Monthly Archives: January 2016

Rough Draft

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I’m the girl with all the words, the person who always has something to say or an opinion to share.  I’ve never had an issue with having words.  Sharing those words, however, is another story entirely.  Sometimes I just don’t say all the things I want to say – all the things I should say.  I always have plenty of good things to say to and about people.  But why is it so hard to say the right things?

Yes, I’m the word girl, but sometimes that hinders me.  You see, I write.  (A lot, obviously.)  And I like all my words to come out perfectly.  Words are very important to me, so I always want to think them through before I share them.  That, however, is part of the problem.  I prefer to tackle conversation in the same way that I tackle writing: I create multiple drafts, proof, edit, and revise.

But real life doesn’t work that way.

I have more words than a dictionary (probably due in part to the fact that I do read the dictionary for fun) -- so why is it so hard to say the right thing?

I have more words than a dictionary (probably due in part to the fact that I do read the dictionary for fun) — so why is it so hard to say the right thing?

In real life, you don’t get to give everyone the third draft of what you want to say.  Sometimes you just have to say what is right – and sometimes you have to be okay with it being the “rough draft.”  I like to say exactly what I mean, precisely as I mean to say it.  When I can’t do that, sometimes I simply settle for saying nothing at all.  And that is a dangerous course of action. Why don’t I tell the people I love all the things I appreciate about them?  What makes it difficult to share about how they bless my life?  What makes it difficult to give compliments or to engage people in conversation?  What makes it so difficult to build relationships and share my words?  What makes it so difficult to share my heart and all the good thoughts I am already thinking?  The words are all there, but I just can’t get them out sometimes.

As I pondered this conundrum, Romans 10:14 came to mind.  In regard to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, Paul writes:

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?

The passage goes on to describe the beauty of the Good News being brought, and that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (v. 15).  Being familiar with this verse, I have always thought, “Yes, yes – we do need to share the Gospel, because everyone should have the opportunity to hear about Jesus!”  I always took these verses strictly in the context of evangelism – “getting people saved” and all that.  Of course people need to be told about Jesus in order to hear!  The telling comes before the hearing, and the word of God is the foundation and the fullness of what we share – both in the sense of “the word of God” being Scripture and it being the person of Jesus Christ.  Amen!  Good stuff.

But what if there’s more to it than that initial telling?  God’s grace is very great, and His kindness toward me has been relentless.  What if I, out of neglect or fear, have been withholding the kindness of God from the people around me?  By not speaking up – or not acting – have I denied others opportunities to experience the kindness that God longs to lavish upon them?  “Oh, God forgive me.”  This is the cry of my heart as I fall to my knees in repentance.  This is my confession that I haven’t been living or loving as well as I should be – and it hurts to acknowledge that failure.

Not doing the wrong thing is not equivalent to actually doing the right thing.

Did I spew angry words from a heart full of hate?  Was I intentionally cruel or unkind?  Did I speak lies over people’s lives or spread ugly rumors?  Were my thoughts dark and my actions harsh?  No, but neither was I intentional about loving others well.  It really isn’t the thought that counts.

What do I mean by that?  You see, salvation isn’t the ultimate goal of Christianity; if it were, there would be no purpose for the lives we now lead.  Jesus could simply have rescued us from sin then brought us to dwell with Him in heaven, content at the Father’s side.  But the Good News doesn’t end with the Cross.  Life with Jesus is a journey that we walk out day by day, with each decision and every breath.  As sons and daughters of the living God, we are called to live completely new lives on this side of the Cross, lives devoted to the telling of His goodness.  Ours is not merely hope for the moment of salvation; our Hope is Jesus, who calls us to carry this Good News farther and deeper in our own lives and the lives of the people around us.

The kindness of our Lord is both relentless and intentional – and that kindness doesn’t end with the Cross.  I cannot – I will not withhold the fullness of God’s kindness from the people around me because of my own desire to have my words be “just right.”  There are times for getting it “just right,” but there are also times when we simply need to do what is right, obeying God’s nudging on our hearts and not worrying about perfection.  Life is messy and people aren’t perfect, but the sharing the kindness of God is never wrong.

