Thursday, May 28, 2015

Heart Search


One child was in one room, one in the other. Both were in trouble deep. I had sent them to their respective rooms in order to calm my mind and decide what questions needed to be asked to help each one search his own heart. I have learned that I am unable to see their hearts, completely. And neither are they. 

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

There is One who can see our hearts, and we must lead our children to Him. My children and yours are receiving a strong message in today’s culture to follow their own hearts. I don’t know about your house, but in my house that leads to arguing, selfishness, and loneliness. And certainly not happy children or families.

However, there is another way to follow one’s heart.

A heart submitted to God, brought before Him regularly for examination, becomes a heart that can be followed. And this leads to joy. 

But this discipline must be cultivated, modeled, practiced. It does not come naturally to us or to them.

As I sat on the floor with one child, I realized with an inward groan, this is work and this will take time. Mentally I dismissed the dinner that needed prepared, the delay this would cause in bedtime, the baths that might get missed, and the gardening shears and gloves I had left thrown on the ground in the rush to respond to their conflict.

Jobs will go undone and schedules are void now.

This job, this task, the one of teaching my children to search their own hearts, this. job. This is the important one right now.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Broken to Pieces


As a follower of Christ I must learn to daily fall upon His truth and be broken by it. 

The alternative is, as it were, the Truth inevitably falling upon me, and crushing me. Everyone faces this choice.

Jesus explained to his listeners in Matthew 21, “The Stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes… He who falls on this Stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”(v. 42, 44)


He was referring to Himself, the Chief Cornerstone and Capstone of our faith, the Truth.

I would find life more comfortable, for a time, if I avoided this daily breaking. I would also remain less bothered by the troubles that come from being transparent, vulnerable, available, to others. I would be free to live just for me.

However, Jesus explains that this state of self-absorption is only temporary. If I do not choose to fall upon the stone every day, it will eventually fall upon me, grinding me to powder.

Truth does not go away. It does not hide, it does not crumble and disappear. Truth stands. A beacon that beckons us to its sure shores, it calls us to know ourselves through its eyes of love and mercy, and to be broken. 

Our natural bent is toward hardening, not softening or brokenness. 

The habit of Truth-Seeking, Truth-Yielding, is one which must be cultivated, disciplined. It does not come naturally to us. But great and lasting are the fruits of such a practice.

Most of the life-changing truths that have come to me over the years have made me mad. My first reaction was to self-defend, self-protect, and self-excuse. But the power of Truth remains after our anger quells, and it continues to sound its compelling call.  Be broken.

At every meal in North Africa, bread is passed around and broken by the Mul-dar, or the head of the household. It is then given to the hungry gathered around the table. It is a sin to throw the remains away; the broken pieces of bread are sacred, and can still nourish the needy outside one’s dwelling. They are gathered and carefully saved for giving.

Amy Carmichael, missionary to India and rescuer of women and children, often said there are many things around us in life that show us Truths about God. She called them Figures of the True. 

The bread in the hands of the Mul-dar offers a Figure of the True, a picture of brokenness. Like the broken bread in North Africa, could it be that our broken pieces nourish both ourselves and others? In our brokenness we find His nearness. We are changed, our wounds bound up, our souls healed, our spirits set free. We are strengthened to give to those surrounding us.

Like sacred bread thrown away, could it be possible that as we refuse to fall upon His Truth each day, avoid spending time in the scripture daily, resist being broken, that we are sinning against Him? In our self-preservation, our concern about image, our pride, are we taking from others in need outside our walls? 

Conversely, when we go to His word, the Stone, as it were, each day, and allow it to break us, are we becoming broken pieces that can nourish the hungry gathered at the table of our lives?

I do know one thing clearly. In the times of deepest suffering in my life, I have been most nourished by the brokenness offered to me from a fellow sufferer who understood my pain and had walked a path similar to mine. In grief, we are given a trust, an investment of comfort, that can one day be given to others in the same pain. 

I am deeply grateful for the brave sufferers in my life who were willing to be daily broken, and to share their broken pieces with me.

In the meantime, I choose to let Truth have its breaking work in me. God does not exploit our pain. Rather, He restores and rebuilds the heart brave enough to be broken upon His truth.

The kingdom of God is a basket of broken bread, not one fragment wasted.


Think about it. Are you brave enough to fall upon His Truth each day, cultivating the habit of letting Truth soften you, break you? Share your insights in the comment section below.

TWEETABLES:

As a follower of Christ I must learn to daily fall upon His truth and be broken by it. (Click to Tweet)




Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chasing Beauty


They rise like mini portraitures in my memory. In every country, every village, every culture in which I have had the privilege of visiting or living.  

The stooped little lady, her black eyes sparkling with life, beautiful in a faded kimono on a back street of Japan my first day there as a new teacher. The wisened old grandmother with missing teeth, wrapped in a long red cloth in my dusty Kenyan village, sitting for hours teaching me how to slow down. 

My noble sister-friend in North Africa, eyes almost blinded by an angry husband, yet shining with insight and kindness as she showed me how to be gentle. My spiritual mother, standing before a crowd of hundreds making truth clear with her teaching gift, yet making me feel like I was the only one in the room and taking time for tea in my small apartment.

Then there is the friend who walks in strength and grace after devastating loss, focused and giving generously when it would appear all was taken from her.  

All of these women have taught me true beauty. They have made me want to chase it, to frantically, devotedly, with fierce determination, dig through the layers of fake beauty in this world and find the True. The Lasting.

True beauty, when beheld, creates a desperate frenzy in my heart to cast off all that lies to us as women, all that pulls us toward falseness, and grow in the beauty that does not fade. 

