A Person Of Great Interest.

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The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me…” Psalm 138:8

My current favorite series to marathon watch on Netflix involves a former military operative and his computer savant partner, who work together to thwart crime before it starts. Much like real-life super heroes, these two use technology, street smarts, and brute strength to stop the bad guys in their tracks.

Harold, the computer genius, has built a machine that detects crime in the making. Not the action hero himself, he seeks out Mr. Reese, the former military operative, to be the hands and feet of each crime-stopping mission.

But Mr. Reese has hit rock bottom. Homeless and lost, he’s been taken out by the pain of his life. Some of his own making. Some inflicted upon him. Either way, he’s ready to be done. Until Harold gives him an assignment. “I’ve been watching you,” he says. “You need a purpose. You need a job.”

I think all of us have a little bit of Mr. Reese in us. We all long for purpose. Some of us think about it more than others, but we all desire it. Like the Thomas trains my son Micah used to collect, we long to be “a very useful engine.” We want an assignment. We want to be a “Person of Interest.”

I know I do. It all started for me in my early twenties. Right smack out of college, I was ready to save the world, or at least make an impact in my tiny part of it. I labored over the decision of which job to take, where to live, what to do with my life. “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it!” These were my prayers. All I wanted was a clear assignment.

Wouldn’t it be great if it were that simple? If God were to call us up, speak to us, and tell us audibly, “I’ve been watching you. I know what you need. Here’s your assignment.” Wouldn’t that just be an awesome prayer life?

Unlike Moses, most of us don’t get a burning bush. And discerning our assignment from God in each season of life can more often feel like trial and error, our best guess. It’s a journey of trust. It’s a life of faith. It’s a belief that He has us, even if we step in the wrong direction. He can get us back on course.

But there’s more to the trusting. There’s a trusting that He has a purpose for us. There’s a trusting that, in each season, He has a plan. There’s a trusting that He’s intimately involved in our lives, He cares, and He’s guiding us, even when it seems like we’re feeling around in the dark.

Right after we got married, my husband and I moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where Tom was a youth pastor, and I was a twenty-something, still searching for purpose. The lead pastor at our church was an ever-positive, energetic former radio DJ, who had one tagline to his new calling as a minister.

“God loves you, and He has a wonderful plan for your life!”

I can still hear the cadence with which these words rolled off his tongue. He almost sang them, and with such conviction. There was no arguing the matter. Because this man had lived it. He was a DJ turned Episcopal priest, who had experienced first-hand what it means for God to give you an assignment.

Like Harold drafting Mr. Reese into a life of saving people, this ever-hopeful pastor had been drafted into a life of saving souls. He had a purpose.

When the purposes of God for our lives are clear, it’s much easier to say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” As a friend reminded me just today, it’s the in-between places that are tough. The times of waiting. The times of wondering. The times of seeking this God and His plans.

But there’s hope for us waiters. There’s hope for us seekers. If you’re asking God all kinds of questions, if you’re looking for direction and answers today, there’s hope for people like you, for people like me.

Because, unlike Harold and Mr. Reese, God does more than save us. He also has plans for us.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

He saves us–not because of our works–but in order that we might do good works. For we are His handiwork, crafted with great purpose in mind. He has great stuff for us to do. He’s not just in the business of saving. He’s also in the business of assigning.

For He knows the plans He has for us. Plans to give us hope and a future, plans to prosper us. (Jeremiah 29:11) Plans that He planned in advance for us. Like Harold, He’s been watching us, and He has purpose for us.

But it’s a funny thing I’m learning about purpose. We have to be careful how we define it. Because our purpose may not look as big or as grand as that of Mr. Reese. We may not be diving through windows or taking out bad guys.

It might not seem as obvious as my DJ-turned-priest friend. We may not be called into ministry or asked to wear vestments. We might not be declaring the gospel from up front, calling folks up to the altar on a Sunday morning.

But our lives are still purposeful. There’s still an assignment to be found, for each and every season of our lives, for each and every uniquely crafted person.

In our own context, we declare the good news of Jesus in our own way, with our own gifts, according to our own make-up. Like those Thomas trains, we are uniquely useful.

And here’s the best part. We won’t miss it.

