8.26.2014

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves...And Other Christian Misfires

You know how you hear something often enough, that it just becomes truth by osmosis? It sinks in, makes a home, and though you can't remember from whence it came, you sure do hold strong to it. (And if for no other reason that we don't, as a people, like to admit when we're wrong...especially persisting for, oh, in the neighborhood of decades.)

There were many things I used to believe, some of them tied to my idea of Christian faith, that I look back on in regret. Not regretting that I believed them, per se, since many of these pearls of wisdom (which later turned out to be moth balls painted a glimmering white), were passed along with good intention, to try to shape me and instill goodness, with hopes of a better person spilling out the other end. No, I regret all the times that I put my hands on my hips (a behavior that is positively genetic, y'all), and self-righteously proclaimed these inherited "truths," lacking any sense of personal conviction...save for the conviction that I was awesome.

Oh, child...

I remember very vividly having a conversation with M before we were together. I think we were still in the getting-to-know-you phase (also known as the I-was-already-totally-smitten-and-trying-to-play-it-cool phase...which was a hot fail and fooled all of no one), and I was very, very young in my walk. (Of note: I had attended church while young and was even baptized circa junior high, but my path was a bit wayward, to say the least. I wasn't the worst kid, and I wasn't the best, but life was all about me and my precious wants/needs/hastohaves...which remained true through most of my 20s, bless all the things.) Apropos doesn't matter, I uttered that infamous phrase. "I know, God helps those who help themselves..."

Silence.

M, in his sweet and graceful nature, eventually offered a gentle correction that has been one of many moments that helped me leave behind a diet of milk and move onto spiritual meat.* (Figuratively, of course...I'm both lactose sensitive and vegetarian, so that'd be an interesting detour, indeed.) 

In the eyes of the World, worth is measured by status, accomplishment, and attaining, and striving is the name of the game. Christ, on the other hand, is radical in many, many ways, but one of my favorite characteristics of our motley savior is that He is a champion of the poor, the meek, the disinherited who have and seek nothing. To say that God helps those who help themselves is TOTALLY.MISSING.THE.POINT. ("Alright, I'm shouting. I'm shouting, I'm shouting, I'm shouting.") If we were even remotely capable of helping ourselves, we wouldn't have needed Christ to get up on that rugged cross and suffer a horrid death. If we can just pick ourselves up by our proverbial bootstraps, we don't need prayer. And what of those who couldn't possibly help themselves? The penniless, the uneducated, the heartbroken, the castoffs, and the lost? Well, He is nearest to them, y'all.** Not the maddeningly ambitious who work their fingers bloody, all the while looking behind them to ensure everyone KNOWS how much goodness they are all up in.

God helps ALL. The most effort we can put toward the matter is whatever strength it takes to lower ourselves to our knees, or to whisper the word, "Help." He doesn't bless those who are the most Christianest of all the Christians in Christiandom. It's not about earning a gold star from God. (I love the way that Max Lucado's story You Are Special drives this point on home.) Nor is he a genie, waiting to grant wishes. No. He is the Almighty God who loves, who knows and see souls, and who made a way--through Christ--for us to be saved and reconciled to Him. The helping has been done. Christ was the ransom paid. For you. 

How easy it is to believe that we must earn our faith, that we must do something to attain it. Rarely, this reflects a wrestling with our pride, but more often we're just so not used to being given something freely, out of pure, unconditional love, that we struggle to truly reach out and take it, accept it, and rest in it. Yet that, my friends, is why Our Lord is so radical. Scandalous, really. 

Would you be so bold as to drop your tools, and set aside your doings, to take His hand and walk with Him, in faith, and to truly know that IT IS FINISHED***?

*1 Corinthians 3:2
**Psalm 34:18
***John 19:30

8.25.2014

Missing the View From My Own Front Porch

When M and I daydream about vacationing, our thoughts go quickly to visions of blankets, fireplaces, coffee, coffee, and more coffee, trees, and seclusion...the kind of place where you can see stars at night and actually hear crickets chirp. This lends itself nicely to celebrating birthdays and our wedding anniversary in the late fall/early winter months (our wedding date was chosen with this in mind...we obviously didn't get much say on our birth dates, but are not surprisingly both winter babies).

