Pulling From the Source

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Recently, in the Twitterverse, I came across a post on a blog site titled: “Missional: Is it Religious Gentrification?” by Tyler Tully. Having just moved to Sacramento, and am in the thrust of joining with my boyfriend (there’s got to be a less “cheesy,” more fitting title – just saying), Chris, to start a church in Midtown, and having heard the word “missional living” tossed around, much like the word “discipleship,” of course I was interested in hearing someone’s take on this “movement.” Our mission at Midtown Community Church is “leading people to live Christ-centered lives every day.” We want to live as missionaries to the people of Midtown and to be the church to them – to love on and serve them – to do life with them. The question I’m always asking myself is what does that looks like in my life.

Having grown up in the church in the American culture, I don’t think I was ever encouraged or taught what the true posture of a Christian is – and I was blind to it to a certain extent. Being a Christian who follows the Great Commission and the Great Commandment requires a deliberate, intentional and disciplined way of living and thinking. Living missionally is most definitely not natural or easy. It’s not an extracurricular thing we do every so often – it encompasses and touches everything and who we are – because this lifestyle is how we’re called to live as Christ followers.

Back to the blog post I came across. There was a portion of it that really leaped out at me, and got a culmination of thoughts whirling around in my head that I decided to work out by writing down. Here’s one of Tully’s comments/perceptions on the missional movement:

The last 10 years have shown more buzz around the term missional, although many of us are still scratching our heads about what that really means…While we’re trying to understand, worship, and participate in building the Kingdom of a marginalized 1st century Galilean, we are still operating from a place of access, privilege, and homogeneity – and we need to admit that the missional movement conversation has been dominated by the Dominators, if we are to see any meaningful Kingdom building. In other words, the missional movement needs to repent.

My brain is like a ping pong match between his words and my own wrestling with what it looks like for me to live missionally – to be the church, making disciples, getting outside your “comfort zone” and pouring into the people around you. All of that is so heady and sounds amazing. There’s this stirring in your soul, much like the reaction Lucy, Peter and Susan had in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the statement: “Aslan is on the move.” It wells up when you read about men of God, like Daniel, or books like Crazy Love, You Lost Me or Tangible Kingdom. You say to yourself, “YES. I want to be a part of that. I want to live that way.” And then the inevitable “Ok, so now what do I do? What’s my role?” If I’ve discovered anything about human nature, and myself, I find there’s this subtle, easy tendency to live vicariously through other’s testimonies of how they’re living missionally – it sounds so grand. It’s that innate desire for a tangible kingdom – for something more than what this world has to offer. But, like bystanders at a sports game, you really have no stake in it – it’s not your victory or loss. You didn’t train, sweat, struggle, get pounded, or make the winning play. Fans may take it personally, but it’s definitely not physically affecting them.

I’ve come to realize that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s complicated. That’s my problem – I tend to overthink because I’m a recovering perfectionist. I want to immediately know what I need to do, how to do it, and have “missional living” down overnight. Boom. Reality check. In asking “How do I do this?” “How do I get results?” I came to realize that I was stopping with “I” – that I was dependent on myself to find “solutions” and to make this missional thing happen. It’s rather exhausting, because, let’s be honest, we’re the worst saviors ever. After I arrived at this realization, I was struck with a “light-bulb moment” from a conversation on Psalm 1 this past Tuesday. This was it: It all boils down to the SOURCE of your approach to “go forth and make disciples.” Because here’s the truth we all know: Anyone and everyone can and does plug into their community (this fever among the millennials to belong, yet not commit), whether it be an intermural league or social club of some sort.

It’s a good to pour into others on their turf, but here’s the question: What source am I pulling from to pour out? If it starts stops with just me and my own willpower – well I already know that only takes me so far. It’s like a kid putting on a firefighter uniform. They can look it, wish it, but they sure aren’t it when it comes to putting out fires and saving lives. They don’t have the training and experience. Ah, now I’m getting somewhere (maybe). This is where we look back at my earlier reference to Psalm 1. Verses 1-3:

“How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinner, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he does.”

