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Above the Commotion

It’s funny how we can live near someone and not really know the full sweetness of friendship until we are far away.  It was that way with my friend Stephanie.  Her dad is a pastor whom our family greatly respects, and he still challenges us with His passion for scripture and its application in our daily life.  But it wasn’t until our family moved to another state that our friendship really blossomed, and I count Stephanie as one of my heart-friends.  So when she wrote these thoughts for you, friend… I couldn’t wait to share them with you.  They speak so much to a struggle we all have, if we’re honest.  They call each of us to rise above the commotion of everyday life… for something so much more.

From Stephanie:

We are selective by nature. Facebook friends with irrelevant or bothersome posts get unfollowed. The especially appealing images are re-pinned on Pinterest. Magazines are purchased based on a headline’s promise. We innately filter life and choose what we spend our time on. This is good.

We are always looking for the best information, funniest videos, most insightful articles— discoveries meant to increase our happiness or improve how we experience each day. The search is legitimate, the longing innate, but the sources we look to for fulfillment are insufficient.

I keep up on Instagram, check out new books from the library, and seize quality “me” time at a coffee shop— often looking to those things as a source of fulfillment.

But no matter how desperately I try to extract balm for my battered emotions and nourishment for my weakened spirit, those sources are insufficient to heal.

 

Jeremiah 2:13 describes how the people of Israel made the same attempt and failed: “They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” I hadn’t realized it before, but I am an expert at digging broken cisterns.

 

 

You are probably familiar with the saying, “Not everything that glitters is gold.” In this day and age there is a lot glittering. There are so many cisterns holding out the promise of living water. We expectantly approach, desperately thirsty, and we depart devastatingly unquenched. If we want to address our spiritual dehydration, we must look to a different source. It isn’t modern, it doesn’t have a subscribe button, it’s not “pinable” and it won’t go live on Facebook. It’s a daily, genuine relationship with the Creator of your heart, the Savior of your soul, the King of the universe. His words for you are alive and accessible in the simple, unadorned, un-hashtagged Holy Bible, and “They are more desirable than gold—than an abundance of pure gold” (Psalm 19:10). His words alone will truly satisfy our thirst.

 

In Proverbs we receive the instruction: “My son, be attentive to my words…For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh” (4:20, 22). The healing, life-giving words Solomon is drawing our attention to are ultimately the supreme words of scripture. We must be attentive. We must be watchful, critical, discerning.

 

The source of ultimate joy, deep satisfaction and renewal is hiding in plain sight, we are often just too distracted to see it.

 

Amidst the chaos of other voices clamoring for your attention, “Wisdom calls out in the street; she raises her voice in the public squares. She cries out above the commotion” (Proverbs 1:20, 21).

 

Picture the last ridiculously loud situation you were in. Concert? Sports game? Bar? Driving while one kid has a meltdown that could shatter glass, the other kid conveying their desperate need for a cracker? Think about the concentration required to hear what someone is saying to you over all of that noise. For a moment, somehow, your brain manages to tune everything else out, your eyes lock on their lips as they form the words. You carefully take note of their gestures to interpret what they are communicating and without even knowing it, you lean in. That is the kind of focus needed to filter out the commotion of distractions in this world and take hold of the life-giving words of Christ. They are there, amazingly, ironically free and worth more than everything else this world can offer.

 

 

 

I’m so tired of leaky cisterns. I’m irritated by a dissatisfaction in things that were supposed to be rewarding. In a world of movement and temporality, of trends and innovation, I am chronically attention-deficit. The void in my heart aches and longs for undistracted, uncontested time with the One who satisfies. I want to filter out more of the trivial, the secular, the empty; I want to be attentive to His life-giving voice. His call is steadfast, and though we are not, the way remains open. “Therefore…let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2 HCSB).

 

Visit Stephanie at Read, Cook, Devour to see what else she’s sharing.

 

{Thank you, Stephanie, for challenge and encouragement!}

 

The Queen of Katwe | Book Review

There are moments when God breaks into the comparative peace of our days, and reminds us that others struggle, desperate for their very bread.  Others coming from very little give all that they have, in order to share love with those even more destitute.  They bring hope through practical means, they meet physical needs to open the door for spiritual fulfillment, and they give great glory to the One who sent them.

