does He go for the jugular?

Words are powerful.  Take songs for example.  Have you ever been surprised by the power of a song to suddenly evoke the manifestation of an emotion deep inside you?  I can hear a song that I listened to in a particular season of my life and in a second it’s as if I am re-living that season.  I’m getting pumped up for a soccer game.  I’m walking down the aisle.  I’m in labor with my first child.  The words trigger the emotions in me that are tied to the moments that these songs have come to define.

This happened to me recently.  We were in the car with a good friend and this song came on.  Instantly, I was in the Queen Anne Community Center weeping my face off, devastated that God might move me from Seattle and afraid of what my life might become.  I was at home there.  I found pleasure there.  That was what I wanted.  All of the emotions that I felt that day flooded my soul in the car a year later when that song started playing.

Yesterday, I was spending time with a close friend and she shared a revelation she had from reading a book and hashing out it’s content with God.  She shared something with me that I closely related to–something I believe all followers of Jesus closely relate to–the things we have “taken off the table.”  Jesus, I’ll radically follow you and surrender my life, just don’t ask me to do this.  Don’t take away thatShe used a phrase that struck me as she brought up what she sees throughout the Bible: “He always goes for the jugular.”

I didn’t like that.  I didn’t want to believe it.  I couldn’t come to terms with what that implied.  I literally sat there speechless, unsure how I felt about it and unsure whether there was truth there.

Today, I hashed it out with God.  In my experience, a lot of times that seemed true.  He always seemed to ask me to do what I didn’t want to do.  He always prodded the places of comfort and safety in my life.  He always seemed to be wanting what I didn’t want.  But God is love, and that’s not loving.  Or is it?  That doesn’t seem to line up with who I believe God is.  Or does it?

So today, I listened to the song again that takes me back to that Sunday, a few weeks before God uprooted me from the city I loved and brought me to a place I had small vision for.  Then, I drenched myself in Scripture.  I read Paul’s words.  I looked at Ruth’s life. I searched for the Truth.  And here is what I found:

God always goes to the extremes to make His love known.  His sent His own son to die on a sinner’s cross.  I can’t imagine a higher extreme.  He will stop at nothing to see that I taste and see of His goodness, His riches, His kindness, His fulfillment.  He is not interested in seeing me live a life of earthly peace and pleasure.  He is interested in seeing me live a life of fullness.  He is interested in seeing me so transformed by His love and by the Gospel of Jesus and the power of the cross that I encounter a fulfillment that is everlasting and eternally satisfying.  So when I choose to place family, security, location, possessions, as an idol in my life, THE most loving thing He can do is to strip me bare, to ask me to give it all up, to go for the jugularBecause He knows the idols in my life are a shadow of the fullness and intimacy found with Him.  They pale in comparison to His glory revealed in my life.  I love what Graham Cooke says, that I stand in a puddle when God would give me a lake.  I dwell in a river when He would give me the oceans of the world.

I take things off the table.  I withhold.  I self-protect.  I resist.  But He will stop at nothing.  He desires that nothing separate me from His love–death nor life, angels nor rulers, things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation (Romans 8).

Read Matthew 10.  Hash out Jeremiah 31.  Think about all that he asked the people in the Bible, like Ruth, to leave behind.  Meditate in awe at the truth in 2 Peter 1.  What I believe you will find Biblically is this: He will stop at nothing.  He is extreme.  It may seem “unloving” in the world’s eyes at times, but it remains true that it is THE most loving thing He can do to strip you bare from all that stands between you loving Him with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength.  Paul writes a lot about His sufferings and His temporary pain.  But Paul lived with the knowledge and revelation that the sufferings, the discomfort, the conflict, the barrenness, are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8).  He goes for the jugular–the vein that carries blood to the heart–because He wants our heart to receive life from Him, and not from what we are receiving life from apart from him.  The phrase “go for the jugular” is defined as this: to attack fiercely in order to have no doubt about winning.  So, yes, I believe that is what He does for me.  He attacked sin fiercely, having no doubt about winning my righteousness and restored relationship with Him, by sending His son to die on the cross.  He attacks my idols fiercely, having no doubt about winning my love and worship for Him, the only one worthy of it.  He wants glory, and praise, and worship, not because He is arrogant and selfish, but because He knows that He could satisfy fully every place I strive to find satisfaction elsewhere.  He would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you (Psalm 81).   And because my satisfaction and life in Him is to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1)!

