Chasing Joy

"I am guiding you on the way of wisdom and I am leading you on the right path." Proverbs 4:11

Category: calling

learning to rest while choosing to stay

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He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  -Jim Elliot

the details are long, but the short of it is that we could leave now.   the market has shifted in town and this little run down house could be sold for 4 times what we still owe.  elementary school has ended for us and the middle school years are just plain hard.  especially here.  we could retreat.  sell this house, and re-locate.

it is true that i need rest.  i have responded to the Lord’s invitation into hiddenness with a wholehearted; “i am willing, show me the way.” the danger has been in the timing of the real opportunity to leave it all behind.  it would seem logical that if the Lord is inviting me to ‘a solitary place’ that leaving the noise of the city for the quiet of the mountains would be precisely the solution.

except that it’s not…..not exactly.

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we didn’t move here to start a ministry.  we didn’t even move here to love our neighbors.  we moved here in the midst of a real trauma, doing the best we could with what we had.  it was the God of the Samaritan who had a ministry in mind for us, a church, a school, and neighbors to love.   the only thing that has shifted now is the financial freedom to choose a different location.  couldn’t we relocate and love those we’re called to love from afar?  put a little distance between us and the constant visible needs of those around us?

the reality is, the reason i have a bus schedule on my fridge to share with the friend sleeping on my couch is because we are familiar with utilizing the city bus.  i cannot love well from afar.

it is costly, this way of the Samaritan, this daily dying to self, this obedience.  He’s not asking me to stop obeying in order to rest, but into a deeper obedience.

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“A decision to release the world and our fate to God runs contrary to everything within and around us.  We have been had by a system of behavior that was here before we were and seeps into every pore of our being. “Sin,” Paul tells us, “was in the world,” even before the law came.  it forms us internally and pressures us externally.  Hence we must learn to choose things that meet with God’s actions of grace to break us out of the system.  These things are the disciplines of life in the Spirit, well known from Christian history but much avoided and misunderstood.  For those who do not understand our desperate situation, these disciplines look strange or even harmful.  But they are absolutely necessary for those who would find rest for their soul in God and not live the distracted existence….solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciplines…”  -Dallas Willard in his forward to Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

what i’m being asked to do is walk the path of entering His rest, of withdrawing by myself to a solitary place, setting aside the needs of those around me for communion with Him….while at the same time moving out with compassion for those who come my way.  it’s complicated, it’s messy, it takes discernment to know when to set aside my plan for the day for the need of another and when to shut my door and turn off my phone.  it means knowing full well that i am in a season of stepping back from actively serving in order to tend to my soul, yet making a bed up on my couch to ‘provide the poor wanderer with shelter.’

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it’s trusting Him to provide what i most need.

He knows the way that i take.  He’s walked this same road of compassion and self-care.  He shows me the way. He says there is more for me here in this little house, that it is not finished.  i believe it’s more of Him.  more of learning the disciplines of life in the Spirit through staying the course, persevering, lifting my eyes up to the hills and remembering where my help comes from.  there will be days of retreating up to the mountains for a time but more often there will be days of taking a walk by myself through my neighborhood to pray.  i have much to learn and a patient Teacher.

 i’ve counted up the cost, oh i’ve counted up the cost…
            and You. are. worth it.
-Rend Collective

to draw further in:  Matthew 14; Isaiah 58; Hebrews 4

hope for the unsuccessful

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it is a difficult thing to be entrusted with living breathing small humans, tasked with the job of guiding them into adulthood.  this morning after yet another rough dialog i find myself in a place of needing to do some work, of not having time to waste, and yet being so full of all the emotions that i can’t focus or move forward.  tears cloud my vision, discouragement and despair threaten to take over.  teenagers are complicated as are middle aged adult women (such as me).

i find it so easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees these days.

