Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Deep



"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)"
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

The calling and direction of the Lord is often a mysterious thing. Looking back, we sometimes cannot identify how the stirring or desire or the very thought of a new calling first entered our lives, but we find ourselves standing on a new sea, somehow desiring, beyond all common sense, to leap out of the boat into deep waters.

All of creation cries out the glory of our God, its Creator and Sustainer, but I wonder if anything more clearly speaks of God and the depth of His being or the perilousness of following Him in faith than deep, tumultuous waters. The Israelites, in escaping oppression in Egypt, had to cross the Red Sea. Then, again, they had to dip their toes in the Jordan at flood stage in order to obtain possession of the land the Lord had promised them. Peter, in that infamous moment of daring failure, begged Jesus to let him experience walking on water with Him. The Lord's voice is described as the sound of rushing waters, He used the flood waters to bring judgment on the earth in Noah's day, and our walk with Jesus in this life is marked by our immersion in the waters of baptism.

Water can be terrifying, especially to someone who has never learned how to swim or when a storm stirs the sea into a swirling frenzy, but water can also be liberating. We can float and enjoy a weightlessness than cannot be experienced on dry land. Water can destroy, but it is also absolutely necessary for life.

The Lord has begun a new work in our family, and as I stand at the edge of the water, I am both terrified and exhilarated. My in-laws have a beautiful home and boat house on a river, and their boat house sits in very deep waters. There is no beach or opportunity to wade in. It's all or nothing. You can stand safely on the boat house or you can daringly plunge into the deep waters. Jack, who is so much like me, met with a great battle last summer. It is a delight to many who visit this boat house to jump off the second level, which stands above their boat lift, many feet in the air. Each summer, some people race to experience the thrilling fall into the deep waters, and others are dared to face their fears in taking that same plunge.

Poor Jack has been blessed with my sense of fear, yet he has that desire that all of us do, to experience the exhilaration that we see others, more daring than us, enjoying. He faced what seemed to the rest of us an hours-long internal battle: To jump or not to jump. I, being his always rational and never patient mother, tried to reason with him. "Either close your eyes and take the plunge or just forget about it, walk down the steps, and go play with everyone else. You don't have to jump."

But he did. He did have to jump. He was experiencing that internal battle that no one save him alone could fight. The joy he saw others experiencing and that inward desire born in all of us to embrace life to the fullest was compelling him forward. Yet the fear he felt as he looked off that tall, tall precipice paralyzed him. He could find no peace until he met that fear, yet it seemed too great to face. While I was extremely frustrated, to say the least, as I watched him agonize, whine, and even cry for what seemed like an eternity, I knew what he was facing. I have been there so many times.

When the Lord calls us into a deeper fellowship with Him, it always involves faith. From that very first moment of salvation to every subsequent step of the journey we take with Him, He asks us to trust, to step out in faith, to take a risk on Him, to believe that facing the fear will be worth it. For a lover of comfort and security like me, this can be torture. I can look out at others on their journey and see the sweet intimacy and joy they experience as they step out in faith, trusting the Lord for the scary stuff, over and over again. I want that. I want to know Him like they know Him. But so often, the fear paralyzes me. Unlike reckless Peter, I am scared to even get out of the boat. I am scared of sinking in the waves, as Peter did. Yet Peter is the only person, that I know of, who has experienced walking on the water with the Water-Maker.

After tears and countless moments of agony and counting the cost, Jack finally decided to leap. That little, terrified boy found the courage in one brief moment to fling himself into the air, to leave the security of the land for the experience of the freedom and thrill of falling through the air and plunging into the deep water. We all cheered and celebrated with him, for it was a victory for all of us! (The whining was over!) And what do you think he proceeded to do after that first daring jump? He jumped no less than fifty more times in that same day. I am not exaggerating. One taste of the thrill of freedom and faith and he was hooked.

(Apparently, I did not capture photos of Jack jumping last year! But to give you an idea, here are some pics of his thrill-seeking big sister jumping a couple of years ago.)




But isn't that what walking with the Lord does to all of us? Those first, faith and fear-filled steps are so terrifying, yet so addicting. When we know and experience the Lord by trusting Him in scary places, it is an intimacy and a fellowship like nothing else. Though the fear never completely leaves us, we want more. We cannot walk away from the edge of the deep waters, because we know that, if we can only find the faith to leap, we will experience such glorious freedom and thrill of the mystery of God being revealed.