It doesn’t say the blessed or godly man is defined by all the things he does, but by who he is, why he is blessed – and, in turn, how that shapes his everyday living. What’s his source? He takes pleasure in doing God’s commands – he fills up his mind and heart with knowing God’s Word. It correlates with the tree (“down by the river!!”) in verse 3. This tree can withstand any season and whatever that season throws at it because its roots are pulling directly from an unending supply of water. It doesn’t stop there though…with just the intake of water. The water causes something to happen to the tree. You see this outpouring and harvest of it bearing fruit…so others can taste and see God’s goodness. But the tree couldn’t have, in and of itself, produced the fruit or survived without the river/water/stream. Relationships.

I am praying for myself, each of you, and Midtown Community Church, that the Lord will give us more of a love and delight in pursuing Him, reading/memorizing His Word, obeying Him. Not that I don’t find delight in Him now, but I want more…and to do it better, more consistently and faithfully.

There are many things in this post that I could break down further, but it would become a book.

Bottom line: If I don’t fill myself up with Him, I have nothing to give to begin with.

Let’s guard against our tendency to make everything technical, legalistic or a 10-step process.

The One Behind all the Stories

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For those C.S. Lewis lovers out there….

If you’ve done it before, you know what it’s like to move across states. Yes, it looks different for all of us, but the same underlying challenges are there: new job, new place, bruises and sore muscles from moving, taking your driver’s license test, change of address, license and registration, finding where the closest grocery store is, all the unexpected expenses – some big, some small – but they all add up, and getting lost – a lot …. to name a few.

Sometimes the speed they pound you at is overwhelming and unsettling, and you feel if you stop to think about it, you’ll break. Thoughts of doubt and/or despair can quickly seep into your mind.

It really all boils down to your perspective and your character when it comes to dealing with these situations. I hate to admit I’ve dealt with some of these situations with a negative and complaining “woe is me” spirit. But even in those times, the Lord has shown me his awesomeness in a way that rebukes me gently.

I’ve been reading a book called Living Like A Narnia: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles by Joe Rigney. In chapter 13, “Tell Me Your Sorrows,” he references The Horse and His Boy. I really related to Shasta (the boy), as you’ll see below, when he looks back and sees how “horrible” his past was and present situation is – how he’s “the unluckiest person in the whole world.” When “the Thing” says, “One who has waiting long for you to speak,” I choked up in realizing how often I go first to myself or others to “fix” or get out of tight scrapes – and even when it doesn’t work out I still somehow won’t go to God in prayer – to tell Him my sorrows – because I can’t “see” Him.

It was a wonderful, beautiful and humbling reminder of how God isn’t a God of chaos, but he is God in the chaos – that he “works all things together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28) That’s what I love about C.S. Lewis – the undertones that point us past ourselves – that stir up in us that natural desire for and delicious hope in a Savior.

For his entire life Shasta has been at the mercy of forces beyond his control, tossed about by events and circumstances, cut off from love, affection and security…to top it off…Something begins to walk along next to him, breathing deep sighs and filling Shasta with terror…In the dark he whispers, “Who are you?”

“One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.

“Are you – are you a giant?” asked Shasta.

“You might call me a giant,” said the Large Voice. “But I am not like the creatures you call giants.”

“I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, “You’re not – not something dead, are you? Oh please – please go away…Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!”

Then the Voice breathes a warm, reassuring breath on the frightened child and says, “Tell me your sorrows.”

And Shasta does – from being orphaned and beaten by his adoptive father, to fleeing from multiple lions and hiding in ghoulish tombs, to the heat and thirst of the desert, and the loneliness and hunger of the present moment.

And then the Voice surprises him by saying, “I do not call you unfortunate,” and then informs him that in all his journeys, there was only one lion, “but he was swift of foot.” And then, most shockingly of all, the Voice says, “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat that comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you”

In this moment, Shasta discovers that behind a frowning providence, Aslan hides a smiling face. All that he had called “bad luck” and “misfortune” was really the wise and good plan of the Great Lion. As he says to Aravis later, Aslan “seems to be at the back of all the stories.”

