I am called to Surrender

I am Called to Surrender

 

“Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”  ~Luke 17:33, NASB

Letting go to find safety. Sounds off, doesn’t it?

My husband and I recently took our four kids to the YMCA of the Rockies (we love that place) for a family getaway. Among the many fun activities they have, the rock wall was the highlight this year, because they’d installed a new, three-story, more challenging contraption. All six of us were eager to give it a go.

Though it’s been awhile, I have been rappelling before, so I was more concerned with the climbing up part than the going down. But along with the new wall, the Y had installed auto belays. No problem, I thought. I climbed to the top, slapped the auto-machine, and started to lean back for the ride down. Uh, except it didn’t catch. With my right fingertips still in contact with the wall, I curled my fist and jerk myself back to safety.

“It’s okay,” the instructor called from the floor. “You’ll free fall for less than a second, and then it’ll catch, you’re just gonna have to trust it.”

Yikes. Did I mention that I’m afraid of heights? Seriously, I am. I like adventure, and I don’t want to live in fear, so I push myself to do these things, but truly, I’m wet-your-pants afraid of heights. Free fall? Even for a second? You’ve got to be kidding me.

But there wasn’t another option.

I drew a long breath–quite possibly my last, I thought, closed my eyes . . . And let go.

My heart wound up somewhere in my neck for that half a second before the belay caught, but then the slack gained resistance and I was in a controlled rappel down that three-story drop.

Surrender is a bit like that, I think. Letting go, trusting that God has control even when I don’t is kind off like leaning back into that free fall. But it’s what He’s asked of me. There are some places I get to climb–to participate in His plan. But there are others, like stuff with my kids, situations at church or work, where I don’t have grip on any of it. But God does.

In theses moments, I hear him whisper, “You’re just gonna have to trust me.”

 

Note: Susan will be back with us in a week or so. She’s busy painting and packing as she prepares to move. Please join me in praying for her and her family as they dive into a new adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

I am called to live with passion

Heart, Soul and Strength

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 HCSB

In the 1990s, a woman walked into a Kansas City Baskin Robbins store to buy an ice cream cone.  She’d just placed her order when another customer walked in behind her.  She turned and found herself face to face with Paul Newman.  His blue eyes made her knees buckle, and her pulse filled her ears.  Wordlessly, she paid for her cone and left.  She stepped outside the store, took a deep breath, and realized she didn’t have her ice cream.  She turned to go back in and get it when she met Paul Newman coming out. 

“Are you looking for your ice cream cone?”  he asked.  She was still too awed to speak, so she just nodded her head.  He smiled.  “You put it in your purse with your change.”

When was the last time you allowed God’s presence to totally fluster you like that?  When was the last time that His face caused you to forget everything else – the to-do list, the tension at work … the ice cream cone?  God wants us to love him like that, with all our heart.

But he wants our soul’s love, too.  In Hebrew, the word “soul” can be translated “appetite.”  He wants us to crave him daily.  It also carries the connotation of “will or choice.”  He want us to decide to follow him, even when our hearts aren’t fluttering.  Because God knows that all of love isn’t a heady emotion.

And that brings us to strength.  He wants us to love Him with my actions, regardless of what I’m feeling.  He wants me to use my soul to choose to sweat for Him, to volunteer with the kids at church, to share Christ with a friend when I’d rather be silent, to give a ride to a needy woman whose car is broken down.  None of those things may cause my heart to sing, but they express my passionate love for my God none the less.

God wants my emotions.  He wants me to be utterly in awe of Him.  But emotions are flighty things, so He wants my will, too, so that I’ll choose to serve him even when I feel depressed.  And he wants my strength, my hands and feet, my time, my actions.  He wants all of me.

I have to confess that everything I’ve written today comes out of a sermon my husband preached last week at a church in Oklahoma.  They subsequently called him to be their new pastor. We are so excited about this move and about all God has for us there.  But this week, I have been overwhelmed with painting and packing and everything it takes to sell this house and transplant our lives there.  I am exhausted and fresh out of creativity, so I snuggled up to him this morning and asked for permission to just put his words here.  He gave it.  He’s a good guy, that man I married.  He loves His God passionately.  May I do so too, even buried under boxes and bubble wrap.

I am called to live with passion

Choose Today

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve The Lord, choose for yourselves whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve The Lord.”  ~Joshua 24:15, NASB

Where will you stand?

