Didn’t you know this wasn’t a good idea, dear?

I love this boy. He is startled by the odd ways that life can sometimes play out. Parents and supervisors do not always dole out punishments when a kid makes mistakes. Even if that was what he fully expected to receive. Sometimes adults, quite surprisingly, can just listen to your story and actually appreciate it for what it is. They can even find the funny in them–perhaps even more than you can see.

That is Sal’s story. On the most exciting and terrifying day of his life, he got to regale his chaperones with his exploits in a most compelling manner. His voice was heard and, perhaps, by the end of his speech he felt vindicated.

His tale went something like this:

He and his friend were looking for something to do with their free time afrter dinner at the food court. Thanks to a moment of incredible inspiration, they decided to trot up the “down” escalator. It went smoothly and they felt like heros. They had singlehandedly saved themselves from boredom. But, as we all know, feats like these must come in pairs. So they bravely went on to execute their next move, forgetting about how the poor cane-bearing man had just missed meeting them painfully on their way up.

Their courage mounting with every escalator moving toward them, they took the plunge. Now was the time to really live dangerously! They reached the bottom without incident. Then our story teller happened to intercept the unfriendly gaze of a man with a badge. Suddenly it looked like their lives might be over if they didn’t move quickly. “Let’s walk,” he alerted his emboldened sidekick. “Now. That security guard is looking our way.”

Breaking into a fast trot and an equally fast sweat, they make their way into the nearest store. They couldn’t have chosen a more fitting locale for their dramatic (and soon to be comical) getaway. The patrol man is not fooled by these young males adopting a sudden interest in feminine frocks for the fashion forward.

While one is holding up an article whose print would work so well with the complexion of the other, they are accosted. “Gentlemen, can I ask you some questions?” The ordeal, with its confrontation of foolish behaviors and warnings to be careful of pedestrians, ends with our dear boys being ordered to exit the mall and wait for their more obedient comrades from the outside.

Heading in the direction of the doors, our boys wonder whether their ignorance of mall security protocol puts them at the risk of following an order that is illegitimate. After all, who has ever heard of being removed from a mall–isn’t it public property? In the final analysis the two decide the man in uniform had very little grounds on which to behave as though this were “his mall.”

It is in this state that these characters have their second run-in of the night, though this one is less official. The instigator of this one is a harmless older Asian woman who sweetly asks them to contribute to her youth group’s fundraiser. They are quite touched, feeling as though they have found someone with whom they can find common ground at such a volatile time.

They dig in the pockets of their basketball shorts and jeans. Together they assemble a modest sum that blesees both the woman they give to ans they themselves. They introduce themselves and inform her that they belong to a youth group and love Jesus. She is delighted at the news and they take a moment to pray for their groups in different states. They leave refreshed, exuberantly declaring that “God is awesome!”

Finally, they make it outside, convinced that this is the single most exhilerating day of their lives. It makes them wonder what more fun they could be having while they’re still outta state!

Does God know the meaning of early?

One of my pet peeves with God is that He doesn’t share my pleasure in getting things done early. When He works He enjoys what He does, without concern for whether it fits in the schedule of anyone else. If we have a problem with His apparent slowness, then we will have to learn patience because He won’t adjust His pace for us. He doesn’t wait for us to approve the way He’s doing things.

God likes getting things done on time, not before time. I don’t understand that. To me, when I beat the shadow of a deadline in its maturing, I feel worthy of a medal. Time, with its limits and seasons define what I can do and how I can do it. Time gives me limits and I don’t like those limits–so I try to disprove its power to contain me.

But, when God manages time, He does not need to do special tricks to demonstrate that time is something He can beat. Time has never been something that threatened God. He can make it contain whatever He wants it to . He has no need to get ahead of time, He already is. Time waits on Him to know what it should be and so do we.

Perhaps we should consider time as one more blessing in our lives to humble us before God, to remind us of His majesty and preeminence in our world. Time stands at attention before Him and because this is so, we need not worry about the ways time affects us. If God is ultimately the One who rules time, we need not fight over how He manages it. We may confidently and contentedly exist in time, knowing that He who exists outside of time is our greatest Ally.

