Monday, October 31, 2011

The Cloud & The Divine Darning

Lately, life is but a passing peek outside a windowpane. Revealed is an autumnal vista in full bloom, attempting to cover my colorless mien with blushes of vibrancy. But on this dreary October afternoon, my heart is the cloud I wish I could fly to. And there’s no refreshing touch, trace or tone, apart from God, that can liven this soul, deadened under a blanket of despair, claustrophobic from pain and weary from “why’s”. Still there is something somehow offsetting the grief, like a ray of sun that is felt, but not seen, leading all emotional mush to the foot of the cross.
We all know it’s uncomfortable to stay in the same place. Our whole lives are based on the premise of perpetual progress – the advancement of self to be more like Christ. In turn, our transformation is meant to influence that of another, through the grace and glory of God. What the ultimate journey accomplishes is nothing less than radical. And along the evolving pathway are the inevitable discoveries that teach us how to be for God while being in the world.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the radical life is staying up on its down sides. No one said living wholesomely was easy. In fact, the fullest route is by the far the most difficult and requires courage beyond the human mind. The key question in response is what fear mode will ignite: a fear of burdens or a fear of Christ? A fear of life or a fear of God’s life for us? Two completely different fears, two completely different lives.

The Bible is saturated with powerful hits that help us cope with despondency. And the more we meditate on God’s wondrous precepts, the more we’ll find His goodness in the cracks of our imperfections. In heartbreak, there are joyous silver linings that turn twinges into tickles. This elation in recreation occurs when we accept a divine darning and admit wholeheartedly the need for it. Too often we make what’s required an option. For instance, running to God in the midst of adversity can teeter on the verge of conditionality, when we should recognize it as marvelously mandatory.

With what we empathize on paper usually has a harder time seeping into the mainstream of our entirety. We tend to overlook the fact holiness doesn’t administer shortcuts or promote compromise. Real Christianity cancels out the grayness that we western believers like to mix in to the rhythm of everyday living. We can’t ever forget that only two directions exist in the spiritual realm, and the Spirit is the compass we abide by.

The direction and flavor of my life is dramatically changing; however, I'm not alien to the faithfulness of the Lord. I see his mighty hand at work, not only in my life, but in those around me. Maybe you can relate to the feeling of a bittersweet whirlwind or sympathize with an empty vagabond. As a rocked boat, I hope to righteously manage these rough seas with open sails. And as I nagivate this sea of beautiful unknowns, I know I'm secure in the Father’s arms and the warmth of his embrace erodes all binds. Our lives are but clouds, volumes of vapor that God breathes into to produce something far greater than we can possibly fathom. In a world full of texts and tweets, to follow Him, even if the call demands the shedding of our fragilities, is truly the greatest opportunity and gift we can ever experience.

2 Corinthians 4:7-15
New Living Translation (NLT)

 7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.  8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus,will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Joy Replacement Process

As I drove to work this morning, marveling at the arrival of autumn colors, a crazy realization came to mind. I am much healthier than I’ve been in a long time, booming on betterment surges the past six weeks. But though my cylinders are functioning cleaner and crisper, I’m not nearly as joyous – several posts short of jubilant status. I could be off my rocker in the execution of such phraseology; nonetheless, ensuing bemusement has left quite the throbbing head.

Let me cut to the chase, instead of verbally dancing about the mulberry bush. I desire to be all that I can be for Jesus. Throughout my blog history, my passion about conforming and transforming for his glory has been a consistent theme, along with an increasing dissatisfaction with complacency and its pertinent counterparts. In essence, I have grown alongside my writings. Dig through five years’ worth and one will discover that in the pursuit of God, I have gained a solid understanding about the fool I used to be, what an identity in Christ looks like, and how God’s innate qualities have everything to do with our purpose and destiny.

I am convinced that becoming like Christ is the greatest journey we will ever embark on. However, Christ never guaranteed a smooth metamorphosis. Often times, the marking lessons and lasting impressions stick through heavyweight grapples that teach and enable us to live blamelessly. Even recently, I’ve smelled the coffee on certain dregs, not fully steeped in the cup of God’s best. Yet, the acumen wafting off the handle has been more refreshing than an entire autumn’s worth of pumpkin spice lattes. Post-equinox, life has been a celebration, rejoicing over the Lord’s faithfulness and the blessing of having a wholesome fear for him on a steeper upward trajectory.

Still, I feel as if, at times, I’m running on empty and the verdict is still out in the fog. Granted such merriment in celebration has been combated with challenges, particularly coping with dead ends. The quantity of these dead ends has especially pushed me; perhaps this wouldn’t be the case if all such crossroads were God-imparted, sans a mixture of the man-made. Regardless of the circumstance, the best first move is releasing the wheel and surrendering any maneuver that would induce self-autonomy into the equation. The second is giving God complete access to clear and gut both mind and heart, in turn, revealing each road for its true journey and destination. Crossroads, indeed, provide breakthrough opportunities; they should not be dreaded.

The light of Christ has been undoing me. When I focus on the cross and God’s love, I realize I’m not suffering from a lack of joy, but rather enduring a necessary but uncomfortable makeover. Thus, I’m not truly empty, but instead, numb from operation. What operation? Well, think of it this way: my joy is going through a replacement process. The process itself provides short-term and long-term aspirations. The obvious and immediate application, clichรฉ as it may sound, is joy must be uniformly anchored in Christ. It cannot be mixed or split into stipends. I’m talking “all in” lock, stock and barrel style. The long-term remedy comes through prolonged diligence to maintain the short-term, ultimately enhancing spiritual maturity. What is one facet of spiritual maturity? Taking inventory of the heart consistently and making sure all joy is stocked in God’s warehouse (Note: you can substitute any fruit of the Spirit with joy here). Once a healthy rhythm is established, we will find that yesterday’s replacements become tomorrow’s refreshments.

Joy must be authentic as well, with each root connected to God’s heart. Any stray roots must be pursued. This is why I love the parable of the one lost sheep. The model of a loving Shepherd devotedly searching for the wandering lambs within us is captivating. He will never stop going after us. If we are apathetic in the caring of our root system, then we run the risk of allowing our emotions to dictate our joy. When this happens, we acknowledge God as king of our souls, but live a lifestyle that relegates him to prince. Such a destructive pattern must be put to death.

In closing, I’m thankful that God has been wooing me closer to his heart by restructuring and reconfiguring the outlets from which my joy flows. We are called to count it all joy, as Paul says, and rejoice always, especially in the glow of victory. Don’t mix and match as you please! Don’t absorb the relative perspectives contra to biblical principles. Doesn’t real joy manifest itself through greater trust in the Lord? And if our joy is even partly plastic, what does that say about our faith? What does that say about our desire to transform the broken, so they, too, may be strengthened by Christ’s love and transform others who are broken?

God has won, is winning and will continue to win no matter what intersections we come to, no matter what life throws at us and no matter how we feel about it. So live with the truth in mind.

To be continued…