I’d Rather Be Shattered

A single word of deceit sauntered from my tongue, ‘no.’ It was a simple solution, this one word, for side-stepping a discussion I didn’t want to have.

I knew in that moment what my husband did not – I bore a scarlet ‘L.’

Some may call it a white lie, avoiding the topic, harmless. However small I could justify it to be, this thing I had done, this word I had spoken, was sin.

I lied to my husband.

And it wrecked me – as it should.

If a heart that delights in God is a heart that is soft and moldable in His hands (see more about that here), such a heart will inevitably feel sorrow as well as joy. And such a heart will delightfully receive the painful work of purification, of transformation into the image of Christ – will even take joy in it!

If we don’t feel our sin, we’ve probably hardened our hearts and lost our delight in the Lord. Just as a hardened lump of clay will refuse to be formed into the artists’ vision, so a hardened heart will become unyielding to the work of The Artist.

But a soft and moldable heart, a delighted heart, will weep and mourn over its sin. And as it softens to receive the conviction, it also softens to receive the shaping, the forming, the growth.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

James 4:8-10

It’s far too easy for us all to idolize our own perspectives and ignore God’s perspectives. What I want to call avoidance, God calls sin. What I want to explain as ‘not a big deal,’ God desires me to recognize as prideful refusal to obey His ways.

I lied to my husband. I could keep the lie, covered in fig leaves, or I could confess the truth and unfold a pathway to peace with God and peace with my brother in Christ.

No more than five minutes later, I had confessed to God and my spouse, but what remained was a deep sadness that I had done such a thing in the first place. I probably think too highly of myself to begin with (as all us duty-prone people tend to do) to be so surprised by my sin, but this lie was a reminder of my fantastic capacity for sin; my great need for a Savior; my undeserved perfect position in Christ.

With these heavy, mournful feelings, the fingers of the Artist pressing into my softening heart, I exhaled a new song to the Lord, my fingers at the keyboard:

I bring You my dirty hands, You take my heart instead.

In sacrifice You take no pleasure.

For the sins of all, You died and You bled.

To make all who come Your treasure.

 

Let me not forget the weight of my sin.

Help me know the depths of Your forgiveness.

And when this heart grows stone-like with pride,

Shatter me with Your waves of grace.

 

And when I fail to do what You’ve called me to,

And I do the things You’ve asked me not to,

Still Your gift of mercy withholds Your hand of wrath.

You’ve redeemed this wretched sinner.

 

Let me not forget the weight of my sin.

Help me know the depths of Your forgiveness.

And when this heart grows stone-like with pride,

Shatter me with Your waves of grace.

 

Sorrow and mourning are the result of a softened and delighted heart. It is a hardened heart that explains away sin and is unmoved by evil within or without.

I’d rather be shattered.

What about you?

It’s as if Paul were speaking to me instead of the Corinthians: “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:9)

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Joy-empowered Suffering

I have to confess something. I was afraid to observe Lent. Coming on the heels of my pursuit of delight (you can read that post here – Softening and Delight), Lent seemed a logical contradiction. Also, there’s that whole fear of failing thing.

But I’m beginning to understand that maybe denying self IS delight. Maybe suffering IS softening.


Three weeks, now, into Lent. Three weeks of nothing sweet. At first I felt my choice of fasting from sweets was cliche’, and I cringe at the thought of being cliche’. I chose to give up anything sweet to the tongue because I knew it would be a challenge for me. To fully recognize the impact of self denial we have to deny something we will truly miss. This verse was another inspiration for my choice of fasting from sweets:

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I wanted to fast from what is sweet to the tongue and focus on what is sweet to the soul.

The first few days were more difficult than I expected. And you know how ‘they’ say after a few days your craving for sweets goes away? Wrong. Three weeks in and I’m dreaming of sweet cinnamony chai tea lattes, among other things.

As I was dwelling on my lack the other day, and maybe feeling a little self pity too, the Holy Spirit brought a verse to mind.

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”       Hebrews 12:2

For the joy set before Him.

Jesus could see the joy waiting for Him on the other side of the cross. Jesus set His mind on the joy that was ahead of Him. Joy enabled Jesus to endure.

There is absolutely no comparison between abstaining from sweets and dying on a cross, but I’m beginning to discern a life principle in the midst of it all.

Jesus’ 33 years of human life leading up to His death on the cross were anything but delightful, circumstantially speaking. He was by no means rich, despised by His brothers and many others, God bound by flesh, tempted as we are, persecuted, rejected, killed. Yet it was joy all along. It was joy that sustained Him as He was beaten and ridiculed. It was joy that helped the Son endure the separation and wrath of His Father for the sake of sinful humanity. It was focusing on the final outcome that mingled in delight with the sorrow. The future promise made the present bearable.

I suppose this is true of any suffering great or small; from not eating sweets, to severe health issues, to financial difficulties, to persecution – fill in your own blank___________. We don’t even need examples to understand what suffering is.

