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Ever since I was a little girl, I have worn glasses or contact lenses.  My nearsightedness was diagnosed when I started school, as is the case for many children.  Back then, very few kids wore glasses, so the ones who did were often ridiculed.  “Four-eyes” was a common nickname, though this never made sense to me.  Who even came up with that?  I remember that my teacher, probably trying to make me feel more normal, wrote on my report card that she liked my “pretty blue glasses.”  You would have to ask my parents if I resisted having to wear glasses because I don’t recall.  What I do remember is feeling different.  Nowadays I don’t think kids feel that way about glasses.  It seems that more children today are myopic, so glasses are very common.  In fact, glasses have become so stylish that some people who don’t even need them for vision correction wear them as a fashion accessory.

It’s not my imagination that there are more myopic children now than there were when I was a child.  A recent study published in Science News magazine* states that myopia has increased worldwide, primarily in urban areas, with nearly a third of adults in the US now nearsighted.  The statistics are even more stunning in Asia, where in Shanghai 95% of college students are myopic.  How can this be?  Visual acuity is a combination of the physical structure of the eye, signals from the eye to the brain, and exposure to the eye of various stimuli, basically learning.  The study finds a connection between physical eye development and the amount of time a child spends outdoors (after a certain age, the connection seems to disappear).  Scientists don’t know exactly how being outdoors affects eyesight:  possible factors are regular exposure to sunlight, which is 30 to 130 times stronger than indoor lighting; vitamin D (from sunlight); physical activity (although indoor sports don’t offer the same benefits to the eye); different stimuli in the peripheral field; and a broader field of vision.  When we live our lives primarily at arms’ length, our eyes don’t have a chance to relax.  Workers who spend eight hours or more per day on the computer or doing close work are encouraged to look into the distance at regular intervals to avoid eye strain.  You’ve probably experienced this when you’ve been on the computer too long or gotten involved in a really good book, and you’ve forgotten to look up.  Once you do, things at a distance might be blurry for a moment.

When I read the study, I thought about how our spiritual eyesight can become myopic, too.  When our focus is on ourselves, our loved ones, and our local church and community and we forget to look up and around, the more distant world can grow blurry.  The longer we live in the space within arms’ reach, the more difficult it becomes to notice the needs of the greater world.  Maybe we stop paying attention to international news because we are so frustrated or even disgusted with the local and national news, and we don’t even want to know what’s going on outside our circle of influence.  Feeling helpless is not comfortable and can even be painful.  What can I do about the various crises in Africa, India, the Middle East?  Why should I care?  Isn’t there enough for me to deal with in my own hometown?

Jesus lived all his earthly life in a very small geographical area, but his message was for the entire world.  He taught that we are to feed the hungry, minister to the poor and imprisoned, heal the sick, and share the good news of salvation wherever we go.  So it isn’t wrong of us to do good in our own geographical area.  But although we live in a community, that community is part of a larger world, and we know that everything is connected in ways that we might not be able to see.  God, though, as the author of this great Story of life, knows how all the plot lines and conflicts fit together, from the smallest personal problem to the greatest global catastrophe.  And because the whole world is important to God, shouldn’t it matter to us?  Even if we have little power and influence on people and places far away, don’t we need to be mindful of them?

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Last week my husband and I said farewell to our college student daughter as she departed Iowa for a semester in China.  Nothing broadens your perspective more than sending your offspring to the other side of the world (except maybe going there yourself).  She has traveled some over the past few years and enjoys it very much, developing quite the sense of adventure.  As we gave her a hug and then watched her go up the escalator to the airport security checkpoint, I thought about how much larger and smaller her world is becoming, larger because she is traveling to far-flung places and smaller because she has learned that people, despite differences in culture, language, and geography, are pretty much the same wherever you go.  We are all characters both in our own stories and in God’s grand Story, the Story that He long ago completed even as we continue to compose our own life’s work.  The Story about God and His pure, persistent, boundless, incomprehensible love for the whole world.

When I say my prayers, I pray for my daughter, for her safety and health and for a great experience.  I also pray for the people that she will meet, those who will offer her friendship or inconvenience or downright trouble.  Until she went to China, I prayed for people there only in times of tragedy, when the media graphically displayed their suffering.  Now I envision professors and shopkeepers, bus drivers and factory workers, going about their normal days, and I pray for them.  I pray that God will place people in my daughter’s path who will help her, not harm her, and who will show her that He is very busy in their homeland.  I pray that He will shine through her, making her a beacon of His love and light in a country that, despite the growth of the Christian church under persecution, is still very much in spiritual darkness.

