Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Father's Love Overflowing Into Decision

Can man escape the value of his decisions?

I think very often I can downplay the importance of the decisions that I make. Part of this is wishful thinking. I see the consequences of my bad decisions and I want them to go away. If there's a way to reduce the value of the decisions I make, then I can have more peace of mind. The more I begin to think about the meaning and implications behind the things our culture says, the more I see strange some of it is. For example, we live in a culture that pumps our heads full of this message that we have the power to change the world, which implies that our decisions can really make a difference. And yet, when we are faced with the negative consequences of our decisions, people tell us that it's not a big a deal as we think it is and that everyone makes mistakes but what's important is that we get back up and keep believing in ourselves. This would be a really good thing except that most of the time it ends up being a mode of pacification that numbs the pain which is is actually good for me to feel because it's true. It's the natural pain that comes from making decisions that cause negative consequences. It is good to feel this pain deeply so that next time we don't want to make that decision again. I guess what I'm saying is that our culture seems to stress the value of our decisions when it's convenient and to downplay the value of our decisions when it's convenient. What needs to happen is for the value of decisions not to be romanticized or downplayed, subjected to one's own feelings, but to recognized for what they are: full of importance. Decisions do make a difference and there needs to be a reckoning of each individual with the decisions they make and the consequences of those decisions.

"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths." Genesis 3: 6-7

Most reading this have heard a hundred messages on this passage. The one thread of this tapestry I want to focus on is the inherent value of a decision made in the present moment. You can get up right now from where you are reading this, go outside, and talk to the guy walking down the street. You could invite him over for dinner. You could punch him in the face. You could murder him. You could look him in the eyes and tell him that he's deeply loved. All of these things you can do in the present moment and there will be very real consequences to be experienced in the next present moment. Can you see the inherent value of decisions that is connected to your action but yet exists somehow outside of you? You don't get to decide the consequences. One action might leave you feeling guilty while the other action might leave you feeling happy and light of heart. Likely, you will not kill the man and feel happy and light of heart. There's is an inherent value to your decisions that you take part in but you can not change the value of that decisions. It exists outside of you.

You can see this thread of truth clearly in the verses that recount Eve's story. In a moment of time, just like we exist within now, Eve acted out the verb "to eat". She ate. The verse gives the reasoning behind why she ate and also gives the consequences that resulted of her eating. Her decision cannot be romanticized or downplayed. She would hear the very real voice of God moving among the trees and asking, "Where are you?" The voice resounded in the present moment and fell upon Eve's eardrums. "Where are you?" There is a reckoning to be made with each decision. There is a value to them that we cannot alter no matter what our friends or the culture says. This is a good thing. It is good because it is true.

It is a good thing for consequences to happen. In one sense, it is merely the ways things are. One could not appreciate the beauty of a movie unfolding if this truth of decisions and consequences did not exist. We are captivated by movies that depict a man or woman making decisions that have consequences. I think this seems so obvious that we don't realize we actually love watching action and consequence. We relate when we see a coming-of-age story about a boy who learns to be a man. The boy is learning about the consequences of decisions and how they impact both himself and those around him. He learns that they do in fact make a difference for good or for bad. Just like you see Eve make a decision based on what she saw was good, you see the boy in a story learn what is really good. His value comes in line with a standard that exists outside of himself. He learns to see what is good and he grows in making very real decisions that win battles or the love of a woman.

As I picture Eve's teeth sinking into the fruit in a very real present moment in time (not some fairytale), I feel the pain that she felt. For the first time she feels the feeling of shame and wants to cover herself and hide from God. It's the exact same shame that I feel after wrong decisions I make. When I made the decision, I thought I could alter the value of my decisions and control the consequences but I couldn't. Eventually there is the moment I have to respond to my friend who asks me, "How are things going with that girl?" The shame creeps over my skin and I begin physically fidgeting as I spill out the words. There is a reckoning that is happening and it is a good reckoning because I am coming to terms with the truth and value of things that exists completely outside of myself. I made a decision at a moment in time that had real consequences and they are consequences I must accept responsibility for.

