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Out of Neverland

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“Never!” – an oath we make far too easily and carelessly.  There are certain things that I said I would “never” be willing to do.  Never, no, not a chance.  I looked at my life, peered blindly toward the future, and declared, “Never will I ever!”  Therein lies my conundrum.  Years ago I told Jesus “yes” while silently attempting to add stipulations.  My mouth claimed I wanted Him, but places in my heart were not yet surrendered.  I ensconced myself in the safety of my Neverland, a place I could be comfortable and in control of, a place that was enjoyable and sweet – or so I thought.  Ah, dear heart, have you ever done the same?

Is the comfort of Neverland really our best hope?

Is the comfort of Neverland really our best hope?

If you’ve watched (or read) the story of Peter Pan, you know that Peter and his lost boys want to stay in Neverland, the place where they will never have to grow up or stop having the comfortable, carefree fun they so enjoy.  I confess that I had not understood the draw of Neverland.  To me, it seemed like a place to hide.  If things got too hard or growing up became too tedious, Neverland was the alternative; yet I always wondered if that was merely a shadow of a life fully lived.  (By the way, I am a fascinating annoying great movie-watching companion, if you appreciate an analytical dissection accompanied by running commentary.)

There are times when my conversations with God are laced with please-don’t-make-me cries.  I’ll do anything You want, but please don’t make me ________….. – just fill in the blank.  It’s my own indirect way of begging “never.”  Then there are the times when I tell Him that I simply don’t want to do what He is asking.  Being comfortable is easy.  It’s familiar, and I can understand it.  I’d rather play games in Neverland than grow into a mighty woman of valor, because on the horizon I fear an Adventure with Jesus that I can’t control, a future wild and unpredictable to my finite imagination.  I don’t want to sing in front of people, don’t want to be a classroom teacher, don’t want to live in cold places, was never interested in traveling to India, don’t, no, never…. – or, at least, I thought I didn’t.  So flesh conflicts with spirit as my head struggles to comprehend the stirrings of my heart.

Piece by piece, word by word, the Lord has been tearing down my every “never,” stripping me of excuses.  My never-oaths hold no weight in the eyes of my King of kings.  Recently having found myself frustrated by His lack of acknowledgement regarding these never-oaths, I declared to God, “There you go again, changing my heart to be passionate about something I didn’t even want!”  Yet my indignance was born of my need to surrender – not of true frustration.  Finally coming to the end of myself, I am giving up my whole heart to Him.  In these moments, what else can we do but laugh?  Life with Jesus is one surprise after another, and still we are totally safe in the constancy of His nature.  To quote Graham Cooke, “God is unpredictable but consistent.  You never know what He is going to do next, but you ALWAYS know what He is going to be like.”

Happy in my saree -- a secret wish I never thought to experience!

Happy in my saree — My little-girl dream come true!

The true adventure is found not in my self-satisfied Neverland but in the Wilderness with the Love of my life.  True adventure is utterly terrifying.  I am now in a place that I had not expected, a point in life I never wanted to be.  And I find it beautiful.  This is the difference in doing life with God.  What we so often miss is the power of our own choice.  When we choose Him, He sets us free – but He’ll never force us to walk in that freedom.  He wants His best for us – but He’ll never force it on us.  It isn’t about Him forcing you into a life you don’t want.  It isn’t about your becoming His henchman, obligated to cater to the His mysterious and changing whims.  In fact, He alone is the One from whom all good things come (Jas. 1:17), and He doesn’t change – ever (Mal. 3:6).  His ways and wisdom are no mystery, for He “has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10).  So if God isn’t some vague, unknowable force, waiting to strike us down or toss in a shocking plot twist just for thrills, if He truly doesn’t strong-arm us into choosing His best, what IS this all about?  It is about allowing Him to change your heart to desire the things He desires.  As your heart changes, you will sincerely long to see His will done on earth and in your life as it is in heaven (Mat. 6:10): the full-blown picture of His glory and goodness.

Good morning, India! I would never have thought that the bar-covered windows, the bright plaster homes, and the spice-scented air, filled with the sounds of family stirring in the early morning -- could become beloved so quickly.

Good morning, India! I would never have thought your bright plaster homes and spice-scented air would become beloved so quickly.

God didn’t demand that I go to India, a country about which I had always shrugged my shoulders and declared I had no particular intention of visiting.  Instead, He brought people into my life, offered opportunities, and began to speak to my heart about this new place and culture for me to love.  He began to reconcile my heart to His, causing the desires of my heart to match the desires of His.  Like a checkbook being balanced, all the columns began to add up correctly and the totals make sense.  It was an Adventure born of my decision to say “yes” to the One who alone is good in all His ways.

Whether it's teaching the kids in my church family or teaching students ranging from Kindergarten to high school, teaching is my passion.

I love kids. Teaching is my passion.

God did not demand that I teach classrooms full of students.  It began years ago when He whispered to my heart, “This is what I’m doing.  If you want to do what I’m doing, you’ll do this” and I found myself attending college for Elementary Education.  Reconciling.  In the four years since, I continued to say that I would never be a regular classroom teacher.  Yet now I find myself eager to take on classrooms of bright-eyed and belligerent students alike, falling completely in love with every student as I see the Father’s heart reflected through each one.  I cannot resist the intense compassion and desire to nurture that swells within me as I teach.  It has been an unexpected but freeing journey for me to admit that my never-oaths were holding me back from the fullness of what God has for my life and His glory.  Reconciling my heart to His.

