Advent: Day 3

I just moved into a new apartment, and it is 100% a victory in commitment and faith. I’ve been afraid to put down roots and this feels like a solid step into the ground. Right outside my window, across the way, are these gorgeous apartments. My bedroom is mostly bed, and I have 2 roommates. I’m grateful to be here, and to be with them, and I also know, or hope, or really know, this isn’t my final stop. This isn’t it, it. This isn’t my forever, god, I hope not.

Waiting is really hard when you know where you’re at is not it, it and a potential it stares at you from across the way. You wake up with longing, with a desire to be on the other side. It doesn’t take away from how great the right now may be. What is possible just reminds you how much space there is in your heart, in your longing, in your desire for more. It’s okay to want more. It’s okay to look across with even envy. There is a fine line between inspiring envy and covetous bitterness. It’s okay to know where you’re at is not it.

Because it isn’t. There is more. There is space for even deeper promises. There are promises waiting to blossom. So yes to embracing all you have right now and yes to knowing more is to snow down. It snowed today.

Where can your desire for more receive more grace and judgement?

What is on the other side? What does it represent? What would you get?

What is great about this side? (Because this side was the other side of something else.)

Lent Day 23: I give up the Talk of Gratitude

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

Isaiah 58:9-10

I give up the talk of gratitude, and instead, walk the life of gratitude. I give up saying I’m grateful because I feel obligated to say it. I give up declaring my gratitude because I’m afraid of what people think. I give up prefacing all my conversations with I’m grateful, without sharing the heartache and other areas I’m trying to work through as well. I give up lessening my desires and hiding my dissatisfaction for fear of being seen as ungrateful. Instead of making it plain in words, I want to live like I know each moment and each human is precious. I want to live like I have been given so much, time, money and energy wise. I want to live from having, being enough and still want more without guilt. I want my joy, my generosity, my care for others to be proof of my gratitude, even if I don’t say, I’m grateful.

A surrendering Want

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?’ Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

Luke 10:38-42

Here I am at this passage again, which I think is the beauty of God’s living Word. Each read can be fresh or can be a continuation of a past revelation. Today I want to discuss how Mary and Martha’s desire for the Lord differ. Martha loved and cared for God and tried to do the most to manifest that inward desire. However I think her intense outward doing distracted from her heart desire. She got so wrapped up in the result of what she could do for Jesus that it sort of closed her off to how else she can exist before God.

Mary on the other way, surrendered herself at the feet of Jesus. She was obvious with where her attention was directed. She was obvious with her love and desire for nearness. She was consumed by Jesus’ presence. She showed her want with a sort of vulnerability and surrender that can feel offensive in a world that requires us to mask our wants. We can want, but we also need to be doing and proving. We can want, but you need to deserve it. Mary just went with her desire and stilled herself before what she thought fill her up the most.

Let’s have permission to be vulnerable with our desires. Let us be so vulnerable there’s a risk that people will think it’s kind of absurd. What would it take to remove a layer of armor around our heart desires?

YOLO guarded by the Spirit

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. he has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know when I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you — guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Timothy 1:6-14

What gets me is the see-saw I experience in life. One moment I am determined to live my life to the fullest, have a DGAF attitude and live in my power by doing things where after I can say, No one can judge me, but God. The next I’m reading this Word and there’s another kind of power that makes my life moments dim and the purposes of God so bold. Here Paul makes living for the gospel, living a holy life so worthwhile, so much bigger than us. And aren’t we all at least a bit drawn to living a life that exceeds beyond our little life?

It’s the marrying of these two moments — the DGAF, only God can judge me energy of being in this world WITH the big purpose, living for the gospel hope that makes every interaction, every word, every action meaningful. How does this play out in our daily thoughts, relationships, pursuits and paths?

In church, they always encourage us to measure all life by the Scriptures, but instead of leaning into a one way street where the Word of God sometimes halts all our behaviors and actions, make it more of a conversation. Yes, before acting and speaking let it filter through the bigness & goodness of the Word of God. But you have to come back to this world, too. What does it look like to still pursue those actions and honor those desires but with the refreshed & renewed sense of bigness, goodness and power of God? It doesn’t always have to mean, don’t do it anymore, give up your hopes. It could mean, boundaries, coming back to your immutable worth and not doing things just to please others and the world, or realizing that the standards the church has used to tried to shame you into a “holy life” may actually not align with the Word of God. Live a YOLO kind of life that honors the gospel.

The calm before the fill

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2

God resides in the emptyness and in the creation.
God is there for the formless and for what will take shape.
God is there for the empty and for the filling.

God is there when you feel like you’re in a void, when you’re at the beginning, when you’re feeling lost and spent. God hovers over his creation with purpose and creates and forms in stride. More than that, the Spirit of God is in you. So even when you feel separated and empty, the Spirit of God is stirring inside ready to create a masterpiece. Well, more than that, God has already created a masterpiece and is simply waiting for our minds to catch up to that truth.

