Unsatisfied By Average

The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: love (page 1 of 4)

This Much

Sometimes it’s the things I’ve known longest, the things most taken for granted, that break me widest open…

Like there, opening arms as if to a long-lost friend, pausing with abandon-joy to savor the song that is the sea– the crashing sound of surf, the salt on the breeze, the endless blue.

His words come out of nowhere, His tone utterly casual. But His eyes twinkle.

So, you know how much I love you?

No, how much?

This much.



Standing on the edge of this expanse as endless the circumference of a circle, my heart gives way, before a truth I already know.
He loves me, this much.

And the salt in my eyes then doesn’t come from the sea.
Or does it?

Ten Years and What Matters

Something stirs and I turn left at the end of the paved pathway flanked by lawn in winter colors. A left that takes me right away from my accustomed quiet corner. Away, but towards something strangely and warmly familiar…

I think I might find it… Through wispy grass and a forest that’s since been thinned.
True as the sunrise, there it is. The top stones have tumbled down the hill a way, but the foundation is still here. It only takes a moment, and a ten-year old altar has been restored.

Ten years.

Ten years ago I encountered God for myself on this hillside as a boy, and we struck up a friendship that has become the reason I breathe.

Much-Afraid gathered homely little stones.
I just build the altars.
At every page turn, I’ve turned, built another.

I stand and look, thoughts afar. Reaching back for what sort of prayers I prayed here, who my friends were when last I knelt here, what my goals were when I left here to build new…
And I remember. I remember the next…

I stop to count.
Seven altars. Ten years.
I’ll find them all today.

There’s something priceless about the remembering. The whole trek will take me an hour and a half. To all the places witness to the forever moments in my experience. The hallowed ground where God was always waiting to keep an appointment, where I trembled and triumphed, and learned to trust Him absolutely.

I wander and emotions sometimes flood, but after I’ve been up and over, down the draw and past ground I haven’t covered in a decade, one question throbs–

Not whether or not I found my dreams.

I want to know whether or not I’ve fulfilled His.

Take it from me, 10 years later.
This is all that matters. 

Notification Center, and the 5 Questions [Do I Love Jesus More?]

I figure my phone deserves to rest at night. So, unless I’m “on call” for someone, it slips into airplane mode at or around 2100.

Unremarkable practice.
Albeit, the implications of this simple habit have recently opened my eyes to a stubborn and surprising reality, and caused me to be confronted with this question I’m now passing along.

– – –

There are a good many factors that go into making a day great. And also a fair few that can ruin a good start. I’ve found one of them. It’s those first 60 seconds after the alarm sings…

I reach for my phone; sigh all content. Blink, blink, blink away the last of sleep. (I was only half sleeping.) A swipe of the phone sweeps Waves into memory, until tomorrow this time. Another swipe and the little machine reaches out to the invisible, to start downloading the day.

Do I?

If I’m brave, my feet are on the floor before it starts to buzz. Notification Center all alight. I have friends on every inhabited continent, so in my world it’s always day somewhere. Maybe they liked my last photo on Instagram?

That right there is where it starts. I can predict with almost unerring accuracy the sense and sensitivity at my disposal in the day to follow. By who I check in with first.

It’s such a little thing. 
Yes. But these little things are pledges of allegiance, of which we’re sometimes quite unaware.

And anyway, don’t knock little things.
(Bullets are little things.)

– – –

The 5 Questions. (Time for a self-test.)

1. At the start of the day, which comes first: Facebook Notifications, or an hour of Scripture? 

2. At the breakfast table, does the prayer come from a heart actually full of gratitude, or does it sound suspiciously like yesterday’s?  

3. At school, which drives harder: Desire for grades, or desire for God? 

4. At home, which seems sweeter: An hour of entertainment, or an hour of intercession?  

5. In bed, which lingers longer: The frolic of the day, or thoughts of heaven?

– – –

I’ve learned a day is worth too much to lose, by reefing through notifications before I’ve read my Bible. And not because my notifications are my enemy. Because at the end of the day, my priorities are making a statement to myself. 

So, I won’t anymore. And I’ve found, I no longer care to. I’d rather meet God first, declare to Him and to myself that in Him is my greatest pleasure; would rather let the whole world wait, make notifications come and stand in a line at attention for an hour, while I take my time.

Oh, and it’s not that I don’t care. If you sent me a text at 0200 this morning, I can’t wait to read it.
But…

I still love Jesus more.

Australia in Retrospect [This is My Confidence]

The highest heights are often to be found in the least expected places…
Least expected, that is, to a world quantifying success with finite formulas.

I’ve been to the heights. And not standing on a stage before thousands. Nor on some glittering crest of conquest. (As high as those honors are…)

One thing is always the same. I’m always shorter on the highest heights… By the distance of heel to knee.

PC: James Tregenza doanddare.org

This time, it was on a dusty bit of ground surrounded by benches, throbbing hearts, deep attention.
I have never climbed higher. Never seen the world wider than I saw it then. Never looked smaller in my own eyes. Never felt closer to Heaven.

Surprise?
No surprise.

To those who have found eyes for higher glory, though the beauty of the high places always surpasses our dreams, it is never entirely unexpected…

“As long as I live, I will remember his words– 

‘…Mostly, I’ve met God properly.’

That broke me wide open As though standing on holiest ground, I was filled with a smallness; a trembling… How is it that I am even allowed to touch what is this holy?“*

Though every memory fades at least a bit eventually, my wonder will never cease.
Nor will love for new friends with a beautiful foreign accent.
Nor will firm faith that we’ll meet again, if not on this round earth, then inside pearly gates.

“Hey– remember when…?”

Yes, I remember.

morning stars: checkout | PC: Jasmine Tregenza

Before it was over I had the opportunity to try to crunch the essence of 40 pages of worship notes and days and days of prayer and pondering onto 5 minutes of film. 

This is my confidence.

peace
morning and miracle bend
later: snowy mountain living
friends in Victoria

*journal entry, January 20, 2014

Two Secrets

“We fill our lives with what we love most.”

I was recently asked how it is a life comes to be full of God.
Well I am no expert. But I do have this confidence.
I have an insatiable appetite for holy joy, adamant hopefulness, and unshakable confidence. And I know where these come from.
So, this is my defense.
– – –
Failure is no stranger to me. And there is altogether too much in my soul that competes for God’s place. 
But this I can say: with ever passing day I want less of the world, and more of Christ. 
And this transformation is not hard work, it is a simple gift, which He bestows to all who long to love Him first. 
I will tell you two secrets though– Two secrets that I am learning form the basis of every success I have ever attained. And two things that certainly involve consistent and tenacious effort. 
1. Love does the footwork. God does the rest. I make the room.
The heart will follow what it loves. Love God, and following Him is no struggle. Love the world, and you will forever have to fight to give God anything.
Good news: We were wired to love God. There’s no complicated formula.
Bad news: We’re prone to re-wiring. And the world is only too eager to help. Pleasure, convenience, compromise, popularity, lust, excitement, even friends?… These glitter like gold because they parade as substitutes for God. And we too often fall for it.

In order to learn to love God, God must live in the heart. We come to love best what we hold closest. (No, it’s true. We’re duped into holding close what is actually entirely unlovely, and  so come to love our worst enemy best of all.) The reciprocal is also true.

So, the thing to remember is that I only have one heart to give away. I can’t sprinkle God on top of pleasure. Guilty pleasure gets a foothold by kicking God out. I give God a foothold by kicking guilty pleasure out. (And that’s work.)
2. My happiness is proportional to the abandon with which I relinquish my right to myself.
This is undiluted joy. It matters very little how much effort it requires. 
So I repeatedly relinquish my “right” to myself.
That is, my right to direct my own steps, seek my own pleasure, pursue my own glory, fulfill my own dreams…
 
Because I’ve proven to myself (by repeated failure) that choosing pleasure over principle never, never, never, never leads to happiness in the end. 
And I’m thoroughly tired of being disappointed. 
Now when faced with a choice, I am gently reminded that I have given myself to the Almighty, and that whether or not I understand Him, I can draw contentment from allegiance. 
Then, I no longer sit there forever begging for power. (I used to.) I get up and go. Because He’s already given us enough power to actuate obedience. And He never gives again power we already possess. 
Thus He adds another block to the empire He’s building in the souls of His servants, and I’m perfectly satisfied.
So satisfied, that I become daily more likely to chose Him over any substitute.
And as long as I keep allowing Him to crowd out of my life everything unlike Himself, I get happier. 
The moment I refuse Him, He is crowded off His rightful throne, and I’m at the mercy of a selfish rottenness that has power only because I give it such.
Which power all the host of heroes on white horses defies.

For what it’s worth… I’m sticking with them. 

Believing is Everything?

Minnows flee the froth while they tumble out of the boats and splash ashore, this exuberant rabble.
They’ve been looking for the miracle worker that baked 25,000 barley loaves (not including what wife and kids ate) without an oven yesterday, and they’ve just found Him.

He doesn’t answer their first question at all, rather gently reminds them what alone is really worth pursuing.

“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.”
(John 6:27 KJV)

Whether or not they actually understand what He’s saying, they are plainly intrigued. So they ask another question. The answer to which has me positively intrigued…

“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe…”
(John 6:28-29 KJV emphasis added)

Belief changes everything.

Because if Christ really came, then God is really good, and self-love is really a lie, and sin is really a destroyer, and who wants to die anyway?