The irony of the whole situation with Jack is that he was wearing a life jacket. He was really in no danger at all! Though the experience might have felt terrifying, there was no reason to fear. His life was secure. That is the reality of our faith journey with the Lord as well. We perceive stepping out in faith to be scary, but there is truly no more secure place for us to walk, eternally and spiritually speaking. The hand of the Lord, whose voice is like rushing waters, who could easily walk on water Himself, carries us at all times, assuring us that He will never let us go. No wonder Jesus said to Peter, as he started to let his human fear of earthly circumstances overcome him, "You of little faith!" Peter had forgotten that the One who spoke the waters into being and told them where to stop was the One with whom he was walking.

I am standing at the edge of deep waters. Sometimes the fear of failure and the struggle ahead wakes me up at night. Other times my heart leaps with excitement, knowing that, whatever the earthly outcome or the perception of failure or success in others' eyes, His grace will abound in these deep waters and that my faith will be made stronger. Until we trust Him to take us deeper, we will never experience the joy and thrill of resting in His presence as we were meant to do.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior



...the Lord said to Joshua..."Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them...Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:1-2, 9

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Your Kingdom Come

I have written this a thousand times, it seems. It is written over again everyday of my life. A hard, lovely, sad, heart-wrenching, beautiful story. The story of motherhood. As our season of birthdays culminates with my beautiful daughter turning twelve on Friday, celebrating the last year of her childhood, and as Mother's Day approaches on Sunday, my heart hurts. It is that same hurt that fills your heart when you first fall in love. A hurt that comes from deep affection. A fear that knows that to love deeply is to risk hurting deeply.

In Luke 12, as in so much of Scripture, Jesus reminds us to seek heavenly, eternal things. To seek His kingdom, which will not fade, verses our own, which most certainly will. In Luke 11, Jesus grants His disciples' request to teach them how to pray. And He begins with the prayer our hearts should constantly be crying: Father, may the holiness and glory of Your name be constantly made known. May Your kingdom, Your plans, Your ways, Your priorities come here and now.

As I asked myself in what ways am I seeking my kingdom and my glory and my earthly desires rather than the Lord's, the story of love and hurt and letting go was written on my heart by my tender, loving Father once again.

Your children.

As the dreaded Graduation Sunday was celebrated in our church two days ago, my heart and my eyes overflowed with tears. I could not stop it, no matter how embarrassing it was for someone who rarely cries, much less in public. No, I do not yet have a graduate. But much too soon for me, I will. And each year as this occasion is marked at church, I am one year closer to launching my little birds out of my nest.

I want them to stay. I want to cling to them. I want to be the mama of littles forever. It is hard when they're small and life is stressful and overwhelming, but it is my dream come true. When I kiss their little faces and wipe their little noses and listen to their silly stories, my heart finds happiness. My life finds purpose and meaning. I am content. It feels like heaven.

But it is not.

Heaven is where we will exist forever with our Beloved Jesus, face to face, without sin or suffering or pain. Without ever having to let go.

But earth is about letting go. Because of the curse of sin, it is all passing away and we are meant, in the letting go, to set our longing hearts on Jesus. We are meant to seek God's glory in and through it all, not our own happiness or momentary pleasure.

So again today, the Lord has reminded me that to hang on, to cling to, to desire their childhood forever is to seek my own glory, my own kingdom, my own happiness. It is not meant to be. For me to pray His prayer for my children, His children, means to pray that they grow, prepared for life and in love with Him, and fulfill their purpose in bringing Him glory. In bringing a little of His kingdom to this earth.

They are not here for my pleasure alone. They are not mine. They were created, as we all are, for His pleasure. They are His. And it is not my place to rob God of His glory or His pleasure. It is my blessed place to allow Him to work through me in their lives to guide their hearts to His glory. It is my privilege to play a small part in His children's lives and, in that participation in His work, to participate in His coming kingdom.

He does not leave me empty. He offers to fill those deep, hurting places with Christ Himself. He holds out the hope of heaven and eternity where we will not grow old and where there will be no more letting go. There will only be blessed clinging...to Jesus. I want to share that joy with my children. And that means letting them go, a little at a time.

Oh, how my heart longs for heaven, where these bittersweet Mama tears will be wiped away by my Savior.

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come."





Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Easter Selfies


Maddie has been studying different decades from the 1900's in history lately. There's nothing quite as humbling as helping your child study a part of history you remember because it's also known as "your childhood." She shared with me that her generation is apparently known as the "lost generation." Now, she couldn't exactly explain to me why, other than they never used cassette tapes (I mean, that was a highlight in the history of mankind...poor children of the digital age), but it has made me stop and think how different the world is now than when I was a kid....you know, a very, very short time ago.
 
