Making Us Holy is His Aim

The ongoing battle for joy has become a bit easier these days.

No, health-wise nothing has visibly improved, and on top of everything else I caught a nasty virus that’s been going around, putting me in bed for a week. However, I’ve been practicing. Practicing Jesus’ joy.

I can’t say I’ve perfected it, but by God’s grace my spirit and my mind have come to terms of circumstantial acceptance and true Biblical application.

According to Oswald Chambers, the true oswalddefinition of Jesus’ joy is His absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice to His Father- the joy of doing that which the Father send Him to do.”

“…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2) 

I’ve touched lightly on this in a previous blog. But since then, I can truly say the Lord has been maturing my understanding of joy.

I’ve focused on the evils of my suffering. Of the discomfort. I’ve been hanging onto the hope of one day being healed- trying to look past the pain instead of surrendering to the purpose God has for me during my current situation: to bring me closer to Himself. In any and every situation, God always declares His seal on my life.

Although my physical body is achingly in distress, my soul is content. In His Word He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Though I may not know why I’m undergoing such inconvenient pain, I know Who is in control. I surrender to Him alone. I lean into Him and long to know Him more. He tells me to“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)  Oh, I’m still alright.

I continue to pray for healing every day, and I pray for more faith to pray with. I remind God of His promises for me. Do I desire to live like this, with non-stop headaches and nausea? No. But more than that, I do NOT desire to live outside the will of God. And for now, this is His will. I need to preside in it.

The last thing I want is to be caught up in my own cares. I want to instead be caught up in proclaiming Jesus and what He has done. I don’t want to merely be aware of my life, but to FIND my life in Christ. To be ONE in Him.

This is the purpose of my life. How easy it is to become distracted by circumstance. Is health the most important thing to me? No. Have I made it the most important? Close to it.

Oswald Chambers reminds us that We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness… the only thing that truly matters is whether a person will accept the God who will make him holy.”

Whoah. My self-inclined sympathy and resistance to my health issues definitely don’t belong in my relationship with God. I can’t imagine Christ complaining on the cross. What a whiner I’ve become. Yes, I know He cares for me. But my prayer of “God please take away my pain” doesn’t look anything like “God please make me holy”.

He commands it, “... it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:16)

How have I missed praying in His will??? He wants to make me exactly like Himself. I mean, that’s how He created us- in His image. Then He sent Jesus to save us so He can restore us to Himself in complete holiness.

That’s His plan. That’s all He wants for me.

When I can’t see purpose in my sickness, there is greater purpose beyond because I have joyfully surrendered to whatever my Father has for me to do. I am filled by Him to be used by Him. “I delight to do Your will, O my God…” (Psalm 40:8).

It’s encouraging to understand that as I continue to embrace relationship with Him, He is making me holy. No matter the circumstance- even when I’m sick at home- His goal is unconditional. And He does it in His grace. I don’t deserve it, yet He wills it.

Such a joyful concept. What more could I ask for?

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your rule and reign in my life. Thank You for Your plan to make me holy as You are holy. Thank You for making me Yours and for revealing Yourself to me. Help me to find fulness of Joy only in You that You may be glorified in me. I will praise You still. 

Beating Burnout

“One thing’s for sure: if you decide to be courageous and sane, if you decide not to overspend or overcommit or overschedule, the unhealthy people in your life will freak out, because you’re making a healthy choice they’re not currently free to make. Don’t for one second let that stop you.”

I love having a full life. Does that make me unhealthy?
  
I love having a purpose for every day, packing it minute by minute to the limit…

Early morning runs in bright sunshine followed by coffee and soaking in the Word. Journaling and praying the words that washed through my thirsty spirit.

Planning curriculums and dreaming how my efforts will be received– the joy that will stem forth and the lives that will be influenced.

Riding buses to the outskirts of the city I still have yet to discover all of, following addresses to homes of people displaced from their real homes. Listening to hurts and needs, doubling the time when conversing via translators.

Strategizing next steps and available resources. Attempting to aid and redeem peoples’ broken lives.

Being used. 

Running errands on the way home. Picking through the vegetable stands. The colors. The people.  

The life. 

