Sitting in one of my favorite places, I realize that if this WAS my last day on earth, I'd have delicious chai on my lips as I enter glory. And I have no doubt that something tastier exists there. Not only that, but I'd get to cease my temporal experience in this world by singing songs of praise and hearing truth since I'll be at church tonight, wearing what I hope to be buried in.
Avoiding reflection on this day has always been impossible, and I'm thankful that God has created me with that kind of mind. This type of consideration that He has hard-wired in me graciously keeps me thinking big picture and therefore acknowledging his Sovereignty. It makes me appreciate the truth of His nature: that He "determined allotted periods" (Acts 17:26) and that He "changes times and seasons" (Daniel 2:21). On this day, it's easy to forgo thanksgiving and praise, exchanging them for either the planned festivities of tonight or looking ahead to 2017, days you are not promised. I encourage you to make the time to praise Him today, to "prepare Him room" in your heart,and I wanted to share some final thoughts with you, some loose ends from this series [in which I was notably rather faithless] to ensure that all those important lessonsHe spent so much time teaching me would have an impact.
USE what you've been given.
BE where God has put you.
In my head, I have a high-end fashion line that is ultra-chic, and I have people who sew it all for me so I can just live in design world. I also have written all kinds of books and have travel when I feel like it to speak. I'm even in a band where I sing harmony. There's even a boutique ministry where I can turn the fashion ideas of middle school girls into realities. And that's just the beginning.
The reality is I started a jewelry business using products that I had at my disposal and I do all of the work by hand. God didn't ordain that I would be born into a family with money to help me "reach my dreams," but He did give me a family who would pray for me. I can blog without having to pay a dime (well, as long as I'm cool with an impersonal domain name) so that writing urge is fulfilled. He even sends me places to house sit so I can feel like I'm traveling. He's given me singleness and so I echo what many before me have said: use it well. He's granted me salvation, and I ought to relish its benefits. He's packed my life well, and I want to honor each gift well by using it. Check out this verse:
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich,yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And tin this matter I give my judgement: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing itas well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completingit out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, IT IS ACCEPTABLE ACCORDING TO WHAT A PERSON HAS, NOT ACCORDING TO WHAT HE DOES NOT HAVE. "
2 Corinthians 8:9-12
You're rich. Operate as the wealthy person you are; spend your resources for God's glory and stop pretending you're poor.
Check your pride;
Boast about JESUS.
Pride: that dastardly inflation of self that hinders the ability to boast about Jesus. Oh, what a humbling season it has been. That realization that I cannot simultaneously boast about myself AND about Christ. One has to go, and since He is far more worthy of the title of Self-Existent One, Supreme King, and Sovereign Entity, then mine is the one that has to die. This includes all of my thoughts of being better than others, of the word "deserve" being in my vocabulary when referencing myself or anyone but the One who defines that word. Any time I want to take credit or claim ownership of anything, pride is rearing its sinful head. Or do I not truly believe that "apart from Him [Jesus Christ] I can do nothing"? Or that "it is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help at all." May we join with Paul:
"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world."
Yes, Lord, FAR BE IT.
And finally, one more that He has been engraving on my mind recently.
His Love perseveres and endures (1 Corinthians 13:7). That means that for this girl who happily moves from place to place joyfully and obediently following the Lord in that way, it is harder to stay and plant and let roots happen. This isn't just true with physical location, but with so many of my relationships too. Absence does makes my heart grow fonder, I forget. I move on. I enjoy people for a season and then move on to the next adventure with another cast of characters. He has graciously given me such a life, and I look at Paul and I know I don't miss people the way he did. I don't long to see very many people. So, this truth that "Love Stays" is a big one, one that I'm sure He's only just begun to teach me. (And the fact that He isn't using a marriage to unveil such a reality, that I can learn this as a single woman is significant, and I hope my single friends are taking note. He always finds a way to reveal just what He needs you to know no matter your status.)
I pray your last night of 2016 is beautiful, that you might think the loftiest of thoughts which can only include the Most Exalted One.
If there's one post in this series you ought to read, this is probably the one. Not because it's going to be the most well-written or funniest or most vulnerable. I have written about this so many times in my journal, shared this with many, and I'm sure there's an old blog about this somewhere on this site, but I can't help it. It's probably my absolute FAVORITE thing about Jesus, as well as being that which I am MOST SURE about Who He is, and I think He really does love to put it on display in my life for His glory, and I couldn't be more honored and humbled.
