God Outside the Box

I grew up going to calm churches. If those Sundays were your only look into who God is, you might walk away thinking He was a Serious, very Reserved God who probably frowned at you if you made a peep in church. There was little room for art, clapping was only for showing respect to whoever just spoke, and dancing was a Highly Suspicious activity. Granted, this was my impression as a very young person, but it stuck with me, shaped my understanding of who God is.

So you can imagine my discomfort and confusion when I read the following bit of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time, when Aslan (the Jesus-figure in the story) rises from the dead and greets his friends:

“Oh, children,” said the Lion, “I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh, children, catch me if you can!” He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, though she didn’t know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hill-top he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs. It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind….”

Who is this God that C.S. Lewis seemed to know? A God who…plays? Reading that story stirred a longing in me. Could God really have joy? Could He delight in me to where we might someday play together? Could I dare to believe and hope for a God like that?

It started a journey for me – I wanted to know God as He really is, not as I am taught to imagine Him. And since reading the Chronicles of Narnia all those years ago I am coming to know a God who is passionate, unpredictable, playful, joyful, and inspiringly creative. Afterall, could a boring God create humor (or did we somehow one-up Him there?) or playful dolphins and kittens? Could a Highly Reserved God create pounding waves and glorious sunsets? Could He somehow create a world more wild and wonderful than He was Himself?

Ask Him today to show you where you are limiting Him, misunderstanding who He is and what He is like. To be intimate with God is to know Him as He is, and it is a gift He offers to us!

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17

 

No Record of Wrongs

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Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

When I’ve done something wrong, it’s hard to come and pray again. Almost instinctively I hide from God, like Adam & Eve did that horrible day. If I’m quiet, I can hear my inner voice saying, “You know He won’t want to talk to you now.” And it comes with a sense of dirtiness in my soul that I can’t seem to wipe off.

It feels like I could go on hiding forever in that state, trapped in sin and cut off from God. For all of humankind previous to Jesus, that was their lot. For the ancient Jews there was some absolution in the sacrifices they offered, but consciences could only temporarily be comforted.

But is that our lot now? Still? No!

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

Dirty soul, meet the bathtub named Jesus.

But what about the days I, like my kids, get all clean then run outside and manage to find a mud puddle? As in, I confess some sin and then get selfish and nasty with people the moment I walk out the door. I should totally hide then, right? Like a couple of kids who know they’re in for it? It sure feels that way. And yet I read:

“Love keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5

Wait, none?

Today as I thought about these things, I prayed and asked God to help me deeply understand, beyond my mind only and into the depth of my heart. And in the midst of feeling bad about my recent fails, I saw a door to His presence wide open before me. I felt His joy and His love, and Him calling me to be with Him – just as though I had never done wrong.  And I guess according to His book, I hadn’t. So who am I to keep my own book against myself or anyone else?

The door is open to you too! Come into His presence today, and receive that forgiveness and welcome!

 

 

 

 

Thirsty

Not too long ago, I felt like that succulent (the droopy sad excuse for a plant in the pot by the cross).

Our living room was in a messy disarray while we were restoring the hardwood under the (former, horrible no good very bad) carpet. My husband’s job was in flux. My 10 year old had just discovered sarcasm. And of course there were the normal duties of car repairs, bible study prep, paying bills and making sure there were clean dishes and underwear and shoes that still fit and… and… and…

Overwhelmed? Yes.

But as I was beholding the dirty dishes piled just below this window sill, my eyes lifted to that clearly-underwatered succulent (which I also managed to decapitate while taking that photo) and the cross beside it.

“Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength…”  Isaiah 40:31

And I had a flash of understanding.

I looked like that plant because I was trusting in myself. When things are bad, I look for inner strength, give myself a pep talk (drink another cup of coffee). It feels good to solve problems, push past barriers, to “be enough.” But I wasn’t made to be the infinitely powerful one. I was made to be in relationship WITH HIM. Just like that succulent was made to need water, I was made to need God.

And hardships are God’s way of driving us back to Him, reminding us of our need for Living Water (John 4).

Fortunately, even a droopy (and/or decapitated) succulent will bounce right back when finally watered, and we are the same way. Just a few real minutes with our Savior in the Spirit, soaking in the Bible or unloading our feelings or thanking Him and offering our hearts and days to Him and we are renewed. Because those things direct our hearts and our hope and trust right back to Him, the source of our life.

Take a few minutes today to be with Him in whatever way you most connect with God. Offer Him your heart and renew your relationship with Him, and let Him renew your strength.

The Missing Peace

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

There’s a lot of sighing in my life right now. I sigh over the phases my kids are in, and how impossible parenting feels. I sigh over the Big Decisions we need to make about jobs, housing, schooling that all seem to be converging on this point in Klein family history. I sigh over all the hurting around me that I can’t fix, and all the lost people I know who are so unaware of Jesus and His goodness, some determined to keep walking in darkness. I sigh over my own shortcomings (lots of sighing there).

Where is the peace like a river I used to sing about as a kid? Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? Isn’t it a fruit of the Spirit in me? So where did it go?

Arrgh!

But even as I am writing this, the truth is coming into focus. Something I’ve heard before but now seem ready to believe: God is unchanging. Life feels like chaos right now, but He is calm and steady and powerful like a big river, carrying me along. He does not change. His love for me and His care for me are wholly unchanged. It reminds me of Peter walking — eh, sinking — on the waves. He focused on the water that was shifting all around him. But Jesus’ love and power were right there, unaffected by the storm.

Peace is a matter of where we put our trust.

Trusting Jesus doesn’t fully erase the tension I feel – there is the part where I wait on Him to act that must be walked out. But waiting in trust doesn’t feel scary like waiting-till-I-figure-it-all-out-but-gasp-what-if-I’m-wrong-and-screw-everything-up. Even in the tension, waiting on Him feels peaceful in a way I can’t describe. I just know He’s going to take care of it, so I don’t have to figure anything out.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

What are you needing peace about? Can you put it in His hands and wait on the Unchanging One?