What are your fears regarding time–do you worry that you do not have enough of it or do you have reason to feel that God’s plans leave you with too much extra time on your hands?

Not feeling is the answer…I think

Today has not been one of your best days. Countless days leading up to this one have not been some of your best days either. Where God’s faithfulness has gone you’re not sure. But it surely bothers you. You feel weak with the injustice of it.

You’re struggling with a problem you don’t know how to deal with. You’re trapped in a maze of broken dreams and disappointments. You cry out to God and He doesn’t seem to hear. You can find no other place to turn, so you turn in on yourself.

You lock up your heart. If God is not going to care for you, then you will not leave the tenderest places of yourself open to Him. At first, it appears that this is working: You are taking the initiative to protect your soul, to insulate it from pain as best you can. But it doesn’t take long for you to realize that while you are in control, you are also empty.

Part of you feels lost, but you have no idea how to retrace your steps in order to recover your missing pieces. So, what do you do with yourself now?

What if you began tuning your heart to heed, once more, your Savior?

What He has to say need not be threatening to you. He does not intend to condemn you or blast you with shame. He wants to heal your heart, to enable you to stand before Him without fear. This fresh revelation of His heart will energize you in such a way that you will eagerly invite Him to know you intimately once again. Will you listen in with me?

My child, I want your heart. But, I do not ask for you to offer Me something so precious without the promise of giving you something of Myself which surpasses everything that you’re surrendering. The risks you take with Me only seem difficult until you realize that I am the only One who is giving without an overwhelming return.

I want you to know that I have set My desire on your heart with great purpose. When I fill your heart with My presence, that is when you really know Me; that is when you are made complete.

If giving Me access to your most vulnerable places was not for your benefit, I would not ask it of you. If relationship was possible without our hearts being connected, I would not pursue this so persistently. Understand that I know what is best for you. The only way I can truly care for you is to surround your heart with Mine.

 

Wikipedia: M (named em ) is the thirteenth letter of the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Made for Love

I want you to know this. If you don’t know anything else from what you read here, know this. “I love you.” Yes, I love you, but that is not primarily what I’m concerned with communicating to you. You could live without knowing that I care about you.

On the other hand, there is a love you cannot live apart from. I’m not talking about the love of your parents, your spouse, your friend or anyone else in your life who is limited by the fact that they can only give expression to love; they cannot be love. I’m talking about One who is Love.

Before there was you, there was always Him. He created you because it’s so like to do such a thing. Everything you feel in longing for love is longing for Him. Everything you do in demonstrating love is identical to you pointing to Him with your whole being. Life itself is wrapped up in Love.

Certainly, not all of life is love-worthy–it is not consistently pretty and sweet, neither can it claim to have no need of rebuke. The truth is: Life that sprang from Love’s heart has broken Love’s heart by refusing to rest in Its hands. This life characterizes you and I from the moment we’re born. And from that point till today one great choice has been before us:

Will you return to Love?

 

Merriam-Webster: that definition: the person, thing, or idea indicated, mentioned, or understood from the situation.

Hear, hear, Lord! This is what I want You to do here…

I’m so obsessed with me today. I just don’t know how to get beyond what I’m going through and how I want relief from trials God is allowing to be a part of my life at this time. With my pains as the gauge of God’s sovereignty, I can’t help feeling that some requests and complaints are in order. I can’t imagine a greater purpose in His dealings with me than sheltering me from intense experiences of need.

But the truth that has confronted me all day, and will continue to do so, is this: If God has a plan to work through evil, who am I to say that He should not? Attempting to function as His counselor serves a nonexistent purpose if He has not called upon me to assist Him in such a way. Now, surely, as my Father, God will hear my petitions words and take full account of my heart and its longings, but I must not expect the only demonstration of relevant care from Him to consist of Him setting aside His own wisdom to adapt Himself to my own.

When I relate with God in the midst of tough times, I must understand that the end of testing is not so much to end the difficult circumstances as it is to get to know my Savior better. Therefore, I must daily–even hourly, if need be–put aside all thought of manipulating God to adjust His plans to fit me. Because the main drive of His plans is holiness, He cannot affirm petty suggestions I make for a return to comfort and bliss that make nothing of Christ.