IMG_3403two weeks ago i prepared a training session for a group of women who lead school age students in bible study.  the remains of this session spill from my pile of papers. but of course, i sigh as i kneel down to pick them up.  providentially one of the papers catches hold of my tear-filled eye and i pay attention.

i’d given each group a piece of paper with a line down the middle and the words successful and unsuccessful at the top.  the instructions were to list off things that make them feel this way in their classrooms.  then i gave them a fill in the blank sheet to complete as i recited the following truths:

Looking to God’s purpose vs. a personal sense of success.

i…prefer things to go smoothly, and feel more comfortable when i’m in control.

God….often works through human weakness and failure, and invites me to yield to His control.

Being prepared and purposeful is important and necessary.  It is good and nice to have a classroom run smoothly….

yet…

The struggles i face do not represent failure, but opportunity for growth…and to see God do amazing things through an unlikely vessel such as myself.  it is more important that God is glorified than that i feel successful.

it is more important that God is glorified than that i feel successful.

True success is allowing God’s higher purposes to prevail.

in light of all of this…how will my inner dialog change?  how will my prayers change?

 

IMG_3545i prepared that lesson, i read those words out loud two weeks ago.  today it’s as if i’m seeing them for the first time.  choosing to reject the mocking of myself about that and instead letting them wash over me afresh, in this moment, after this particular argument, with this particular child.

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methods and mothers may fail (guilty and guilty)
children may falter and fail

God’s love never fails.
God’s higher purpose prevails.

 and that right there brings me such a depth of hope and a settled calm.  my inner dialog does change, and so do my prayers.

maybe you too?


to draw further in:  meditating on Matthew 11:25-30, Hebrews 2-4 and what it means to make every effort to enter into the Rest/Easy Yoke of Jesus.

 

life | dreaming

 

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my boys, they talk of firemen and joining the army and playing baseball for lots of money.  my girl, at the wise old age of 2, announced she wanted to be a garbage man when she grew up.  “cause then i can make all the children of the neighborhood happy.”  fully believing that every child enjoyed watching that garbage truck come and pick up the trash in its especially interesting way.

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she glowed with excitement as an eight year old girl, when she described what she dreamed of becoming when all grown and out on her own.

and i did what any mother of an eight year old does.  shared her delight and encouraged her in her dream.  not because i thought she knew anymore than that 2 year old aspiring garbage collector knew.

i delighted in her dream because i delighted in her.

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here we are, this grown taller than me fifteen year old and i, and that eight-year old dream still resides in her heart.  she’s more passionate now and carries more wisdom than her eight-year old self.  she’s experienced more of life and more of joy and more of sorrow.  the dream has taken the shape of a calling, a calling from the One who knit her together and mapped out her course.  and the invitation has come to this mother to watch out for the opportunities to spur her on into who she is.

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those watching seem to find themselves perplexed and needing to form conclusions.  we visited a campus this past weekend, you see, and i’ve heard so many declarations of; “wow, you are on top of things” as if we held some superpower they lacked.  or; “a campus visit as a sophomore?  why didn’t you wait?” as if we lacked some wisdom they held.

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the truth is i don’t know what i’m doing, mothering these kids.  what i do know is that the One who knits together and gives desires is holding their future in His hands.  and He’s entrusted me with walking alongside them as they journey into who He is making them to be.  and He’s been teaching me about becoming.  about becoming more fully myself.  about listening to the desires of my heart and unpacking them in His presence.  and as He’s gifted me with encouragers along my way, i have drunk deep from refreshing springs when the journey feels foolish and stupid and wasteful.  so why would i offer my daughter something else?

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i have no idea how we ended up far from home in an airplane hanger listening to all it takes to become a missionary pilot.  i don’t recall how we learned of this school.  or why, when the postcard came inviting us to Experience Spokane!, we took notice and decided to go.  this wasn’t a well-thought out plan.  i’d like to think that this is the movement of that Spirit who hovered over the waters and brought forth light.  that the One who called to Abram to leave and go to the place He would show him, calls forth Abraham’s children to follow step by step still.  that maybe He who breathed the starry host into existence, can enable an absent minded mother to tune into the symphony He is forming within her daughter….. His daughter.  i have lived long enough to know that it is entirely possible that this movement towards flight school may or may not produce a missionary pilot at its end. regardless, any movement towards the direction of the Spirit contains its own promised end….

