so we can intersect

Where are You?

I am here, in the middle of things,
blinking against black with heavy eyelids
but the scenery stays the same.
And, where are you?

You are always everywhere,
but where is it that we intersect?
I forget where I go to be with You –
that place where You are with me.

I am here in the middle
like an astronaut or an island.

Where are You?
Because I am in the middle
and everything is unfinished.

I am not ready to go,
I am not ready to stay.
Please, tell me where You are
so we can intersect.

because fears repeat

I made a list in the “Notes” part of my phone on the way to work yesterday.

I blush reading the words now, because they sound like a high schooler’s diary entry, or at least a college freshman. And that is embarrassing when you are 29, I think. I was grateful the strangers crowding my shoulders were strangers – because it would be inappropriate for them to point and laugh about things I should keep hidden. I was getting off at Fulton, anyway, so if they wanted to be inappropriate I wouldn’t have to know.

I am good at keeping fears secret. I publish my fears in blogposts (see here and here and here and here), but this week I realized electronic confessions keep a safe distance. After I write out all my wrestling, the fears feel “dealt with.”

Turns out, casting out fears (by way of perfect love) is more like turning away stray cats than some other more permanent banishment, like throwing heavy rocks in deep oceans. The fears keep showing up at my door and I keep telling them to go away, because truth says God’s love can do that (1 John 4:18).

I believe God’s word is true, which is why I end so many of my blogposts with paragraphs that preach back to the way I feel in the first lines. But knowing and believing truth sometimes (often) does not change the way you feel. Not always at least, not for me.

The fears will show up again even after the best, believing “casting out.” And when they do – when I open my door to find that same stray meow – my shock gives way to recognition and I start my internal scheming to get rid of it… again.

That’s why it feels like high school and college and 5th grade and right now. Because fears repeat. And no matter how many times I act surprised by the scratch at my door, I know I will recognize the meow on the other side.

So, I listed my fears on my phone and then fought back tears in the crowd of strangers trying not to look at me. Truth casted out fears (again) and truth made Friday life abundant.

But I am learning that fears are not “dealt with” … fears are lived through.

Believing perfect love casts out fear means looking up with the Israelites at that bronze serpent in the desert (Numbers 21) because God keeps His promises. There will always be serpents and stray cats, but there will also be God.

We are one week away from celebrating the way God raised up His Son on the cross so we could look up for an eternal casting out of every fear. This is the kind of freedom that doesn’t just “deal with” all the fear we have going on.

This freedom means you can live right through fears without being ruled by them.

free & unqualified

“In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear His glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Yep. At the very moments when I feel the least qualified to do the work in front of me (waking up, working joyfully, serving, smiling, living), God reminds me that I am the kind of unqualified person who bears His glory.

But, I always end up talking about being “unqualified” when I am feeling especially humble or discouraged or low. Preaching “God is glorified in my weakness” kind of comes out like a statement Eeyore would make on a rainy day. It seems strange to praise God with hunched shoulders when I realize He is shining instead of me, almost like I’m giving up on getting my own glory.

Yesterday, in a conversation with a co-worker about circumstances we cannot control, I found myself saying, “…but there is really freedom when I start to trust that God has better plans.”

Really, self? Do I really believe that there is freedom in everything that makes me “unqualified” to do good work?

I suppose I do. But if that is true, then my being “unqualified” should sound less like defeat and more like victory. There is freedom in my own limitations because there is freedom in God’s power over limitations. I shouldn’t just talk about being “unqualified” when things aren’t working out/aren’t going well/aren’t progressing right.

I really do believe that anything good in me is Christ – any good I’ve done, words I’ve said, plans I’ve made – all of it is the abundance of Christ. Daily, I fight the urge to take back the glory, to appear qualified and equal to tasks before me. But that fight is unnecessary and it takes energy away from free, unqualified efforts. When I truly rest in what Christ accomplished on my behalf at the cross, I am free inside my unqualified life.

I am free to not chase glory or fame or fortune. I am free to not be successful. I am free to not rely on the praise of others.

although we are weeping

Mouths filled with laughter and tongues loosed with joy, that would be ideal. It’s the kind of delight your lungs can’t handle.

But, that kind of delight is not a constant state of emotion and maybe that’s why I liked singing this song so much on Sunday during communion. It is a peaceful prayer that believes God is faithful. It is a prayer that believes God will keep His promises. It is a prayer that trudges through death and sorrow and ugliness, believing God can and will restore.

Psalm 126 (Our Mouths They Were Filled)

Our mouths they were filled, filled with laughter
Our tongues they were loosed, loosed with joy
Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

Although we are weeping
Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your Kingdom
For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry
Lord, please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy

The nations will say, “He has done great things!”
The nations will sing songs of joy
Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

This is a familiar heartbeat of mine that is hard to explain. It is the messy sadness I feel even while I am rooted in joy. It is hoping and believing when days are weighty and when words are flat. It is the joy of an eternal God who has promised restoration and will be faithful to deliver.