Rather, He relentlessly urges me to join Him in what He’s doing while the pain continues. He wants to waste not a moment of what I’m going through. His intention is that this would be a time for me to learn quietness when I would like to scream; trust when doubts run wild within me; contentment when my flesh reminds me again and again that I am not comfortable with what God is letting take place in my case.

He is not satisfied with me having a spiritual understanding that subsists in my memory of literary jewels located in such and such a verse. He wants His truth to mean something to me, personally; otherwise, His Word has not accomplish the purpose for which He sent it. Tribulations of the soul provide an excellent context for my faith to be built up in the only One who can feed my soul.

Even the strongest desires of my flesh, when fulfilled, cannot leave my spirit without longing. Thus, God shifts my attention from desires that are only temporal to ones that are eternal. He alerts me to the fact that more than just sating my physical and emotional cravings for comfort and pleasure, He has always wanted to the chief satisfaction of my soul. I was made for Him and no one else, nothing else. So, as long as I have Him, I may know that my being will be cared for in the most comprehensive way possible.

What about you: Are you struggling with some aspect of God’s will today? Have you, like me, been wrestling with the urge to tell Him what to do with you and how? Please leave a comment below, I would love to encourage and pray for you!

Hell is not waiting for you to say yes

I don’t know about you, but hell is not one of my favorite things to discuss. There are far more appealing things that I would like to concentrate my head and heart on. Hell is sobering, at the very least, and absolutely terrifying, at the worst. I have spent considerable time in residence on either side of the spectrum. The one is definitely more pleasant than the other. That’s why I’m curious to know where you might be on that spectrum.

Hell is something that easily haunts us in our quieter moments–when this world and all its feverish activities are suddenly eclipsed by thoughts that revolve around a reality beyond what we know or can test. This wears down our confidence in what we think we know and makes us feel insecure in a world that does not offer us permanent residence.

Though it is not natural to have peace about hell, we do not need to forever be cowed by its implications for us. Hell does not have to be our destiny. We are truly all born with this as the default setting for our ultimate destination, but it is possible for this to be changed. Even though hell is not waiting for us to say “yes” to it, we can be free of this looming prospect if we will say “yes” to heaven.

You may think this sounds too simple for a solution to such a momentous predicament. But, though it is simple on our side, there is another side on which it was not so simple. You see, God is the One who has secured this solution for us. To do so, He put Himself at the mercy of what is our destiny apart from Him. He faced hell so we no longer have to. And He welcomes us to become a part of the victory that came from His suffering.

This involves recognizing God (Christ) as our all-important Savior. We admit that all our hopes and dreams are nothing if they are not fastened upon Him. We begin to see our hearts as tethers that must be tightly affixed to Him. When He is the One to whom we are secured, we need have no fear of ending up in any place but where He is. Because He rests in heaven, He will one day raise us to be with Him when our time on the earth is over.

Now, I have a question for you: When you think about life after earth, what is the primary thing you think about? Is it fear of hell or peace about heaven?

YO(How)LO(Will U Go)?

Have you noticed that YOLO–the newest variant of our youth-oriented-society’s anthem–does more to stand for nothing more than it does to stand for something?

By saying, “YOLO!” we are making an admission of how senseless we are willing to live. (“Yo, it’s cool, I was just looking for a high!”)

We are confessing that we have made a leave-of-sanity and we need no excuse to maintain this state. (“After all, what’s life about if it’s not for wasting! I don’t want anyone to tell me what my life is supposed to be–I can make it whatever feels good to me.”)

Think of the occasions in which YOLO–You Only Live Once– is used:

It is a reason for driving the car through the garage door because, if I don’t, how will I ever know what that feels like?

It is a frame of mind that compels me to not waste time doing what only normal people do when I can be seeking out exhilaration in the form of binge-drinking, stifling every moral inclination and undoing my potential for greatness by merely settling for being startlingly cool.

It’s the avoidance of committing ourselves to the pursuit of a significant life legacy that we might, instead, be in favor of an easily-earned stupidity award!

The wonder of YOLO’s popularity is that, as humans, we don’t find it hard to act out a tragic misuse of our lives. Sad to say, even all by ourselves we’ve got that mission down pat! What we really need is wisdom, to seek to have our desires transformed, until we set ourselves on only the purest forms of good.

