Tag: soul

Come and Deny, Follow and Rest

 

Is there anything in this world that calls us to deny ourselves?

 

We buy what we want, fight for what we don’t have, and clamor to make it to the top. The more we have, the happier we will be, right? Doesn’t true contentment come with the fulfillment of our desires?

 

The problem is, our desires are insatiable. And we exhaust ourselves trying to fill up on them.

 

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I have never been thin, and have cycled between overweight and average-sized as I have walked through different seasons. When I have been on the larger side of that spectrum, I have looked at pictures of the smaller me and been filled with “if only” thoughts. If only I could be that size again I would be so much happier.

 

But when I was that size did I actually feel happier? No. I wanted to be smaller.

 

When we achieve what we desire, we only become more aware of the next lurking hunger. Contentment often waits just outside our grasp, taunting us to reach further in order to find it.

 

The story is told that when John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest men that ever lived, was asked how much money was enough, he replied: “A little bit more.”

 

Enter the words of Jesus,

 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

 

In the context of our me-centric world, this call sounds so radical. And it brings with it a question:

 

Is it worth it?

 

What if following Jesus makes our lives miserable? His demands are too high. It seems like too much.

 

But then I think of something else Jesus said.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

 

What if we intertwined these verses? This call to come and this call to follow? Would we see the give and take a little differently?

 

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

– Matthew 11:28-30 and Matthew 16:24-26

 

Our souls are lost. Drifting and weary from the burden of looking out for ourselves.

 

There is a peace found in the confidence of letting go. When we trust in a God who became one of us in order to demonstrate the depth of His love.

 

strivingWe can stop striving. And worrying. And clamoring. And pushing others down. And working ourselves to exhaustion as we try to prove that we are good enough.

 

We are loved. We can rest in that and focus our energy on loving others.

 

When we follow Jesus, we can deny ourselves not because we should, but because we want to.

 

Counter-intuitively, the burden of living for Jesus is lighter than the burden of living for ourselves.  This light burden does not mean our life will always be easy. This is not a promise of happiness, but of peace.

 

It is possible to find rest for our souls.

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.

Remembering What Health Feels Like

I have been sick for so long that I don’t remember what healthy feels like.

 

It is cold and flu season, my son is in a public school kindergarten, and we live in a new community. That is the perfect trifecta for viruses to overwhelm my little family. A barrage of fresh germs has been knocking us down again and again. Our immune systems cannot keep up.

 

I should have purchased stock in Kleenex and cough drops in October.

 

I have had a few days here and there, when my system has been able to recover. There have been slivers of space, time after my cough has dwindled and before my runny nose has begun yet again, when I remember…

 

Oh. That’s right. This is what it feels like to breathe.

 

We take our breaths for granted. The ability to suck air in through our nose or mouth in order to refill our depleted oxygen supply. That sensation of filling our lungs so full they feel like they could burst. The way releasing air once held in lets out stress and anxiety along with it.

 

To do this all without coughing or pain or stuffiness is a gift. I want it back. Please. Pretty please.

 

As I wallow a bit in my circumstances (Sorry for the drama on this one. I am feeling a bit sorry for myself today. Done. Seriously. Just plain done with colds), I am also pondering my health in other ways.

 

I wonder if I have forgotten what soul health feels like.

 

I mean sure, I go to church. In fact, I work at a church. And I pray regularly. And I read my Bible often. I try to love others well.

 

But, is my soul really healthy? Or have I forgotten what healthy feels like, and been lulled into thinking this is it?

 

I think there are germs that creep their way into our souls and mess with our spiritual health. Selfishness. Distraction. Pride. Busyness. These germs don’t necessarily stop us in our tracks, but they can slowly chip at us and make us less healthy if we are not careful.

 

I think the busyness germ got to me in December.

 

My hectic pace pressed up against my prayer life, and I defaulted to talking to God on the run. I asked for His blessings as I drove to work and made requests for His help as I stirred my dinner.

 

These kinds of prayers aren’t bad, necessarily. Prayer helps our souls to breathe. So anytime we do it, it is good. And prayers on the run are an awareness of His presence with us always.

 

But, in many ways, these prayers are shallow breaths taken through a stuffy nose.

 

I have forgotten what it is like to truly fill my soul with the air of God’s goodness. To set aside time just to be in His presence. To exhale my junk and inhale His grace.

 

It’s time I take those healthy, strong breaths again.

 

Do you think you have let germs creep into your spiritual life? 

I lift up my soul in trust and hope

When you read the Bible, do you look at more than one translation?

Sometimes, side by side, verses don’t read very differently. But other times, the difference can smack you between the eyes.

