Considering the Pursuit

During Lent I have been studying Isaiah along with thousands of women across the globe with SheReadsTruth. (I highly recommend them, HeReadsTruth and KidsReathTruth as well y’all) To be honest, Isaiah isn’t all that uplifting and hopeful of a book. In fact it’s chocked full of judgment and discipline on God’s own people.

Yowza…not what I was planning for when I set out in Lent.

I mean yes, there’s valleys full of armies coming for God’s chosen, promises of their captivity and judgment strewn across page after page of Isaiah. But God has a way of showing up in some pretty beautiful ways in the midst of our own plotting and destruction, our own demises we’ve brought on ourselves doesn’t He?

It’s hard to see the beauty of God when we are facing the ugliness of battle, the destruction of selves and lives based upon our own pursuit of other things. When we attempt to rescue ourselves, we find hope and faith are only in what we can accomplish, what we can strengthen in our own might. Even in Isaiah’s prophecy here in chapter 22 you can spot God trying to point them back to Him, to see the error of their own ways and call to mind His pursuit of His people once more.

You saw that there were many breaches in the walls of the city of David. You collected water from the lower pool. You counted the houses of Jerusalem so that you could tear them down to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the walls or the water of the ancient pool, but you did not look to the one who made it, or consider the one who created it long ago.” (Isaiah 22:9-11, CSB)

We miss His creation, what He does and how He works when we pursue rescue on our own terms, in our own means, by our own strength and through our own wills. We miss HIM in the midst of pursuing after lesser things as He pursues us. Our flesh likes to tell us we can make it by in our ways, and then just give God the consideration of our plan. But we miss it all when we don’t consider the pursuit He is undertaking for us. For our hearts, minds, wills and ultimately us.

He desires us, we are His. And yet we find ourselves making weapons of war when He attempts to discipline us. We scurry to build walls upon the things in which He created and set forth long ago. We look to our hands to be our rescue and do not see the Creator reflected in them, instead we see ourselves and our means of saving. We don’t see the nail scars, but our own scars of our flesh.

While the words of Isaiah are hard to swallow, and truly reminding me of the current status of a nation, I am finding God is woven deeply into his words…the beauty of God pursuing us even in the hard, even in discipline and judgment, in order to bring us back. To remind us of Him and Who He is to us and for us and in us.

Thus I am reminded of these words from Tobymac, that ring so true in context of Isaiah, even in the difficult and hard of discipline…

My heart did all that it could to undue me,

but You loved me enough to pursue me.

 

Curses, Donkeys and Truth

God is not a man, that He should lie,

Nor a son of man, that He should repent.

Has He said, and will He not do?

Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Those words from Numbers. Words spoken by Balaam to Balak, a man unwilling to listen. Balak had come to Balaam to curse the nation of Israel, but God has His plans and His words. He used Balaam, who just verses before seemed to be attempting to channel a curse against the people of Israel.

This goes further back to Balaam being summoned by Balak, and thus giving his words to the highest bidder, regardless of their intent or content. Yet God would not allow it. Back in the 22nd chapter of Numbers, God tells him flat out “only the word which I speak to you-that you shall do.” This evolves into the encounter with the donkey and the Angel of the Lord, where Balaam is confronted with the state of his heart on pursuing his own way instead of the one in which God sent him out on.

So we come back to these words here, Balaam’s second prophecy from God to Balak. These words y’all…

I don’t know about you but today my very soul needed to shout them. To myself. He doesn’t lie to us. We may do that to ourselves, but God most certainly does not. And we are really good at lying to ourselves on alot of things that God has never said. Then we turn and look to what He has said and have the audacity to doubt and question if what He said was true. Y’all, I am standing right in this guilt along with you…because we are all guilty of lying to ourselves and then turning the tables on God on what He’s said to us.

I know that there have been times I have put God in human form that is nothing resembling Christ. That I stand in reverence one moment worshiping Him and then turn and act like nothing He has said is true. I don’t love others as I love Him, I don’t honor my parents as I should, I grow jealous of others and their wisdom/platform/ministry. I don’t see the good He’s working in me because I turn my lies into solid truth about all things.

When He speaks, He makes good on it. He has proven over and over again that He is trustworthy, faithful and so very good. He cannot be pulled down to human form as we deem it and then question whether what He says is right, good and true. It’s us that needs the work, that has to rectify that while we cannot understand it some of the time, He is able. He is unchanging. He cannot renege on the promises He has given us. It is our responsibility as those who live in Christ to take those promises as truth, conforming and transforming our thinking to view life through that lens and not the human lies and doubt we so often jump to believing instead.


 

What truths do you need to believe from God today? What doubts have you supplanted in your heart, your mind that He’s told you to have no fear in?