"there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
How can I possibly begin to relate the sweet glory that is my friendship with the Son of God? How can I tell you of those mercies that meet me in the morning, or the encouragement He brings from His Word or the loneliness He often fills with reminders of His presence? How can I describe all the ways He has been there for me every step of each type of journey He takes me on? Yes, all those physical moves, He even now knows how many steps my feet have taken, Fit Bit is no match for my All-Knowing Friend. Yes, all those emotional adventures, He has collected my tears, and knows the depth of the temporal happiness I have ever experienced. And it should go without saying that He has watched over all of my spiritual traveling. Never leaving. always present. When my singleness has haunted me rather than spurred me, when confusion about my circumstances has crushed my peace, or when I can't formulate words because of the strength of my emotions, He has still been there. He's not afraid of any sin that could come between us because He has conquered it and when I turn to Him, the bond of our unity reminds me of His victory and the ways that He fought for us to still be besties. I have learned that any fights we have are always my fault, my lack of understanding or trust, but He has this sweet and gently way of helping me submit to His ways. He's never unclear about His intentions, ever speaking directly and making a show of His love for me.
This all means that when asked by a four-year-old if I was going to be lonely in an empty house on Christmas Eve Eve, I could respond assuredly (albeit through watery eyes) that I would be with my very Best Friend. I wouldn't be alone because my Friend came to earth once upon a time to make sure I wouldn't have to face such agony. He made sure that I would have the perfect companionship of One who knows me best and loves me most. I could have even told her that His love is not like earthly love, that it is, in fact, unconditional and far deeper than any ocean I could set before my eyes. He seeps through every crevice and healing past hurts, of making new all the old like no one else can.
I don't know if you have this kind of relationship with God. I'm sure yours has its own version of sweetness. This is mine, and oh, how much I want this for everyone! Why just today, my Friend came to me with a reminder I needed to hear. At the point when David was freaking out about His BFF's dad coming to kill him, Jonathan showed up and with his words set out to solidify his trust in God.
"'DO NOT FEAR, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you . Saul my father also knows this.' And the two of them made a covenant before the LORD."
-1 Samuel 23:17
A friend showing up just in time to say what needed to be said, the truth He needed to hear: It might not feel like it, but you're safe. You might feel like you're going to die, and I can even understand why you'd feel that way, but it's just NOT TRUE. The truth is that God's will is going to be accomplished, He will fulfill His purpose for you, and I get to watch it all happen. To top it all off, the one who's threatening you knows it too, and that's probably why he's out to get you. But He doesn't accept what we know to be true: Our God is on our side." That's what the friendship of God looked like in the Old Testament: the people of Israel knew that God was on their side, FOR them, not against them... if that sounds familiar, yes, let those words in Romans now flood your soul.
"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
And this is all the prelude to the reminder that nothing can separate us from His love.
True friends do whatever it takes to keep our eyes fixed on what's important, what's real, on GOOD NEWS. That's what Jonathan did, and guess what? That's what God did too to prepare the way for His coming. Those He appeared to via His messengers had every reason to freak out, but what was His message?
"'DO NOT BE AFRAID, Mary, for you have found favor with God.'"
"'Joseph, son of David, DO NOT FEAR to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'"
"'FEAR NOT, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."
Perfect Love was coming and as it always does, it would CAST OUT FEAR, replacing it with the reverent awe of how big His Love is. And guys, LOOK at this verse, written by David, maybe even after Jonathan's words lifted his spirits, reminding Him of the kind of relationship He could have with God.
"The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant."
God's Word is so good and so life-giving; oh how well it reflects its Author, the Word of Life!
So, my virtual friend, if you find that the status of your friendship with Jesus is less than tight, go to Him, the One who has proven that a friendship with Him is THE one to have if you have no others. I can ABSOLUTELY promise you that there isn't one better out there. Those relationships we deem the best on earth pale in comparison to that we have with Him, and it MUST be invested in if we expect to be close.
Cherish your Best Friend,
the One Who went to the
greatest of lengths so you could.
He didn't only secure a heavenly friendship with you, but one that starts this side of heaven. May the name of the LORD be praised!
I have a confessioin to make. It's a multi-faceted one actually.
First, I LOVE singing. That one will not surprise those who know me well. They know it's the surest sign of a happy Brittany. By the undeserved grace of God, He gave me a Mom who would (and still does) burst into song when the mood strikes (or if someone says a certain word that reminds her of a song, not two seconds will pass before she's belting out one of the many melodic numbers in her repetoire). I'd like to think I've absorbed this superpower. And a superpower it definitely is. When grumpiness was defining my day, simply singing a song or two would lift my spirits. How good of God to author music! Happiness isn't the only reason I sing, I also have to feel safe and secure somehow, whether that is in the compay of those whose ears endure it or in the privacy of the bathroom shower.
