We’re moving, so I’ll be fetching from the archives for the next two or three weeks. Enjoy!
It is a difficult and forever-long process, this learning how to make everything sacred.
It is also beautifully rewarding.
Learning how to make all things in your life sacred takes focus. It takes the sort of focus that teaches me how to be single-hearted towards God.
She is good at being very focused and single-minded, my youngest. Especially when she needs something.
The dreaded event of all mothers everywhere, her special lovey simply had to be washed at bedtime one night. She just couldn’t understand why she didn’t have her bunny.
“Bunny?” “Bunny is taking a bath, darling. I will bring you Bunny as soon as she is dry.” “O-hay.”
“Can I read you a bedtime story?” “Bunny?” “Bunny is taking a bath.” “Bass? Bunny?” “Yes, a bath. I’ll bring you Bunny when she is done.” “O-hay.”
“Let’s talk about our day, shall we?” “Mommy? Bunny?”
I sigh in frustration, yet feel a small stir in my heart.
What if I were that focused in my pursuit of God, my pursuit of making all things in my life meaningful?
What if I blocked out more of the mindless stories I read and the meaningless discussions I have online in order to pursue God? What would that look like?
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. ~ Isaiah 26.3
I read about a mother and daughter on a trip together through the world. During their journey, the mother speaks of a friend who accomplishes a marvelous amount of things during a day:
What’s allowed her to realize her dream where so many others fail, including me for many years, is how carefully and sanely she chooses exactly where to spend her time and energy…Kristin’s life illustrates that it takes more than passion and a lot of work to make a dream work–it takes focus. What you think about matters, a lot. Your thoughts drive your actions.
The mother continues to talk about the myriad of women who choose to please others, to accommodate others, rather than choosing to stand up for themselves and their families.
She says that many of us choose to be “good girls going for gold stars, instead of clasping tight the gold of our lives by living as we truly desire.”
This has the scent of truth that makes me pause. If I substitute “living as God desires”, this touches something deep in my heart.
How many times have I said “yes” to an activity, to a time commitment, even to a service opportunity, simply to please someone else or to create a certain image of myself?
So many times those “yeses” have cost me and my family. They have kept me from clasping tight the gold of obeying God’s desire that I should, for this season, focus most on these little disciples running around my feet.
I want desperately to be single-hearted. I desire to chase after God, to pursue and focus on only what He has called me to do rather than to fritter away my moments on activities that attempt to please others.
What does this look like? How do you do this in your own life? How do you carefully and sanely choose exactly where to spend your time and energy?
Do you have a goal, a purpose or mission statement for your family? Do you have a lens through which you filter every request, every moment’s choice?
The mother in my book says that “change happens in the small moments, when a sliver of light finds its way through the cracks”.
To help herself to focus, “I wrote down every single thing I did in fifteen-minute increments for three entire weeks…I asked myself a thousand times a day before acting – and, miraculously, speaking – What am I creating with this choice right now?”
I want to see everything around me as sacred, to be single-minded in pursuing God and His desires for me. I want to choose with intention rather than feelings, excuses, or circumstances. I want to please God rather than man.
I want to clasp tight the gold instead of aimlessly grasping for gold stars.
Is there anything quite like the level of desperation we feel when seeking the approval of our parents?
I can remember as a child not being willing to go to sleep until an argument had been reconciled, even creeping out of bed at night to make sure Mom and Dad weren’t angry with me anymore.
Even as an adult, those feelings have not diminished in the least. In fact, since the situations I encounter these days are a bit more important in the realm of the eternal (raising small humans rather than being late for curfew), perhaps my desire for my parents to be proud of me has even grown.
What is this longing we have for those in authority over us to approve of us?
Even those who have had too many authority figures abuse their power have only pushed those yearnings deep down rather than never having had those feelings in the first place.
It must be something placed inside of us, something sown in the soil of our hearts.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
It must be a need to be who we were created to be, a need for the One who made us to approve of what we have become.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well…How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
The desperate hope that I will be able to please my parents must be the natural outflow of my hope that I will be able to please my God.