I put everything back on the table, trusting you to attack everything that stands in between us, believing that when you go for the jugular, your intention is not death, but life itself.  Real life.  Full life.

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what He knew

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:3-5 ESV)

As I read these words this morning, I noticed something I had not noticed before.  Sometimes, I’ll notice the punctuation, or the way the sentences flow from one thought to the next, and new understanding comes alive in my spirit.  Today it was this: Jesus rose and washed his disciples feet (an example of humility, servanthood, self-sacrificial love).  Why? How? Because He knew that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God.  It could have just said, “Jesus rose from supper.” But it didn’t.

Three things I found that struck my heart, nearly taking my physical breath away.

1. Jesus knew what He had been given.

2. He knew who He was.

3. He knew what His inheritance was.

It was what He knew that enabled him to wash His disciples feet and then die a sinner’s death.  It was what He knew that enabled him to trust His Father and live by faith.

So today, instead of writing my own words, I want to share what I know–what the Bible tells me.  You see, Romans 14 says for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. If I am going to live a life holy and pleasing to God, everything that comes from me must proceed from faith.  So what do I know that enables me to trust God and live by faith?

1. What have I been given? Grace. Newness of Life.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
(Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
(Romans 6:3-4 ESV)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
(1 John 3:1-2 ESV)

2. Who am I? Chosen. Royal. Holy. Bought. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
(1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:16-17 ESV)

3. What is my inheritance? Everlasting Salvation. Redemption. Heaven.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.                                    (Hebrews 9:15 ESV)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:3-4 ESV)

I’ve been given grace. I’m redeemed. I’ve an heir of the King of Kings. My inheritance is eternal and unfading. Heaven awaits.

I would say that’s enough to trust God. To humble myself and become a servant. To live by faith, which glorifies Him. With this I press on. Not for me, but for Him.

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me, them, and the Bible

I love learning. I always enjoyed school. In fact, if I had the opportunity I would go back for more. There are many fields of study I would enjoy learning more about.  And the idea of becoming an “expert” in a field is quite alluring to a nerd like me.

In this stage of life, what I would like to be an expert most in is parenting!  I want to know all the best developmental activities for my kids so they are the brightest and the best.  I want to know the “right” response in any situation, especially those situations that come as a surprise.  I want to know the most effective methods of instilling values in my kids and saturating their hearts in the Gospel.

So I learn.  I’ve read a lot of parenting materials (started far more than I’ve finished).  I’ve attended conferences.  And I’m no stranger to the phone-a-friend lifeline to gather wisdom and answers from more experienced moms. I’m a resource junkie.

Lately, God has been prodding my heart, turning my attention to something huge–I have minimized the Bible.  Why do I turn first to books, conferences, or friends when I have a parenting dilemma before drenching myself in Scripture? I believe His Word is true.  I use it.  However, I find myself using it as merely a supplement. And even then, I prefer the cliffs notes version that enables me to get to the point without spending too much of my time.  Why do you think Bible publishers started putting topical indexes at the beginning of their Bibles? Most people aren’t interested in reading the whole book, we just want answers.  We want verses that make us feel better.  We want what the Bible can give to us.  What’s in it for me?

The problem with this is that the Bible is not a supplemental resource.  The Bible contains the divine, authoritative, spoken words of God! Every word in the Bible was spoken purposefully and intentionally by God and carries great power.  Paul tells Timothy in his letter,

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV)

Wow.

The ESV Study Bible notes highlight the phrase equipped for every good work, and comment that, “In a broad sense this includes everything that God calls a believer to do. But, in a specific sense, this also supports the doctrine of the “sufficiency of Scripture,” that is, the idea that the truth contained in Scripture is sufficient in all matters pertaining to doctrine and moral behavior.”

