i am the moon with no light of my own / still You have made me to shine
and as i glow in this cold dark night / i know i can't be a light unless i turn my face to You
- sara groves, "You are the sun"

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

jumping ship.

it's ironic that the last (and only) posts i've written here were about jonah's jumping ship, because that is showing up as a theme in my life right now. we've come full circle again, it seems.

there's a key difference this time, though.

whereas jonah abandoned his ship as a last resort to save his fellow shipmates and repent of his sins, it seems like the temptation surrounding me and a few people in my life now is to jump ship at the first sign of the storm (or maybe the second, but certainly not longer than that). in other words, it feels like people are cutting out when the going gets too rough -- and exactly when God would be calling them to stick it out rather than peace out.

our God is a God of staying the course, not one of cut-and-run.

why else would He allow His people to continue their shenanigans generation after generation, allowing them (us) second, third, fourth, and seventy-seventh chances -- and directing us to offer the same? (Matthew 18:21-22) why would He say things like "never forsake" (Deuteronomy 31:8) and "unfailing love" (Isaiah 54:10) when talking about you and me?

i have a lot to learn about not jumping ship. while it has been very tempting to point at others around me and say, "they're all abandoning ME!", the truth of the matter is that i am just as tempted to say in response, "fine, be that way, i don't really care anyway." (which isn't true, of course. oh, haughty spirit of mine, just you wait for that inevitable fall...) so, as usual, God is using others to shine a light on my own darkness.* humbled once again.

since we're in the middle of this learning process, i don't have a take-away yet. but i will leave you with something i've been mulling over the last few days, in light of this abandonment theme:

imagine someone willingly enduring torture that was meant for someone else -- and not opening his mouth at all about it. physical torture that left the person unrecognizable, and spiritual torture that we can't even begin to comprehend. and, every. single. step. of the way, making the choice to keep going. one foot in front of the other. one labored breath after another. one silent prayer, and then another, and then another. all choices to endure pain that He never deserved. 
(Isaiah 53:7, Isaiah 52:14, Psalm 22:1-2, John 10:11)

if anyone should have jumped ship, it should have been Jesus. i am so not worth what He went through for me.

except that's a lie. because i am. and you are too. because Love says so.

could it be that, in those cases when we are tempted to cut and run (originally a nautical term, by the way -- see what i did there?) because of our pride, or fear, or whatever else would keep us from staying the course, God wants us to hang in there so that Life can conquer death and Love can win once more? maybe, for Love to win, there has to be a storm first?

or maybe, just maybe, Love is winning in the middle of the storm. maybe without the storm, Love would not be as miraculous or necessary. maybe Love is simply staying the course when the option to jump ship is present -- and without that option, it isn't truly Love.

may you find encouragement in the middle of your respective storms, dear readers -- and may you stay the course today. God bless you!

Isaiah 53:3,10
John 16:33
1 John 3:16

* note of full disclosure: while it has felt like many others have been jumping ship, as i have prayed and meditated on each of the individual situations -- and taken time to talk with the individuals more and understand their stories -- i have learned that i, in fact, have been the one who is quick to jump to conclusions. truly, i have been the only one cutting and running here -- and then blaming everyone else. i should know by now that when it seems like something is happening all around me, there is only one consistent common factor in all those situations... and, hint to self, it's not those at the end of the pointing finger. thank you Jesus for your mercy, grace, and persistence with me!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

the beauty of defiance (part 2)

a couple years ago, i had a beautiful flatmate from another country. when she moved here, she did not really know God -- she came from a country that strictly controls religion, and her knowledge of Jesus was limited to whatever the government deemed safe enough for the people to know. and she had lots of questions; she was eager to know as much as i could tell her about God, even if she was simply curious and wasn't quite buying in for her own faith (yet).

what an opportunity, right?! someone living in my very apartment who was eager to hear me talk about my faith and my Savior?

yeah, except i blew it. i squandered so many opportunities, it's ridiculous. while i did take advantage of a handful of conversations, most of the rest of the time i avoided them, telling myself that i was stressed out from work or the timing wasn't right. i helped her connect to others who could share about God instead of me, and i withheld even a friendly "hello" many days when i was just in a "bad mood".

i'm not so unlike jonah, it turns out.

yesterday, we talked about jonah's multiple acts of defiance. sure, jonah is ultimately running away from preaching to nineveh like God commanded him (Jonah 1:1-2), but what really stuck out to me from this story is that he is also refraining from sharing about his God with anyone else around him.