If you’re backing away from your computer or iPhone/iTouch/iPad as you read this, hold on! I’m not against fun and I’m not trying to condemn the enjoyment of oneself. Those things are part of what we were designed to experience as humans–God wanted them to be a part of who we are and how we live our lives.

It’s just that, contrary to what most of us think of ourselves, we don’t really know how to play to the full or enjoy pleasure in a lasting way. We have a relentless obsession with happiness that is only skin deep, recognition that lasts almost as long as a wisp of cotton candy once put in our mouths and substances that enable our souls to know peace only to the extent that they can successfully diminish our senses.

If we really knew what God intended to forever belong to our souls, we wouldn’t give YOLO a second thought. Rather, our steadfast conviction would be that YLAL is the fullness of human delight and significance: You Lord Are Life.

What do I do with myself on my less-than-perfect days?

I’m going to go somewhere with you today that I don’t want to go. As much as I want to stall–avoiding a meaningful confrontation with my me-based fears–it is clear that I’ve used that option long enough. At this point, my fear is being quickly eclipsed by weighty frustration. I’m taunted by the question, “What are you doing?” Followed by, “And when will you get going with what you’re really supposed to be doing?”

God is ushering my heart into a confrontation of my tolerance of personal mediocrity. I’m not giving all of me to the life and calling God has given me. I’m holding something back; namely, the parts of me that I think aren’t good enough for persistent cultivation or public exposure. I have no problem giving my best when I feel my best–that I find very enjoyable.

What I don’t find so pleasant are days like this one when God urges me to give more than my feeling-driven best. He asks me to give what is my best in this moment, whether or not it happens to be on par with what I was able to offer yesterday or last week.

God compels me to adopt a new brand of thinking about achievement, one where faith is the ultimate thing that determines what I surrender to His use. I don’t have to be obsessed with giving from the fruit of my heart and mind only those things that I think will make for instant-successes. By God’s grace, it’s so much simpler: My obsession is to be trained on the One I give to rather than obsessing miserably over what He might be able to use.

It’s not my job to decide what God can use and what He can’t. My task is to give Him everything and let Him sort through it, adapting each of my strengths and weaknesses to the purposes He already has for me. If you have this same struggle, please join me in letting go of the control we want over what God does with us. Let us learn to humbly accept His rule over what we become regardless of what we presently are.

Does Christ stand over the rest?

Thoughts come in the quietness. God reminds us of what is real. Because Christ is the greatest gift any of us have received, when we are not given other gifts, we are not crushed. On the other hand, when we are given other gifts besides Christ, those things do not become the pinacle of our existance. Christ is the only One who encompasses all our heart.

The Olympics of Faith–Are you in shape to compete and win?

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about the approach of the Olympic Games! The natural thrust of enthusiasm  surrounding the athletic pursuit of achievement and excellence and grace has a distinct effect on the human spirit. We are communal people by nature and, as we watch the competitions, we are not simply spectators, but active supporters. We want the win–we share the dream of the competitors who have spent years of their lives straining muscles; testing endurance; sacrificing freedom and flexibility and forsaking mediocre goals.

There is some very real part of each of us that wants to put our lives–our entire selves–into a feat that consummates with such a prized reward. When we observe others who are not guilty of silently and passively consenting to their life passing them by, the challenge confronts us quite concretely. I think this is excellent. Not everyone of us can get off the couch and instigate a training regimen that will carry us through to the highest elevation of the winners platform, but there is something grand which we are to seek and grasp by the execution of our entire being.

The calling–to know God–is the most distinct quest we will ever encounter. The Olympics, and other events with similar orientations, are able to stir up our person considerably, but they cannot promise the true fulfillment of the longings that they stir up. The decorations, accolades and measure of self-actuation are the fruits of winning in these areas, but each of these things begin to rot before we know it. They ultimately leave us hungering for more, knowing there must be something we were meant to work at which would nourish us lastingly.

Each of us is looking for the supreme goal of our lives, which is no less than diving into relationship with God–including all its risks and returns. We know that this one adventure will go beyond employing our powers to thoroughly engaging our person. And, if that’s not winning, I don’t know what is!