This reminds me of the countless times I sat in a room with other Christians answering the icebreaker question, “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have 1 item, what would it be?”  Everyone knows the “best” answer is the Bible.  So should you say the Bible? Nah, that would be cheesy.  You don’t want to go with the churchy answer, especially if it’s not really true.  You need to be more creative.  But you don’t want to be the girl who says, “my flat iron,” either.  Come on.  A) There are no outlets on deserted islands.  B) The island is deserted! No one is there to see what your hair looks like.  And C) There are no mirrors!

(Okay, so maybe most of you have no idea what I’m talking about, but if you are also a Baylor Bear, I’m sure you are totally tracking!)

I want to answer without hesitation, “the Bible.”  And I want to mean it.  I want to be caught up and romanced by the most intimate, life-giving, powerful words ever spoken.  I want to believe passionately that the Scripture is sufficient.

Have you ever read a book you just couldn’t put down?  Maybe you stayed up all night reading until you finished.  Think about this: what if we were captivated by the Bible the way the nation is captivated by The Hunger Games? (No jab here.  I’ve heard the books are amazing, but I have a newborn and can’t afford to lose anymore sleep!).  The Hunger Games may have the power to entertain on massive levels.  But the Bible has the power to make wise for salvation in Jesus and to complete and equip for every good work! 

All of this to say, I’m beginning a journey.  I’m committing to live Biblically.  I want to be a wife Biblically.  I want to parent Biblically.  I want to behave Biblically.  I want to make decisions Biblically… Today I may know very little about what the Bible says about all these things.  I know a lot about what people and books have told me that it says, but I haven’t ingested it myself.

I will be starting a new blog soon that will be narrowly focused on marriage and parenting in the first 5 years.   My desire is to discuss values established in the first five years that can lay a foundation for the next 50 years–according to Scripture.  I want to search through the Bible and talk about marriage and parenting issues according to the knowledge and perspective of the perfect Husband and Father.  God.  He is enough. His Word is enough.

As I approach my fifth anniversary with my husband, as a mom now with 2 kids, I am going to be reflecting on my family’s experiences and drenching myself in what the Bible says. Come with me on the journey.  It’s just me, them, and the Bible.  

Check back for a new link coming soon.

 

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Enduring Passion

I read a blog post yesterday morning by an encouraging new writer I found about being content in the season we are in and not longing for the “next thing.”  That afternoon, I finally sat down with 30 uninterrupted minutes to watch KONY 2012–the Invisible Children film that instantly went viral as young people attempt to see Joseph Kony, the leader of the L.R.A., finally arrested, which would initiate an end to the murders, abductions, rapes, and sex slavery that have dominated children’s lives in regions spreading across Africa for the last decade.

I remember when the first Invisible Children film was released.  I was in college at the time, and it was a BIG deal.  I remember hearing updates periodically over the next year or so about the efforts of these three young men, and the many more who were joining with them to advocate for the children of Uganda.  It was inspiring.  Everyone wanted to be involved.  Then I stopped hearing about it.  I stopped thinking about these children.  I stopped praying for justice and for God to intervene.  And then, I forgot.

I moved on to the “next thing.”  God gave me a glimpse of his heart for young girls trapped in sex trafficking across the globe.  He gave me a glimpse of his heart for the city of Seattle.  Yet I kept finding myself moving on the the “next thing.”  Not because I stopped caring, or because my heart was never really broken for these people in the first place.  I moved on because I stopped feeling empowered, or even capable, of producing any real change.  I gave up hope.  I found a new “passion”; something maybe I could actually play a part in.  But when I ended up feeling just as small and insignificant in my desire to advocate for whatever the new cause was, or circumstances changed in my life that shifted me away from the new burden, I moved on again.

As I watched the KONY 2012 film, I was amazed to see what young people across the world have done in the last 8 years.  I knew the Invisible Children organization was still around, but I had no idea how hard people were fighting for change, nor did I know the extent of Joseph Kony’s influence and renown.  Not everyone moved on.  Not everyone forgot.  Many maintained an enduring passion.

