An Open Letter to Winter

frozen envelope1

Dear Winter,

Like it or not, you’ve over-stayed your welcome.  I know you were scheduled to visit until the end of March but it looks like we might need you to check out sooner.  I’ve heard they have some vacancies for you in the Caribbean.  Since you don’t visit them as often, it would probably be a welcome stay for you.

However, you are no longer welcome here.  I don’t mean to be harsh and I don’t want you to take it personally.  Every year when you come to visit, I find the cooler weather refreshing.  But just as a fish and house guests begin to stink after about three days…well, so have you.  Your visits cause me to feel trapped.  I know you don’t technically lock the door to my house keeping me inside but because of the frigid wind and the gloomy skies, I don’t really want to go outside.  It doesn’t take long for my house-arrest to cause me to become downcast and sad.  The normally cheery side of my disposition is replaced with the constant struggle to not sit and eat my emotions.  Besides the seasonal affect,  your visit causes illness to be spread around among my friends and family.  We all breathe the same, dry air inside our comfortable prisons and share germs.  I know you’ve tried to make it more bearable and you don’t mean to cause so much misery.  I understand your intentions are good.  You want to ready us for spring.  Your intent to prepare us for warmer weather is quite effective.  In fact, I’ve been googling pools and dreaming of the beach.  But I realize I’ve become selfish.  I’ve hogged the summer for myself.  You probably want just a peek into the glory of everything warm.

I have to confess this perspective didn’t come to me on my own.  Your friend, Olaf, shared a little insight that I hadn’t noticed.  You miss out on summer and sunshine and heat.  So, no more.  I’m letting go.  I know you’d like to stay and though I appreciate your occasional visits.  It is time–time for you to spread your wings.  Experience new things and get a feel for life on the beach, the warmth, the humid air.

It has been real and it’s been fun but honestly, it hasn’t been real fun.

Good Tidings to you, dear Winter.  Be safe.  Pack some sunscreen.  I’ll see you next year.

Sincerely,

Bobi Ann & all her summer-lovin’ friends

Of course, this post was just meant to be funny and allow me to lament over my desire for warmer weather.  I don’t want to, however, make light of those who are suffering through frigid temperatures during the winter.  I don’t need any Jesus jukes–just trying to have a little fun.  Happy Winter to all!

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Unforced Rhythms of Grace 1.3–The Plan

To read previous posts from Room To Move:

Unforced Rhythms of Grace 1.1

Unforced Rhythms of Grace 1.2

The Plan

If transformation isn’t my responsibility, then why are we making a plan? A plan sure sounds like what you already had that shaped the supposed “good Christian girl” at least from the outside, right Bobi Ann?

Touche’. You got me. However, note there was a key element that was left out of the initial plan. God’s glory. Oh, right. Much of the initial plan (at least from my perspective) was Bobi Ann’s glory. I wanted the accolades. I wanted the approving nods and esteem. My motivation was all wrong. I was seeking after the appearance of righteousness instead of seeking after the Righteous One.

I learned how I should pursue abundant life, which most of us have equated with the American dream. As a result, I was building my own Kingdom, an empire of Bobi Ann and reality was, it was exhausting. I couldn’t figure out why in this pursuit, God didn’t seem close, why I wasn’t in tune with the Holy Spirit. I love what Ann Voskamp says

“There is a way to wake up and not live numb. The way to love life is to imagine losing it. The one who loses his life finds it.”

Wait, is the secret (the new plan) to abundant life when we quit pursuing it? Could it be instead, when we train ourselves to quit chasing after fulfillment—to begin to sacrifice our own comfort and convenience, that we find fulfillment? Is it there that we walk unforced in a rhythm of grace?

Only when we lose our life, do we find it. That’s a catchy little line, you know since it’s in the Bible and all. But how? How do I lose my life? Because that sounds like a worthy pursuit but I always seem to end up choosing to live for myself, my happiness and not God’s. I wish it weren’t true, but let’s be real.

As Paul says,

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do.”

If Paul is struggling to control the flesh than surely we can’t tame it. I guarantee you, I’ll try to control something or take credit or totally neglect the God Plan, given half a chance. So, how do I really do this thing? Surely, there is a how.

Paul says, we must press on toward the goal to win the prize. But, note the prize is a person–the person of Jesus and the how is tucked away in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I’m certain I had read it before but this time, it jumped off the page.

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:16

There it is. How many of us have become such careful collectors of biblical truth but such pathetic practicers of that truth? It has been said that we are educated far beyond the level of our obedience. Ouch…that is so right. We don’t need more education, we need more execution.

Whether you are like me and can tell stories of women like Mrs. VanWinkle that made a real difference in your spiritual upbringing or you are fairly new in your spiritual journey, we have all attained some level of truth. However, instead of living up to that truth, most of us would rather move on to something more pleasant, something not so challenging, something new or fresh. We don’t take the time to live up to what we have already attained.

So, the how is turning what we know into what we do. Now, this is where it gets tricky, at least for me. (If you’ll nod in agreement, it will make me feel so much better.) Because it makes it sound like we can do something here, that we have control. And the reality is that, yes, we do have a choice. We can let God move in our lives or we can choke Him out. But don’t confuse that choice with a choice to be good. Your goodness and mine is not the goal. Christ is the goal.

We must stop, solely pursuing more information that might offer the secret to a better life or a closer walk with Jesus. Instead, we should practice that which we already know because what we know is what God intends for us to do in our pursuit of Him. Did you catch that last sentence? You might need to read it again. Quit trying so hard to know more information, seek to know Him. That might not sound like much but to put it simply, it requires discipline. We must seek after something different and it won’t be natural or normal.

____________________________________________

Throughout history, churches have recognized spiritual disciplines as the method of making room for the Holy Spirit’s work and presence in our life. Spiritual disciplines aren’t popular because many think of them as legalistic or following more rules and they are. They are just a bunch of legalistic rules if they aren’t met with the motive of wanting more Jesus.

Spiritual disciplines alone don’t transform lives, they don’t cause us to experience a relationship with Jesus that compels us to share it with others. Spiritual disciplines only make room in our lives for the Holy Spirit to transform us, for us to experience the abundant life we’ve heard about and long for.

On our own, without an intentional plan to give God room in our lives, we will do what comes natural. Sin comes naturally. It isn’t just you, it is all of us. Left on our own, we will sin. Trashy TV, a good gossip session with my girlfriends, a judgmental heart, those activities are inherent. Godliness is a different story. Godliness does not come naturally.

Spiritual disciplines allow us to purposely position ourselves to more fully rely on God, the one who transforms. I will say it again, spiritual Disciplines themselves will not transform us. They will not awaken our hearts. However, they will make room in our lives for God to work. They will shine light on the areas of our lives that are more a reflection of the world than of God at work in us.

Henri Nouwen said,

“A spiritual discipline is anything that helps us practice how to become attentive to that small voice and willing to respond when we hear it.”

What areas of your life do you need God to transform?

-your marriage
-your parenting
-your finances
-your schedule
-your language
-your computer
-your music
-your guilt & shame
-your transparency

Have you been waiting for someone to give you the answer? Have you been hopeful for the promise of an abundant-life but you knew you weren’t experiencing it? Might I suggest, if you are unsettled, it might be because you need to approach this whole Christian life differently?  Maybe you need a new goal.

Next week, we’ll explore what this “goal” should look like.

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