For all of our flailing about, trial and error searching, and seemingly seeking in the dark, we won’t miss it. Because as the Psalmist promises, The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. And right after Jeremiah 29:11, comes Jeremiah 29:12-13…

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

In all of our seeking, longing, wondering, and questioning, we will find Him. But as we wait in the in-between places, let’s remember that He loves us. Remember that, like Harold, He’s been watching you. You are His handiwork, with great stuff He’s assigned uniquely to you.

And even when you feel like Mr. Reese, sitting at rock bottom, He hasn’t forgotten you. In every season, in every circumstance, He’s attentive to you. He has purpose for you. For you are always a person of great interest to Him.

What about you?

Are you in an “in-between” season, seeking answers to all kinds of questions?

Can you trust today that He has you, that He promises to fulfill His purposes for you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loving Our Enemies and Other Super Powers.

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“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

As I twelve-year-old, I became all-too-closely acquainted with what constitutes a slice of pizza. It was my first “boy/girl” party. I spent what seemed like hours crafting just the right amount of ’80’s-style poof in my hair. My nails were polished a perfect, shimmering pink. I changed outfits three or four times. I was just about as nervous as a ‘tween could be, but finally, I was ready.

My dad dropped me off out front, but the party was around back in my friend’s basement. So, I headed around the corner of the house, shyly approached the sliding glass door, and carefully made my way inside. As soon as I crossed the threshold, something warm and wet smacked me in the face, followed by the sound of raucous laughter.

A “friend” of mine thought it would be funny to shove pizza in my face. I was mortified. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I’m sure I cried. To this day, I don’t know why someone would think that was funny. But I do know this…

I think about that story sometimes when I remind my kids to love their enemies. Because now I have two ‘tweens and one kindergartener of my own. And things happen. And kids can be mean. And they too are forced to confront that moment when you feel mortified, rejected, embarrassed and fighting mad. Or overwhelmingly sad.

Loving our enemies is hard. Brutally hard. Especially when we’ve been blatantly wronged. My pizza illustration falls pretty low on the spectrum of mistreatment. Yet, even is this, pizza sauce on my face, the last thing on my mind was loving my enemy.

I mean, if I were to live out the words of Jesus that immediately follow, I would respond like this…

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also…Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:29, 31)

In effect, I would have said, “Oh, how lovely! But you missed this part! Want to have another go?” Or, in true “Animal House” style, “Thank you sir, may I have another?” Who does that?

I think that’s why early nineteenth century evangelist Oswald Chambers said, “Our Lord’s teaching can be summed up in this: the relationship that He demands for us is an impossible one unless He has done supernatural work in us.”

Basically, we have to be some kind of spiritual super heroes to really obey the teachings of Christ. They’re just too hard. The bar is just too high. It’s just so utterly opposite of what we would naturally do.

So, what are we to do? If we’re following Christ, if we’re the recipients of His grace, we long to be like him. We so yearn to do the things that He would do. And yet, it’s so “other” than who we are.

I feel it every time I tell my children to love their enemies. The familiar words fall so easily from my lips, until I ask myself, “Am I really doing it?” Would I welcome another slice of pizza in the face? Would you?

We’re in quite the conundrum. Because we long to do the impossible. To turn the other cheek. To give the shirt off our back, along with our coat. To go the extra mile.

To do good to those who hate. To bless those who curse. To pray for those who mistreat. It all seems so impossible. Until I realize something. Were I to do these things, even once, it wouldn’t be me doing them at all. It would be Someone totally other than me.

It would be Christ in me, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

When it comes to loving our enemies, our only hope is Christ in me. Because the very actions that Jesus requires of us are the very actions He did. And though they weren’t always easy for Him, they were an extension of Him.

Of His mission. Of His heart. Of His nature.

Just look at these words…

…since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:10-11)

As followers of this Jesus, we were once the very enemies He now calls us to love. He asks us to do the very thing for others that He’s done for us. But we can’t seem to do it, at least, not consistently. And so, it must be Him doing it in us.

We live, we love, by faith in Him–Him in us and us in Him. The One who loved His enemies, so fully, so completely, so utterly that He gave more than His shirt.

More than His coat. More than His other cheek. More than the extra mile. More than a blessing or a prayer. His very self. Upon the cross. For His very enemies. That we might be made His friends.

Is loving our enemies impossible? Most times, yes, it is for me. It’s just too different from who I am. But my hope rests upon Christ in me.

As Chambers goes on to say…

“The Sermon on the Mount is not some unattainable goal; it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has changed my nature by putting His own nature in me. Jesus Christ is the only One who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.”

