Whatever Is Necessary

What do we do with the truly awful things of this life? With a loss of love, with a deep constant pain, with a fear that pervades our depths?
 It is dangerous to attribute it all to our not loving God enough, although perhaps we could say that is often the case.
Our faith is, as CS Lewis once said, often only a house of cards.
He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down. ~ CS Lewis A Grief Observed
We walk around, believing that our foundation is solid, but in truth we are playing at faith. Our house needs a good breath of wind, for if it is never allowed to fall, it can never be rebuilt to last for eternity.
If my faith is only steady enough to endure this life, wouldn’t I want God to blow it down with whatever wind is necessary so that I can endure to the end?
I’m not sure.
I think I want this, but fear holds me back. Fear of what God, in His infinite love and wisdom, might deal out.
He never promised to be gentle.
Is any pain at all worthwhile if it brings us closer to Him, closer to the sort of life with God that Jesus lived?
The given answer should be yes, but I hesitate and pull back at the brink of giving it.
Which means that I do not yet desire God above all else.
Not truly.
Do many of us?
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We give our hearts over to so many things other than God. . .As long as our happiness is tied to the things we can lose, we are vulnerable. ~ John Eldredge Walking With God
If God is truly enough, if He is what we need for happiness, for contentment, then we should be able to let go of those we love, endure that deep pain, rise above the pervasive fear, because we still have Him.
It is God who remains when all else is gone. It is God who fills us up with Himself so that we do not need anything or anyone else.
In truth, when we lose, when we hurt, we have more of Him than we have in the comfort and in the ease. That in itself should make us turn from the easy way.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. ~ Philippians 3. 7-12
If only I could believe that. Truly know it and live it.
But without the pain of learning it.

Famine in the Land

Amos, the herdsman turned prophet.
The visionary with the visions of things he kept talking God out of doing.
Too much! he would say, and God would agree.
Locusts forming up to devour the land.
Too much! And they were turned away.
Fire consuming the deep places in his country.
Too much! And they were put out.
Amos looked around at the men lounging around eating their fill of the richest of foods and throwing the rest to the hounds.  He looked around at the women dressed in the finest of cloth and adorned with the choicest of jewels.  He looked around at the leaders and their wives lying on beds of the softest linens and dabbing themselves with the sweetest perfumes.
Amos also looked at the men and women who fought with the rats for the stalest of bread, who froze when the wind whipped through the largest of holes in their shirts, who slept with the cockroaches on the hardest of stone.
He said there would be famine.  A famine and a thirst and a loss of the sun in the middle of the day.  But not a famine of bread or a thirst of water.
No, this famine would be far worse.  It is a shortage of the words of God.  It is a loss of the light of His face.
The rich and the lovely would be doomed to run from sea to shining sea, searching and thirsting for the Word of Life.
It is a loss of light, a loss of life.  It is the loss of God himself.
Towards the end, God will make himself so scarce that the world won’t even know what it’s starving to death for. ~ Frederick Buechner in Peculiar Treasures
Too much!
May God have mercy and not abandon us to our own selves and desires.
Lord, we would have more of You.

Love Your God

** A quick update: There seemed to have been a bit of confusion about our sweet Lily. I apologize if I didn’t make the end of the story clear! Gratefully, this time we were granted miracle. Lily is just fine and wondering what all the fuss was about! **
Love your neighbor.
Bearing One Another
Love your God.
Be With God
Jesus said that this is most important.
Loving your neighbor is hard, yet we have seen our neighbor.  Mostly we do not really see our neighbor, yet every now and then we catch a glimpse in their eyes, in the tilt of their head, in the stance of their bodies of something beautiful, something glorious, some divine spark within.  And loving our neighbor as ourself at least gives us a familiar sort of standard to work toward.  Yet loving our neighbor is still hard.
Where Your Neighbor Lives
Loving God?  This falls into a whole new category of difficulty.  Loving God with all that we are and all that we are meant to become?  We don’t even understand what that really means.  Love God, Whom we have not seen.  Love God Who wouldn’t show His face to Moses, but hid him in the cleft of a rock while He passed by and then allowed Moses to catch a glimpse of His back.  How can we begin to fathom what this command means, much less become capable of obeying?
To love God not for what He can do for you, but for Himself alone.  To want to be with Him, to want to do things for Him.  In the midst of plenty, it is difficult to even catch a glimpse of God, much less love Him for Himself.  And in the midst of the wilderness of pain or grief, it seems like this command is a command to sprint out of the wilderness while our legs are broken.
I watched my niece die this past Sunday, our beautiful one-year-old Lily, or so I thought.  This time we were granted a miracle of life, but as I listened to Lily’s mommy sob in a way that I haven’t heard since I sat with my middle brother on the eve of his wife’s death, I knew that this story could have so easily had a different ending.  And how do you love God when the worst has happened, when it feels as though your very life has been wrenched away from you?  It could lead us to despair, this greatest command that we are not capable of obeying.
Yet at its heart the gospel is about God moving toward us, doing for us what we are incapable of doing on our own.  We find hope in Jesus Who, in His abandonment by God still cries out “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”  When life in all of its cruelty and beauty, when our daily cross, when even death itself cannot destroy our love for God because our love comes from God Himself, then we are empowered to move across our wilderness on our broken legs and we find that God has not only moved toward us but has swept us along toward Himself even in the middle of our fear that He has forsaken us, if He even does indeed exist.
Perhaps we find the most pure love in the middle of the wilderness because that is where we are left with nothing else but God.  When the worst happens or almost happens, when we love Him in spite of all that is around us, when we love Him for His own sake because He is all that we have left, it is there that we are able to catch a glimpse of what it is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength because He has been in the wilderness with us.
God's Power
The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise.  And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us – loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us.  He has been in the wilderness for us. ~ Frederick Buechner

