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.

 

 

Advent – that glorious time of year where everything sparkles and shines and smells of cinnamon and spruce. That time of year when we hustle around, surviving on coffee and spurts of shopping-frenzied adrenaline and perhaps a sticky bun or two, and squooshing and squeezing in one more thing before we have to be at that next one. When, now more than ever, we are beckoned, courted, and teased by all manner of delightful, stuck-in-your-head-forever Target ads, provoking us to empty our wallets for all those lovely, sparkling trinkets that our beloved little people simply cannot be without.  Advent – the time of waiting, seems to be the time when we are never still, but instead, constantly juggling the added responsibilities of pageant practice, and children’s choirs, and school programs, and Christmas parties and all of the fun and all of the mundane that takes up our every spare second. Advent – the time of year when we stuff our homes to the brim with hidden gifts, waiting for the opportune moment to be given.

This season of Advent is also the time when the church lays aside it’s typical worship music for something of a more traditional fare, carols steeped in nostalgia and restyled for the new styles. Where typical Advent sermons, I find, are heavily laden with sincere, heart-warming, stories, practical advice, and Scriptural helps to keep us keeping Christ first  and in the forefront at Christmas. And we need this!  More than ever our hearts long to be tugged by anecdotes, like the often recounted account of the widow who surprisingly received a puppy for Christmas from her late husband, giving her a reason to celebrate the season when she thought she had none. The time of year when we are taught and groomed and reasoned into putting our focus on the Christ-child, the baby born in a manger. Emmanuel, God with us. And it never, ever gets old, no matter how old we get, because the baby in the manger was born for each and every one of us. And we who believe will never forget the joy of the earth in that moment. We can’t forget, we shouldn’t forget the moment that Peace came to earth to be our Emmanuel. But as I reflect on the Christmas story, I think maybe we did forget something. Or at least, maybe I did.

At Christmas, we seem to forget that baby isn’t in the manger anymore. That tiny baby, God with Us, that gave up the glories of heaven to be with us in a whole new way isn’t just a baby all wrapped up and tucked in the hay. That God who became flesh isn’t helpless, or frail, or even new. The baby that we celebrate grew into the God-Man that walked among us. That healed us. That forgave our sins. That baby was crucified and rose again – not as a baby, but as our Savior and King. And He did it all to restore a broken world – to restore a broken me and a broken you – to redeem every mess we ever made, to reshape our bottomed out hearts and breathe new life into our tired, weary existence. He became a baby because He loved us. But He didn’t stay in the manger.

This Advent, don’t forget God with Us. The baby doesn’t lay still as a tiny wooden idol beneath our sparkling trees, or tucked neatly into manger scenes dressing up our altar tables. He’s not just the God with us, He is the God who is STILL with us. He is the God who is with us when we are hustling and bustling, and shopping and serving, and cooking and cleaning. He is our Emmanuel our God with us when we feel Grinchy or giving. He is the God who is always with us when we are singing Christmas carols and sweeping up Christmas cookie crumbs and when we are weeping for Christmases and souls gone on.

Don’t just put the baby first this Christmas. Put the baby who became our Savior first this Christmas. Jesus Christ, our Messiah, our Healer, our Hope. Our Friend, our King, and our Savior is with us. And we need Him.