And so my prayer becomes, be fully formed in me. Make me into some sort of spiritual super hero, by the power of your Holy Spirit. Because I can’t do it. Only you can do the very things you ask of me.

Have your way in me. Make your home in me. Love my enemies through me.

(Oh, and by the way, bless the pizza shover too.)

What about you?

Do you find it hard to live out the words of Jesus?

Does it bring you hope today to know that He’s changing you from the inside out? That He can love through you?

 

You Get to Be You.

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When I was in kindergarten, I was somewhat of a shy little girl. Once you got to know me, I was a big-wheel riding, tree-climbing, somersaulting little spitfire. But, at first, I was quite reserved.

I didn’t think a lot about questions like who I am? Or why am I here? Or what’s my purpose? Like most kindergarteners, I just played outside until the sun went down and made up stories about my Barbie dolls.

But I remember one day at school, an adult came to interview me. I’m not sure what the interview was for, but he asked me, “What do you like to do?” And I clammed up. Suddenly, I felt unsure of who I was or what I liked to do.

So, I answered, very much under my breath, “I like to play.” In my haste, my words ran together in one big, unintelligible phrase. “You like to what?” he asked. “Iliketoplay,” I answered again. By the third or fourth time, he finally understood me, and moved on to a more interesting interview.

You see, at five, I wasn’t introspective. I didn’t think about what I liked to do, or who I was. So, my best answer to that simple question was, “I like to play.”

Fast forward 36 years and you have an entirely different story. I now think a lot about things like purpose, who I am, and where I’m headed. I have dreams, hopes, aspirations. I think about my small impact on this world, and if I were honest, my bigger question is, “Do I really matter?” Am I leaving any kind of impact at all?

My purpose in this life has become all too important to me. And I wonder what happened to that big-wheel riding, somersaulting, tree-climbing little girl. Where is that girl who was just simply me?

I wonder if you ever feel the same…

This past weekend I sat on the front row of church singing an oh-so-familiar hymn.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

At nine years old, I made a big decision. I decided something so vital–not only to who I was–but to who I was becoming. I learned about Jesus at a little club called, “Pioneer Girls,” something of a Girl Scouts with a whole lot of gospel thrown in.

A wise, warm lady named Aunt Ruthie shared the truth of Psalm 139 with us, about how God knows just who we are, even when we don’t. About how there’s not a moment He’s not aware of us. About how our innermost being is no mystery to Him, and how He crafted it just so. As my good friend Kathy says, when He looked at us, He said, “That’s how I meant it.”

Something about being known like that, when I really didn’t know myself, was quite appealing to me. I was hooked. And I prayed that sinner’s prayer. “Jesus, forgive my sins and take my life. I’m yours. Come live in my heart.”

And there was blessed assurance. Because I didn’t care so much about who I was. Instead, I cared about who He was. He was mine, and I was His. And that was enough.

So, it makes me wonder. When did that stop being enough? Time passes. Nine-year-old girls turn into young adults, become older adults. With dreams and longings and so much yearning. And suddenly what was once enough doesn’t seem enough anymore. And simplicity is elusive.

Because the culture around us screams, “Do something big!” “Dream big!” “You can do anything if you put your mind to it!”

“Build your platform!” “Be the entrepreneur of your own life!” “Find purpose in something really, really big!”

So big wheel riding, and joy, and a simple love of the Savior just seem so small. We begin to find validation, not in who we are in Him, but in what we do. And what we do can often seem never enough.

So I sang these words this weekend…

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

And I felt the voice of God. Not an audible voice. But a voice just the same. It said to me…

What if your story is simply praising me? Is that enough? What if you just get to be you?

Not the improved version of you. Not Extreme Makeover, Allison Edition. Not the bigger, better, dreams-realized kind of you. But just you. Just Allison. Just like I meant it.

And I realized that in all this clinging, in all this longing for more, I’m in bondage. In being just me, there’s freedom. There’s an invitation to a different kind of purpose.

A small purpose. But an impactful purpose just the same. A purpose just like He meant it. A purpose in my own little world, doing my own little things. As I go about my own little days.

That’s something we can all do. That’s a purpose we can all achieve. We all have our own little worlds where we can deposit good, and build up, and be salt and light in Jesus’ name. And it matters. Honestly, it matters.

Because you matter. And I matter. And we get to be just us.