We are all that boy in the coming-of-age story that we love and if we don't see ourselves that way, I hope we all can come to recognize ourselves as that boy. Eventually the boy comes face-to-face with a man who won't let him escape and keep defining his own terms. The man looks him in the eye and holds him accountable. The boy knows he can't mess around anymore or there will be consequences. At the same the time the man looks the boy in the eye and says, "You're valuable, you're loved, you're respected, your decisions make a difference, and you have to accept responsibility for all of them. The boy learns this as he walks alongside the man.

You can play all the games that our culture plays trying to redefine and redraw the lines that govern how we should make decisions and what the consequences should be but how have you seen this play out as you honestly examine your own life? How have you seen this play out as you examine the what you know of human history? Can man ultimately escape the consequences of decisions? They end up having a real effect upon the present moment and the man is responsible for causing that effect. Eve held the apple in her hand and made a decision. She brought it to her mouth and her teeth sunk in. Adam did the same. And then they ran. Isn't it haunting that such catastrophe with consequences we still feel today was incapsulated in a single moment of time and with the act of the human mouth biting into fruit? I see this so clearly in my own life. So much catastrophe encapsulated in one moment and they are things I am still haunted by. I assessed the fruit, saw that it was to my liking and took a bite. My decision mattered deeply.

I hope, in writing this, to encourage myself and you that decisions have unchanging value. Last week, I wrote about how the Father's love is meant to overflow into obedience. In light I what I write now, I think it will help to think of connecting our experience of the Father's love with our decision-making capacity, otherwise known as our "will". Most of our wills are very weak - I know mine is. Once we connect the Father's love to our will so that it influences our decision-making, we will find ourselves growing and maturing. We will find ourselves establishing ourselves in the love of God.

A good question to ask in closing is this: how does God define love? God shows his love for us in this, that even while we were sinners, Christ died for us. If this is how God defines love, how can we love in the same way? Can you make the opposite assessment of Eve and say, "I see that Jesus is good for food, that he is a delight to the eyes, and that he is to be desired for making one wise?" Then can you take a bite, in other words, make a decision in the present moment, with all of its' value and impending consequence, and say, "Even while those around me are sinners, I will die for them. I will go to great lengths to show them the love of God that has been shown to me?" Isn't this what it means to follow Christ? He said, "If you love me, you will obey my commandments." Then he said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another." He also said that all of the commandments were encapsulated in, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself." You see how he is not letting you escape your day of reckoning? He is trying to reckon you with the Father's love. Will you recognize the value of the Father's love and the value of your decisions in the present moment? The two need to be connected and to cause you to make decisions in your present moment so that very real consequences will result. We can all do this. It's as simple as getting up and walking out the door. I'm starting to realize that the actual doing of things that is not that hard but it's really the act of deciding deciding to do them that is so hard. The Father's love is the spring of decision and action for the one who follows Jesus. It's a spring waiting for you to drink and like all water, it is nourishment to actually live.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How To Follow Jesus

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."
John15: 9-11

One today could see Jesus' call to obedience and immediately recoil at his words. For many us, we are so ashamed at how little we obey. We read a verse like this and retreat into a state of shame and despondency. We think, "Yes, he has loved me so much and yet I have obeyed so little. What kind of follower am I? Do I really even know Jesus?" And so we try to obey more but continue to fail. Believer, how deceived you have been by yourself and by the enemy of your soul. The problem is not that you do not obey, but that you have not truly experienced the Father's love through Jesus. You should leave from reading Jesus' words in this chapter with one thought, "I must love Jesus. I must abide in his love." That is all there is. Paul echoes this is 1 Corinthians 13 that if has not love, everything else is nothing.