Don’t forget, for those of you who know the whole story (and for those of you who don’t), that Shasta, through these series of “unfortunate” events ends up being reunited with his long-lost father. The Lord provided, not only a full-time job, but a career, full of potential, in this position as marketing coordinator with a nationally recognized engineering firm. I admit was scared to let go of my former job, thinking there wasn’t anything I’d enjoy more or that I was giving up something precious or I’d get stuck in some job I hated, when, in fact, it was a dead-end job (although an enjoyable job and I had great coworkers and good boss). Best of all, I was reunited with the man I love. It’s amazing to see the One behind all my (and your) stories.

A Double Whammy

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Okay, so I’ve now had two people nominate me for the Liebster Blog Award: My darling friend and sister of my heart, Michal and my dear friend (and soon-to-be a new mother) Hayley (who also happens to be Michal’s amazing sister-in-law). I’m telling you they don’t make sister-in-laws and friends like these two women anymore. Suffice to say, I have no choice but to participate in this wonderful opportunity after both these ladies have recommended mine; the point of all this being to direct more readers to blogs with fewer than 200 followers in a chain-mail form of nominating people. I also get to answer some questions about myself.

Eleven Random Facts about Rachel 

1. My major was journalism, but my passion lies with magazine writing. I am a advertising/marketing copywriter for two: Texas Wedding Guide and Design Guide magazines. I do everything from print writing (features) to anything online, including our social media.

2. I have a nerdy side that comes out in the form of quoting or relating most life circumstances to a movie or book quote.

3. I am ridiculously in love with all things chocolate. It’s the purest form of dessert, in my expert opinion. Also, I love wine. Especially enjoy a glass or two with my boyfriend after a long day. He actually has turned me into more of a wine snob. Interesting fact: He didn’t care for wine until he started dating me. I liked the sweeter, white wines, whereas he preferred the bite of reds. Now I prefer red wine over white because of him.

4. I love to cook or bake a new recipe at least once a week, and not just pin them on Pinterest. I mostly love it because I enjoy doing it for or with my boyfriend.

5. I’m addicted to working out, Pilates and road biking – although I don’t take any of them too seriously. I’ve done three 5Ks and Hotter ‘n Hell bike marathon last summer (53 miles).

6. I’m left-handed.

7. When it comes to being right-brained or left-brained, I’m pretty much smack dab in the middle, but tend to lean more to the left (I’ve got that artsy side).

8. If you had to compare me to a character in literature, I would be Marianne (Sense and Sensibility – passionate and a romantic) with a dose of Elizabeth (Pride and Prejudice – a love of books and extremely stubborn/opinionated) with a dash of Jane (P&P – inclined to think the best of people) and wishing I had more Elinor in me (S&S).

9. Don’t be fooled, I may appear to be an extrovert, but I feel I lean towards being more of an introvert – I like my thinking space.

10. My ancestry is Greek and German. Not sure what that indicates about me….stubborn and smart? To look at me (and my nose) you’d see the Greek in me.

11. One question I’ve been wondering this whole time: Why 11 random facts? Because it’s an odd number and these are odd facts?

Eleven Random Questions Given from Michal, via Hayley, via Rachel (why not?)

If there was one place in the world you would travel to, where would it be? Italy. I’m a HUGE history (and art) buff, and there’s so much history there from Rome, with its history of the catacombs and persecution of the early church. Then there’s Venice, with great composers like Vivaldi and other great artists.

Have you yet mastered the art of parallel parking? No, and I don’t think I ever will. I can manage if I have to, but I break out in stress sweat each time, anticipating the screech of metal.

What is your favorite word? Vivacious (it pretty much changes from month to month). According to Merriam-Webster: Adjective (esp. of a woman) Attractively lively and animated; Synonyms: Lively – sprightly – spirited – brisk – anitmated – alive.

What is your favorite season of the year and why? If I lived in Northern California, I would say, hands down, Summer. But since I’m in Dallas, Texas, I would have to say Autumn. There air is electric (and cooler) and there’s so many spices in the air. The anticipation of the upcoming holidays full of delicious food and fun celebrations with friends and family. I love how colorful fall is and that I finally get to pull out my brown boots and cardigans.

