Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Am A Rock

I am Peter.

I'm not Paul with the amazing conversion story of God-hater to willing to lay down his life for Christ.

I'm Peter.

I had this realization a few weeks ago when I was talking with my mom. I'll take a moment here to insert that moms are amazing. I don't know what I'd do, who I'd be, or what I'd believe without my mom. She is constantly for me, always there to talk, willing to listen to me ramble for literally hours, and always says she loves talking to me, even when I'm interrupting her day. She prays for me, loves me, encourages me, speaks truth to me, and I love her so, so much.

Okay, back to Peter.

So I was talking with mom last week and rambling about how inadequate I felt (check out my post about awareness of our inadequacy) and how I need to be more loving, servant-hearted, humble. I mentioned my fear of not being a loving, relational person and thus being terrible at ministry, which is what I hope to do.

And my mom graciously, but truthfully, told me that while these sounded like "good" things to be acknowledging about myself and wanting to change (I mean it's good to want to be a better person, right?), really they were just worries.

That one hit me. Because she was so, so right.

She reminded me of Peter, who was so focused on the waves he couldn't walk on the water to Jesus.

And I realized, I am Peter.

Because I am such a worrier. You wouldn't even believe how much I worry. I worry so much I got a tattoo of a sparrow from Matthew to remind me not to worry! And wouldn't you know...I still worry.

After this bit of self-revelation, I wasn't too sure I liked it. I mean Peter is great and all, but I kinda think I'd rather be like Paul. He had the amazing, miraculous conversion after being made blind and hearing God's voice and turning from a Christan-killer into being killed for being a Christian. His writing is so well-known, the books written by him are some of the most highlighted in my Bible (second to 1 John and the Psalms).

But I'm not Paul. I'm Peter.

Then I was talking to a friend a few days later about my fear of letting go completely of control of my life and fully surrendering to God. Somehow I'm afraid I'll fall, afraid I'll drown. I know in my heart and soul that Jesus can walk on water for eternity. Yet for some reason part of me is afraid that if someone as broken and heavy as I grab His hand, then we'll both start to sink and He'll let go. I know He will never sink, I know He'll never let me drown, but for some reason I'm afraid to fully accept His love and just walk on the water.

I get so wrapped up in staring at the waves and fearing to drown that I can't just look into the eyes of my Savior, grasp His outstretched hand, and surrender.

And so, again, I'm Peter.

I contemplated a bit more, however, and realized another thing. I'm actually pretty okay with being a Peter.

See, Peter used to be called Simon, until Jesus gave him the name Peter. And that new name means "the rock." Jesus called Peter the rock upon which He would build His Church.

The amazing part about this is that Jesus renamed Peter before Peter denied Jesus three times and started to sink because he stared at the waves instead of looking at Jesus. Jesus knew Peter would do these things. He knew Peter would fall and fail, betray and break. But He still called Peter "the rock."

Jesus knows us. He knows we will sin, deny Him, succumb to temptation, fall down and forget how to stand up. And yet He still chooses us to build His kingdom.

So I'm a Peter. Which means maybe, just maybe, I'm also a rock.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sweetly Broken

Develop an awareness of your own inadequacy.

Doesn't quite sound like something a self-help book would tell you, right? Typically one is advised to embrace their strengths, hone their talents, exercise their skills, work those muscles and get big and strong. Be yourself, love yourself, do everything yourself because you are capable and strong.

They don't tell you to embrace your weakness, to discover your inadequacy.

The Bible is the best "self help" book you could ever read, though, because it actually helps you. It does this by focusing you away from your self. You help yourself by seeking God, seeing God, experiencing God.

In the long run it isn't a self-help book at all, it's a God-help(s) book.

And so we must be aware of our weakness, embrace our inadequacy.

Not in a "I-suck-and-therefore-must-change-myelf-to-be-better" kind of way. Personally, I'm far too good at that.

Honestly, though. I am very aware of my inadequacy. This can almost sound humble, but the key word there is almost. It's so prideful, because I'm so focused on myself. Too often I live life like a self-help book, because I am trying to help myself instead of allowing God to do it for me.