We recently found ourselves brainstorming locales to look into rental property outside of Texas. This is not to say we're rolling in the dough and relish the thought of another mortgage. But rather, we're thinking ahead and both tend to do better with a realistic goal in mind. It's easy enough to have lofty dreams of owning multiple homes, but the reality of things can quickly take the wind out of our sails if we get too far ahead of ourselves without a reality check. Looking at the soaring costs of cabins and homes in some of our favorite destinations--Redstone, Colorado Springs, Portland, Seattle, Redcrest--we admittedly found ourselves a little overwhelmed and discouraged.

Then, I got a healthy dose of perspective...

This morning, I set my alarm a little earlier than usual (and set the timer on our coffee maker as an extra incentive to actually get my butt out of bed...it worked) to spend some quiet time with The Lord. I headed out to our front porch in my robe, cup of coffee and daily devotional in hand, and sat for a while in silence. I need the silence that only morning can afford me (in absence of the discipline to shut down my busy brain after a busy day) to really listen. To hear the sweet song of birds, the gentle creak of my rocking chair, and to receive the whisper from My Heavenly Father. 

And then it came to me. That wisdom from On High. ' Look! You have what you seek. Now. Available to you, every day.' I looked around, took a deep breath, smiled, and felt my eyes well up with tears. He is right. Every morning, I have the ability to sit on my front porch and experience that sense of peace: fuzzy robe, coffee, and all. Sure, it's a choice to ignore the landscaping that needs attention and the fence that needs mending (neither of which are concerns when on vacation and staying at someone else's place...even if those needs are present there as well). But even years in, there is something about that space in front of our home that feels like a haven. Some of my favorite conversations have taken place on that porch, and we've shared that space with some of our favorite people. 

When I get down to it, we seek locales that make our hearts stir. For us, that generally comes in the form of lovely vistas of trees and mountains (bodies of water too, if we can swing that mix), great beverages, and cozy digs...amounting to our version of peace, really. However, I've been stirred many times while seeking His face just a few steps from our front door. With my eye focused on sites states away, I missed that.

It reminded me how often I make excuses for putting Christ on a shelf. I've developed a bad habit of waiting for just the right moment to spend time with Him, but like waiting for other aspects of our life to slow down before feeding into our relationships, we end up forsaking those we love and fail to honor or even represent where our hearts lie. What a sweet gift we've been given, and what a blessing to realize that a get-away is as close as our front porch. This little girl needed the reminder that He never leaves, and He doesn't need a majestic backdrop to show up. Indeed, any space can be made infinitely more beautiful with His presence. We need only show up.

8.11.2014

Under Construction

...Oh, that applies to so much more than this little blog.

Dear readers, I feel a stirring in my soul and a fire ignited within that is so exciting, and I can only pray to identify and resist whatever crap is thrown my way to try to quench that fire, which is the Holy Spirit on a mission through me. That being said, I am confident of the direction that I want to pursue with my writing. I want to inspire, I want to edify, I want to challenge, and I want to share--vulnerably, with fear and trembling*--my journey of seeking, searching, and serving Christ. I am so tired of trying to find some other identity in my written voice, especially through this blog. I get discouraged by a lack of traffic, by my cluttered layout/design, and my sad attempts at photography a la my trusty iPhone. But that doesn't mean I want to throw myself into being a better blogger. I want to be a better vessel for God. Period. Life manifesto, new battle cry, zest and zeal du jour, or swinging for the fence (as our pastor calls it)...whatever you want to call it, I don't want to pursue anything else. Will this wane? Probably. But that's on me. Christ is unquenchable and boundless.

So, I don't know what this here blog will look like in a week, month, year, etc. But I pray that it looks different than it does, and than it has. Some elements, I want to retain: frankness, proper grammar sprinkled with a few made-up words, the community, etc. But others, I will leave for someone else to do...and much better than me.

Here we go...