What are you looking forward to doing most this summer? Spending some quality time doing activities with my boyfriend that we’ve been unable to do because he’s been consumed with homework and finals the past few months. He’ll be graduating from seminary (DTS) this month.

What is your favorite quote or words of wisdom?  Almost every quote from C.S. Lewis hits the mark. There are so many good quotes – it’s hard to decide. So, instead of agonizing, I’ll share a quote from a book I’ve been reading (Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller) that’s encouraged and punched me in the gut: 

But I can guarantee that, whoever you marry, you will fall “out of like” with them. Powerful feelings of affection and delight will not and cannot be sustained. It is quite typical to lose the head-over-heels feelings for your mate even before you get married, because our emotions are tied to so many things within our physiology, psychology, and environment. Your feelings will ebb and flow, and if you follow our culture’s definition of “love,” you may conclude that this can’t be a person you should marry. Our culture glorifies romantic passion, and so we say, “If this was the person for me to marry, my feelings wouldn’t be so up and down.” In a chapter called Christian Marriage in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:

People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on “being in love” forever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change – not realizing that, when they have change, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one…

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that is it a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful.

Coffee or tea? Coffee. Usually one cup a day. But I love tea, too.

What is the last movie you watched? The King’s Speech (with Colin Firth). This is a must-see (and must-own) movie. The quotes and exchanges are so colorful and gripping.

If there is one person in the world (living) whom you aspire to be like, who would it be?  There really isn’t just one person, and most are peers I look up to.

What/who/where is your inspiration for writing? Two writers who most inspire me: C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen. They had such verve and incredible insight. Basically any book or blog where I love the writer’s voice and use of words, I get excited about what I do because I learn from them.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family? Movie and pizza nights or our random, but in-depth conversations on a topic.

Here are a few blogs I think deserve many more readers:

A Woman Alive by Michal Conger. I could read her blog all day because she has such a way with words. She writes with clarity and in a style that’s enjoyable to follow and easy to understand. She also possesses wisdom beyond her years.

Sweet Tooth Mama by Hayley Elseth. I have a horrible (but wonderful) sweet tooth and enjoy following her adventures in the land of delectable sweets and treats, the tips she gives and the resources she recommends. And she has fun images.

Austen’s Guide to Happiness by a mother and wife living in Australia. I recently stumbled across this blog, and if you’re a die-hard fan of Jane Austen, you may just love this blog. She ties in scenarios and characters in the books with real-life struggles and delights.

The Rabbit Room by S.D. Smith. Good stuff on here if you’re a lover of literature. It has some great resources like podcasts and its own bookstore.

Ok, to be honest, most blogs I follow have a huge following and very few of my friends have blogs. I will often stumble across some delightful blogs via Pinterest. Also, I’ll take time out of my day to read the blog from The Gospel Coalition, which features multiple guest bloggers.

Fear Looks Like Freedom

 

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Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. – C.S. Lewis

I haven’t written on my blog for a long time (since the end of January I believe). In writer’s time, that’s a very long (nigh unacceptable) time. To be honest, I haven’t been inspired to write or if I have there’s always this whiny voice telling me that it’s already been said better or it’s not original at all. I try too hard. I do. I really do. Hi, my name is Rachel, and I’m a perfectionist. I hate admitting that. Excelling and putting your heart into something is one thing and totally okay. But for me ::running hands through hair:: I crave perfection and praise. Why? Because, I want it to be about me. I want to be “worshipped,” in essence.

Bottom-line: Pride. Fear of man. It’s poison. Fear is the opposite of love, you know, not hate. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Fear is selfish. Love is selfless. I’m seeking to be perfect in man’s eyes because I fear their disapproval, rejection, disappointment and anger. I’ve been scarred by my fear, because it has led me down paths in life and relationships that have tried to suck the love and joy and freedom out of my soul. I took that path because I deceived myself. Fear that looked like freedom. Is this me beating myself up? Maybe. Self pity? No. Revelation? Yes.

