before all that: exploring a life of desperate dependence

Before the breakdown and before the last straw that falls on the camel’s back.

Before all that.

What if we got desperate and dependent before anxiety wrapped its cold, stubborn fingers around our hearts?

I’ve learned dependence before, many times. While boarding with  a leaky car in Austin and while bumming on a co-worker’s couch I learned some important things about dependence. But we have a tendency to label lessons like mile markers – things we’ve passed along the way. Once we’ve learned a lesson, we move on with a forward gaze, assuming the lesson is added to our lives like a scout badge on a vest.

Well, maybe it’s just me that does that – but I’m only cheating myself out of joy if I live treating lessons like mile markers or scout badges.

Oh, how I love my patient and faithful Savior! He is reminding me that “casting all your cares on the Lord because He cares for you” is not merely for the SOS moments. Maybe let me rephrase: our lives are a string of SOS moments.

This is what I am learning and living.

We are made to be desperate, but not the kind of desperate that builds up to a breaking point and then explodes out of control. Not that kind of desperate.

We are made to depend desperately on the One who will trade our need for His provision.

That is His good design. Our dependence is deeper than bread and water, but our needs are all in the same well that His grace is sufficient to fill. That is His good design – desperate dependence, all the time.

We cast our cares on Him because He cares for us – because He has been faithful and promises to be faithful in the future. Our God has never broken a promise, not ever. My desperate dependence is evidence that I believe Him to be just that.

So, when a string of days fills with SOS moments, there is not less joy available. It is not a lesson of dependence that marks another mile walked on the faith road. Desperate dependence is the road we walk, the path we tread as we daily rejoice in His provision for us. He provides all that we need, according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19) – and there is no bank with better credit. Our provision comes from the source of all things.

The deep well of His sufficient grace offers peace (Philippians 4:6) when we cast our cares (1 Peter 5:7), believing that God is the strength for our hearts and portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

Before the breakdown and before the last straw (but of course, in those times too), we are invited to desperately depend on the One who can sufficiently provide for our needs and overwhelm our lives with joy.

I could tell you about the past two days – about the car trouble and the appointments and the millions of ways that God gave me good gifts. I could tell you about the near disasters (averted, I know, by the grace of God) and the very friendly repair shop on SE 14th Street. I could tell you about the songs I sang in my car with littles in the backseat and the way they explained the songs to their parent. I could tell you about sitting around a coffee table in community and laughter.

I could tell you just a few of the millions of ways God is providing in the desperately dependent state, but then it might seem like this is something I “learned” in the past two days.

And I didn’t learn it, in the past tense way.

This desperate dependence is meant to be a lifestyle that flows like the lifeblood in my veins, keeping me existing here on earth. So, I’m exploring a life of desperate dependence, walking that road with eternity hidden in my heart.

so blessed are we

My heart grows like a fire spreads when I set my mind on the blessing in loving Christ. This morning we read Paul’s prayer for those in Philippi,

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11 ESV)

… that love may abound more and more. There is no cap on a love that is always increasing and no exhausting of gifts that come about as a result of that increasing love. We are so unbelievably blessed as we love and treasure our Savior. As we share in His suffering today and as we share in His holiness, so blessed are we.

So blessed.
So undeservedly and abundantly blessed in our loving of Christ.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

way more than sometimes

I’m so glad Paul admitted he never “made it.”

I mean, what a guy, right? He learned to be content in any circumstance – and he didn’t live a quiet life in the Midwest either. I mean, jail, shipwrecks, and undercover operations were just another day in the office for this man. Transformed from Christian killer to Christian by the power of Christ, Paul’s theological understanding came straight from the Lord. Forget commentaries, the man was God’s chosen tool to give us the bulk of the New Testament that we read today. An encouragement to churches spread across the known world at that time, Paul was very clear in a letter to the Philippians,

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)

And I’m so glad he “never made it.” If he had, all my failures in all my petty circumstances would feel much more pitiful. As I try to match his efforts to “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold” of me, I struggle with the pressing on.