 

Reading The Queen of Katwe, by Tim Crothers, brought me to one of those moments.  “One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion” is a story of quiet hope, of realistic darkness, that felt starkly unrealistic, and challenged me to pray more deeply, to listen more intently, and to engage in any opportunity God give me, with others who walk a different journey.

 

The Queen of Katwe is the story of a community of people, with central characters Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi, whose lives paint a picture of Grace in the midst of darkness.  It follows Katende, a young missionary, who begins a project in the Katwe slum in Uganda, using soccer as a vehicle to engage youth.  As the children, who were lucky to get a bite to eat on a given day, kicked the ball in a dirty field with Katende, they came to know a man who would offer them porridge, and conversation, and hope.

 

Robert Katende, who served with Sports Outreach, soon found that soccer didn’t open the door to conversation for all the Katwe slum children, because not all connected with the sport.  On a hunch, he decided to introduce the game of chess, and as he faithfully followed a path of teaching and engaging, personal sacrifice and creative outreach, he found a connector for the children he served, that opened their hearts and minds to Truth and Love.

 

As I read The Queen of Katwe, I alternated between awe at the faithfulness of God and this man, the stark contrast between what we often think of as struggle, and what struggle really means, and the glimmer of HOPE that waves its light in the darkest of places.

 

 

I fell in love with a young woman named Phiona, whose sad plight broke my heart, and whose courage and humble determination challenged me to live bigger, to work harder, and to courageously pursue LIFE where I am, while looking harder for how I can serve creatively to meet the needs of others, bringing salt and light from wherever and to wherever, God might lead.

 

What are you reading lately, and how has it challenged/encouraged you?

 

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He’s Not Perfect | Thoughts on a Christian Marriage

In the beginning, I had pretty sure thoughts on what a Christian marriage should look like. He would be strong and kind. Tall and handsome. (That part wasn’t necessary but surely, it’s what God wanted for me.) He would lead me daily in prayer time, and we’d hold hands and sip coffee and study God’s word together.  He would be a youth pastor, most likely, and I’d lead drama and music in our church, and together we’d have lots of babies and raise them to love Jesus.  And all the while, he’d be a man who was “wild at heart,” and pursue me diligently, and romance me regularly.  He’d gently lead me beside the still waters of fairy-tale-love and when needed, be outspoken with me and others about truth and justice.  He’d take care of all my physical needs and make me laugh and melt simultaneously.

 

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The real-life story just didn’t look exactly like the fairy-tale.  His style of “leadership” didn’t match the pictures in my imaginary world.  He sometimes got frustrated with me when I said too much or not enough or his words had been held inside too long and our combined sin had caused rottenness somewhere or other.  He romanced me sometimes, and he made me laugh often, but there were days and months and even years where laughter was scarce and neither of us felt particularly “smitten.”  Babies came and prayer happened and in between the beauty there was messy.  But one thing did happen – he stayed.

 

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It’s interesting how the Artist paints a better work of art than we can imagine.  How the colors he swoops across the canvas of our lives glows with golden light that is more pronounced because of the depth of the shadows.  Twenty-one years in, I’m still learning to wait on my one who is more contemplative.  To be brave and reach out when instead, I want him to first reach in.  Sometimes he does.  But sometimes, he needs me to be the helpmeet I was created to be, and to forget the romantic notions that aren’t really romance, but self-focus, and melt into the real that IS romance.  To stop dreaming of what others tell me love is, and to listen to what my Papa says it is… because He says it in the real moments.  He says it loud and clear by being my true fulfillment when a person isn’t enough.  By bringing me joy through the created, but ultimately BEING my joy in Himself.  And often, he shows me what love is, through the man who has stayed.

 

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Some mornings, we make each other tea.  Others, we roll grudgingly out of bed because one or the other of us stayed up too late. Some days, we flirt and send married-people-messages and kiss in the kitchen.  Others, we forget to have a real conversation and let the moments fly by unheralded.  Sometimes, we look like the perfect Christian couple in the perfect Christian marriage.  Others (well, most), we look like two broken people, in desperate need of ongoing grace, thankful for certain redemption, learning day and year how to love… really love.  Mostly, though, I think we are a reflection of our Papa in one tiny way every moment we choose to stay.

 

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Are you married?  Contentedly single or longing for more, whatever state you’re in?  How has God used longing, or faithfulness, to teach you more of Himself?

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