Posts

Photo Credit: Deveon-Photography

Shipwrecked Souls And Intimacy

“Every shipwrecked soul knows what it is to live without intimacy.”

Every Breaking Wave, Songs of Innocence – U2

There are a lot of shipwrecked souls out there, including me. There is a beautiful irony in admitting that my soul is ship-wrecked. It unlocks the door to intimacy with others, and ultimately with God. I become far more relatable when I admit my weakness and failures to others, particularly those who are closest to me. Conversely, when I am unable or refuse to openly recognize my short comings and weakness, it stunts my ability to connect with others.

It’s frustrating that I often operate in a “self-protective” mode that inhibits intimacy, the deepest desire of my soul. If I wish to fulfill the deepest desire of my soul, I must confront my instinctual fears that activate this “self-protection” and choose to take calculated risks with trusted people. I know that the fear is real, because relationships are undeniably painful. However, pain can be endured and isn’t actually the worst case scenario. It can stimulate growth in relationships, especially the most life-giving relationship available: the relationships with my heavenly Father.

Contrary to what many believe, the Bible lists only two simple prerequisites for an intimate relationship with God:

1.       Admission of brokenness

2.       Trusting him

Really, these are the same prerequisites for intimacy in any relationship. We must be willing to trust the other person with at least some of our brokenness. This means that we need to be in touch with our brokenness (A.K.A. “baggage”). For me, getting in touch with my baggage has been a terrifying experience at times. Much of who I wanted to be and how I wanted others to view me is threatened by the exposure of my baggage. As you can imagine, chasing a fictitious identity is like chasing a wave that breaks as soon as you get close to it, but it seems to be a very common experience.

Finding the courage to dig into our baggage

The more convinced I am that my baggage doesn’t actually define me, the easier it becomes to look inward with an honest, more objective heart. This convincing is no small task. We are all fighting a lifetime of overt and subliminal messaging that flies in the face of the idea that our baggage doesn’t define who we truly are. When we discover (or rediscover) that God isn’t going to be surprised, put-off or angry when we admit our vulnerabilities, we experience tremendous freedom and intimacy with him. He sweeps us off our feet and pulls us close to his chest in a loving embrace, not because we’ve corrected our issues, but because we’ve invited him into our mess. That is intimacy; being met in your vulnerable state with a loving embrace. Yes, the mess usually begins to get sorted out, but that’s not the ultimate objective. Walking in an intimate relationship is.

In light of these thoughts, I would encourage you to ponder another line from the same song:

“Are we ready to be swept off our feet and stop chasing every breaking wave?”

Speechless_by_AsraelTV

God Rendered Speechless

A few years ago I had a colleague who introduced me to the writings of David Roper. David’s list of accomplishments is long and his reputation excellent. He is also a very generous man, and gave permission to the education ministry I served with at the time to use his materials in our discipleship courses. The colleague, who was (and is) a dear friend, also assured me that David would be most pleased about having his blog entires shared.

I first saw this post in late 2008, when I was in an early season of learning to be loved by God … just straight up loved, no earning, no merit, no striving. It was early days for me of wrestling with a call to Christian obedience and service, and a longing to have a heart at rest that could trust that it was loved by the Father, no matter how well my ministry projects went or how many times it seemed I had to learn the same lesson over and over and over.

It’s a sweet gift to visit David’s thoughts again as I now serve with a ministry whose focus is to help move people’s hearts into the confidence that they are fully cherished by God right where they are, and that our obedience and following after Christ is completely generated and motivated by his incredible love and our response to it. It’s never about my owing what I could not possibly pay, and never about his exhaustion or disgust that I have not come far enough.

His love is enough. 

So, from David Roper, something wonderful to ponder.

Lovesick and Dumbfounded

Carolyn and I often spend our quiet times reading from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, an Upper Room publication (If you’ve visited Shepherd’s Rest you’ve seen the copies in each bedroom.) The Old Testament passage for this morning was Zephaniah 3:17.

With apologies to Zephaniah and Bruce Waltke, my old Hebrew professor, here is my translation…

The LORD, your God is with you—
your hero, mighty to save!

He takes great delight in you.
He is speechless with love for you.
Every time he thinks of you he breaks into joyful song!