There’s freedom in that. There’s blessed assurance in that. Because when we focus on “Jesus is mine,” we worry less about who we are and focus more on whose we are.

We let go of weighty dreams and aspirations, trust that He has us and the whole of our lives, and as Soren Kierkegaard once wrote…

Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.

Your very own self. Just like He meant it.

And this will be our story. This will be our song. Just praising Him. Alas, we’ll live out the final verse of that blessed hymn…

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

When we focus on us, we become restless. When we focus on Him, we find rest in Him. When we focus on us, we feel lost. When we focus on Him, we’re lost in His love.

A friend of mine talked with me this week, and said something quite profound, quite freeing. She said, “You get to be Allie.”

And so I pass on that same wisdom on to you. Though you live in a culture that says you must be more. Dear reader, you get to be you. And you are enough. Because you’re His.

Just like He meant it.

So go play; go live. Give of yourself ’til the sun goes down. Live simply. Give simply. Simply by being you.

What about you?

How can you bless your little world today, simply by who you are?

Do you know that God made you just so, and He likes who you are?

Don’t Miss the Adventure.

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“Mom, I’m really enjoying soccer.” These were my five-year-olds words to me as we sat in the one-hundred-degree heat yesterday, squeezing into the small patch of shade provided by our old beach umbrella. It was so uncomfortable that many parents opted to cheer from afar, beneath pine trees lining the fence.

Micah had been playing for thirty minutes already, so it was his turn to sit out. But, instead of complaining, asking how much longer, or thinking about the after-game snack, Micah sat in this very present moment…cheering his team on…enjoying soccer.

Kids are so good about living in the present. They don’t miss many moments. They simply are where they are. And, because of that, life’s an adventure. There’s wonder to be found around every corner. They pay attention. They engage. They take notice.

Honestly, I could learn a lot from Micah. He sucks the marrow out of life. He exists in the here and now. I, on the other hand, am prone to wander. My body may exist in one place, but my mind is often in another. I wonder if you’re anything like me?

This summer I happened upon a People magazine while staying in a hotel. Not my usual reading choice, but I read it just the same. It included an article that interviewed a certain actress whose name I now forget. But one nugget of wisdom I do remember. Because this actress made a statement much like Micah’s.

Micah said, “I am….really enjoying soccer.” And this actress simply says, “I am… When she begins to worry or fret about things other than what’s in front of her, she simply tells herself, “I am…”

For example, while sitting at Micah’s soccer game, if my mind wanders to worries about the coming week, I say to myself, “I am watching Micah play soccer.” Seems so simple, but it’s a profound reminder that I want to be where I am. I don’t want to miss a moment.

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Because my five year old will never play U5 (under five) soccer again. He’ll never clump around on that field with his teammates, scrapping for the ball, while the coach reminds them, “Same team! Same team!”

He’ll never play at a level where there’s no goal keeper, and there’s no off-sides, so you can be a complete cherry picker all day long. He’ll never play with kids who forget which goal is theirs and accidentally score for the other team.

U5 soccer is utter joy. It’s a real adventure. And I don’t want to miss it.

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I stopped by Target the other day to pick up a few things and decided to purchase a few pairs of $1 socks. I love these socks because they have all sorts of fun designs and only last a few months before wearing thin, so you can get a whole new batch again. Of all the pairs I picked, my favorite ones were covered in one word. “Wanderer.”

So, I’m wearing “Wanderer” socks because of who I am. And I’m making “I am” statements because of who I want to be. A follower of Christ who fully engages in the adventure of each and every day.

Remember  the most powerful “I am” moment? It’s found in the story of Moses. He’s out in the wilderness, tending the flocks. Now, if there’s a place where your mind might wander, this would be it. But not Moses. He pays attention to the present moment.

And so he notices the strangest sight. A bush is on fire but doesn’t burn up. As he moves closer to investigate,  the Lord also takes notice. He calls to Moses from this crazy bush, and Moses responds, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4) 

Here he was. Present in the moment. Not missing the adventure. Standing on holy ground, fully present. No “wanderer” socks.

So God gives Him a quest,  an assignment, a grand adventure.  A rescue mission that’s more than he bargained for. To save the people from great oppression, bring them up out of Egypt, and lead them into a promised land, flowing with blessings.

After some protest and further discussion, Moses asks the Lord a simple question, what’s your name? To which the Lord replies…

“I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

The single greatest I AM statement.

