Archive | February, 2017

The Beauty of Hiddenness

At a quiet restaurant, during a night alone with no kids, I prop my elbows up on the table and confess to my man what God’s been showing me. “I have a really rebellious heart,” I tell him.

He leans in to listen, then sits back in his chair, long legs stretching underneath the tiny table we share. He chuckles lightheartedly, and quips back, “Really? You think?” I love this man. He keeps me honest in all the right ways.

Peter’s words to new believers in his first letter have uncovered a full-on rejection of authority in the deepest, most private area of my heart and mind.

Words like power and submission tumble around like weighty rocks.

Then I hear Emily Freeman, author of A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday, speak them just weeks later. Emily writes about a hunger for power, but in a familiar way that I’ve tasted. She talks about things like influence and longing for recognition, and the book that has been unraveling all of this for her.

I get my own copy and, days later, tears blur pages where someone has put into eloquent words the struggle God has unearthed in my heart through His Word. In The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel tackle this topic with grace and truth.

“In our pursuit to be more than, to transcend our weakness and frailty, we are reduced.”

The idea of hiddenness surfaces again and again as I read and mark up nearly every page of this paperback book. Peter uses the word, too, as he speaks about true beauty. All the while, God urges me to face my resistance to His way.

Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4

Hiddenness runs contrary to so many things I’ve been taught are important. Things like recognition and influence. Success. Yet, through this struggle, God is uncovering a longing in my heart. Somehow, I’ve assumed that recognition and influence will lead to connection.

Hidden is not the same as hiding.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Psalm 139:15

Every secret part of us lays open before a loving God. We can’t truly hide from Him, but we can wear ourselves out trying. While hiding prevents all connection, hiddenness in Christ provides the only path to authentic connection.

Goggin and Strobel describe two ways: “The way of the dragon is fixated on the spectacular, obsessed with recognition and validation, intoxicated by fame and power. The way of the Lamb is committed to worship, pursues God in the ordinary, and is faithful in hiddenness.”

In the personal, mysterious, and creative manner that God speaks, He weaves together His word, wisdom from others, and my own prayers offered in desperation into a visual that I finally understand.

Two simultaneous pictures flash through my mind one morning as I pray.

The Teacher tailors lessons to fit our time and place and wiring. Both images depict identical shades of rich orange and deep black, but only one has personal significance for me. A majestic tiger juxtaposed with a frail and fragile Monarch butterfly represents the deep power struggle in my heart that needs the salve of God’s loving truth.

The draw to power finds roots in a desire for control.

Yet, God has laid out His way, the narrow, small way where weakness wins and the last is first. Where surrender is daily and humility manifests through submission.

If I asked you which creature demonstrates power, you’d probably choose the tiger, right? Recognizing power in a delicate butterfly isn’t our natural inclination. “[James] tells us that the way from below masquerades as the way from above,” Goggin and Strobel point out.

We need God’s help to distinguish between the two.

Years ago, inside a breathtaking butterfly exhibit, with such intimacy I’ll likely never forget it, God showed me how He created me to soar as a butterfly. Speaking directly into my striving, my not enough mindset, He gave me a glimpse of the transformation He promised in my heart if I trusted Him to do the work.

Yet, here I am rejecting this way, longing for something bigger, something seemingly more powerful. God created us to be small and frail and dependent on Him for a reason.

A butterfly demonstrates a whole different kind of power.

Though ordinary, common, and often unnoticed, a butterfly displays God’s power to transform His creation. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

Hidden is translated krypto, which means to escape notice or conceal (that it may not become known). We get the word Krypton from this Greek word. Krypton is an inert, monatomic gaseous element, found in very small amounts in the atmosphere and often used to light certain fluorescent lamps.

Powerless, small, hidden. Our lives are but a vapor, yet God designed us to reveal His power through our weakness.

God’s glory shines out of hiddenness.

During that same trip to the butterfly museum with my family, my oldest daughter asked if the butterflies would land on her. I told her not to get her hopes up, but secretly asked God to make this happen for her.

She walked around that whole blasted place with her arm held out, just hoping a butterfly would land on her teeny, tiny perch. And you know what? I wished I had earplugs with all her squealing and carrying on when a single, solitary butterfly in all its glorious smallness landed on her arm.