But looking back and beating myself up over my past sin doesn’t do any good. It’s like Christian from John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” in the Slough of Despond, just wading in it until he realized he needed saving, and Help came. Jesus already covered all those detestable sins on the cross. Grace. Love. Mercy. Freedom. I was made perfect through His perfection. I should seek His perfection (holiness), not my own (Matt. 4:48)

How do I begin to seek His perfection? Stop caring what others think? No. Indifference? No. Let’s look to Jesus here. Did He care what others thought? No, He didn’t, but he still showed love, consideration, gave rebuke when needed, and above all, He was more concerned with how He represented His heavenly Father. So, it’s about setting your priorities straight and having your perspective on the eternal, not the temporary praise and love of man (you know I mean, “people” when I say “man,” right? Ok, just checking). Do I need man’s approval? No, but yeah, it’s really a wonderful thing to have, if you have your heart set to thank God for giving you that little joy.

I believe if I desire first and foremost God’s approval, and live my life accordingly, then all the rest will grow unimportant, but still be welcomed. There’s nothing wrong with approval and love.

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives. – C.S. Lewis

God wired us to love and to be loved; to serve and be served; to encourage and be encouraged. Some seasons may feel like you’re the only one giving it their all, which may or may not be the case. God sees and knows, and perhaps that’s Him reminding you of where you’re seeking approval, joy, love, freedom and affirmation.

Are these things wicked to desire from others? Absolutely not. But to love them more than God, is sinful indeed.

God cannot gives us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C.S. Lewis

Keep examining your heart, and please, call me out if you see me fail and stumble of the path. Oh, we humans. God is awesome in the fact that He didn’t have us be alone in our struggles.

Books: A Gift That Keeps on Giving

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“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

Growing up, I couldn’t get enough of books. So much so, my parents would ban reading after 9 0′ clock at night. But, my little rebel heart found ways around that rule. No reading after certain hours, just meant a little flashlight and book under the covers. I’d try not to get so lost in the book in order to be alert to any movement towards or outside my door. Not saying this was a fool-proof plan…

My first “big girl” book, with chapters in it, was Nancy Drew “Skeleton in the Closet” by Carolyn Keene. It was my mom’s book as a girl. Yes, I ended up asking for the whole set, and accumulated it over several birthdays and Christmases. I’m really glad I had a brother who loved to read as much as I did. No, he did NOT read Nancy Drew, for the record.

As a child, and even now as an adult, I’m drawn to books of historical fiction, intrigue, fiction, and yes….a little romance for the romantic in me. I think reading books and authors like C.S. Lewis and his “The Chronicles of Narnia,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” and Jane Austen (among many others), shaped my love for words and writing.

Now, as an adult, I have to be even more intentional with my reading. Often, I’m juggling two or three books at a time. Through college, and even now, I struggle at making time to read. I am often surprised to learn how many people really don’t like to read. Reading does wondrous things for your vocabulary, your imagination and for your education!!

I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal on Facebook. A friend had shared the link on her profile. It’s titled: How to Raise Boys Who Read. The writer shares some great insight just about reading and education in general.

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, she quotes him in this article:

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised “so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education.”

“Plato before him,” writes C. S. Lewis, “had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful.”

WHAM! This is so true about myself. Anything good or worthwhile usually doesn’t mean it will be the easiest, most natural thing or be on the path of least resistance.

 

Friends Who Fail You

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

I stumbled across this post by John Piper on Desiring God, and it did, in fact, strike a chord with me and I know this issue impacts us all. We’ve all been on both sides of this equation. I wanted to share this with you all. Now I want to listen to his message on it. Have a wonderful day!

Piper on Friends Who Fail You:

Last Sunday’s message struck a chord with many when I spoke of Christian friends letting you down. I argued that sometimes they forsake you never to return — like Demas. He loved “the present world,” and so abandoned the great apostle who craved the Lord’s appearing more than he craved the world (2 Timothy 4:8).

