Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Rest Will Follow

Many of you may have already read The Heavenly Man, the story of Brother Yun, a Christian pastor from China. It’s been on my reading list for months. In fact, I borrowed it from friends in Chicago back in July and have been carting it around the States ever since then (thanks, Lakeys! Don’t worry, I’ll get it back to you…). Two of the things the Lord told me my time in Florida was for were rest and intimacy with Him. In pursuit of both of these I’ve spent two days reading Yun’s story. It is worth the time! My spirit is strengthened by this man’s life and testimony. God’s power was evident throughout the book as Yun escaped, or was captured, according to the Lord’s will. This brother doesn’t mince words, however, when talking about the situations that his own sin placed him in. His clear call for believers to OBEY God, rather than figuring things out with our own wisdom and strength, echoes what the Lord has been teaching me over the past few months. My Moody friends have already heard a bit of my thoughts in this area, as I was able to share with them when I was home in December for Christmas. Obedience is better than sacrifice – better than any thing we could conjure up to “give” to the Lord. Obedience is what He requires of us. The question is, where does this obedience find its source? I believe it is in intimacy with Jesus (friendship, love, communication, submission, mutual purpose, etc.) that obedience, at its heart, is birthed. We can all follow the law, do what we’re told, and be “obedient” in the wooden, even resistant, way prisoners obey their guards or employees obey their bosses. But God is not looking for fear-based or reward-based obedience. He asks for love-based obedience. He is – prepare to be shocked – going to develop a heart of obedience in us. One that leaps to hear His words, and rejoices at the chance to carry them out. This heart, once developed, will show itself in action, but the action is the result and not the starting point. There were several times in Yun’s life that he was captured and put in prison as a result of ignoring God’s directions and warnings. Each time he saw that he had lost his first love, his intimacy with Jesus, and had put doing God’s work above being in relationship with the Lord. His months in prison became precious times to rest and restore the intimacy of his relationship with Jesus. I’ve loved this scripture for a long time:

I Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

< style="font-family: georgia; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">These are all things I desire. Can you imagine walking in their fullness? Prophecy, words of knowledge, faith, generosity, even laying down our lives… yet love is the only source that makes these all worthwhile.

I want to obey out of a heart that loves to hear and follow my Lord’s voice. As I read Yun’s story I became jealous in the best sense of the word. I want to hear God’s voice as clearly, and follow him as fully, as that brother has. I want to be used as effectively, if such a thing is possible. But it was good, at the end of the book, to be brought back to the basic foundation. What I really, really, really want is to be in an intimate relationship with Jesus. The rest will follow.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Florida and Free Frappachinos

Here I sit, of all the random places to be, in Pensacola’s only Starbucks. No, let me correct that – I hear rumors of a second one, lodged in the Barnes & Nobles just a few blocks away. In fact, that is where I originally thought we were heading, and while Sam studied aeronautic acrobatics (yes, exactly how to do loop-de-loops without barfing or crashing – correct term: aerobatics) I was going to grab Northanger Abbey off the shelves and go to town (that’d be Bath and/or London). My plans were changed for the better, though.

I hate to start off talking about the weather when there are subjects of eternal import and immediate application that I could be reveling in with you, but I must say…the weather here is great! It’s breezy, sunny, and WARM. I haven’t been truly warm in four months, and my body is delighted. Whiting Field is about 45 minutes outside of Pensacola. My brother, Sam, is training here to fly for the Navy, and I’m staying with him and Dorothy (my sister-in-law) for a while. Their guest room is bright yellow and their cat’s name is Mojo. She looks remarkably like Pangur, who was lost a year ago (or, more likely, who returned to the wild and is now living the high life in the crazy wilderness lining the Chicago River). I think I’m going to really like it here. Sam and Dorth are so welcoming and fun. Do you ever sit down to ponder how different each individual’s world is? The rhythm of life here bears so little resemblance to life in my last home, Tacoma. I find this so freeing. If every life is so different, even while incorporating the same priorities, loves, and goals (Jesus, Jesus, and Jesus), my own life doesn’t have to ever taste of only one flavor, or become monotoned (even if it is a deep red or a hazy lavender). There is so much open to me in Christ. If the world is safe because the Spirit of God goes with me wherever I am, then every activity, tone, or facet of life is available to me as well. No, I don’t have a favorite color, and this may be why. For a while I was almost convinced that I must not know myself. Can’t everyone who is self-aware pop out their preferred color immediately when the question is asked? I’ve never settled on one. I like green and pink on red-heads. I like yellow and taupe on walls. I like periwinkle and lavender on blouses, and I prefer reds in the evening. But perhaps this is not a problem. Perhaps it is a nod to the abounding variety my Lord has swirling around in His thoughts; the delightful interplay of shapes and colors and tones He gives to everyday life.