In this sweet, vivid memory, God etches His truth on my heart:

While a tiger can be admired from afar, only a butterfly is free to truly connect.

“Recollection is not merely remembering, but re-collecting the truth of oneself in Christ. We need recollection because we are prone to lose ourselves to things other than God in search of power and value,” Goggin and Strobel write.

Recollect us to You, Jesus. Teach us the way of worship and humility, and show us the beauty of our hiddenness in You.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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The Truth About Our Neediness

I inch up to the white line and stare blankly at the red light ahead. I almost miss him completely. Less than ten feet away from my car sits a hooded man whose frame blends in with the black night.

I shiver inside my fully insulated SUV and subconsciously cinch my sweater up around my neck. The temperature gauge on my dash registers a chilly 47 degrees.

The light takes an eternity. I notice his wheelchair and the way his head hangs to the side. I wonder if he is asleep.

His hands grip a cardboard sign. I can only guess what it says. Doesn’t he know it’s pitch black, and no one can read that sign even if they tried?

Do you see yourself? a voice breaks the silence.

The light turns green and my car lunges forward. I leave the man alone in the shivering dark.

The voice that pricked my spirit is a voice I know well. Jesus, the One who continues to capture my heart and rescue me from my selfishness, wasn’t done speaking to my soul. He had only just begun this conversation.

Do you see yourself?

How can I see myself in a disabled homeless man sitting alone in the dark? What do we have in common, Jesus?

Do you see Me?

This Jesus I know and love and serve shows Himself in the hungry and worn-out, the dependent and the desperate, the lonely and forgotten.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35-36.

Why is it so difficult for us to see Jesus here? We search everywhere but the lowest place. Why do we dislike His honest answer that this is where we’ll find Him, engage Him, walk with Him?

Jesus places Himself here, in the lowest ranks, with common people well acquainted with their own need.

And He says, Follow me. He invites us to find ourselves among the least so that we might also find Him.

Yet, it’s too easy to divert our eyes to dodge the conversation, pretending we’re not needy at all. It’s less risky to ignore the man at the stoplight and wholeheartedly believe he’s needy and I’m not.

Relying on my own strength is a feeble attempt to distance myself from my own need for Jesus.

We need Jesus to recognize Him in the lost, the marginalized and forgotten. We need Jesus to show us our own lost-ness and emptiness and alienation and outright death without Him. Ironically, we need Jesus to remind us how badly we need Jesus.

Our faith hinges on those three simple words: We need Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son”– the very bread of life that fills our emptiness, living water that quenches every longing and desire.

God clothed us with a righteousness we don’t deserve and healed us of our sin-sickness. He showed us the only Way to enter in relationship with a holy God. Our Savior was not only willing to sit with us in our prison cells, but He busted the doors wide open.

And “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Every past, present and future need is met fully in Jesus.

My heart believes this, but my eyes sometimes struggle to see the beauty woven into my dependence on a faithful God who has given me new life.

So, I pray for the man at the stop light—that his physical needs would be met, but also that his heart will find Jesus. I thank God for using his raw and visible need to remind me of my own need for Jesus.

I thank Him for bridging the colossal gap between His holiness and my spiritual poverty that I could never close on my own. And, I thank Him for an inheritance I don’t deserve.

Every breath we take is a gift. May we use each one to praise Him and thank Him for rescuing our needy souls. Again and again and again.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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{HER STORY} 05: No Greater Power

A simple request for prayer on my Facebook feed led me to the home of a refugee family who had just arrived in Texas from Northern Iraq. My friend, Cathy, connected me to this precious couple and their four kids.

When the two of us showed up at their door, their genuine hospitality and warm reception of us took me by surprise. With a kiss on each cheek, our hosts ushered us in and served us hot tea and deliciously sweet cake.

Though language barriers prevented full exchange of words, something weighty came over me on that typical Thursday afternoon.

The power of God’s love radiated in that crowded living room.

Though Cathy had only met this family once before, their relatives consider her family. And she loves them as her own. This mutual relationship, clearly built on trust and love, emerging from nothing but cultural differences, completely undid me.

