Want to Grow?

For the past 20 years I have consumed 3-5 cups of coffee every day. For the past 11 days, I have consumed none. I’m fasting it for Lent. I gave up something I love, in preparation for something I love more.

Does that mean I love Jesus more than coffee? What a weird way to think of it. Usually those two things are kept in separate containers and allowed to mingle only on Sundays.

Three years ago, I decided that separation wasn’t working for me anymore. I wandered as far as I reasonably could before admitting I was lost and should turn back to find another way. I spent years saying and doing whatever I wanted and inventing theology to rationalize my behavior. My life wasn’t bad but my soul was sick. I had fun. Not joy.

There were two reasons Jesus wasn’t part of my life.

1. I didn’t like how many Christians behaved.

2. I wanted to do as I pleased.

IMG_5055Sam and I spent last weekend at our ranch in West Texas. It is the place I surrendered my smart-mouthed wisdom and┬ápicked up The Bible. It’s where I learned about discipline and how much better my life works when it’s about Jesus and not me. It’s where I wrote 2/3 of my book with a never-empty cup of steaming, heavily cream and sugared coffee at my right hand.

So, West Texas without coffee, is like baseball without hot dogs, but there’s no way I can cave on this one. I never thought much about fasting or why somebody would bother. But now I get it.

Every morning when I walk by that coffee pot, I experience actual physical longing. So I whine and count the days until Easter when I can have it back.

But every time the longing hits, I imagine the fully divine Jesus, stuck here for 33 years trying to teach limited, harassed, confused, arrogant, stubborn humans like me how to live. How he must have counted the days until Easter.

The fabulous Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan explains what Jesus gave up in The King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus:

The Trinity is utterly different. Instead of self-centeredness, the Father, The Son and the Spirit are characterized in their very essence by mutually self-giving love. No person in the Trinity insists that the others revolve around him; rather each of them voluntarily circles and orbits around the others….If this is ultimate reality, if this is what the God who made the universe is like, then this truth bristles and explodes with life-shaping, glorious implications for us.

My life is not easier now than it was three years ago, it’s harder. But I’m climbing onto new plateaus all the time, taking in views I would have killed for three years ago. They are delightful and surprising because I didn’t engineer them, God did. I just set my crappy, old baggage down and started climbing.

I have many pitches left. Fasting coffee is just one of them.

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Looking For The High Life? Me Too.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to possess perfect knowledge of divine will at all times?

“Don’t say that. Say this instead.”

“Don’t seek that promotion, I’ve got something better.”

“You’re brilliant. I love your work. Try cerulean instead of navy.”

What trouble it would save me to have an ever-present, eternally correct life coach whispering suggestions in my ear. This morning I read something the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians, and I wonder if those people realized how lucky they were.

We (I think this means Paul and Timothy) continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: Bearing fruit in every good work, growing the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. Colossians 1:9-11

aspenI want somebody to pray that for me.

I want to bear big, ripe fruit and grow into the lavish fullness of my creator’s vision, but I have to do constant battle with my mind for it. After three decades of following my own wisdom and understanding, I’m habituated to earthly behavior. I’m reflexively judgmental and occasionally stingy, I excel at crafting articulate and blistering arguments, and I will throw plates, if necessary.

But that’s all low-life; it’s common, broad path and vulgar, and none of it’s from God. Sadly, without attentive surrender, it’s also the behavior I am likely to choose. So maybe, if Paul were praying for me, I’d set down the plate and hear God say:

“Sure that guy is being a jerk, but you have no idea how scared he is, the alcohol is just an expression of it. Be kinder than necessary, suffer his nonsense, so he can see Me through you.”

According to the gospels, that’s how God thinks and aligning with it leads us into high, spacious places. Lord…In your presence is the fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11

So, I’ve decided to say Paul’s prayer over people in my life. Fearing I wouldn’t remember the words, I posted them on an image I took in the Colorado High Country. You’re welcome to print it up, if you like, so you can pray it over the people in your lives (and maybe me) too. Change the pronouns as needed.

High Life. High Country. That’s where I’m going.