*Philippians 2:12

8.06.2014

Search me, O God, and know my heart...

"...Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." {Psalm 139:23-24} 
I've been mediating on Psalm 139 today. This verse has always been a favorite of mine, especially in the context of the entirety of this sweet Psalm from David. But today, it hit me, what a bold prayer this is. God, Lord of all, invited in to the tempestuous depths of my heart. There's so much in there, so much I'd rather clean up, or just plain hide before inviting the precious Abba into this place. What would He find lurking in there? Would He love me less? Wish He hadn't gone there?


In these times of struggles, of pursuing that Still Small Voice until the silence is almost deafening with anticipation and desperation, The Word speaks, and reminds me that I know the answer to these questions. They're written in the very place He dares to go, where He has made a home...

What would He find? A broken human, desperately in need of a Living Saviour. 

Would He love me less? "You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me." {Psalm 139:5} No. He's got me. Always has, and always will. 

Wish He hadn't gone there? He already went there, straight up to that cross, so that He may embrace me, even in my sinful state, and love me as His own.

8.05.2014

Comparison is the Thief of Joy...and It Sucks

I'm about to get ruhl real up in here, but I am struggling, y'all. I have struggled for a while now with comparison, in my glorious human state :: sarcasm ::, but it seems to ebb and flow quite a bit. At times (and quite often, really), I can look at some who is beautiful, doing well, seemingly has it all together, super fit...you name it, and feel genuinely stoked for what they have going on for themselves. "You go, Glen Coco!" But sometimes, a quick browse of Instagram, or catching up on blog posts, or just being in public with a restless heart, and I turn into the little black rain cloud that is liable to break down at any moment and would do well to shut it down for a few days and not share this crazy with another unsuspecting soul.

But did you catch the key there? A restless heart. When I let me heart stir for things of this world, and when I start to believe the lies that so easily creep into our heads (especially for women), it's not long before I'm lost and useless. And the latter is what is most unfortunate...but it's also the point.

When I serve no one but myself, I'm useless. My all day, every day is about me, how I'm feeling, what I'm going through, yadda yadda yadda. I'm not available to serve. I'm not free to share the gospel of Grace. How can I be? Anyone in their right mind would look at me in that state and be like, "Uh, I don't want what she's having." And rightly so!

To add to the ridiculousness, it's very possible that people may look at my life and think that I've got my stuff together. My sweet husband reminded me of this one day when I was expressing this sort of thing to him in confidence, and it sort of baffled me. But he's right. We never know who is paying attention or making certain assumptions, even assuming the best of us.

It's so easy to wallow in this state, and to feel like the answer is to cancel my Facebook, unfollow all blogs (except food blogs...well, maybe the perfectly styled food blogs get the ax, too), close my Instagram account, and wear blinders 24/7. (It's all very Handmaid's Tale.) But the issue is me. I don't go away in those "solutions." I am instead left to my own devices, to blame others for executing a perfectly cultivated life (meanwhile, I have no idea what their day-to-day really entails, or what the motivation is behind lovely photos and styled living), and to let circumstances of this world disable me. Where's the testimony in that?

Thankfully, God has shone his merciful light on the reality of this situation, and is assuring me daily not to worry about the lot of others. And slowly, I will catch on to His wisdom and cling to His outstretched hand. He has provided a beautiful life for us, but even if that disappears tomorrow and even my sad attempts at styling a shot of my morning coffee are never again a possibility, it's all good. Because He is everything. He measured time and the heavens, and named every star. He is mighty and sovereign, and nevertheless, He loves us, feeble humans who are so easily distracted and wooed from Him by shiny things and lies. I absolutely believe that we can be blessed with goodness here, from Him (and only from Him), but we cannot do it apart from Him. That's the ultimate litmus test. Without Him, everything is delicate beauty hiding dirt and despair. 

So take heart, friends, if you too sometimes feel those pangs of jealousy, comparison, and discontentment. Drop everything (including your phones and laptops), and look to He who is greater than all, and more beautiful than we can comprehend. Let Him be your eyes and show you what it means to be well.