God, Isaiah and Roller Coasters

I opened the Bible this morning to Isaiah and found myself immersed in the consistency of God.

roller coaster colorThroughout my life I have felt as if I have been on a constant rollercoaster. Every day, sometimes every moment, bringing about a new challenge, a new victory, a new emotion to conquer, a new level of faith to cling to, another mistake to repent for, another sin to be healed from, another fear to face, another excitement to celebrate. It’s exhausting even typing it.

But God is so consistent.
It’s not a rare occasion that I get that concept completely mixed up. I feel as if God is the inconsistent one. I’ll sit and lament to Him at times saying things like, “God where are you?”, “I thought you told me this was going to work out”, “Why are things changing so much?”, “Why does this evil continue to win?” when really that is just the reality of life because this world is filled with humans and brokenness and sin. We are broken, and we need a Savior and yet the entire time I blame God for being flippant and flighty, distant and disconnected.

Perspective is a beautiful thing, and as I read about the plight of Israel and the constant betrayal to God they committed only to have Him continually pursue them and redeem them I couldn’t help but think of that beautiful thread of God’s consistent and pursuant heart throughout the story of Scripture. His love and commitment toward his inconsistent children is the story of the Gospel.

The Gospel is truly a story of God never giving up on His people, and that reminder is more than enough for me to be flattened in awe of His faithfulness.

There’s a part in Isaiah chapter 44 where God lists all of the things that the people of Israel did to appease their idols, and then in verse 24 He says you have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses.

captiveWe sacrifice for the idols in our lives – settle in relationships so we won’t be single, cheat on our taxes to get that extra buck, tell one more white lie to save our pride – and yet our idols and the things of this world want absolutely no good thing for us. We bow down to our idols, and we run away from God. We bow down to the things of this world that we think will help us and deliver us from the agony that reality can bring at times and run from our Father who is the only healing ointment for all of our wounds. Our idols; this world, will only ever take from us. God on the other hand, has sacrificed everything in order to be in intimate relationship with us and chooses still every single day to carry the burden of our sins for us, offering us freedom and redemption at every single dip and twist of our roller coasters that we insist on controlling as much as possible.

After God’s lament of Israel’s insistence on worshipping the world instead of God we read, once again, God’s continual commitment to blessing His people if they would only turn to him. 44:1 declares But now listen, Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord says – he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun (Jeshuruan “the upright one” is a poetic name for Israel) For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

swing
He never fails to pursue, offer freedom to and bless us.
I was reminded this morning that every single time I think I can control my own life, I am robbing my heart from experiencing the ability of God to show up in massive ways in my life and through my life.
Instead of blaming God for wherever we have found ourselves on this roller coaster today, would you join me today in pausing for a moment, gaining a bit of perspective, and courageously trusting God again that He has only ever pursued us in order to free us from the grasp that this world has on us?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

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Sustained.

life

My God. The God of surprising sustenance.

He sustains me when my life feels like it’s a constant cycle of moving boxes, semesters of grad school and emotional scar tissue being built up through constant surrender and intention.

Healing takes time. Moving to a new place takes settling. Jobs change, semesters change, my moods change, my body changes, the seasons, relationships and positions of the moon are never still.

But my soul can be. And that is only by the grace of a sustaining God.

I had a really beautiful morning with Mary and Elizabeth and a bunch of boys in the Gospels today.

I read the story of Mary, a faithful, believing and sustained young girl going through the transition of all transitions. She goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is with child as well after waiting through much heartache and intentional trust in God’s promises.

Their babies leap, the Spirit moves and they worship Jesus.
Then there’s the story of Zachariah, the doubting husband of Elizabeth who upon receiving his voice back faithfully praises the God who sustains instead of being bitter about why his voice was taken for a time.

There’s John the Baptist, faithful from the womb.

flower budThere’s Andrew who bids his brother Simon to come and see this new Jesus guy where he is given a new name upon interacting with the One who sees us as our truest identities.

Page after page I read and soaked in the stories of my ancestors before me.