Zephaniah 3:17

I’m awed by the notion that God takes great delight in me and breaks into song each time he thinks of my name. But it’s the phrase I render, “He is speechless with love for you” that captivated me.

The verse is usually translated, “He will be quiet in his love,” or in some translations, “He will quiet you.” But the verb doesn’t suggest tranquility or rest. It actually means, “to strike dumb.”[1] And since the verb is in parallel with other verbs that suggest God’s strong emotions (“takes great delight,” and “breaks into joyful song”) it must point to what He himself feels.

I wonder then: Could the analogy be that of a lovesick swain who is bowled-over, flabbergasted and dumb-founded by his love for the beloved-so overcome with fondness that he is tongue-tied? Is God, in some inexplicable, anthropomorphic way, “struck dumb” with love each time he thinks of us? If so, to be loved like this is, in turn, to be rendered speechless. As Isaiah would say, “I am undone.”

And who is it that God so loves? One who is strong and able, brilliant, and breathtakingly beautiful? No, it is one who is “weak and the weary… who takes refuge in the name of the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:12).

DHR

[1] Jenni-Westerman, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.

baby-surprise (2)

God Is Not The Least Bit Impressed

When speaking during a retreat or at one of our Aphesis Group weekend experiences, I will often strongly exclaim, “God’s love and delight for us is deeper than we can ever imagine … however, he is not the least bit impressed with us.” The looks on people’s faces tell me this sometimes sounds confusing. But in reality, our love and affection for our children works the same way.

After only two years of marriage, my wife Renee told me it was her deep desire to start having children. This caused a lot of anxiety for me. I told her I wasn’t ready to be a father; I had enough love for her as my wife but I didn’t have enough love in me for a son or daughter. Reluctantly, I gave in.

Less than a year later, we were in the birthing room at the hospital. With my doubts still very much intact, there I was waiting for this child I didn’t have enough love for to be born. Then it happened. My first daughter arrived. Something happened to me in the first moment of my daughter Savannah’s birth. Love flooded my heart for her. Within the first minute of seeing her I declared to my soul and quietly to the world, “I love this little one with all my heart…I would die for this little girl. If anyone threatens this little one, they will feel the full weight of my wrath.” All doubt about having enough love and about my being a father quickly faded.

Why? What happened?

It’s simple, really. When I saw Savannah for the first time, it took only seconds to realize I was looking at a reflection of my image and the image of the woman (Renee) I adored, and love poured into my heart. Savannah reflected the image of us! She was a product of our love and delight in each other. The births of each of our four children had the same effect on me. To this day, I am as moved and amazed as I was in those first moments. My children are now all adults, but as I look at them I still see this blend of my image and my wife’s image. Its effect on me is still the same. I’m still crazy in love with our image bearers.

At first sight I fell in love with my daughter Savannah; however, I was not the least bit impressed with her. She couldn’t stand up, walk, talk, work, or really do anything of use. As a matter of fact, her deficits far outweighed her assets. She produced all kinds of smelly disgusting messes and didn’t add any productive value to our new family, yet our love and delight in her was deeper than words can adequately express. Our love and delight was not because of her potential or what we thought she would become; our love and delight was in who she was to us AS IS!

It is only after I became a father that I could begin to grasp the mystery of God’s love and delight in me. I am a reflection of his image! God is not the least bit impressed with me or my abilities or what I can do, just as I was not impressed with Savannah’s abilities or what she could do. I’m convinced God is not impressed or favorably influenced by ANY of our gifts, abilities, or accomplishments. He does not love us for what we can do, but rather he loves us with the love and delight of a Creator and, even more so, the love of a father and mother who see in their offspring the image of themselves. God the Father’s love and delight for us goes as deep as his relationship with his Holy Son Jesus. The thought is mind blowing, astonishing, profound, and humbling. Those moments that I can move this thought from my head to my heart are transformational.

