And … she speaks. Finally.
Did you ever find yourself completely outside your normal way of behaving, and have trouble finding your way back to the Central Headquarters that define *you*? I’ve been there. Sometimes a man throws us so far off the rails that we find ourselves gathering our skirts and scrambling back to that place we are comfortable. Unfuffled reathers. “You haven’t permission, Darling, to mess with our world as we know it. You, in fact, are too complicated. Not we.” As handsome and beautiful as you are, you take us so far off the grid that we desperately need to get back to zero, even alone-ness, to regain our sense that we’re going to be okay.
Yeah, there’s one or two of you out there.
I know what it is to have every interaction feel like you’re being clobbered in the solar plexus. It’s messy, caring for someone It’s certainly not as you thought it would be. It’s a bit like being in a fender bender car accident where you walk into moving traffic to collect your bumper and put it into your trunk. Or examine a headlight that got crunched because you didn’t measure spatially quite right. Smile. You know what I’m talking about. Easy Captain, don’t crush the Girls.
In fact when you speak, it’s the language of the Kingdom, the words you speak call us higher. Our parents told us about you. They told us that one day you would walk into our lives. They counseled us to wait for the one who reminded us of Home. To wait for the one who loved us so well, not saying and being the things we wanted to hear but the things that would make us become a better person. A Giant. That’s the one to marry. Be-friend and employ whomever you like, but marry the woman who reminds you of your selfless mother. The man who reminds you of your servant-hearted father.
There’s nothing wrong with needing the ministering heart of a friend, but a husband or wife comes along as a peer. They appear as one who floods Life into the picture. Fire-breathing Strength. Tenderness and transparency are to be cherished, but a good marriage is built on the bridging of two healthy people standing on their own … not to steal strength and emotional stability from us, but to give.
Lastly, there’s something to be said about one being able to feed one’s self, to eat of the meat that is Christ, and to stand. “And having done all these things, to stand…” That’s what life will demand of us as individuals in Christ, the ability to walk it out: to make a plan and stick with it. To discipline ourselves to bring about healthy change. To bear fruit that lasts. A healthy marriage will require no less.
There’s nothing more beautiful or demanding than the call to love someone. It wouldn’t be honest of me to let you walk away thinking I know what it’s all about. I don’t. But I love *you*, and that gives me an idea of what this concept of marriage might be about.
“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…” —Galatians 4:19
Do you ever wonder what Paul really meant when he spoke about Christ being formed in us?
If we think about the formation process, whether it’s cinnamon rolls or a pot pie on the manufacturing floor, there are the ingredients, climate, assembly, and cook time. Drawing on my experience in the food manufacturing business there are a lot of complexities to a pot pie or a bag of hermetically sealed, ready-to-cook popcorn. It’s important to note that in every case there are the ingredients, the DNA of the end product. Cinnamon rolls always have cinnamon, and popcorn almost always has genuine popcorn kernels. With us it’s true as well. The end product of who we are meant to be always begins with the right building blocks. Take heart, even if you are deeply in process of becoming your best you, you have the right raw ingredients! The Lord has seen to that already.
I’ve noticed when I take a step and venture into a new space even though I may fail miserably, I can’t help but see the raw ingredients of potential. At times it’s easier on my pride to focus on the potential instead of seeing and admitting to the growth opportunities too. Do you ever notice when a package arrives, even if it’s damaged beyond recognition you still have to acknowledge it’s arrival. The UPS guy stands there until you sign. I have a friend that wisely says, ‘You can denigrate the witness all you like but that doesn’t absolve you from acknowledging the message.’ And it’s true. Our growth opportunities can arrive in completely mangled packages but the package has still arrived at our doorstep.
The formation of Christ within us, or within a person that we love, is completely messy. No one ever prepares us. To care is freakishly messy. If you want to be tidy about your life, do not get involved. Do not care about a single person and you will be just fine. You’ll be alone. But tidy.
Our days are filled with repeat performances. Over and over again we go through something. The Lord is not about beating us with a stick. He’s usually building a skill set. The responsibility factor increases and we continue to repeat the same circumstances with greater authority, greater responsibility.
There are people who coach us, pray for us, contend for our best selves … they are the ones who labor until we get it. Likewise, we stick with a friend until she learns how to fight without being freakishly defensive and hurt. When we all learn to stand in love, to not capitulate at the sign of conflict, but manage our emotions and positions with kindness … that’s when the picture of Christ begins to emerge in our lives.