We can choose to stand behind the righteousness of Christ, believing in His finished atonement, or we can stand on our own in our sin. We call it conviction, and it is where passion is birthed. Either the Word of God is true or it isn’t, either Jesus is who He claimed to be or He isn’t. There is no middle ground.

Joshua understood this. We don’t get to sit on the fence luke-warm in our convictions. He declared to his people  “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”

Make the choice. I am convinced this was a plea born of passion – boundless enthusiasm. Can you imagine the warrior leader shrugging, tossing our a flippant, half-hearted challenge. “Hey, ya know, whatever you decide, it’s all good. I’m gonna go this way, but whatever you chose, I’m sure we’ll meet up again in the end.”

No way! He’d spent time recalling, reminding, persuading. LOOK at what the LORD has done! Remember. Remember our slavery. Remember our desert wandering. Remember His promise. And now remember this land He has brought us to. He provided, defended, delivered and distributed. Now, remembering all that, choose.

And then serve. Not sit. Not straddle. Serve.

 

I am called to live with passion

To live is Christ, to Die is Gain

For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.  Philippians 1:21HCSB

Jim Elliot lived his life with passion.  A journey through his journals shows a young man utterly sold out to his Savior, making every decision in light of what would be most pleasing to God.  For that reason, he delayed marriage, traveled to South America, became a missionary.  For that reason, he took his bride and baby daughter to live in the Ecuadorian jungles, very near the unreached and savage Auca tribe.  With every breath, he lived this quote from his diary: “Wherever you are, be all there.”

He took that passion with him when he and four other young men went right to the heart of Auca territory, trying to make contact with these known killers who had never heard of Jesus.  But Auca warriors attacked the five missionaries on a jungle beach, spearing them to death in the sand, leaving their bodies to bleed into the river.  The missionaries had guns to defend themselves, but chose not to.  They’d promised each other they would not kill an Auca who did not know Jesus even to save their own lives.

With their dying breaths, Jim Elliot and his companions lived out this quote from Jim’s journal: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Jim Elliot could not keep his life, but he gained an eternity with Jesus and rewards untold.  And that passion inspired others.  Jim Elliot’s wife, the sister of fellow martyred missionary Nate Saint, and eventually, Nate Saint’s son all went to live among the Aucas as missionaries.  Young men and women across the United States heard about Jim Elliot’s sacrifice gave their own lives to foreign missions.  How many thousands of souls are stepping into heaven as a direct result of one life lived with passion?

Philippians 1:21.  To me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.  Paul penned those words in a prison.  He got it.  He knew what was really important – not nice houses or comfortable pay checks.  Not vacations or new cars.  But, eternity, the forever beyond this 70-something years we’ve got on earth.  May I passionately live for God, knowing that even losing my life is gain.

I am called to live with passion

Fake Pearls and Real Treasures

 “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” ~Luke 18:22, NASB

I have a confession. I am driven by success. Truly. I thrive on the sparse waters of good grades, scholastic awards, athletic trophies, and more recently, writing recognition.

This habit of success-driven living is about as healthy as living on a steady diet of snickers and ice-cream. Not. Good. Instead of pursuing passionately after Christ, I find myself stuck–tied in knots because I’ve dedicated my energy to chasing personal achievements. For me. Because I want attention.

Our pastor relayed a story–one that is common, I suppose, among those familiar with Christianese. But it hit me where I needed it as I am mulling over living passionately for Christ. (Not for me. Sorry–I have to keep reminding myself. Bare with the slow learner here). Here it is, in the New Jen Version, because I don’t have access to the original.

There was a little girl who spied a string of pearls in the dress-up section at the toy store. She adored those white globes, and determined to have them. So, she saved and saved and purchased that string of toy pearls. And she loved them. Wore them everyday–wouldn’t even take them off to bathe.

One night her daddy asked, “Daughter, do you love me?”

“Yes Daddy.”

He smiled. “Okay, give me your pearls.”

She sat in horrified silence and then shook her head. Her father left without the pearls.

The next night, the same conversation happened.

“Daughter, do you love me?”

Tears glistened her eyes. “Yes Daddy,” she choked.

“Okay, let me have your pearls.”

She refused again. This went on for a week, and on Friday, before her father sat down to tuck her in, with a trembling lip she held out her hand.

Her father sat, love shining in his eyes. “You love these pearls, don’t you?”

