Are You More than Just Living?

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I’ve been studying 1 John this past week.  There are a lot of verses that grab me in that little book.  And there are a lot of verses I want to grab hold of too.  

God has used those words to convict, confirm, and mostly comfort me this past week.

My study has brought me back to some of the verses in the Gospel of John as well.  One of the phrases that grabbed me and held me tightly was:

In Him was life.  (John 1:4)

To me, the word life is more about living than just being alive.  I’m not just alive because of Christ, but I can live – really live.  Not just exist.  Not just survive.

But how do I do that when life feels very much about surviving?  It seems that today

Today two people shared with me about the power of thankfulness.  How being thankful even for the problems and challenges is powerful.  How giving thanks opens us up for blessing.

Usually I shy away from adopting a prescription for blessing…the idea that if I do something I will get something from God goes against all I believe about grace.  I can tend towards works-righteousness and I certainly want to be careful of choosing words that imply that if we do something we will be guaranteed a blessing.

But I cannot deny that there is blessing in thankfulness.  It might not be that God opens the floodgates of prosperity in our lives as the world describes it, but I believe recognizing that God is worthy of praise and thankfulness is healing and comforting and strengthening for us.  

The blessing is in remembering.  When I cannot see what He is doing and I don’t understand what His plan could possibly be, I can remember that He was and is faithful. That He has proven Himself trustworthy throughout my life.  

Difficulties come and go, but God remains the same.

My circumstances change.  My attitude changes.  My faith falters.  My fear creeps in.  My thoughts waver.  Temptation wins.  My obedience turns to disobedience.  But my Savior remains constant.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Hebrews 13:8

I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Joshua 1:5  

That is something to say a big thanks for…no matter where I am, He is there loving me. No matter how good or bad or indifferent I am, He never leaves me or disowns me.

I might have said in the past, “Although I bet he might want to…” maybe a bit as a joke, but I will not joke about that now because I know that no matter what, God will not abandon me because His love for me is not at all – AT ALL – contingent on anything about me.  

Oh the relief that floods my heart as I sit here.  The blessed assurance that Jesus is mine…my Savior, my Friend, my Life.

…Christ who is your life… Colossians 3:4

I love that little phrase.  That little phrase with a HUGE implication.  My life is not just in Christ but is Christ.  I’m in awe of that.  My head wobbles a bit as I ponder the marvelousness of it.  

Hear the rest of the passage:

If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1-4

How can I live when I have died?  How can my life be hidden with Christ in God and Christ be my life both at the same time?  

I love how God gives us these things to think about…to realize how rich and wonderful our lives are because of Him…and He blessedly gives us the answer if we will but read further into his word :).

I have died to my sin…I have died to the old me. (vs. 5-9) The verses seem to be saying that I have to continually put these earthly things to death as I seek to put on the new me, “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  (v. 10)

So now my life…this new life…is full of Christ.   “Christ is all, and in all.” (v. 11)

I’m identified as His and He as mine.  I’m His chosen one, holy and beloved… (v. 12)  

God tells me to put on a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  He commands me to bear with one another and forgive as I have been forgiven. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in my heart.”  And be thankful.  (v. 12-15)

Back to thankful.

What can I be thankful for?

Love.  Forgiveness.  Peace.  Compassion.  Kindness.  Humility.  Meekness.  Patience.  

My children.  Zachary.  Emma.  Peter.  Elizabeth.  Allison.

Practically thinking…My family.  My friends.  My neighbors.  My coworkers.  My home.  My yard.  My car.  My job.

Really within each of those there are many things to be thankful for.  Many.  Even just realizing that the love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience he calls me to are the very same things He calls us all too.  What a lovely thing it would be if we all answered that call.

My children.  Where do I begin?  I cannot imagine my life without each of them.  They each enrich my life in more ways than I can fathom.  I’m blessed beyond measure by these people.

You see where I’m going right?  In every big thing I am thankful for there are many smaller, precious things to be thankful for as well.

My job…well, let’s just say, I’m weary.  BUT I work with some of the best, funniest, kindest, most generous people I know.  And those students God placed in my classroom…there are moments I’m acutely aware of the privilege I’ve been given to play a small role in their lives during the tumultuous awkward drama-filled middle school years.  

My home…the other day I was walking through my yard just praising God for this dream house of a home for my family.  It isn’t a mansion by any stretch, there is so much to do, we have been rooming with a few hundred ants lately, and summer is approaching so the dog is molting all over the house…BUT I love this place.  I love that this weekend I get to finally have my neighbors over and I can’t wait.  Although I haven’t figured out when I’m going to get it all ready, but I am excited nonetheless.  

Oh I’ve listed my grateful list before…I know.  I know I’m repeating myself.  BUT again God keeps showing me the powerful role thankfulness plays in my life.