Second, I haven't been singing much these last few months, and it honestly breaks my heart. I miss retreats, singing around campfires, songs that everyone is familiar with, and I miss singing when hearts are full of joy. Oh, I ache for jubilation in music, I long for my response to my God to one of rejoicing in the Victory I have in Jesus. I hate that there have been times when my heart hasn't been in it but I sang anyway. I am grieved that I don't have the musical prowess to be in a band or know people who would actually want to go caroling. This leads to my third confession.
Third, I have let my circumstances and my malaise about my earthly future squash my joy in Jesus. Thus, the melody that usually rings in my heart has been getting quieter, and it feels a little like a part of the One God created to proclaim truth against the enemy is getting snuffed out. These past several days I have not been able to speak much less sing,but God has used the quiet and the stillness to begin healing this agony.
And then this morning, I heard it. An oldie but a goodie fluttered across my heart strings and my long-lost voice returned:
"Why do I sing about Jesus? Why is He precious to me?
He is my Lord and my Savior, Dying He set me free!"
-Albert A. Ketchum
It was only an act of the Loving Holy Spirit to kindly let me praise Him today. And I am pleading with my Lord to let that inner tune of praise daily play in my soul. After all, He Himself is my SONG.
Look, I don't know if you are a music person or not, but if you're reading this, you're breathing and if you're breathing, then you ought to be praising. Even Psalms ends with such an instruction:
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!"
And did you know that this ought to define so much of the way in which we encourage each other. Check this out:
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
[totally and completely consume you to your core, so that you are overflowing in these areas], teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
SINGING PSALMS AND HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS,
with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
Would you describe your life as a musical?
The Soundtrack of your life sounds most beautiful when the music flows from a heart that is drenched with the Word of God.
Oh, may this be true of us!
A dear friend sent me the lyrics to a hymn today, one that in all my years relishing those weighty songs I had not come across. Here's a snippet:
"More purity give me, More strength to o'ercome;
More freedom from earth-strains, More longings for home;
More fit for the kingdom, More used would I be;
More blessed and holy, More, Saviour, like Thee."
-"My Prayer", by Philip P. Bliss
I chose to take that beautiful cue from the Lord to write tonight about another truth that He has blossomed over time in my life by His grace alone, by His Spirit alone. (It also "conveniently" piggy backs off of yesterday's post, so if you haven't read it yet, check it out here: http://brittanyvanryn.weebly.com/the-atrium/enough. )
It's funny/ironic/sad how we want more of everything else but Jesus. I have seen in myself this tendency to be gluttonous in my relationships, wanting more of them than they can actually give, gluttonous with trying to create as much time for myself as possible during which time I can eat what I want, watch what I want, be as much of who I want to be as I choose. (ugh, so many "I's") And we all know what happens here in that place, right? Well, we start perpetuating our "more" and desiring further intake of what we're consuming, thereby adding to the muck we stand in so that when conversations do come up about Jesus, we are so entrenched in our own little worlds that He seems rather unappealing. We blind ourselves with wanting more stuff, the bigger and better, with the fantasy of a perfect life that even if we got would leave us wanting more.
So, tonight's simple truth is this: Find ways to think about Jesus more. Talk about Him more. Bring Him up with the friends who claim Him as their Lord too. Don't wait for them to do it. Figure out how to soak Him up more. Make no room for anything but that which will have you looking more like Him.
"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires."
Now granted, you won't always know in the moment whether something will be beneficial or harmful to becoming a better mirror of Him, but your job is to stay alert, to stay in touch and aware of Him so that You can reflect Him in whatever situation you may find yourself. And all of this right and godly behavior? Well, guess where it comes from? Godly desires. And where do those desires stem from? Godly THOUGHTS. Man, that thought life. Seldom does that brain cease its processing. We discard many foolish ones, hang on to ones we need to let go of, replay conversations, judge, access, decide, choose. We also hold back many a compliment or excitement about something out of fear, we store secrets, we plot, and yes sometimes we even "use our powers for good" and pray. We have let our thought lives become void of God. How could we forget one of the most beautiful gifts we have ever received? The HOLY SPIRIT! The One who reminds us of truth, Who helps us practice Philippians 4:8:
"Whatever is true...honorable...just...pure...lovely...commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worth of praise, THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS."