And, even more relevant, we saw that many friends let you down but can and should remain your friends and your partners in ministry. Paul said that nobody from his team or from the church in Rome showed up to stand by him at his trial (2 Timothy 4:16). Nobody. Not Luke or Eubulus or Pudens or Linus or Claudia or any of “the brothers” (2 Timothy 4:21).

Nevertheless Paul graciously includes them with himself in greeting Timothy, and writes, “May it not be charged against them!” (2 Timothy 4:16). Amazing. Beautiful. Their fellowship survived this painful moment of abandonment.

After the sermon one of my own partners in ministry, Amanda Knoke, Director of Communications at Bethlehem, pointed me to C. S. Lewis’s wise words on this issue. Here’s what he said to “An American Lady.”

I think what one has to remember when people “hurt” one is that in 99 cases out of a 100 they intended to hurt very much less, or not at all, and are often quite unconscious of the whole thing. I’ve learned this from the cases in which I was the “hurter.” When I have been really wicked and angry and meant to be nasty, the other party never cared or even didn’t notice. On the other hand, when I have found out afterwards that I had deeply hurt someone, it has dearly always been quite unconscious on my part. (C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Grand Rapids, 1967, 57)

Amanda connected this with Proverbs. 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Yes. And we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who was abandoned by all 11 of his apostles, and was denied by Peter. Then he built the church on them!

We look to Jesus not only because he was the great model of holding onto friends who let him down, but also because he died and rose again to be the joyful bond of broken and restored friendships.

So keep Jesus before your eyes, and pray this into your heart: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7–8).

Whatever you do, don’t let the failure of your Christian friends become the basis for abandoning the one Friend who never fails.

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

Believing is Seeing

“We must get over wanting to be needed – this is the hardest of all temptations to resist.” – C.S. Lewis

Today was just a C.S. Lewis type of day (note: after writing this whole thing out, I discovered all the quotes I found somehow fit perfectly within and complemented my post). It all started when I was sent this quote as a way of encouragement:

Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

I had read/heard of the quote before, but it had slipped my mind. Then in my Bible reading plan (Soul Detox from YouVersion) complemented that quote when I was assigned to read and study Psalm 27. Verse 14 stood out to me:

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

I don’t know about you, but some days in my heart it feels that the world is ending, even though, in reality, the sun is still shining. I grappled with this verse. Ok, Lord, I can wait, which is agony enough, but “be strong”? There are so many times I feel so weak that I feel I’ll snap in two. I’m ashamed to even write that, knowing my “hardships” (see, I even have to put that in quotes) are minute. But then I realized in really chewing on this verse that waiting on the Lord – trusting in His faithfulness, having an eternal/godly perspective, clinging to Him, basing your hope and joy in Him – DOES produce a strength you cannot conjure on your own. It’s a different kind of strength than we typically think of.

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd.

It’s ironic – sometimes I have to write these blog posts out to realize the depth of my sin, the narrowness of my perspective and my lack of faith. But on the flip-side of that I see the humbling mercy of God in Christ, the riches of His love, His pursuit of me despite my wanderings and how much He has blessed me with. It’s so easy to fall into being self-centered – some struggle with that enslaving downfall more than others. Let me encourage you, as I encourage myself, to strive for holiness in seeking to fulfill the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-39):

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Because I find the times in which I serve and love on others, some of the most beautiful and richest moments of my life because my focus is no longer on me.

This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

So, if you think about it upside down (which is really right side up) you’re really showing yourself some love….and I want to be careful here….this is what I don’t mean….I don’t mean that you should love others to get something from them. What I meant by that statement is despite what the world and your sinful side tells you about how you shouldn’t do this or that for a person or they deserve this or that and not your love/grace…..DON’T listen to those lies. Know that you may suffer and maybe you won’t “gain” anything on earth, but I’d encourage you to look at Christ’s life on earth and what you have to gain eternally.

Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even agony into a glory.

Perspective is such a key word here. It’s SO hard and I know I fail often. Don’t beat yourself when you fall down. Know His mercies are new every morning and that He has already forgiven it when He died for you (quickly insert Romans 6:1 here).

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.

Let me leave you with this one last encouragement and commandment from Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke