Posted in Living this Life

River of Delights

Well, I didn’t expect that this morning.

Sitting out on my back porch, writing another boring journal entry of what I am missing, places I am not going … a bit numb of heart and mind, if I’m being honest.

I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but what word would you use to describe your heart during these trying times? Anxious? Confused? Maybe angry or frustrated. Often bored, sometimes detached. Emotional? Definitely. These are usually the richest days of my year. The days we get the live what we were made for – individually and as a family. And here I sit on my back porch, trying to find something to write to capture another week/month filled with laundry, [more] organizing and random home projects, and more meals cooked than ever in my life. Feeling bored and a bit useless. It’s hard not to grieve.

But my Jesus. He finds a way. Here’s how it went.

My journal entry from a few days ago contains these words, “I continue to feel a bit numb these days. I’m spending time with Jesus, meeting with Him each morning, and He sustains me, meets me, gives me precious promises. But I long for life! For that spark that makes me excited for this day…” With nothing to really look forward to, our days can become a monotonous repetition of the day before and we’re all feeling it.

Then these words came along, swung me sideways, and left me on my knees before Almighty God. “He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” Psalm 107:9

Longing and hungry soul – I can relate to that.
Satisfied? Filled? Not so much.

So what stands in that gap? No one but me. And thus I sank to my knees.

I must confess, when I first read these words, I thought about what He would give me to satisfy my longing – where will You take me? What will You provide to fill this aching?

And the naked truth is – He already has. Read on – “My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Ps 84:2). And this – “They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures… My people shall be satisfied with MY goodness, says the Lord” (Ps 36:8; Jer. 31:14)

Maybe my biggest problem isn’t everything the news cycle screams at me. Maybe my biggest problem is me – where I am looking for satisfaction. Some days we may be doing the right thing, making a difference in the world, being busy for God – but is this where my joy lies? Because when it is all stripped away and I feel so naked, the truth about me is revealed. In this quiet, in this “lack of purpose”, my God is the same. And the river of pleasures He provides hasn’t shifted one little bit.

Spend a few minutes here with me … There was a time in the nation of Israel when they lost everything “normal”. They were taken to the foreign land of Babylon and suddenly their world was upside down. Feels a bit like 2020 right now – only instead of us being taken away to Babylon, it feels like Babylon has moved in and claimed our world. It suddenly seems like we’re living in a foreign land and it’s hard to find your place in it at times.

So those Israelites? They spent their days longing for what they had lost. Pining for the day they would return. In the middle of all this restlessness, God sends them this message: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

foreign land 2foreign land

Do you feel like you’re in exile some days? Like you step out of your house and see a foreign land around you? Come into this place with me – camp here a while and let these truths soak deep into your bones. Right here, in the place – find the beauty.

God has not forgotten us. And He invites us into the beauty with Him. These words from Andrew Peterson have shone a light on the path I walk these days – “Uncertainty is no reason to stop adding to the beauty of the world. We don’t know what’s coming. Write songs anyway. Make pies. Plant gardens. Why? First of all, you might be in Babylon for longer than you think. Second of all, gardens are beautiful. And beauty is one of the best ways to fight the darkness… because the love that lives in beauty lasts forever. It is unshakeable. So step out into the … world and plant whatever garden God has called you to plant. Pull the weeds of injustice and evil. Plant so much beauty that it chokes out the poison.”

Plant so much beauty that it chokes out the poison.

Do you feel like the world is burning down around you? Like you don’t recognize your “normal”anymore? Come, plant a garden with me. I don’t know how yours will look – it may not involve dirt and seeds, but I know it starts with Jesus. Letting Him be enough. Just Jesus.

jesus rescue

It’s the only real soil to plant a garden in. That satisfaction that we get from whatever we find as our identity? The fun and laughter we found in places we used to go? The grieving, the restlessness, the desire for more that we are prone to feel in the absence of the familiar? It’s all starting to feel a bit like what Paul described as a “man beating the air” (1 Co. 9:26)

Can we stop chasing the wind and just let Jesus be enough?

To “place yourself in the way of His allurement” as Jonathan Edwards beautifully describes. To let your breath catch in wonder as you watch the flower slowly open. To find some documentary on creatures on the bottom of the ocean (try The Riot and the Dance: water) and try to wrap your mind around the God who put them there, and then splashed them with color and humor that can hardly be described. To simply think that He created all the wonders of the galaxies, calls each star by name, knows every sparrow in the sky, and yet engraves our names on the palm of His hand. (Is 49:16)

“May we chase your mercies over ragged hills, pursue your song through the sparse and layered lyric of sculpted deserts, marvel at your mystery fixed in the wheeling designs of stars overhead. May we hear it in the coos and calls of owls and small creatures that fidget in the night, trace it in the leaping dance of campfire flames, and sense it in the sweet incense of pine and leafmeal” (Doug McKelvey)

All this quiddity has a purpose beyond pure exultation.  For “all of God’s creation becomes a beam to be “looked along” or a sound to be “heard along” or a fragrance to be “smelled along” or a flavor to be “tasted along” or a touch to be “felt along”.  All our senses become partners with the eyes of the heart in perceiving the glory of God through the physical world” (Piper)

To taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps 34:18). To let that soak deep into who you are until you are changed “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good!” (1 Peter 2:3) To be strengthened in the safety of this – “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure… I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Ps 16:5; 8)

Oh, be refreshed by this, my friend! Let the dew of His goodness soften all those hard places! “I will be like the dew to Israel…” (Ps 133:3)

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him” (Ps 62:5)

Or if you prefer Mary Poppins’ theology – “We’re on the brink of an adventure children! Don’t spoil it with too many questions!”