I look at myself and I see so much room for improvement. I could always be better. I could always be stronger, more loving, gracious, humble, others-centered, giving, caring, selfless...the list could literally fill books in all the ways I could improve. I'm down on myself mentally, physically, spiritually. I beat myself up for the way I think, look, live.

But that's all focused on me. It's an awareness of my inadequacy that simply leads to more focus on myself. It's a path that starts with me and circles around the track back to me.

If what you are thinking, doing, saying, watching, believing, doesn't lead you to the cross, to Jesus, then it's not the right thing, and it's not the right track to run your race on.

We don't run the race of life on a high-school track. That circle (oval...whatever) simply leads back to ourselves.

We run up along paths, through valleys, wade through streams, struggle up mountains, leap around boulders. But it must be a forward path that leads to Jesus, not a flat track that brings us back to ourselves.

And that is why we must be deeply aware of our inadequacy. Not so we can look to ourselves to improve. No, we must be humbly aware. We must see ourselves as so deeply broken and inadequate and unworthy in a way that brings us straight to the foot of the cross where we lay our burdens down and cry, whisper, scream, "Jesus. I can't do it on my own."

We must be aware of our inadequacy, we must embrace our weakness, because then we can see our need for Jesus, and only then can we be strong.

In the words of my favorite song:

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
Blue eyes
hiding my


of grace flow
melt my
heart of snow

blue eyes


Wednesday, August 14, 2013


You say 
There is no fear
I always feel it here

Draped about me 
A cloak suffocating me

Burden on my soul

Heavy weighing down,
My heart, nearly broke

You say  
Perfect love casts out fear
Always I am afraid

Always permeating
In my soul harsh words

"You're not quite right"
"You could always be better"

What if I fall
What if I fail

To be short of the mark
Of this
I am so afraid

He says
I care not for judgments of man
Of God's mighty hand

But the feeling
Can't shake
Eyes always watching
For a mistake

Whisper, "You're not good enough"

There is no fear in love
Yet I'm always afraid
Eyes always watching 
And the judgments of man

When will love be enough? 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Can't Earn This

We always seem to be striving for perfection. We long for unconditional approval from those around us, and seeking perfection seems to be the best way to gain this approval. We are constantly told, by society and culture and movies and magazines and the people around us, that we have to earn love and approval. Our relationships with others teach us that the better we act, the more love we receive. The smarter, cooler, more beautiful, healthier, funnier, more successful we are, the better we are and the more we are approved of, the more desirable we are, the more we are wanted.

We desperately want to be wanted. We desperately want the approval, care, and love of those around us.

And we have translated these flawed human interactions and the feeling of necessity of earning approval and love into our relationships with God. We think He has more love and more care to offer us that we have to do things to earn.

What it comes down to is that "we think we aren't quite right, and that we have to fix ourselves to make ourselves more acceptable."

Hearing this line in a sermon this past week, it resonated deep within me, because it is such an incredibly true statement.

I function like this, I constantly deem myself "not quite right" and strive ceaselessly to fix myself to be more acceptable - both to God and especially to those around me.

There are always ways in which I see room for improvement. I fall short of my own high standards. Without even looking to how God sees me and what God's standards are for me, I decide I have fallen short of the measure.

I feel like a failure of a Christian. If only I was bolder in my faith, if only I could truly preach the Gospel in word and deed and make disciples of all men.

If only I could be more gracious, loving, selfless, servant-hearted, compassionate...then I'd be a better sister, friend, daughter, leader, Christian.

If only I could be perfect, because then I'd be perfect. And if only I was perfect, then I could be approved of, then I could be loved, then I could deserve love, then I could accept love. If only I was perfect, then everything would be perfect.

But that's not living at all, and that especially is not living under the grace of God.

He will never love me less than He does right this instant, and He will never love me more. He has never loved me more or less than He does at this moment, because His love does not ebb and flow and wax and wane as our human love does. His love is perfect and constant, unceasing and unending, infinite and perfect and breathtakingly beautiful.

