Pursuit

“God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there.” 

~ A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

I know.

Stuff doesn’t always have to have some deeper meaning. Sometimes strawberries are just strawberries, clouds are just clouds. Sometimes a flower is just a flower and we don’t have to delve some deep meaning from it.

I know.

But that’s not always how I think, so that’s not always how I write. And, well, it’s my blog and I’ll pontificate if I want to And use big words.

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Yesterday morning I hunted out strawberries in the garden and I thought about pursuit. My strawberry bed needs some attention, some weeding out and thinning down, some replanting of those stringers that drop new plants wherever they choose to land. I had to dig around for the ripest berries and each one found was a treasure, because I love strawberries and because I beat my kids to it.

In a larger sense, the pursuit of ripe strawberries makes the berries themselves more precious. The strawberries don’t stand and call for attention. They hide under the shade of ginormous leaves, and every now and then you spot a glimpse of red and you know to look there.

Pursuing something can be frustrating. It can be discouraging if we don’t find that thing we’re after in the time frame that we hoped. It can make us doubt when the short trip we thought we were taking leads to months of ambiguity and fruitlessness. Maybe years of it.

There are good things in my life that have been easily won. I have many blessings that have fallen into my lap simply by the grace of God, without struggle and strife and endless searching after them. Other blessings have come by way of the complicated grace of God.

Needing to fight for something does not mean God doesn’t want us to have it, and those proverbial “closed doors” can sometimes be simply God’s redirecting.

Well, I suppose a closed door always redirects you. Unless you beat it down. Or unlock it. Or turn the handle because it’s not really locked in the first place…

I digress.

My thoughts are just this: something that is hard or doubtful or uncertain, something that makes you wonder if you’re “on the right path”, is worth pursuing because it teaches you more about that object desired, and about your own desires.

The knowledge of God is eternal life. Forever. Endless. Pursuing that can be frustrating and you can feel misled or off track or discouraged, or dizzy from the circles, but

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the one true God,  and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. ~ John 17:3

We have forever to pursue God.

We need to start now.

It’s a forever-urgency and we don’t have to stress over this struggle we often have of trying to follow God. We have forever and today and all the unanswered questions keep us keepin’ on, don’t they?

That thing you dream about doing, the person you long to be, the plans you want to make but are afraid of because what if they’re not God’s plans for your life – all those are part of this pursuit. Every question we encounter is part of our pursuit of a God who has  a perfect will for us, but has given us the freedom to choose and agonize. 

So He made life mysterious.

I hope you sleuth out some mysteries today and know God more because of the pursuit.

(Here’s a mystery: last  night I dreamt that a hoard of children raided my garden and ate every.ripe.thing. Seriously. What’s that about?)

*****

Pontificate: v. to speak or write and give your opinion about something as if you knew everything about it and only your opinion was correct.

Unmarked

How do you get through life 

Unscathed

By pointed fingers and sin that lingers and all 

That blessed strife?

Unmarked

By words you said and things you read,

Untouched

By guilty stains. How does all remain

Unsullied?

Unmarked

I found a road and wandered awhile,

Not fully committed, but seeking.

The fences were down,

So sin did abound.

The stench of decay was reeking.

I saw Him rescue,

Redeem and deliver,

Those who had worn this path thin.

Left blood drops and tears,

Peace for the fears,

And a gate for all to come in.

Unmarked.

Unfettered, unchained.

No sign of the shame.

Unflinching, unwavering, sealed.

Unhindered, unhinged.

No clothing was singed.

Every transgression was healed.

Unmarked.

But He bore a mark,

Uncovered. Undone.

A scar where eternity bore

The dark deeds forgiven,

Right then I was smitten.

My sins I remembered no more.

{I don’t claim to be a poet but I seem to overuse sentence fragments, and poetry puts up with that. Amanda’s writing prompt is unmarked  and it struck me, is still striking me, how I should be so marked up and marred and yet Jesus, the great Launderer, has left me white as snow. Glory.}

Prelude to Heaven

We camped for a week and I forgot that all is not right in this world.

With spotty cell service, no internet, no newspapers or television or Facebook updates, we were blissfully immersed in camp life.

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We ate the wrong things and napped every afternoon. We hiked to waterfalls and swam in frigid waters. We fished. We laughed. We listened to hours and hours of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and read aloud together about Brother Andrew.

