Archives for the month of: April, 2015

long road

I like long vacations, long walks on the beach, long views from a mountaintop, and long dinners that are lively with conversation. I do not like long arguments, long lines, unpleasant tasks that seem unending, or extended periods of time when I’m frustrated or unsure.

I like obedience when others obey me, and I like having someone I trust to obey when I’m lost or threatened. I don’t like obedience when I am asked to do hard things or things I don’t like. I don’t like obeying someone that I don’t respect, and I don’t like obeying silly rules.

In a recent video I heard Beth Moore describe the Christian life as “a long obedience in the same direction”. Tomorrow I turn 56. In some ways it seems like a long, long time; in other ways some of those distant memories seem like just yesterday. God has been so incredibly patient with me as I stumbled through inconsistent obedience and chose detours that made my obedience harder and longer than it could have been. Those times taught me that obeying him is ALWAYS the best choice. There have been some times when I wasn’t sure what God wanted from me, and I just kept aiming forward until I understood the new thing he wanted from me and for me. Those times taught me that his timing is ALWAYS perfect. There have been other times when I was so distracted by my plans or preferences that I wandered away from him. The “sparkly” and “shiny” things of this life can draw me away from God just as surely as they capture the attention of a baby…and I have to eventually find my way back to the direction I know God is leading me.

Eastern shepherds lead their sheep; they don’t drive the sheep ahead of them. Jesus described himself as the “Good Shepherd”. If I can obey the one who has proven over and over that I can trust him, if I can follow him even when I don’t understand what I’m facing, I will eventually be able to see how all the “paths” of my past lead to where I am and to where he is leading me.

I have learned that my “short cuts” aren’t, and that racing ahead of God when I don’t know where I’m going is never a good idea. God has consistently proved that when I honestly ask his guidance, he gives it. I want my life to be increasingly characterized by a “long obedience in the same direction”. I want that direction to be the pleasure of my God, even (and especially) when that shifts to a slightly new direction.

yellow rose

My friend is moving to Texas. She will pack up the objects and memories of her life here and reassemble them there. Some of what she will take with her are reminders of places and times that were precious to her in the past. Some of what she will take will be just as functional there as here. Some she will leave behind. She will leave people who love her and go to where she is not known yet. She won’t be where she “belongs”; she will begin building a new life where she will belong somewhere else.

She knows a little about where she is going. Bluebonnets and yellow roses will replace cardinals and dogwoods. Open sky will replace a canopy of trees. She will find new friends and new places where she will belong. She will learn new roads and customs and foods…and I hope she unwittingly adopts at least some of their drawl.

 She has lived her life here in such a way that many have learned to love her here. I have no doubt she will do the same there. And it seems to me that what she is doing now is what we are all called to do: prepare in this place for where we will belong in the future. Jesus promised, “I am going to prepare a place for you… I want you to be with me where I am.” (John 14:2-3)

 Refusing to prepare does not prevent change. Jesus has already prepared a new place for us in heaven. He described it for us in the Bible, so that we would know enough about it to make it our heart’s desire. One day we will go there, whether we are prepared or not. Letting go of what is known and precious is hard, but it may allow us to be able to receive what is unknown and glorious. Letting go of our “here” requires that we focus our priorities on knowing God now, so that we are prepared for what is to come.

 We don’t belong in Heaven yet, but we’re not going to stay “here” forever. My prayer for my friend is that she will have new adventures and put down deep roots and find new friends and joy in the place she is going. May the same be true for in your life “here” as you prepare for your life “there”.

 May we learn to love and value those given to us “here”, and may our time and our priorities “here” reflect the fact that we know that God isn’t finished with us and that there is more to learn in this life that will prepare us for eternity. Ask God to help you remember that your true home is in his presence. Ask God to make you homesick for Heaven…before you get there.

easter monday

The grief and horror of Good Friday are almost unimaginable. The silence and sadness and emptiness of that Saturday are literally unspeakable. And then the thrill, the awe, the utter joy of Easter Sunday morning. Jesus appears to them and the hopelessness of the heartbreaking weekend …is no more.

But what about Monday? They know Jesus isn’t dead….but he’s not really “with” them either. They decided to follow Jesus and stay near him, and then he left them alone. They used to just wait for Jesus’ instructions for the day and obey him. But on Monday that is no longer true.

What do you do when the rules change? What happens when you don’t see the plan or have any clue what the next step looks like? The disciples will have fifty days to wait before they begin to see the plan. What did they do with those fifty days until Pentecost? The Crucifixion and Resurrection were events that were out of their control; they could only emotionally respond. The fifty days of Pentecost test their faith when they don’t understand what God is doing.

What do you do with the “in between” times of your life? You want to do the right thing, and you have no idea what that is. You want to be obedient, but your connection to God, your ability to hear from him, is occasional and inconsistent. What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

As I study their response during this time, I see two important lessons we need to remember when we are in an “in between” time. One is that they stayed together. Jesus had organized them into a group and they found strength in fellowship with each other. We know that a week after Easter, they were all still together in Jerusalem. We know that seven of them went up to Galilee for a fishing trip. And we know that they were all together at Pentecost as they were filled with the Holy Spirit that enabled them to understand what God wanted from each of them in the immediate future and empowered them to do mighty miracles in God’s name.

They also remained obedient to what they did know. Just because they didn’t see the big picture or have clear understanding of the next step, didn’t mean that all Jesus had said wasn’t true. They didn’t immediately run to pagan altars because that “Jesus” thing didn’t work out like they thought. They didn’t return home and put that “Jesus” phase of their lives behind them. They obeyed what they knew to be true until they received new instruction.

And so must we. Unlike the disciples, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. But like the disciples we sometimes find ourselves at moments when we don’t know what to do next, when we want to be obedient, but have no idea what that looks like. Seek the fellowship of godly people and obey what you do know until God reveals your next step. Joyfully anticipate that the one who promised to never leave you is about to do something new through you.