His admonishment to the church that precipitated this assurance was,

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 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, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—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 3:8-11 ESV)

Really, Paul?
You think you can know God and the power of his resurrection? You’re willing to share in his sufferings and even die?
You are clearly better at this “Christian life” thing than I am.

And just when he knew they’d put that letter down in defeat – certain they’d never be able to attain that kind of faith –  Paul let them know he didn’t have it all together.

And, oh! Thank goodness for that.

I’ve been sorting through some things lately – pretty weighty things – and I’m aware that sometimes I’m driven by fear and that sometimes I promote myself and that sometimes I hide behind pride and that sometimes I am selfish.

Let’s be honest, it’s way more than sometimes. My failure doesn’t mean I’m not in the same race, pressing on with Paul toward the One who calls me, redeems me, and strengthens me to run for what will bring most joy.

 I can still
let LOVE fly like CrAzY
even when it seem like I’m not qualified

making myself available

I keep talking about this “a la orden” philosophy, so this week I stopped talking and tried to start applying. And, GOODNESS, it is like singing sweet freedom’s song and hearing it echo in the greatest canyon! I thought I would try to summarize some thoughts, if no other reason than by way of reminder to make myself available to serve with the ways God has shared Himself with me.

The philosophy of “a la orden” (Spanish for, “at your service”):
Making conscious, consistent decisions to put the needs of others in front of my own by making my gifts completely available.

We know that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Anything good in this world is good because it comes from the Father, Maker of Heaven and Earth. So, whatever good things ended up in me – gifts or abilities or talents – are there as the distinct, divine fingerprint of an Almighty God. They are not from me, because I am not capable of producing anything (John 15:5). Every ability or gift we have is revealing something about His character and creativity.

So, if I recognize that I’ve got a good set of gifts on loan from the Creator, I must also recognize I have no right to hoard them. If I turn the gift inside out so only I can see and enjoy it, two things happen: 1) the gift fails its purpose (to bless others) and 2) I have wrong views of God and myself. I try to take the shortcut to joy by enjoying ways God has blessed me without using those blessings for their intended purpose. It’s no surprise that I come up short on joy and frustrated by my self-centered excitement in my gifts.

In Philippians 2, Paul challenges the church,

“if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Paul asks, have you benefited at all by this relationship you have with the Living God? Then, Paul says, nothing would bring me more joy than to see you joining together in community and serving one another. Paul goes on to describe Christ’s character that we should strive to emulate,

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Christ was the greatest gift and He opened Himself up completely that everyone might enjoy Him. Everything He received from the Father (by being indeed one with Him), He made completely available.

I think this is maybe what it means to look to the interests of others. It’s not just keeping your eyes peeled for that little, old lady needing help to cross the street. As we are working out faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), we must be searching God for ways His gifts can be made available through us.

Sometimes it takes awhile to understand how God has gifted us… and that’s okay! But, Paul’s advice for the church in Philippi is useful here as well. Encourage one another! Be like-minded! Look for ways God has blessed other people and then LET THEM KNOW IT! Build them up in their gifts and encourage them to praise God for His unique fingerprints on their lives.

Then… we use God’s gifts in our lives like a Mary Poppins bag of blessings! I know God’s in charge of the blessing, so when I make His gifts available to others through me – EVERYBODY WINS! I receive the joy of obedience and service, someone else receives encouragement or a mentor or a much needed Scripture, and GOD gets the glory. I’m only the vessel that holds the water of blessing for others to drink! Christ said COME and DRINK and there’s no way I would try to take that place, but being a vessel that carries the hope of eternal life is like walking around with 4th of July fireworks in my heart.

The more loosely I hold onto things of this world – whether it be words or jeans or the gift of organization – the more tightly I cling to the indescribable joy of eternity.

That’ll have to do for now, folks. I’m sure I’ll be processing this more in these days. As for practical application, I take it day by day. But I would say trying to live this out has rendered me speechless. There aren’t enough pages to record all the blessings, but at the same time I can’t seem to articulate just one. God is so good!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!