We rested together, and because we were unplugged from the constant drip of information, I think we shed a layer or two of anxiety.

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Friday morning I headed for the camp shower and returned to find my family packing up. We had been debating the schedule for our last day at camp when I left, and apparently they had all reached a decision to head home a day early. We missed our dogs, we missed home, and we had done all the things we wanted to do at camp.

Leaving early allowed us to travel slowly home, to stop and visit friends on the way, and to ease back into “real life”.

It was a good decision.

The nearer we got to home, the heavier our shoulders felt. My husband was fielding work-related calls and emails. I was surveying dirty laundry and the spoiled food floating in our coolers. We purposed to breathe deeply and soak up the last ounces of vacation, but tension pulled on our minds and pushed on our ribs.

At the hotel we snagged for the evening (in which our family of 6 learned that we now have to buy TWO rooms) we watched the news.

Vacation over.

And I’m torn between being informed and being blissfully ignorant, between responsibility that requires response and a quiet life that prays in response – not just prays, but prays without fear, without anxiety, without contempt or despair.

Because when I am informed it’s overwhelming.

The constant saturation of information bloats my fears. News is not something you just take in small doses, it’s blaring and blinking in every corner of our world, and good news seems to pale in the shadow of sensational-and-gruesome-world-events.

:: Beauty is the prelude to heaven

I prayed this morning for beauty.

I prayed for people on mountain tops and hiding places, in hospitals and prison cells, for those in mourning.

After thanking God for beauty here in this place – the flowers and sunlight and cool air and even wood and leather and sturdy new bookshelves – I asked for beauty in all the dark places and fearful hearts.

For a peace that strikes fear in oppressors.

For a love that lives in ugly places.

For a Beauty that visits in dreams and visions,

because real life is so brilliantly ugly sometimes.

Am I smug to be thankful for the $20 I saved on new furnishings for our already-furnished-more-than-most-of-the-world home? To praise God for a garden that’s finally producing food we could afford to buy anyway? For flowers blooming, birds singing, and 3 weeks of summer mornings left?

A simple life is symmetrical – the things of earth reflecting the things of heaven. If heaven is beautiful and earth is not, something’s wrong with us.

Something is wrong, of course. Something is terribly wrong and we’re all waiting for God to make it right.

Nobody promised the world would get better before Jesus’ return. We are disillusioned by the news because we want things to get better and they don’t.

Nevertheless, there is a remnant of Beauty while we’re here. There’s a prelude to heaven, a flagship bringing Kingdom come and Kingdom here and a King with us. Beauty.

“On earth as it is in heaven” brings the Kingdom into view without negating the suffering of this present age with its darkness, this world of all that’s not right. When His kingdom comes and His will is done, I believe, we see beyond darkness and all that’s wrong and find beauty that was always there, in nature and people and moments. We see Jesus.

I hope that beauty is not just for those of us who live in peace.

We are not ignorant royalty when we thank God for the unnecessary things, and maybe they’re not unnecessary, after all. Maybe the silly things I’m thankful for are the mustard seeds to sprout in a dark and uncertain future, or maybe they’re just simple food to fuel prayers. Maybe His will is done on earth when Beauty is appreciated in every place.

I don’t know how else to process all that’s not right in this world, and I can’t camp forever.

 

The Simple List 2.0

Summer is just lovely.

I see back-to-school sales and hear people talking about the new school year and I am just.not.ready for summer to end. Truly, it’s only just turning to August. We have another month. But this summer has been so restful and I’ve been learning so much, I don’t want it to end.

I’ve been knee-deep in preparing for our first year with Classical Conversations, which means I’m excited and exploding with information and feeling scatter-brained and then excited.

I’m tutoring Challenge A. I have a lot of reading to do. I’m excited.

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Here are a few other things I’m excited about right now:

1. Read Aloud Revival podcast.

I am a big fan of podcasts because I’m a big fan of multi-tasking, but more than being productive, I like to learn. Sarah’s podcast, Read-Aloud Revival, encourages me and teaches me in the best way, without making me feel like I need to do more.

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She has interviewed Jim Weiss, Tsh Oxenreider, Andrew Pudewa and others, and every episode has been informative and has encouraged me to keep on keepin’ on in the read-aloud department.

Ethan and I read Charlotte’s Web earlier in the summer. Whenever I go back and read a childhood book again, I’m always amazed at the depth. Charlotte’s Web really is stirring and thoughtful, all about sacrifice and love and death.

