Abstraction

January 1, 2015
The turning of the page is a curiously familiar sound. It can bring everything from a catch in your breath to a sigh. There is an eagerness for the next word, whether it be a desire for more or a desire to move on. Maybe it’s time to turn a page. A gentle grasp on the corner of my life, turned over to the tenderized willingness of my heart and mind. What is my desire? More, or movement?

This past year, God led me into a wilderness where He showed me how tired I was. Instead of refreshing me, He walked me around the edges of my landscape and caused me to feel every place that I had neglected. A weariness like never before, accompanied by an inability to shake it off, was like a second skin. This layering of fatigue and neglect inhabited my thoughts as well as my body. My resistance to stillness had become an ego driven habit that resulted in constant exhausted busyness.

During this time my prayer life became fragmented and convoluted. But still, I prayed. I was all over the place with petitions and praise. I was demanding at times and reverence took a back seat to self-loathing. I longed for God to be God and for me to know what it was in my heart that resisted Him and resisted the renewing of my mind.

It was while reading the book, “Prayer” by Tim Keller that the Lord revealed a startling thought process imbedded deep in my mind and heart—abstraction (pg. 21).

At some point I had moved Jesus from my heart to the edges of my mind. God had become a very good, very wise, very competent, and even very truthful concept. I was no longer worshipping God but He had become my source for answers, He had become the abstraction. The Oxford dictionary defines it like this:

1 the quality of dealing with ideas rather than events: something that exists only as an idea: 2 freedom from representational qualities in art: 3 a state of preoccupation: 4 the process of considering something dependently of its associations, attributes, or concrete accompaniments: 5 the process of removing something, especially water from a river or other source.

When I read this definition, I did not respond in overwhelming grief, but instead there was a hint of relief. In that moment, I felt like a time of intimacy with God had just opened up. Maybe this would be a time of revealing, an unveiling of the fog that has distorted my faith. Maybe God would reveal more of who He is and who I am and why there was this relentless pursuit on both sides.

February 4, 2015
This word “abstraction” has indwelled my thinking and uncovered my desire for movement. Movement first into the understanding of where I had placed God. He is the not the means to my understanding of Himself. He is not the sum of his character or the playbill of his story. He is not limited to my fickle times of deep devotion but He is present outside of my preoccupation with Him. He does not simply represent Himself to me so that I may gain wisdom and insight into the things of the past or present. He is not the answer to the questions surrounding my sorrow, my broken character, and my half-hearted attempts at becoming better. Nor is He the way to my accomplishments, my confidence, my sanctification, or my repentance.

This misalignment of truth was dark and beckoned often. Simply put, I loved, believed in, and was in relationship with Jesus on an idealistic level. He was every good thought, every good event, every good deed, and every good gift. I gave Him full credit for being sovereign over past wrongs and bad events, crediting Him with the freedom to do as He sees fit and laying on Him the implications of providence. And because of grace, my allotted grace, I was able for years to reside at times in this darkness, a darkness I both feared and welcomed.

February 28, 2015
As I read back over this post, I’m afraid this may be just a little too much openness. Too much exposure to what I normally keep boxed up and strategically stored in places that are exhausting to get to and so give me the option to weigh the effort against reward. For years, the reward seemed negotiable. I had faith, had assurance, had some joy and had enough resources to deal with the lack thereof. That was until that word—abstraction.

I must now trust that this is a turning point; that on this page I will begin to see the error of my understanding, my idolatry of truth, and the breadth of my wandering. That this revelation of depravity is not meant for my destruction but that my repentance is meant for His delight.
“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalm 51:6.

March 7, 2015
So today marks nine weeks of working on this post. Of praying through it, putting it away, pulling it back out. Swinging back and forth between it being a simple journal entry of my thoughts to a public confession. Both places have been paved in grace so the decision is mine—to post or not post.

It’s a bit scattered and doesn’t flow well. There is a mix of bland, cliche, and tired phrasing. It leaves some thoughts hanging and is a little boring to read. It begs for less confession and a full circle God’s Word ending that leaves you with a smile or a sweet sigh because isn’t that why I decided to start a blog anyway.  Maybe next time.

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:11-12


New View

I sat on the sidewalk and a man asked of me, “What are you thinking and what do you see?”

“I see people wrestling and bustling about,
with demons and angels and worry and doubt.
There is little to dream on, even less to believe,
when one’s body and mind are in service to ease.”

