The Secret of Contentment

Did you know sharks need forward motion to survive? Without forcing water through their gills, they drown.

Anybody else feel like a drowning shark right now?

Currently, I have two nine-foot artificial Christmas trees lying in the living room under eight-foot ceilings, and the only reaction I can muster is, “Nice Clark.”  Also, I’m a writer not writing, a reader not reading, and a bible student not studying. I can’t figure out how to fit my square-peg self into a round Christmas hole, and lately I pray like a kid off her Ritalin.

I’m struggling with things I once did with ease, and it stresses me out. If I’m not those things who am I? Author Sarah Bessey talks about “the right now and not yet” Kingdom of God. Wherever that is, I’m there. I’m stuck in the becoming and I need forward motion.

Unfortunately, my Christian friends pray for me then say things like this:

“I feel like the Lord is saying you just need to pause.”

“Maybe just be a still for a little while and wait.”

Worse, that supports what I’ve heard in my own speedy-sleepy, look-there’s-a-squirrel, prayer time.

“Rest. Baby. Rest”

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. Isaiah 30:15

Are you kidding me? I’m like a dog chasing cars. I don’t know why I’m doing that but I’m loathe to stop because what beating will my identity and self-worth take if I’m not getting my book published, expanding my platform, rocking my job, and making my house look like the cover of Southern Living? I’m supposed to just sit still and like it?

fresh holiday decor

I know, gorgeous huh? Photo coco+kelley

Maybe that’s what the LORD meant by the “you would have none of it” part.

The Apostle Paul said, “For I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” Phil 4:11-13 NET

Paul didn’t say the secret of contentment fell on him like rice at a wedding, he LEARNED it, and probably while standing in a Roman prison in ankle deep sewage. What sort of encounter did Paul have with Jesus, either there or on his way to Damascus, to produce that kind of confidence?

Whatever it was, I seem to be taking the long way. Except for two, too tall Christmas trees, there’s not one thing wrong. No prison. No sewage. So what’s with the discontent? Why am I chasing cars?

Because I doubt who I am in Christ and I don’t know how to rest in his strength.

Ouch.

See chasing happiness is easier because it gives us something to do, like the dog. Resting at the feet of Jesus, requires attentive stillness, humility and surrender. It’s where I get ok with bringing nothing to the table.

Rest is the prerequisite for contentment.

Maybe the difference between happiness and contentment is like the Paris hotel in Vegas vs. Trocadero Square. At first, the mini Eiffel Tower jutting out of the Nevada desert with all the sparkly people partying beneath it, makes your heart race because it doesn’t yet look like the hopped up, expensive hoax it is.

But the first time you see the real thing, with the sparkly lights dancing all around it at midnight, it doesn’t make your heart race. It makes it stand still.

Eiffel Tower

 

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How to Begin Living On Purpose

A few months ago, I spoke at a church in Pensacola Florida with my dear friend and fellow Love Doer Lisa Long.

I wrote about it here and if you have 30 minutes you can listen to what the two of us had to say, about living a life of love: Who it’s about, why it matters and how to do it. Lisa and I are hardly experts, but we agree that this process of becoming who God intended, is rich and diverting, and well worth the trip.

First City Church

Last Sunday, First City baptized 29 people, and it was beautiful.

Now, I recognize many of you reading are skeptical by nature, leery of overt Christian symbolism and/or mad at the church, but indulge me, will you? Spend seven minutes and watch this video, because friends, this is what love looks like soaking wet.

Specifically, watch for:

  • The expressions as people come out of the water.
  • Pastor Rick’s expression as he dunks some (but not all) of them.
  • The totally uninhibited clinging bro hugs.
  • Who is doing the dunking – Pastor, Mom, Youth Pastor, Friend, Brother, Community.
  • The naked vulnerability, the relief.

 

The “Church” and its goofy humans have messed the world up so thoroughly for so long, it’s easy to level that charge at Jesus, thereby ignoring the accountability following him requires. But what we miss when we do that, what I missed for years, is the love.

The Love of God. That big sky love, with its incomprehensible vastness. The Love that invades and swallows us, eventually moving us like wind across the plains, sweeping us over prairie grass or oceans into places we can’t imagine.

Prairie

When we finally submit to Jesus, we aren’t granted ease, safety or perfection, but rather love and a purpose in his very big design. Twenty nine people at First City Church signed up for that on Sunday and I think it shows on their faces.

Good on you FCC!

An Invitation to Stillness.

It’s eight pm in Texas and it’s been dark for hours. The man of the house is fed and the animals are too, so I’m deciding whether to go to bed or talk to you.

That my bed is winning so early in the evening feels shameful and weak.

But why? Who cares? The leaves on a million oak trees are inches from surrender. Why not me? And you?

Autumn leafs

Autumn leafs (Photo credit: Morten Rand-Hendriksen)

The seasons are like good punctuation. Fall interrupts the steamy, hot breath of summer’s long sentences, with a cool sigh and a pause.

So go to bed at seven. Read to the kids by candlelight, gain a few pounds, wear sweaters to hide it, who cares? I came so that you might have and enjoy your life, Jesus said. So enjoy it, all of it. Why skim across it like a well-skipped stone? Sink in and drift.

We’re such drivers, overschedulers and striving little strivers, teaching our kids the metier of anxiety and fear – the very last thing we want them to know. So let us sit with the singular rhythm of fall, listening to the sound of the rain and our own heartbeats, eager to hear the still, small voice in our still, small space.

Of course, there’s laundry and lunches and the catbox is full, but nobody ever died of those things. We die of thirsty, broken hearts every day. But this God, the one who spells his name with a capital L, has a present for you. He wrapped it in browns and reds and gold and set it ablaze against a shiny, black night.

So here’s your permission, as if you need it from me. Go. Right now, open that gift. Gather your loves, whoever they are. Light a candle, turn out the lights, hug, sit and listen. Don’t rush off. Don’t run, invite Him in and wait.

Let us suck the marrow out of life in every other season.

But not this one.