Getting dinner started. Creative in the kitchen. Playing music, rewinding from the day’s impact. Melodies warming my heart.

Catching up with roommates, washing the dishes. Responding to emails, glancing through blogs, scripting out my own. Meeting up with my pastor’s wife for coffee.

Pouring out and being poured into. 

Picking up a book before jumping into bed. Sending last minute texts to the world that’s starting their day as I’m ending mine. Striving to stay connected. Browsing Pinterest, scrolling Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds. Posting something for my ‘followers’.

Alarm on. Lights off.

There’s nothing wrong with my day. I really like it.

I have balance.

Work and Play. Hobbies and Exercise. Relationships and God.

But I confess, I am tired. 

How can this be? Why isn’t the balance balancing?

Because it never stops. Because it can’t be put on pause. If put on pause, the next day the list will be ten times longer. Plus, I’m dealing with people whose fragile lives keep on keeping on.

Or maybe it’s because the balance I’ve created for rest and stability has become something else. 

Control.
Perfection.
Expectation.

“In our lowest, most fragmented moments, we feel out of control- controlled, in fact, by expectations and to-do lists and commitments.”

Instead of letting my plans serve me, I’ve been serving my plans. 

But how do I juggle my time? My commitments? How do I give my very best to what the Lord has entrusted to me? I want to invest. I want to be seen as responsible. I want to reap!

Having an otter personality, I know I can’t only work, so I fill time with other things I value and need for my sanity… that’s good, right?  Then why isn’t it working? How come I’m exhausted in the midst of doing what I love and what brings me joy?

Fear and Shame.

“When things are too crazy, the only voices I hear are the voices of fear and shame. I stop being able to hear the voice of God, the voice of rest, the voice of hope and healing and restoration, the voice that gives new life to dry old bones. And instead I hear that good old song I’ve heard all my life: You’re not good enough. You’re not good enough.

But that voice is a lie. And it’s a terrible guide. When I listen to it, I burn the candle at both ends and try to light the middle while I’m at it. The voice of God invites us to full, whole living– to rest, to abundance, to enough. To say no.” 

No to the coffee date. No to the visit I know I cannot emotionally handle another of this week. No to the morning run. No to the skype date I know would be wonderful but not living to its intended purpose.

This season, I’m not going to try for perfect.

I’m not going to meet every expectation I have for myself.

I’m not going to force a schedule to appear noteworthy and well accomplished.

Instead, this season I will be courageous to honor the story– “the silent night, the angels, the miracle child, the simple birth” with every choice I make.

Shauna Niequist (the author whose writing is in quotations throughout this blog entry) reminded me that I am so much more than what I do.

Who I am and how I live is found when I take myself out of my detailed days, looking to the big, yet simple story of everything from God and everything for God.

Freedom through Christ. Freed to live for His glory.

Bringing heaven to earth. Gaining glimpses into His kingdom purpose.

“Either I can be here, fully here, my imperfect, messy, tired but wholly present self, or I can miss it.”

Well, I definitely don’t want to miss it!

Lord lead my life. Lead my days according to your plans, for your glory, in whatever way you desire to use me. Help me to surrender the details, the programs, and the souls. To live in the freedom instead of the burdens. Serving with joy and the mercy and grace I’m victim to because of the cross.

Touch

Today, my angels came in the form of three Afghans who came seeking refuge from trouble in Iran -where they had already been on diaspora from their homeland. The mother and I communicate in our broken Turkish. The daughters and I communicate without words. Not because of any verbal language barrier, but because they can’t hear.

An Arabic translator comes over to speak with them, then leaves once she realizes they’re deaf. Her skills weren’t needed. Do I know sign-language? No. But I’m surprisingly real keen at wordless relationships. In this context God has been teaching me that: Words? don’t matter. But, Love? does matter. Especially since my focus has been slaving away at learning Turkish, it was a divine change of perspective.

There we were, three girls: a twenty-three year old, an eleven year old, and a five year old. Getting to know each other as we colored and played hand games. My laughter, brimming with emotion, breaks the silence when I’m hit full force with the unconditional love God reveals to me for these two girls. Two girls who will never hear my laugh, but can see my mouth wide in love. Two girls who on earth will never hear the name Jesus through my lips, but can feel the Spirit heat through my hands -hands in service, Christ’s hands- on top of theirs.