 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one  I in them and you in me so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

  John 17:22-24

Waffle-Wisk-Batter

Waffle Rest

I love it when my dad cooks for me. I used to live just minutes from my parents and could enjoy Dad’s cooking frequently, but God’s design for my missionary career now means I live 900 miles away. On a recent trip “back home” to see my family, I stayed with my folks and my dad made me waffles for dinner. The happiness that took over in me as I watched him mix batter, supervise the waffle iron, and prepare bacon and eggs to nestle next to the syrupy goodness that would soon be on my plate, made me reflect on why I sometimes long for him to do this very thing when I am three states away in my own home, feeling homesick. I knew that just a few days later when I was up north in my own kitchen, I would soon feel this longing for him to cook again.

What is it about his cooking for me? About his asking me what I want for dinner, pestering me until I tell him what I am really hungry for? Why was an aching space in me touched to watch him whisk ingredients together and listen to him tell me to clear my work from the table so he could set it with all we would need for a very tasty, but not exceptionally elegant, meal?

I realized that what I get homesick for is my dad’s delight in doing this. He can’t make it fast enough or yummy enough for me. And it’s not because I am selfish or greedy. He just loves to give and I love to receive his delight. I have years of experience and reassurance that my dad knows I don’t need him to cook for me, but that he thoroughly enjoys doing this for me. I have learned to anticipate this act of love and relax in it, offering gently to help but not needing to intervene in his activity and show over and again that I can do it and he need not be bothered.

I wish I would do this more often with God. Sit in his kitchen, let him tend to me, relax in his delighted love and care. Trust that he is pleased to be with me and have me receive his love. Honestly, I spend a significant amount of time telling God how to make “waffles”, rushing in and grabbing the whisk and ingredients, trying to prove my gratitude to him and that he needn’t be bothered about tending to me, as I know he has much bigger and more important things to do. I don’t sit at rest, trusting that he will let me know when to clear the table or do the dishes or crack the eggs, or simply do nothing but bask in his delight. I forget to gently ask and talk with him about what he has for me in the each moment because I am busy rushing to act in hopes that he is not regretful of letting me into his Kingdom or remorseful that he saved such a slovenly servant. I try to earn my keep rather than be his daughter. I try to fill the ache in my own heart, rather than telling God what I am really hungry for and letting him provide precisely from his never-exhausted cupboards.

Thankfully, God is also never exhausted of inviting me to sit once again, rest and wait in his presence, and practice my faith, my active trust, that though there are good works he has prepared for me to do, I am first to fill myself with his delight and love in me as a daughter. God is always making waffles for me.

father son hug2

Imagined Journal Entries From Home (3 of 3)

A hand embraced my shoulder from behind. Turning me away from the cross toward himself, there stood before me an older man, his face full of strength but with eyes full of understanding and compassion. It was as though his eyes peered into the deepest part of my soul. I can’t fully describe the awe I experienced as I looked into his eyes. When he spoke it was as though a thousand waterfalls were funneled into the voice of a man.

I heard his words clearly say, “Tim, I’m your Heavenly Father … your Abba!” Fear filled my already brittle-feeling soul and once again I fell to my knees. In fear I recoiled. Tears flowed from my eyes … once again in deep shame and guilt of my unworthiness to be standing in the presence of … my Creator! From the voice of a thousand waters, his voice changed to that of a gentle older man.

“Don’t be afraid my son!” Once again, God TOUCHED ME! His hand gently lifted my face. Now standing beside God the Father was Jesus.

Softly, Jesus said, “Tim, we wanted to bring you here to see.”

I looked at him and said, “You’re not …”.

Before I could finish my sentence he said with a smile on his face, “I am not bound by time. This happened long ago.” Lifting me to my feet and facing me toward him, looking into my eyes again, he gently said, “I died for all the guilt, shame, worthlessness and fear you have felt and are feeling right now.”

God the Father said, “Tim … YOU ARE FORGIVEN! YOU’RE FREE!”

