>A look in the mirror

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>One of the absolute best gifts God has given me in moving me away from friends and family is the abundance of more time. Not that I don’t miss all my loved ones- I do! – but I’ve had more opportunities to devote to myself to things I would otherwise miss out on if I were constantly meeting up with friends and going to family dinners and things like that. God has put me in a situation where I have been forced to just stop. Listen. Breathe. Think. Pray. Search. Cry. Question. Wonder.

Those sound like simple thing to do, but in this crazy, busy life, for me at least, it’s easy to put those things off and stay so consumed with activities and appointments, that I get distracted from my inner self, from tending to my spirit. My friend Michelle and I were just having this conversation a week or so ago. Just discussing how most people feel that essentially we are all spiritual beings- it is our core. It is more who we are than any other aspect of ourselves- our bodies, our minds, even our emotions. Yet, for it to be the essence of who we are, it is the part that is most easily neglected and put off to be dealt with at some other time. And for a million different reasons.

So for God to put me in an place where a lot of my distractions are taken away, it truly has been a gift. Of course, I don’t always view it as a gift- sometimes I get sad and lonely and miss the comforts of home and the familiarity of grabbing coffee with an old friend or making a family dinner with Mom and Grandmom. But God has not left me to dwell in sadness or loneliness. He never does. Instead, He has drawn me closer to Him. I have been removed from all that feels “normal” and I’ve had to face my spirit and rely on Him. And there are not words to describe how thankful I am for that.

Over these last few months I have just had this unquenchable thirst for God….for knowing Him more and more and more. And it’s kind of a never ending cycle. The more I learn of Him, the more I realize I truly don’t know or grasp His love, and in turn it makes me want to learn and understand more, and so the cycle continues. It’s one I don’t mind getting caught up in 🙂

One way that God has been drawing me closer to Him is through reading. I know, I know….typical English teacher answer. But it’s true. I seriously cannot get enough of Christian/spiritual texts. I finish one and immediately feel lost until I get my hands on another. It’s kind of a sickness at this point….ha ha! Hi! I’m Renee and I’m an over-reader. J/k! Some books have been AMAZING……..Blue Like Jazz……Girl Meets God…….What Bothers Me Most About Christianity…….(please read ALL of them if you get a chance!!!), and others have just been ok. But none have affected me like the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

Honestly, nothing I have ever read has made me feel more convicted or made me question my lifestyle and my intentions more than this book. It’s written for Christians – specifically the American church – and it’s very blunt, to the point, challenging, full of love, and sometimes hard to swallow.

Francis Chan is this really passionate Chinese surfer-dude preacher out in California. Unique combination, huh? Basically in the book he dethrones the popular idea of the “American Dream”- the one where people set personal goals for themselves and spend their entire lives accumulating wealth and material possessions and savings all in an effort to be “successful” and financially “safe and secure” in this world. He doesn’t think those things are negative in and of themselves, but that as Christians, it is not what we are ultimately called to do.

Instead of setting our eyes on this world, all of our intentions and actions should be directed towards our heavenly home. (Btw- I LOVE that this world is not my home!!! I LOVE that I am called to dwell somewhere else……how my heart longs for my true home!!!!….) Chan believes that by storing up financial wealth we are really hurting ourselves: for one, as Christians we are called to give and to serve those in need, not to build up our own bank accounts, and two, when we are totally financially secure and every safety precaution in our lives has been taken, we don’t really trust and rely on God in the way that He wants us to. Instead we just rely on our own means to secure the future. And Chan doesn’t just mean we should give of ourselves financially; he discusses how our time is just as valuable when it comes to serving others in various missions and volunteer work and in our everyday relationships.

I’m sure some of what I just summarized doesn’t make much sense, and of course I can’t explain it as clearly as the book does (which is why you should read it!) -but I promise you- the ideas are Biblically based and are truly inspiring. And Chan doesn’t just talk the talk. In his personal life, he and his family sold their house so they could downsize and have a smaller mortgage in order that they might give more to those in need. And the church where he works, Cornerstone Community, gives away 50% of their budget! God calls us to give 10%, but they give half! And just recently they started making plans for an addition to their church sanctuary. After much thought and prayer, they decided to build an outdoor amphitheater instead in order to save $20 million, thus being able give more of it away. He writes, “I’m sure there will be days when it’s uncomfortable outside, but there will also be joy in knowing that we’re sitting in the cold so that someone else can have a blanket.”

This book, more than any other I’ve read, has made me take a hard look at my faith and examine my heart and where I put my money and my time. And in most cases, after that look in the mirror, I’ve been left feeling ashamed and disappointed in myself……hurt for how little I’ve been giving and doing for the One I call my Savior. But that’s ok. Shame and sorrow are repentance are welcomed emotions to my God. He tells me to leave them at His feet, at the Cross, and He will change me. I cannot change myself…..inherently I’m pretty selfish…..but that’s why He came to this broken earth. Oh how I adore Him!!!