But what if the mingling of delight in with the sorrow is possible for us too? I think it is! In many ways, we know the outcome just as Jesus did! We know, or at least can know by studying the Word, what the future holds. We know of new bodies and tears wiped away. We know of a new name and an end to pain. We know of growth into the likeness of Christ and the reward of crowns because of the Life of Christ in us. We know all this and so much more!

I also know that Resurrection Day is coming – woo hoo! And I’ll get to enjoy some tasty treats, yum! My mind is shifting from what I don’t have now to what I will have in the near future. And it’s making the lack a little more delightful. It’s softening my heart to the goodness of God and the miraculous Life of His Son.

Suffering and self-denial never have to be purposeless. Viewed in light of Christ’s joy-empowered suffering and surrendered to His molding, our suffering will produce more in us than a life of ease ever could.

A soft heart is a vulnerable heart, even willing to receive the faithful yet painful strokes of the Artist. Yes, we are but dust, but this dust-clay has nerve endings and thin skin, fatigue and fears, blood and tears. Jesus did too. He knows the pain and He showed us the way through it.

“Help me, O Lord, to make a true use of all disappointments and calamities in this life, in such a way that they my unite my heart more closely with thee.”  ~ Susanna Wesley

These are the words of a softening heart. A heart of delight in the midst of sorrow.

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I don’t think there’s any earthly endeavor in which we can’t Aim at Heaven. I pray that we all learn to have this perspective as we travel this sod. If you’d like to be kept informed of new Aiming at Heaven posts, you can subscribe via email below.

Thank you!

May you grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

… but He can

Seven words at the heart of the issue. You can’t do it, but He can.

I was surprised when the words, ‘you can’t do it,’ left my lips headed for my kids’ ears. Surprised, first because of their contradiction to cultural messages, and second because I had not premeditated the utterance.

The message we are culturally expected to convey to our children is: ‘You can do it!’ ‘Work hard and you will accomplish all your dreams!’ ‘Look inside of yourself and you’ll find all the strength you need!’

But this was not the message my offspring needed that day. And it wasn’t the message I needed either.

After a morning of siblings fighting and yelling, my heart was growing weary and my tendency toward frustration was simmering beneath the surface. I was about to cross the line into disciplining out of anger rather than out of love.

So I did the only thing I could at the moment – I sent the culprits to their beds and walked away. I knew if I didn’t take a break I would become a culprit too, like I have many times before. I knew I was at the end of my power and resource.

As I descended the stairs into the kitchen, I lifted my heart as a child to my Perfect Parent, to my Heavenly Father. I laid my weakness and inability at His feet and asked in return His wisdom, power, and creativity. I knew I could go no further on my own.

And ever so gently the thought seeped in: your children need from Me the same thing you need from Me.

When I spoke with my children several minutes later, I asked them if they recognized their wrong choices and sin in the morning’s uproar. They both did to an extent, and we talked about confessing and repenting, though they weren’t as engaged in the process as I hoped.

And then the heart revealing and life giving question that God had prompted me to ask spilled out, stopping them and me in our tracks:

‘Do you have the ability in and of yourselves to make right choices, to be obedient to God?’

They paused, thinking. Part of me assumed that of course we’ve talked about this before, surely they know that God is their only true source of hope and help.

But answers came in the form of tentative affirmations. They thought they could do it on their own.

Initially, it saddened my heart to know that these precious gifts from God, whom Cyrus and I have been tasked with the responsibility of parenting, carry this burden and lie around with them. The same burden I’ve often carried. The lie of self made righteousness.

But, I was thankful that God prompted me to ask such a revealing question – a question that laid bare their hearts and opened them up for seeds of truth.

My husband and I want our children to grow to be completely dependent on their Creator. We want them to experience the rest and peace and joy of not being able to do it all, but of being hidden in The One Who Can. As they grow in independence from their parents, we want them to grow in dependence on God.

We want to replace the world’s messages of self empowerment with the true messages of Christ empowerment.

I want instead to tell them, as I must daily remind myself, “you can’t do it, but He can.”

 

I hope these words have encouraged you to look up, to Aim at Heaven. To receive Aiming at Heaven posts and updates sent directly to your in-box, simply scroll down and click the subscribe button.

Thanks!

Weather Forecasts and Soul Barometers

 

Given opportunity, I will be consumed by consuming. Books, Music, ideas, information. But gorging on input has been hindering my output.

Last month, God prompted me to attempt an ‘input fast.’ I needed to dam the flow of input into my soul, with a very few exceptions, and fill up with Him alone.

So, I finally worked up the courage to be input free for one day.

It didn’t take long for me to encounter blank mental space.

I sat there, phone in hand, quickly checking for time sensitive emails (one of my input exceptions). Then there it was – that moment when I would usually check social media or read more email. But not this time. This time I was face to face with blank space. I couldn’t check Facebook, or Instagram or Pinterest. So, more out of habit than anything else, I touched that blue weather icon.


