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Desires of the Heart

A conversation I had with my Uncle Sean a few weeks ago has been stuck in my head. We were talking about dreams, goals and prayer which lead to a discussion of God’s will and what that really means.

I know that God’s will isn’t a yellow brick road that you magically find, skip along and end up meeting the wizard. I believe that God’s will is found in the small, seemingly inconsequential decisions that reveal our true character and faith. This is where the daily struggle is found. This is why we can’t wait til the big decision to invite God into the equation, by then it’s too late.

With this definition of God’s will, the verse “God will give us the desires of our heart” has a whole new meaning. We read the whole verse to see that our dreams come true when we delight in him.

But Uncle Sean took it a step further when he said we place the emphasis on the wrong part of that verse. God will GIVE US the desires of our heart. It doesn’t mean we create those dreams it means that he gives the dreams to us when we delight in him. It isn’t about us at all. They aren’t technically our dreams, they are his that he places in our heart when we’re in tune with him.

Ewwww! That throws a monkey wrench into my prayers. See I have been pestering God for months about where I should live. What should I do with my life. Will I ever get married? Are kids in my future at all? He cares about these things because he cares about me, but that isn’t the point.

My life thus far has been consumed with the wrong things. In part, my restlessness has been because I was praying for the wrong things. My old pastor always said that God cares about our character not our career.

Today, during the sermon, our pastor was talking about how God doesn’t play second fiddle  to our flesh (desires, ambitions, and sins). Ouch! God’s will for us isn’t about careers, job, marriage but who he is shaping us to be. The story he is telling through our lives is about emptying us of our junk, maturing us, and building relationships as He uses us to help others on their journey.

So, I am smack in the middle of God’s will when I’m uncomfortable, stretched and beyond myself. A.k.a living in Ohio, navigating the wake of my parent’s divorce and struggling to finally put my childhood to rest. Yea fun. But necessary. This isn’t just a detour, but is a major part of what God is doing in me. I need to face these things. I need to grow in ways that only these situations will allow. God fully intended for me to traverse this path to get where he wants to take me.

So its not about rules, self-righteousness, playing church, appearances, approval from others,  or any host of other things that fall outside of the realm of what God is trying to do in and through us.  But God can’t take us to where he wants us to go unless we submit everything to him. That’s the kicker. Stay with me.

We have to surrender our dreams, goals, and ambitions. It is part of the refining process he wants to do in our lives. He needs to mature us. God wants us to be whole. He doesn’t want us to be stuck in the past with our hurts, destructive patterns, fears, and wrong ideas. The sermon today was about God’s maturing process. How he moves us forward. The fruits of the spirit are evidence of a mature heart. They aren’t something we are given at salvation. They are something we are continually working on as we grow in Christ, grow in love, grow in maturity.

So rather than pray about where to live, what job to take in order to get where God wants me to go I need to pray about what I need to learn, where I can grow and what he’s trying to show me. Through these things my course in life will be revealed. That almost sounded like a fortune.

But it gives new focus to my prayers. It also returns my focus to my relationship with God instead of trying to make him a genie. I think that is what God cares about more than how much I miss California. He misses me. What a concept. God loves me so much he wants to spend time with me. He longs for me. He desires my attention. God wants me. Sitting with that notion is humbling, comforting, and peaceful.

Yet I know God is willing to let the tough times come. He will put me in the wilderness. He will lead me through the fire. He will do what it takes to help me put my flesh to death so that more and more of Christ shines through me. We have to die to ourselves. We have to live in the freedom of our salvation. But that doesn’t mean we get what we think we want. It means we’re willing to let all of that go and embrace the journey God has us on that includes the wilderness, the dry times, the times when he seems silent. There is a point to all of it, it really isn’t about torturing us. It’s about us pursing him and those things that are important to him.

Lots to digest. It feels like I’ve heard these things all my life yet separately not together. They were disjointed thoughts that have been crystallizing over the past few weeks (years apparently here was a message I heard nearly two years ago about this same thing, kind of). Maybe he’s tired of my prayers. Or maybe this is my answer to those prayers. Not sure. Haven’t gotten that far.

But at the end of the day I’ve learned its more important than ever to live in the moment. Be grateful for what is and not wish it away. I need to suck the joy and pain out of every circumstance because there is a point to it that makes me more of who God wants me to be. I am becoming. I am in process. I am in progress.