… till Christ is formed in you!
2013, a new year. The difficult thing about anything new is that one is at the start of a path never taken before. The Lord and I have a bit of a standing dialogue with one another on this. I’ve played this card with Him so many times in the past, thinking it will get me out of an insane circumstance I want no part of. For example, haggling with repair men over prices, car purchases, home purchases, big-anything-purchases. Minor stuff? I’m on it. Major? I want to bury my head in His shirt, and pretend I don’t need to make a decision. He knows it. The conversation:
“Then why are we having this discussion? I’m right here. Now, take a step.”
Sounds a bit toddler-ish, doesn’t it? Pfft. Nevertheless, a new beginning contains unknowns, scaries, and funky, “In 800 feet turn left on Cahuenga Boulevard.” Cal Hung a Whacky Who? Oh left! Left! Turn left now!
I’m thoughtful of how the Israelites everlastingly did.not.know. where they were going, when they’d get there, what they’d eat… wait a minute, what would they eat? The passages in the book of Exodus 16 are familiar but the principle is not as well known. The Lord daily supplied a substance called manna which, translated means, “What is it?” (Pretty cool, huh?) The substance was completely unknown to them, just as was the idea of daily relying on God’s provision. If the people gathered more than they could use it would not last until next day, it would rot. His intention was that they would daily gather just what they need for that day, for their family and that they would focus on Him a little bit more than they did before.
Scripture, if you take a step back is God’s story of increasing intimacy with mankind.
Oftentimes stories in the Old Testament foreshadow or project a visual image of a concept that is explained in the New Testament. This OT story is a visual image of the concept of grace, His daily provision. In order to walk at rest or better, to proactively love other people on a daily basis we have to connect with the Lord. It’s necessary to re-align ourselves, our hearts and needs with His heart. It’s not something we can soak up plenty of, and make it last. I like the analogy that grace is an awful lot like a good wine, which is meant for the present moment.
May your days in 2013 be rich and full of moments where you find His grace, His daily provision for rest, peace, laughter and above all, the ability to outrageously love those around you.
Have you ever had a friend remind you of who you are?
I love those rich moments when, as if looking in a mirror, I am re-anchored to my true self. We cherish our dearest friends because they, of all people, hold the looking glass while we listen and resonate to the sounds of Heaven. We hear the truest words with them.
When I told her my concern — that I’ll never be the life of the party — my friend reminded me of our deep friendship that we have cultivated over the years. When I shared my fears, she pushed them away with a “Pfft!” and reminded me of who I am, a wordsmith and an analyst. I see stuff. Without trying, really. Wordless discoveries, brilliant leaves freshly washed with dew beneath my feet. Clumsy attempts, and tiny blushes of color creeping along the edge of the sunrise.
I’ve heard people talk about the Now and the Not Yet.
I think sometimes we see it best when we put our best foot forward, each day working at loving people more than we did yesterday.
The Now. From within my vehicle I snap and snarl at the driver in front of me who takes far too long to make a turn. Knowing with all my heart that this is not who want to be, an impatient curmudgeon, I drive away with my head slumped because I did not choose love.
The Not Yet. It’s about understanding that God enjoys my heartfelt “yesses” toward Him, and celebrates those way more than my lapses into self-centeredness. It’s realizing He’s not torque’d at me, or even mildly irritated. Father God is pretty big on transformation projects. He goes about things in the most unusual ways, and chooses the most unlikely of candidates. A pregnant virgin, a blind man, a prostitute, a leper. Why? I think because when He showed them the mirror of who they were, in His eyes, they would be the least likely to forget what they saw there. They, of all people, would be so grateful that they would cling to the picture He reflected back to them.
When the blind man encountered Jesus, his sight was restored. There was much debate about his healing – sort of like there is today and yet the one thing he said was this, “I was blind, but now I see.”
What do you see?
Worry comes naturally for me. If you ever need me to worry about something for you, just let me know. I’m already up until the wee hours wondering if I have enough air pressure in my tires? Was the truck making a funny noise this morning? Pffft. That’s the easy stuff in comparison to the relational worries that create cobwebs in my brain.
– What if someone has subtly conveyed judgements concerning me and I’m unable to defend myself?
– Or worse, what if I said something hurtful and we never got a chance to work through it? Maybe I was jealous or spoke out of frustration and yet those words are lodged in the foundation of our relationship now. I have a few of those scattered around the world so don’t tell me I’m being ridiculous.