These tones change with seasons. On the drive down to Florida from Chicago, where I Christmas-ed with the whole family, I listened again to a Jason Upton CD that God had spoken through during the time I was praying about leaving Moody and Chicago. Immediately, I was driving down Foster again, on my way to work, praying that the Lord would lead me in His perfect ways, would reveal His will for my move. All the emotions of that time were mine again and I remembered things I’d forgotten. The vague depression mixed with comfortable stability that heading toward work always brought. The light excitement and trepidation of those first hints from the Lord that a different pattern of life was approaching. Anticipation of something I could only imagine, even while I knew I imagined with no reality anchors attached to what it would really feel like to live with family and pursue unfamiliar tracks. Every once in a while a crazy thought attacks me (usually sent from my enemy) … “WHAT on earth are you doing? This life is taking you nowhere…” etc. I’ve learned to attack back when the enemy attacks, instead of just assuming a defensive posture, so I am not susceptible in the ways I used to be. But I still found it exceedingly fun, even comforting, to relisten to that CD. It was like reliving my old life, and the voice of the Lord breaking into it in His own way, and my heart leaping up in response.

OK, I have to intersperse…the Starbucks people just gave me a free mocha frappachino sort of thing. It’s been getting hot in this space (Florida, you know, with sun beating in through the windows and people smoking on the patio outside) and this cold drink is perfect! Was it from the Lord; is it just a happy circumstance? I know that Jesus is my friend, and He does the sorts of things friends do, but He brings to it a sovereign knowledge of our needs and desires that even we don’t have. Nope, I wasn’t aware I needed a cold drink. But now that I have it, I know I needed it. In fact, that is how this entire life journey has been so far. Every day, every job, every home I’ve lived in, every surprise friend I’ve made, every random peek of sunshine in Tacoma…you name it…He gave me what I didn’t even know I needed. This excites me. It does so more than I can convey with these words. What will the rest of my life be like with such a friend and God leading it? In this light it becomes a joy to submit, to give details and choices over to Him and decide to only pursue love and obedience. (You see this in marriage to a reflective degree. The greater joy and safety is found in submission to authority, the wife to her husband, the husband to Jesus.) If I had to sum up all that has changed in me while attending NewSong in Tacoma it would be almost impossible. One thing I never prayed about, but which has silently resulted from all the delving I did into my insecurities, injustices, sins and strongholds, is a very deep and abiding assurance that my inheritance in this life is a sure joy and a real effectiveness within the Kingdom of God. I will not be left behind spiritually, and that is eons more important to me than not falling behind the Joneses. My life will not be squandered on fruitless ministry, on fields fraught with difficulty and striving, on joylessness excused away as “sharing in the sufferings of Christ”. No, I’m made for joy, for love, for power in the Kingdom, for effectiveness, for HOPE. And Hope does not disappoint.

You’ve been a trooper to read all this. I’m going to give us both a break from the deep waters we’ve been treading. Signing off … will attempt to convince Sam to relax from his aeronautics and do a round of Speed Scrabble with me (Starbucks has been kind enough to supply the game on the little table here). That will give you some time to do a little dance around the house and thank God for some things…that joy is for you right now…that you have the privilege of submitting to a husband who is under Christ’s authority…that sometimes you forget about blue and choose an orange shirt to wear…that cool drinks can be found on hot days…that there is no way, ever, never, that He will let you out of His sight or allow His sovereign leading to be erased from your life…that you can hear His voice and obey it!!!!! Amen.

Ames

<>p.s. Here are the chorus words to one of the Jason Upton songs that cradled me for a time:

Don’t be afraid when…

(Chorus)

Look beyond the window there, to the sky above, to the open air

Look beyond what you can see, close your eyes and just believe

The lion roars and the lamb lies down, they live together in a whole new town

They’re callin me and they’re callin you

From the cold life facts that we’re on our own

to the age-old truth, we’re not alone

Don’t be afraid little warrior bride, victory’s on the other side

You’re not alone, you’re not alone

p.s.s. OJ, it turns out that Florida has big grasses too. In fact, beside Sam’s house is a Big Grass. I’ll send you a digital.