The Art of Asking

I resisted the impulse to turn on the car radio. I sat in the car going to work, and I submitted to this beckoning to silence and listening.

My devotion time prior to this was very unfocused. Really, peace eludes me often when I am praying for myself. Then, when I listen to the ache in my spirit for specific people and I press into to prayer for them, my own burden lifts. And it did some this morning.
Still, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me concerning my life circumstances; what I should/shouldn’t do; how I ought to think about all the above. Sometimes, praying for myself (filling space with words) doesn’t help me hear.
 
QUIET YOUR HEART & ASK
I tend to want God to give answers to questions I didn’t ask. In my hurried mind, I don’t have time to ask the question. Give me the answer first, like some sort of Divine Jeopardy game. Now, I know it can work like this sometimes (He gives an answer to a question before we ask). When I haven’t known what to ask (or my questions don’t get to the heart of the issue), God has opened my eyes to truths I didn’t know I needed.
But when, if I took the time to quiet my heart, I would know what to ask, and I don’t, I hinder my own ability to receive. The folly in my impatience is that I refrain from quieting my heart before God to present my concerns in humility, and stubbornly expect to receive with clenched fists.
LISTEN 
Technically, it is still praying, but it’s not speaking so much that helps. Surely, He could speak above the noise of my own excessive pleas and grab my attention, but He knows what I need. I don’t need Him to be louder. I need to be quieter. I need to quiet my mind, intentionally; ask the question and listen for the answer. It seems obvious that in order to hear, I need to listen. But I neglect that essential element, as obvious as it may be.
NO, REALLY, LISTEN
Ask the question. Be silent. Listen for the answer. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks plainly, and I make it more confusing than it ought to be. I hear an answer I don’t like, and say, “I don’t think I heard You right.” I ask others to pray, I beg God for wisdom, and I refuse to listen. I have refused to listen.
Sitting in the car this morning, I asked a question, and in His kindness, He gave me an answer I didn’t like. He loves me too much to spare me the momentary pain of “No.”
His “No” is like a big hug to me. It stirs up a lament that only He can soothe, and He loves to care for me in this way. He is kind enough to speak exactly what I need to hear without fear of my response. His love is strong enough to lean on. I can put all my weight on His all-knowing goodness.
I can believe and trust Him completely. Even when it hurts. This resting & trusting  in Him began today with a silent car, a quiet heart & asking.

How I Look At You

You love when I’m hurting
How I look at You
When my soul is yearning
How I look at You
And I am delighted by Your Presence
Fulfilled in Your Presence
Even when the pain is still present
I will look at You
And when I do
Your smile down on me
Your heart bursts to hear me sing
The fullness of my every feeling
And You delight in and You love me
And I delight in and I love You
My King
I am amazed by You
My gaze is for You
And You dance around me
A whirlwind around me
Together in the Throne Room
My Bride Groom, My King

Hope

Sure of what you hope for
Certain of what you do not see.
I’ve tried to muster up faith for
years without hoping.

Without risking
disappointment.
Reaching, whisp’ring
Healing ointment.

And hope for what?
What could hold the weight?
Longings glut
and eternally satiate?

In Christ alone
my pain abates.
My desire, my shalom,
Joy anticipates.

Timely Reminder

When I got home last night, I knew I couldn’t go straight to bed. My mind was running, going nowhere but going in a frenzy. “Well, if I cannot make another’s heart my home, might as well make this room more like a home,” I said out loud to no one, as awfully melodramatic as it sounds. But I proceeded to turn on a couple lamps and sit in my arm chair with my journal.

It was a dark place. And I gave my thoughts room to roam. This is how I journal. I write down my feelings and ask for God to lead my thoughts. Though I didn’t get full relief, I did settle on knowing that God made me for Himself.

I slept restlessly and fought the morning until I had no choice but to get up. But then I got outside. It was cloudy, with a slight breeze. The greens seemed greener, and I wanted nothing more than to roll down the windows and drive with nothing on my mind. Just me and the wind, traffic roaring and birds singing.

Though I longed to keep driving, responsibility stopped my wheels. I sat down at my desk inside. When I opened my e-mail, cup of tea in hand, I found the link to this article – Will I Be Single Forever?

And the words hit home.

The reason we grow discontent in our singleness (or our job, or marriage, or car, or children, or anything else) is because that person or thing (whatever it is) looks so big and eternity looks so small. If you hold a coin close enough to your face, it will obscure an entire city skyline.

That’s what I was doing. And it happened so seamlessly. I lost focus on eternity with as much ease as a toddler losing focus on his green beans.

When our present circumstances look bigger than eternity, we have lost perspective. When we lose perspective, we tend to load too much of our contentment onto something never designed to bear the weight. We look to a spouse, a friend, a vacation, or an accomplishment to give us the happiness they never can.

I’ve known this. I could have written this article. How quickly I forget! Even in my despair, I knew I could not rest my hopes on a man. I literally said those words last night, but my heart wasn’t hearing it.