Thank God for the reality that the Spirit gives life and that the flesh is no help at all (John 6:63), that the flesh and the Spirit are opposed to each other (Galatians 5:16-17), and that the Spirit who raised Christ Jesus fromthe dead dwells in me to give life where the flesh reeks of only death (Romans 8:11)! That means that all my failed attempts and efforts, all the times I tried to think about Jesus but only wound up right back at myself were a mounted attack driven by flesh and not by the Spirit. Praise God that the Spirit is stronger, and that if I acknowledge my faulty and weak thinking to Him, His grace is suficient to transform that warped and skewed brain to something akin to a renewed mind.
I confess I need a mind revolution, don't you? Here's your take-away, which also happens to be a paraphrased Bible verse that perhaps you'll recognize:
Love the Lord your God
EVERY FIBER OF YOUR BEING,
EVERY SINGLE BREATH,
EVERY MENTAL FACULTY,
EVERY OUNCE OF ENERGY
that He gave you
in the first place.
Every ounce, friends, with every fiber of your being. It's time to figure out how to love Him more. Do what is necessary; don't waste any time, money, resources on that which would entangle you and keep you from looking at Him alone. May our thought life be purer and full of loftier thoughts of Him so that His life snuffs out more of our dead flesh day by day.
Sometimes it feels like God is sneaky. Now, of course, that sounds like heresy, and I'm not saying this as a theological construct, but rather as the impression I'm left with when I know He is doing something but I have been left out of the loop. He often will use times like this to remind me that His thoughts and ways are better and higher than mine. So, know that when I say He feels sneaky, it comes from years of watching Him show off His wisdom and might, it comes from years of a friendship with Him. It's really a term of endearment.
Of course, He's not actually sneaky. In fact, His Word says just the opposite:
"No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly."
He always shows up to reveal what we need to know, when we need to know it. Sometimes the packaging is beautiful and we can easily accept that it's a good gift; yet to us it usually looks like a present we'd rather not unwrap. And He looks at us with the radiating joy of a Heavenly Father knowing how great it will be once we see what He does. No matter how long it may feel to us until we get to see it, it is short to an Eternal God. He also looks at us with that loving and comforting gaze of a Friend, who will be with us until we get to share in that aspect of His plan, no matter how difficult that journey will be. Pretty sweet, actually.
So,this year has been a prime example of that delicious "sneakiness" of God. Things took longer than I thought they would, other things didn't go how I expected them to, some things went better. I even think He granted wisdom and foreknowledge to prepare my heart to learn something pretty vital about Who He is. I started the year with my word being, "Firm." I thought that was a pretty safe word since I thought I was, but we all know the rest of that story. Yes, my little world did some shaking, my little heart did too, but He was building a stronger foundation, you see. Understand that He first had to find areas of my knowledge of Him that had cracks so He could lay down a more accurate depiction of His Nature, and not the distorted and faulty version I may have come to believe. He sure is a Kind Concrete Finisher. He was (and still is) building a better place for Him to live in my heart, one that stands stronger and can withstand more storms. All the while He was teaching me that He Himself is my HOME. Yes, my Place of Refuge, complete with the Safe Tower of His Name and Protective Shield of His Faithfulness.
Oh, that that were all; it would be enough, but that was only part of what He was doing.
(I share these things with you, reader, because it is my opinion that so many times we talk about what God is doing in terms of the tangible and the external, which ABSOLUTELY need to be acknowledged and given thanks for especially since they show off His power and might. But what He does in the HEART? The depths of your SOUL which is eternal? That is what we don't talk about enough, so He has been urging me to do so more and more. Alright, back to our regularly scheduled post.)
He was also showing me that He is ALL that I need. Shelter? Certainly. Water? His is everlasting (John 4). Bread? His gives life. (John 6) Everything that I think I lack and all that I could ever need is found in One Source: Himself. He quenches and satisfies, protects and fills up every lonely thought that crosses my mind when I am hiding in His Shelter, safe in His the warm embrace of His Unfailing Love. I may say, "But I'm tired of the same ol' Bread, Lord!" He points me right to His earlier children who said something similar and reminds me what happened when they complained all the while He gently soothes my aching heart and feeds me with more life for my hungry soul with Himself, the Bread of Life. I may say, "Can't you tell I'm thirsty, Lord?" He responds as only He can with a test of honesty; asking me the right questions to unveil the depth of my love for Him, whether I will worship Him in spirit and in truth, thus purifying my desire for Him, my Living Water. I may say, "How long must I be without having a semi-permanent place to live, Lord?" He answers with His Sovereignty and the reminder that no other can go by the Name of Jehovah-Jireh, and that I will ever and always have a place in Him, my Beautiful Home.