These are things I wrestle with still, but know no matter what your heart and mind attempt to tell you that He is not us, He is God. He is good and true. He will make good on what He says and He will do what He says He will.

Bachelor Wednesday

Y’all, I know I said I’d be doing this weekly but if I’m honest I got really sick of watching the Bachelor the last couple of weeks. The main reason being I couldn’t understand the attraction and competition of these women to Nick.

I know some of this show is just the push to get “known” and then capitalize on that to be an internet ad for various products. I’m not naive enough to think they all are in love with this man…and y’all it’d be hard to anyways.

But I know deep down, many of these women are searching for love. They long to be filled with a purpose and mend a heart that seems to have been broken in various ways and by various people. I look at the finalists after watching Monday’s episode and think about how each of them are some pretty awesome ladies, ones that I would more than likely be friends with in a given context. When you have edited content of these women’s stories you can put together a little about why they chose to come onto a national television program to compete for a man. You can see the lies they have been sold in that they need him to make life better, to complete them, to know what love really is for them.

I think that’s why I stepped away from the last few weeks of watching and writing on it, because it just made me sad. That we as women, as a society, have accepted that this is what love looks like or that is what we should be pursuing. Instantaneous physical attraction and just a few hours spent with someone means a match for the rest of our lives? It’s an immature approach to relationships, and most importantly, to a commitment to marriage.

I wonder if that bill of goods is now the generally accepted law among my generation and the Millenials. I wonder if deep down we are okay with the dynamic of our culture in pursuing takeaway relationships instead of deep-seeded growth with one another. Instead of being known by another person deeply, we’d rather have the immediate perception of coupledom and being wanted?

 

Sacrificial Identity

Am I sacrificing my identity to be identified solely in Christ?

Oof.

I scribbled that question across the top of my bulletin, knowing the Holy Spirit was pushing me into a very hard question to address, right in the middle of Sunday morning church.

Y’all. I don’t know how you get when the Spirit starts doing a work in you, but I tend to want to have a conversation. And you really can’t do that with your pastor digging into the Word with 200 of your other congregants.

Oh, and to think I thought that was it. Nope. Then came the checklist of things I choose to make my identity rather than Christ. Things I put above that list that I had not even thought identified me: judgemental, self-righteous, better than, unforgiving, haughty. Ugh. Y’all, it was not a pretty scene there in that row. Because God was doing a work I had been praying for Him to do, but it wasn’t on my terms. It wasn’t in my controlled environment to address and respond to in time.

Nope…He was there pointing out in the very Scripture I had been reading the week prior, the same Scripture that Aaron had planned to preach on months ago, that my identity was only to be in Him. That at the root of it all, of who I think I am, who I really am, and who others see is the creation that He made me to be, to identify me as-His. That my identity alone should be in Him and not in other things, people, roles or sins.

Yep, sins…because whether I accept it or not, often my identity is in the sin I choose to take for myself. The little ones that don’t seem to matter much in the day to day but that soon become what I am identified as-poor attitude, condescending, unloving, spiteful. It all has to be sacrificed if we want to be known as nothing but Christ’s.

It means choosing grace, hope, love, kindness, goodness, meekness in every single thing. It means understanding that the identities we desire for ourselves, whether they are roles, jobs, prefixes, or any other good thing are not the very best thing for us, they are not His intention for us. And so to be identified in Christ, all the lesser things have to be cast aside, sacrificed and laid down. They must.

If I sat here and said it was easy, then I’d be identified a liar as well because it is not y’all. And it’s not a once and done, it’s a continual fight to not pick up those things we think are good at identifying ourselves as and choose Christ instead. But as we move into our identity being solely in Christ, we find the choosing can be easier, the fight not as hard, and the sin identifiable before we engage in it. It will also mean wrestling with areas we didn’t know we were identified with, sins we couldn’t possibly be connected to, and choices that we hadn’t realized we’d made in order to be identified as anything other than in Christ.

Becoming the Woman He’s Praying For

Recently I was looking back through the archives here on the site, pulling some content to expand on for my book. A couple of falls ago, I wrote on praying for your future husband. As I looked through several of those posts, I realized I hadn’t really been paying much attention to that part of my prayer life in the last few months.

Part of the reason (or maybe all of it?) is as I have grown older I am coming to terms with my singleness, that perhaps it’s just not in the story of my life to be married. As hard as that is to type, it’s harder to face head/heart on. If I am really vulnerable with y’all here, I don’t think it’s truth though. I believe firmly God does not give us hearts of companionship with another if it’s not meant to be part of the story of our lives. I think we often supplant the need for His Presence with that of a person, pushing into relationships or elevating dating/marriage to the level of our relationship with Christ (that’s a whole other chapter in my book…).