They weren’t perfect, but they were willing to trust that just around the corner there was a promise already fulfilled waiting for them.
They listened to the ache in their hearts for something more even when the world told them they were crazy to listen.

They held onto hope, let go of bitterness, and worshipped. They invited others to come and see the hope that they knew.

They allowed themselves to be sustained. In all of their humanity, imperfection and doubt, they allowed God to show them that He actually meant it when He said that none of that could keep Him from loving and sustaining them.

I sit amongst boxes again today, yes, again, as I pack up the home I’ve only known for three months and get ready for yet another transition.

I’m tired physically, unsure of what’s coming next, but my soul is truly still. I feel an incredible peace that I know only comes from the only force larger than the inconsistency of this life.

This peace has only come from me taking a cue from my brothers and sisters in the Bible worshipand making a choice this morning. A choice to be quiet, to be still, to rejoice and to worship my sustainer. I pictured being in the room with Mary and Elizabeth—Facing the unknown; trusting in the knowing God. Worshipping.

I put on some worship music, and I swear those two sisters of mine were in the room with me as we praised a God who knows. A God who holds us.

We lifted God up with thousands of generations of praise. We lifted a God up who transcends time and space and every limitation of this temporary home of ours.

I am sustained by this truth.

God is truly the anchor in an ever changing world, and that is always cause for worship.

 

Artist.

art handsI am an artist.

That has taken me years to say, let alone believe, but say and believe it I do.

I’ve been reading a book by Seth Godin recently called Linchpin. He speaks to the creative soul in each of us and brings up so accurately the fact that as children we are constantly dreaming, imagining, believing that we can defy the forces that seem to constrict us in this world. The forces that keep us from doing things such as flying by jumping off of a couch. How dare the world stunt an imagination that believes in such things! But stunt it does. Over and over and over again as we age.

The fact that my heart leaps and I feel a little bit like crying when I think of that sense of freedom we have as a child shows me that the desire to leap and fly and defy worldly constrictions still is at the very center; the very core of who I was created to be.

We were creatively created by a creative Creator.colorful trees

He created beauty simply because He loves beauty. This world would have still functioned without the vibrant colors of a sunset or the way that dew settles on grass in the early morning hours. He could have made it that way, and yet He chose to create an art piece more incredible than we could ever know.

And He has created us to continue to create. To bring our own artistry to our lives. For many years I have seen that as a childish desire, one that is not responsible or maybe one that is prideful. After all, who am I to declare myself an artist? What if no one ever reads what I write? What if the art I pour out into words is bad or wrong or too simple or too theologically incorrect or…or…or…
I’ve been trying to re-phrase the questions in my heart lately. What if instead of seeing every constriction that the world and my conformed-to-the-world thoughts remind me of, what if I chose to allow that artist inside of me to jump off the couch and dare to fly again?

kids jumpingJesus calls us to be like children, and I have heard many analogies about this topic, most of them wonderful ones. Children are trusting, children come to Jesus just as they are, children have the faith that can move mountains.

But children are also artists. They create in every way possible. They create with their minds and their hearts and they are exactly who God created them to be without trying to prove anything to the world yet. Ideally this energy and this thirst for life and the impossible would reside in our hearts always, but we have to search for it more intentionally the older we get.

I have been searching, I have been longing deeply for that freedom again. For the freedom from the labels that others have put on me which I wrote about earlier this month. I have been searching for the beautiful dialogue between my heart and God’s.  I have been searching for healing and for true love to replace the tainted, abusive and harsh ways of pacifying pain through false love that the world offers.

And I think I’m finding it you guys. And it feels good.

 

And it feels selfish.

 

I have been looking at the world through new lenses lately and have found myself overwhelmed regularly by the pain that others go through; by the enormous amounts of injustice in this world. I feel helpless most of the time to use my life in any way that would help alleviate this suffering and injustice. And I feel selfish when I focus on my own heart and my own life when it seems as if my struggles are so miniscule in comparison with the pain of this world.

