What Church Can’t Do For You

dead flower

“Mom, look!” she said in a panic.

“What?” I asked, to see what was the matter.

“My flower is DEAD!” she cried.

(It was.)

“Well…did you water it?” I asked.

“YES!” she cried. “I watered it at church!”

That part was true. She watered this flower. One time. At church. (Two months ago.)

She had planted this flower in a little pot at Sunday School, where they watered it. And then she brought it home.

The problem was: she hadn’t watered it since. 

This flower had lived (or died) next to my kitchen sink for the past few months, and never got any water–except from a few almost-empty water bottles that I happened to dump on it, before throwing them into the recycling bin.

“Honey,” I told her, “Flowers can only survive if you water them a  lot. Like…every day.”

She had a shocked look on her face. “But I watered it at church!”

“I know,” I said, “But you need to keep watering it, every day, if you want it to live.”

 

As we poured some water into the parched soil of  this half-dead flower, I suddenly realized:

I am no different than my daughter.

I do this all the time. 

My relationship with Christ is a lot like my daughter Selah’s flower.

It’s a daily thing that needs water.

It doesn’t matter that I watered it at church. 

It needs water today. Tomorrow. And every day after that.

Or, it starts to die.

This summer I had a group of friends over for 4 weeks. We got together for one purpose–it was to learn the simple art of meeting with Jesus.

For some of us, this was a brand new concept. For others, it was a lost art we had to rediscover.

After some honest discussion, and tears, we all realized that when we don’t spend time with Jesus, we feel just like that flower by my kitchen sink.

Parched.

Dry.

Thirsty.

(And ready to die.)

So for four weeks and beyond, we practiced. Meeting with Jesus. 

And do you know what we learned? It’s so simple. You don’t need to read a book about how to do it.

All you have to do is:

Get alone. (All by yourself.)

Get a Bible.

Get a journal.

And be somewhere quiet (or with soft worship music.)

And here’s what you do…even if it’s only 15 or 30 minutes…

You talk to Jesus. Whether you write, or speak out loud is up to you. But you talk to Him, as honestly as you can. It’s not fancy. He just wants you. Cuss if you have to. And just tell Him what you actually think, and actually feel.

Then you open your Bible and read it. And something incredible happens…He talks back to you. Sometimes it’s so simple. But He is always profound. And you write down what He says. And let it pierce you. And somehow in this process, your spirit encounters His Spirit.

Yes, the Living God, meets with you. (In your car, or in your bathroom, or in your living room..wherever you are.)

And He waters you. He waters your thirsty soul.

And He makes you alive.

Because He is alive.

Jesus Himself, invites you to do this,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28

My friends and I confessed in my living room this summer…that it’s so easy to ignore Him. 

It’s so easy to just scroll Facebook, or look through Pinterest…or numb ourselves with a hundred different ways.

When really all we need is just to meet with Jesus. 

And be watered. By Him. 

Your church can’t do this for you.

Your husband can’t do this for you.

Your friends can’t do this for you.

And Facebook…(sigh) can’t do this for you.

It’s something only you can do. 

Only you can drink Him in for yourself. 

No one will force you to do it. You can let it go dry. And just dump the end of a water bottle into it, every now and then. Or hope church is really good when you go.

You might still survive.

But you will feel parched, and thirsty, and dry.

All the time. 

It’s such a basic principle, and I often fail to remember it. But…

If you want something to grow—water it. 

Meet with Jesus. By yourself.

Drink Him in.

Jesus–the One, the only One who waters you.

And brings you back to life.

When God Feels Far

girl alone

“Do you really want…Me?”

Sometimes I feel God ask me this question. And it’s usually after I’ve been feeling like I’m not enough, and I’m trying to do more, and be more.  And He said it to me this morning.

“Do you really want Me?”

And I tremble, because, He already knows the answer.

The thing about Jesus is that He can see straight through me. He knows when I’m fake. He knows when my motives are off. He knows when I switch from love to selfish ambition. He knows when I’m just going through the motions. He knows when I’m too preoccupied for Him.

Almost like a lover, who can tell when you’re trying to make love…but not really into it. Not really feeling it.

Just kind of pushing through.

I have a chair in my living room, where I sit and be with Him in the mornings, before the house is awake.

But lately, my time with Him has been rushed, and not because I don’t have enough time, but just because my mind is rushed, my mind is elsewhere, I’m speeding through some Scripture, but I’m not really pausing to listen. I’m already looking to the next thing. And I just can’t engage with Him. I can’t slow down enough. But..

He speaks, you know.

And this morning I just felt Him calling me…to Himself. To, “Come closer.” 

And I just sat Indian-style on a wooden dining room chair and listened to this song on repeat. It’s called, “In Over My Head,” by Jenn Johnson. (The link opens a new screen in Youtube where the lyrics are shown.) And it’s just about wanting Him. It’s about thirsting. It about longing for Him at any cost. And it says, “Take me back to the place where my heart was only about You, and all I wanted was just to be with You.”

And as I listened, it was like He just put His fist into my heart, like He was massaging it. Like the way I sometimes work out the tough knots in my husband’s back. Just this slow, continual stroking…until they finally start to loosen, and smooth out, tender.

And I don’t really have anything great to say, other than He wants all of us.

And, if you’re struggling, like me, He wants you. All of you.

Because the other thing I love about Jesus, is that when He finds us in our superficiality…He calls us out of it.

He says, “I know you. I know you. Come here. You’re mine.

You don’t have to pretend with Me. I already know.”

So, maybe listen to this song? And just worship. And let your hair fall from that tight up-do. Because He’s real. And He’s here. And He wants to see you. And hold you close. He wants to work out those knots in your heart. And He’s the only one who can.