Art credit: Photograph of supernova by NASA


“Catch, Mommy!”

whizz! The little, Nerf football comes whirling a bit too close to my head, but I somehow manage to snag it.

“Good throw, Baby!”

My eldest loves to play catch with me. When I throw something that she is not able to catch, however, she usually informs me, “Mommy, you didn’t throw that very well”.

I was feeling a little too irritated by this yesterday when God gently reminded me that this is what I do to Him.

When something happens during my day that doesn’t suit me, I say “God, You didn’t do that very well.”

When I look at myself in the mirror and notice the bags under my eyes, the blemish on my face, or the stretch marks on my stomach, I say “God, You didn’t make this very well.”

How ridiculously arrogant I am!

Why can I not see that God does everything perfectly? Why can I not trust that all that He makes is beautiful?

Perhaps for the same reason that my eldest can’t tell that I am throwing the ball perfectly…well, decently at least.

I am too focused on myself to be able to see God for Who He is.

When I am completely honest with myself, I am selfish and arrogant. I truly wish that God would conform to my standards of beauty and goodness. I desire for my body, my family, my life to all look a certain way.

When I do this, however, I settle for too little, my desires, as C.S. Lewis puts it in The Weight of Glory, are too weak:

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

God, please teach me to look at You instead of at myself. Please help me to keep my eyes focused You instead of at the things and people around me. Help me to not be satisfied with my own weak desires for mud pies but to crave more of You instead.

Perhaps then I can better learn how to catch what God gently tosses my way.

What Do You Want?

I love to read.

Many of my family and friends have funny stories of me reading books in odd places while I was growing up. 

And maybe a few stories from after I had grown up.


I love words and books. Fiction and non-fiction, modern mystery and classic literature, books about God and books about art and books about technology and books about history and books about…

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote “It’s the words that sing, they soar and descend…I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down.”

This is me.

I’ve been discovering lately, though, that this is not always a good thing.

As much good as can come from reading, my books can also take me away from God.

I read to learn but I also read to relax, to be refreshed, to be fulfilled.

Don’t fret, my fellow bibliophiles. I’m not about to tell you to burn all of your books in the name of Jesus.

The trouble comes when I begin to think that I need my books, that I deserve my time to read…and then get angry with whoever stands in the way of that.

When I turn to books to satisfy myself, to fill myself up, when I begin to have arguments with myself over whether to spend time with God or go read my books, that is when my warning lights begin to flash.

When I desire my books more than I desire God, then my books have become an idol.

I know that I am not alone in this. We all have something that tries to take the place of God. 

What is it that you cling to? A parent, child or friend? Food or drink? Money, your home, a car, new clothes?

It is hard to understand why clinging to good things can be bad. How could my love for my child possibly be a bad thing? 

The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, when talking about Mother-love, says this 

No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.

Isn’t that true about anything here on this earth, that only in their relation to God are they holy or unholy?

My love for reading can be holy or unholy depending on its relation to God.

Why is it that we think we need something other than God to fill us up, to make us satisfied?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? ~ Psalm 42

Sometimes we feel empty because we are clinging to something other than God. 

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Sometimes we have to let go before God can fill us up.