Well I will of course leave you with the challenge to go out and read the book if you haven’t already. It can change your life. And also, here is a link to the website for the book. It’s full of video segments with Chan that go along with the chapters. If you have 15 minutes, I would encourage you to just watch the introductory one right now. It’s titled “Just stop and think” under the video category. Pretty amazing. – http://www.crazylovebook.com/

And finally, because I’m a hi-liter queen who loves to hi-lite my favorite quotes in all the books I read, here are just some of my favorites from this book. My whole book is practically green now from my hi-liter, but these are the best of the best. I know it’s a lot, but they are all thought-provoking, beautiful, challenging, and worth the read! –

Crazy Love Quotes:

The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God.

Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?

Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating, but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending. What a stunted, insignificant god that would be!

Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won’t be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small, indeed.

If life were stable, I’d never need God’s help. Since it’s not, I reach out for Him regularly. I am thankful for the unknowns and that I don’t have control, because it makes me run to God.

A lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing.

It’s easy to fill ourselves up with other things and then give God whatever is left. . . . God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. A mumbled three-minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are already half asleep. Two crumpled-up dollar bills thrown as an afterthought into the church’s fund for the poor.

God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.

Most of our thoughts are centered on the money we want to make, the school we want to attend, the body we aspire to have, the spouse we want to marry, the kind of person we want to become …But the fact is that nothing should concern us more than our relationship with God; it’s about eternity, and nothing compares with that. God is not someone who can be tacked on to our lives.

True faith means holding nothing back; it bets everything on the hope of eternity.

The answer lies in letting Him change you. . . His counsel wasn’t to “try harder”, but rather to let Him in. As James wrote, “Come near to God and he will come near to you “ (4:8)

There is nothing better than giving up everything and stepping into a passionate love relationship with God, the God of the universe who made galaxies, leaves, laughter, and me and you.

As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving Him and others becomes more natural. As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him. It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment.

Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.

Christians today like to play it safe . . . But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity.

Jesus is saying that we show tangible love for God in how we care for the poor and those who are suffering. He expects us to treat the poor and the desperate as if they were Christ Himself.

How would my life change if I actually thought of each person I came into contact with as Christ- the person driving painfully slow in front of me, the checker at the grocery store who seems more interested in chatting than ringing up my items, the member of my own family with whom I can’t seem to have a conversation and not get annoyed?

The good things we cling to are more than money; we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends. As we begin to practice regular giving, we see how ludicrous it is to hold on to the abundance God has given us and merely repeat the words “thank you”.

The concept of downsizing so that others might upgrade is biblical, beautiful, and nearly unheard of. We either close the gap or don’t take the words of the Bible literally.

There has to be more to our faith than friendliness, politeness, and even kindness. . . True love makes you stand out.

(in response to the cynics who said he was crazy for selling his house and downsizing) – If one person invests his resources in the poor – which, according to Matthew 25 – is giving to Jesus Himself – and the other extravagantly remodels a temporary dwelling that will not last beyond is few years left on this earth, who is the crazy one?

Most of us use, “I’m waiting for God to reveal His calling on my life” as a means of avoiding action. Did you hear God calling you to sit in front of the TV yesterday? Or to go on your last vacation? Or exercise this morning? Probably not, but you still did it. The point isn’t that vacations or exercise or wrong, but that we are quick to rationalize our entertainment and priorities yet are slow to commit to serving God.

It is not that this lifestyle should be crazy to us. It should be the only thing that makes sense. Giving up everything and sacrificing everything we can for the afterlife is logical. “Crazy” is living a safe life and storing up things while trying to enjoy our time on earth, knowing that any millisecond God could take your life. To me that is crazy, and that is radical. The crazy ones are the ones who live life like there is no God. To me that is insanity.

Fredrick Buechner: “The love for equals is a human thing – of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing – the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing – to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by saints. And then there is the love for the enemy – love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.

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4 responses »

  1. >i just started reading this book! i'm excited.and my copy of "blue like jazz" is covered in pink highlighter=) and my entire series of chronicles of narnia;) glad you're having so much fun reading great books! keep the recommendations coming…

  2. >I have not read this one yet, but I know some people at the church just finished a study on it. Sounds amazing…I am currently on the opposite end of what you were describing about your time. Living in Fort Worth, I had many of the same struggles and blessings you just described about being away from family and the familiar. While I was out there it seemed so important sometimes to get back to Georgia where I could be there for all that "stuff". Now that I'm back I'm screaming "Where does all my time GO! I just want a weekend at HOME for crying out loud…" LOL..the grass will ALWAYS be greener somewhere else. I know you will be SO blessed by God. A quote from the bible study I'm currently doing (and since you love quotes like I love quotes) here you go…"Moses encountered the glory of God not in a lavish place but in a barren desert. Often we can see God's glory best in the midst of life's dry seasons." Love the post. Love it.

  3. Pingback: Ramblings on the fat guy in the red suit…. « SunshineLime

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