“They huIMG_1112nt selfishly for gold, ignoring the shame,
feeding their belly with manipulation and blame.
Their pedestal is polished, their offering framed,
recognition and influence become sought after acclaim.”

“Work is traded for dreamed upon days,
of moments when life was played away.
Grace is ignored and truth is exchanged,
for a front row seat to the dance of the chained.”

“I see the liar and thief of our present and past,
approaching the Master to plead and to ask.
Are You willing to give just a little time,
that I might press and poke at their fickle minds?”

“Is there more that you see, that you think, or believe?” the man asked more resolved, staring at me.

“I think that I thought I would see more of hope,
more of bravery and strength against the slippery slope.
More of kindness and grace, a willingness to choose,
not to be offended, not afraid to lose.”

“I thought that my willingness to surrender to Love,
would give way to secrets stored in boxes above.
That my candid confession of doubt and despair,
would mean windows would open to light and fresh air.”

“And yet, when I look a bit longer embracing my sight,
I see hints of life and traces of light.
At times I see a face that welcomes the Voice,
the sound of truth, of love, of choice.”

“Maybe there’s a doorway waiting for me,
one that leads to a faith I’ve yet to see.
I long for the courage while fear ever looms,
and concede to thoughts that so easily consume.”

“But I fear not the sorrow that frequents my soul,
I give it the freedom to have and to hold.
A reflection of hope and misunderstood peace,
of quiet faith and fearless belief.”

“Let me tell you,” said the man with a careful expression, “how to see much more in your observation.”

“There is always movement in directions unseen,
giving way to purposes, plans, and schemes.
Ways are hidden and circles worn,
lives are bruised, shattered, and torn.”

“But forgiveness gives way to beauty and grace,
and the Word of truth binds all this in place.
His faith is enough, when you hesitate,
it will not relinquish your future to fate.”

“The hauntings of your past destroyed,
reflect an identity you shouldn’t avoid.
Transforming your mind, renewing your heart,
restoring your life is the Spirit’s part.”

“So now, be patient and kind and give grace to those,
who are seeking for ways to dodge the blows.
They are running fast and sleeping little,
working for a lord that is weak and contemptible.”

“The rescue is mine, I will restore this land,
every hair, every heart resides in my hand.
You love and deliver them to me in prayer,
speaking truth and trusting their life to my care.”

Painfully humbled, I tearfully prayed and asked for a longing to see others saved. In between every word, my soul dry and thirsty, was a yearning and desperate cry for mercy. Standing to leave, hand placed on my head, he leaned over quietly and kindly said,

“Give thanks for the tender care of your book,
for the bottles of tears and the wanderings you took.
Surrender to the Love that says you belong,
and allow the Author to edit your song.”

“Remember who called you, who first said hello,
who gave you a voice and the life you now know.
One that compels you to love and to live,
to surrender to truth, to withhold and to give.”

“Go now from this seat in front your mirror,
that holds you in darkness, in fear and in terror.
What you see in yourself, the contempt that you bear,
is nothing short of the devil’s well laid snare.”

“You are part of the view and part of the plan,
But you are not to be chastised and you will not be damned.
So resist now your habit of abasement and defeat,
Look now to reality and sit at His feet.”

My time on this sidewalk has come to an end.
In fear I sat down, in faith I ascend.


Love and Light

“For God so loved the world…” John 3:16

We are lovable.  Created in God’s image and perfected by Jesus’ death we went from unworthy to worthy of His love and His affection.  This love, that is “a reckless, raging fury*” refuses to be defined by our small understanding rooted in cuddling and compliments.  The love God for us is fuel for life.  It illuminates, examines, deepens, and fortifies.  And, in my opinion, the most profound thing about it is that it’s transferable.

Jesus says of himself, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).” And of us He says, “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others… (Matthew 5:14, 16; emphasis mine).”

Shining our light may seem like an easy thing to do, it’s not hard to turn up the corners of our mouth and smile while quoting familiar passages like I just did.  It’s rather simple to play the part of a born again believer, saved by grace, because “God so loved the world.”  I can sit in a pew, be faithful to small group, talk about my faith to others, have a colorful passport, “speak the truth in love,” follow my calling, and “work as unto the Lord” yet still be hiding under a handmade basket of counterfeit, shameful, doubting, and fearful  life.  It’s living in a “I must protect myself and survive” mode instead of living as one who has already been rescued.

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us… at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:2a, 8).”