But then I remember that there is an enemy out there who is the greatest identity thief color throwthat ever was and ever will be. And his greatest desire is for you and for me to be less than who we were created to be. His greatest desire is to steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10). He hates who we are, and he fears who we are becoming. To focus on our identity; on fully allowing the creative artist in each one of us to flourish by being renewed day by day by the miraculous love of Jesus, is the greatest thing we could do to bring the healing power of Christ to this broken and hurting world every single day.

To create through words, relationships, numbers, jobs, churches… is to continue bringing the flourishing and miraculous work of Jesus to this world every single day. We are His artists, we are His art. We are His beautiful workmanship and this world needs beauty. The enemy would have us neglect ourselves at all costs in order to pour out to others, but the enemy is a deceiver, a master manipulator, and by selling us this lie that it is selfish to focus on our own hearts when there is a hurting world is one of his greatest attempts to stunt our lives so that we will painfully dull ourselves day by day in the process leaving us tired, burnt out and completely unable to pour out beauty that we so long to pour out.

color handsI lived this way for so long. And I’m done living this way now. I am worth just as much effort and love and healing as every person in this world is. And I know that the only way my life will be able to pour out the colors of joy and love and peace that Christ created me to pour out is when I am living in those same colors daily.

I am an artist. You are an artist. You and I are worth the freedom that comes when we embrace the fact that we were created to create in our own beautiful way.

 

The world needs our color.

Choice.

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I’ve heard it said that life is a sum of our choices.

I haven’t been a fan of that phrase during certain seasons of my life because it felt unfair.

What about the things that happened to me that I had no control over?

Didn’t those things define my life as well?

A couple of years ago I started seeing a therapist after my life had hit rock bottom, at least my own personal version of rock bottom.

I sifted through the rock and the rubble with my therapist week by week. One rock at a time. Sometimes I got so frustrated that I threw them all back in the pile only to start over the next week with the sifting process.

But I chose to keep going.girl walking barefoot

In my weekly conversations that consisted of trying to untangle the mess of the sum of my life choices up until that point, I started to realize that I did in fact have a choice in everything, even in the things that seemed out of my control.

That’s a humbling reality right there, but reality it was.

The fact was uncovered that I had the choice about how I reacted to every single situation in my life.

I chose how my life was going to move forward from that day on.

I could choose to get out of bed every morning. Some days I chose this and others I didn’t.

I had a choice whether or not to have just “one more” glass of wine instead of actually facing my situation in life.

I had a choice whether or not to blame the Church for what had been done to me and leave it, or I could choose to stick around and try and make it better.girl at end of dock

I had a choice whether or not to bad mouth someone who had slandered my name or to instead trust the God of justice with His ultimate outcome someday.

I now have a choice whether or not to open myself up to people or to close them out.

I have a choice to trust or be defensive.

I have a choice to be angry or to embrace the unexplainable peace of God that only comes with my full surrender to Him.

I have choices. Every day.

Some days I choose really amazing things. And some days I don’t.

So yes, my life could be identified as a sum of my choices, and that definitely is a part of my identity.

But as I’ve been praying and working through the process of what my true identity is, I’m making another choice.

I’m choosing to think of my life as ultimately defined by the fact that I am a choice.

I have been chosen by God.girl dancing to man with guitar

He made the choice to die for me even when He knew there would be days that I would choose the taste of wine or men over Him.

He made the choice to invite me into this world even though He knew the pain I would endure.

He made the choice to stick around and fill me with His Spirit even though He knew that I would doubt Him to the point of walking away from Him time and time again.

He chose to create me.

He chose to love me.

He chose to die for me.

He chose to be raised to life again, for me.

He chose me.

And He continues to choose me every day.

He continues to forgive, heal and comfort me every day.

He continues to choose to partner with me and show me His incredible plans for my life day by day.

girl on bikeHe has chosen me.

He has chosen to devote His entire existence to loving me.

He has chosen you too you know.

And now, more than any other choice in my life, the one that will continue to matter the most, the one that will continue to define my identity more than any other choice I could ever make, is the choice I make every new day to believe that He has called me chosen and worthy of that choice.