Although we are weeping
Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your kingdom
For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry
Lord, please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy

And this is the good, hard work of believing Him for who He is. When we are weeping, He is the help to sow the seeds of His kingdom. When we are weak and afraid and tired and lazy and distracted, He is the strength we need to live outwardly and love unselfishly.

He is building a kingdom and He is using the weepers. He is populating heaven and He has not just asked the bubbly ones to be recruiters.

I love that He is the strength and the help for those who obey through tears. This is a hard fought believing. This is a daily grind believing and future grace is the rhythm.

I believe He is able to restore and I believe He is able to redeem.
And I believe He will.

my best thought

I have too many thoughts.

The past couple months, I have been trying to figure out what it means to have a best thought. It feels like a commitment and a precarious one. Thoughts can get going like locomotives – they are hard to control when they gain speed. How would I find just one and elevate to “best” status?

The hymn Be Thou My Vision is one of my favorites because it is so unashamed about making an impossible commitment.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

I always sing it like a prayer – believing God can make these words true – but it is also a declaration. These stanzas are like steady footsteps when all the other thoughts crowd in on us and the locomotive derails, spilling our jumbled mental cargo all over the tracks. These words are declarations that God is worthy of best thoughts, capable of best wisdom, and a right receiver of praise.

I’m praying I can sing these declarations honestly, but I think best thoughts come about a different way. I think best thoughts are always what you treasure most, what you would sell everything to possess.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

lemme give you some advice

I know, you didn’t ask for it – but it’s comin’ atcha anyway. You don’t have to take my advice, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t.

Don’t ever (no matter how confident you feel or how cool you look), EVER point your rollerblades down the hill in the middle of the Iowa State campus by the MU. Seriously – don’t do it. You might end up with matching 5 inch abrasions on either thigh, a twisted knee, a banged up elbow, and a severely bruised pride. Yes, that happened.

Apparently, I won’t hit my humility quotient this month for quitting my job and moving across the country without a job or an apartment. Everybody needs a good spill every once in a while, even if just to remember that walking a normal straight line without a limp is a precious thing that should be appreciated. The wipeout was unfortunately epic and witnessed by several innocent bystanders. Don’t worry – I jumped up quick and bladed off so they didn’t feel awkward about leaving a struggling, crashed blader spread out on the pavement.

But, let’s get serious (because all my advice isn’t rollerblade-related).

I had dinner with my Uncle Tom tonight because I’m crashing at his house again – this time for just a couple weeks. It was home for a year, so living here again feels like putting on a favorite pair of jeans. Right now my favorite pair of jeans is literally soaking under an ice pack, so I’ve got time to process some of the wheels spinning circles in my mind.

We talked about belief tonight over drinks and guacamole and pizza and lettuce wraps – about what kind of belief pushes out fear and worry and anxiety and shame. Because we’re all believing something, Tom said, but we’re not all believing the right thing. And it’s true.

Only the right belief can displace all the ugly monsters wrestling for space in our hearts. Only the right belief is comfort when you realize all those catchy phrases your fifth grade teacher told you about “shooting for the stars” sound way easier inside the imagination station.

Only the right belief about who God is will give us the right belief about the power of our circumstances.

I’ve had my share of breakdowns. I am familiar with the questions that pound like downpours. I know the rhythm of a panicked heartbeat.

But there is hope in the middle and not just on the other end of all these wrestling wars for my peace. It’s never about getting over a phase or through a season or on top of the details. It’s never about any of that because it’s always about having the right belief about who God is in the middle of it all.

He is Protector.
He is Provider.
He is Comforter.
He is Healer.
He is Peace.
He is Joy.

And He is not these things only when my life makes sense – He never changes. If I believe He is who He says He is, then my belief makes room for joy where ugly monsters once wrestled for my peace. By His grace, I believe He is Protector enough, Provider enough, Comforter enough, Healer enough, Peace enough, and Joy enough.

He is SO ENOUGH that in this uncertain slice of August, the joy is bursting out my rollerblade seams and climbing into my borrowed bed.

He is that good. And He never changes.

I believe, I believe, I believe.

And my right belief about God is jettisoning my doubts as I pick up more trust in the One who overwhelms me with joy.

what you believe changes everything

Just this today, friends.

Our work is to believe and to keep believing. Garrels says,

“What you believe changes everything.”

This work of hanging on to the promises of future grace, of believing God for all that is promised in Christ, this transforms a life and shapes the way you see and mourn for tragedy.