Remember This Day

It popped up on my phone first thing this morning: “Remember this day.”

What? What’s this? It was my photo app telling me the message. I opened it, and an album from July 18th, 2016 covered my screen. Apparently, on this day last year, I had gone on a sunrise hike and captured some photos of an incredible sunrise. You see, my phone was telling me to remember this beautiful day from last year. What a surprising gift that technology gave me today.

I scrolled through the pictures and remembered the morning, brisk and just a little bit damp. The sunrise didn’t look promising at first because it was overcast. The sky was a soft palette of pastels at the first signs of the sun, and it appeared as if that was going to be the end of it. But suddenly, the sun erupted over the top of the hills and everything was ablaze with a fiery, golden hue. Vibrant orange faded into creamsicle clouds, and soft locks of grassy silhouettes became like fresh kindling, red hot in a fire. It was so silent, so peaceful, so wondrous. The cool fresh mountain air was like a sweet healing balm in my lungs, and I felt hidden in the solitude of the land.

Just to remember that experience alone would have been enough of a joy, but as the day went on, that act of remembering struck me on a deeper level. I thought of how Ann Voskamp writes about the church being called to a life of remembering (I promise someday I will get through a blog without talking about Ann 😉). We are meant to continuously be remembering the gifts, remembering the pain, remembering the sacrifice. Remembering the communion and the faithfulness of Love Himself. At the Last Supper, Jesus spoke the words, “Take this cup, take this bread…give thanks…and remember me…”

How many of us missed that? The remembering: truly, deeply, intentionally remembering daily. The act of remembering increases our faith and trust, increases our heart of love and worship for God, and, with gratitude, brings us into the peace of His presence.

Remembering is powerful. But how do we remember to remember? We actually even need His help to remember. Maybe that’s why Jesus left us with communion – not for His sake, but for ours: to help us to remember.

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Just a few hours ago, as the sun started to settle into the horizon and this day of remembering came to a close, God again brought to my mind that there’s even more inside this word for us to learn. I thought of how Ann took the remembering further when she broke open our ways of tearing apart and dismembering one another, to reveal the kingdom call of “re-membering” each other.

So often, Christians bite and accuse, separate and draw lines, declare wars and take sides on every issue – from differences in beliefs or denomination, to politics and personal convictions, to the shortcomings, immoralities, or just the differences in others. I’d like to believe that it’s the extremists and the loud-mouths without a real understanding of God who are the only ones who do this – the ones who, unfortunately, so often wrongly brand the name of God and the people who really know Him. The truth is, however, it will always be a part of our fallen flesh nature to dis-member. But, at the same time, that’s not who we are anymore.

A new person lives in us that was made to re-member; made to put back together the broken, to walk across lines that have been drawn and break down walls that have been erected. We were meant to love the shattered things back into wholeness, and to promote peace amongst people and wage war against the true enemy instead. Why is it that it’s so common to believe that if someone is not for us or for what we believe, that they are against us? That kind of mentality is a tragedy and a trap to pit humanity against itself. It grieves my heart that we live this way; we are all on common ground in our humanness. If we could only be humble enough to see it – to forgive and give grace, to give help, give hands, give ourselves.

But we can

With God, we can! With work and sacrifice and intentionality. With prayer and His Word and His grace, we can remember and re-member. We can become like Jesus and love real enough to change a dismembered life into a re-membered life. God fused my brokenness into beauty with His great love, often poured out through His very own children. What an honor it is that He would choose to move through us, to move through our stained hands and bitter lips and hardened hearts. But that’s the miracle. When He chose to make a home inside our very beings, we became His holy temple, clothed in righteousness and cleansed to absolute purity – and overflowing with all the power to change the world in the midst of all our smallness and imperfection and sin.

So…remember this day. Remember, this day. And re-member today. And every day.

You will come alive because of it.

 

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On Death, Destruction, and Misplaced Desires: Chronicles on the Premise of Dying to Live

Here’s a statement –

Maybe we’re all just trying to kill self, in one way or another.

