Waiting For Ai

Passing By The Thing You Want And Trusting God Has Something Better

When Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land and they were defeating the cities in the area - clearing out the neighborhood so that Israel wouldn't be corrupted by the inhabitants - they first went to Jericho. God specifically told them not to take ANYTHING from Jericho.   They were supposed to burn the whole place down and take nothing for themselves.

One man didn't listen.  He took silver and gold and a cloak, and Israel paid for his mistake. When they went against the next city, Ai, they were ran off and they lost 36 of their men.  When the sneaky man with the loot from Jericho was found out, his family paid - the whole family and everything that belonged to the man was destroyed.  Harsh.

Once he was gone, God led them to defeat Ai.

And then something weird happened.  God told them that they could take the livestock and the spoil of the city as plunder.

They were forbidden from taking from Jericho, but invited to take from Ai.

A bible scholar, or a historian, or maybe even someone who paid more attention while reading the story might be able to tell you what the difference was between the two cities.  They might understand why taking from Jericho was dangerous and taking from Ai was okay.

But really, it doesn't matter for me right now.  I needed to see this story in a new light.  I needed to see how sometimes God asks you to give something up - to pass by silver and gold and fancy clothes.  Sometimes He says "Give that up" or "Pass that by" or "Let that go" with no explanation - no promise of something specific He would give in return.  He doesn't say "Destroy everything in Jericho, I'll let you take what you want from Ai,"  He just says, "Destroy everything in Jericho."

Mrs. Bible scholar/Historian/Person who pays more attention might correct me, but I'm thinking the plunder from Ai was even better.  I bet that if they had known what they were about to receive, passing by Jericho would have been a breeze.   But they didn't know.  What they did know is this: God was taking pretty good care of them.  These are the people who ate manna in the desert and quail when they whined about the boring manna, they saw Joshua part the Jordan, they had JUST seen the walls of Jericho fall because they walked around it and made some noise.  They knew God is awesome.  They knew God can do anything.  But that one guy just could not trust that God had something better, so he slipped some trinkets and a jacket into his coat.

I just passed by something.  I lingered beside it knowing God was saying no.  I attempted a negotiation - "I won't take the whole thing God, how about this little piece of gold, maybe the silver, and how about this coat - I'll never find another one like this - maybe just the coat Lord?"  But I had my marching orders - don't take anything.

So I didn't.

And that's pretty scary.  But I have my own stories of manna and quail and parting waters and thick walls falling.  He is trustworthy.  All of the time.  And if He says to leave the coat and Jewels in Jericho, I'm leaving them.

I'm leaving them, and I'm waiting for Ai.

I'm Done Burying My Talents

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I cringe every time I hear the parable of the talents.

Something weird happens in my stomach.

My face is all crinkly right now just thinking about it.

I'm the servant who buried the money.  I badly want to be the one who invested and multiplied the master's cash, but I'm not.  I took his talent, held it tightly in my fists, put my tail between my legs, and sprinted off to find a good hiding spot.

God gave me a great talent for rationalization (still waiting to see how that can be put to good Kingdom use).  I can convince myself - and probably you - that the very best thing to do right now is to put this coin deep in the dirt, where no harm will come to it, where it will be waiting for the master when He returns.  But the real reason for the digging and the hiding and the burying is FEAR.  Same as the guy in the parable.  He was afraid.  I am afraid.  He is me. I am him.

I have written since I was about six years old - I started with poems.  And I kept writing.  Poems, stories, songs.  A lot of them I keep - tucked away in a drawer or in a box or in a file (I recently ran across a floppy disc with writings from my junior high years - those may be lost forever - it's probably for the best).

I have twice now reached over 20,000 words trying to write the same novel, and twice I have let it dry up.

I made a blog, wrote on it for an entire year, and shared it only with my mom.

I have been afraid for a very long time.  But I'm doing life a little differently now.  I'm getting my hands dirty, I'm digging up talents and starting to invest.  It is scary.  And also a little exciting.  I kind of want to do it more.

