with the harder questions or care about the state of those around us. We can be blind to our own sin and parade around our status in life because “we’re happy here.”

Just because I’ve made it this far doesn’t mean that this is as far as I’m going – God still has more for me. He has more adventures, more things to learn, more people for me to meet, and more souls to save in the world, more justice to bring to those who cannot take it for themselves. My contentment is to be IN Him, what he has given me and where he has placed me. Yet I am still to be longing for a fuller communion and deeper intimacy with him. I am still to be carrying out his justice and mercy to those around me and I am still to have a desire for more of him, less of me, and to see his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So: are you content or complacent?

Passion & Lament

Did you know that David complained to God? Well…maybe complained gives a little bit of a wrong connotation. But David DID tell God when he was upset. And he questioned where God was. He openly told God when he was feeling a little neglected and like the world was out to get him. He wonders where in the world God has disappeared off to and blatantly questions why things are happening to him.

On the other hand, David exemplifies what I consider to be “passion” in his faith. He extols and praises God for things that I can’t even understand wanting to be that thankful for. He gets so excited about everything. I feel like God could have been like “here David. I made you a thing. It’s useless and ugly but here,” and David would be like “HOLY WOW YOU ARE THE GREATEST IMMA WRITE YOU A SONG AND THEN EXUBERANTLY INTERPRETIVE DANCE TO IT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE (2 Samuel 6:13-14).”

And so I wonder. How did David get to have this gloriously close connection with God? He felt like he could tell him anything, their relationship was clearly very open. Maybe he knows something I don’t? How else can he harness such joy and passion to write things like “As the deer pants for water so my soul longs after you”??? And, presumably, MEAN IT? It’s easy to say thing but to write songs and put them to words implies a little more than heat of the moment concepts.

I think the answer, or rather the evidence supporting it, lies in David’s laments. David doesn’t just tell God how upset he is. Or how angry he is. Or how afraid he is. He weeps etc. but then he finishes on quite a different note. He finishes by saying how fab God is again. I’ll use Psalm 13 because it’s super short but illustrates my point just as well as the longer laments.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

TLDR: God my life is FALLING APART!!!! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!?! It’s ok though because you are the greatest ever and I know you know what you’re doing.

me: !!!!!!!

Even though he feels like he is dying and he has no idea what God is doing right now (can I get an amen?) he is STILL able to fall back on what he knows to be true. He reminds himself that God knows what he’s doing. He is sovereign. He has been good in the past — bountiful even! Therefore he will continue to praise and worship even though his life is totes falling apart (context wise, he was really sick and didn’t want to die).

The real question is…how does he do this? How can he turn, in difficult times, to continually praising God?

Not going to leave you hanging, I promise.

Clearly David knows God. He knows him well. He has sought after him and learned about him. We can see evidence of that in all his other psalms, his life patterns, and also the fact that God picked him to be the next king because he was a man after God’s own heart. And the result of all this “knowing” is that he has something to fall back onto.

I have lots of friends that I don’t see vhry as often as I would like due to distance. But I know that they are still my friends. I believe that. And when I don’t see/hear from them for a little while I don’t go “oh we aren’t friends anymore,” I rely on what I know to be true and then a few weeks later maybe a letter shows up in the mail. It is our solid friendship and experiences together in the past that allow me to get through the not present parts.

How does David get this with God? Shoot, he spends time with him! What is the magical secret to praising and trusting God in the good times and in the bad times?

Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

I might add “more able to remember the steadfastness and the glory of the Lord is he who has sought after and experienced it already.”

So I encourage you, as I encourage myself, have you spent time lately building up your friendship with God? And if not, will you start now?

On Fear

I’ve read this one article a few times, and seen it shared on various platforms as well in the past few months. The first time I read it I skimmed it and thought parts of it were ok and parts were meh. Then I read it again later and saw some things that maybe I should be taking to heart. I’m all about practically applying head knowledge, so I decided to try out the first challenge — eliminating fear, scared, and terrified from my vocabulary. Well, I tried…

When I started trying to get rid of those words, two things started to happen.

  1. I started being more aware of when I used those words. And felt those feelings. And how often I had them. And it sucked.
  2. I started thinking more about why I was afraid. Picking apart my fears. And it both sucked and was awesome.

So it sucked because I felt a little bit like my fears were dumb. I mean, real talks. I’m afraid of driving. Not like the childhood “I’m afraid of snakes and spiders” feeling (this is still relevant – I don’t like these animals thx). I’ve felt fear in a crippling, heart wrenching, sometimes-I-can’t-even-think fear. Sometimes it would keep me awake at night. Or, debatably worse, it would hit me while I was driving. (I have other common fears too, but this is the most predominant in my life right now).

It was awesome because I started wondering why I was afraid. And seeking ways to not be afraid. I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I was still going to FEEL these feelings. I can’t stop feeling them, just like how when something you find funny happens you can’t not be amused. You found it funny, therefore, you are amused. It is how I deal with the feeling that matters.

When you’re amused you can smile, laugh, type “lolololololol” into your phone etc. You can even whip out the smirking emoji. When I am afraid, I can dwell on my fear and let it overwhelm me, or I can harness it, and turn it around into prayer and praise to God.

Last weekend I was in a foodcourt at the mall with a bunch of other people and a little girl. While we were there, the fire alarm went off. No one was worried, and the staff made announcements over the PA system that there was nothing to worry about currently. The little girl, however, didn’t understand or trust the announcements and was scared. It took a lot of assurances from her mother for her to calm down and eat her lunch without worrying about how we were all going to get caught in a fire. (Also the fire alarm stopped…)

When I am afraid, I am turned inward to myself. When I am not afraid, I can turn outwards to others. When I am scared I am only thinking about the here and now. When I am not scared, I can remember there is a larger story I’m a part of that I can’t see. When I am terrified, I can’t see what is going on around me. When I’m not terrified, I can see other people and things that God is calling me to pour into and serve.

It isn’t easy. I’ve been dealing with this particular fear for a long time and I don’t think I would have been very good at this “let it go” stuff at the beginning. But working through it and starting to approach it with this mindset has helped me. It’s also crossed over into other fears I have — being single forever, not making enough money to support myself, those darn snakes that are everywhere and nowhere..

If I believe God is in control of my life and knows what he’s doing (if I believe he is who he says he is — and if he wasn’t why would I put my faith in him?????), then I do not need to be afraid. I may still have the feelings of panic and fear, but I don’t need to let them dictate my life and make my decisions for me. I need to put them aside and let God dictate those decisions instead. And I hope that one day, in the face of fear, I will not be afraid.