The more restless we are for the new creation — the more our thoughts and emotions are captivated by it — the less we’ll be shaken by disappointment in this life and the more we’ll see every present blessing not as a final destination but as a signpost pointing toward eternity. The more restless we become, the more contented we are.

God is so faithful to remind me of truth I am so prone to forget. This world and all it’s pain does not get the final word. And every blessing is only a taste of an unshakable reality to come.

Eden was lovely fragility. The new creation will be gorgeous stability. Eden was like an exquisite china bowl — beautiful but breakable. The new creation will be like the Alps — breathtaking and immovable.

Live New

Stop hating yourself before
You accept what you hated you for.
You’re tired of fighting, I’m sure,
but step away from the anchor
you want to drop in these
poisonous, restless seas.

It’s the waves you must fight,
while you rest in the Light.
Speak peace to the wind
And sail on from your sin.

Because it’s not who you are,
though it rises from within.
You’ve been given a new heart.
Stop hating your own skin,
as you war against your sin.

You are new. Live new.
Free from condemnation,
Free to deny what is no longer you.
Accept this liberation
and live new.

 

Tell Me Why

Tell me why I should pry
these hands apart and try
to make and maintain
a hidden peaceful terrain
that no one else sees,
if it only blesses me.

My child, let Me explain.
Your home is my home.
The places you roam
are under my reign.

I plant flowers undiscovered
in fields under covers of snow.
Where only I know, they grow.
I make stars and galaxies
far from the sight of technology.
And I swing planets on a string
beyond your wildest dreams.
I form wonders on the floor
of oceans yet unexplored.
I set the path for birds to fly
where no heart can know to sigh
or lament its fall from the sky.
My thoughts and my creative care
reaches there.

What do you believe about Me?
I do not neglect the lonely.
It blesses me to bless you with peace,
And someday you will share
what has been hidden with care.

Fyodor

I want to say to you, about myself, that I am a child of this age, a child of unfaith and scepticism, and probably (indeed I know it) shall remain so to the end of my life. How dreadfully has it tormented me (and torments me even now) this longing for faith, which is all the stronger for the proofs I have against it. And yet God gives me sometimes moments of perfect peace; in such moments I love and believe that I am loved; in such moments I have formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me. This creed is extremely simple; here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, and more perfect than the Saviour; I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one. I would even say more: If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth.

Letter To Mme. N. D. Fonvisin (1854), as published in Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (1914), translated by Ethel Golburn Mayne, Letter XXI, p. 71

Stay Awake & Become

This has been my lifelong struggle – simply getting out of bed in the morning. It should be simple, right? I’m not talking about difficulty with waking, but more so staying awake and physically moving my limbs towards activity.

I was almost successful this morning! I woke up and got out of bed when my alarm went off, stayed out of bed… grabbed a pillow and blanket and laid down on the floor. This is progress, people! Haha. You’ve got to laugh at yourself every once in a while.

There is this “5 Second Rule” authored by the brilliant Mel Robbins, that I have been attempting.

So here’s the one-liner definition of the 5 second rule:

If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

She recommends, when your alarm goes off, count down – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – and act! Which is a great idea, and I am going to try it again. Clearly, I haven’t perfected the method, given the example from this morning. If only my self-sabotaging instincts weren’t so strong! My brain tries to talk me out of action while I am counting. I think the trick is to only think about counting and move – not to give space to the voice in your head talking you out of a good thing.

Becoming 

On a tangent (which is essentially related, but you’ll have to read on to find out how), I rented “Becoming Jane” from the library, and it’s a heartbreaking story of the life of Jane Austen – who, though she wrote extensively of love and marriage, never married. I knew there wasn’t going to be a happy ending – but it rattled me a bit anyway. As realistic as I tend to be, I do like a happy ending. (Though, of course, not marrying is not the worst thing that could happen, by a long shot.)

But it reminded me of a simple fact – no matter whether or not I ever marry, there is one person I will have to spend the rest of my life with… myself.

I share this to say that there is value in becoming someone you would like to be around. And I would like to become someone who can get out of bed in the morning… And someone who gets outside and talks to people. Someone who loves without fear.

So I’ll try the 5 Second Rule Again.

For the love of the God Man who first loved me; for the praise of Him in His glory.

1 John 49-10 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

 

Don’t Let Your Spirit Die Before Your Body Does

It was for my 26th birthday. We had been planning on getting tattoos together for years, and finally we scheduled an appointment and saved up the money.

The most obvious reason that I got this tattoo is that I am a Jon Foreman fan, and these are lyrics from his song Terminal.

(The lines before and after go like this:

“…Some folks die in offices one day at a time.

They could live a hundred years,

But their soul’s already died.

Don’t let your spirit die before your body does.

We’re terminal…”

These lyrics could be unpacked and expounded upon. So here is what these words mean to me, especially now that they are a part of me. (Disclaimer: It has nothing to do with dying in an office.)