But also, pigs and spiders. So a great book on different levels.

Currently, we are reading Brother Andrew’s autobiography, God’s Smuggler, as a family. It’s adventure and intrigue and God-honoring exploits, and it gives hope to parents of *ahem* mischievous boys.

I have about 14 other books I’m reading to myself and someday I’ll learn to finish what I start…

2. If I could only drink all of my food,

I’d probably have Chia Pudding for 2/3 of my meals. I’ve never tried chia any other way, but I have loved this pudding recipe:

1 cup milk (from almonds or cows)

1/4 cup chia seeds

1 T. cocoa powder

1 T. protein powder

I pour it all in a pint jar and shake it, let it sit 10 minutes or so, and drink it when it’s nice and thick.

Be warned: if you don’t like tapioca, you probably won’t like the texture of chia pudding.

The other 1/3 of my meals would either be peanut-butter-banana smoothies, frozen blueberry-plain-yogurt-oatmeal-milk smoothies, and coffee. Of course.

3. For the love of all things coconut.

Ladies, you must shave your legs with coconut oil. You don’t even need water except to wash out your razor.

Then, shmear a little in your hair at night to deep condition.

In the morning, wash/moisturize your face with it.

Next, put a tablespoon of it in your smoothie. Or if you must eat solid foods, use it in place of vegetable oil in your brownies.

You really can’t go wrong with good, cold-pressed coconut oil.

4. Reading Truth.

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It’s been my goal for years to be in the Scriptures daily. I have read it straight through, hopped around a book at a time, done topical and inductive bible studies, and listened to the audio bible. All of them are good, because God’s word is good and we should endeavor to know Him by reading it.

Currently, my favorite ‘method’ of bible study is She Reads Truth, an online community and iPhone app that joins you with other women reading God’s word daily. Generally, they take you through one particular book of the bible at a time, in small chunks each day.

Pray. Read. Journal.

5. Rest.

The theme of my summer has been rest. Everywhere I read, listen, and pay attention to the small voice, I’m hearing the same thing.

Rest means security in Christ.

It’s the opposite of the anxiety and performance driven culture we live in. Rest is a gift God has given and we keep trying to return it, to make it something better, to do something more.

I’m learning to rest in this status Christ has graciously given me and to re-evaluate the things that cause me anxiety. To parent from rest, to serve from rest, to live in a rest that keeps out the hounds of performance and secures me in the hands of God.

I want to serve from the rest that comes from pleasing Christ first, others second, myself last. And the crazy contrast is this list that doesn’t leave me last but circles around again and again – Christ, others, me, Christ, others, me, Christ…all my needs are met in Him.

I’ll probably keep talking about rest in this place because it’s a continual discovery – like opening the folds of the map to some beautiful place.

6. Cough drops should not be inspiring.

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Whoever thought this was a good idea? I get the tea bag quotes, the fortune cookies, and other fun marketing gimmicks that try to encourage you to live a good life.

But when I need a cough drop, I don’t need advice about buckling down. Don’t tell me there’s nothing I can’t handle. And I’ll be impressed with myself today if I can stand upright and take a deep breath without coughing up a lung.

Thank you very much.

Summer colds are no fun. That’s what I’ve learned this week.

Also, how come everyone who gets sick on Instagram gets to lay in bed and read stacks of books? That’s the sickness I want.

 

Sharing what I’ve learned this summer with Emily and others at Chatting at the Sky 

 

Serving from rest

THEREFORE -
{because you have everything you need
from a heavenly Father who loves you
and hears your requests} -
“THEREFORE, whatever you want men to do to you,
do also to them…”
Matthew 7:12

We are free to serve when we realize that our needs are met in Him.

I want to serve from a place of resting in His grace and not my performance.

When Israel wandered so long, it was because of disobedience, fueled by unbelief. We can guess it was their natural response, to be distrustful of a Good Master who promised rest in a new land and freedom from the unending making of bricks. When all you’ve known is slavery and quotas, you get nervous with a seeming idleness.

When we don’t believe God is good and gracious and that He knows our needs before we even have a hunger pang, we tend towards disobedience. We scramble for manna as an insurance against want. We grumble about the better life we could have and forget the marks of slavery, the harsh task masters, the unbearable work load. We don’t believe the concepts of rest and trust, because everything comes by hard work.

We can’t serve from a place of rest when we are so concerned about our own particular needs.