…the eyes of your heart enlightened
in order that you may know the hope
to which He has called you,
the riches
of His glorious inheritance in the saints,
and His incomparably great power
for us who believe.

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maybe, just maybe, a dream is an invitation from the One who gathers the waters of the sea into jars.  “Take Courage,” He says; “it is I, don’t be afraid.”

step into your dream, my child, and live

 

a series exploring the concept of life- what it is and what it means to have it.

a series exploring the concept of life- what it is and what it means to have it.


to draw further in: Ephesians 1; Psalm 33; Genesis 1, 12

1st – 4th and 6th photos taken by Hannah, 5th and 7th by me on our recent trip to Spokane, WA

 

life | retrieved

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He surrounds himself with words.  fine sounding arguments to deal with the broken places.  i stand alone in his space and i read them and grieve over how far away from truth and real healing he is.  i lose hope.

but i do remain in that place of acceptance.  acceptance for where he is at and what he is able to give and receive.  another kind of death assigned to me is this relationship.  great glory goes to the Father of the fatherless for the way He enables me to love this man who is limited in his ability to love in return, to love in a way i desire to be loved.  and there is still great weakness and fear that remains in how i’m relating.  i am fully aware of the trembling inside when conversations begin to shift in uncomfortable directions.  i find my own self coping through diversions and distractions, keeping things safe.  i lose myself in the presence of others here, but when it is quiet, the One who gives sight to the blind helps me to see.

Finding the Love that Retrieves at www.everybitterthingissweet.com

in the dark of the night we stand debating over another one far gone and a false prophet among us.  the scene shifts and i find myself in an arena full of those held captive by Balaam and his deceptions.  searching through my belongings, they grab hold of my blue bound book, the one with my name inscribed on the front.  they empty it of the treasures i’ve tucked inside, passing them out to bystanders and mocking me in the process.  i don’t care, i snatch it back-letting the little things go, knowing that the real treasure is the pages and words contained within.  taking my seat, i’m discovered by the other truth bearers who’ve infiltrated these ranks and we band together standing united against the fray.  it’s invigorating and delightful to find i’m not standing alone.

and then i wake up.  it was only a dream.

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i look over at his chair and i remember sara’s words.  i remember how far the Mighty Warrior Jesus went to retrieve me.  the dream brings into focus the truth of the battle, the truth of what i stand on and cling to, the truth that there are fellow soldiers who have infiltrated the enemy’s territory.  i rise and retrieve that blue bound book with my name engraved on the front.  The Spirit brings to mind words and i turn page after page searching them out.  and then i breathe them in.  my Hope Bearer fills me with renewed hope all the while reminding me of my source of worth and joy, lest i misunderstand and stumble into expectations and seeking where worth and joy cannot be found.

Oh Lord, You are my God!  i will exalt You and praise Your name-
for in Perfect Faithfulness
You have done marvelous things…

This is what the Lord says;
I have seen his ways, BUT i will heal him;
I will guide him and restore comfort to him,
creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.

Can plunder be taken from warriors?
or captives rescued from the fierce?
But this is what the Lord says;
Yes
captives will be taken
and plunder retrieved.

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life begins when the Source of life retrieves.  i know this.

i forgot this.

i have renewed hope for this one who surrounds himself with fine sounding arguments.  he is seeking life where it cannot be found, but i do recognize that it is life that he is seeking.  i also recognize that the current god he’s bowing to is successfully tricking him into thinking he’s found it and there is no hope in that.  rather, my hope is in the Mighty One who is Mightier, the Powerful One who is more Powerful.  that greater is He in me than he that is in the world. i hope because Life Himself retrieves captives from the fierce.