Where in your life do you feel empty? Where are you feeling anxiety to fill what feels like a lack? Sometimes in the beginning, insecurities, fears and crushing expectations flood in to take up the space of God’s intimacy and quiet. Can the longing instead point to a truth of God — that he provides, that he is good, that he is wise in timing, that he creates for good? Can this start of something new be filled with joyful anticipation and hope instead of exhausted pre-filled disappointment? Yet how do we get from that place of lack and dark to a place of openness and faithful expectation?

By embracing and acknowledging the empty and the longing. By looking back at examples whether in the Bible or in your life when Jesus pulled through. By praying so hard that there is no time and room for fears to take hold. By filling your mind with songs of praise and worship and promise. By embracing the empty and filling it with the Spirit of God and trusting that as that filling takes place, it will manifest into a fullness you can experience on this side of heaven.

CBG: Calling

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God. And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following him, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

John 21:17-22

After sitting with the pain and shame of rejecting Jesus, Peter was gently and patiently pulled back in. This is probably Peter’s rawest, most vulnerable moment. He knows his own weaknesses and experienced the gap between what he wants to do and what he does. And here is beckoned by Jesus. Jesus doesn’t recount Peter’s fall. Jesus doesn’t do that sort of nasty human judging. Jesus doesn’t need to show that he was right. Jesus moves in a way so that Peter, the wrongdoer, can heal. Damn.

In that soft quiet intimacy, Jesus tells Peter his greatest calling: Peter will live and die just like Jesus! Peter will truly lay it all down, till the end, for the one he loves. I wonder how he felt learning his fate. Fear? Inadequacy? Regret? What times in your life have you felt the certainty of God’s calling on your life? You could feel the closeness of Jesus, the stirring of the Spirit and the declaration of God. You were too unarmored to defend yourself from the wave of truth. It’s pretty scary to experience God like that, especially when he puts a seemingly impossibly task in front of you. Callings don’t always feel like soft marshmallows and look like joyful rainbows. How do we respond when we receive something so profound it freaks us out?! Do we redirect the focus out and onto others? What about them? What about that? Can we instead sit with our God-given unique path, recognize it can only happen with the Spirit’s guidance and then take one step forward? It’s all one step at a time.

Prayer: Pray your desires, unabashedly. Listen to what God has in response. Are fears that arise human-driven or God-given? Pray for a sensitivity to the Spirit in your feelings, your energy, your relationships, the Word.

Creative: Look back at a text/book that has inspired you in the past.

Brave: What have you wanted to ask for but have been afraid to voice? Can you do it today?

Generous: Do something sweet for a family member!

CBG COVID Challenge: #2

Being quarantined in a house with a family has brought up a lot of resentment in me. One, the family is together, planning dinners and game nights, while I am separated from my family and my friends. Two, they can sit back and receive my rent, while I struggle financially and scramble to apply for any employment during this #stayhome season. Three, they seem so happy and it only fuels my own bitterness. What do all these lead to in me? Victimhood. “I have it so much worse.” “No one gets where I’m at.” “Why do I always have to figure things out on my own?” “If this was the end of the world, I don’t want to die with these housemates…” I am a victim.

And a natural step is to continue the cycle of comparison and say, well there are people who have it A LOT worse than me. There are single parents struggling to feed their kids and pay rent. There are families with relatives who have died or are dying. Businesses are closing. Lay offs for people who have worked at a job for over a decade are happening everywhere. So if I want to play the victim card, and then see the state of others in a even grimmer state, I am left with GUILT. While it is helpful, when it gives you perspective to remember those less fortunate, comparison is not the way to get out of a state of victimhood.

What do my resentments reveal? Underneath my “woe is me,” what am I thinking? What is my “victimhood” preserving and protecting? My desires. My hurt. My unmet expectations. Because under the irritation and bitterness are my desires to be with people I love, to have a sense of financial security and to be in joy. All these desires are unmet. And I am scared; and I am hurt. I am sad I don’t have a partner that I’d like to be quarantined with. I am sad that my career after all these years still feels uncertain and stagnant. I realize that my joy is very much wrapped up in circumstances. When I am in this state of thought and meditation, God can work. God can work in our honesty and rawness. He can’t break in fully in our lens of comparison. So what’s the remedy to victimhood? Vulnerability.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves one another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

Prayer: Lay before God your desires, your expectations and your hurt.

Creative: Write a haiku. (5-7-5)

Brave: Let someone know where you’re at, and tell them, you don’t need advice, just a listening ear.

Generous: Venmo $1 to someone to let them know you’re thinking of them, you’re with them!