Monday, June 8, 2015

Trying. Willing.

Lord Jesus, sometimes I get twisted up in feelings and can't seem to think clearly.

You know that on those days I lecture myself, "Don't think with your feelings." Wrong organ.

I try to chase my heart out of the driver's seat and get my head there instead. 

That rarely succeeds. It's a little like the old Just Say No campaign. It sounds right until you really think about it. If that was going to work it would have been effective when Eve was walking through perfection and spotted that fruit.

I'm so grateful for good days, giving me a chance to think. Then I can provemake real, live out, touch and see—Your good, acceptable and perfect will, my mind transformed by the renewing of the relationship with You.

So, Lord, help me think through those dank, emotion-driven days when I spin in strange circles, now, while I’m not there. Let me unravel what happens inside when I'm troubled by the have-nots or the should-have-beens or the could-have-dones, and my contorted thought processes suck me downward, raw-skinned.

When I'm there, I feel so justified in my anger, fear, pain, whatever emotion is uppermost. I'm held captive, the emotions clogged inside me. These miserable feeling-thoughts don't let me rest. I stew and simmer instead. If I'm walking through the day, at best I'm snappish. If my head is on a pillow, the lights out, all I do is rehash circumstances.

I feed the feelings, tumbling my petty thoughts like worry beads through my fingers, blame my comfort food and self-righteousness my banner.

My spirit is slowly and gradually dragged down deeper into the death-grip of self.

But a small light glimmers at the edge of my misery, and I recall there is peace out there somewhere. I must breathe again in the realm of light and life and good.

That's where trying comes in.

Your Word floats into my thoughts, Lord, pulling me closer to the surface. I can't remember chapter and verse. All I know is they come:
“Do not fret...”   
“I shall not want...”  
“Do not be worried... do not worry... do not worry...”  
“Be anxious for nothing...” 
But HOW?

I know all the tried-and-true Christian rules of thumb. Forgive me, Lord, for the times I've doled them out to those who were trapped and wanting.
Pray, we advise.
Read the Bible, of course.
But all that takes trying. I don't have it in me. Spiritually I'm still too rigid, still choked.
“Casting all your care upon Him...”
Slowly, instead of clawing my way out, fixing my own feelings, trying, which I can't do, I  make one small choice.

Lord, how hard it is to choose to let go. This is self we're talking about. This feels like the real me. Doesn't the real me need to be in control? Let go of what, exactly?

"Be still and know that I am God."

So I simply, lucidly decide. I become willing to be willing. 

And the change is instant. My center is no longer Me but You. 

The weight lifts and sparkling clear thoughts bubble up. Light gently caresses me again. I can breathe, though I might also weep.

Lord Jesus, I realize I did almost nothing. I let go. Before that, I couldn't do anything to help myself.

It turns out self, the feelings, the choking emotion I defined as the real me, was my jailor. Self held me in bondage. It's only in letting go of all the putrid me-stuff that Your Spirit inundates me, filling that sudden void.

This is crazy, Lord. Me holding me captive? You freeing me from myself?

Oh. Yes. I took one thought captive to You. 

Chained it up and plunked it down, and shoved it over on Your side of the table.

One thought: Willing to be willing.

The power in that is stunning. Not mine.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Wanting. Waiting.

Lord Jesus, teach me to pray unceasingly, expectantly, leaning forward to wait with my eyes wide open. I don't want to miss seeing what You do.

I often fall into praying for my will to be done. (So human of me.) 

Surely what I want is good, right? It feels that way. 

I can reason out that if this whatever it is were to take place, it would help. All the circumstances point to it.

Yet as I pray fervently for it to come, I'm transported through time. I'm ten, swinging my feet as I sit in the pew. I want to go play, to escape the somber grown-up world. You, my Daddy, lean forward to place a hand on my shoulder, giving me a look that firmly and lovingly says, “Wait.” 

But I want it now. 

Wait, You assure me. Wait.

Ten fades, the fifty-odd intervening years resume their weight of reality, and I read:

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:18

The here-and-now can be so persuasive. What I lack presses on my thoughts, goading me, a constantly recurring frisson of anxiety nipping at parts inside me, the not-yet-here robbing me of peace.

On the days when I perceive life as going the way I think it should, I feel happy, yet I know that happiness is time-bound. It has a shallow root—it blooms and fades in a day. 

No, this isn't waiting for the other shoe to drop, it's just a fact that what is seen really is transitory.

Johnathan Edwards said, “Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.” I get that. I want to view life through an eternal lens, focused on the unseen. 

Why does it seem so hard?

I groan again as I realize I have to try.

Lord, self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. Let trying grow out of me as naturally as a plum follows the pink blossom of spring. 

I will sit still on my pew, quietly trusting that today is custom made for me. 

Today I have. Don't let me poison it with wanting, when I can rest beside still waters, soul restored.

Each day lean over me, placing Your hand on my shoulder again, teaching me to trust You and wait. 

Remind me: Don't swing your legs, anticipating what hasn't come yet. Lean forward in prayer, yes, but abide in what is now. Today. 

Your will, Lord. Done

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Lord Jesus, this is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

That's a choice I can make. Too often I think of my circumstances as definitive. If the sky is gray, I feel down. If there's an onerous task to be done, I dread it. If someone I love is upset, I join in. But when I really think about it, I can choose joy any day. Why don't I?

Joy isn't happiness, of course. Joy is the rock solid foundation beneath the circumstances. 

That's why it makes sense when I read in Hebrews 12:2, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame”. There was no happiness in the cross. It was designed to shame a criminal to the utmost, along with excruciating pain.

Yet we know there was joy in it for You, Lord. What was that joy? 

I love Eugene Peterson's take:
Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! Hebrews 12:
If joy is the rock solid foundation beneath the circumstances, I should be able to endure anything. You kept Your mind fixed on the outcome, Lord.

You've promised me a future with You in heaven, in the presence of God the Father. You paid the price of admission for me already. Why would I not seek joy daily, knowing that? 

I can't discount feeling happy, of course. I like happiness. Who doesn't? There are good things that please me, little things: a smile or a good laugh, a hug or kiss. A point in time, it brings momentary blessing, like sunlight coming out from behind a cloud.

Happiness is like a balloon. When it's filled up, it floats around, dancing in the sunlight, bringing smiles, until it pops and is gone in an instant.

Joy is much bigger, more like the air itself. 

Joy is knowing. It's quiet and peaceful. It fills me up on the inside, like a bubble that's increasing in size and scope, filling me far beyond myself.

And so this morning as I read this,
We know how much God loves us...God is love...all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 1 John 4:16 
I understood. God's love living in me is the joy. 

The best part of this is that love has won, is winning, and always wins! And it's available to me every day, all day, into eternity, if I will simply choose joy and not let myself become enmeshed in the web of my surroundings.

Those circumstances are temporary, I know that. Even happy ones don't last. Yet there's a more demanding quality to momentary discomfort. Rediscovering joy isn't always that easy.

But it can be done, with Your help, Lord Jesus.

Once we know joy, it's like a breath of fresh air to reach down into that inner landscape, tear away the layers of distraction—failure, injustice, bereavement, woundedness, entitlement, anxiety, despair—and take a deep, clean breath of joy.

Lord, on some days I have to do that reaching thing over and over and over again, reminding myself joy is there for the taking, while some days it rises up inside like a tide, filling me with the certainty I need.

Whatever its course, I know the source.