Because this God is present in every single moment. He pays attention to every single moment. And so we have access to Him in every single moment.

He is the great I AM.  An ever-present God available to us in all of our moments.

The good moments. The bad moments. The heart-wrecking moments. The utterly joyful moments. The in-between, mundane moments. In all of these moments, He is.

He’s the God who takes notice of us, the God who’s near. He’s the adventure not to be missed.

And this familiar hymn comes to mind…

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be,
Let that grace now like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I am a wanderer. That’s the truth about me. But I long to be bound to the great I AM, so that I don’t miss the great adventure of this life He has for me. And so I say, “I am….right here in this present moment.” With the great I AM. For the great I AM. Oh, Lord, help me to live right where I am.

What about you?

Are you prone to wander, like me?

How can you stay engaged with each present moment that this day holds?

 

A Beautiful Thing.

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“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” (Mark 14:3)

When I was in middle school, my youth pastor would joke around with a guitar in hand, and scream (completely out of tune, on purpose), “Sing Loud! Praise God! Hallelujah! Amen!” He was so goofy, but still, there was something to it. He was  a picture of unashamed, loud worship, even in jest.

This woman who visits Jesus also personifies loud worship, but in a different way. Her worship of Jesus on this particular day screams out over thousands of years…this is what it means to be fully devoted. She hasn’t asked permission to perform this act. She doesn’t look for the approval of the onlookers. Her focus is on Christ alone.

She brings something precious, something pure. She brings her very self, offering a most expensive gift. Clearly, she treasures this Jesus. It’s believed she’s Mary, sister to Martha and Lazarus. The one who sat at the feet of Jesus, while her sister busied herself with tasks. The one who received her brother back from the dead, when Jesus did the impossible.

This one knows how to respond to a God like this. She knows how to be poured out for her Savior. She gets devotion.

In Micah 6, this question is asked…

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?

The prophet is basically saying, how do we respond to this God? What do we do with such generous grace, such amazing love? How do we show our devotion? How do we worship loudly with our lives?

If you’re anything like me, and you’ve met Jesus,–wherever you are on your journey of faith–you’ve been changed. Love like His has impacted you, perhaps healed you, saved you. Redeemed you. Forgiven you. Given you a second, third, fourth, millionth chance.

And if you’re like me, sometimes you don’t know how to respond. How do you worship? How do you live a life of faith? How do you show devotion to this God in the midst of every day life?

And the response comes…

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

And so Mary comes in humility; she acts justly. She gives this Jesus what He rightfully deserves…extravagant worship. In mercy, she anoints Him, maybe not fully knowing what she’s doing.

Because soon He will receive the very opposite from the hands of men. Betrayal. Denial. Desertion. Condemnation. Beatings. Crucifixion. Death.

She responds to the love of Jesus with worship like this. Demonstrating His great value, by giving the very best she can–even wasting it for love of Him.

The onlookers rebuke her. They criticize her for such apparent waste. But how does Jesus respond?

“She has done a beautiful thing to me…I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:6,9)

Her worship sings loudly, even today.

And this is the truth about pure worship. It’s never wasted. Maybe there are times when it feels wasteful to stop what we’re doing and take a moment to thank this Jesus. To sing to Him. To sit in silent awe of Him. But it’s never a waste.

The onlookers wanted Mary to do something practical, to perform a task, to serve the poor with the value that she held. And this is a good thing, but Jesus said for this time, in this moment, what Mary chose was better.

Why would Jesus say this? Surely He doesn’t need our worship, and yet it matters to Him. Why?

Because He knew what was coming. He knew He would soon suffer. He knew that Mary was preparing Him, not just by anointing Him, but by doing a “beautiful thing” for Him, to encourage His heart.

And it’s the same for us. We serve a God who allows His heart to be moved by us. Our worship of Him actively matters to Him today. It actively encourages Him today. Like Mary, you and I have the power to bless our Savior today.

Though He doesn’t need our worship, our worship does matter to Him. Like Mary’s, our worship is not wasted.

It’s a pure offering upon His head. It blesses His heart. You and I have the power to bless the heart of God.

So, today, sing loud! Praise God! Worship unashamed. Because it’s never a waste.

Oh, and Jesus said one more thing that’s the best part.  In defense of Mary, before all of her critics, He said, “She did what she could.” (verse 8) And that’s all He really asks of us. That we would do what we can.