Think about what Scripture — or church history, for that matter — might have looked like had Peter not corrected the onlookers’ misconceptions about Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) because he wanted to make sure he could explain the Gospel perfectly?  What would we think if Paul had not taken the opportunity to minister wherever he went, at every opportunity, because he was worried about how his words might come across to others?  What would have happened if some of our Biblical heroes had not done the right thing in the moment — if Esther had not gone before the king to save the Jews (Es. 4-8) because she was worried about saying the wrong thing?  What if Ruth, who is part of the ancestry of Jesus Christ, had not courageously chosen an unorthodox course of action and married Boaz (Ruth 4)?  What if Abigail had not stopped David from killing Nabal (1 Sam. 25) — would David have been the man after God’s own heart that we remember today?  If people had not set aside their fears of human frailty and taken the opportunities God gave them to say and do the right things in the moment, Scripture would be empty of the rich legacies of obedience that we have.

Life is not a script or paper that you can edit until it is "just right"

Life is not a script or paper that you can edit until it is “just right”

I wish that I always had just the right words to respond to deep grief.  I wish that I always had the perfect words to counteract painful pasts and disappointed hopes.  I wish that I could always explain myself and share my thoughts with clarity so that people around me understand fully.  I wish that I always had just the right words for those important moments of life.  I wish that prayers always came out like they were in my head.  That would be great – but it isn’t really the most important thing.  The most important thing is to do what God says is right – even when it is difficult or imperfect.  When we don’t take the opportunities that God places before us, we tend to end up with missed adventures and regrets over the things we should have said or should have done when we had the chance.

Today I am deciding to live unafraid of imperfection.  I will speak the good things that I am thinking, and I will share my heart with the people around me.  I am choosing to do what is right in the moment, because it is in those raw, rough-draft moments that life is lived most freely and the kindness of God is experienced most fully.  I hope that you will choose to enjoy this adventure with me, embracing the unpolished, unadulterated goodness of God’s heart toward you and the people around you.

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Crave

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Is there anything that you cannot live without?  Something that, were you to lose it or not have it, your life would feel hollow?  Something that, once you have experienced it and lived with it, you simply cannot give up?  What is so intrinsic to who you are that you absolutely need it in order to live your life?

Selflessness – now that I have tasted it, I can’t forget it; I crave it.  The longing to be selfless, to serve, and to minister to others is what drives me.  I desire to live for something lasting, something bigger than myself, bringing the culture of heaven to the earth and revealing the kindness of the Father’s heart.  I have learned it, lived it, and loved it.  Wherever I can go, whatever I can do – I want to take every opportunity to serve.  Compelled by love – it feels as natural as breathing (2 Cor. 5:14-19).  It is not easy; sometimes passion hurts.  But through it all the craving remains.  Living in Africa, being a missionary kid and a pastor’s daughter, being head-over-heels in love with Jesus – I am ruined for life and so ready for the here-and-now of eternity, the fullness of heaven invading the earth.  Nothing else will satisfy.  Crave.

Merely existing cannot satisfy; our souls crave MORE.

Merely existing cannot satisfy; our souls crave MORE. What is your MORE?

Caught in the Westernized idea of Christianity that often (though perhaps unintentionally) advocates a go-big-or-go-home lifestyle, I used to believe that ministry and service had to create sweeping change.  I used to believe that I had to do something “big” and that only something big could be worthwhile in God’s kingdom.  It wasn’t that I consciously believed it; it was more like a disquiet deep within my spirit about the value and nature of ministry – but no more.  Now I am content to be the one who makes “little” change, one person at a time – and each of those lives will touch another life, and each of those yet another – until a cycle of change becomes sustainable at the deepest levels.  Crave.  Every person who is blessed by my writing, who hears the voice of God and feels His presence through my words and actions – it is both more than enough and only the beginning.  Crave.

