Exploring the Deep

Passionately pursuing life, faith and adventure…

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moving past status quo

I was doing a little lunchtime reading and prep today for the Young Professionals group I lead and couldn’t resist sharing a quote from the book we are reading with all of you. We are journeying through “Why Holiness Matter” by Tyler Braun…it’s an excellent book written by and for a fellow young professional. I love the conversation this book has spurred within the group and would be delighted for you to join the conversation!

In the final chapter of the book Braun challenges his readers about whether they would pursue holiness if they knew the full cost.

“The most difficult times in life should drive us toward relationship with Him, allowing His holiness to shape us. Too often we stop short of engaging in relationship with God forcing ourselves to stay in the status quo of life.”

Isn’t this so true?! It is so much easier to keep our fingers on the problem and try to do it all on our own strength, even when we say we are giving it over to God. It’s an interesting trick we play on ourselves – a lie we tell ourselves that we trust God to work but we never actually let go. We stop short of actually walking out our faith and engaging in relationship with the One who can change the status quo.

So today I ask you, where are you stopping short? How can you move past the wall and engage in relationship with God? Are you willing to sacrifice your control or is the cost too high? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Hidden stories and my heart’s cry

Standing in a crowded church on a Sunday morning it’s easy to assume that everyone has it all together. Everything is polished. We hide behind nice clothes, make-up and painted on smiles. We embrace, laugh and say, “I’m good. Thanks for asking.” There are so many people, each with their own stories of triumph – and heartache. Everyone looks pulled-together and perfect on the outside, but each of us have places of hurt and brokenness that we don’t let others to see. These are our hidden stories.

These are the stories that aren’t necessarily meant for the world to know. They are personal, intimate and need tender encounters with a love beyond what another human can give in order to one day become public stories. It’s the divorced mom whose heart is wounded; the widower whose spouse was taken too soon; the teenager struggling with depression; the abused child hiding her secret; the overlooked step-child; the 40-something waiting for “mister right”; the businessman on the verge of a breakdown.

We each have a cross to bear. There is something in each of our lives that is difficult and challenging – where we need someone bigger than us to get us through. Matthew 16:24 tells us that if we want to be follower’s of Christ – to have fullness in this life – we must turn from our selfish ways, take up cross and follow Him. We have a personal responsibility to let go of our self – our situations, challenges, struggles, roadblocks, hindrances, shortcomings, faults, flaws, selfishness tendencies – and follow God. No one else can do it for us.

Yet we aren’t called to go it alone. Galatians 6:1-3 gives us the charge to live in relationship, caring for those hurting around us: “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” (The Message, emphasis mine)

As Christ-followers we aren’t promised a perfect life, but we are encouraged to journey on it together. So let me ask this: Where are you living in relationship? Where have you taken the time to listen to the hidden story of someone near to you? Where have you stooped down and reached out to the oppressed lately? Where has your burden been shared by another? It should be our heart’s cry to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth and also to stand alongside others as they walk this same faith journey.

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Learning from the Sower

Several weeks ago I felt challenged about how I was spending my time. It would be an understatement to say that life is busy. I’m constantly – as I’m sure you are – barraged by phone calls, emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook updates and face-to-face meetings. Social networking happens at all hours of the day. Coffee dates with friends are slammed right next to conference calls and meetings. Gym workouts are superseded by the growling in my stomach and the heaviness of my eyelids.

I wouldn’t trade the connectedness of my life for anything. I love getting the email from a friend in Switzerland saying that she will be in the country this fall and would like to know how close Seattle is to Atlanta so we can visit. I love encouraging text messages from friends. I love phone calls from friends and family. I love the ability to easily stay in touch with everyone from my childhood friends to my newest friends.

What weighs heavy on me is how easily I slip in to the chaos of life and allow it get me off track from the things that matter most. Life’s issues have a keen ability to take the front seat and push the healthy items to the trunk.

I’m reminded of the parable of the sower in Mark 4:19 – “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

I’ve only heard this story used to illustrate circumstances when an individual puts his or her faith in Jesus. But doesn’t it also apply to mature Christians? How easily we fall in to the trap of focusing on our circumstances instead of the One who can help us through our circumstances. We allow the irritations of life to pull us away from our only true source of soothing. Life’s worries choke out the Word and make us unfruitful.

The great qualities of relationship with friends and family, of staying connected, of keeping an active social calendar, of climbing the corporate ladder and of so much of life, can so easily overshadow the eternally impacting qualities of relationship with God.

If I’ve learned anything from my current state of perpetual motion, it’s that I want to be a person who leans in to God when things get difficult or busy, not one who lets the chaos edge out my relationship with the Lord.