Chapter 4 – Saying Yes
I have learned that something happens when one makes herself available to God: He starts moving in ways no one could imagine…I was walking through life one moment at a time, blown away by what God could do through me if I simply said yes. My heart was on fire with a passion to say yes to God’s every request – to do more to help the people around me.
How…breathtaking really. I’m serious. I took a long, big breath after reading that. It’s breathtaking that Katie said it – wrote it, but what really causes me to inhale long is the thought of doing this very thing myself. Can I just be honest? I am memorizing James’ words on asking in faith with no doubting and more than a rote of memory verses, I am wrestling these words to the very floor of my heart! I want them there, in the heart that is made new in Christ! I want to believe like Abraham, obey like Abraham, and be a friend of God just like Abraham. I want to be available to God, and when I state that I am, I want to believe that He absolutely will “start moving in ways no one could imagine”! I want faith to fuel a passion that is aware of God at work in and around me.
We know about fire here in Colorado right now. Its flames have taken much ground, burned historic sites as well as peoples’ homes, and have left the rest of us collecting ash in our hands and smoke in our lungs. These fires have caused lines all the way down busy streets, just so people can drop off needed items for families and firefighters. These fires have caused some to fight and others to reconcile…some to scatter and others to come together. Fire will do that, both in the physical sphere and the spiritual realm. There are many lessons to learn from what is physically going on here in our state, one of which my friend Tisha writes about here, but “fire” in and of itself is what I’m after right now. I want that “heart on fire with a passion” for God; a heart that has “Yes” all over it when waiting to respond to God. It’s a practice, you know – saying “yes”. As a parent I realize this more and more. It has become easy to say “no” to my 4. There are viable “no’s”, ones which I must say and they must hear, but there are other times I say “no” out of convenience for myself. (Ugh, there comes the shadow of that ugly heart of mine…continue the surgery, LORD!) Saying “Yes” requires something of me, and usually isn’t “what I want to do” or how I would do it. The benefits are usually always sweet when I choose to say “Yes” to them…to play a game, to go to the park, to get them another cup of juice, to help them make a snack, to make rice crispy treats, to play with play-do, to paint, to ride bikes, etc. But, though the benefits are there, I have to say “Yes” with my mouth and then with my body, and there’s the thing – when I say “no” I don’t have to move. How does a person love like a fire like that? Simple. They don’t.
If the fires here in Colorado were like the way my love has been of late, we would have had them put out with a simple extinguisher. There would have been no mass destruction, no evacuations, no great lines of people, no news reports; in fact, my neighbors next door wouldn’t have even known. I know because I don’t think my neighbors know of my love even now.
Big, long, breath…
…(about Katie’s commitment to Uganda) I was anxious because it felt so permanent, so concrete, but it was a commitment I knew God wanted me to make.
Ah, this…commitment. That involves trust, right? Yeah, that’s a tough one. The first big commitment I made was the summer before 8th grade. In the auditorium of Camp Caswell, as the night service was closing, the call to the altar was made, and I was nudged on by a friend. It was the first time I walked down the aisle; I chuckle as I realize I had no idea then Who the Groom was. Know Him or not, He knew me, and I walked right into His arms that night. He has never let me go! The second great commitment would have been to the next man I walked down the aisle to; this time it was the groom who couldn’t see the bride. (He forgot to where his glasses; I could have been “Leah” for all he knew!) He smiled big as I drew closer, surprising him by actually wearing a wedding gown, as we were having a “casual” wedding. He sang to me while strumming his guitar, singing about what “he really wanted to say”…and we’re still sayin’ stuff almost 10 years in. The third commitment came just 10 months after marriage. I held in my arms what might have seemed the “smallest” blessing, weighing in at 8 lb 2 0z, but oh, the hugeness of that 8 pounder brought me to my knees. And the 3 that have followed continue to bring this Momma down on her knees. They have grown me up, probably way more than I am growing them up.
Then, there is “vocation” commitment. Nathan was called to Colorado almost 6 years ago, and as his wife, so was I (smile). He was called to lead worship and arts, and these days are looking nothing like I had imagined – they are so much more! Me, though, that’s been the rub. Here I thought I had left for Bible College to be a missionary in a 3rd world place; yet, here I am in abundant America with a mountain range out my front door and no dying babies lying by the curb. God is forever helping me to see – to really see!
I didn’t want to commit to here. Remember, I had the poor in mind…the kind I could just look at and see the need to be met. I suppose on some levels I moved here with the expectation that this was just the next step in a line of stairs. I really didn’t think we’d be here forever or even for 6 years! I didn’t want to settle my heart, to “bloom where you are planted”, when I knew God was going to uproot us again. Then again, it was no divine revelation that God had shared with me; it was my idea that I thought God would ordain.
6 years. That’s how long it will be in August. I may have begun my commitment about 2 1/2 years ago. You see, I stumbled upon a fresh word about 2 years ago…a dare really. Though the dare was really hers first, God led her to share it. She was just an instrument, sounding out this call from God for His children to know Him greater. A dare to live fully, right where we are…with Him. A chance to know Him fully right where we are…by waking our eyes to see Him in the light sprays, the trembling leaves, the debt that can sink me to my knees, and the laughter of children and husband that can lift me up again. It was in 2010 that I became willing to “walk the aisle” again, but at best, the commitment has remained in infancy. I was anxious because it felt so permanent… That’s it really. This could be “so permanent”. (God could have chosen something way worse!) Yet, I listen to testimonies of those who have gone to Italy, Honduras, Ireland, Taiwan, wherever and I call that place, the place to be! So, why not here? Why has it been so hard for me sing “God of This City” and mean it about Colorado Springs? I think I finally know.
When we choose to see the world only through these earthly eyes, everything becomes rich, poor, abundant, needy, delayed, smart, suffering, or just fine. I can walk around categorizing things, places, and people into these boxes, but “God sees not as man sees.” When God opens my eyes to really see – to see eternally – it’s a whole new world! What may seem like wealth to the common eye, is now just a facade to the poverty that lies deep within. The one I used to say was needy, is the one I find to be the most generous of all. The smart of this world become ignorant of things eternal. The delayed of this world become the ones who lead me. The rich in Colorado quickly become just as poor spiritually as the physically poor in Uganda, and what profit is it, if they gain the whole world but lose their souls? (Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of physically needy in Colorado! They may be much closer to me than I know. Still, the challenge is to see them with eternal vision, no matter their worldly state.)
We talk of there being few who are willing to go, and I know it’s true! I don’t think “Satan wins” just because people don’t go, though; I think it may have more to do with how they stay. In Mark 5 Jesus heals a man from demon possession. It caused quite a stir, and He was quickly asked to leave. The healed man asked to go with Jesus – he wanted to go! Jesus told him to stay, though! “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” This man did as Jesus told him; he stayed and gave glory to God by living his redeemed life before his own people. He committed not to a place or a people; he committed to God. That’s how it’s really done – how we really “bloom where we’re planted”. Commitment to our Source. That’s how plants do it after being transplanted; if they’re going to survive they must commit to their source. It doesn’t matter if I transplant my mum in the back to a better place in the front; if it won’t take up root in it’s new place, it will not flourish. There have been amazing sites I have seen where a tree, though completely “out of place”, is growing – “blooming” right out of rocks! It committed to it’s source!
So, where does my commitment lie? If it’s in Him, then no matter what He asks of me or where He says to go…or stay…I will because where He is, that I is where I want to be. (I bet I can “find God” right here in my “Decapolis” just like Katie found Him in Uganda…Omnipresence has no boundaries!)
…(About Abraham’s Sarah) The land was full of God’s promises but barren of all things cherished and familiar…Despite her frailties, little faith, and self-reliance, God accomplished His purpose – and Sarah was filled with joy. I knew I could have stayed at the orphanage and God would have still loved me, but I could hear His voice whispering in my heart. He had given me a new place to live and a new adventure to embrace. How could I say no?…I had to let go of my life at the children’s home and let God fulfill His promise, His perfect will. I chose to believe that, like Sarah, my adventure would lead to laughter and joy.