For you, does not obedience exist as a limitation and restraint of your freedom? Has not the culture today conditioned you to think of obedience and submission in this way? When Jesus calls for obedience, you immediate think he is trying to limit your freedom and so you recoil and either stiffen your neck or become ashamed at your disobedience. Step back for a moment and look at the above verses. Obedience is tied together with love and joy, in fact it is sandwiched between the two. This then must be a different obedience than the one you have in your mind since the obedience in your mind is not connected with love and joy. Here we find the root of our problem with obedience. There is a beautiful interaction, an interplay between love, obedience, and joy that Jesus is bringing to life for us. See how he lived out his words: Love flows from the Father to Jesus and from Jesus to us and he showed us his love by laying his life down for us and and now he experiences joy as the fruit of his obedience. Would you follow him in this exact same way? Would you behold and experience the love of the Father through Jesus Christ until it becomes the motive for obedience and then enjoy the fruit of joy that appears afterwards. This is what it means to follow Jesus. How complicated the church has made following Jesus, adding to it things that were never meant to be added. If you're not really following him this simple way of love flowing into obedience flowing into joy, then today is the day.

Love has come from the Father to Jesus and from Jesus to you. Come before Jesus and ask him, "Let me know the love of the Father." Cry out to him from your heart. When your heart cries out to him in honest yearning, he turns to hear you. Turn your heart to him and say, "I want your love to be alive to my soul. I want to abide in it. I want it to be the air that I breathe. I want to want to obey and I know that once I have experienced your love, I will long to obey you. And in obeying you, dying to myself just like you did, I will be brought into the utter joy of being in your presence." Love in its' living way will flow through your heart and breathe out obedience which will bring forth the fruit of joy. This fruit is for you to eat and more leftover for those around you. And then it will be natural for you to lead others down the same road you traveled. They will have tasted the fruit and you will merely be showing them where it came from. The Father's love is the source. You can say, "I know the way to joy and it is through experiencing the love of the Father through Jesus Christ." Dying to yourself is painful but the love of the Father is the motivation, obedience is the practical walking out of that love, and joy is the fruit. It is fruit for you and fruit for others.

Do not recoil because Jesus calls you to obedience, thinking that it limits your freedom. That is a crafty lie form the enemy. If there were no laws in a country, its' citizens would devolve into chaos. Imagine no laws against stealing and killing and no traffic laws. That would not bring freedom. And so you can see how the laws of our country actually create an environment for freedom. But not just any laws create an environment for freedom; it's the right laws, the right limitations. Jesus is actually extending you freedom through these verses by giving you the right law: the law of the Father's love, embraced and lived out in obedience, bearing the natural fruit of joy. This is something living and beautiful. Shed the garments of shame that you are wearing because of your disobedience. Go to Jesus and do you know what? The Creator of the all things waits for you to shower his love on you, to wash your feet, to wipe your tears, to speak courage into the bottom of your heart, and to have you experience in a very real way: You are loved. As you abide his love more and more each day, you will find strength to walk in obedience. Stretch yourself in this way. If you find yourself struggling to obey in a situation, go to the Father and ask him to show you his love and make it real to you. Cry out to him from your heart and know that he hears you and will answer in his time. When you finally begin to obey on a daily basis, the fruit of joy will begin to appear on your branches.

The overarching theme of these verses is Jesus' desire for you to abide in his love. Would you continue trying to follow Jesus in a different way than abiding in his love, obeying as the overflow of that love, and experiencing the joy of his presence in your life? Jesus says to your heart today, "I long for you to abide in my love. I made you, I know you, and I love you. Abide in my love." What is your response? The ball is in your court. Every day you wake up and again Jesus says to you,

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."