I’m already starting to feel more alive. Just writing these words feels like a jumpstart for my heart. I know it doesn’t solve all the injustices that swirl around us, the screaming headlines that can challenge our peace, the questions that rage. But it’s a place to stand. A place to be. A gift of joy in the midst of the chaos. Stability that can’t be shaken.

Just Jesus.

He is enough.

the path

 

Posted in Living this Life

What day is it?

Pooh bear

“What day is it?” Pooh Bear asked
“It’s Today”, said Christopher Robin
“Ah,” said Pooh gratefully. “My favorite day! Yesterday, when it was Tomorrow, it was too much day for me.”
I love this. I’ve been saying it to myself a lot. Because coronavirus or not, quarantine or “normal”, all we really have is today.

And though tomorrow can feel daunting, boring, scary, uncertain – when it becomes today, God makes a way. That’s His promise – let’s choose to really believe it. “ Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,” Jesus says… “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Jesus knows our limitations – He is actively protecting us from carrying more than we can handle.


So let’s make today our favorite! And let tomorrow worry about itself – my God is already there, and I can trust Him

Posted in Living this Life

The God who thought up noses – Pt 2

“It’s like this: As the darkness feels like it is closing in with each news report, our health and our very future often feel threatened. Amidst the echo of fear I hear from all directions, I wake up each morning and delight to see that God has done it again – for behold, there is a beautiful sun rising from the horizon again and the birds have been singing for hours already.  I’m enjoying coffee with a ridiculous amount of whipped cream on it, and there is still ice cream in the freezer waiting to be savored in a bit. How do I reconcile these two realities?”

 

I believe the answer to this question is the key to finding peace in these turbulent times. The answer to joy when we can’t find our way through the haze. Demonstrated by David in the Psalms and even prayed over us by Jesus Himself, it’s worth our time to take a step deeper into this place.

sunrise

bird singingb62db985-1eaf-4a69-a589-f2030af257c1img_6173

 

They say not to put the cart before the proverbial horse, and yet I fear that is what I did in my previous post. To be fair, we often don’t care much about the horse or where it’s taking us until we see what’s in the cart sometimes. So will you you give me a minute? Let me explain…

cart before the horse

Quiddity. Remember that word? That long deep draw of cool water when your throat is parched? It’s what is in the cart – and I’ve been thinking alot about that this week. Because when we start with the experience of wonder before we look at the how, we get it backwards and can end up even more fatigued and lost than when we started. As Lewis famously interpreted Matthew 6:33 – “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things”

So, I return to my original question: How do I reconcile the tension between these two realities?

I feel a desperate need to hold up the beautiful, to sing with the birds that God still reigns and His glory is breathtaking – is this the song of a lunatic? The tinny echo of a blind optimist who is disconnected from reality? Can we really ground ourselves in this slowing and savoring lifestyle when it feels like the world is burning down around us?

Perhaps this is where the cart has been put before the horse. Because the reality is this: Try as we might, we cannot do it on our own. We are not strong enough. Our attention span falters, we hit a dead end, and then what? When our enjoyment of the gifts around us begins to feel like more hard work, and your very desire to find the wonder leads to a whole other sense of hopelessness, where do you turn?

After all, every created thing has a necessary end in and of itself – we are a finite people reaching for an infinite good. How do we span this maddening gap?

Humor me for a moment. This quote is longer than I usually would include – but it is worth it.

I was standing today in a dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead, I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” (This moment of enlightenment is brought to us by C. S. Lewis from his book God in the Dock.)

shafts of light

Looking along the beam vs. looking at the beam. This is revolutionary!

When I look deep into a flower, I see depths of beauty that are hard to describe. But when I look along the beam of that beauty to behold that One who created that flower, I stand with Job, who upon seeing the glory of God, said “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42.

Piper describes it like this: All of God’s creation becomes a beam to be “looked along” or a sound to be “heard along” or a fragrance to be “smelled along” or a flavor to be “tasted along” or a touch to be “felt along”.  All our senses become partners with the eyes of the heart in perceiving the glory of God through the physical world” 

Do you sense it? This is where it all comes together like the pieces of a puzzle finally revealing their secret beauty. Don’t leave me now – but hold your breath with me as we enter this sacred place!  Don’t let your gaze of wonder stop at the object that takes your breath away. Look beyond – let your gaze travel upwards along the beam of His glory and see, truly see, the face of God.

We don’t will this moment into existence. He took the first step. He breathed it all into reality, and every day He sustains it’s continued existence. But there’s so much more! When we built a wall, He made a way through. When darkness rose up in us, His light shone through. This is the door – the only way to go from seeing what He made to truly savoring it as He intended. It is His communication to us of a newer, brighter, more beautiful way than we could ask or imagine!

Do you know my Jesus? Have you drawn deep of the draft of this eternal life? Lean in, my friend. Hold your breath. Because this is where it all starts. We owed a price we couldn’t pay – but that didn’t stop Him from embarking on the greatest rescue mission of all time! He paid our price for us, died an undeserving death and welcomes all who accept this gift into His family with open arms. And every birdsong, every flower that blooms into impossible glory, every star that appears night after night in the dark sky, every waft of fresh bread, is declaring this unfathomable truth!

We can see the face of the Creator when we accept the payment made by Jesus. If this reality isn’t the greatest good in your life, pause. Right here. Talk to God. Tell Him you’re sorry. Ask Him to carry the weight of your failings for you. Let Him fill your heart with freedom, with lightness, with joy – with all the glory you’ve been craving your whole life. It’s right there – trace the sunbeam up to the author and let the Son fill you!

And let the world of wonder in.