Yikes, right? Keep reading, I’ll explain what I mean.

The world is filled with people who hurt themselves. There seems to be a pretty constant problem amongst humans: an inner-loathing. Not everyone drinks that cup, but many of us do. We self-destruct because we self-hate. Some self-harm. Some self-indulge, which is actually a form of devastating the self, and often a coping method for dealing with self-hatred. It leads one to inflate like a balloon until, ultimately, they burst. And then there’s actual suicide. The heartbreaking death of self that cannot come back from the grave.

All these things, to their own level, lead to the same place – the destroying or killing of self.

I was driving home the other day and thinking this when something else hit me. I had just written about how Jesus called us to come and die. He said that in order to find our life, we must first lose it. Maybe all this self-hating and self-destruction isn’t altogether wrong, then? Maybe it’s just been misplaced: twisted and perverted into something that brings death without giving way to life, something without Jesus. Maybe we all have this healthy desire and inherent destiny to die to self, but we don’t know the truth of it enough to do it like Christ did, so we do it in all the wrong ways. Satan has deceived us into thinking that we need to either deflate and destroy ourselves because we are so wretched and wrong, or we need to inflate and take everything we want because we deserve it – but we don’t realize no matter how much we give or take, it won’t bring us life or peace or happiness.

When we fall prey to Satan and believe his shouting lies, we end up denying the God-created purposes for our lives, and this leads to our ultimate downfall and unhappiness. So the totally upside-down Kingdom does it again: it tells us, “Let Me raise you up from the death of this world, from your own self-destructive nature. Let Me build you again after all the lies that have detonated everywhere around you have blown you to pieces. Let Me show you the truth, and let you taste My Love and My Life – so that you will then come and die a death that gives way to abundance and freedom instead. So that you will come and die with Me in order to share in My Glory and live in the riches of Truth.”

Jesus showed us how to love, how to sacrifice, when His love for us broke His body and His heart and broke the earth and the sky right open. And it’s that very love that He beckons us with; it’s that perfect love which is His actual being, that He draws us into.

And maybe this is one of the loudest of quiet convictions

this self-dying for Christ’s love –

because it makes eternal ripples throughout all of time, yet no one may even notice. 

Greatest love must come in the smallest of packages, because, somehow, that’s the only way to carry it.

—————

It comes as a heavy realization, the convicting kind of heavy, but the good kind nonetheless.

I wonder if this whole time I’ve had it all wrong. For every bit of wisdom and knowledge, for every intelligent thought and deep understanding from above, for every right revelation and unearthed mystery…I’ve still had it all wrong. Because the very first, very foundational, very important thing that Christ ever taught us is that we are here to serve, and to die, and that’s how we find life. I’ve missed it because instead of dying with Jesus first, I’ve loved my life and tried to find happiness through my own controlling heart and striving hands. Foolishly, I’ve spent my days chasing ways to be special, to be seen, to be happy and healthy and accepted – dressing up my little world with my big thoughts of ‘I’.

I do hate my self. I hate the self. I hate my headstrong will that refuses to submit, my selfish drive that would rather be comfortable than help another, my woe unto me personality that begs to be understood but refuses to understand. How can I believe that I am any more important, any more valuable, than the next person? How can I believe that I am anything at all in this whole expanse of space and time and eternity?

I feel like Job again but in a new way: in a way I never thought I would. I feel like Job in a way that understands what Job said when God spoke to him out of the storm: I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes.

I want to rip my clothes off and put on sackcloth and kneel in the dust and ashes of my SELF, and repent and lay low and lower and to the least. I must decrease, and He must increase. I must die, so that He can live in me and through me, and so that His surrendered life can be inseparably tangled up with mine.

We must share in His death to share in His life.

And His life, is life.

This is the journey we must embark on.

The treasure is on the other side of our own death.