We are not an artificial light with a predetermined lifespan, but we are the eternal light of God filled with His love for the purpose of lighting the world.  We have all been given hills where we are to shine, glorifying God with a love that is not like this world.  A love that makes us receptors of grace that forgive and receive forgiveness.  It reveals and extinguishes, pulls us close and sets us free.   It inhabits us and through a careful and deliberate intrusion, never lets go.  This love exposes our hiding places and burns away every moldy glimmer of a dappled life.

Love and light go together.  We can’t have one without being the other.  And we can’t give off one without recognizing that we are able to receive the other.  We are the light because we are lovable.  Nothing in this life that we have experienced is to define us to any greater extent than this truth, that we are lovable.  Not until we believe in this love to the very core of our heart will we be able to come out from under the basket and feel the warmth of the light and the safety of the Maker of our hills.

Lovable“What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:31-39, emphasis mine


*The Love of God, Mullins, Rich, Never Picture Perfect 1989


Goodness

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” Psalm 23:6a

If goodness and mercy follow me then what goes before me?  On those days when goodness is dismissed and mercy is clouded by the mess of life, grace goes before me.  “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17b)…through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand… (Romans 5:2).”  Before goodness is poured out on me, grace fills my cup to overflowing.  Before mercy rises with the sun, grace moves the darkness from the sky.

You were there when things happened.  Events that were awkward, uncomfortable, painful, tragic, and until now, inexpressible.  But, what once was confounding now defines my thoughts and deepens my character.  Every moment was clothed in grace and shrouded in your sovereignty.  Those things, those events are a part of me, as determined by you.  Some thoughts play out like a reenactment, others are like a cluttered closet full of unopened boxes and crowded corners, and still with others I can only sense the mood.  In time, it will all be beautiful.  And in the process, this sanctification feeds my longing for eternity and the day when grace and goodness converge and Jesus is no longer crowded out by unmet needs, victim frailty, and misguided wants.

Until then, I hope.

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“…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6b


Distractions

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“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you,  I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:7-10

At the end of the day, in the middle of the day, while at work or at home, when pressed to a deadline or on the second page of my mental to do list I submit to distractions.  So much so that I have been known to work them into my schedule.  I have some distractions that have been with me for a long time.  Those I am ready to admit are more than just distractions, they are idols.  They have served me well throughout the years in pulling me away from the better things that God provides.

In an attempt to nullify their power in my life I have become an expert at justification.  These altars of interruption that I frequently visit serve me best when I am tired, anxious, or depressed.  They reward my spent energy, celebrate my busy hands, and distract painful thoughts and disturbing memories.  I have those things that I turn to daily for rest, removal, and diversion.  And when these methods of relaxation and means to clear my mind also drown out the whispers of the Spirit and the words of God, then they become idolatrous distractions that enslave my heart and bind my spirit to the worship of my own chains.

When the day is long, and thoughts meld together instead of running to the Shepherd for the gentle prodding towards the river, I run back into my cell and put on broken chains and waste away.  They are what they are—time-wasting, mind-numbing, heart-breaking thieves.  With every perceived benefit is the reality of stolen glory and missed blessing.

But, “fixing our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2a)” who “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature… (Hebrews 1:3),” we need not long for a distraction or run to a false god of rest for removal of those things and thoughts, both past and present, that we have believed had the power to destroy us.  No, it is Jesus, who without distraction restores our tired bones (Psalm 23:2-3), renews our mind (Ephesians 4:22-23), and fills our heart with healing grace (Jeremiah 24:6-7).

Psalm 34:17-19; Isaiah 42:3; 57:15  “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit…a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”


A Fixed Place

“By this we shall know we are of the truth and can reassure our heart before Him, for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.” 1 John 3 19-20

“…He knows everything.”  I want to be encouraged by that truth.  To be assured and be comforted that all that is known by the Knower of all things, did and does have control over all those things.  A control that is rooted in love and purpose and with each wielded stroke of sovereign direction, life happened.

Life is movement.  There is nothing static about it.  It is always in motion even when we feel like we have been planted in cement.  God is always making and breaking us.  He uses all that He puts around us and when things are chaotic, assaulting, and destructive—He is present.  When episodes of time wound and weary us and memories are hidden under band-aids of distractions, He washes us with healing waters of grace and wraps our heart with His Spirit.

My life has always moved very fast, with many turns and blind curves that gave me many years of motion sickness.  At age 25, I realized that by keeping my eyes on a fixed place in the horizon, the motion sickness would ease.  Jesus is my fixed place.  His patient and constant intercession is my hiding place and with Him I am free from the condemning chains of a wounded past.