What is your response? He asks not for the assent of your mind or the nod of your heard. He asks for the casting of your complete being upon him. Either you will give it or you will not. He offers his love to you in the complete humility and naked vulnerability of a man naked and covered in your sin and hanging on the branches of a tree. That man says to your heart with the utmost fierceness and tenderness mixed together, "Abide in my love." Will you cast your complete being upon him? Will you begin engaging with his love and taking him seriously. He will do the work of changing you and transforming you and he will do it by revealing to you his love in a real way, overflowing into obedience by engaging the present moment with his love, and bringing forth the fruit of joy which will be tangibly sweet to both you and others. Our lives will change dramatically in the best of ways if we will submit to the right law, the law of Jesus' love, one day at a time. Today is our day to start. Step one: relentlessly pursue a real revelation of the Father's love in your life through Jesus.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Psalm 150

Psalm 150

"Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his exceeding greatness!

"Praise him with trumpet soundl
praise him with lute and harp!
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!"

I was reading this Psalm this morning and I love heart behind it. David's basically saying the same thing in every single line but in different ways and with different words. And isn't that how we talk when we are caught up in the paroxysm of captivation by something wonderful? We spew out words with with a controlled, passionate, intentness. I also think it's possible to read this psalm and be estranged from it by its' natural foreignness. I don't have a trumpet or a lute or a harp or strings or a pipe or cymbals so I can't relate relate to this expression of praise.

This is not so foreign as I think though. I was reading in 1 Kings 1 where Solomon is anointed king and it gives a picture of people in Israel doing something similar to Psalm 150. David is in his old age and people are plotting to make Adonijah king since David hasn't declared his successor. Bathsheba and Nathan go to David, asking him to be true to his promise to make Bathsheba's son Solomon king. David gives them instructions and this is what follows:

"So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoida [one of David's greatest warriors], and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David's mule and brought him to Gihon. There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, "Long live King Solomon!" And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise." 1 Kings 1:38-40

The earth was split by their noise. I like to literally imagine things as I read them and this was crazy to imagine. I thought about how what's happening with this celebration at Solomon's coronation is so similar to what I read in Psalm 150. What is significant to me was that this type of praise with pipes and rejoicing was the natural expression of the people in that culture. So you can read Psalm 150 and says, "This is unrelatable and it just makes me feel a weird guilt because I don't have a pipe or cymbal and no one would understand if I went rejoicing through the streets with my cymbal." Exactly. But the people in Israel's streets understood perfectly what was happening. This is what their natural expression was. It was the first thing they thought to do. It was their impulse. They rejoiced in their new king the best way they knew how. So what makes Psalm 150 so wonderful to read is the heart behind it and the imagination it sparks for its' readers in every culture in the world. The question I am left with is this: What is the natural outpouring and expression of a heart of praise in my culture? What is perfectly understood by people in our culture as an expression of praise? When you consider the wonderfulness of God is all his beautiful reality, what is the natural thing that you want to do? Do that. Of all the so-called "spiritual disciplines" which often have a soporific effect, it is interesting that Satan works to make rejoicing even more neglected than prayer.

And God really is a living and beautiful reality. If you don't see this, then all you have to do is look around. Look at the wonder of what he formed with his hands. The wind blows through the trees. Sinews and muscles move at a thought. Words of love pierce to the soul and fan its' flame so that at times it soars. Psalm 150 is not foreign. It is living and beautiful. When Paul says that scripture is living and active, most of us soften the meaning because we have heard it said so many times. But repetition does not in reality diminish the truth of something. It remains as true as ever. In fact, in every single case, the words God uses to communicate to us have more meaning lodged inside of them than we have the ability to grasp. This is the case every single time. The lack is on our part. And so we must use every cylinder and horsepower of our imaginative capability in order to grasp every living and beautiful facet of words that come straight from the heart of the Father who is a greater reflection even the best human father we could imagine. The problem is never that God's words are boring or unrelatable. In my life, I find that it is rather my imagination that is lacking and like a weak muscle, unexercised. The wings of imagination that are exercised daily in strength and agility will fly higher and see more. And the sky that is our wonderful Maker and Father is limitless in its expanse.

Psalm 148

"Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him all his hosts!

"Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!"