That’s when the sirens began to blare in my soul. The weather?! Am I so desperate for input that I’d check the forecast over facing silence? Did I just crave knowing something, anything?

Maybe all my input gathering gives me a sense of security because what it really gives me is a sense of control. Being ‘in the know’ gives all of us perceived power.

It seems silly, but that little display of clouds and rain and sun represented my craving for control through consuming input. Checking the weather that day revealed the barometer of my soul. And I didn’t like the tempest I saw.

I began examining this revelation from another angle. What if I didn’t know the forecast? What then?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The wind and clouds and rain will pass through the Northwest Autumn as they always do. Storms and sun will dance across the stage of the sky in precisely the order they’ve been commanded – whether I have a program or not.

And so goes all of life. I try to  know what lies ahead – to control how I get there and how I get through. I believe the lie that somehow my knowledge is required to keep this life afloat, when all along I’m safe in the hands of the All Knowing One.

But there’s more to this weather lesson than finding rest in releasing a false sense of control.

As I ponder, I recognize that joy and delight are sacrificed on the altar of control.

But, there can be childlike pleasure in experiencing the unexpected!

Just a few days ago I woke to a stunningly foggy autumnal morning. It brought me a small thrill to be surprised in such a way. Even now as I write, the blue and gray skies battle above me. And I have the joy of being on the sidelines to observe their swirling dance. And I didn’t know either of these things would happen ahead of time. In this, I find deep pleasure. In the Creator of the unexpected I find deep joy.

No matter how well informed I think I am, only God knows what my next breath will bring. I can rest in that truth, and I can delight in it too!

I’ve checked the weather a little less often since that day. And as I’ve fasted from input on two more days since, my soul barometer is telling me that the tempest is calming.


 

I hope these words have encouraged you to look up, to Aim at Heaven. To receive Aiming at Heaven posts and updates sent directly to your in-box, simply scroll down and click the subscribe button.

Thanks!

Joy in the Whirlwind: when plans come undone

My husband delivered the disappointing news with a smile. A smile that communicated gratitude in the midst of uncertainty.

After $600 of work, it’d been determined our suburban was terminal.

A few days prior, our offer on a home in Albany was rejected.

And just as we were about to make an offer on another home, we got news that our home’s buyer’s financing fell through.

So it’s back to square one.

It’s one of those weeks. A week of trials that tempt me and the rest of the family to frustration, disappointment and anger.

Thank you God.

It’s the response my husband and I have been choosing, and helping our kids to choose too.

Thank you God.

It’s the sacrifice He desires.

Thank you God.

It’s the comfort He promises.

Through these temporary set-backs, we’re learning to let thanks be the baseline to the song of our life; gratitude our anchor; joy our undercurrent. We’re thankful for growth and teaching opportunities – to teach our own hearts and our children’s hearts God’s ways. We’re thankful for His joy in the whirlwind.

How is this possible?

I’m asking myself the same question. Had the same circumstance occurred five years ago, I’m doubtful I’d have had the same response.


Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

In the face of trials, James exhorts us to consider it pure joy because we know – we don’t know the blueprint but we know the finished product. We don’t know the middle but we know the end.

This knowing is what brings us through the experience of pain, suffering, frustration, and disappointment with peace, fulfillment, healing, and hope.

Faith is far-sighted. It sets eyes on the end we know is coming.

Faith knows what James knows, that just as charcoal under pressure, and precious metal through fire, a life under trial produces beautiful strength. Or as James calls it, endurance; an endurance that makes us complete in Christ.

What if we realized that without trials we are incomplete? What if we recognized the refining of our souls in the midst of adversity? What if we relied completely on the power of our Savior to redeem our circumstances?

Maybe then joyful eternal thanks would mingle with tears of temporary pain.

Maybe then would we consider it all joy.


Our house is back on the market, the suburban will soon be on craigslist, and we’re keeping our eyes open for new listings.

Through it all we are are choosing thanks. It’s unnatural at times to say things like, “Thank you God for a broken down vehicle,” but as children of God we dwell in the realm of the supernatural. Our kids look at my husband and I like we are crazy when we say these things aloud, but after some prompting, they join in. ‘I’m thankful that having only one working car means we get spend more family time together.’ ‘I’m thankful we still have one car to get around.’

We are … ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Heb 12:2

We serve One who has already done what He asks us to do and who offers us His own overcoming power to do it.

Thank You God!


I woodburned this frame a couple months ago to remind myself and my family to frame our minds on praise and thanksgiving. A tangible way to practice one of the most most repeated exhortations of God’s Word. It’s a visual cue to set our minds on things above rather than to get bogged down in the details of daily life. It’s a guide as we aim at heaven.

I know all of you are facing your own trials this week too. Internal and external, quickly passing and long lasting. Keep enduring. Keep giving thanks. Keep your joy.

Because you know the end of the story!