What I have realized is that even though I don’t always trust Him and I know I have not surrendered my whole heart—out of the fear of seeing exactly what it is I am chained to—He continues to move me forward and patiently reveals how and helps me to surrender every day.  It is Jesus who builds my trust in Him and increases my faith.  For when I am weak, He is strong and when I am faithless, He is faithful.  Even more, He doesn’t rush the mending of my heart, but allows me to keep the band-aids on till I am ready to remove them.

The song below is one that is continually in my head and has become a soothing thought when memories assault.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea;
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb!
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace!

At one with Him, I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God.

~ Before the Throne of God Above, by Charitie Lees Bancroft


My Praise

BibleIn the last month I have distanced myself from my Bible.  I can’t give you any deep, distressing reasons except that I have allowed distractions to trash gifted time.  But, as the deer pants for water so did my soul pant for those Words.  Words of life, of love, of praise.

Today, I have posted two versions of the same narrative.  The first is just my words of praise about what I know of God.  The second is the same post that links all my thoughts to passages.  When given the time, receive it and enjoy.

“He is your praise, He is your God…” Deuteronomy 10:21

Version 1

I know that all things exist because You exist.  I know that You do anything You please and that You find pleasure in me.  I know that all Your plans happen, and all that happens is part of Your plan.  I know that You call me, wait for me, assure me, equip me, heal me, and save meI know You know all things and You know what to do and what will be done in all situations.  I know You are good and every good and perfect thing comes from You.

You know where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going.   You know when I fall short, when I thrive, when I run, and when I abide.  You know what I should say, what I will say, and when I have said too much.  You know when I am weak and when I am strong.  You know when I am abandoned and when I belong.  You know when I sin, when I repent, when I judge, and when I defend.

You know who is right and who is wrong, whose days are short and whose are long.  You know who is Yours and who is not.  You know what should be remembered and what should be forgot.  You know who seeks, who asks, and who knocks.  You know who loves, who gives, who cares, and who forgives.  You know what we need, what we want, what brings a smile and what leaves a haunt.  

I know You are wise, therefore we have knowledgeI know You are just, therefore we have justice.  I know You are faithful, therefore we have hopeI know You are peace, therefore we have rest.  I know You are love, therefore we have compassion.  I know You are grace, therefore we have mercyI know You are salvation and therefore we have life.  

I know that you place me, move me, prosper me, and break meI know that you withhold no good thing from meI know that no matter what I do or what is done it will be good because I love you.  I know that You encircle time and You embody space and without beginning there will be no endI know that You are the Father, You are the Son, and You are the Spirit.  I know You are everywhere, all the time, and that You were there, You are here, and You will return

I know You are Holy, You are Sovereign, You are One, and You are God.

My praise.

Version 2 

I know that all things exist because You exist.  I know that You do anything You please and that You find pleasure in me.  I know that all Your plans happen, and all that happens is part of Your plan.  I know that You call me, wait for me, assure me, equip me, heal me, and save meI know You know all things and You know what to do and what will be done in all situations.  I know You are good and every good and perfect thing comes from You.

You know where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going.   You know when I fall short, when I thrive, when I run, and when I abide.  You know what I should say, what I will say, and when I have said too much.  You know when I am weak and when I am strong.  You know when I am abandoned and when I belong.  You know when I sin, when I repent, when I judge, and when I defend.

You know who is right and who is wrong, whose days are short and whose are long.  You know who is Yours and who is not.  You know what should be remembered and what should be forgotYou know who seeks, who asks, and who knocks.  You know who loves, who gives, who cares, and who forgives.  You know what we need, what we want, what brings a smile and what leaves a haunt.

I know You are wise, therefore we have knowledgeI know You are just, therefore we have justice.  I know You are faithful, therefore we have hopeI know You are peace, therefore we have rest.  I know You are love, therefore we have compassion.  I know You are grace, therefore we have mercyI know You are salvation and therefore we have life.

I know that you place me, move me, prosper me, and break meI know that you withhold no good thing from meI know that no matter what I do or what is done it will be good because I love you.  I know that You encircle time and You embody space and without beginning there will be no endI know that You are the Father, You are the Son, and You are the Spirit.  I know You are everywhere, all the time, and that You were there, You are here, and You will return.

I know You are Holy, You are Sovereign, You are One, and You are God.

My praise.