 

On Releasing Dreams but Not Giving Up: Chronicles on the Premise of Dying to Live

I have always been a dreamer. Big time. A Martin Luther King, “I have a dream,” kind of dreamer. There’s never been any other way for me. And I’ve faced enough struggle, enough brokenness, enough despair to believe that this is inherent in me no matter what. I’ll never lose my “But, I see something better” side, even if I wanted to. So, let me just tell you. For me to talk about letting go of your dreams, well that’s monumental. In many ways, I have always been chasing one dream or another, and I’ve held even bigger dreams in my heart – dreams that are way, way, way over my head. I’ve persevered through a lot just to keep reaching towards those dreams. But there is something I haven’t done: mentally push pause on them all. Slow it down on the inside and stop dreaming up a better world and a happier life.

I haven’t stopped running to just be content with what I have. I haven’t stopped running to face what I don’t have. I haven’t stopped running. Period.

———-

It’s a bit of a curse to be an all or nothing person like me. How do you find balance? Especially when you are someone who thrives on balance and harmony, and pretty much falls apart like an undercooked cookie when life is a battle between 110% effort, or 0%. I am desperate for the scales to even out. But perfectionists like me usually have two choices: always be perfect and keep delivering the best, or break down and do nothing because you don’t have the energy to do it. Some people are far more able than me to keep going in their perfectionism. I’m a bit on the fine side: fine lines, fine breaking points, fine skin. I don’t believe that any of that is bad, it’s simply the way I am. I’m sensitive to my stressors and surroundings and I need a lot of sleep, and a lot of time alone to refresh. I’m not interested in comparisons here, all I know is my own ridiculously gentle, patiently quiet, and passionately persistent heart has often sputtered and failed in the loud, aggressive, opportunistic culture.

I simply wasn’t cut out for that type of environment. I frequently daydream about long days working seed into soil, digging up fresh ground, growing my own sustenance, watching over pastures (does anyone else want to be a shepherd boy, or is that just me? …*laughing nervously*). I long to wear down this body thin to build it strong, and empty this body daily to allow my mind to still, slow, and clear. For me, the longer I stay indoors, the longer I neglect my physical need to work, expend, and connect, and the longer I let my mind run and run and run, the more desperate and weary I get. I can “rest” all I want, but if I don’t take breaks from all my mental cardio, I won’t find the energy I’m looking for.

For me, I can swap physical cardio for mental cardio. Labor for labor. That’s the only way I’ve found I can really give my mind a rest. Hopefully I will learn other ways, but for now, I know that this is a good place to start. But more than that, I must lay all my endless dreaming in Jesus’ hands. I must learn to come to Him with each new dream, and hand it over, knowing that it’s not lost there, only being kept safe. At the right time, He may choose to pick up any one of those dreams and hand it back over, and I want to be ready when He does.

———-

I always thought that chasing my God-given dreams was the right thing to do: that making it to this place in my mind’s eye, this place that I believe God has actually called me to, was my number one goal and priority. But when that pursuit became greater than Him, it became an idol. And when we make idols, God tears them down. The vision of the future was more important than anything else. So, He let me break, and He broke with me, until I couldn’t keep running, couldn’t even keep walking. Until all I could do was fall to the ground and rest there in Him. And that’s where I am: resting and learning to rest and learning to be still. Learning to stop running.

I don’t believe in giving up, but I do believe in giving over.

Giving every idol – every single thing we hold dear to our hearts or tightly with our fists – over to God because He’s the one who determines our steps, and He’s the one with the holy plans and the highest knowledge and the greatest love. Like Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain. His promised son: a miracle delivered by God after decades of waiting – the one thing that had potential to stand higher than God in Abraham’s heart. But Abraham was faithful. He didn’t let Isaac, the son borne out of God’s own promise, to become greater than God Himself.

Maybe even when God has given us a dream, given us a promise, we must die to it.