That we would live humbly. That we would show mercy. That we would do justice, in our small little bit of the world. That we would sing loud, that we would praise God, even if it’s out of tune and seems like a bunch of noise to the onlookers.

As we do what we can, somehow His heart is blessed. And though it may seem like very little–though it might sound like a bunch of noise–to Him, it’s a beautiful thing.

What about you?

Does it move you to know that your small acts of worship bless the heart of God?

What might be one small, beautiful thing that you could do to live in worship today?

 

The Bigger Rock.

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The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

Jogging along the beach path, I happen upon this famous rock. Suddenly, I am struck by the enormity of this massive chunk of earth, and the thought crosses my mind…

“Lord, sometimes it seems like changing is as hard as moving this rock.”

You see, there are some things I’d like to change about me. Things like my level of patience. My level of peace. My propensity to obsess about things. My inclination to focus on myself. My overall character.

Becoming like Jesus sometimes seems as hard as moving that massive rock. Impossible. I strain for it, but I just can’t seem to do it. Have you ever felt like that?

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The other day, I bounded down the steps to find my daughter Sophia tinkering on our wii. “Look, mom, I changed my mii.” (If you aren’t familiar with a “mii,” it’s a little video game character that you customize to look like yourself.) Sophia had changed the eyes on her “mii,” the hairstyle, the nose, and the mouth.

All this, with a few clicks. I wish changing my insides was that simple. Just some clicks on a wii controller, and I’d be different.

I’d respond to stress and not react to it. I’d live by the premise that “a gentle word turns away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) I’d listen to people, really listen to them and love them. I’d put others first, and understand that…“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) I’d exist in the reality that I am loved, accepted, cherished by the God of the universe, without doing anything at all. I’d be changed.

Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25) To which his disciples responded, “Who, then, can be saved?” (Mark 10:26)  

And Jesus replied, “…all things are possible with God.”

And I know it’s true, because I’ve been saved. Maybe you’re like me; maybe you’ve been saved too. By the gift of Jesus on the cross, I am made new. His record of perfection is attributed to me. I believe that. I’m the camel that went through the eye of the needle. It was possible. It happened.

How then, do I change? How do I live into the character that has already been attributed to me in Jesus Christ? How do I move the mighty rock that is me?

And I hear that hope again, “…all things are possible with God.”

And this one…

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Matthew 17:20)

I don’t get it. I don’t understand how it’s possible to change, and yet I don’t any more understand how a camel can go through the eye of a needle. How can the power of faith, small as a mustard seed, move a mountain like me?

And yet He says it’s possible. In fact, He says nothing is impossible. But I know I can’t do it. I can’t will myself into it. I’m too big of a rock. I’m too stuck in my ways. I’m too anchored in the same place.

I need a bigger rock.

And so I pray, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)

Because I figure to move this big rock that’s me, I need a greater power. I need a rock that will never, ever be moved, to move me. To change me. To make me different.

And so I say, “The Lord is my rock.” (Psalm 18:2) Because He’s the God of the impossible. He’s the One who formed me in the first place, with the words of His mouth, more easily than the click of a button on a wii remote.

If I want to be different, I need to stop straining, to stop willing myself there. If we want to be different, we need a bigger rock, a new foundation. A greater stronghold. We need to be anchored in Him.

If we want to be changed, we need Him to do the changing. The rock that is higher than I. The rock that makes the rock of me look like a tiny pebble. The rock that can empower me to cast off sin like small pebbles scattered upon the waters.

And so I say, “The Lord is my rock, in whom I take refuge,” even from me.

So, I trust Him to change me. And I keep hoping in Him, even when it all seems impossible, and I feel let down again. Let down by me. When I feel weighty and heavy by my own falling short. I keep believing in the impossible.

I imagine camels going through eyes of needles. And mustard seeds moving mountains. And a God changing my mii, from the inside out. And I begin to believe in what seems crazy.

Because I have a God who loves me like crazy. A God who loves you like crazy, and He’s not done with us yet. He’s a mountain-moving, camel-squeezing kind of God. He’s the bigger rock.

What about you?

Are there things about you that you wish you could change? Do you long to be different?

Can you anchor yourself in a rock higher than you, in the One who can change you from the inside out?

What does that look like for you today?

Jogging With Sea Otters.

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I woke up before the sun to a chorus of barking sea lions. There was such a commotion down by the bay that I had to see what the ruckus was all about. So I laced up my shoes and set out in the dark.