At that moment a warm breeze hit my face and embraced … entered … soothed …comforted … filled me in a way I cannot begin to describe. In that moment I felt deeply known, understood, valued, and FULL. It was the Holy Spirit. It was the most incredible, euphoric sense I’ve ever felt. No experience on earth ever came close. In the blink of an eye I was back in the garden but this time not only was I facing God the Son, but he was now in the arms of the Father. I fell to my knees in worship. On my knees in plush green grass with the Tree of Life in the background and enveloped in the summer-like breeze of the Holy Spirit, all I could think to say was “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Once again an explosion of joy, laughter and laughcry broke out. Present once again in the midst of loved ones we danced, embraced, laughed, cried, and laughcried. We all, including God the Father and Son, joined in song. The green leaves from the Tree of Life swirled around us, carried in the breeze of the Holy Spirit. It was as if everyone in their own spirit continually recounted all the great blessings and gifts given to us, and we sang of God’s forgiveness, love, and grace. We sang with voices full of great joy, tears, and laughter. We danced, we sang, we laughcried, and we embraced for what seemed like days. None of our joyous expressions were borne out of obligation, guilt, or a sense of duty. It all just flowed out of our deeply touched hearts. I could dance and sing and not be tired. It was all real, authentic, and heartfelt. “I am home,” I kept thinking and proclaiming! “I am home.”

Time and paper does not permit me to tell you of all I experienced.

Of all my new friends.

Of all my new discoveries and new perspectives.

Of the people, heroes of the faith with whom I dined. Learning, seeing with my own eyes critical moments of history and the Holy One’s interventions and acts.

Of the first taste of the sweet water from the River of Life.

Of the many reunions, the moments greeting loved ones and friends who took their first bite of the Tree of Life. Reliving through them my first look at Jesus’ face.

Of the deep friendship, camaraderie, and brotherhood we treasured.

I Can FEEL. More deeply and more freely than ever.

I Can SEE WITH SUCH CLARITY.

There is such beauty in this place, in the people here.

I FEEL SUCH TREMENDOUS ENEGY, BUT AT THE SAME TIME … SUCH REST.

We each spent time with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in groups but also individually; it’s weird.

Do I dare describe our dwelling places?

Do I dare tell of what it’s like to behold the face of the Father?

Do I tell of all that I have learned, conversations with people about whom I have only read?

Do I dare tell of what he has allowed me to see on earth from heaven?

He says that the time is drawing near, the time of the renewing of heavens and earth. We sometimes speak of it here.

He told us we will join him with our loved ones at that time.

He tells us of our new bodies we will receive at the Second Coming.

We (the Saints who have died the second death) will be front and center. What a time that will be. He tells us of the wedding feast and of the New Jerusalem … it’s going to be awesome.

I must go now. Jesus has arranged for me and a few others to sit with Moses. He is going to recount for us his time on earth and what pen and paper could not fully describe of all the Lord did. I dreamed of this time.

If only the Lord would allow me to tell a few moments of what it’s like here to some of my friends and family. Oh, how they would invest their time differently.

P.S. The Father just told me he has already written of it!! Ha ha hah! I guess that’s true! Blessed are those who believe.

What words cannot express,

Your Brother,

Tim

[artwork credit: Charlie Mackesy]

pasture-sunset

Imagined Journal Entries from Home (2 of 3)

I remember I was looking into my dad’s eyes as he told me, “We have so much to talk about, so much to catch up on. Tim, it’s all so incredible …” My dad stopped mid-sentence. His eyes were being drawn to someone behind me. I could tell by the look on his face—a look of excitement, joy, and anticipation—that it was again someone he could not wait for me to see. A joyful, holy hush fell across the crowd. Dad looked back into my eyes and deeply smiled. “Tim, he’s here.”

I turned, and there he was. Though I had never seen him, I knew him with certainty. For the first time I looked into the eyes of the Lord Jesus. He had the same look of joy, gladness, welcome, and anticipation that my dad had on his face. Opening his arms, HE RAN TO ME. He embraced me, lifted me off my feet, and spun me around, saying, “You’re home, you’re home, Tim … you’re home!” He grabbed my face and looked deeply into my eyes and said, “I’ve longed for this moment.”

Spontaneously, my Uncle Jim shouted out, “What eyes have not seen, what ears have not heard, so has he prepared for those who love him!” Then came another shout of joy and laughter from what was now a growing multitude of people. The Lord embraced me repeatedly, and WE BOTH laughcried for what seemed like a long time. I could hardly believe it; he was not only touching me, but he was joyfully, sincerely, and repeatedly embracing and kissing me on the cheeks, forehead, and hands. It was as though he really had longed to see me.

I kept saying “You’re real, this place …”

“PARADISE!” he exclaimed. “It’s real, it’s real … it’s real!!” he said with a deep soulful laugh.