jonah was placed on a ship with some sailors who didn't know God, and we see them scrambling and doing everything they know to do in the middle of a terrible tempest:
- they cried out to their own gods, and
- they dumped whatever they could find off the ship to lighten the load (Jonah 1:5)
- they asked jonah to pray to his god (Jonah 1:6)
- they rolled some dice to try to figure out whose fault it was (Jonah 1:7)
- at the end, they even asked jonah what they should do (Jonah 1:11)

how often are the people around us scrambling like this, crying out to gods of this world, dumping whatever baggage they can and even turning to chance or fate for an unattainable solution -- and we don't listen because we are down in the holds of our own ships, sleeping soundly with our salvation hugged tightly in our arms?

i always thought this story was primarily about jonah. while it turns out that this story is actually primarily about God, i think this first chapter may be even more about these sailors than it is about our favorite bible story escape artist.

it seems that God has it in mind to save these men too -- and perhaps he uses jonah's defiance to do it. because without jonah's defiance, and without the ensuing storm, and without his confession (Jonah 1:10), and without his (reluctant) testimony (Jonah 1:9), i'm not certain these gentlemen would have experienced the Mercy and Grace that awaited them.

jonah isn't the only one who is defiant in this story. even after jonah tells them to throw him overboard, an "instead" and a "but" await the sailors:
"instead, the men did their best to row back to land. but they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before." - jonah 1:13

so what did they do? they cried out to *jonah's God* to forgive them for throwing jonah overboard. (a note, dear readers: these guys had only one recorded act of rebellion prior to turning to a God they had just heard about and didn't even believe in. let's not even try to stack that up against jonah's track record. i think i need to learn a thing or two from them.)

then, after dumping their passenger and the subsequent calming of the waters, they "greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to Him." - jonah 1:16

this would be the part where i jump up and down for joy! because, despite as a result of jonah's defiance, these men were saved. God had them covered all along. and i think He knew they needed to try everything else -- even rowing ashore after the solution was presented -- before they could throw up their hands to the only One who could do anything about it. if God either ordains or allows everything, i have to believe that He allowed jonah to escape to that very boat in order to capture the attention of these sailors (as well as heal jonah's own heart). He also allowed jonah to continue his temper tantrum up to his point of sacrifice, giving these sailors an opportunity to get to the end of their ropes.

and, He allowed me to continue to defy Him with my beautiful flatmate, knowing that He would provide for her through other relationships, and knowing that He would secure her salvation no matter what. one of the most precious conversations i got to have with her was when she was struggling with praying a prayer of trust and repentance to give her heart to Jesus, wanting to go out and do it alone in a forest rather than in front of others. (i told her she could do it wherever she wanted to and God would still hear her, but that she might consider doing it in the presence of friends so they could support and celebrate with her -- all the while suppressing my excitement and pretending that i wasn't at all thinking about jumping up and down and giving her a big hug.) maybe that conversation was like my jonah moment, though i don't really think so, because all i was doing was riding the waves of all the work God and the other faithful servants in her life had already done. sometimes God blesses us like that when we definitely don't deserve it.

the truth is, i did play the perfect part in her salvation story, even if i can look back and find a million ways i could have done it better -- because, she did pray that prayer, and she did start living her life for the Lord. (hallelujah! hugs and jumping all over the place.) and, while i can't quite see it now, i wouldn't be surprised to find out that my defiance in that case was exactly what drove her to build those relationships that would unlock her heart to a relationship with her Savior. i will only know when i meet the Good Shepherd face to face, and it's definitely on my list of questions to ask Him.

isn't it amazing to think that God would use even our defiance to bring about His Glory? 

truly, this story (of jonah, the bible, our lives) is about Him, and He uses us even up to and including our defiance. and He wouldn't do it any other way. how do i know this? because He didn't -- and God's ways are always perfect.

many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's Purpose that prevails. 
- proverbs 19:21

note: or even beyond that point -- see a fellow #SheSharesTruth blogger's post for a very interesting take on whether this was sacrifice or continued selfishness.


this post is part of an experiment called #SheSharesTruth from shereadstruth.com. many brilliant women have contributed their own learnings from these same two chapters -- won't you check out some of their posts too?

