Pursue Love

One of the men I went to Africa with called me.  He wanted to give my number to someone so that I could help them with ongoing computer issues.  He said he wanted to make sure they got someone who would treat them fairly.

Then he said I could not fool him.  The Spirit had showed him the love in my heart.  Behind the exterior he could see it.  I could not argue with him.  What do you say to something like that?  Deny it?  Accept it?  Reject it?  There really is no good answer.

Often times I do not want to have my heart.  I’d rather be a robot.  Then I would not have to worry about being unlovable.

This morning I was in 1 Corinthians 13.  I had read the end of chapter 12 the previous day.  The last verse ends with “And now I will show you a way that is beyond comparison.”  A way beyond comparison.  That way is love.

As an aside, the sermon I preached in Africa was about love.  In matters of the heart you do not send your friend, you go yourself.  This is why God sent Jesus.  He loved us and sent His Son Jesus to die so that we might be reconciled to Him.  Love.  Still meditating on all these things.

Then we read the great love chapter.  The Apostle Paul is not talking about the love of a husband and wife no matter how many times it is read at a wedding.  He is talking about the love of the church.  I am nothing without love.  Mindfully, I am fully cognizant that I am loved in this way.  I think I am loved in this way more than most people.  God has always had a hand on my life, even when I was far away.  After He saved me, He shines His love through me more than I realize or want to accept.  And people are drawn to that.  People love me greatly in that way.

We find out in chapter 13 that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  And we learn a lot more.

Then chapter 14 begins with “Pursue love”.  Again love of the church.  And yet I want it to mean so much more for my life.  I could even convince myself that God was specifically telling me to pursue someone.  Unrequited, no doubt.

So I finished the book, The Path of Loneliness, yesterday.  After accepting loneliness as a gift, you know what we need to do with it?  Give it to God.  I gave it to Him a few times yesterday.  What a relief.  Although, it would return.  I knew it would.  I told Him I would struggle so I needed help giving it to Him again and again.  Elisabeth Elliot used the word oblation.  I had to look that up.  It means “a thing presented or offered to God”.  It is His gift to me and I need to offer it back to Him.

When I first read that in the book, it felt strange.  But everything I have is a gift from God and He doesn’t want part of me, He wants all of me.  I have already given it to Him at least once today.  I imagine it won’t be the last time.

The Want of Intimacy

I read a very good article on loneliness recently.  In it they defined loneliness as the want of intimacy.  I thought it was a great definition.

The article was both good and bad for me.  I would much prefer just to be depressed sometimes but it always seems to stem from the want of intimacy.  I have to guard myself with great pains to avoid trouble.  This leads to greater loneliness and depression.  The physical pain is intense.

Is there a solution to this problem?  There never seems to be.

The want of intimacy.  To share my life with someone.  What joy.  What joy.

So I purchased a book titled “The Path of Loneliness” by Elisabeth Elliot.  It has a lot of good in it.  It is difficult for me to receive any of it.  I almost highlighted text early on but refrained.  Then this morning I had to underline some text from the book.  [It isn’t available on Kindle so I had to get a paper book.]

It is possible both to accept and to endure loneliness without bitterness when there is a vision of glory beyond.

My question was “How?”.  When there is a vision of glory beyond.  How do I get there?  How do I see that?

There is no false intimacy that can fill the void.  And I do not know how to fill it with the love of God.  And I do not want to claim loneliness is a gift.  And even though it is a gift, I do not want to be thankful for it.  I do not even know how to be thankful.

If I say I am unlovable, people want to fight to the death to prove this statement false.  They define love broadly not really understanding (or wanting to understand) the truth of my statement.  The want of intimacy is not the same love you want to tell me I have.  

And this loneliness is a gift.  Being unlovable is a gift.  Thank you Lord for the gifts.  Help me to see the glory beyond.

A Glimpse of Heaven

I do not know what the truth is but typically people imagine First Baptist churches in America to be suit and tie churches. First Baptist Nederland has this feeling to me. This feeling has a way of pushing people who are not suit and tie people away.

Several years ago, I was in a Sunday School class at First Baptist Nederland. A couple (Kevin and Rachel) walked in but it was clear they were not First Baptist people. They were wearing nice clothes but they did not really fit the mold of a First Baptist person. Rachel had a star tattoo behind her ear. There were probably other tattoos that they had hidden since they knew they were going to a First Baptist church.

When they walked in, God said to me “Those are your people.” I watched everyone greet this couple. “How are you?” “What is your name?” “Where do you work?” As I watched this, I knew that was not what this couple needed. I kept thinking “Someone talk to them the right way!”. And I kept hearing the words “Those are your people.” in my mind.

I was afraid and so I did not get up and talk to them at the beginning of class. We started class, prayed, and the lesson began. I am sure I paid attention to the lesson on some level. I may have even participated but I kept hearing those words “Those are your people.” So I began preparing myself. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I knew God was talking to me and those were my people.

The lesson ended. We prayed again and class was dismissed. I jumped up and walked over to the couple and introduced myself and did the exact same thing everyone else had done – made small talk.

