For Love or Money

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Money and the ability to make it does not determine one’s worth or the worthiness of their work. We all know this, right?

And our ability to produce it is about more than wealth. It is the tangible proof that what we do is valued by people. And the more they pay, the more valuable our work is. The more valuable we are. At least this is what our culture tells us.

But I’m not buying it. This relationship between value and money is flawed. Some days I beat myself up as if I do believe it though. I treat myself as if the value of my work is summed up in my bottom line.

It is my perceived failures that force the issue. My frequent less thans, not quites, and nice tries, that leave me grasping to believe that what I do is having an impact. But, perhaps the measure I am using sets me up for such back-breaking thoughts. Perhaps it sets me up to give up.

God in flesh thought I was worth his very own life… before I was ever born. How can this be? How could my worth have been established before I ever took a breath? He said I was made valuable beyond all creation…. before I ever did a thing. He said in this world I will find trouble. But he overcame the world. And he has given us a better way…..

This leads me to believe that in His Kingdom, our currency is one of love. We exchange it and it is better than fine riches and gold. It is one of the three that remain after all, and it is the greatest. And our pockets are overflowing with it because we are children of the King and all He has is ours and we are never in want of it because its supply is endless. And we have already been adopted. We work as children, not slaves. Our currency is love.

1 John 3:16-20
16-17 This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.
18-20 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

The love we have received from God and the love He continually pours out every moment make each of us who know Him rich beyond counting. We have already been paid more than anything we could do would be worth. So let’s get to working. We were counted worth the cost, we were paid for in advance. Now we can do our work without worrying about the payment making it worthwhile. We already have it all. He already approved us and gave us hands and hearts to do whatever is in front of us. And he promises to meet our needs. So let’s work for love.
God already decided that who you are and what you do is worth a high price, so there is freedom! Do whatever multiplies the love in Your pockets and relish the joy of giving it away. Because in Jesus, we have a never ending supply.

Let’s Get Physical

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I got out of bed today and shuffled directly to the coffee pot. I don’t always make coffee in the morning, but today I had time and I craved it. I also made a “green” smoothie with all sorts of healthy things and thought to myself how skinny I will be getting if I keep this up. And I can’t deny how much happier I am since I have started consistently working out again. My face is thinner and my arms have definition. My mood is just generally better. But then I wonder if I am actually on a slippery slope because surely it isn’t God’s intention for me to care about such things. I mean, just look at the world…. I must be pretty selfish. But I feel better, I am better to my husband, I have more energy for my son, and I am just nicer to be around. I can’t deny it.

So, I drink it down, wash my face, and head to church. Thinking I am becoming so “worldly” and I must be chasing the wrong things, I feel a bit of shame coming over me but try to shrug it off. But shame is sticky stuff.

Today is our day to play on the worship team. And oh, how I love being in that place with those people. My heart soars as we sing and I start to play louder and try new riffs in the higher octaves and after months of playing with the band, I finally am not startled to hear myself apart from the others. I used to think it was prideful to want to be heard- and I didn’t want anything to be heard from me that I hadn’t decided was as close to perfect as I could achieve. So, to let myself enjoy worship with very imperfect piano playing, convinces me that this quest for more love and less fear is actually leading me someplace good. So much of what I used to think was “self-indulgent” or “prideful,” now I see as humble. Because in order to do them, I have to not be concerned about how I will appear or be perceived. So putting myself out there and letting myself be seen is actually less prideful than the hiding ever was. Weird- but oh so joyful.

The gifts He gives us are meant for our enjoyment and His. I want to be free to give them back to Him and to other people as He wills without fear holding me captive. The medium is His- let Him have it, let Him use it, just enjoy that its your hands that get to give it to Him and to others. And be free to receive His gifts through others too. I hope these are the first steps leading toward love- being able to be an open channel for God to love other people through me because I am finally unafraid. I always thought it was presumptuous to think I could accomplish something great and arrogant to want to- but actually, we all want to do something great (I think He made us this way) and if we are about what God is about- namely, loving people, then why wouldn’t He want us to be great at that? And maybe this is why caring for ourselves is good- because when we are His, He is committed to making us our true, fully alive, originally intended selves- each specifically handcrafted conduits for His love to touch the world.