I have some news for you.
Christ came. (Matchless condescension.)
And He comes again, every time a dark heart opens its door. (Again, matchless condescension.)
What more proof do we need of His benevolence?

And if He is benevolent, then where’s the controversy?

Believing is everything.

We only ever hesitate to serve a God whose character we question.

God of the Open Door

Good morning world.

This one thought has me tingling this morning, so I’m here to shout from the [blog]top before I run out the door.

I’ve spent much of my week working the problem of addictions. (as is my business.)
One big, scary word, little scientific consensus within the mental health community when it comes to definitions and limitations.

And I’m not about to jump into the ring and argue what is and what isn’t.
Anyway, definitions have never made anyone free.

Here’s the word of the day.

“Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it…”

The God creative and redemptive, merciful and authoritative, sacrificial and strong, fearful and wonderful, perfect and beautiful, righteous and wroth–

He’s the God of the Open Door.

If there were no other reason to serve Him, that one would be enough.
It’s enough for me.

The Power of the Personal Gospel

“There are some themes, some messages that stir me to the depths of my soul, and cause me to be gripped with a great quiet… Almost immobilized by the weight of truth; driven to my knees to simply be before God, utterly silent. 

There are themes that bring silent tears to my eager eyes, make my soul soar as if on wings of eagles… 


There are some themes that call forth an exultation so overpowering my fist shoots up and it is all I can do to get it down again.

And then there are those themes that awaken in me at once a passionate dissatisfaction, and a steel-clad resolve; words that invariably get me out of my seat to pace back and forth like a caged lion in my office. From french doors to bookshelf and back, on my knees, on my feet, on my face…

And I’m just warning you, this is one of those.


You see, I have this thought: (overly simple as it may seem–)

That God has a right to that which belongs to Him.

That after all He has suffered, after all He has lost, He’s worthy of receiving His own with interest. 
That His beautiful dreams– (which are all for the happiness of others, by the way) –there is no reason why He should be denied them; 
Why the universe should be denied them….

But you know, God is often denied what is due Him. 

Perhaps most notably, by those who call themselves His friends…”

______________________________


I don’t preach anything I don’t first love. 
But this truth is my absolute all-time favorite. 

Triumph [Like a Pearl]

It is the triumph of the Christian faith that it enables its followers to suffer and be strong…

To maintain a grip of steel, then willingly give.
To love, and lose, and dare to love again.
To believe in promises while relinquishing the right to personal claims.
To accept tears as glittering gifts.

To believe that I am perfectly loved, even when suffered to drink anguish.
To perfectly love what (Who) I don’t understand.

It is triumph.
To suffer softly. To remember that His feet are washed best with tears. To remember He has never once made a mistake. To remember there is a reason I am trusted with every sorrow.
To remember His name is made great when His children love Him anyway.

–  –  –

Now it’s my turn. My turn to stand in the bottom of the grave and help tuck in the treasure. Me thinking this is the worst kind of personal loss– watching some of “my people” lose something beloved. We work in silence. Wind blows and dust flies, and just like her name, around a speck of a thought layer after layer of luster is laid, while I contemplate Love.

I remember the last group ride; remember my turn on the brilliant beast while the trusted friend worked a kink out of her older sister. They’re both gone now, the Diamond and the Pearl, sister jewels black as stellar space.

Like a little boy about Christmas time my mind scratches at the cold blast of circumstances has build on the windows– the windows of my heart. The boy might be wondering the price of the Christmas Lionel caboose. I’m looking for the same thing I always look for first. Searching for where love might be hiding its best, right about now.

Silent and strong as always, friend-more-like-brother works on the other side of the cavernous hole, till the job is done.
Our girls, out little sisters; they’ve lost their friends, also sisters. (is that what makes us family?)

Later, after thoughts and words and prayers and tears have finished their work for the day, what is left is a lesson worthy of the gift through which it came.

But of course; Faith doesn’t mean that if I believe hard enough, pray hard enough, I’ll love the outcome.

 Faith is believing I’m loved, regardless of the outcome.

Thanks girls. For all kinds of beautiful memories, and for standing up tall and graceful.
And trusting Merciful God. Again.
And thanks friend, for letting me love her too.

My Everything

Stars swim outside windows high. Like pinpoints of light on ripples of water. Through water?

He hangs up the phone. We know what it means already.
Nobody calls at 0200 for no reason. And seldom for a happy one.

Anyway, what follows prayers in the dark are these words burning like fire.
The reason I love anyway–

“Every beautiful thing you have ever been given to love has been given first for this purpose: 
That when the hour of sacrifice is come, you might have something to put on the altar.”

I see in my mind’s eye the young faces of the friends to whom I gave those very words months ago; feel this resolve of mine to love turning to steel again.

“What we do, we do for Christ. Only Christ.
And for Him, we give away our everything.
Because He is everything.”


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