Shortly thereafter, however, it hit me. I REMEMBERED. I stepped away from him and fell to my face before him. I remembered what I had done …

I remembered what I had done—what I had not done—time wasted on my own interests and the people I so deeply hurt. I remembered who I was, things I had said, not said. I thought of those whom I should have told of him … of the Gospel.

“This is all real. I should have lived so differently.” I wept bitterly, repeating to the Lord, “I am so sorry. I am so sorry.”

The crowd around us came to a hush, all of them but Jesus falling to their knees, looking at me with eyes full of compassion. It was as though they knew this moment was coming. They watched as Jesus gently lifted my face with his hand and said, “Tim there is something I want you to see.”

I looked deeply into his understanding and compassionate eyes. In that moment he somehow opened my mind. In a blink of an eye I was there! I was standing before the cross and there he was, naked and his flesh torn with blood flowing from his precious frame, being hung on wooden beams by three nails. I was sickened by such cruelty. There I was in the midst of the crowd watching his crucifixion. The majority of those around me sneered and mocked him. I was filled with horror and panic as I saw him, the one whom so warmly welcomed me and embraced me, the one whom I knew … but now knew deeply, suffering … being mocked and ridiculed. Then he looked down from the cross, and even though I was in a crowd of people below him, it was though he looked just at me. He said in a foreign tongue, yet my mind understood, the words, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” In that moment I felt such agony; in that moment I felt such shame and guilt. I cried out, “NO, NO, bring him down! Do you not know whom this is?”

[Artwork Credit: AngelsLightWorldWide.com]
Wildflowers

Imagined Journal Entries From Heaven (1 of 3)

There are days, some more than others, that I simply need hope! I need hope that there is something bigger and better on the other side of the chaos and pain I often feel. There are times I feel the need to park my mind and focus my attention on heaven, that place where Jesus not only promised our struggles and sufferings will finally end, but also where those struggles and sufferings are valued, weighed, and rewarded. Passages like the one below provide me with a backdrop of sorts, giving me some very pictures to help focus the eyes of my heart.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. …14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

Revelation 22:2-3, 14

The great hope for every child of God is that one day our time here on earth will pass, and in a blink of an eye we’ll be home, feasting together on the Tree of Life. The older I get and the more I experience what this world has to offer, the more I look forward to heaven. I would like to offer a short series of blogs (based on what I understand from the Bible) that are musings of what I imagine that great moment may be like when I step from this “reality” to the next.

It was as though I awoke from a deep sleep, out of a long dream. A slight breeze brushed across my face and hair as I arose. Deep green blush grass pressed between my fingers as I pushed myself up. I felt the warmth of what I thought was a beautiful sunshiny day. As I took in a long, deep breath, the sweet smell of flowers, green grass, and a freshness in the air like that after a summer rain filled my senses. Wow, I felt so … so … refreshed and rejuvenated. As my eyes cleared I saw … I saw such beauty as I sat in the midst of a beautifully lush garden. Behind me was a tall stone wall that was in and of itself very impressive. The beauty of this place I in which I found myself was breathtaking. The flowers and plant life, the river and waterfall … it was all so beautiful … it’s hard to find words to describe it adequately. Instinctively I reached up to push my glasses closer to my face to get a better look. My glasses weren’t there … yet my vision was crystal clear.

“WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? WHERE AM I?” Confused, yet delighted at what I was seeing and the way I was feeling, I reached for a memory that would give me a clue to where I was and how I got here.

Just beyond me was a tree. It was unlike any tree I had ever seen. It was huge and looked hundreds of years old, but its foliage was deep green and its branches were full of vitality and strength and … some type of strange fruit. “I must get a closer look,” I said to myself. Getting up to my feet and walking toward it, I noticed something quit odd. The pain in my right ankle was no longer there. I had forgotten what it was like to not have that pain shooting through my leg.

As I approached the tree its fruit was unlike any I had ever seen before, but looked so delicious I could not resist. It was like the fruit was screaming out for me to pick it and eat it. Reaching up, I plucked a fruit from the tree and buried my teeth into it.

The moment my teeth sank into the fruit, I heard an explosion of joy and laughter and my EYES WERE OPENED … AGAIN! As I turned, it was as though a great group of people appeared out of thin air.

And I saw them … people I had known from my past but who were … the thought hit me … people who had died. I whispered to myself, “I’m in …?”

“You’re home, Tim,” a man said, with a huge smile on his face. As I looked at him the realization hit me … it was him … it was my dad. My heart leaped within me. I ran to him, throwing myself into his strong arms. As we embraced, we both cried, laughed, and laughcried! From this point on I did a lot of laughcrying.

“Is it really you dad?” I asked through my tears. “Is it really you?”

“It is Tim, it is.” Looking me deeply in the eyes he said, “We’ve been waiting for you, Tim.

“You have two arms, Dad!” (My dad had been born with only one arm). He broke out in joyful laughter and said loudly “I know, I know! Now I can hug you properly!” He gave me a big bear hug and spun me around several times.

Others then joined in to greet me! There was a lot of hugging and laughcrying going on with them as well. Turning I said “Dad, am I …?”

“Yes, you’re home,” he said with a big grin on his face. With that statement, there was another explosion of joy from everyone. It was then Dad paused, and with a huge smile he gently turned my face … and I saw her …

“Mom!!!” I cried out. She rushed toward me and once again I was embraced. “You’re home, you’re home, you’re home!” she exclaimed. I felt warmth, joy, and love like I have never felt it before. We all stood for what seemed like hours, repeatedly embracing and kissing each other on the cheek while laughcrying. I was bathing in warm embrace after warm embrace of relatives and good friends who had died before me, along with their newfound friends. We leaped and danced like children. The spirit there was so genuine, so warm, so real, so joyful. I had never felt so loved, accepted, cared for, and deeply known.

That is until I saw him.

God is with you always

Remembering He Lives Here

One of my favorite emotions is the thrill, the little perk of security and superiority, of being right. I love being right. For me, there seems to be wonderful peace in knowing I am doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time. Ohhh, I get giddy just thinking about life going smoothly because I figured everything out. Seems like the perfect recipe to make sure nothing fails, nothing is left undone, and no one is disappointed.

Well, except for the exhaustion and, honestly, the inability of being right all the time. Of doing every aspect of life the right way. Of knowing the exact right time to act. When I type the actual words, it seems purely ridiculous to think I could know and act with utter precision and perfection. In fact, it sounds downright arrogant. It sounds like I think I could be … dare I say it? Like I could be God.

But, of course, I would never say that!

For years, though, I have sought to make sure my walk with God was done the right way. That I read Scripture the right way. That I prayed the right way for the right things. And one day I was immobilized by it. I was literally in a sobbing heap on my couch, panicked and overwhelmed that I could never be confident that no matter how much I studied, read, sang, prayed, journaled, worshipped, fellowshipped, small grouped, mission tripped, you name it, I could understand all of God and do all the God things rightly enough to live the Christian life the right way.

My younger, but often wiser, brother must have known something was up. On a spring evening, in the throes of my panic and tears, he dialed my phone number. As I poured out my heart and fear, berating myself for my failures, gulping for air between sobs, he spoke softly and firmly, using my first and middle names like he did with his own young children, my niece and nephews, when they would spiral into an emotional meltdown:

“Katherine Marie? You have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. God is not going to let you get lost in the weeds and wander so far afield from him that you forget home. You are his. The Spirit is residing in you to help you discern because you can’t figure it all out. You aren’t alone in this. He lives in you.

That April night was over six years ago. I remember it often. It was truth spoken in love by someone who knows me and knows him. It’s the Body of Christ alive and responsive, Michael responding to the Spirit’s prompting in him to tell me the truth about God and our relationship. It turns out it was never about me getting it “right.” It’s about my active trust in God. I am still loved when I get it wrong, upside down, or sideways. It’s God’s nature to love me into his truth, invite me constantly to trust him again and again, and change me through his love, not through my perfection and work. God is not far away and I get it “right” to get close to him. He is here, active and alive in me through the Holy Spirit.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15, ESV)

Bill Belichick

Disappointing God

dis·ap·point verb \ˌdis-ə-ˈpȯint\ : to make (someone) unhappy by not being as good as expected or by not doing something that was hoped for or expected

Psalm 14:3 … there is no one who does good, not even one.