For the past several years as my life has changed repeatedly – sometimes for the better, sometimes not – I have had moments of desperation and hopelessness as I look at all that I dislike about my life.  But if I will only take a moment to remember…remember how God has answered my prayers in the past, how He has continued to love me in unexpected ways, how He has provided for me when I thought there was simply no way, how He is faithful regardless of how faithful or faith-filled I am?

I need to remember.

I need to remember that this life is not about this earth…it is about Him.  

At times, my circumstances might feel hopelessly difficult.  I might see no way to change things for the better as I’d like to, but Jesus.  

Jesus is not just better.  Jesus is best.    Jesus, who is my life, is ready to bring me back to life…out of the darkness and into the light!

My life is Christ.  All I have to do is go to Him and living is mine.

John says he is sharing all this so that our joy may be complete.  (1 John 1:4)  

That my joy may be complete.  

Try wrapping your brain around that one.  I can’t seem to, but I don’t know if I need to.  I just want to accept it and live it.

Because I think that is what God is calling us to.  

And it begins with Jesus, our life.  It begins with Him and the gospel.

(You knew I was going there, right?)

The gospel.

Love it.

Thankful for it.

Couldn’t LIVE without it.

Couldn’t LIVE without Him.

Whatever It Takes

IMG_1718I’ve become a late-night person…through no design of my own.

I desperately need more hours in the day…more days in the week…and more sleep in my bed.

Last night as I lay my head down on my crazy configuration of multiple fluffy pillows, I began to pray for friends and family, for my children and myself.

I want my people to know the Lord.

I’ve been praying “whatever it takes” off and on for someone.  Actually a few someones.

I began to utter that prayer again and the thought crossed my mind, “Gosh, I hope someone isn’t praying that prayer for me!”

I stopped praying.

Then I thought, “Wow. How you have changed Sue.”

What happened that I fear that prayer now?

Is it that I think God is a father who would say, “Ok, I accept that challenge!  Let’s see what it takes.”

That is not my Father…He is not willing to play with my faith or my life.  He loves me too much.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Jeremiah 31:3

Or is it that I know myself better today than 7 years ago when I was willing to pray that prayer for myself and anyone else I loved.

Back then I was the “righteous one” – I was the victim of someone else’s sin – or so I felt about myself.

Today, I am just me and my own sin…my own failures and fears….my own faithlessness.

God’s been opening my eyes to things in my life…I feel it’s just layers and layers and layers of stuff.

It is painful and difficult.

I’m tired of painful and difficult.

I think that might be why I’m struggling to pray that prayer.  I think I don’t want to go through anything else…I’m tired of doing hard things.

Living hard.

I’m tired of others struggling with hard too.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.

In this world you will have trouble.  But fear not, for I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Well, that confirms what I already knew…Jesus is a man of His word.  I got trouble.

But if I do…God has to have a reason for allowing it.

God doesn’t mess with me.  He sometimes allows messy but not messing.

Lately, as God has been showing me my layers and layers of issues and sins, honestly, I’ve had some moments of despair.  I’ve felt that I must be the most hopeless case ever.

But then….God.

(There is that “But God” thing…)

Then God reminds me that as big as my sin is…the cross is so much bigger.

The gospel.

Sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I live at the foot of the cross rather than the door to the empty tomb.

Sometimes I forget that although my sins put Him there, His love took me from the cross to the throne of grace.

There is a place for self-reflection…for a moment.  A place for recognizing that I still need my Savior.  A place for seeing my sin and its effects, but my eyes aren’t supposed to be fixed there.

My eyes focus intensely on Christ.

The Author and Perfecter of my faith.

Sometimes I think that my faith is all about me…It’s my job to protect it, strengthen it, reveal it, and nurture it.

I was never given that job…my job is to have it.

Have faith.

Trust that God can bring me safely to my inheritance.

Trust that God knows me better than I know myself, and, amazingly, He still promises to never leave me nor forsake me.

Trust that God doesn’t play games with my life.

Trust that God knows what He is doing…and it is good.

He can’t do bad.

Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that…God can’t do wrong.

And if He can’t, then I can pray that prayer…even if I have flocks of butterflies in my stomach and bats in my chest while I utter the words, “Whatever it takes…”

Whatever it takes to strengthen my faith.

Whatever it takes to make me the mom my children need.

Whatever it takes to keep me walking with You.

Whatever it takes to grow me into the woman after Your own heart I so want to be.

Whatever it takes to have a life that You can use for your glory.

Hard prayers…and yet, not.

If I trust Him, I can pray for those things and know He loves me and whatever it takes is worth it.

I can’t say that I’m joyful or even excited about some prayers I feel called to pray, but I can say that I feel loved and peaceful in the care of my Father.

And maybe it doesn’t really matter if I pray those prayers or not…God is going to do what is best in my life…whatever brings me closest to Him…whatever it takes.