21 December, 2018

He is the Answer




Kata Tjuta & King's Canyon, NT, Australia

Sometimes there aren’t answers. Call it maturity, maybe, I’ve been realizing there aren’t answers to every question. There are grey areas of faith that have to be wrestled out personally, between us and God. Sometimes there isn’t a ‘thou shalt’ or ‘thou shalt not.’

One of the biggest things about growing up is coming to your own beliefs and understanding. We’ve all been brought up to see the world, God, what we should and shouldn’t do, a certain way. And even if these things are great and true, they are meaningless unless we claim them for our own. Now is the time we take things on, alter some to fit our experience, and leave some behind. 

It’s healthy; it’s a necessary part of growing up and becoming our own people. But it’s also hard. I look at my friends, and we’re all going through the same thing. We’re changing. Some I now have less in common with, and whether it’s right or wrong, it’s sad to lose that. Some I have more in common with and it’s a blessing to connect more deeply with them. 

I’ve been wrestling with questions too. I see the choices others make, I observe the world around, and I notice I’m changing too. I’m an independent thinker, which I’m grateful for, but it leads me to want to know everything. I want the answers to the dilemmas I have, I want solutions to everyone’s problems, and I want to understand why people do what they do. Maybe then, I’ll be able to form conclusions. 

The verse in Matthew which says ‘seek and ye shall find’ came to mind when I was thinking about this. Didn’t Jesus promise answers? There are answers I’ve been looking for years, and I can’t find them. So, I opened my concordance to ‘seek,’ looking for a verse I thought I knew. But look what I found instead:

But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. Deut 4:29

And thou, Solomon my son, know the God of thy Father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee… 1 Chron 28:9

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Jer 29:13

The Bible is talking about something much deeper. God doesn’t always give us all answers and knowledge. Interestingly, that’s what Satan promised in the very first temptation. He zoned in on our idea that to know everything would be like being God. But God is far more than knowledge and information, a big Father Google. He is love, He is peace, He is joy – and ultimately, isn’t that what we’re looking for? I don’t want the answers to my questions as much as I want peace from restlessness. Knowing without rest would only prompt another question. But knowing Jesus hits the root. Yes, I may not know what I think I need to, but I can have rest and contentment anyway. I might not understand why, but I can have peace and even joy. I may not have endless information, but I can have Jesus. That’s the promise. Seek and you will find God. Not necessarily explanations or logic, but God. It looks like I’ve been searching for the wrong thing.

Isn’t it precious to think about? God could give answers – He does give much wisdom and knowledge. He could satisfy our theoretical wonderings and leave it there, but no, He gives Himself. He sees us seeking, searching, wondering, questioning, and he comes to us Himself. 

Here’s the challenge for me, and maybe for you too. If, after all my searching, I find God, will that be enough? Will I allow His presence and majesty to swallow the questions? Will I let His rest calm the striving and desperation to know?

Some things haven’t changed since the Garden of Eden. I still want to know good and evil, but God still wants to share His heart with us in the cool of the evening too. I’m learning that is enough. Next time I get discouraged after praying for answers, and all I feel is the whisper of His voice telling me to draw closer, I want to see it for what it is: an invitation for communion with the Master Creator and Lord of all, who is Himself the answer. As C. S. Lewis said: 

I know no, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?

~

Have you struggled with unanswerable questions? What do you think their purpose is? How have you found this growing-up stage of life? I pray we can all receive our questions and doubts as an invitation to come and know God more deeply. xx 

P.s I listened to this song again today, and I thought the second verse was especially relevant. Love is the answer.

02 December, 2018

How is Your Soul?




How is your soul?

I asked myself this question one night through week, and the answer surprised me. Neglected. I hadn’t been giving it much thought. Friends asked how I was going, and I replied with ‘I’m well, thanks!’ Physically, I’m feeling fine – a little more exercise and sleep would improve things, but I’m well. Life has been good, I’ve been busy seeing people and doing housework and scheming plans for the future (and planning surprises for my sister’s birthday because she’s awesome). But the question of my soul came as a surprise. I realized it was a little bit forgotten, lost in the hum of life. And I hadn’t noticed enough to miss that deeper experience.

I sense I ought to define what I mean by soul. But I don’t have a clear answer. I’m talking about deeper satisfaction; the things that make your heart feel full. It might be moments shared with friends, a long journaling session, music that touches somewhere deep, watching the waves at the beach. It’s observing the sunrise or sunset, absorbing the beauty of nature. It’s aha moments where the Bible comes alive, it’s conversations with God. I guess what I’m talking about is communion with God, however, wherever, you feel Him closest. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that life gets busier. I can’t think of anyone, including older retired people, who have told me they’re getting less busy, less committed, less hurried. So while I dream of sometime in the future where life slows down and I have opportunity to really live in the quiet spaces where God is closer, for most of us that isn’t going to be reality. We can’t wait until some elusive future date to finally have time for God, to finally devote attention to filling our souls. We’ve got to find a way to do it in the busyness, throughout the hectic seasons, right there in the middle of the madness. 

We don’t know how long we have to live. We don’t know what the future holds. We can’t guarantee that a more convenient season will come for us. We can’t just keep putting God off. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says now is the best time, now is the day of salvation. Now is all we have. 

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is a hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkenss, and let us put on the armour of light. Romans 13:11-12

Friends, we were made for more than an existence, a mad scramble through life, always searching never finding, always empty never filled. We were made to thrive. It’s not going to just happen, but we absolutely can choose to walk in the fullness of life God has prepared for us. Jesus says in John 10:10 He came so we could have life, and life more abundantly. 

It hits me hard too. I don’t want to admit I glorify busyness to excuse myself from taking time for God. I wish I didn’t have to confess that good and meaningful pursuits have become idols in my life because they’ve taken from quiet moments I need to spend with Him. I’d rather not say my soul’s been a little forgotten amid the excitement of life. But that’s the truth.

I want to close with a challenge. It’s the beginning of a new week, and it’s the beginning of a new month. We can start again. This busy time of year is actually a reason to consciously carve out space for our souls. So, I want to encourage you to pause right here, think about the things that refresh your soul, and choose a couple to implement this week. Information and head knowledge is great, but it’s useless if we don’t put implement it. I’ve made a little journaling worksheet you can download for free, to help put it into action and consciously make a change. And I will be doing it too, absolutely.

Although we have a responsibility to steward our time well, I’m not trying to shame you into something or add more pressure to your life. This weighs on me because I know each of us was made to thrive and we can’t afford to wait. A better time will never come, and for each moment we intentionally make time for our souls, God will repay us with peace and blessings that outweigh any sacrifice. Let’s get back to the beauty that makes life worth living, the quiet places where His still small voice can be heard, the refreshment our souls need.

What about you? How’s your soul been recently? How do you combat the busyness of life? Will you be joining the challenge to create soul space this week? And please do let me know if you use the worksheet and what you think of it. Keep striving to stay close to Him, friends! You are so loved. xx

17 October, 2018

Name the Place

I’ve been reading the early Old Testament, and the stories are coming alive in a way I’ve never experienced before. Maybe it’s the transition from childhood imagination to having more of a grasp of the way life works. Something I've noticed is the prolific amount and significance of names given. People were named after their characteristics; it was their identity. The Hebrew definition for name comes from a word that means ‘to put, place, set, appoint, make, ordain, etc.’ Naming a child back then was literally declaring a prophecy over them. 

To us the old Hebrew names sound strange and random, but to those who understood the language, each name was full of meaning. Imagine introducing yourself to someone and them having immediate insight into your character and personality just by the name you have! It makes me want to learn the language so I can enjoy the vividness of life portrayed in the Old Testament genealogies. 

Then, there were names given to places. When one of the patriarchs built an altar, dug a well, even came to a place in their travels, they named it. They defined what it was to them, and, in most cases, the name stuck. I think it’s beautiful, because it sets that moment in time apart. It wasn’t just one of the times they were worshipping God, it was Jehovah-jirah, the time God saw and provided. The well where God met Hagar when she was sent away with Ishamel, was Beer-lahai-roi, the place she realized God lived and cared for her. Maybe it was a way of preserving the moments to treasure; maybe it became a catalogue of lessons learned and personal revelations from God. 

I was planning to lead into the significance of making sure we find our identity in who God says we are, rather than what others call us, or labels we cling to ourselves. I was going to talk about how God changed people’s names to reflect their future (Abram became ‘father of a great multitude’, and Jacob became ‘a prince of God’) and He can do the same for us; our past isn’t who we are. We are what He calls us, nothing less. And He calls us His own, loved, chosen, destined for good works.
But this idea of naming our experiences comes back to me. It’s a way we can preserve the little moments we learn and grow, we experienced life and love and beauty. It’s a reminder to pause. Often, I have an idea of things I’m learning and going through but it’s vague. I don’t define it, unless I have to write it down or explain it to someone. There are a lot of parts of life I never stop to process and appreciate, and it makes me question if that’s the way God intended us to live. Life is often so fast paced we don’t take it in and name the place. But what lessons and insights into God’s goodness might we be missing? How might we feel if we took a breath and considered what we’re experiencing, and these passing moments became etched into our memories?

So, maybe that’s what God wants me to learn from this observation of His word. He is who He says He is. I am who He says I am. And the same power to attach meaning through choice of words is mine as well. He wants us to take note of the life happening around, to us and through us, and truly experience it. Name the place. Set it as a memento to look back and see how God has been revealing Himself, changing us, and making this life everything it is and will be.

~

What have you been learning recently? Do you have a favourite Old Testament book or story? How do you think we can ‘name the place’ in our everyday lives?