If you have stuck with me this long, perpare to be rewarded with a truth to hold on to:
All your needs are met in
Who is not only
MORE THAN ENOUGH
to satisfy, but even able to
exceed them all.
That's right, ONE. Well, technically, you might even call Him the Three-in-One Source, but for our purposes, we'll appeal to Deuteronomy 6:4, which says "The LORD our God, the LORD is one." Need more proof that He is the Source of all your needs? I'm so glad you asked. ;)
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."
"In him we live and move and have our being."
"Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself."
I pray for you as I do for myself, that you might leave behind your tendencies to forego the calories of the Living Bread,to settle for other sugary drinks that won't relieve your thirst like the Living Water, and to try and build some sort of shelter out of brittle boards that will break at the first sign of a storm. You're smarter than that, aren't you? You know better by now, don't you? If you've forgotten, you know where to go. The place is a Person, yes, THE Person.
Here we are. The last two weeks of 2016, one of my hardest years to date. Mine was full of transition and uncertainty, new ideas and what often felt like homicidal death of various dreams by my Loving, Good God. And yet, I sit here at the end of it, still overwhelmed by the faithfulness of Emmanuel. Though, admittedly, this particular season my head is having to talk my heart into that truth a bit more.
(The warning label that comes with this series The Final Fortnight reads as follows: I have been numbering my days, and as a matter of fact, I wonder if a fortnight is what remains for me on this earth. I am not being intentionally morbid, and there is no need to panic and hide the knives. And save your 911 calls. This is in large part due to this odd-shaped pause that the Lord has ordained in my life. Two weeks of solitude and then I don't know where I'll be, with whom I'll be living, realistically what I'll be doing. Maybe I'll be Home. It isn't that I don't still see purpose for my life; I can see many. It isn't that I don't know there are those God has sent to love me and I them. But in any case, He has prompted me to reflect and share 14 pieces of truth that He has imparted over the course of my life, a fortnight's worth of posts to keep you making room in your hearts for Him. I suppose this is one of those precious advantages of being single at Christmas, even of not going home and enjoying the snow. It means I have the time to devote to "speaking" some life into your hearts as you interact with friends and family this season, which we know can be soberingly bittersweet depending on the size of our expectations going in. I also love that my God is so kind that even if no one reads any of these, I can rest confidently that I have been faithful to be obedient to His prompting. )
I spent some time looking at how much of the New Testament ends each of the books, and one of the ones I was struck by was Matthew 28:20.
"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
It's the cherished truth we cling to this time of year, that the One who was announced as Emmanuel in the first chapter of the book also leaves with the reminder of His continual presence. It's the exclamation point to what we see in Revelation, that the dwelling of God is with man (Revelation 21:3). And it's certainly the emphasis He has been putting on every truth He has ever revealed to me. That's why the following on this first night of The Final Fortnight, is SUCH an important reality to lay hold of.
Once upon a time I went to a conference where these words were the theme. I don't remember much of what was said to be honest, but thankfully, I remember what it means: "in the presence of God." (I also recall years later seeing one of the stickers they gave out on someone's TV, which in my opinion was a rock solid place to put it.)
Much like that sticker, the phrase has stuck with me over the years, Sometimes the glue gets a little worn and I have to reapply it on my heart, but it is something He will just not let me get rid of. He has emphasized that it is not enough to know that I am in His presence but to act in the fact of that nearness. This brings with it every aspect of His nature. It means His justice is not far off, His comfort is eminent, His peace palpable. Yes, the gaze of Your Heavenly Lover is upon you not "merely" from a lofty place but a personal one. NEVER forget this. It will change the way you think, desire and behave because You have accepted that His Spirit is real. It means you'll go to Him faster in the chaos, your loneliness will abate, and even in the mundane of the ordinary day, you'll find yourself cognizant of Him. It won't be scary because You'll know His kindness better. You'll know HIM better. The lyrics: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace" will ring joyfully in your heart. Whenever I have lost sight of this, I dabble with depressing thoughts, the lies of the enemy get louder and I am crushed by my circumstances.
If the Lord has chosen to fill His Word with reminders of His Presence (seriously look into it), it is significant to our living this side of heaven. So, my friends, Coram Deo. Live in light of the Presence of your Good God.