Burying is easy and investing is hard.

Burying is the coward's way out.  Burying is not humble.  Burying is selfish.

Burying is listening to the evil little voice who wants to shut me up.  Investing is telling that voice to shut it.

But people don't want to hear what you have to say . . .

You're totally right, billions of people won't want to read what I write.  This is why I don't plan on tying the abstainers to chairs and clothes pinning their eyes open until they absorb my words.

But you really aren't that great of a writer . . .

So what?  Moses sucked at public speaking and Gideon only had 300 men.

Everything I have belongs to God.  This includes my words.  He gets the final say on what I write, where I write, and who sees those words - not me.  It is not humility to hide them in a drawer, it is pride.

Don't Chase Wind

I Have Dreams And Plans But I Don’t Chase Wind

I have this giant, ever growing, list of creative projects. Some are ongoing things, like my "Essay Per Week" project this year and my "Biweekly Spoken Words" project (man is that one slipping through the cracks!) and my "Fail 12 Times This Year" project. 

Others will require me (because of the way I work) to focus intensely on one at a time. Things like three different color books, a book of silly poems for kiddos, a short non-fiction book on singleness, a children's book series, a series of novels . . .

I have been in the process of rearranging my life a bit - making more time for these projects, because I believe it's where God is asking me to focus.

But sometimes I look at my list and realize how it keeps getting longer and I realize how I keep getting older and there is just no way I will keep up. 

I realize some of these projects will require things I don't have, like money and certain collaborators. 

I freak out a little. And I freeze up a lot. And I stress about which to do first. I worry about which ones will never get done. 

I wonder about dying tomorrow and leaving them all undone and whether anyone will care, and I decide they probably won't, so why bother doing any of it in the first place. (My brain sometimes runs away to terribly overdramatic place.)

And then, thankfully, I realize I'm missing the point. 

Thank God for too-long lists, for passions and goals which exceed my time and talents, for projects to fill three lifetimes.

Because if it was in my power to do it all, I would. I would set my goals and make my lists and check my boxes. I would travel from one checkpoint to the next, marking off each accomplishment and moving on to the next with only the finish line in mind.

Thank God for too-long lists because a short list, a list I could feasibly complete in my own power, would make me its slave. It would have me running around grasping at the wind.

Instead I am free, as intended. Free to follow. Free to abide. Free to be content in each day, whether in the middle of a project, deciding where to begin, or dreaming up something new. 

Free to unclench my fists. I might have hours left on this earth or decades - I can be fine with either when I stop pretending I can control it and focus on falling more in love with the one who can.

You Can Do Nothing

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Faith without works is dead.

But be wary the difference between works gathered, crafted, sought out and those works which bud as a result of our abiding in him.

The latter works result from faith.  The former are a distraction. 

When we are consumed by works of our own initiative we impede the Holy Spirit from his work in us, and the good works we might have produced are never afforded the opportunity to flower.  

We call our works "fruit" but the fruit is only good and an indication of our spiritual life when it is hanging off of a branch grafted into and abiding in our savior.  Otherwise, you have gathered - you have not produced.

Those ugly wretches we talked about in the "Be You" series - Comparison, Competition, Cowering - they will get us here.  They will snag us, snare us, draw us in and away from our place of abiding.

(COMPARE) That branch is producing "x" and I'm producing "y."  I better go gather some "x."

(COMPETE)  That branch is producing more "x" than I am.  I better go gather some more "x."

(COWER) I should be producing "z," but no one else is - I'll go gather some "x" instead.

You have your own works, your own fruit, your own path and purpose to which you were called.  Zoom out and and out and out until you can see your works set against eternity - until it becomes clear how small and insignificant they are without the context of God's story, God's plan, God's purposes.  

Zoom out and then lean in - because you do have work to do.  Work with meaning, work which fits into a bigger picture, a bigger story, and you can't hope to know what it is or do it His way if you are not leaning in.  

Zoom out.  Lean in.  Abide.