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Being Loved

It seems that so many of our problems would just disappear if we believed that God loved us. I mean if we really believed God loved us, we would be at peace and we would love him in return. In my own life, I think about placing my whole self unreservedly in the Lord's hands and saying, "Do what you wish." It scares me to place myself at his feet and I'm learning that it shows that I don't trust him fully. I can't expect to ever trust him fully so there will always be a gap there but the story of Creation is of God drawing people to himself and teaching them to trust him. He stands at the door and knocks. He waits for them to open and then comes and eats with them. He is willing to come near us and be with us. We will never fully trust him but He is willing to fill the gap between us and Him. We should long to trust him and let this longing carry to us to his feet.

If one looks at Jesus' life, it is inescapable. He loves us. He demonstrates it with actions. He demonstrates it with his hands and his feet. He touches people, challenges them, loves them, and gives up his life for them. In a world where people are guilty because of sin. They break the law that God made and it brings destruction to themselves and to their families. Some sit on the fence at God's invitation and never make a decision. They never open the door. They never place themselves at his feet. They exist in their minds as "good people" and will keep existing as such day after day. But they are not good people. Their goodness forever stands defined as their acceptance before others. The acceptance of others changes the way one feels but it does not penetrate the heart to the core of who they are and call them good or loved. People long for this their whole lives and yet they exist with stifled dissatisfaction as they seek perfect love from those around them. They live day after day feeding on a love that is only a reflection of a greater love. Jesus is that greater love. He loves us and he makes it clear to us with his life.

There exists in our heart at its' very core a place that bears our very names, engraved so deeply that it could never be erased. Whose hands engraved it there? Whose hands formed every crevice and then marked it with a name? Jesus did and we belong to him. We belong to Jesus. He is the one who we do not believe loves us. We hear him knock and we hesitate to leave behind our occupations and comforts and things to go answer the door. The truth exists still as it has since the beginning: He who created us is the only one who can fulfill us. We long for comfort, for work, for purpose, for love, and yet we seek it apart from Him. We will never find it apart from him. He formed us and engraved our names. Only he knows us at the core of being and so he is the only one whose hand can touch there and say, "Loved. Mine. Here is your purpose. Follow me." No one else's hand can touch that place. No one else's voice can call down to that place.

For days and months I have gone on living without my heart surrendered. The truth is, I think, that we are meant to always be surrendering each day. It is easy to hear encouragement like this and think it of it as mainly for people who have never made a first step a faith. And yet, the message from God's perspective is for everyone. It is for us. He wants a relationship with us and He wants us to know that He loves us. Not just for the first time for us but continually.

How then can we believe God's love for us continually? We can come to him continually. We can look at Jesus' life. We see him and hear his words. Then we respond to his words in faith. This means instead of looking at Jesus in the third person as we do when we read the Bible, we look at Jesus directly in the second person in prayer. "You, Jesus. I come before you with my heart." We lift our hearts to him in prayer and fix our eyes on him. We can be never certain of everything before we step out in faith. We can be certain of mathematics but with God it is a relationship. We have heard his words and so we step out in faith when choose to believe and respond to them. My heart breaks when I think that I do believe his love for me. I hesitate to place my body and soul and life into his hands completely to say, "Yours." He does not hesitate to knock on my heart and yet I hesitate to open. He came down from heaven and gave his life in order to so. He loves me. I won't know it until I open the door of my heart and let him in. In faith, this is my daily task to continue to know his love. I must rise to my feet and go to the door. I want to know Him. I wanted to be called loved by the one who formed my heart.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just A Creature

I am just a creature.

Over the past few months I have learned that I can only have so many friends. I can only have so many hobbies. I can only think so many thoughts. I can only get so many questions answered during my lifetime. I can't do everything. I can't make every dream come true. I am not God.

I am just a creature.

I can, however, make some dreams come true. I can get some questions answered. I can have some friends. I am limited to some and I must be content with that. To refuse to do so is to go outside of my boundaries.

I am just a creature.