You’ll have to agree that neither of us lives our lives in such a way that everything we say is lovely, and every bit we contribute is graceful.
Oh be real, would you? I am over here plowing my way through this life trying to avoid bludgeoning people with sharp objects when I don’t get my way. It’s not polite to scratch people’s eyes out when they are not nice. Mama told me to be a lady. And so that is what I am. But it doesn’t mean the “want-to” goes away …
Maybe you are a better person than I, but it’s there in the midst of that heap of words uttered and opinions undefended that I finding myself longing for God. Big G-o-d. He has to be big because life is messy. And I crave the fresh air and Father-will-sort-it-all-out kind of care that I find in the presence of the Lord. Plain and simple, the stuff that keeps me up at night is just too much for me. I have to trust Him.
Only He can make heads or tails of all that we bring to Him. Only He can cause us to wait quietly for justice, or gently send us back with an apology when the time is right.
He is a God whose nature it is to make all things new.
This train of thought has been brewing with me for a while now. I want to talk with you about unanswered prayer.
Broaching this topic is a bit risky. It’s like saying, “I want to teach you about God.” Hah! And so now you know. I know precious little about answers and the lack of them except what I’ve experienced. But, that being the point, we come into greater understanding by putting little bits together. Sometimes the pieces fit, right? And sometimes we set them aside, and go looking for a piece of blue sky for our puzzle.
But it is a puzzle indeed.
Only you know what life has handed you, and what questions remain unanswered. I’ll never be able to hand you the puzzle piece to fit that gaping hole you are staring at. I know this though, so many times we stare and stare at that gaping hole — that ache or longing for something or someone — and we think we know why it’s empty.
For so many years I thought my prayers had remained unanswered because I had done something wrong. Or that I failed God in some way, or hadn’t had enough faith, or hadn’t prayed right, or sacrificed enough. For real. I have repented, fasted, declared, obeyed, sinned, run the gamut of emotions, and flip-flopped all over the place trying to understand.
I wonder if you’ll hear me when I say this: It’s never, ever been Father God’s intention that you would beat yourself up over this thing.
He’s a super great communicator. If you had done something wrong He would have let you know and once you dealt with that situation, it would be over; i.e., it’s never His intent to punish forever. He’s not mad at you, and holding something over you for what you did in 1985.
He’s a super great communicator. If He wanted you to do something in terms of obeying Him in an area, He would let you know, and that step of obedience would become important to you. I tell you it would. That’s His nature. Scripture says, “… for it is God who works within you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” We are so wired! to be in relationship with Him. Don’t go chasing after legalistic things you think you should be doing in order to find your answers.
He’s a super great communicator but just like any loving relationship worth having, He gently tugs us out of our navel-gazing, and sometimes victimized thinking. At times He gently cajoles us, pulls on our sleeve a bit. Sometimes we’re looking for a direct answer and He just wants to talk. Period. Instead of giving me answers He’ll say to me, “Watch this…” and He’ll show me something or someone that interests Him. Other times He’ll play Hide N’ Seek. We’re after our answers like a heat-seeking missile and He’s dodging behind doors and peeking at us to see if we’ll chase! Why? Because He loves us, and He loves being in relationship with us. Father God gets a great kick out of telling me riddles. Oftentimes I know its the Lord speaking because my next step will be in the form of a riddle. Remember this … no matter how He communicates with you, what He shares with you will always reflect His character and His nature. You’ll see His character and His nature reflected in Scripture. Get to know His ways with you.
My greatest treasure in life is to have had some unanswered questions over the course of perhaps 20 years. There is grace that accompanies any suffering, any lack, and there is an enormous blessing in every affliction. It’s up to you to find it.
Most of the time, with unanswered prayer, you’re not ever going to know why or when or how long or who but you have a wonderful opportunity to know the Holder of the ‘Why’, and He wants to hold you. In the midst of your heartache, He wants to hold you; He wants you to let the “holding it all together” go, even if its for a few minutes. You get so exhausted doing that … holding it all together.
Just let Him carry it for a few minutes. Let Him carry you.
He was an old man. He knew that now. Unprepared for the winding road of life, he froze. He couldn’t find his way, really. Grasping for answers to the questions too deep and too bare, he grasped the bottle in his hand. It was the only thing that would stay.
