It’s almost-but-not-quite the day Allen comes to mow our lawn. So it’s a bit of a jungle out there with clovers and other weeds vying for their place in our front yard along with the grass.
But, upon looking out the front windows, I was treated to a sight I may have missed had our lawn been perfectly manicured….
I looked out to see a whole menagerie of urban wildlife, from a mother and baby bunny to a whole variety of birds, happily playing our front yard.
It reminded me of that scene from Disney’s old Snow White film where all the furry forest creatures are keeping Snow White company as she happily sings in the woods.
I realized…. all of the weeds and tall grass were actually attracting the amazing wildlife I was enjoying. I couldn’t help but wondering if in all of our striving for perfection, we miss – or even destroy – the beauty around us.
That is one reason I’ve titled this blog (and future book), Ragamuffin Oasis. Perhaps the true places of oasis (rest, refreshing, and thriving) are not the well manicured facades that consumerism and even religion tell us we need.
Perhaps only in admitting we are human and embracing are scruffier, imperfect, ragamuffin selves can we every be truly free.
I’ve lashed out at a loved one because I felt so strongly that they needed my version of help – bringing a cold chill to our relationship.
I’ve procrastinated to the point I couldn’t preform my best because I didn’t feel worthy or capable of the task at hand…. I simply “froze up”.
In short, I’ve been frozen in my tracks from doing the very things my Maker designed me to do because of my feelings.
But, I’m not going to be able to turn my feelings off. Nor should I. Feeling things deeply and intensely is simply part of my Maker’s unique design of me.
I’m learning to love myself and the way I feel things so deeply – even though I’ve spend much of my life wanting to turn my feelings off. And I’ve been told by many well-intended people that I could and even should simply not feel so deeply.
Again… there is just no “off switch” for these feelings of mine.
The lesson I am learning is that I can choose to do the things I need to do in spite of deep sensitivity and strong waves of emotion….. or even learn do things with my own unique brand of excellence because I am learning to channel the depths of these feelings into what I’m doing rather than being frozen in my tracks because of them.
When Maker instructed us to “Choose life that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19), there was no caveat of “unless your feelings don’t let you”. But He will give us the strength to follow His steps through the midst of those feelings, much the way he led the Israelites out of Egypt through the middle of the Red Sea. (This story is found in Exodus 14:19-31)
All of this is why this quote from Mel Robbins hit home today:
“Your feelings aren’t a choice. Your behavior and your actions always are.”
May “the same power that rose Jesus from the grave” (Romans 8:11) give you the strength to embrace everything your Maker has for you to do and be in the midst of everything you’re feeling today.
May we be still enough today to hear Your truth whispered directly to our hearts. And may it be Your truth alone – pure and beautiful – rather than our own interpretation of it. God, give us the strength to live deeply in You.
Listen. Be still. Be present. Be aware. (This is not an easy task in today’s world filled with these little screens in our hands).
And…. Don’t limit the way He speaks to a sermon, Bible verse, or some seemingly theological insight. He may speak to you through a friend, a movie, the top 40 on the radio, or -most often- a quiet whisper to your own soul.
Remain consistent. Sync your every step with the Maker of your soul.
And notice…. I didn’t say (nor did the Bible) that this is a two-step plan to happiness or to the Westernized world’s version of success.
God’s best may not feel good in the moment. It may not look good or smell right or put you in the limelight.
But it will create a stronger connection to our Creator and to His most favorite creation, other people.
And… in the end, isn’t that all that matters?
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Jesus, Matthew 22:37-39
We may have been taught to pray pretty and powerful sounding prayers.
But God’s admonitions to Job’s piously praying friends demonstrates that God can handle – and is even pleased by – our raw and honest prayers and wrestlings with Him.
“After GOD had finished addressing Job, he turned to Eliphaz the Temanite and said, ‘I’ve had it with you and your two friends. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me—not the way my friend Job has. So here’s what you must do. Take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my friend Job. Sacrifice a burnt offering on your own behalf. My friend Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer. He will ask me not to treat you as you deserve for talking nonsense about me, and for not being honest with me, as he has.’” – Job 42:7-8 MSG (The Message Bible Paraphrase)
“… Until we let the Christ who consorted with hookers and crooks to be our truth, the false, fraudulent self motivated by cowardice and fear will continue to distance us from abiding restful union.” – from Brennan Manning’s writing, The Furious Longing of God. (Read it and weep…. Seriously! Reading or listening to this book will likely bring tears to your eyes as your heart grasps grace).
Have you ever tried to earn God’s favor? I know i have! So I’m lovingly saying this to both of us: STOP IT!!! (And, yes. That was intentionally bold, in italics, and all caps!). Let’s just rest. It’s time you and I stop working so hard for the unfailing love we’ve always had from our Maker God. Grace works so we don’t have to.
It’s time to refocus and give God first place rather than exhausting ourselves trying to get there. Peace flows much more easily when we give God His job back.
“I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?” -Jesus, John 5:41-44 MSG (The Message – Bible Paraphrase)
I have loved words my whole life, from stories told to me by family to writing my first poem in second grade. But having a way with words and saying all the right things at the right time means absolutely nothing without action.
I can say I am committed to my job, but unless I put the work in on the projects – those words are meaningless. (I am sooooo preaching to myself today as I prepare to trade this little iPhone screen for the big screen of my work computer).
I think James, the brother of Jesus, put it better than anyone when he wrote, “Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, ‘Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!’ and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” – James 2:14-17 MSG
Kind words may encourage the hurting for a minute. But authentic action can change people forever – beginning with you.