While I spent time at L'Abri in Holland, we talked a lot about freedom. What I learned about freedom is that being completely free to do anything and everything is not freedom at all. In fact, when I am faced with this unlimited freedom, I find a tension there. The endless choices and possibilities paralyze me. Unlimited possibility meets limited creature and though at first the creature is dazzled by endless number of paths before him, eventually he is overwhelmed. For me I encounter physical anxiety and an never-ending cycle of thoughts that can lead to depression. There are consequences of my wandering outside my boundaries.

I am just a creature.

I also learned that freedom does not depend upon my detachment from obligations or commitment. Freedom comes through commitment. Freedom depends instead upon the nature of what I am committed to. We commonly think that freedom means more of this and more of that and less of anything that confines. But real freedom means confinement - confinement to something life-giving. In real freedom, I choose to have only this and only that because only this and only that is beautiful and worth so much to me that I will willingly commit myself to it.

I am just a creature.

Creatures have definition. If you look up the word "creature" in the dictionary, you will find it defined as best as someone could. You and I too are words with definitions. And yet we are such complex words that only God, the Creator of creatures can describe the lines that define us. If someone were to ask God, "That one, Patrick, who is he?", God could answer. I have definition. I am confined to my definition and yet when I accept who I am, I have freedom to move and exist and love within my specifically-drawn lines. Psalm 139 describes our defining. He hems us in behind and before and lays his hand upon us. He wove us together. We have definition. Freedom means that we are free to exist as we are.

I am just a creature.

What a fearful place to be - to accept who I am in my beautiful limitation. While beautiful, it is also painful because there is beauty outside my limitations - a forbidden beauty that I must not desire or dwell on. It is not mine, it is someone else's. When my heart is filled with such covetous desire, the best thing is for my heart to be broken and to finally let go of its wayward dreams. Then I am free to experience healing and to have my heart learn to love the body and soul to which it is tied. What a fearful place to be - first to accept and second, to learn to move within this freedom. It is beautiful that in Him we live and move and have our being but it is also fearful when we learn the truth that we were created defined for a defined purpose. We learn our value and then we learn to bow and place our value on the altar to be used. The one who can speak out our definition by heart also speaks a word to send us out into the world and to actually live as ourselves.

I am just a creature.

In this thought process, this is the point in my understanding where I find myself falling short. I cannot describe the intricacies of what takes place on the altar when someone places themselves before God. I do not know what will happen when this is all lived out. This is where each person's story begins to unfold in its' own way. This is prayer - not dead and lifeless prayer, not rote and predictable prayer, but prayer that overflows with unpredictability and life. It is unpredictable to the extent that something will happen within the confines of God's promises but not outside. It is full of life to the extent that within the confines of God's promises, there is perfect freedom and room for all the beauty that the world contains. We are who we are and God is who he is. I accept who I am and I come to him as myself. To my delight, I find that because of Jesus, he loves me as myself.

I am just a creature.

So Lord, break my covetous heart, heal it to a place of accepting itself, and let it learn to know that it is loved even as it is called to new places. If it is called somewhere specific, let it learn to accept where it is called. If it is given freedom to choose, let it learn to seek you in what it chooses. I cannot do all but I can do some. Let me choose to walk with you in my some.

I am, happily and fearfully, your creature.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New Mercies

I wish I could bottle up the sunshine and seal it tight and save it my dresser drawer. That way when the clouds come and refuse to leave I could take it out and empty it in my room. Then it would bounce around and light up everything so I would forget about the clouds. I can't bottle up the sunshine though so I guess today's sunshine is only for today. Will there be sunshine tomorrow? Or will the clouds come and refuse to leave? My Father promises me new mercies tomorrow but still I fear the rain. I wish that by mercy he meant sunshine but I know that mercy sometimes means rain.




Then I think that on dry days, I wish I had bottled up the rain. So I guess rain is a mercy too and each day cannot live up to yesterday even though I try to make it do that. Today can only be today and mercy doesn't necessarily mean rain or sunshine but mercy means God wants you closer to Him and what He gives you today is specially designed so that can happen. That sounds really nice like it would feel good all the time but I know that's not always really the case. I know it means that tomorrow might be painful or sad or I will have to give up something or make a hard decision or maybe I will laugh so hard that I fall on the floor.