As I started to kind of pull through the mess that was my heart, God’s will, desires and my writing on the topic I started to lean into a really hard question, and it’s where I land today:

Am I becoming the woman that my future husband is already praying for?

If he is praying for me, just as I am praying for him, would it not seem to fit that I would be pursuing the difficult, leaning into God, working through producing fruits of the Spirit? Before I get too far into this, let me also say that we shouldn’t base our growth as a Christian, as a person, on anyone’s desire for who we should be to them….Not in the least y’all, so don’t start down that twisted path of becoming someone you were not created to be. No, what I am pointing to is if my prayers for him are for him to become who God has created him to be, then I should be focusing myself as well on living into God’s will and design for my life.

Maybe the question needs to look more like this…

Am I becoming the woman God has been desiring me to be in order fulfill His will in my life?

I shouldn’t desire to fulfill a standard of a man, but when the man whom God has created for me to be his partner is fervently praying for me to be in God’s will, for protection from the enemy, to grow closer to God? How can I not desire those same things for myself? When I look at the ways to pray for him, am I also praying and seeking those same things for my own life?

Maybe it’s not about praying more for a spouse but being intentional to pray for that person to be who God created him to be, and then also praying for you to be the woman who God created you to be…After all, He’s still in the business of answering prayers if we listen and pray in His will, seeking wisdom and relationship with Him above all others.

Early Mornings, Fear and Encouragement

I greeted Friday with a dose of early morning reading…and by early I mean 3:30am.

I know, right?

I have been both actively and passively avoiding my own passion this year if I am honest, and what are Fridays good for if not honesty? Do you ever do that?

You know deep down you are passionate about a thing, a calling, a hobby, a goal, something. You keep getting pulled right back to it even when you think you’re over it. Yes I have been writing here, but I have neglected the book I have outlined and worked on chapters sporadically on for years.

I told myself 2017 would be the year it got finished, that no matter what came from it and where my heart and God’s will aligned on it, it would be finished. It would get shipped, as Seth Godin likes to say.

But that’s not been the case. I actively chose other projects that led me further from working on it. I pursued excuses of living situation, computer malfunctions and further research. I pointed to my complete lack of experience and place at the table. I know I have talked about disobedience and the like over the last few weeks, but honestly it’s like choosing to not parent. To sit idly by on the phone, the computer, the tv or any number of other things instead of tending to a child.

So at 4am this morning I ran across this quote in a book I recently received (and y’all if you have one person who says “GO DO THIS.” you are far more blessed than you realize…and I am super thankful for the quiet encouragement of a person when I haven’t really believed I had it in me to do this)…it’s from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles: 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Y’all….when we play small we tell others it’s okay to be small, to live in excuses and be okay with being less than. OUCH. and WOW.

This kicked my tail, and I keep coming back to it this morning over and over. Seeing just how much we fear how awesome we truly are instead of how lacking we are not. Maybe today you need to shine, just like I need to step fully into light that’s been cast, to finish and be fully who I have prayed and sought counsel on being-a writer with a finished book.

Let’s liberate the fear of who we think we aren’t and be who we truly are…AWESOME. And maybe that means wakeups at 4am, encouraging those you know who haven’t realized the fear they are living in, or it means putting all the excuses and distractions aside to do that thing.

Daffodils in Winter

SONY DSCI cut daffodils out of my front yard the other afternoon.  Daffodils…Y’all it is the last day of February.  The high today here in Nashville? 72. This is ridiculous.

I am having NONE OF IT. NONE.

This winter kid is having serious withdrawals of no snow, freezing temps and big sweaters. My sinuses hate me, my allergies are in full swing and I do not want to look at pastel colored things just yet bunny rabbit.

I want my winter.

In my tantrum of missing winter, I had somehow misplaced that Lent begins Wednesday. As in tomorrow. I have been looking toward Lent in many respects as a means of shifting thoughts and heart-dwellings more towards Christ and less in the muck I have found myself sinking into in the new year. While I have bemoaned the lack of said winter, I can now see the hope coming forth earlier as a good thing. It means a time of seeing my need laid bare for Christ and the gift that is salvation brought forth at Easter.

I may not have liked spring reminding me of the hope, the joy and the need for Christ but I can now understand more than ever how deeply my soul needed the newness of life coming from the earth…reminding me that from that very earth is where I came and that without Christ, it is where I would return.

Lent can be the focus as spring ushers in the coming reminders of salvation, resurrection and life in Christ boldly. It’s a time to give space, time, attention and focus to our need for Christ and His love for us that was so great He beared it all for us. When I want to choose discouragement over a lack of snow, I can remember the joy that is the site of yellow daffodils springing up each morning and evening, every day on my table, and what that life represents to me as a fellow ground-dweller.

Spring would look much different without the hope of salvation, the promise of freedom and the love of a Savior.