I went home after church that day and cried at my failure. I prayed all week that the couple would return the following Sunday. Yet, I knew they would not return because they were not First Baptist people. I prayed for them for weeks. I pleaded with God to forgive me for not talking to them the right way and to send them back. He never did. It was a painful lesson to learn.

The first night in Niamey, we were taken to a church. Anthony was asked to give the message. We arrived and I just sat there watching them worship our Lord. I was exhausted from traveling and did not understand the words being spoken but I knew the worship was authentic.

I’m not sure when but at some point either during the worship or during Anthony’s message God gave me a message for the church. I sat there a bit confused. I tried to talk myself out of it but I kept remembering other times when I failed to listen to God. Eventually I told myself that I had to say what God wanted me to say. I tapped the pastor on the shoulder. Luckily he spoke some English and I told him I needed to say something to the church when there was time.

He nodded and I waited. Anthony finished. They did a few more things and then he called me up. I was scared but had to do this. I got to the lectern and thanked them for the glimpse of heaven they had given me. I then read Revelation 5:11-12.

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels in a circle around the throne, as well as the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand—thousands times thousands—all of whom were singing in a loud voice:

“Worthy is the lamb who was killed
to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and praise!”

I thanked them again for the glimpse of heaven and sat down.

They continued on with announcements and then more worship. Then the worship leader thanked me for my prophetic word. A few minutes later the pastor leaned over and thanked me and told me it was a good prophetic word for the church.

I was exhausted so I wasn’t really thinking at the time but after some reflection I realized that it was a prophetic word for that church. That is interesting because I have never really thought about having prophetic words. For me it wasn’t really about anything other than being obedient. God had given me something to say and I had to say it no matter what. I did not want to fail my Lord as I had in the past.

He Will Strengthen

I have struggled to read my Bible for a few weeks.  I have been bouncing all over.  Yesterday was Philippians 1 and part of chapter 2.  This morning I went to continue Philippians 2 and could not.  Because of my sin, I knew I needed to be in 1 Corinthians.

I started in the beginning.  I just highlighted things in the first few verses.  The first thing I noticed was “their Lord and ours”.  Obviously I have read this many times but I could not remember having seen those words before.  I am not even sure why they were brought to my attention at this point.  [I’m writing this just a few moments after reading the first few verses.]

The next thing that hit me was “He will also strengthen”.  I wondered why He has not strengthened me.  My journal from earlier in the morning says “That’s how I am supposed to go to You.  Broken.  Here I am Lord!  Broken!”

Just a few words later it says “God is faithful”.  I found that interesting as well.  Yesterday I stated that I did not believe His promise and yet I knew He was faithful.  And here God is telling me that He is faithful.  I could scream “Help my unbelief!” if I thought it would help.

Someone I know is dealing with a serious issue in their life.  This has lead them to drinking.  I found out yesterday but there is not much I could do to stop their drinking.  This morning I was thinking about them and realized that I too had abandoned God for my own devices.  I was slightly disappointed in them when I found out but I was even more disappointed in myself for not seeing clearly my own sin, the log in my own eye.  Now I wonder how I can use this to help us both escape and run towards God.

The pain has been intense.  Yesterday part of my reading was being concerned about the interest of others.  How do you do that when we are selfish creatures?  I do not want to be concerned with others.  I want someone to be concerned with me!  Feel this pain of mine.  Be in pain with me.

Job 2:13 – Then they sat down with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, yet no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.

They saw his pain was very great.  I sit here and think about that.  I am blind to those who are sitting on the ground with me.  How great is the blindness.  I must remember.  I must pray to have eyes that can see those sitting with me.

I know there is much more to be said.  Much more to be discovered but I want to stop there for now.

One Spoon, One Fork, One Knife

I told the kids a few months back that once they left I would only need one spoon, one fork, and one knife.  Kristen said it was sad to think that way.  Sad but true.  She agreed.  

I imagine you have never imagined loneliness this way.  

Or maybe you have.  I decided to wash the dishes I use by hand when the kids are not here.  There is currently one coffee cup, one bowl, and one spoon.  There may be a plate in the future but not today.

Soon I think I will lose what little I had left.  God has a way about Him that I cannot understand.  I could probably go without the fork if I had to.  But what if I do not want to.  You say it does not matter.  If God doesn’t want me to have a fork then I will not have one.  I thought He might as well take the spoon and knife too.

There really is no need for any of it I suppose.  No reason at all.  I should be thankful that I have a fork at all, I suppose.  Yet, the mind does not go this way.  What does that even mean?

I got back from Africa.  I took some steps.  I tried to open the Bible.  It was difficult.  I guess that is the right word.  I do not believe His promise and yet I know He is faithful.  How can the mind work this way?

I just want to go home Lord.  Please take me home.

No Post

I began a post and had not saved it yet when Chrome crashed.  I guess it was not meant to be read.

Do I have to write an entirely new one?  That’s such a bummer.  It was called “No Direction” because I don’t have any direction today.

I am just waiting and waiting.  I’m normally really good at that game (really good) but days that involve traveling I am not as good.