Years ago, I wrote a song from God’ perspective called “Secret Place,” and I used to sing it and just cry at my piano, because it always called my spirit to His. It went,

“You can find Me, if you want to,

In our secret place.

I’ll tell you secrets, you can hear them,

in our secret place.

Do you remember, when You loved Me,

in our secret place?”

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely need more of Him. Right now. Today. I absolutely need to come close. I absolutely need to connect. I need to worship. I need to get the focus off of me…and onto Him. The only place it ever belonged. The only place we are set free.

And I need the Spirit to come and break into the atmosphere today. Because I don’t want to do this without Him. And I don’t have to. I wrote a note and put it by the sink where I wash dishes, it simply says,

“You don’t have to do this alone.”–God

It’s a simple reminder for me to snap out of “auto-pilot” robot mode. And connect with Him, in my spirit. And all the thoughts and chaos that is in my head, all the desires, all the disappointments, and weaknesses, and idols, and comparisons, and pressure, and feelings of “not enough-ness”,  and incompleteness,  just to scatter them out before Him, and let Him sort them out. Because He can, and He will.

And His Word really does pierce, and divide, soul and spirit, and judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) And He sees everything. So we can just come.

“Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitants in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.…” Isaiah 30:18-19

We live in the Information Age, and sometimes our minds are just overloaded. Sometimes our eyes begin to blur all the news feeds together. And I love to write, and I love to read. But sometimes I just need music. I just need to worship. I need to lift up my voice, and let my spirit cry out, and be comforted. By Him. It’s what I was created to do.

Sometimes I need to come to Him, not like the Pharisee that’s trying to have it all together, but the woman who just collapses at His feet and cries, and wets His feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. And can’t stop kissing them. (Luke 7:44) How much better to have this kind of tender affection toward Jesus and be falling apart, than to have it all together outwardly, but a heart like a stone?

Oh, God, come and break me again.

Sometimes we lose desire. And we don’t long for Him like we once did. But it’s not too late. If you’re alive, it’s not too late, to stop, and turn your affections toward Him. I know today, I have to. Perhaps this song will help you, like it did me. Or perhaps there are others that will. Whatever it is, find it. He is worth it. He is worthy of our worship. And only in His presence is the fullness of joy we all long for. (Psalm 16:11)

He longs to be gracious to you.

And rises to show you compassion.

So, come closer.

I Set The Thermostat: How A Woman’s Attitude Affects the Whole House

Image

“You have like this bad…aura.” Those were my husband’s actual words. Of course that annoyed me even more. He came home around 10 A.M. and by that time it was too late. It was too hot in the house. My toddler was already too crazy. Evidence of breakfast was all over the counter (…and the floor). The shopping list was only half written.  I was trying to print coupons—but she kept turning off the printer before they could come out. I was trying to save a few bucks—even if it cost my sanity. I was trying…to keep it together. (Did I mention I was extremely hot?)

When he walked in, he could see it all over my face. The irritation. The heat. My attitude was like bad perfume. He could not escape it. And as I spouted off the reasons why, his face became like a mirror. All my angst was soon reflected back at me. My ugliness was contagious. Soon we were both frustrated. And angry. And hot.

We made it, (miraculously) out of the house and down to the (air conditioned) YMCA where we just got a membership. We took turns watching our daughter. He took her to the pool, and I went to the treadmill. To blow off some steam. But as I began to run, I looked down through the glass wall that overlooked the swimming pool and saw them. She was sitting at the pool’s edge and he was encouraging her to jump into his arms. He carried her around in the water, helping her float.

Everyone around me watched the TV screens on their treadmills, but my screen stayed black. I couldn’t help but watch these two. These two—that God had given me. These two—that I was born to love.

With everything.

They spotted me and began waving. I waved back through the glass, catching the eye of the short Puerto Rican man on the treadmill next to me. “She’s mine,” I said. He looked confused. “Down there!” I said, almost shouting, “That’s my daughter!”

She was mine. They were both mine. And as I watched them bobbing around in the pool together, I suddenly wanted to cry. My main job was simply: to love them. To make them feel loved. How do I get so off track? So many other goals, so many other boxes on my checklist. So many other things I want to do. Feel I need to do.

Beyond this.

Just this.

On the way home, I broke the silence, “I’m sorry…for my attitude.”

“It’s okay,” he said.

“No. It’s not. Sometimes…I just feel like—when things get really crazy, I have permission to act however I want,” I said. “Without self control.”

“Yeah,” he said. There was some silence before he spoke again. “It’s just like, when I come home—when I come home, I can’t handle walking into you in a really bad mood. I mean, we can buy some air conditioners. I don’t care how much we spend. That would be better than walking into you all…irritated and mad. I just can’t handle that.”

He was right. I wore my attitude like a big ugly sweater. As the woman of the house, my mood, my mind, my heart all play a bigger role than I than I thought.

I set the thermostat in our house. More than I realize.

My kindness and gentleness…my stress and frustration actually do something to the environment. Not the air, or the heat…but the atmosphere. The state of my heart affects everyone. For better, or for worse.

Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

Am I building my house? Or tearing it down?

I may be cleaning the kitchen, whipping up dinner, vacuuming the carpets, and organizing the closets—but if I’m doing it with an obligated, irritated, frustrated attitude…am I really helping anyone? Am I creating a life-giving environment?

Last night, the three of us went out and carted home Walmart’s finest air conditioner. And while we all enjoyed the cooler temperature, I know the AC can only work so hard. I need something, Someone much more powerful to change the thermostat in our house, the thermostat in my heart.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

Oh God,

            I need more than a machine in my window,

                                                                        I need Your Spirit in my heart.