See now that I Myself am He!
there is no god besides Me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of My hand.

life

a series exploring the concept of life- what it is and what it means to have it.


to draw further in;  Colossians 2:1-8; Romans 16:17-18;  2 Peter 3:3-9; Isaiah 25; 57:18; 49:25; Psalm 119:72

 

life

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the moon, venus (my guess) and man’s light seen from my front porch

The Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering  They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them.

They took the very gift God gave to them and used it to reject Him

In Moses’s song he describes it this way:

  The Lord….He found, He shielded, He guarded, He hovered as an eagle, He carried, He led, He fed, He nourished.
Israel’s response to the God who made him, the Rock his Savior….. he grew fat, he abandoned, he rejected , he deserted, he forgot.

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daily sights-this one, my favorite barn on the way home from dropping hannah off at school.

for the past 9 months i’ve journeyed along with these people.  beginning with the Mighty One’s rescue from slavery in Egypt, His salvation through the red sea, His care in the desert, all to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey-to give them life.  and yet, the very gift of life becomes the means by which they reject.

He knew this beforehand.  and He gave them life anyway.

selah….sigh…

i know this is my story too.  this is my story too.

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this one taken by my daughter hannah

Before the Lord God made man upon the earth, He first prepared for him a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are simply “things”. They were made for man’s use, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.

But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul. Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and things were allowed to enter. Within the human heart things have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk, stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.

…..The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development, never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

-A. W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God

church next to the bus stop, across from the downtown Safeway where the homeless and addicted congregate. 3 blocks from home.

The Ever Near One sustained me with personal and specific truth during all those sick days, those 54 perpetual sick days. now that He has released me from my sickbed, he’s weaving together in my heart some new things.  Jesus said; “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  won’t you come along and explore this topic with me?

life


to draw further in, Deuteronomy 31 and 32

insulated

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jack frost making art on my window

halfway down the hall he punches the wall, goes a little farther and slides down with his hood up and his head in his lap. insulating himself from his surroundings and his surroundings from himself. i pass on by saying nothing, carrying the contraband to the principle. i know he’s angry at me for catching him. i pray he doesn’t take his anger out on one of his 4th grade classmates, specifically-my son.

we talk about the superbowl and human trafficking. i mention an idea of skipping the commercials in lue of prayer. reading the response i’m aware of the desire to remain insulated instead. so i give up. my teen however was listening, and at her own party, she and a youth group mate talk about it and she does pray. she shares this with me later and i grieve that i didn’t even try.

i stand in the isle looking for a chocolate bar to give as a gift. i want to ignore what i know is true, but today i can’t. so i spend the extra and make the purchase of chocolate sourced justly and fairly. but i worry that the recipient will be offended by my choice. no one likes the feelings they get when made aware of the evils in this world.  should i have chosen to express my love for them without expressing my love for children halfway around the world at the same time?  would it be better to keep one insulated from the other?

i listen to someone speak passionately about their calling that is so very different than mine. it’s easy to mistake passion for condemnation i notice, and it makes me uncomfortable. but i keep returning to her place because it is so very different. she lives in a big house on a lake. she loves her people well with her made from scratch delicacies. i wonder if she grasps the gifts she’s been given in her big house on a lake. i think she does.

the feet are knocked out from under 3 of us for 2 days. i notice in my Daily Light devotional that this very day last year was a similar story. in my depressed sick brain fog i dream up all the ways i will fight to insulate my brood of 5-all the places i will refuse to go and the people i will refuse to see. i am fed up with always being sick. i think about that passionate one and the health of her family and how maybe if i follow her recipe for living we could enjoy health too? i dream of moving away, somewhere remote…near water sounds perfect. i fight battles in my head all the while my body fights sleep instead of the virus. realizing i’m spinning wheels that are going nowhere i begin to recite scripture to myself and pray instead. the Lord is my Shepherd, i want for nothing…..He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters…. for the first time in days the needed sleep finally comes.

some hours later i find myself up and out and refreshed……walking behind an angry 4th grader punching the wall.

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