So what am I doing?  Listening to “We Built This City” by Starship.  You remember that song?  I think my father liked that song.  I do not recall exactly.  

This leads to serious YouTube problems.  Songs from those days.  They show up and I have to play just one more.  And still it is only 6:40ish.  Here we go…

 

 

I Am Writing

One of the books I have been in the past week or two is 1 John.  This morning after my first study and HEB, I opened up to 1 John again.  I just looked at it.  I have the first few verses marked up pretty good (in a paper Bible).

Not all passages are marked up like this.  This Bible has only been in minor use for a few years.

So I am just looking at the first two pages and I see the words “I am writing” six times.  Then I see the words “I write” five times.  Then I see a variant of “abide” throughout the book.

What am I to do with all these words?  Keep them?  Treasure them?  Toss them?

I associate a lot of scripture with people.  I find myself just wanting to write them notes about this scripture or that one.  It is both a joy and crushing.  I dream of pouring myself out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of “her” faith (the woman God might give me).  It seems empty pouring into the people I pour into.  In my mind I see dozens of men and women.  I know at least some of them feel differently but to me it feels empty more than anything else.

In my recent memory, it is rare that God doesn’t put someone on my mind as I read the scriptures each morning.  I am compelled to email or text them when this occurs.  Even throughout the day.  And even in the realization of this it still feels empty.  Futile.

This past week I was reminded of my year of faithfulness.  How my year of faithfulness had an impact on a young married couple.  It was scripture God used to make the impact.

I am writing.  I write.  There is no telling with God what will happen next.

Charis

Grace.  This word is by far the best word in my life.  The kids know what it means to me.

Earlier this week I was in a one-on-one Bible study with someone when grace came up.  I talked about those moments when I have been overwhelmed by His grace.  It leads to a time of worship like no other in my heart.  These are the moments that I wish could be shared with those who do not know His grace.

Then yesterday during men’s group, one of the men said he wasn’t sure he really understood grace.  I am sure he does not understand it.  I suggested that he study grace.  He looked at me and said something like “I wouldn’t normally do that but you said it with such conviction that I will.”

I suggested we study grace in our group.  They said we would start when I get back from Africa so I looked up a few books.  One of the books I found was titled “Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace For Us”.  Ericka saw it and questioned it.  Normally scandalous is used in a negative connotation which threw her off.  But God’s grace for us really is scandalous.  I know I do not deserve it and yet I have it.  It is unbelievable.  It is scandalous.

I didn’t buy the book.  I have to finish one of the books I am already reading.  I am so tired.

Consumes My Heart

A few weeks ago I was given a list of questions to answer.  I did not deliberate long on them.  I wanted my answers to be first time answers.

What one thing bothers you the most about the world?

That was the first question.  My answer was “my sin”.  I was the only one in the group with this answer.  It is difficult to look outward because the problems of the world begin inside me.

There are days when my mind is consumed with thoughts, evil thoughts.  This morning as all these evil thoughts are in my mind I silently scream and ask God to take me home.  I will not have these thoughts when I am home.  I tell Him that I cannot defeat these thoughts.  Half the time I do not even want to defeat them.  Or maybe there are no times when I want to defeat them.  I already feel defeated.

His grace keeps me, protects me so often.  One of my big desires, which I have discussed before, is the desire to destroy others.  My mind tells me if I can destroy people then I bring them down to my level or below me.  Yes, I realize this does not make any sense logically but thoughts like these are not logical or rational.  They are raw.

After the thoughts arise, I try to find where they came from.  It is an interesting study in the dynamics of thought patterns.  It has always been a futile endeavor except for knowing that the human heart is deceitful above all things.

Even now as I write this and try to talk to God, the thoughts are trying to consume me.   So easy Paul.  No one would know you let this slip or voiced this idea to cause a cascade effect.  Simple words.  I fear even in attempting to encourage others sometimes that it is done with the idea that it will destroy a third party.  *sigh*

Enoch walked with God and then he disappeared because God took him.  And then he disappeared.  It seems God taking me home is not in His plan for today.

Something Valuable

I was filled with great joy earlier this morning when someone told me that they had value.  Those were not the exact words but it was an amazing statement coming out of this person’s mouth.  They do not see their own worth and so they allow themselves to be treated poorly in life.  

I had told this person how much I valued them previously but over the past few months I made extra effort to repeatedly tell them how valuable they were to me.  They would say they understood but I do not think they accepted it.  When they said those words, I made them repeat them for me.  This sort of effort is not easy for me but I knew it would be worth it.  I must keep pushing forward in this area of my life.  Giving people words of affirmation even when I find no value in those words myself.  Strange.

That joy did not last long.  I feel like I crash easier after a joyful feeling.  Yes, I realize that going up on a scale and then falling back to “normal” may feel like a crash but I rarely feel like I fall back to that level.  I feel like I fall below that level.

There is no solution to that.  We cannot stay on peaks forever and valleys are valleys for a reason.

It is so cold that I want gumbo for lunch but I’ll just have a sandwich instead.