God began to show me yesterday that too often, I stop looking into His face and asking for more of His heart for the people He has called me to advocate for.  I encounter His heart and am filled with a passion for Jesus and His purposes on the earth, and then the passion dies when I start fighting and believing for breakthrough with my own strength instead of His.  I simply grow weary.

But I was not created to be weary.  I was created to maintain an enduring passion by the strength and power of the Holy Spirit.  I am small and insignificant on my own, but I was created to partner with the most powerful ruler in Heaven and on Earth and change the world.

Jesus, make me a woman of enduring passion.

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How To Steer a Hot Air Balloon

Most of the time God speaks to me through images He puts in my mind or through catching my attention with something in my natural world.  Just the other day He spoke something very significant to me through the hole in my TOMS shoes made by my big toes.  Yesterday, as I was asking God about a directional piece to my life, He put an image of a hot air balloon in my mind and said that He is the wind.  So naturally, I googled how to steer hot air balloons.  These are the first two sentences I read: “The short answer is that you don’t.  However, it isn’t as uncontrolled as that might seem.”

What I learned is this: a hot air balloon pilot gathers weather reports and releases small helium balloons to determine wind direction and speed, paying attention to the differences in the layers of wind at different altitudes.  Then, after deciding whether these conditions are safe to fly in, the pilot chooses a launch site based on his findings that will carry his balloon to the appropriate landing site.  He doesn’t just launch from anywhere, but the launch site is specifically and carefully chosen.  

Do you ever feel like the place you are in was not part of the plan?  You were supposed to go from point A to point B and now you find yourself somewhere completely off the map. Did you choose the wrong life map?  Was one of your key decisions a wrong one? Did you misunderstand your calling and vision?  I am quite familiar with all of these questions.

Maybe I heard God wrong.  Or, maybe the movement of God would not have carried me from the launch site I planned to fly from to my desired landing site.  Maybe He had to take me first to a new launch site.  There may actually be many more launch sites ahead of me, just to get me to the 1 that the winds of God can carry me from to the landing site I am longing for!

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3

Like the hot air balloon pilot, who rather than focus on a landing site or the flight itself, chooses to focus on seeking out the movement of the wind, I want to to choose to focus on seeking out the moves of God, rather than focus on the end goal or even the journey itself.

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19

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Graceful Parenting?

I started reading Give Them Grace recently, expecting to learn a better balance between consistent discipline and second…or third, chances.  Instead, I crashed hard into the revelation that my parenting is about as much “Christian,” as childbirth is “fun.”

What’s missing? The Gospel.  The real, present power of the Gospel, and not just in my communication with Norah, but in my own heart.  I have idolized good behavior (the book calls this “good parenting in, good child out”).  I have exchanged the truth for a lie.  I have stood on the shaky foundation that if I’m a good parent, my kids will end up being good, Jesus-loving, world-changing people.  When actually, God never promised me that.  The truth is, there are no promises in the Bible that even our best parenting will produce good children.  (Yes, some of you are recalling a verse in Proverbs that says if we train a child in the way he should go, he will not depart from it, but the proverbs are wise sayings, not conditional promises.)  As hard as I try, I will never be a good enough mommy to save and redeem my children.  And that’s not discouraging, it’s liberating, because Jesus is good enough!  His death is good enough.  His grace is good enough.

I won’t spoil too much of the book, but I will share some of the ways it has realigned my heart, exposing my own idolatry and self-dependency, and allowing the Holy Spirit to begin invading the moments of Norah’s disobedience and speaking into the times of discipline.

Two months shy of 2 years old, Norah is in the thick of the “fit-throwing” stage.  She walks into the room with her box of cereal.  “No cereal, Norah, it’s almost time for dinner.” Cue fit.  She swipes my iPhone when I’m not paying attention.  “No phone right now Norah, we are going to play with something else together.”  Wait for it…and…fit! I smell something with a slightly offensive odor.  “Norah, mommy needs to change your diaper, please come here.” There it is, the GIANT fit.  My instinctual response to her fits is this: frustration, embarrassment, exhaustion, and impatience.  My response when I’m living my day centered on what the Gospel of God’s grace has done for me is this: empathy and repentance.  Rather than being overwhelmed by her misbehavior, the Holy Spirit overwhelms me with the weight of my own sin and the abundant grace gifted to me that lifts the weight away.  You see, like Norah, I throw fits with God.  When He says, “wait,” I throw a fit.  When He takes something away that I think I really want, I throw a fit.  When He leads me into a situation that I don’t like, or His spoken promises over my life are not fulfilled according to my expectations or my time frame, I throw a fit.