I know God would continue to love me if I never gave myself wholeheartedly to Him and His desires for me here, but I also know I wouldn’t get to experience all that His love has in store for me if I keep resisting His will. It is a choice; we all have a choice. Letting go of our lives seems like such a loss of control, and in it’s rarest form, it is, but it is more about finally allowing the One Who is in control of it all, anyway, hold you. I seek security, and in Him it is found! I seek order, and He orders the stars and galaxies and an earth that spins and gravity that pulls. I seek a future and something worth hoping for, and what do you know, He says He has all that for me! (Jeremiah 29:11)
I have to believe. We Christians really make that seem very simple. We say things like, “All you have to do is believe and say a simple prayer of belief.” I do love my simple life – the one God has given me since I came to know Him and chose to live in Him, but can I just tell you, very little about believing God has been simply done! It may have seemed like that to me for awhile. I mean, I was smitten with God! He had me at “Hello!” I thought since I had decided to give up _______ and choose __________ I was living in His fulness! Just when you think you’ve had God to overflowing, He gives more than you even asked or imagined!
Believing God has come to be the death of me…and the life in Him. When finances are tight and debt is drowning me, I must put to death my anxiety and believe that in giving thanks and praying He will give me the peace that passes understanding! When days are darker to me than the nights, I must put to death my thoughts of Him abandoning me and believe that He will never forsake and that He cares for me. When life just isn’t the way I had planned, I must put to death my own understanding and trust in Him and acknowledge Him with all my heart! When I want to go, but He says stay, I have to die to myself and my plans and trust that He is ordering my steps for all eternity. I have to believe that the God Who says to “take joy” actually has joy to offer. I must trust that the God who says all the promises in Him are “yes” has promises that I can claim for my own. When I want adventure in my own family’s life, I have to lay down his and her callings, and take up the one(s) God has mapped out for me…He orders our steps.
…All these children were cherished by Jesus. They were created in His image. My whole being cried out in desire for them to know this…I knew that in order to teach them this love, I needed to first show them. So I opened the door of my home a bit wider.
Children. I laugh a bit at my journey with children. I went from wanting none, to maybe 2 (and twins if you please!), to “how ever many God will bless us with”, to maybe just these 3 boys, to “no, 1 more…and it’s a girl!” I went from wanting to just minister to the elderly to beginning a church with not an elderly soul in sight and heading up the nursery! Then on to pre-school and kindergarten through fifth grade. At every corner of change, I have come face to face with my needy self! “I am not a kid-person!” I would say to God, and I’m sure He would smile and reply, “Ahh, but I am!” There are many lessons and aspects of me being with children that God has used to bring me lower in order to grow me up, but the greatest lessons have come from the very ones I live with.
This “heart surgery”, as I call it, is all about love. I say that with the uttermost sincerity, because what is a heart with no love? Stone. How can my little ones grown to know His love if every time they encounter their mom they break against my hard-heart? If every time they make a mistake I crumble them with my words? And the husband…how long will He have to encounter a closed-down wall of a wife? And the neighbors…how long will they see my back as I run into the house every time they come out their door? The only way for my children to know they always have an “open door” to run through…for my husband to know he never has to guess if I want his touch…for my neighbor to never have to wonder if I really am a Christian is for God to reconstruct a very messed up heart with His hands of love.
I need to show them the love that I teach, absolutely! I need to bear the image of Christ that I proclaim, yes! First…I need to bow low before Him…submit…hide in, and allow His love to do the very same beautiful work that He does with the caterpillar turned butterfly. Thank God! He is not finished with me yet!
…Life was busy and full, chaotic at times, but it was so wonderful. This was the joy-filled result, the promise God had made as He took me into “Canaan.” Despite my frailties, self-reliance, and little faith, God was accomplishing His purpose and my days were filled with laughter…Because the God who knows every hair on my head desires to lift me out of this dust and into His glory. And He is.
Oh, how I look forward to echoing those words day after beautiful day! I will seek it today! I won’t wait until tomorrow. Though the kids are cranky and the air is hot and the van smells of whatever that smell is, I will ask, seek, and knock until I receive His joy today! I will dwell in the shadow of the Almighty and live within His glory.
He is exalted, forever exalted on High! I will praise Him!