Sometimes we don’t understand the depths of His freedom until we comprehend the depths of our own bondage.  I chose to surrender.  Every day, every moment in which I forget that choice – I choose again to surrender, letting Him reconcile my heart to His.  Hand in hand, He’s leading me out of my Neverland into a wild place with Him.  The cry is no longer “Never!” but rather, “Here am I!” (Is. 6:8) – and all the wild, glorious adventures that follow.

helen-keller-quoteAs we begin to step out of our Neverlands, we walk into greater freedom.  We become free in our laughter and our loving, free in our dreaming, free even in our hurting and our longing.  The loveliness of life lies in allowing yourself to dream with Him.  The Adventure is in the limitless of His kind nature and the richness of His heart toward you.  In what areas of your life have you been holding back?  Where is the Neverland that you’ve been hiding in?  Is it fear keeping you there – or is it just the comfort?  What dreams would you dream if your heart was truly free?  Where have you chosen “safer” or “easier” or “less risky”?  Where have you told God “no” or “never” – and what might you be missing because of that?  Do you truly long for the things He longs for – do you really desire His best in your life?  Talk with God about it; ask Him what He has to say.  These are not easy answers, but honesty is the birthplace of freedom in our lives.

Join me in the journey out of Neverland, braveheart.  No more hiding.  It all begins with one decision: say yes to Him.  This is a life without regrets, a life lived in freedom.  The one “never” I can proclaim with confidence is that it is never too late.  May our hearts be reconciled to His, one in desire and aim, because there is no other Adventure worth living.

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Unveiled

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Have you ever wondered what God’s will is?  I know, I know – it’s a rhetorical question.  All of us who are following Jesus have wondered that at some point.  Of course, if you ask such a question, you might get the “preacher answer”: it is God’s will that you be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3).  Because THAT really helps.  Very practical, right?  What does it even mean?  You really just wanted to know what to do.  And so with a sigh you return to the frustrating task of determining the deep and mystical will of God for your life.  Or perhaps you just give up.

The first – and perhaps only – real problem is that we see the will of God as “mystical.”  We even say “the will of God” in reverent tones as if it is some hallowed, unknowable truth we must somehow ascend to or that we’ll only understand after we die and “go to be with Jesus.”

That’s just nonsense.

Don't make "confirmation" your fail-safe.

Don’t make “confirmation” your fail-safe.

We so often want Him to tell us what we should do – what is the right thing, the right choice.  It is important and good to pray, staying in continual contact with God, but it is also very important to recognize our own motives in asking for “confirmation.”  Let’s be honest: we often ask for “confirmation” not because we truly want to know what is right but because we are afraid.  We are so afraid of failing that we want security so that, if anything goes wrong along the way, we can blame God.

This safety-net mindset, however, denies the guiding presence of His Holy Spirit in your life, and it also embraces a view of God that is contrary to His nature.  God isn’t going to trick you, and He isn’t going to let you choose something not good without warning.  You, of course, are free to choose, but you will know if what you are doing is wrong because He is living and active within your spirit!  It is not as though we will get to the end of life and stand before Jesus only to have Him say, “Oh, you know thirty years ago when you got that offer to take the job in Phoenix and you decided not to take it?  Well, I really wanted you to take that job, and I just wanted to let you know that you have been outside My will since then” or “Wow, your life really could have been better if you had three kids instead of two; you were in my will but you really didn’t experience My best for you, sorry.”  It sounds laughable to say it like that, but that is how we treat God’s will most times, so let’s just clarify some things here.

For starters, we should understand what we are talking about when we say “the will of God.”  What exactly does that phrase mean?  God’s will is, quite simply, all His thoughts and desires and plans for His creation, of which you are an integral part.  Never deny your special place in His will!

This is not the fullness of your hope in life!

This is not the fullness of your hope in life!

And secondly, God’s will is not some fine line that we follow from point A to point B.  We are not trains on the railroad tracks of His will that, if ever we should deviate, we suddenly find ourselves derailed and unable to recover.  Life is an adventure, every day of which has been written in God’s book before the foundations of the earth were laid (Psalm 139:16) that we may walk in all the good things He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).  It is a skillfully-wrought story with a plotline that twists and turns, has its joys and its sorrows, but always remains in the control of God, the great Author and Finisher (Hebrews 12:2), who works all things together for the good of His people (Romans 8:28).

Does that sound too simple?  Good.  Because it is precisely that simple.  It breaks my heart when I see people desperately trying to discern God’s will.  God doesn’t want you to be confused, and He isn’t asking you to determine what His will is.  He sent Jesus in order to reconcile all things unto Himself, drawing earth and heaven, sin-bound time and glorious eternity, into beautiful collision, just as He always intended it to be (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20).  In doing this, He “made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:9).  Do you understand what that is saying?  It is saying that it is His pleasure to let you know what He desires; and not only is it His pleasure to do so, He has already done so!  Then, to go beyond even that, when we choose to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds, we are transformed and made able to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2)!

Many hundreds of years before Jesus came to redeem us, David had the right idea:

“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant” – Psalm 25:14

In the same Psalm, David speaks repeatedly of how the Lord corrects us and teaches us His ways.  We are not left to wander aimlessly, nor are we in danger of “falling off the track” when we are seeking to please Him.  Our Lord is mighty enough to correct you, and, as our Heavenly Father, He is also loving enough to guide you rightly.  He has unveiled within you all the mysteries of His will and taken authority over any darkness and confusion that held you back from knowing it.  Declare your trust in His goodness toward you today!

Are you ready to unveil the adventure of your story?

Are you ready to unveil the adventure?