I often feel like I must be such a disappointment to God. Like he must have a pained look on his face whenever he thinks about me. I wonder, is this accurate, or just an assumption informed by my own shame?

When I examine the definition of “disappoint”, I see an element of failed expectations. While the Bible teaches that God has a very high standard—perfection—the standard itself is distinctly different from God’s expectation of us. If his expectation of me was perfection, he would be overwhelmingly disappointed with me and every other human ever to walk the earth, with the notable exception of Jesus. In fact, it would seem logical that God’s expectations for all of us include failure. That seems counter-intuitive to me, but how else can you explain his intricate plan to redeem us at such a high cost to him? I don’t believe he is surprised by my need to be rescued; because his rescue is motivated by his deep love for you and me, he is heartbroken when we turn away from him. It’s this heartbreaking, this incredible love, that moves him to act in a redemptive manner toward us.

But isn’t his heartbreak basically the same as being disappointed? I think not. On the surface they sound almost interchangeable, but on closer examination they are significantly different. When God is heartbroken, he is outwardly focused on the subject of his heartbreak (you & me). Where there is disappointment, the primary focus is inward (self). Since I am often more inwardly focused, I tend to be more predisposed to disappointment than heartbreak. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for me to falsely project that God must be disappointed with me. This can taint my entire view of his motives in relationship to me. I end up with shame about who I am, which is in direct opposition to God’s perspective about who I am (Romans 8:1).  When I remove this dirty lens and see God’s heart with a clear eye, it’s overwhelming to me. He is warm, inviting, open armed, loving, and merciful. He delights in me. Yes, delights!

When Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”, I don’t hear disappointment, I hear a breaking heart. This is the heart of God seeking our redemption out of his love for us.

Dear Father, please remind me that my failures do not surprise you, but they do break your heart. Remind me of your loving, merciful demeanor which enables me to come out of darkness and walk in the light with you. Amen.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

individual evaluation perfomance

What does God desire from me?

To be perfectly honest, the question that I really want answered is, “What are the minimum requirements for avoiding hell?” so as to avoid getting the following error message at the end of my life:

Sound familiar?

Check it out:

“Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)

Apparently, the rich young ruler has some sense of Jesus’ authority, but he, and often I, completely misunderstand what Jesus is like. Somewhere deep down, I doubt that God is truly good. Jesus first responds by providing a subtle hint that He has a lot more authority than a “good teacher,” and then more directly reminds the rich young ruler that God is the source of all good. Next, he proceeds to create a disorienting dilemma for the rich young ruler by telling him what he needs to do in order to be “perfect” or “complete”—which, of course, is impossible for any human. It’s interesting to note that Jesus never directly answers his question about the requirements for obtaining “eternal life,” but says if he keeps the commandments he will enter into “life.” I suspect that the nature of the rich young ruler’s original question doesn’t align with God’s nature (“What…shall I do…(to) obtain eternal life?”), even though many of us have the exact same approach.

What does seem to be perfectly aligned with everything in God’s nature, though, is him connecting with us in a personal way. Jesus makes a very personal appeal to the rich young ruler inviting him to join his eclectic gang. It is not a guilt-induced threat, “Follow me or else …”, but rather an invitation to experience real life, the way that it was intended to be experienced. It was an invitation to connect relationally; to know and be known. Obviously, the value placed on earthly treasure was an issue for this man, but I wonder if there isn’t an even larger issue at play for the rich young ruler — and me: the issue of responding to Jesus’ invitation to connect in a deeply personal way.

You see, “doing life” with Jesus on a daily basis requires vulnerability. When I join his gang and choose to relationally connect with him, it means that I am willing to open a dialog with him about my personal thoughts and inner life. For many of us, this idea makes us want to breathe in a bag. It requires us to put our heart in his hand, which is an extremely vulnerable position, putting to the test our willingness to actively trust him. Is he really good? Is he really trust worthy? Will this active trust in God’s goodness result in pain as it has with every other human relationship?

Knowing God and being known by him is not necessarily pain-free, however, he is the only person I have found that brings a lasting healing, freedom, peace, and joy. He is good, trustworthy, and loving. Always.