Life is fading, a constant demise. We are dying daily. Our bodies are wearying, our skin sagging, our minds aging. We cry out for eternity. Yet in God’s mystery, there is another way to live through this inevitable passing. It is possible to increase in True Beauty while our bodies, our external beauty, decreases.

True beauty is tied inextricably to Truth. God’s Truth in us creates His beauty in us. Growing in Truth grows us in True Beauty. 

We believe lies about what will make us beautiful, or we believe Truth that He has made us beautiful. We compare ourselves to each other, believing the lie that we are not good enough, or we stand in the truth that we were made wonderfully and intentionally and we say along with our Creator God, It is good.

We can choose to chase youth, or we can choose to chase lasting beauty. My role models are beautiful because each has discovered a strength beyond her very strong self and its inevitable limitations. Each made the choice long ago to fix her eyes on others, cultivating humility. Every one chose to become True Beauty chasers, without apology for her out-of-fashion clothing, honest answers, or eccentric habits.

How will we age? Will we grasp after youth, or decide firmly to chase after the beauty that will never fade?

Please join this vital conversation. We need to learn from one another, hold one another accountable for chasing True Beauty.

Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

TWEETABLES

True beauty is tied inextricably to Truth. God’s Truth in us creates His beauty in us. (Click to Tweet)


We believe lies about what will make us beautiful, or we believe Truth that He has made us beautiful. (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Seasons of Ordinary

for Tarah



“Do you miss living on the cutting edge?”

This was the question a dear friend asked me recently as we reflected on our present suburban existence. 

She was referring to the Season of Adventure in my life, the Africa Years, the years I awed my friends back home with stories of camel rides among pyramids, elephants in my back yard, face-offs with village witch-doctors, and shaking hands with kings. 

They were riveted with my tales of whole villages burning their charms and following Christ, hidden children found and given new smiles, prostitutes rescued from the streets and transformed.

Today, my evening tales spin of the stuff of broken garage doors, children begging for play dates, and trying to discern the difference between natural flavoring and msg on grocery store labels. I regale my friends with my stories of woe as I nurse three children through three different illnesses at the same time and try to remember I have to take brownies to Field Day on Friday.

I have joined the army of Mothers at Home, the ones who have to reply “Unemployed” to the bank clerk when asked her occupation.

Africa’s golden hills and her adventures seem so distant to me now.

I have become one of a vast force of ordinary people in this land. Quietly crying out to God in the car line as we wait for our kids to come out of school, silently praying for our lives to count as we fold laundry at 11:30 pm after all is still, praying as we run at 5 am while the whole family sleeps. Crying out, praying, asking for our lives to count for His kingdom.

Don't let me waste my life, Lord, our spirits groan as we drift off into an exhausted sleep after mentally running through our to-do list for tomorrow. In our dreams we remember we had careers, we had exotic adventures once, we left it all for Him, we traveled.

The Truth of the matter is this: all who are remembered for greatness in God’s kingdom had long seasons of quiet mundane existence. 

Of growth and change. Of persevering faithfulness and stubborn refusal to give up. Most of life was made up of Seasons of Ordinary. The Grand Adventures which are highlighted by the heralds were actually brief in the scheme of most great lives.

The faithful persistence of the follower of Christ is actually the norm, and the Adventure is the exceptional privilege.

Like the trees which grow from small seeds, eventually bearing fruit, we must understand that we were created as seasonal beings. We must yield to the hard work of waiting through the growing seasons, stretching our arms in worship to the Maker of heaven and earth, boring our roots deep into His truth. And as we grow, our seasons will change. 

Seasons of fruit are beautiful and nourishing to so many around us, but impossible without the long seasons of apparent fruitlessness in between. Do not despise the quiet, ordinary season, my friend. We were made for a seasonal existence, to bear fruit in its season.

I personally prefer fruit season all the time. I am a high adventure, high-adrenaline junkie. But I have lived in North Africa when the figs were so heavy and abundant on the vine that they could not be completely harvested. The result was a stench and a sticky mess. Too much fruit, too long. It was a waste.

I have learned to trust He knows better what I need than I. How thankful I am that He leads me beside quiet waters and restores my soul! He never wastes the fruit He bears in us. The fruit you bear is someone else's portion. It is appointed for them, from your obedience, to their need, never wasted.

In my small garden in Kenya, I was determined to grow tomatoes. Rain was infrequent, and I had to use precious water collected from our tin roof to keep the seedlings moist. For a time, they sprouted and grew, but then they seemed to become dormant and spindly, bearing pitiful resemblance to the tall and spicy-fragranced vines I remembered back in Tennessee. 

One day in frustration I pulled one up. To my surprise, the root ball was bigger than my fist. Within two weeks, the plants increased in size more than double and began to bear the tiniest promises of little tomato fruits. 

I have often remembered those feeble-looking tomato plants during slow and discouraging periods in my life. Perhaps it is those times, as we continue to nourish our souls with His word, that the roots of our lives are growing spectacularly in the unseen places of the heart.  

God is growing me during the Seasons of Ordinary, and though I may not see it, I can know that it will be seen in the coming fruit season. 

With certainty it will come, for I was made to bear fruit in its season, and so were you.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates both day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does will prosper. -Psalm 1:1-3

Are you in a Season of Ordinary or a Season of Adventure right now? Be sure to share your insights into life’s seasons in the comment section below. 


TWEETABLES

Faithful persistence is actually the norm, and the Adventure is the exceptional privilege. (Click to Tweet)


Do not despise the quiet, ordinary seasons of life. We were made to bear fruit in season. (Click to Tweet)