She wouldn’t stay. He knew that now. He’d hurt her too deeply with cuts far too deep to stain with blood. The bruises he’d left with his steely words would never heal. They would, in fact, become her heart ache that would snatch at her life for the rest of her days. His vice grip on her heart would pain the windows of her soul until she, too would know she had to let him go.
The twisted tunnels of Life contorted a marriage whose walls once rang with laughter, and whose foundations once whispered about the way of Love. When Sorrow calls where will you go, and whose arms will grip you while you keen? When yawning Need and Lack knock at the door will you shout them down, or will they scratch at the screen far into the night until you let them in? One by one, they’ll steal their way in … abandonment, isolation, loneliness, greed and all their cousins. But seal the door you must. Let no one in who isn’t guided by Love’s keys.
Bow low before the Father. Kneel before one another. Let Agape lead the way.
— Agape: love without requirements
Most people’s expressions glaze over when I start talking about my work and so I don’t bother to talk about it very much. I tell them, “I work with computers and data.” or “I load lots of data into an enormous financial system for a very large manufacturing company.” My listeners raise their eyebrows but rarely utter another word of interest about my job. I thought I might weave together a few interesting facts about what I do, that won’t put you to sleep, and yet still give a better description.
Think of the last time you sat in traffic waiting for a train. Did you open the windows to listen to the clackety-clack, or picture yourself walking on top of the rail cars as if you had nothing better to do? The company where I work is in the supply chain industry. So … think about seeds becoming plants; plants producing food; food harvested and transported by truck or rail to manufacturing plants; manufacturing plants making products; products being shipped to distribution centers; distribution centers delivering to stores; stores putting products on shelves; and you purchasing products for your family. That’s supply chain in a really simple description.
Now picture a bottle of vegetable oil in your kitchen … and then standing next to a rail car of vegetable oil. Your bottle of vegetable oil is still in your hand, and you are dwarfed by the magnitude of the rail car, let alone the amount of oil in the rail car itself. The comparison nearly blows your circuits doesn’t it? It fascinates me. Now compare your bottle of oil to a full train length of rail cars of vegetable oil. Or even many train lengths of rail cars. Thousands of rail cars.
Our comparison of one person’s demand for a product compared to the supply can go in many directions but I want to think about the principles of supply and demand in the Kingdom of God. Our economy is expressed in terms of monetary exchange, and we assign a value to a bottle of oil or a pair of jeans. We exchange or purchase the jeans based on the value determined by the company. If they are Lee jeans then they are one price and if they are 7 For All Mankind brand then a different price. But that economy is man-made, of course, and God is in no way bound to our way of doing things. He’s on His own schedule. He owns everything and so He’s free to ‘exchange’ on whatever parameters He likes. He happens to like ‘free’ a lot and that’s really good, I think.
But what if He put you in charge of a supply chain? What if He said that you should watch over, manage, tend the supply chain for a product line, or even an industry? Certainly Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would understand this principle. What if God so gifted you to lead the design for Apple products: Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods. Or beginning with a small operating system like the Disk Operating System shape the way the world processes information?
Before you think to yourself, “Meh! She’s being ridiculous!” Realize that God uses ordinary people to impact and influence the whole world. We often think in terms of supply, meaning, I need the $100 to cover this bill. We do not often think in terms of the supply chain … all of the enormity of God’s abilities and the storehouses of God’s supply. He operates on a much larger scale … and yet an infinitely smaller scale at the same time.
God wants you to engage with Him and connect with Him so that He can do enormous things through your life. And yet He’s crazy with compassion toward you when you discover that first wrinkle or when your dreams seem dim and unreal to you.
In the same moment I like to ponder the enormous train car full of vegetable oil and the sparrow. There’s the old hymn, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
The bird also has found a house and the swallow a nest for herself
where she may lay her young.
With a singular focus and deliberation the bird circles and circles until she finds a safe place in which to nest. She is stirred and on a mission until she finds what it is she is looking for: a place. And then she broods, rarely if ever leaving until her eggs hatch.
A woman intuitively looks for safe places in which to lay her young, whether it’s for the children of her womb or the artistic endeavors of her spirit. She longs to give birth to the verses and the stories and the melodies but until their appointed time they remain hidden deep within … taking form, growing, nourished through her until they are able to sustain life on their own.