It’s a good little trick when you don’t know the original languages. All English translations have a bit of interpretation built into them, as the teams of scholars decided how to translate words and phrases. Especially in the case of idioms that might not carry the same meaning across cultures.

Psalm 25:1 in the NIV reads

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.

Psalm 25:1 in the ESV reads

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

I love the way each of these versions deepens the meaning of the other.

We often think of our “soul” as being synonymous with our spirit. But in biblical times, people thought of the soul as synonymous with our personhood. It is not one of our characteristics, but the union of our characteristics.

“Your soul is what integrates your will (your intentions), your mind (your thoughts and feelings, your values, your conscience), and your body (your face, body language, actions) into a single life.” – John Ortberg

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. That is an act of trust.

My soul easily drifts towards fragmentation. Being overwhelmed leads to trying to do too many things at once. Feeling self-doubt leads to seeking validation in too many places. Experiencing loneliness leads to spending too much time on too many social media sites.

Suddenly my beautifully knit soul is unraveled into a heap of tangled yarn.

As I sit with verse one, Psalm 25 becomes my prayer. I take my soul, and lift it up as a meager offering, an act of trust in God’s character.

My soul is disintegrated. Daddy, can you fix it for me? Please?

 Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.

 Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.

May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord, is in you.  – Psalm 25:4-7, 16-18, 21 (NIV)

When life is disjointed and splintered. When I am spreading myself thin. When stress has broken me apart. When I am scouring every corner for validation. When sin has crumpled me.

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. Heal me. Forgive me. Redeem me. Save me. Knit me back together. My hope is in You. In You, Lord my God, I put my trust.

Do you ever feel like your soul is splintered? What does it look like to trust God to knit it back together?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.

Control, Panic, and Finding our Anchor

Breathing is something I usually don’t notice.

If I slow down, I become aware of how wonderful breathing feels. How the air currents rush through my nostrils, as if they are racing each other to my lungs. How my entire body seems to open up in order to receive a new breath. How the whole process seems to make me feel lighter.

Usually, I don’t pay attention to these feelings. I just go about my day and assume breathing will continue on in the background.

I have been more aware of my breaths lately. Because not long ago, I couldn’t find them.

I was lying on my bed, chatting with my husband. My mind was swirling with the unknowns of the future. I was crying and trembling as my heart raced to keep up with my thoughts.

Suddenly, the weight of panic settled in and rested upon my chest. My lungs could not bear the burden. I lost control. I gasped in short bursts. I exhaled in sputters. I ached for oxygen. I struggled to find a rhythm. I felt my torso heave.

I hyperventilated.

Slow and steady, my husband settled me into calm. He anchored me, and my breathing gradually returned to normal.

What caused this?

Housing. Another thing, like breathing, that I take for granted.

Months before, my husband and I made an offer to buy a house. It was a short sale. Lots of hands in the same basket meant a long process of negotiation. The banks could not come to an agreement with the sellers by the time we relocated.

We moved in with my husband’s parents.

As much as we love them, this was not a good long term solution. We were anxious to get the housing situation figured out.

Since the bank didn’t meet their deadline, we were no longer contractually obligated to the property. We made an appointment with our realtor to see what else was on the market.

As it turns out, by the time the day came to look at houses, the bank had reached an agreement with the first house. It was ours if we wanted it. With a guaranteed closing date within the month.

But, we still decided to look. Just in case there was something else we liked more.

Turns out, there was. We fell in love with another house.

We decided to pull our offer on the first house in order to go after the second house.

We waited, overnight, to hear back from the sellers of the second house. This is what brought on the panic attack.

This was a self-imposed stress.

Though it was nerve-racking, it was our choice to be in that place of panic. We chose to look for houses. We chose to give up the house we had in our pocket. We chose to take the risk of going for a different house.

We exercised our choice and exerted our control.

Interesting that as soon as we exerted our control, we lost our control. We had no influence over whether the sellers of the house would accept our offer. We had no say in when they would desire to move, and whether that would match up with our timeline. We had no ability to make the house pass inspection

And in the middle of these unknowns, I hyperventilated. A reminder of how little control I actually have.

Sometimes we feel like life is completely within our direction. Like we have a grasp around all of it. We think we can chose which way to go and know exactly what will happen.

Most of the time, it turns out, control is an illusion. We never have power over the unknowns. And sometimes, we even lose our influence over the knowns.

When the uncertainties of life cause us panic, the answer is not to grasp harder for control. It is allow the One who loves us settle us into calm. Because no matter what we don’t know, we do know this. Jesus is Lord, and He loves us beyond measure. Christ can be our anchor in the midst of our stress.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” –Hebrews 6:19

Have you ever panicked? How has Christ been an anchor for you?

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