No matter what I ever do, no matter what I ever say. No matter how many times I fail, fall, fly, God will never love me less than He does today and He will never love me more. He loves me the same today, yesterday, and forever.

Yes, yes, yes I can improve. I should improve. I am flawed and sinful and can and should always be seeking to be more like Christ. But I don't need to improve, I don't need to change, I don't need to fix myself in order to be more loved.

Rather, I must accept Christ's unconditional and unchanging love for me and as I live in the perfection of that beautiful unending love, then I will naturally begin to change and grow to be more like Christ. Not because I did enough to earn righteousness. Not because I am good enough and now deserve love and acceptance.

As I accept Christ's grace and love for me, and fall more in love with Him, and am passionately and completely and utterly lost in Him, then I will become more gracious and loving and selfless. The flaws and places I see room for improvement don't need to change so God loves me more. Instead as God loves me the most, His love will change me.

When we truly know Christ's love for us, then we are changed. Not to be loved, but because we are loved. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Living Life and Paddling Together

This week I went white water rafting on the Arkansas River with my family. Despite the rain and mildly chilly weather (for August), it was a blast. CaƱon City was beautiful, as was the Arkansas River. And it was wonderful to spend time with my family, who I don't get to see very often, due to the fact that I live in Denver and they reside in St. Louis.

I love my family so much, but as with all families (particularly the ones with six teenagers/kids all relatively close in age), there can be a decent amount of arguing and bickering. We love each other to death, but sometimes we really suck at working together.

We found, however, that on the raft we had some of the best teamwork we'd ever had. As I was talking with my mom later in the day, she mentioned she had thought of a great analogy relating to our good teamwork on the raft. 

See when we were paddling, we had to listen to our guide, or the raft would have toppled us into the quite cold water surrounding us. When she said to paddle hard, we paddled hard. When she yelled to paddle backwards, we paddled backwards. We had to watch the person in front of us and follow their paddle-strokes, keeping us all in sync, or we wouldn't have been able to make any forward progress or maneuvered the rapids.

We listened to the guide and worked as a team. 

As humans, we weren't made to work independently, we were made for teamwork, made to work together as we maneuver the rapids of life. And we weren't created to build a team on our own. In fact, we are utterly incapable of teamwork on our own. Pride, wanting to be the best, competition, selfishness, laziness - the list goes on and on - hinder us from truly working together. 

A good team is comprised of people who use their strengths for the good of their companions. It is made up of individuals who empower one another to be the best they can be as they strive towards a common goal and avoid flipping the raft and falling into the cold waters of life. 

But because of our pride, laziness, selfishness, and so on, we can't form these teams. We fight for ourselves, paddle on our own time, and end up caught in branches, twisting and turning, jostled through rapids instead of smoothly avoiding the massive rocks in the middle of our paths. The only way we can truly work together as a team is if we listen to our guide, and the guide must be perfect - someone without a prideful desire to be best, to be first, or a lazy spirit who doesn't want to work, or complains because they are tired, or puts their own safety and interests and desires before those of the team. 

In essence, we need a perfect guide. 

But we aren't perfect, far from it! As my little brother sarcastically (but quite accurately) said this week after forgetting to pick up one of his toys, "Am I perfect? Uh...NO!" So we need a perfect guide, but we aren't perfect.

Sounds like quite the dilemma, circular reasoning that points towards a solution and then puts us back where we started with vague ideas and no solution.
The only answer is a higher being, a perfect God who has no faults and can guide us. This someone speaks in different voices, through different experiences and by different means, but His voice is always perfect, His guidance is always good, His ways are always in our interest for His glory. 

God's word, the Bible, is one of the best places to seek guidance as we live in community and work as a team of people who believe in and love Jesus. It is full of examples of how we should live to be like Christ, to love God with our lives. The only way we can live in community and harmony with one another is when we follow our Perfect Guide.

This life is far from perfect. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it shines, but we are made to paddle together, guided by our Perfect Savior.