This doesn’t mean I stop dreaming or setting goals it just means that as I get closer to God my dreams might change or they’ll become clearer and doors for them to come true will open. Because our pastor also reminded us that it is as we growth that God can open new options. As we mature we can move beyond the childish things that used to occupy our time, namely ourselves.

See God’s Word and psychology do line up. Emotional maturity is characterized by the ability to be other-centered and belief in something bigger than ourselves. All truth is God’s truth regardless of where it comes from because he is the author of it. But that is another post 🙂

Ok this is a lot to process. These are the things rambling around in my brain. Welcome to the chaos and insanity.

Musings on Church

Mikey, my 11 year-old nephew and I got into an interesting discussion about church yesterday. We were walking in to register Jordy for basketball camp and Mikey out of the blue tells me, “you know I’m not a very churchy person.”

I knew this. As a typical pastor’s kid he has been in church more than he’s been out. He’s heard all of the stories a million times. He knows the usual angles for sermons on all major holidays.

But anxious to hear his opinion, because Mikey always has an interesting point of view, I asked, “why not.”

“I think children’s church is dumb. The purpose of church should be to teach kids how to have a relationship with God and all they do is tell you all the same stories over and over. There is no application to my life. How am I supposed to know how to do this as an adult if they don’t teach me how now,” he said emphatically.

I had no answer for that.

I hated children’s church at his age. Like him I refused to go. But trying to be the good adult I rambled on something about how its good to make friends, learn about God, yadda, yadda, yadda. Nothing convinced him or me about why he should be excited to go to church.

In the end I said it honored God for us to be apart of people who believed like we did and it was one form of worship. His reply was a very logical, “I’ll just find my own way to worship God.”

I had nothing to say to that. As an adult I still struggle with church. In California I had an amazing experience with a wonderful small group. It was the closest I’ve come to understanding the relevance of church in my life. Without it I just don’t see the point. I can volunteer with my favorite organizations. I can be with my friends anywhere. I can worship God in a million places.

Here in Ohio I have struggled to find a church that resonates with me as a single, 30something, career woman.  Because most people my age are married with kids aren’t that many single’s groups that reach out to my age group. I guess they figure I should be married by now.

The churches here in Canton are pretty conservative and traditional. I haven’t found one that makes me want to show up. I don’t really feel guilty about it, but I do miss the comraderie of my small group. I miss having friends in the same life stage as me. I miss my friends, but I don’t miss church per say.

So, I don’t know. I’m just rambling. All to say, I understand why Mikey doesn’t want to go to church.

Jesus is ironic

Jesus and I have been having lots of conversations lately about finding quality boys in Ohio, and the difficult job that is. I think he just listens, shakes his head and laughs at me. I didn’t really hear anything definitive from him until this last Friday. I went to an event at church, all of the usual people were there.

So half way through the service I notice someone new. He was just my type – tall, dark hair, football-player build. I saw that he was there with a friend and the requisite single-girl scan revealed that he didn’t have a ring on, great. But I quickly chastised myself for noticing a boy in the midst of a praise and worship service, and I resumed my intended task of focusing on God. Of course, everytime time you try and avoid something its all you can think about. Soon my eye has wandered back to where he was sitting, maybe this is why Jesus tells us to chop off the offending parts of our body. But anyway, I notice that he’s totally into the service – he raises his hands, he closes his eyes, oooh this boy loves Jesus, sweet.

After the service I see that he knows several people I know. But I’m not going to be obvious. Yet there is something about a new boy that makes you revert to high school. I’m all aflush and intrigued. But I try to dismiss it, if I meet him, I meet him. No big deal. So I’m walking around talking to people and then his friend brings him over to introduce him to my dad, who then calls me over to meet him – yea! My inner 16 year-old was very excited.

It was a short-lived elation. He’s a Spanish teacher – who loves Mexico. That’s the worst news for me, my years in Mexico were the worst of my life. I don’t like to speak in Spanish. I know I have issues around the subject, that’s no secret to anyone who knows me.

So imagine my dismay when my dad informs him that we lived there and that’s all he wants to talk about with me. When I told him that I don’t remember much Spanish, he actually offers to help me revive my dormant language skills. I pass.

Yea, Jesus is ironic like that. A cute, single boy who only wants to speak to me in Spanish about Mexico.

Not funny Jesus, so not funny.