I invited Cathy to share more of her story with me, even though her simple presence among my new friends had inadvertently revealed the beauty of her heart.

This is her story.

God used two sisters—Mary and Martha—to shape Cathy’s faith. As a young adult living a privileged, wealthy lifestyle, Cathy recognized the way her heart gravitated to everything Martha valued.

A beautifully organized house, perfect dishes and exquisite food seemed necessary if she was ever going to serve others. Yet Mary’s availability to Jesus’ teaching captured Cathy’s heart in a compelling way. God began to reconcile the palpable void in her life.

“I focused on things and tasks, not relationships,” Cathy explained. “But then I told the Lord, ‘I want to focus on You. I want You.’” Cathy surrendered her life to the One who loved her first, and her heart has never been the same.

Cathy describes life with Jesus as “abundant and exciting.” Two minutes in her company will convince you she’s telling the honest-truth.

Her love for Jesus pulses through every relationship.

Loving on everyone within elbow reach, most would use the word ‘friend’ to describe Cathy. Her authentic love for people cascades beautifully out of the love God has generously poured out on her.

Cathy has lived around the globe: Canada, Norway, Egypt, and eventually, Texas, where (just this year) she received her United States citizenship. As a Coordinator for the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course, Cathy gets to indulge her passion for God’s global purpose.

She’s accepted His invitation to teach others about the Kingdom of God with gusto and grace. Her desire is not to make them Western Christians but to show them how they can know and follow Jesus in the context of their own cultures where God in His sovereignty gave them life.

Cathy’s heart for the nations has always overwhelmed me, but really, underneath her humility is something deeper that draws me to God. When we sat down at my kitchen table, a plate of ginger cookies and open bible filling the space between us, I wasn’t expecting to hear her talk about power.

Slowly, I began to see her humility as exactly that: God’s power in human weakness. Her heart for the nations is inextricably tethered to this understanding of God’s power over all people and His deep desire to be in relationship with them.

He is the God of all nations.

Cathy’s life reverberates this message. She believes whole-heartedly that anyone can be used by God. She aligns all that she does to the command of Jesus:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations… Matthew 28:18-19

Connecting with others from different cultures allows Cathy to experience God’s creativity. Cathy’s Iraqi friends have taught her about generosity and hospitality. She has learned about gratitude through her Afghan friend and witnessed a humble desire to serve God in innocent, orphan eyes.

Lulwanda Children’s Home is an orphanage in Uganda that Cathy has been heavily involved with since its inception. Cathy teaches children unique ways they can serve God right where they are with everything they have. They learn about unreached people groups who have never heard the name of Jesus.

“Even an orphan can be obedient to God’s word,” Cathy expressed with conviction. Through powerful prayers on behalf of people all around the world whom they have never met, boys and girls in Uganda engage the heart of God.

This picture of God’s power in human weakness has left a lasting impression on my heart.

I sometimes get caught up in the “go and make disciples” part. I ask God to define the ‘going’ and ‘doing’ for me, yet I overlook this important statement Jesus made about how all authority belongs to Him.

When I focus too heavily on my calling, I tend to forget all about His power.

Cathy’s availability and connectedness draws hearts to Jesus. The daily margin she’s carved out for people is extravagant. Yet the most beautiful part of her story isn’t her accomplishments, or even how she uses her gifts to serve God.

The power of her story is rooted in Love. Jesus, our perfect Savior, made Himself available by emptying Himself and taking on the nature of a servant.

God’s power is made manifest in Love.

This Love has no rival. Perfect, divine love has defeated all the powers of darkness and will one day destroy death and everything that opposes life. No greater power endures than the power of gospel love.

I asked Cathy what she most looks forward to, and she responded without hesitation. “I cannot wait for the time when eyes are opened to who Jesus is, and He is worshipped by every tongue, tribe, and nation,” she explained.

Even in this season of waiting for Jesus’ return, Cathy’s story speaks of God’s power. The throb of her heart for those who don’t yet know Him echoes God’s holy restraint as He waits for more to come to know Him.

Many will kneel before the King of Kings all because they saw something in an ordinary woman named Cathy. Something weighty, beautiful, and too powerful for eloquent words that moved them headlong into the arms of God.

Something called Love. Someone named Jesus.

 

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