As I expressed my delight in their creations and showered them with nonverbal affirmations, I simultaneously praised the Lord for blessing me with this unique encounter, one in which I am more comfortable than most, for touch is the primary way I both give and receive love. It’s my love language.

Without dropping a beat or second-guessing my natural tendencies, and without doubt of my language abilities since verbal conversation wasn’t even a viable option, the Lord used me as I was, giving me purpose to why I am who I am, reason to why I love the way I love.

My heartstrings melodically in-tune with every beautiful, olive-skinned cheek I pinched (cultural signs of affection), playing up to a powerful chorus as I keep falling in love more and more with my God. My God who’s hand reigns sovereign over the world, over these girls, and over me, all of which He created.

All of which are a part of His flawlessly wondrous and infinite Plan. A plan in which he has graciously chosen me to use my hands.

Like Father, like daughter.

Ignorance

We spent the day showing a friend around Old Town Istanbul. It was snowing. The last time we were here we were in t-shirts and sandals. This time we were bundled up, covered from head to toe. Due to our appropriate coverings we were finally allowed inside the Blue Mosque.

We threw off our shoes, bagged them, and set them on a rack, alongside 50 other pairs. The sight of so many shoes reverted my thoughts to childhood playdates at the MacDonald’s playarea…

Once the flasback subsided, I was able to focus on the Ottoman splendor I was now engulfed in.

I tilt my head back.

Chills. Pure chills.

Our friend who was with us has been studying Arabic, and I learned that in written form, Arabic doesn’t have to be in a straight line– it can be all mushed together and catty-wompas! So that’s what the gold strokes everywhere are… Definitely made me appreciate the “simplicity” of Turkish…

My focus shifts from the adornments to the people.

While many worshiping in the mosque at that moment could be praying from their hearts, it hit me that many might not even understand the words being recited, nor whom they’re reciting to…

Tasbih (prayer beads) in hand and forehead on the ground, they’re relying on the religion: being in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing.

Cowlicks form from their prayer posture- a desired sign of holiness that some try to obtain by bashing their foreheads against walls instead of by praying more.

Appearance is everything.

I gaze back to the infrastructure.

Everything about the bold colors, the stained-glass designs, the giant columns, and the golden swoops of foreign cursive spoke power and beauty, but also screamed out hopelessness.

Empty. Fake. Impersonal.

Paul’s message from the book of Acts (17) ran through my mind:

“I observe that you are very religious in all respects.  For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people  everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

I stood there, observing as they prayed, all the while silently pleading my own prayer:

God, may you be made known.

A Purposeful Position

“The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.” (Esther 3:15)

Isn’t this like so much of our response looks like to unrest, turmoil, and persecution happening around the world? We quickly shift our gaze from the problem to the petty importances such as dinner plans or drinks with a friend. How easy it is for us to jump into our normal routines when orders are daily being carried out, not unlike that of:

“destroy, kill, and annihilate all the jews -young and old, women and little children, and plunder all their goods.” (3:13)

The brokenness of the world clearly at play in both pictures. Both afffected by sin’s curse on earth’s ground. Yet how can we categorize it that way, when obviously there are gaps of differences -don’t we who claim ignorance to the victims of tangible oppression become not victims, but oppressors ourselves? What then is our response to their cries?

“When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore all his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.” (4:1)

Immediate reaction.
Inviting awareness.
Activating a plan.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place, but you and your family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this.” (4:14)

What’s my royal position? What status, role, placement or location has been given to me not so I can turn a blind eye, but so I can better see the injustices and actually do something about them? Why have we shamelessly allowed the dirt of the world to smear our lenses, tinting our perspective and averting our purpose so far from God’s heart’s intentions?

Father, forgive me for not fighting for your heart- for not fighting to keep my lens scrubbed clean and translucent to see what you see or hurt over what hurts you. Advise me. Counsel me in how how to respond to the purposeful position you’ve raised me to acquire in obedience to your will. I am here for such a time as this. Give me Esther’s courage and boldness, faith to advance my enemies, and words to break oppression’s silence.