Growing Down

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The growth that feels like backsliding.
It perplexes me.

The learning that is unlearning.
It raises so many questions.

I don’t feel profound or enlightened.
I feel afraid and unsure.
Like maybe I have unknowingly taken a wrong turn
and I am hopelessly lost.
But He says I am not. He says He is taking me home with Him.
That we are on our way.
But there are others coming with us
and these winding paths will take us to them.
I am lead in the dark and I recognize His voice
And I know His peace.
And I find evidence of Him everywhere I turn.

I didn’t like the cages that held me before,
But still, I wonder if I was safer in their confines.
Not safer, but more in control.

But what is a cage to control?

I feel as though I am resting, released to the Wind and carried
But I don’t know where it will take me
I am abandoned to it
I have chosen not to fight it- but would it make a difference if I did?
I am a part of Him now- I cannot escape Him.
He is every good thing.
In Him are fulness of joy and pleasures forever

The former things have passed away
And all things are new.

And yet I fear I am doing it wrong.
Like I should be kicking at the goads, striving.

But, I believe in His love.

I was found by Him in the depths of self-hatred and rebellion.
He came for me- against all odds. He is faithful. ALWAYS.
If He can do that, He can take a willing woman where He wants her to be.
I trust Him. I trust Him.
He will save me.

Forget Tolerance- Give Me Love

I came across this today and it seemed timely. Thought I would share it here 🙂 Happy Wednesday!

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Why are we compelled to label ourselves? To attach ourselves to sub-cultures which affirm us? Why are we sometimes threatened or put off by those who do not share our belief systems?
What happens when we are submerged in a “foreign” sub-culture in which we are unable to “speak the language?” How do we turn discomfort into opportunity?
Can we co-exist?
How do we become people who can mingle with any crowd, retain our self-esteem despite our differences and still have something relevant to say? And more than that, how do we become freed up enough to love, I mean really love- not patronize, preach, write off, or devalue? How can we be unconcerned enough about our own agendas and appearances to really see people?
We all need someone to say, “you are ok- you pass inspection.” And we dare hope for someone to say, “you are more than just ok- you are good.”
For me, this someone is Jesus. He tells me who I am….valuable regardless of how many miles I biked this weekend or where my child is scoring on the development chart. As the do’s and do not’s of a fluid culture change, He doesn’t. As I take on His identity, I find worth. I find my best self without looking. And as I am able to look away from myself, I can see much better.
We live in a world that constantly shouts lies about what determines a person’s value. What confuses us, is that the point system is always changing. The fact is, no matter how good I am, I will fail. I can sometimes hide it from others, but I know it in my heart. I will never consistently measure up.
I believe that the only exception to this who ever lived is Jesus. Because of His goodness, and because He made us- we are valuable. He is not impressed by our IQs, our good housekeeping, our abs, or our resting heart rates.
What moves Him is our faith. Maybe if we really believe, really stake our lives on our identity in Him, it will give us the freedom to love as He did.
We must resist the lie that we are constantly measured. People may measure us, but God’s measurement was finished in Jesus. He was found perfect- He measured up for all of us- once and for all.

Though I See Dimly

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He calls me Mama. He talks about my car and puts on my shoes and reaches up for my embrace. I am the one he cries for when he falls down. I asked God for Him and here he is. Changing me in all the most wonderful ways.

I know this deep ache to hold him in the safety of my arms, the compulsion to keep him from harm, the sudden ability to forget myself when he needs me. And sometimes in these moments, I think about how God feels about me. I am so thankful for this gift- to have a picture of His love for me, though maybe it is dimly lit- it is the closest thing I have and it is beautiful.

Homesick

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It is snowing today. It started in little wispy flakes this morning and has continued relentlessly throughout the day. This Montana weekend brought negative temperatures and brutal winds, and I am freezing my sweet little Southern butt off 🙂 I am a transplant here, and some days, I like it. Not sure about today, but I do love the beauty of it all. Shoveling snow is new to me, but I am embracing it. I even shoveled the neighbors’ walk today while Fletcher was napping and I was proud of myself. I thought, “maybe I really am getting the hang of this.”