It may not look like Norah’s fits–you won’t find me throwing my head back and thrashing my body around on the floor (hopefully)–but my heart is thrashing and struggling in the same way.  What you will see is my heart hardening, bitterness trying desperately to take root, and a strong apathy fighting to gain control of the purpose and vision God has put on my life.  I make sure He knows I’m upset, usually by some form of the silent treatment.  I start distrusting Him.  I doubt His character–the character that has been proven consistent and unchanging to me day after day, year after year.

Then He disciplines me in the sweetest, most loving way.  He gets my attention.  He draws me close.  He opens my blinded eyes to my sin.  He leads me with His kindness to repentance.  He forgives me.  He makes me new.

This is the grace I want Norah to see living in me.  Not just the grace of the second chance…or third chance.  The grace that grabs me the first time.  The grace of an undeserved love and unearned sacrifice that draws me out of the pit, leaving my sin down there, buried and forgotten.  The grace that gives me the power to overcome the sin that awaits me up ahead.

I’m tired of fighting for good behavior from Norah.  It won’t satisfy me and it won’t save her.  Rather, thanks to the Holy Spirit, and in faith, I’m filled up and overflowing with the strength and power to choose to grab Norah with each act of disobedience and fall back together into the grace of the Gospel of Jesus.

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Sweet Return

It’s so weird being back here–Seattle.  Stepping off the plane, I felt like I was returning home from a trip.  And not a long one; not like I had been gone 6 months.  I didn’t feel like I was visiting.  As I began to see people, it felt like seeing the people I walk with daily- the people I live life with.  Yet at the same time, there was a familiar rush of grief and mourning.  I wept through most of worship on Sunday at Mosaic.  There were tears of pain and disappointment, tears of longing and confusion,  tears of grief and brokenness.  And at the same time there were tears of thankfulness and surrender, tears of joy and hope.  My emotions felt thrown into a bin like the lost and found, with mis-matches and broken pairs, all lonely.  Not the kind of lonely of aloneness, but the lonely of the longing for “home.”  Where is home? Will it be a return to the home I once knew, or an adoption into a new one? And in all the longing, and wondering, and dreaming, it’s the controllability that stings the most-because I have none.  But what I do have is peace.  Peace in knowing that I’m at the mercy of the one whose name is Merciful.  The one who does have control, the one who carries me in the palm of His hand, is faithful and true.  He is the safest place.

I’m beginning to realize that as much as I miss Seattle as a city, Mosaic as a church, and my friends as a family, what I long for is not a return to those specific things (although I wouldn’t complain).  The longing in my heart is for outward living.  What I grieve is the loss of a full, intentional lifestyle of deep community and Kingdom vision.  I miss purpose beyond myself.  I miss feeling a part of a bigger plan with a unified body of friends.  And I want it back.  I won’t let go.  I want friends to pray with, to fully know and be known by, to change my city with, to change the world with.

I have felt forgotten. But the truth is: I’m not forgotten.  But I have forgotten.  I have forgotten to fight for what truly fills my soul.  I have forgotten to demand more from myself.  To demand faith and not unbelief.  To demand hope and not fear.  To demand relationship and not loneliness.  To demand purpose and not accept survival.  I can’t live in intentionality when I walk in disappointment.  God promises to set the lonely into families, but how I choose to expose my heart and my life in my new family here is up to me.  How much I choose to give, to sacrifice, to receive…up to me.

In Jamie’s words, “I’m so over it.” I’m over the complacency.  I’m over the focusing just on myself and my family.  I’m over accepting that “life is just like this in Dallas.”  The only life I am willing to accept at this point is one full of faith, lived in power, changed by bold, intentional community, and marked by the supernatural signs and wonders that accompany the Presence of God.  Anything less is just, well…empty.

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