Something that inundates our lives now that didn't exist in my childhood is social media. To be really honest, I only saw a computer in elementary school when it was computer lab day and we got to play The Oregon Trail. Now I feel like I spend half of my life in front of some such device, and it's not to pretend I'm headed West with my cholera-infected family. Our friend, the Internet, has changed our lives so dramatically! My recent trip to the beach wouldn't have been what it was without us Yelping everything in sight. (By the way, we scored some pretty awesome new restaurant recommendations thanks to Yelp...and lots of hours of entertainment.)
 
I digress. How we are perceived and how we perceive others is largely influenced by Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest...I would list more but I'm not cool enough to know the names of them all. I've actually never been on Instagram.  How many of us do not spend lots of time either deciding what we'll post for the world to see of us and our families or judging others for the things they chose? Really, someone should start a PR firm that helps people make smarter social media choices. Wow, there are some doozies out there.
 
This online culture feeds our love of self. I'm embarrassed to say that I view much of my life through the "what kind of facebook status or blog post would this make?" lens. Don't judge. But I bet you already have. The crème de la crème of our self-absorbed culture is the Selfie, is it not? Oh my word, the Selfie. (Blogger has the nerve to underline that word in zig-zaggy red, as if it's not really a word.) Nothing brings out my judgmental side more than the Selfie.
 
I've fallen victim to the urge to take a Selfie just like everyone else. I mean, come on. When you're home with a sick kid on Easter, unable to go to church and show everybody how pretty you look that day, what other option do you have but to post a Selfie before the gentle curl falls out of your hair? But then when you go to take the Selfie and you realize that either the camera on your phone is defective or you don't look nearly as good as you thought you did, you end up trying all manner of lighting and angles and smiles to minimize the wrinkles and maximize the pretty...and before you know it, you've spent 23 minutes on Easter taking a picture of yourself for the world to see, which is exactly how Jesus imagined me spending that day when He conquered death once and for all, I'm sure. That and an Easter egg hunt where the eggs are dropped from a helicopter. Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what He and Mary Magdalene talked about in the garden that morning once she realized He had reconciled God and His children for all eternity. "You know, Jesus, I'm in the mood to hunt eggs...specifically eggs falling from the sky."
 
 
 
And then there's the newest Easter tradition on social media: the race to see who can post their kids' Easter pictures first. I had a distinct advantage since I had the perfect excuse to skip church and focus on the true meaning of Easter. Clearly, I used my time that morning wisely. I blame all of this on whoever decided that Easter required cute new outfits for the family, because who wants to spend all that time and money on new clothes and then not show them off on Instagram?
 


I do have a point. I think. Wait....oh, yes. As I reflect on how silly we all are (me included) and how misdirected our time seems to be and how obsessed we seem to be with the image of our lives that we portray to the world, I am quick to condemn. I am quick to label us all as self-absorbed fakes who need to get a life. However, today, as I contemplated how much I really want to be the person so many people think I am and how, even if I live to be 100, I'm not sure there's enough time left for the Lord to make me that person, I saw things differently. Every morning, I wake up and I'm stuck with me. The real me. The me who knows all the selfish, ugly things I think in my heart. The me who struggles with my flesh every minute of every day. The me who wants to be a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, and a better follower of Christ, and I felt compassion on all of us.

I think, deep down, we all want to be who we portray ourselves to be on Facebook. We are all very well acquainted with our own shortcomings, and we are all very desperate for them to go away. All of us are aware how quickly envy, discontentment, depression, or anger can take hold of us, and we wish it weren't so. We wish we were more like so-and-so or even more like Christ, and yet the more we live, the more we see how far we have to go. In all of us, there is a longing for Eden. The way things were meant to be, before we let ourselves get in the way.

How much more would we resemble the person we want to be if we spent half the time we use perusing posts or posting more posts to connect with God and with others instead? It is so easy for me to use my phone as an escape...an escape from the laundry or from myself or from my fighting children, and miss the fact that God wants to use all of the circumstances and people and even my own shortcomings to shape me and mature me. He has blessings waiting for us and plans to transform us, but we are too busy planning our next cute quip or proud rant. It is easy to be wrapped up in who we want others to think we are rather than who God is making us to be.

Facebook might not have been around in those history books, way back in the 90's with my Duckheads, but there is nothing new under the sun. The desire for the approval of others and the need to be loved is nothing new, and the attempt to portray a better me than the real me has always been around. The longing to be made whole again has existed since that first bite of forbidden fruit. But there is only One whose love satisfies, whose approval matters, and who has the ability to restore. And, last time I checked, He wasn't on Facebook.

His words are written, timeless and relevant, able to transform and full of gracious love for me. It's time for my mind, my time, my escape to be directed toward Him who delights in making me the person I want to be. And when He does, I won't need the internet to advertise my transformation. I want real people to see the real difference the risen Jesus makes in lives. To Him, we are as we will be, His radiant bride, adorned for His enjoyment.