It was my first winter here in 2009 that I experienced sub-zero temperatures and ice-driving. The excitement of it all got me through until the April melt. Then, two years ago, we moved up the hill and I learned to maneuver my car down, down, down, to the valley floor for work and play. And I likened it to driving through the mud to get to our family’s cabin in high school. That was good training. But, I am still the one that keeps people waiting on the roadways- overly slow and steady. I don’t know the feeling of the slick well enough yet.

But as the Winter has arrived in its fullness, my heart has a feeling of longing that won’t go away. It is noticeably homesick. Maybe this is what happens this time of year, but my memory is in overdrive and I miss making cookies with my Mom when I was a little girl, making snow slushies with my Dad and decorating the tree with my little brother. Home has been calling me.

Driving back from an ugly sweater party last weekend, I was transported in my mind to the street I grew up on. It was Christmas time and my Mom, Dad, brother and I were in the old Chevy van approaching our home at 604 W. Clinton street. I felt again the anticipation, the bliss, the safety and peace. I remembered the feeling of magic and wonder as we passed the home across the street with the same decorations year after year. The big tree in the front yard caught my attention. It may have been surrounded by snow a handful of times- but this how I remembered it. We made the long jaunt down the driveway to the garage and headed inside. We laid by the old fireplace as we did once or twice a year, Christmas records playing in the background. Then after an hour or so, Dad carried me to bed and warmly tucked me under the covers. I was wearing my pink Rainbow Bright nightgown that I loved with the ruffle at the bottom, even though it was itchy. I remember it.

We passed the driveway that could’ve been mine 25 years ago. I turned to my husband, who was driving during this daydream thankfully, and told him about how homesick I felt. I told him of the magic feelings I must’ve outgrown and he said that he still has them every time Christmas approaches. I am thankful for that.

I remembered then, how strong childhood memories can be and how they shape us. And I thought of my son, asleep in the backseat. Bundled in an oversized winter coat only weeks ago learning the word snow and it still sounds like no….and I realized that my longing has a place to rest. I can help him experience the wonder of this Season. The wonder of every season and every part of his life and the miracle that any of us are here at all. And I am in love with him. And love is really what it is all about. And I am thankful that being homesick reminded me of all of this.

Control is a Myth

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As I write this, I have sworn off the striving. And it feels so good. I have stopped flailing- I have accepted my inability to control outcomes. There is only silence where control used to shout loudly and I feel somewhat like a shell- a carved out woman. I am unaccustomed to the quiet corridors of my own soul. It is eerie.
I can hear questions echoing off of my soul walls. I am unsure of what to do with all this space, but something warns me to keep my hands off of it. It is sacred- holy- I must let it be. And I inhale and exhale deeply, surprised that this is all there is to me- that I could be so little. But I am sure that I have finally begun to reach the truth about myself- and that now I can really begin to live the fullness intended for me. But for now it feels like a beginner’s game- like practice. Sometimes I feel near emotionless and I move in broad strokes- mindful of my disengagement with the world around me, and I question, is this right? It seems I care so much less than I used to. But maybe I was caring about the wrong things then, and now I have the room to care more about what He cares about. Things I didn’t have time to get to before. My head is spinning as I adjust to life off of the dizzying wheel I was on. I am finding, as I try to let Jesus have all of me that my life becomes much less concrete and much more fluid, much less measurable and much more subjective. I am lost in a great Unknown, a vast ocean of possibility. I am held by the All-Knowing One in an ocean of grace. I was drawn too close to the banks of His River and it swept me away. It is cold and deep and powerful and untamed. Like adrenaline, it rushes from head to toe leaving me gasping. It takes my breath away and I am out of control. I am submerged and overtaken by His wild Great Waters and my heart screams “Don’t fight it! You were made for this!” “You were made for this!” I breathe in the Water and my lungs become like gills and my being is filled with the Divine. I am surrendered to the Great Waters and I am at peace- I can finally rest. If this is what letting go of control feels like, I can never go back willingly. I will trade the chains of momentary control for the waters of momentary uncertainty- for this is where my Savior holds me- and this is where eternal influence is forged.

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