Letting go is scary. It takes courage, trust.

Can I tell you something? Something that I know beyond a doubt?

God will not let you down.  He really is enough.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

You will not feel a lack of anything when you are truly desiring God above all else in your life. His love, His mercy, His company, His spirit…He is our breath, our life, our food, our drink.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

We don’t need other people, we don’t need other things. God is gracious and gives us people and things to surround us, but we don’t need them to be satisfied or content, we don’t need them to give us comfort or protection.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. 

God is enough.

Ask Him to help you search your heart. What is it that you desire more than God? 

Ask Him to help you to desire Him above all else. Out of His infinite grace, that is a prayer that He will always answer!

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

photo credit for final photo: SP Veres

Love the Lord your God

Lately I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about what I should do as a follower of Jesus.

I’ve read about persecuted people who live in third-world countries, families who sell their homes so they can adopt more children, young parents who move to the inner city.

When Jesus calls us to abandon everything we have and everything we are, it’s almost as if he is daring us to put ourselves in the flood plain. To put all our lives…all our property and all our possessions…all our hopes and all our dreams in front of the levee and then to ask God to break it. To ask God to sweep away whatever he wants, to leave standing whatever he desires, and to remake our lives…according to his will. ~ Radical by David Platt

We have to continue to fight – for the individual and against evil and destructive forces – because the cause is always worthy. And once you have stepped into this world, you can never walk away. Once you have been made aware, you have a responsibility to care. ~ The Scent of Water by Naomi Zacharias

I’ve read and heard many important and completely true things.

Jesus does ask us to give up everything for Him.

He said that if we do not hate our own lives, our own families in comparison to Him, we cannot follow Him.

Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have. ~ Billy Graham

As I read and listen, guilt begins to trickle into my heart.

Am I doing enough? Am I living right? Am I giving up everything for God? Am I too comfortable in my current life?

This is a dangerous thought-road for me, partly because I am a firstborn and I love rules. 

I like lists and I want to know exactly what I have to do to be in obedience to God.

As I begin to think about our family, however, I am reminded of the things that we are doing for Christ. 

Having kids at all is a big step. I didn’t always want children, but God convinced me that this was one way in which He wanted me to serve Him: to have and raise up children who will glorify Him with their lives. 

We have made a lot of material sacrifices, both for me to stay home with our children, in order to personally raise them in a way that will glorify Him, and for us to not start adding up debt so that eventually we can have disposable income that we can give back to God.

Could we do more?

Of course. And that is the trouble.

No matter how frugally we live, how much we give away, how much time we sacrifice, it can never be enough.

We could always do more. It is impossible to do enough to repay all that God has done for me. It is impossible to truly give up everything for Jesus.

So what do I do? Wallow in my guilt? Give up because of my inability to do or give enough? Is that really what all of these books and teachers are telling me?

No, but I’m afraid that it seems that way at times.

I am learning however, very slowly, that it is not about what I do or don’t do, it is not about what I give or don’t give. It is about a relationship.

My relationship with the Triune God is what is most important in this life. This is more important than giving away all of my possessions. This is more important than eradicating all of the sin in my life. This is more important than moving to the inner city or telling everyone I know about God.

What I focus on most has to be my desire for God. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. ~ Mark 12.30-31

The idea of the primacy of loving and desiring God is made more clear in the writings of Brother Lawrence:

I know that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things because God will possess the heart alone. As He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides, so, neither can He act there and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him. 

You need not cry very loud. He is nearer to us than we are aware. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with God; some more, some less. He knows what we can do.  Let us begin then. Perhaps He expects but one generous resolution on our part. Have courage.

We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him. And when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.

What do I desire most of all in this life? Whom do I love best? 

If it is not God, than it doesn’t matter how radically I live, how much of my time or resources I give away. 

If I do desire God most of all, even if I am simply trying to love God best, than I can trust myself to His hands, knowing that He will change my heart, which will naturally change the way I live. I will know what He wants me to do, how He wants me to live, and I will be at peace even if others think I am not doing enough or not doing the right things. 

Again, I will reference Brother Lawrence

when he had failed to love God best of all, he only confessed his fault saying to God, “I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my failing and mend what is amiss.” Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it. 

Abba, please help me to desire You most of all, to love You above all. If left to myself, I will never love You. It is You who must mend my broken heart. It is You who must purify my heart so that my life will glorify You. Let me only pursue my love for You and then be at peace, trusting that You will not let me fail. 

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. ~ Jude 1.24-25