Friday, March 21, 2014

the beauty of defiance (part 1)

we all know the story of jonah. at least, we know the part about the rebel who runs away from the Word of the Lord, only to be chased by a raging storm and put in time out inside a fish until he repents. i can see in my mind's eye the mural in one of our church's classrooms now: jonah, sitting on a stool in his robe and sandals, beard perfectly combed, in a spacious cavern of a belly, with a ray of light shining down on him through the blow hole above, looking quite content to wait out his three days and three nights in his piscatorial accommodations.

suffice it to say, we've missed something.

there are many places we could take this text, but the Lord led me to a very specific point this week:

He is Sovereign even up to *and including* our defiance.

we all know about jonah's defiance. it's his escape to tarshish that got him into the pickle in the first place. did you know that a contradictory conjunction ("but", "instead", "yet") appears eight times in the first two chapters of the niv translation of this book? the first two "but"s refer to jonah's escape (Jonah 1:3) and then his slumbering below deck (Jonah 1:5) when the storm besets the boat. i never realized before that jonah's running away didn't stop when he set sail; he retreats below deck and only engages with the sailors when they come seek him out. and then, he only speaks to them when the lot falls on him and they ask him questions, and he only comes through with the solution when the sailors ask him what they should do. talk about waiting for someone to force your hand, jonah. why didn't you fess up when they woke you and asked you to pray to your god? or when the lot fell on you? or when you claimed to worship the Lord who made the sea? or even come up with the solution yourself before they asked you to?

and yet…

this is me. all the time. waiting for God to force my hand, putting things off until i can no longer get away with it, potentially even missing opportunities because of my defiance. giving God my "but"s instead of my trust and my heart.

the good news is that God is Sovereign even over all of that.

did you ever notice that God does not get angry with jonah? He got angry with moses (Exodus 4:14), so it's not like it was out of the question. some may say that the storm represented God's anger, and i'm sure scholars have written material on the subject that i haven't had time to research. but i would suggest that no, that storm was not God's anger, but rather His Love, Patience, Grace, and Sovereignty. i'm betting that the Lord Almighty knew that the only way to get jonah's attention was to shake things up a bit and patiently pursue him until he was willing to listen. He could have done away with jonah, or turned His attention to someone else to accomplish His will. heck, He could have lifted jonah up and put him smack in the middle of nineveh and told him to "do My will or else". but no -- that's not the God we serve.

because, as amanda points out in her beautifully crafted post, this story is mostly about God -- and our God is Unchanging, Unshakable, and Sovereign. which means the God of the new testament, who demonstrates great mercy and kindness by rescuing a sinful woman from stoning (John 8:2-11), healing on the one day that was culturally off-limits (Luke 13:10-17), and telling us of the rejoicing in heaven over the return of the lost (Luke 15:1-32) -- this is the same God as the God of jonah.

this is the same God who must know we are going to sin every single time we do it. and, i am convinced, He is also a God who *uses that sin* to accomplish the very purpose He intended from the beginning.

Sovereign including our defiance.

come back tomorrow to find out the beautiful good news wrapped up in this story -- it's a doozy, i promise you…


this post is part of an experiment called #SheSharesTruth from shereadstruth.com. many brilliant women have contributed their own learnings from these same two chapters -- won't you check out some of their posts too?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Here goes...

thus begins the adventure.

you might be wondering about the title. here's the deal:

* when we come face to face with our struggle, our brokenness, our failure, our complete resistance to what God is trying to do in our lives, and we can't take it anymore, it's time for an *about face*. some may call this repentance. i call it a turning point, and the most powerful day of my life.

* so, then, where do we turn our gaze? when we don't have to look at the dark anymore, we *face the light*. the only Light that can reflect Glory off our faces to shine into the darkest corners of this world. the only Light that died so we may live, and loves us 'til our broken hearts are made whole. truly, the only Light that will banish the darkness once and for all. my heart is lighter just thinking about it!

* so really, this is *about the Light*. i won't get it right, and i certainly won't always be profound, but i pray that the words you read here will teach you more about Him, help you get some of that light on your own face, and cause us all to experience "ever-increasing glory" in giving Him the glory. i am just as broken as the next person, and probably more so, and thus this blog may be more for me than anyone else. may we all take advantage of any opportunity we can get to *about . face . the light*.

may His Love shine on you today, dear readers. He is crazy about you, you know that?

Isaiah 55:6-9, 60:20
John 1:1-5
2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:6
2 Peter 3:18