We must let it go, hand it back over to Him, make sure that it doesn’t become an idol in our heart. Because God wants to know that our dreams will never be our gods, but that we will always return to Him, our first love. Maybe all along, we were meant to carry those dreams to give them up – give them up for today, for right now: love for the One inside of us and the ones in front of us. Maybe instead of filling our time chasing dreams or visions for the future, we should be serving, loving, thanking, praying…today. We still have those dreams in our hearts, we don’t let them wither away or die, but instead, we die to them. Chances are, they are even promises from God (He gave us our dreams and desires in the first place), and maybe they are even already fulfilled promises –– but even still, we must pray always for His will to be done. And in the meantime, we don’t lose sight of our greatest purpose: to daily love God and love others.

On this path, you can bet He’ll be leading you to your promised land, but you may not see it until you arrive.

When You Decide to Lay Yourself Bare: Part 2

Hmmm…

Do you ever have that feeling that you’re missing out on something big? Like you’re missing out on the thing you want most – the thing you need most – in life?

I’ve spent many years chasing down a destination like a cheetah chases its prey. Chasing down the idea of the end of this road I’m on: the end of this road of pain and sorrow, slavery and suffering, brokenness and fear. I’ve pursued that promised dreamland so fast that I’ve raced past most days without having stopped to pluck each glorious one, each with only so many moments: like a bunch of grapes, ripe for the picking right now only. Just one chance to taste them – to taste today. One chance to experience the sweetness.

————

Even in laying bare, I was running past them all – past all the people, all the moments, all the gifts that mattered. Running past all the opportunities. Turns out, in a sense, I was running nowhere. You can pack your bags full of all the right intentions and then take off in the wrong direction. Instead of risking it all, I retreated within. Instead of fearlessly reaching out, I fearfully kept my hands in my pockets. Instead of giving myself to the broken, I ended up burning them with my own broken-hearted venom.

But as I sought, I discovered. When you choose to be bare, that is how you end up. And wow, it is painful. Being bare was not me risking rejection to be a good person, to be a difference maker, a world-changer. No, being bare was more an exposing of all my imperfections and flaws. The real ones, you know, not those silly insecurities we all have. The flaws like pride that’s grown to be larger than you ever imagined, like selfishness that has made you the kind of person fattened with greed, like hatred that has left you gnarled and maimed in ten-thousand toxic ways. Laying yourself bare means letting God strip you of, well, you. It means beginning the process of literally ridding you of yourself.

It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spoke the famous words, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” This is a powerful statement, especially to my western ears. But I want to delve deep into the meaning of self-sacrifice through love and love alone. The kind of love that is described and demonstrated and embodied by God Himself. Love risks all and bares all and braves all to save all, heal all, be close to all.

Laying bare is only something you can do when you’ve abandoned yourself, and abandoning yourself is only something you can do when you stretch out your vulnerable being, expose your humanness, and welcome suffering. Abandon means to give up completely. Abandon self. Give *self* up completely. Those are just words until you live them and then they become a cross to bear, a key in your hand, a highway to freedom and heart-breaking love. When you say yes to getting hurt, you can say yes to connection, to intimacy, to love.

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One last thing to share. The woman who I never stop learning from, Ann Voskamp, writes: “It’s strange how that is: everybody wants to change the world, but nobody wants to do the small thing that makes just one person feel loved…Why hadn’t I come to it long before I had to blow out this many [birthday] candles? When I abandon self into givenness, the feelings of abandonment give way to abandoning myself to God and finding full communion.”

You see, when we lose our life for Christ’s sake, that’s right where we find it, and it’s right where we find Him. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

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So, part two was not what I’d expected it might be, but then again, nothing is ever what I expect it might be. When you decide to lay yourself bare, you find that it’s going to be a much longer, much slower, much more painful process than you could have imagined. But it’s going to be so much more glorious, so much more powerful, and so much more life-giving too.

Because maybe that thing you’ve been missing out on is actually life itself – and this – this laying bare, this laying down: this is the first step to losing your life in the givenness of Christ, and consequently, to finding what life really is.

That’s sure what has been happening to me.