And just as my parents guided and taught me to do the things that pleased them, so God will teach me how to please Him, and I yearn in my deepest places for Him to do so.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
I have caught a glimpse of the beauty that we can become, and that glimpse drives the desire for God to judge our hearts and help us to look more like Jesus. I want Him to judge me so that He can help me become who He created me to be.
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
May God, out of His infinite grace, judge us all.
Scripture is from Psalm 139
Sacrifice is hard.
I suppose that is clear from the very definition of the word.
The idea of a sacrifice of praise seems a strange sort of concept. We tend to view praise as spontaneous, as rising from our rising and joyful emotions. How can such praise be a sacrifice?
- Easy to praise
That sort of praise is not such a sacrifice. But what about the praise that comes from a woman who has just lost her child? What about the praise from a man who does not know how he will feed his family? What about the praise from Christ-follower who lives every day in fear of torture or death because of Who he follows?
Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. (Heb. 13.5)
The praise of the one ravaged by cancer, the praise of the one dying inside from loneliness, the praise of the one who isn’t even sure that God is really there…these are a sacrifice. These are that sacrifice of praise.
- Steph – Suffered years of illnesses and still chose to try to praise God
- Kristina – died of cancer, leaving her husband and baby behind, yet still sought God while alive.
But how? How is it even possible to praise God while living through such circumstances?
Look back just one chapter.
…looking to Jesus…who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb. 12. 2-3)
How? By looking to Jesus. By looking to the One who was able to offer up His own sacrifice of praise while enduring the physical pain of the cross, while enduring the emotional shame of the cross, while enduring the heartbreaking separation from His own Father.
- Jesus – crucified, humiliated, abandoned, yet still offered praise to God
By keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, and therefore off of ourselves, we are given courage and strength to do what we think is impossible. We are kept from growing weary and fainthearted.
By fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we are able to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise. An offering of praise that endures all time and all circumstance. An offering of praise that is beautiful to God.
Art credits: Sunlight through tulips photograph by Kirk Sewell Photography; photograph of Jesus carrying the cross sculpture by Asta Rastauskiene
I recently made a slightly startling discovery about myself.
Of all of the many ways I imagine God, of all of the variety of emotions that I attribute to Him, I don’t ever imagine Him as happy.
I don’t imagine Him laughing or smiling widely. I don’t imagine Him with eyes twinkling or Him speaking with such joy evident in His voice.
I have, in the past, imagined Him as serious, holy and unapproachable. I have imagined Him as gently gazing with love on His people. I have imagined Him fierce with righteous anger. I have imagined Him sad, heart breaking as we disobey. I have imagined Him in full brilliant glory, all around Him bowed low to the ground.
But I have never imagined Him laughing in delight.
Then I heard David Suchet reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. (David Suchet? You know, Hercule Poirot.)
Anyway, I listened to David Suchet read the story of creation and heard such laughter and exhilaration each time God looked at His artistry and said “You’re good!”
I heard the amazement and joy in His voice when He looked at mankind and said “You look like me! You’re perfect.”
I heard the excitement and merriment when He got to tell Abraham, “Guess what?! I will give you so many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you won’t be able to count them any more than you can count the stars in the sky!
Why have I never imagined this before?
Even when I read things like If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! I didn’t imagine the excitement and fun twinkling in our Father’s eyes as He gives gifts to His beloved children.
You know. The same delight that sparkles in your eyes when you give a gift that you chose specially for someone you love.
Yes, God loves us.
But it is even more than that.
Will you believe that?
You, sister, who have been told by the church that you must look a certain way or behave in a particular manner in order to be beautiful or accepted by God, that you can only be defined by marriage or motherhood, see God gazing at you, mouth smiling wide with joy, eyes sparkling with pleasure and satisfaction as He sees your heart and your outward appearance. You are lovely because you are loved by Him.
You, brother, who have been told that you must enjoy certain activities or conduct yourself with a certain demeanor in order to be truly a man or to fulfill God’s purpose for you, hear God laugh loud in utter delight at the way your personality mirrors some aspect of His own, see His arms flung wide in joyful abandon at the sight of you trying to be like your Father. You are admired because you were created by Him.
You, dear one, hear God laughing over you with radiant delight, see Him grinning wide with eyes gleaming, feel His joy wash over you in absolute approval.
You are perfect just as He created you because He loves you.
Art credits: Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo; Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld