Flying lessons: Why we can dare to live fully

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I receive an invitation to participate in the final week of a group that has been working through Rational Worship, the Bible study that I started writing almost ten years ago when I was back at my parents’ home, too sick to be out of bed for more than a couple of hours a day. I wrote it because I needed to be reminded why it made sense to give myself to God again when I’d already done that and everything—health, career, ministry, life as I knew it—seemed to have fallen apart.
I’m excited that the group is using it. I will delight to be present during their final session, to witness their engagement, their joys and struggles, discoveries and hopes. But on my way to the excitement, I encountered another, more timid part of me, first. The little voice that can be so loud in my head started telling me I’ll disappoint the group. That I should stay safely hidden on the other side of written words rather than step out into the open. That I’m really not good enough, spiritual enough, strong enough, prepared enough to engage.
That’s when I realized it was time for me to turn back to the truths in Rational Worship again myself, to be reminded once more that my offering myself to God only ever makes sense not because of who I am, but because of who God is.
I recalled the heron I watched as I prepared to share the Rational Worship study.

He sits long, watching amidst the grid of stone and steel.
He doesn’t dip for food and I wonder what he’s waiting for. Does he even know?
I wait with him, glad for the quiet moments.
In the stillness a longing rises in me. I have begun to take wings, to fly beyond the steel grid of fear that pins me to earth. But I long to fly higher still, farther and deeper into the wide spaces of God’s love.
The bird has wings, made for the air. I have feet and a soul and I’m made to be filled with God Himself. My choice not to step into this is as irrational as a bird who refuses to fly.
This alone is true living, this alone is true worship, this offering of my body each moment to be filled with God.

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It has been five and a half years since I shared the study here, and that longing to fly higher and deeper into the wide spaces of God’s love is with me still, though sometimes I need to dig through layers of fear to find it.
As I turned back to the beginning of the study, my soul began to breathe like I’d been swimming underwater and had finally surfaced to gasp in once more the same life-sustaining truth: I don’t have to be strong, or “enough” in any other way, to offer myself to God. He is enough, and when I offer myself to God, I gain Him and all of His enoughness. That’s why the invitation to offer myself as a living sacrifice to God is placed where it is—at the end of eleven chapters celebrating God’s wisdom and grace, sovereignty and love, and immediately following four verses of overflowing praise for God’s more-than-enoughness:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God –
this is your spiritual act of worship. . .” (Romans 11:33-12:1)

Therefore. Could there be a more comforting way to begin this verse than with the reminder that my ability to be an acceptable sacrifice is far less about my own ability than about God’s incomprehensible wisdom, his holy “otherness,” his lavish generosity, and his centrality in the universe, all of which, in his unfathomable mercy, he offers to us? His job is to be God in all his sufficiency. Mine is to show up, bringing myself as I am—fear and all—to this One who loves me, and who is and will always be enough. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

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If you’re interested in revisiting with me the truth of God’s character, and why it makes sense to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God even when life seems to have fallen apart, click on the images below to download your free copy of the six week Bible study, “Rational Worship: Offering Ourselves to the God of Mercy” and the accompanying Leader’s Guide. (You may wish to right-click and choose “download linked file” to save the pdfs to your computer.) Or go here for more about what it offers and how it came to be written.
It might just be the perfect summer encouragement, a chance to soak again in the joy of who God is.
And if you’d like company on the journey, slip your email into the box in the right side-bar for weekly grace delivered straight to your inbox. I won’t be writing directly about the study in these coming posts, but I pray that all my posts offer encouragement and practical help as we keep learning to fly higher and deeper into the wide-open spaces of God’s love together. It’s a grace to journey with you!
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Offering our bodies: the hands-on God

 

 

 

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I watch the hands that bathe the baby. Strong. Skilled. Gentle. The newborn relaxes into being held, lets herself be stilled. For the first few moments she is alert, gazing up into the face of the midwife, then her eyes close and she rests. Reflexively, she sucks. Instinctively, her little arms wrap around the bigger ones which hold her so tenderly. But mostly she stills and rests, secure in the hands which submerge her in the water until only her tiny nose peeks out.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Our God is a hands-on God. He didn’t merely speak us into being. He shaped us, breathed into us. He carries us, holds us by our right hand, lifts us up in his arms. Our God touches, taking children on his lap, placing his hands on them and blessing them; touching the untouchable leper, Jairus’ dead daughter, the man born blind.

I struggle to get my head around the intimacy of this God who touches, to relax into being held, and find myself in the company of the psalmist:

“You hem me in – behind and before; You have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Ps 139:5-6)

The hands which have cradled, crafting the detailed intricacy of our bodies from the moment of conception, hold us still. When the water is up to my nose, I need to know this. The psalmist did too. In the most horrifically traumatic experience of his life, when he felt more like a worm than a human, rejected by people and deserted by God, he turned to the midwifing God.

“Yet it was you who pulled me out of the womb, you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.” (Psalm 22:9)

Again desperate, he cries out to God as the one who cut his umbilical cord at his birth:

“It was you who cut me from my mother’s womb.” (Ps 71:6)

He knows himself as vulnerable, as utterly helpless, as at his birth. If this life-protecting, midwifing God does not intervene, he will die.

He knows this too: the One who guarded his life at birth guards him still. Feeling desperately his own helplessness, he stakes all his hope on the wisdom and gentle protection of this God who touches and tends.

I can only offer my body a living sacrifice when I remember that it’s into these strong, skilled, gentle hands that I’m being called to give myself. The truth is, these hands are already holding me. My offering merely acknowledges what is, lets me rest in these safe hands instead of trying to do for myself what I cannot do.

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Want to soak further in the joy of belonging to this hands-on God? Choose a phrase from one of the verses above, or explore the others listed below, and then, asking God to enable you to rest in His hands, watch this 5 minute clip of the baby resting in the hands of the midwife.

Gen 2:7; Ex 19:4; 33:22; Deut 1:31; 33:12, 27; Psalm 18:16; Ps 95:4-7; SS 2:6; Is 41:10; 46:3-4; 63:9; Mark 10:16; John 10:28-29; 1 Pet 1:5; Rev 1:7

If you’d like to join us in a six week study of the character of this One who calls us to offer ourselves to him, you can download your free copy here.

The first day of the rest of your life (and how to live it fully)

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He sits long, watching amidst the grid of stone and steel.

He doesn’t dip for food and I wonder what he’s waiting for. Does he even know?

I wait with him, glad for the quiet moments.

In the stillness a longing rises in me. I have begun to take wings, to fly beyond the steel grid of fear that pins me to earth. But I long to fly higher still, farther and deeper into the wide spaces of God’s love.

The bird has wings, made for the air. I have feet and a soul and I’m made to be filled with God Himself. My choice not to step into this is as irrational as a bird who refuses to fly.

This alone is true living, this alone is true worship, this offering of my body each moment to be filled with God.

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What am I waiting for?

Mostly I wait out of fear. Like this morning. I woke on this first day of the rest of my life, frightened to step into it. It’s one thing to birth a book, quite another to let it find its way out in the wide world. For a moment I gave in to the fears, “What if they don’t like it?”

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Yes, what if they don’t. Would it matter?

In one way, terribly. When you find something that changes your life, don’t you ache for everyone else to find it too?

In another way, not at all. The living and writing of this has been my own Rational Worship, one way I have loved God with all my heart and soul, mind and strength. God has met me here, received my worship. And today my Rational Worship is to put it back into His hands and let it go, out into the world, wherever He wants to take it. This is my next step, next wing-beat, deeper into Him.

I watch the bird, listen to my own heart.

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It’s time. Time to listen to the One who can tell us who we’re meant to be. Time to ask Him the questions that have lain hidden, tying us down with invisible chains, “Can I really trust You? When life has fallen apart why is it reasonable to trust You with myself again? Why dare to step into Your arms?”

I could just tell you what I’ve discovered in my journey of the past four years, that even in the midst of life’s disappointments, God does not disappoint. I could just tell you that though He has taken away some pretty big things, He has never taken away anything except to give me more of Himself. And that He is worth everything.

But what you really want to know is “Can God be trusted with my life? How can I know that it’s safe to trust Him?” And as many stories as you hear, that answer can only be received in God’s presence. So instead of merely telling you my own story, I’d like to lead you (with those big questions) along a bit of the road He has led me on toward the One who knows how you can best hear His whispers. To the One who has been waiting to welcome you deeper into His heart.

So if your soul is longing for more, if something is stirring and you wonder if it’s time, come with me, will you, on a journey deeper into the heart of God? Dare to ask, to test, to question.

Stepping out is always scary. But until we do, we’re only living half alive.

Come. It’s time to fly.

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Click on the images below to download your free copy of the six week Bible study, “Rational Worship: Offering Ourselves to the God of Mercy” and the accompanying Leader’s Guide. (You may wish to right-click and choose “download linked file” to save the pdfs to your computer.)

And if you’d like company on the journey, pop back here each Monday, or slip your email into the box in the right side-bar for weekly grace delivered straight to your inbox. We’ll learn to fly together.

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What holds you back from offering yourself fully to God?

 

How a big toe helps write a book

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I’ve been studying the passage and writing the study on and off for four years now, and I keep being surprised by the new layers in it. I guess sometimes we see truth best in the living of it.

In the last two weeks of this project, I’ve found myself up against an old challenge. I want to be able to do it myself. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else. But offering my body as a living sacrifice to God is inextricably linked to knowing that I can’t do it myself.

Until this week, I had missed the crucial little word connecting the first two verses of Romans 12 to the next six.

Watch:

(12:1) “. . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices. . .”

(12:2) “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. . . “

FOR (that’s the word I missed, that little connecting word that indicates cause or reason or clarification)

(12:3) “. . . I say to you. . . Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought. . .”

(12:4-8) “. . . we have different gifts. . . If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. . .”

In other words, don’t think you can (or need to) do everything by yourself. Offer your part and work on doing that well, and don’t try to be a kidney if you’re actually an elbow.

And find comfort in this: what you have to offer matters. It really does.

Those meals you brought? They fed me while I wrote. That editing you did? That praying? That formatting, and the childcare which freed up another to do the formatting? It’s all proof that this study is not my work. It’s our work, one of the many places where God’s life is being poured out through His body working together. I might be the hand holding the pen, but without you, the big toe, I wouldn’t be able to balance. I’m so excited to show you next week what we’ve been doing together!