If I give, where will the groceries come from?

If I go, who will take care of what I leave behind?

If I am vulnerable, who will cover the broken mess of me that will be exposed?

Most fear – maybe all of it – is rooted in unbelief. We don’t believe our needs are significant enough to merit God’s attention, or we don’t believe what His word says about seeking first His kingdom and gaining all we need along the way. We don’t believe what we have is enough, is a gift, is for others, is for His glory.

We don’t believe and we don’t enter His rest.

And because this is the case, in a world where everyone’s deity says to do, do, do, the God of Israel says to stop. The air we breathe of this fallen world is anxiety: Keep busy and stay nervous. And it’s into this mess, striking through the smog like flashes of lightening, the fundamental message of God’s salvation resounds: Trust me and rest.”   Jonathan Parnell, desiringgod.org

*****

I want to serve from a place of resting in His grace and not my performance.

So when the opportunity to serve comes and I look at my dirty floor, the burgeoning pile of laundry, the dust and dishes and duties I’d have to leave behind, it’s a choice to walk out of the slavery of serving my own  glory.

In an interview with Kat Lee, Elisa Pulliam says that our overflowing laundry baskets are signs of a life lived. Serving from rest might mean we let the house go for a time in order to keep up with the time that is going, the kids that are growingand the real life that needs servants and not slaves.

And we look at the laundry piles as evidence that real life is happening here.

I want to serve my family and friends and complete strangers from the gifts God has given me, not from some gifting I’m greedily grasping at, one that is not my own but another’s. The restless run in dizzy circumference around Christ, the center, and they gobble up the works meant for others, and we all lose that way.

Serving from rest means knowing opportunity when it comes and recognizing the good works prepared beforehand, because the Church is not a many-headed bride. Some serving is for hands and feet and hearts sitting still.

When I look at the ways others are serving and compare my service with theirs, it’s hard to rest. Someone is always doing more, doing different, doing better.

I want to serve from the rest that comes from pleasing Christ first, others second, myself last. And the crazy contrast is this list that doesn’t leave me last but circles around again and again – Christ, others, me, Christ, others, me, Christ…all my needs are met in Him.

 *****

We just finished our church’s weekend-long Creation Camp, where 100 or so kids camped out for 2 days and nights, played water games, did skits, learned new songs and dances, and are were generally bathed in Jesus and His love.

For the first time in 17 years I had no responsibilities at camp. None. I showed up only a few times to check on my youngest and to deliver missing gear to my other children.

did donate my three oldest children as counselors/sign makers/garbage emptiers/general help. But I was able to come and go as I pleased with no one depending on me at all. It was a mix of guilt and pleasure.

I rested from serving, I suppose.

Other posts in this series:

From a Place of Rest

Parenting From Rest

 

Desire

I have a child who is the silent-type.

One thing I know about the silent-types: just because the lips aren’t moving doesn’t mean the mind isn’t churning. Sometimes everything lines up just right and words come up from the deep, feelings and thoughts and dreams. Desires.

I am floored at the depth, and also scared by the holiness, of thoughts that percolated so long.

The children always see it how it is, silent-type or not, and adults rarely give them credit for this.

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I want to walk fearless but I bumble along and the silent-type sees. Maybe more than others, silent-types see your mistakes and what I fear is that down in the recesses of memory, all that is stored are the mistakes.

I appreciate the silence though, in regards to my multiple failings.

The one desire that keeps me most humble is that my children would walk in the truth. That they would love more than I love, serve more than I serve, live more than I live.

And the fear of all my mistakes can threaten to temper that desire.

I fear that my life might be an inoculation against real faith – that a lukewarmness would settle over silently and no heat would rekindle the flame of a mother’s prayer -

that they would walk in the truth;

that they would long for Jesus more than anything;

that their life would not be too safe or too dry or too sterile.

But I don’t live out of fear and can’t love out of a desire for perfection – in myself or others. I can only bumble, stumbling, getting up again to the bumpy road.

It’s a fearful thing to love someone so much. It’s a godly fear that keeps me in repentance. It’s hope that doesn’t disappoint, even a hope that my children will climb the mountains of my mistakes and see more clearly through lessons they’ve seen me learn.

I’m so thankful for the mutual sanctification that comes in a family.

For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. {3Jo 1:3-4 NKJV}

Writing with Amanda on these prompts for July.

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