So today, once again, I choose Him back.

I choose to love others the way that He has chosen to love me.

And I choose to love myself because He has chosen to love me.

I am a choice.

I am His choice.

And that is the choice that ultimately defines my identity.

Co-Pilot.

One of the most vivid memories I have as a child is when I would get to sit in the front seat of the car with my dad while we went on a road trip. I don’t remember the first time he called me this or if it was actually only once. If it was only once, it was more than enough because this is one memory my brain has involuntarily hung onto my entire life.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetCo-pilot.

There was something in the way he said it. I felt special, equal, useful and more than anything, I felt like we were in something together that not everyone was invited into. It was our thing. It was our name; a code of sorts that you could say while looking at the other one with a wink and a smile and for that moment it was just the two of you in on some secret mission against the rest of the world.

He was choosing me to be this special Co-Pilot, whatever that was, and it was awesome.

Armed with a pillow to sit on (this was back before car-seat rules existed apparently) and a Garth Brooks or Amy Grant cassette tape to put in the dashboard, my Co-Pilot checklist was checked and I was ready.

Dad in the driver’s seat, me in the front passenger seat, I felt like I was the most special and equal partner to one of my favorite people on the planet. I felt like I could do anything. We’d drive down the long stretches of highway on the way to see family in southern Oregon and as dad drove I was perfectly content sitting and riding along as Co-Pilot. After all, that’s what Co-Pilot’s did. They sang along to I’ve Got Friends in Low Places and dad would try to avoid the question of what whiskey was (I think he actually convinced me the word was whiskers for many years) and there was not a care in the world.

roadtrip 1As I think back on that memory with a smile, and I often do, I’m struck with how much that simple title meant to me without any understanding of what it was. I remember later in my childhood learning what it actually meant and I was baffled that it wasn’t something that was only known to my dad and I. I remember feeling as if a little bit of the magic had been lost when learning that this was a term used for thousands of people and not just for me.

But upon further investigation into my heart surrounding this topic I am coming to learn that it wasn’t actually about the name at all. It was about the one who gave it to me. My dad could have called me a sewer rat (affectionately of course) and I wouldn’t have cared because it was coming from him.

We see this play out in the lives of many children, both on the good and the bad end of the spectrum, and throughout the course of our lives we still hold great loyalty to the ones who said these things to us whether they impacted our lives negatively or positively.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to learn who to listen to. I’ve started to be able to untangle the titles put on me and, even if they were put onto me by people I loved and respected, I’ve started to learn how to cast off the ones that God never intended for me to have.

dad embraceI think we all need to come to a place like this at some point if we’re going to truly step into all that God has created for us.

I don’t need to hold onto the titles of being too much or dramatic or emotional or immature or the myriad of other things that come up in my mind right now as I think of some of the more hurtful titles that have been given to me involuntarily. No. They may have been given to me involuntarily, but now it is my turn to give those back; to ask God to help me strip myself of those that He never intended me to bare, and to have Him replace those with the ones that He has deemed worthy of His daughter.

Now it is up to me. It’s my turn to choose now who I listen to. Will I listen to God or the enemy? Will I live as the woman who only filters my identity through Christ? Or will I continue listening to this world? At some point we’ve got to choose. And once we choose? Well then it’s time to fully commit.

What about you? What titles have been given to you that it is now time to strip off. Which ones remain after seeing yourself through God’s eyes? Which ones truly embrace who you are and free you to go after this life without anything holding you down? Have you asked God recently who He says you are? It doesn’t have to be a common answer. I believe He’ll give you a memory or a word that means something to just you and Him and that is the title to fully embrace right now.

It’s time.roadtrip 3
It’s time to take your pillow and your favorite cassette tape and sit back and be that Co-Pilot like there would never be another Co-Pilot again. It’s time to sing at the top of your lungs unapologetically and trust the one who gave you that name; trust that this was the name you were created for and that together, in your full God-given identity, you can truly do anything.