To begin with, I’d like to unpack my own understanding of what the spirit is. In certain instances, some assert that the word “spirit” may appropriately be used interchangeably with soul, or as a separate but intricately connected compliment to the soul. It may also refer to consciousness, or zeal, or the part of us that is in communication with the Spirit of God and the supernatural.

I’ll try to address all of the above a little more closely.

The Human Spirit in Relationship with God

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” C.S. Lewis

Therefore, I would argue that the spirit does not die, but either resides in eternity with Jesus or separated from Him in hell. So, you might ask, “Well then, why would you get a tattoo that says ‘don’t let your spirit die..’ if indeed your spirit cannot die?”

That is a very good question.

A figurative death

The simplest explanation is that I am talking figuratively. Kind of. Here, I would like to touch on a few of my own personal examples.

If my spirit is numb, it cannot receive from the His Spirit. If I am not in communication with the Spirit of God, I am living by the flesh – doing whatever I feel like, giving in to harmful thought patterns and behaviors, and this is very much a living death. In this state, I get very cynical and bitter. Quite literally hating everyone (myself included), when disconnected from and grieving the Spirit of God. Everything is awful and nothing is beautiful to me. Everything is irredeemable. Not even a majestic sunrise can touch this hardened heart. I gossip, slander, and act out of irritation. I am simply mean and utterly depressed within this spiritual death. The author of Ephesians summed up my dead spirit aptly- “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander… along with all malice.”

 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:29-31

 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13

The fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22-23

Look at all that beautiful fruit. That is the kind of life I want to live; the kind of person I want to be. Joy. Love. Peace. With that, I can appreciate and enjoy life; the beauty in nature and mankind. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. With these, I can be a blessing instead of a curse, and receive blessing with a grateful heart. Self-control. Here’s the kicker, the hardest fruit to bear, but so worthwhile. Self-control saves yourself and your loved ones needless heartache. Life in the Spirit is truly the recipe for abundant life. With Christ in me, I can forgive like I have been forgiven, and let go of hate.

Referring once again to Ephesians, this bounty of this fruit of the Spirit is available to us as Christians if we do not grieve the Holy Spirit, and we “let no corrupting talk come out of [our] mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Being Present, Consciousness

Now, for another perspective on the spirit life, let’s look at consciousness. I am naturally excessively analytical and live much of my life within my own head. This life in communication with the Spirit of God is not one of mere introspection. “Don’t let your spirit die before your body does.” This reminder to me yells, “Hey, you’re alive in this body. Live like it! Get out of your head, and experience the present.”

I wrote in my journal on my 26th birthday, “Every birthday is a reminder that I haven’t died yet.” This is partly a reflection on my depression and hopeful expectation to die.

God has not granted that request, so He must have a reason for me to be here. That reason does not include preoccupation with my own thoughts, avoiding the lush beauty of life in the present, and avoiding the love that I can give and receive. The spirit in this body engaged with the Spirit of God is to be active through this body, actively engaging in the lives around me, forgetting about self-consciousness to live for others in each precious moment in light of eternity.

In Other Words

Don’t let your spirit die before your body does,” means to me: Stay alive to the life Christ has given to you, treasuring every moment until the last. Be the person you are in the Savior. Dead to self, alive in Jesus. — All of this is not possible without a relationship with Jesus Christ, accepting the sacrifice He made to redeem us, save us from the death we were headed to for eternity and the death we were living in separated from Him. He is our source of life in the spirit as well as in the body. The source of all life.

“16 O Lord, by these things men live,

and in all these is the life of my spirit.

Oh restore me to health and make me live!

17 Behold, it was for my welfare

that I had great bitterness;

but in love you have delivered my life

from the pit of destruction,

for you have cast all my sins

behind your back.” –Isaiah 38:16-17

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:10

Peace to you all. Hope this has blessed you to read as much as it has blessed me to write.

The Job You Were Never Given

Here is a sample of a conversation that happens periodically:
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“Honey, I’m a mom. It’s my job to worry.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard these words from my own mother (props to my mom). Other people’s moms like to figuratively adopt me as an object of their concern. I love their nurturing tendencies and care towards their children. Their attention and care for me is so incredibly cherished and valued. But I do not want their worry.

The fact is that it’s not your job. It is no one’s job, not even if you’re really that person’s mom. Please forgive me if this sounds harsh. Yet, I see no room in the scripture for excusing worry.

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

Matthew 6:31 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’”

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Luke 12:25 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

I believe this applies to worrying about other people’s lives as well. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your child’s life? to anyone’s life? Correct me if I am missing something, but I don’t see any exceptions. Jesus does not say here, “Do not worry, unless you are a mom.” Or “…unless you are held responsible for people under your care.” 

Regardless of whether it is our own lives, or the lives of our loved ones, Jesus can handle it. Our worry exhibits a lack of faith and trust. The God of the universe has got this. You not only don’t have to worry, you are commanded not to. How kind is that command? It is the best for us and everyone around us.