When you don’t feel spiritual

Lest we feel like less of a God-follower. Lest we feel unspiritual. Lest we feel like we aren’t spiritual enough, good enough, holy enough to have visions and dreams and holy moments that are unmistakably from God. Lest we compare our walk with God to the walk of the ancients, the mystics, the monks. Lest we feel less, God loves our efforts made in faith, our moments crafted in hope, our days tagged by belief.

Yet, I love reading about the early Christians and their mystical exIMG_6765periences with God. I find their stories to be amazing and beautiful expressions of the unfathomable mysteries of our God. Some of them seem far-fetched, yet the authors of the stories – Julian of Norwich, Bernard of Clairveaux, Francis of Assisi – believed in their personal experiences of God.  Visions, dreams, and other special experiences of God are beautiful gifts, sparkling gems in the dark of night! These are gifts to be cherished, yes. Special blessings, yes. Daily occurrences? Not necessarily.

I IMG_6501love my quiet times with Jesus. I need them. I crave them. I miss them when I don’t have one. They are like a healing balm for the chapped places of my soul, a convicting presence in the wayward moments of my thoughts, and an unceasing hope for my weakness and weariness. But not every quiet moment with Jesus is a shining gem of mystery, not every verse is a defining moment for my soul. Some prayers are rife with my own distracting thoughts, some interrupted by the presence of others, some verses lost to the busy of my day. Every day touched by the supernatural God, miraculously blessed, but not every day is rife with visions or dotted with mystical experiences of our Maker.

We don’t have to have the ‘feeling’ of God’s presence to know and trust that He is near.

We don’t have to have the ‘feeling’ of God’s ear to know that He hears the cry of our hearts and the cry of our voices.

IMG_7380We don’t have to see visions or dream dreams to know that God is speaking through His Word and speaking through His world and speaking through His people.

Perhaps we forget that God is in the mundane as much as He is in the mysterious.

Perhaps we forget that God speaks into the daily rhythms of life even as He speaks in the miraculous.

Perhaps we forget that God is always with us and often, it is we who are not present with Him.

Perhaps the spiritual life is not an endless defining moment of overpowering IMG_7443Presence, but a daily cultivating of the knowledge and awareness of His presence. Perhaps the spiritual life is a pressing on, a pressing forward, a growing up into the heart of Christ, the knowledge of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, in spite of the challenges that threaten to hold us back. An intentional effort of belief against all odds, a faith that never gives in despite the world’s pressing in. Perhaps the greatest rewards will come when we believe what God has spoken no matter what we feel. No matter what we’re doing. No matter when.

God is near.

God hears.

God loves.

Do you believe it?

That one thing to find God when you’re too busy

Devotional time. Epic fail #532.

Foiled again. I have such plans to be such a super Christian. To read my Bible through and through every three months. To pray – really pray – fervently pray – on my knees, all alone, with Scripture, and a list, and incense, and intercession, and kick the devil and his sickness and his sin to the curb kind of pray. But I am busy and I am tired and I am weary from the stresses of this world and I have too much work and too few hours in these really long days and I just don’t know how I can be a super Christian without super praying and super Bible reading when somehow I just can’t seem to get off by myself, to be alone, so I can listen to God and learn to know and love His voice. I can’t seem to bring myself to open my Bible and read. Anything. Any of it. Any where. And I really can’t seem to bring myself to pray when I am this broken and tired and all I want to do is close my eyes and not pray but sleep instead and then I am overcome by the deepest of guilt because I know that I should be so excited about God that I just don’t need sleep because I am so filled up with Him and His Word. And so my super plans are a super fail and I am pretty sure that God hasn’t really called me to be a super Christian anyway. And I still feel the guilt and I still feel a little less lovable because I am not who or what or why or where I want to be.IMG_4025

I’m pretty sure that God has called me to Himself. And I’m pretty sure that God wants my heart more than anything else. And I am really sure that becoming some pious super-Christian won’t make God love me any more or less, any deeper or wider, any closer or farther. And I am really sure that God is not surprised that I am busy and tired and weary and struggling to pray and read my Bible because He knows this earthly life from the inside and the out. First He made it, in love and in care and in fastidious design, and then He stepped right out of heaven and He lived it so He would know how much it hurts to be busy and how much more we need Him when we’re busy and how hard it is to pray when we are tired and how much more we need to pray when we are tired. And the best part about it is that He gets it- He really really gets it – not like the oncologist understands other people’s cancer but like the patient who is on the other side of chemotherapy with scares and the scars to prove it. He has lived it, the tired and the busy and the weary and the aching longing need to find rest in His heavenly Father.

And there is no simple answer to the tired and the busy and their is no quick fix for the weary and the stress and there is no magic formula to eradicate that guilt. There is only moving forward. There is only a tiny step, or sideways hop, and an itty bitty crawl or scoot or limp or leap – however you can move forward to reach for God, however fast, or slow, or how great the effort to move so small, we make the move towards Him and He will bridge the gap, He already has bridged the gap and He will always bridge the gap because He has promised us that it is so. He has promised us that He will reward those who have faith to who seek Him in earnest. It doesn’t matter the distance, or the weakness, or the gap; it only matters the ‘earnest’ and the faith.

IMG_0696It doesn’t matter the alone-ness of your seeking.

It doesn’t matter the quantity of your seeking.

It doesn’t matter the eloquence or the alertness or the knowledgeable-ness, or the Super Christian-ness of your seeking.

Only the faith and the seeking is of consequence; the rest will be bridged by the one who has lived it and come out the other side, the distance covered by the one with the scars of sacrifice, the guilt absolved by the author, perfecter, rewarder of our faith.  Don’t give up when you are tired and weary and stressed and run down and scared and alone or wishing you were alone and don’t give up when this is epic fail #5 million 32 because the gap has been bridged and you need only do the seeking. So say the sleepy jumbled up prayers with a desperate heart and a faith that knows that God hears and understands and answers every prayer no matter how messy, no matter how sleepy. Read the jotted down Bible verse on the crumpled up sticky note until it sticks in your head and sticks in your soul and sticks for sure in your every action no matter how short that verse or long. That word, or phrase, or verse, or chapter scribbled on the sticky or tweeted or sung – those are God’s Words and there is no limit to their power or their breadth or their scope so long as they stick, so long as you are seeking.

And that thing you need most to find the God who gave all is not the perfect devotional time or the right amount ofimagereading or the effectiveness of your praying or the incense or mood or the anything else at all; that thing you need most to connect with the Creator who has already bridged the gap is that heart that you have, all broken and bruised and torn and tired and earnestly seeking and that faith that you can muster, no matter how small, to believe that He is bridging the gap. And you don’t have to believe me, the failed super Christian who is tired and weary and can’t get it right so long as you believe the one who already lived the life that is busy and tired and broken and bruised and who reaches for us from the other side, the new life, the guiltless life, the resurrected, perfected, and everlasting life. You cannot fail when He rewards you with Himself.

Believe. Seek. Earnestly.

 

Leap of Faith

 

 

Instant death. Game over. End of movie. End of my hero. End of my world.

I sat there, completely transfixed, eyes unblinking, frozen, sweating, shaking, knot in my stomach worried for my favorite hero as he deciphered the scribbles in his little notebook. No wonder it’s called the last crusade – he’s going to be dead. He’s going to jump from the head of the lion and fall down and be dead. And that would be it. There’s no other way, no hope for survival, he’s just going to be dead and how am I going to get out of bed tomorrow when my hero didn’t survive his own movie? Life cannot possibly go on without Indiana Jones. It just can’t.

At a sheltered age of 13, what did I know about taking a leap of faith?

I followed the rules. I did my chores. I was pleasant and polite at all times (or so I thought, at least). I played it safe. I did everything that was expected of me. And as an adult, for the most part, I still play it safe. I make my bed. I do my chores. I’m pretty sure that I don’t break any laws. I try to to meet other people’s expectations of me. I even get my taxes done on time. I’m pleasant and polite (or so I think, anyway). I’m on time, even with 6 kids in tow. And yet, I am not wholly satisfied with life as it is. I have played it safe. I have played it too safe, I think.  I will not cannot and am not even designed to be content until I am exactly in that spot where God would have me to be. The best choice, the right choice, the choice that God has designed for me to make, may not be the one that seems safe to my finite mind. Sometimes, God would have us take a leap of faith.

A couple of friends reminded me of that recently (one of which habitually jumps out of airplanes for fun and is quite familiar with that terrifying leap of faith). They reminded me that God does His most amazing work when we trust Him. And sometimes, that trust requires a leap of faith. I am more like Jonah, who ran from God’s plan than I am like Daniel, who had stories to tell his grandkids after he had to face a den full of hungry lions for his faith. I dot my i’s and cross my t’s.  I play it safe. I count heads, I double check car seats. I eliminate choking hazards, mini blinds, and electrical cords. A dear sweet relative thinks I over-cook all of our foods in order to stay safe from food poisoning, but I am determined to keep things safe. Maybe I can keep my kids protected from random Legos and salmonella, and rightly so, but not everything in this world needs to be so “safe.”

I’m going to screw this up, aren’t I? When I finally convince myself that it’s ok to take that leap of faith, when I get my courage and my stuff together and I am finally ready to jump, I’m going to mess up and fall on my face and it’s going to be the end of the world because how am I supposed to get out of bed in the morning when I fall down and there’s no hope to get back up? I’m pretty sure Abraham screwed things up a bit, too. He lied about his wife, not just once, but twice, by telling a wealthy, lusty man that his wife was his sister. But he also took that leap of faith, and listened to God, time and time again, and now we know him not because he played it safe but because he had faith.  Faith in God to stand up and make the right choice even when he was afraid.  (See Hewbrews 11 for how to please God by having faith).

I’m not quite sure how God is going to amend my safety first ways. Oh, I’m sure He’s not going to ask me to give up my habitual child-proofing or ask me to go jump off of a cliff or two. But I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want me to sit around and play it safe, either, living life with a dull sense of dissatisfaction and incompletion, mildly bored and annoyed and boring and safe.

I love that Indiana Jones movie, and surely it wasn’t his last crusade because another movie is finally in the works. And it wasn’t that my hero didn’t have fear – it was that in the face of fear, and unknown, and the unsafe, that he had courage. He had faith. He leapt. And lived to tell about it. Sometimes, we just need to make that leap of faith.

What leap of faith is God calling you to make?