Every moment there are possibilities, choices, and opportunities, and I long to live a life that takes full advantage of all of those moments.  I desire to live a life of selfless service. Crave.  I want my passion for God and for people to be part of my legacy – and legacies begin in the quiet, “little” moments.  Legacies aren’t something that simply happen after you die; legacies are built as you take the day-to-day opportunities to make the right choice.  Crave.  I want to seek out and eagerly embrace opportunities to serve, whether they are menial, prestigious, or just plain difficult.  Why?  Because I don’t know how to live any other way.  I can’t resist the craving for a life that is more than myself, more than the comfort of the moment.  Life is most beautiful when it is lived selflessly.  Crave.

I’d like to say I take every opportunity to serve – I don’t always do that, but I’d like to.  As I mentioned in “Open My Eyes,” ministry is seeing needs and meeting them.  It is a way of viewing life that allows you to see ministry opportunities to bring Truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ into any and every situation.  I know that not every will agree with my simple definition of ministry; I know all the arguments about definitions, duties, and ministry as a vocation.  I know that it is important to consider the specific gifts and dreams that God has placed within me.  But when I look at the life of Jesus Christ, I see a Man who poured out the relentless love of our Heavenly Father by noticing and meeting needs, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional. The ministry of Jesus sparked that cycle of sustainable, soul-deep change that we often strive to begin on our own.  The truth is that we don’t need to create change; we need to spread change by serving selflessly, leaving the rest to God’s Holy Spirit, who dwells within us and leads us to repentance.  Crave.  

Service is not about “doing more,” earning grace or recognition, or completing a duty.  It is about living wholeheartedly. Selflessness is not something you merely “do,” like reading a book or taking a shower.  Rather, it is a way you live your life that becomes a part of who you are.  That’s when the craving happens.  As the selfless love of Christ is indelibly etched into your soul, you come to the point where you can’t imagine living your life in any other way.  Crave.  I throw myself fully into everything I do because I only know how to live whole-heartedly.  To live as Christ lived is to live selflessly:

crossLet each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” — Philip. 2:4-8 ESV

Over the holidays I spent lots of time hanging out with good friends.  As we gathered after ice skating one night, we found that one of our group was missing.  When someone questioned where he was, my brother pointed and said, “Oh, he’s over there praying for someone.  That’s just how he is – he’s cool like that.”  When the craving runs deep, the loving and serving come naturally. Crave.  Is that “just how we are”?  Is that the lifestyle we pursue?  Are those the people we choose to build relationships with, people who crave nothing more than to live whole-heartedly, fully abandoned in the love of Christ?  That is the kind of woman I want to be, and those are the kind of friends I want to have around me.  Crave.

To give freely, serve joyfully, obey willingly, and love fully – I crave to live out the culture of heaven on the earth.  I admit, I am addicted.  The craving is what gets me up in the mornings with a song in my heart.  It’s what makes me want to spend hours listening to and laughing with the girls in my dorm.  It’s what gets me up in the night to tend to sick friends or care for my little sister.  It’s why I carried someone else’s luggage in addition to my own the entire length of a train when I saw she was weary.  It’s why I weep with longing for Africa, my heart breaking with desire to go back to the place my heart loves.  It’s what makes me eagerly seek out opportunities to serve and do ministry – to meet any need I can.  It’s why I’m sitting here late at night, writing when my heart is overflowing with words that I don’t want to lose.  I want every part of my life to reflect the nature of my God.  In the craving are depths of passion and the love of the Father’s heart that I have only just begun to discover.  Crave.  This is why I do what I do and why I am who I am.  When the craving becomes part of who you are, other ways of living become hollow until, eventually, they fade into nothingness.  When we allow the culture of heaven to define our lifestyle, the selfishness of our sin nature that once bound us no longer has any authority to control us.  Through the precious blood of Christ we are empowered to live selflessly – but more than that, we are empowered to live selflessly with joy.

And so, my dear friends, what do you crave?  Are you ready to respond to His call to live whole-heartedly?  Are you ready for Him to wreck your life with the craving for the kingdom-culture of heaven?

“For though I am free from men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more…I have become all things to all men, that by all means I might save some.  Now this I do for the gospel’s sake….” — 1 Cor. 9:19, 23 NKJV

Embrace the craving -- run wild in the precious freedom of a life lived selflessly.

Embrace the craving — run wild in the precious freedom of a life lived selflessly.