“Yes Daddy.” A tear slipped down her cheek.

“I know that.” He brushed the trail of moisture with his thumb and then reached into his pocket. “But I wanted you to have a real treasure.”

A string of real pearls settled on her neck.

God, please help me trade my plastic treasure for real pearls. Success is nothing when I compare it to an ordinary life lived for you.

I am called to live with passion

I am Called to Live With Passion: A Joint Post

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB

From Jen:

What drove the biblical characters?

Consider a man, advanced in years, but comfortable in his life-long home. Why would he pack up all that he owned, set his wife on a camel, and begin wandering without a backward glance? Past a midlife crisis, I doubt he was looking for adventure. What drove him into the unknown?

If we asked him, “Abram, where are you going?”

He’d respond, “To the place God will show me.”

Push him further. “Why?”

He’d level us a steady look. “Because He said go.”

Huh. What is that?

How about young David—a shepherd by trade, and the youngest, scrawniest of his large family of boys. Why would he square up to a killer, a man over nine-feet tall and a warrior of renown? Was the kid flat-out crazy? Maybe—he only took a sling and few stones from the creek.

“David, what are you doing. That guy could eat you in three quick gulps.”

“He insulted my God.”

“But there are bigger guys around you. Real men, in armor. Let them take care of it.”

“But they aren’t. Don’t worry, though. God’s got it handled.”

Why would anyone do that?

Or what about an innocent man—sinless in all His ways. Why would He submit to the cruelty of crucifixion?

“You are blameless, Jesus, why won’t you tell them so? Why have you let them torture you?”

“Because you need me to.”

What is this pursuit—these lives bursting with zeal? Where does passion like this come from, and how can I get it?

From Susan

Imagine yourself the heroine of an adventure movie, one who is grave peril, one whose life is about to be snuffed out. And then imagine the hero on the white stallion sweeping in and taking the death-blow for you, saving your life. His dying words to you, as you cradle his head in your lap, are: “I love you—you’re worth dying for. Live for me.”

Would you not do it? Would you not make your hero’s passions your own? Would you not devote your life to the causes he held dear? This is indeed the relationship between you and Jesus. He died in your place. He commissions you to live for Him.

May that reality fuel my passions. May I be like Abram, pack up all my belongings and move whenever God says to do it, not holding a house or a country or a school district more precious than my Savior. May I be like David, boldly confronting those who make a mockery of my God, willing to pay any cost for defending His name. May I be like Jesus Himself, taking up my cross daily to deny my selfishness and put others first in the mundane affairs of life as well as the dramatic ones.

Father, create that kind of passion in me. Let me not be entangled by the sin and worries that so often trip me up. Keep me focused on what is truly important. It’s a God sized task, taming this wayward heart of mine. I am often more complacent than passionate. Father, create in me a new heart, one that is truly sold-out for You.

I am God's Workmanship

Skilled to do His Work

pen and scroll

“He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet [thread], and fine linen, and of the weaver–those who do every work and those who design artistic works.” Exodus 35:35, NKJV

Thinking about God’s workmanship, my mind went back to a Beth Moore study I’d gone through several years ago. A study in wisdom, she taught mostly from the Proverbs, but I distinctly recall going to this passage during her teaching—because what she pointed out stuck.

Earlier, in chapter 31, God had shown Moses a man who He had “filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all [manner of] workmanship . . .” Workmanship, as in artisan skills. God continued to tell Moses that He’d equipped others with skills to do the work He’d appointed to the people of Israel—they were master-craftsman, skilled to create the tabernacle God was instructing Moses to build.

Beth Moore proposed this question: How did that happen? Recall that these people had been enslaved, and now were wandering the desert, following a cloud. Wow. God had given them skills beyond their natural capacity to do the work He’d appointed. That’s amazing.

You know what I love even more, though? The skills weren’t reserved for the teachers–for the pastors, missionaries, the theologians and biblical scholars. These craftsman brought glory to God with the work of their creative gifts—their artistry. I find my heart burgeoning at that, because I’m not Paul, the great missionary. I’m not Luther, the theologian who changed the world. I’m not gifted as a speaker, and I’m not (as much as I wish I could be) Mrs. Beth Moore.

But I can write. I can tell a story, and weave a plot—not because I’m so extraordinary all by myself. God lovingly endowed me with that gift, that artistry. And I can use it to point to His glory. It is the skill He has granted to me to do His work.

What is yours?