Mercies are meant to be received today, whatever they are. Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's easy. Maybe I need to throw away all my bottles but I think I'll keep them and use them for memories instead. That way I can remember that no matter what the new mercies were from my past days, they were given out of love and I'll be able to empty them out on days when I need to and remember that God is faithful and will be for all my days.

Monday, August 06, 2012

To Set Sail

Our hearts cannot live apart of my hope. I am living proof of this. To be detached from things that you used to trust and to be left floating like a boat out in the water. When you were fastened to the dock, you didn't have to worry about the strength of your sail or the rudder but now you find yourself wondering whether today will be calm or storm. There can be an impending fear that takes over you when no longer have lines fastening you to a place you are used to. You raise your sail for the first time, watching it flutter and fill out and feel the wind pulling your boat forward with a quiet exhilaration. You are moving in a certain direction and you wonder where the wind is taking you. And so your hand finds the tiller and you adjust your rudder and see how the bow draws itself across the horizon. The rudder and sail are the first things you trust and your heart begins to slowly wrap itself around them and become familiar with them. When the storms come, they only cause your heart to cling more tightly to these things and your heart sends it roots deeper into their surface. Though even then you still fear the storm and you feel deeply in your heart that you can use your sails and rudder but there is a power beyond you that could overwhelm you. Your heart clings to the aspects of the boat for stability but all these live and move over the ocean and your heart slowly comes to realize that while it can control the sailboat, it can't control the ocean. The heart wonders, "Then who controls the ocean?" And what would it be like to sink your heart's roots into the one who made the ocean?

Our hearts cannot live apart from hope. And this is evidenced by how we lay in bed at night and wish our day had gone differently. We wish we had used different words. We wish we had not spend all day thinking about ourselves. We wish there was greater richness in our friendships. We wish so many things and our heart feels like a tree that wishes it would rain so that it could drink and not be thirsty. Why such thirst if there was not water that could satisfy it? Hope is born out of this thirst. All of our hearts are thirsty and so we begin tying ourselves to things that help quench our hearts. We lie in our beds at night or when we wake up and we wonder what could quench the longings of our hearts. There are those who do not lie in their beds at night and wonder this and I believe it could be because they are tied so tightly into their slip of security that they have forgot what is to have their boat placed at the mercy of the ocean or rather to have their heart placed at the mercy of God. They have sheltered themselves from the natural elements which force the heart to confront its' true thirst. Everyone is scared to leave their slip though because no one knows what exactly God will do or whether he will bring calmness or storm if all is abandoned to him. And so we sit in our slips and do not risk the ocean. In doing so, we keep our hearts from the very reason we were made.

My desire is that my heart would sink itself into the one who made the ocean and I would be tied to him in love. Storm or calm, I do not care. I want to be willing to leave my slip and risk the ocean because anything else would be to deny my existence and to deny that he created me for Himself. God calls every heart to abandon itself to him. To say, "Lord, WHATEVER you want, I am yours. I will cast myself upon you. Make me yours." Only when every tie is cut, can the sailboat leave the slip. And if my heart is stubborn and does not have the courage to cut the final cord, I pray that God would send a wind to pull me until that cord is snapped and I am loosed fearfully into the open water. It takes an abandoned heart to take a knife to the cords on your boat as the world is crying out and scoffing at your foolishness, "Why would you set sail?!" The answer is obvious, "Because I am a boat and I was meant to!" There must be a greater voice that is calling you in your heart in order for you to ignore the voice of the world. The ocean calls us and we hold a knife in our hands. The ropes are taut in our slips. Our sails are waiting to catch the wind. And the Maker of the ocean is waiting to reveal himself to those he created for himself.

"And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statues of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?" Deuteronomy 10:12-14