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Cor 2:9
Scripture talks about how the way of the Spirit of God is mysterious. I would venture to say that the way of the Spirit is not unlike the mystery of conception and birth. A baby is a twinkle in her Daddy’s eye … he’s got a great idea. But from the point of where the idea begins until he bounces that sweet-faced child on his knee … we can only marvel!
When we enter into the creative process we are partnering with God to bring the stuff of the Spirit into the natural realm. The miracle of birth is always God’s doing but every time His own DNA mingles with that of the child’s parents. And let’s not forget about the heart. God always mixes in love, an ingredient He never forgets. Whether a creative work or the much hoped-for wee child: all that originates in His heart bears His image, His thumbprint.
As women we are utterly consumed with the birth process: awaiting the day when our knowing look will give us away; carrying the planted seed within, stretching out our lives to prepare for its presence; yielding to the transition and then the inevitable, unavoidable birth process. If a mother does not give birth she will likely die and certainly her child will die. Birth is not optional. Her body literally changes structure, her emotions are all fiercely protective and locked in on one objective: to bring this child into the world. And so it is with the creative works that He plants into our hearts, designed to come from us. Beautiful and yet ugly; awkward and yet perfectly orchestrated, red-faced and slippery our little ones come into this world.
Just as a mother has a core-level connection with her infant so have we with our creative works. Nothing is so wildly beautiful to a mother than the face of her son or daughter. From the outside we observe and critique but a mother never hears friend or foe call her baby ugly. Her role and calling are to lovingly carry, lead, discipline and cheer her child until he reaches full maturity.
Revision upon revision, reshaped until it stands on it’s own. One day the song will sing its melody in hidden places throughout the earth. The story will tell itself to the nations … until the day in which the melody expands and the story’s seed is flung to the wind.
And Father’s heart will have expanded once again.
With dove’s eyes the Creative will again find a safe place in which to lay her young.
A quick story… when I was a little girl, my friend and I got it in our heads that we needed to save the whales. We attended a rather smallish church and not one that had a particular vision for whale-saving. We decided to make a poster and put out a jelly jar to collect the funds. After about a month we’d collected about $2.75. I confess that those funds may have been abused, and were probably used at Dairy Queen. My bad.
You’ve heard the phrase ‘the favor of God’? It’s jargon, really, but it probably refers back to Scripture. Some might call it ‘good karma’ but as Christians we believe that God is behind the good things that happen to us and we give the credit to His heart toward us instead of chance or electromagnetic airwaves. That’s mainly because we’re in this personal relationship with Him and, as His children, we watch for Him to provide for us… to open doors of opportunity, to grease the skids relationally, and generally make things go successfully. That’s our reality. We have God’s favor as His beloved kids.
There’s another climate in which we interact with God which I’m going to call permission. You’ve been there I’ll bet. You get this great idea in your head, ala saving the whales, or you decide ‘I’m going to become a yodeler.’ Beautiful. Nothing wrong with yodeling, or saving the whales incidentally. It’s just that when the idea is our own, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation where Father God nods and seems to say, ‘Go ahead. S’ok. I’ll catch you on the other side of this thing.’ Nice. It has $2.75 in a jelly jar written all over it but out of our determination we make our poster ‘Save the Whalez’ when in fact its really our own program and He’s just waiting for us to get a grip.
Last, it seems there is a place in our journey with God which is that of commission. Commission is easy to spot because a person starts the explanation of their plan with words like, “You know, I never thought in a million years I would find myself doing this BUT…” This is the place where somehow we’ve gotten a hold of an idea that originated in the heart of God, and we’re getting on board with Him. We’re bumbling our way through each step, looking to Him for help and direction. We certainly enjoy what we’re doing but we can never seem to quell the amazement that the idea didn’t first begin within our own heart. In times like these I submit to you Father’s words, ‘Ah, kiddo. I see you’ve got My heart here. Ha! I love this! I’m prepared, Girl, to move mountains as you step into the free-fall of a trusting walk with Me. Take a step. I promise I will be with you. I will provide for you, and I will give you nations.’
Nations. When we shift out of save-the-whales mode and take on the dreams that were founded in His heart, we will never lack for resources, comfort, courage, or fruit. Reader Beware: These things may not come in our timing! They may not go the way we are convinced they should, believe me. But being given over to His purposes will result in His renown, His glory being made known to throughout the earth. Whole nations are presently coming to God, coming into deep relationship with Him, and it’s a result of the obedience of ordinary people like you and me. We can truly expect Him to accomplish the purposes of His own heart.