Within moments I reached the running path, beneath a sky alive with birds fishing for breakfast. Sea gulls, pelicans, and herons stalked their prey, hungry for a new day. A giant school of fish periodically alighted the surface of the water, like dominos spiraling in a ripple pattern.

Otters floated on their backs, enjoying their catch before disappearing below the surface, while their sea lion counterparts barked their approval. All this before the sun. And this thought came to mind, “If you can’t worship on a day like this, than when can you worship?”

Life was all around me, crying out to a God who made all this. For…

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15,16)

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Taking it all in, I wonder, do the people who live here get used to this? Does it lose its wonder over time? But before the thought is completed in my mind, I know the answer. Because I know me. I know human nature, and I know that, for the most part, they do. Slowly, over time, it all becomes normal.

I know this because I have life all around me, every single day. I have three children that live in wonder, and say, “Mom, look at this!” And, “Mom, watch me do this!” And, “Mom, can you believe I can do that?” And it all becomes normal to me. I lose the wonder of these miraculous creatures that have become my charge. I get used to wonder. And suddenly it’s not quite as wonderful. It’s routine.

I’ve heard it said that each and every person we meet in each and every day is a miracle of God’s hand. No two of us are alike. We are each given unique desires, experiences, talents, personality quirks, DNA, and wonder. And yet do I see people like that? Are they more than just a box checked in the agenda I have for my given day? Or even worse, a nuisance in my way? They are life all around me, and yet I can miss the wonder.

Every single day God does something miraculous. He raises the sun to light the world and give its warmth to all living things. And in the evening, he makes it to set until the next day begins. And it’s never the same. On any given day, on any given evening, a unique sunrise, a unique sunset paints the sky. But it can become as normal to us as our morning coffee. As mundane as brushing our teeth before bed.

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My family and I are spending Labor Day Weekend in Morro Bay, California, where sea lions take up residence, and fog horns call out every few moments. We arrived on a Friday evening, got settled into our hotel, and made our way out to the giant rock that signifies this place. It was nearly sunset, but it was cold. And I’ve become quite the wimp in recent years.

So, hooded and wrapped in a blanket, my husband and best friend, looked at me funny as I made my way to the car. “You really aren’t going to watch the sunset with me?” With that simple question, he had called me out. Because it’s all just normal to me. Even here I can miss the wonder.

My son Caleb doesn’t miss it. My other two don’t either. They’re out on the beach forgetting the cold. They’ve shed their jackets as they toss sand clouds into the air and wrestle one another, ducking and diving and relishing in the joy of open air and sunsets and sand. They are life and joy and gifts to me.

And again, I think, “How can I not worship in moments like these? How can I miss these moments?”

So I stick it out as long as I possibly can before retreating to the warmth of the car and deciding this in my mind. I don’t want to miss these moments. I don’t want to miss my life. I don’t want to miss opportunities to join in a chorus of worship that happens around me each and every day. If only I will just look for it.

Now surely not all of life is sunsets and sea gulls and beauty. Life has it’s hard too. And each day brings a good portion of difficulty to face. But, even in that, there’s wonder and hope. Because we have a God who longs to walk alongside us through it all. And as each new day begins, we have a choice to make, the choice to invite Him in. As it says in the Psalms…

“I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

If He goes before us, we aren’t alone. If He goes before us, we can trust that all is in His hands. If He goes before us, we have His help to give us grace for each and every moment. And He is so able. His grace is enough, and even the hard is met with His comfort, His help, His hand in our lives.

My mom used to have a prayer on her kitchen window that said this,

“Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I can’t handle together.”

I don’t know how many times I read that prayer as a child, but there’s something to it. There’s something about setting Him before us in each and every day. And waking up to the hope and beauty and wonder that surrounds us.

Because when we set Him before us, we see everything in the light of Him. All of our circumstances. All the joys, sorrows, hardships, adventures, and wonder. All of life. It’s just better lived with Him before us.

Today, as I live this day, awoken by barking sea lions and screeching gulls, if I can’t worship today, then when can I worship? Today, I choose to set Him before me, that together we can face all that it brings. From sunrise to sunset. And, hopefully, with His help, I won’t miss a wondrous, worshipful moment.

What about you?

Has the wonder of life become somewhat normal to you?

What does it look like to set the Lord before you today, as you begin, or end, your day?