And most of all, I pray that He will give me eyes to see clearly what He sees when He looks over the whole of this beautiful broken world:  the full height and depth and breadth of His love poured out on all of His children, wherever they might live or roam.

*http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/347738/description/Urban_Eyes

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So the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

“I will be his father, and he will be my son. …
I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever;
his throne will be established forever.”

For God so loved the world that he gave
his one and only Son, that whoever believes
in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

(Genesis 3:14-16; 1 Chronicles 17:13a, 14; John 3:16 NIV;
Joy To the World, lyrics by Isaac Watts, 1719)

if God is love, we have no need of shame;

if God is good, we can abandon fear;

if God is all powerful, in our weakness he is strong;

if God knows all, we are free to be our true selves;

if God forgives, we need not carry the burden of a grudge;

if God is everywhere, we can let go of loneliness;

if God is truth, we do not need consensus;

if God is just, we can give up revenge;

if God is merciful, we have no need to judge;

if God is faithful, we can give up certainty;

if God is in control, we need not strive for power;

if God needs nothing, we cannot earn his favor;

if God is the creator, owner, and master of everything,

we can surrender to his will and rest in his perfect peace.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.  (Deuteronomy 7:9; Today’s New International Version)

To everything  there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.  (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJV)

Although autumn technically doesn’t begin for another week or so, for all practical purposes summer is over.  Schools are back in session, activities that were paused have resumed, and the temperature has fallen.  Here in Iowa, we are finally getting some very much needed rain, although it is unfortunately too little too late.  Ah, well, there’s always next year.

Spring is the season usually credited with bringing us new life, but really every season offers us the gift of something different.  Autumn feels loaded with potential, and I try to dive into it with fresh resolve and a renewed sense of purpose.  My good intentions usually fall by the wayside, though, as I find myself drawn to introspection.  Being a naturally contemplative person, I look around at everyone else who seems to be moving at a frantic pace, and I wonder if I’m missing something.

Scripture tells us that God has determined a time for everything under heaven.  Although God lives outside time and is not constrained by it, we are creatures for whom time is both friend and enemy.  If you think time moves too quickly, talk to a lonely person for whom every day is another long and empty struggle.  If you think time moves too slowly, talk to someone who has been told he has only weeks to live.  Time can be a cruel taskmaster or a welcome friend.

As we enter this season of our lives, wherever we are in our timeline, we would do well not to become so busy that we cannot hear the voice of God calling us to His purpose.  Instead of trying to fit God into our hectic schedules, will we establish Him as the center of our lives and ask, at least daily, what His plan is for us?  Will we read scripture with a sense of expectation and wonder, and will we become a people of prayer, responding to the God who is always calling us and drawing us to Him?  Will we look, really look, at the world around us and see the people God is putting in our way, people that we are meant to meet and listen to and welcome into God’s family?  Will we be builders of the Kingdom?

What will be our purpose this season?

Most of the inner workings of my house seem somewhat magical to me.  I flip a switch and lights come on.  I turn a faucet handle and clean water comes out.  I flush a toilet and, well, I don’t really want to know what happens next, as long as it happens the way it’s supposed to (and when it doesn’t, as we experienced last December, it isn’t pretty).  We all have certain expectations for our electrical, water, and sewage systems, and most of the time those systems perform as expected.  Oh, there’s some maintenance required to ensure that everything continues to work, but in general we don’t think too much about what’s happening inside the walls and under the floor, where the pipes and wiring live.  On the other side of the drywall is a dark and mysterious land where I don’t speak the language and am unfamiliar with the customs.

But I suspect that what goes on in secret is actually the important stuff.  When everything works as it is supposed to, the result is that when I flip a switch I actually do get light (or heat, or whatever), and when I turn on the faucet I actually get water, and so on.  And when something is wrong, whether it’s a leaky pipe or a broken wire or any of a number of things, I don’t get what I expect.  Problems inside the walls are not easy to diagnose because they are hidden (and usually require the services of a professional to repair and are therefore costly).  What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas, but what happens behind the walls can manifest itself out in the open in a very significant way.

Scripture tells us that the hidden, or invisible, is important:  “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV).  We take this to mean that material things—our belongings, even our very bodies—are temporary because they can be damaged or even destroyed, whereas spiritual things—faith, hope, love, and so on—are eternal.  We can’t see these eternal things but we can know them through their manifestation in the material world.  When I think of the word love, I think of the people I care about and how they show their love to me as well as how I show my love to them, sometimes through material things like food or money but more effectively through my gifts of time, which is a more precious commodity than any material thing because it cannot be replaced once used.

Scripture also warns us not to waste time building up treasure in the material world because such treasure is subject to theft, decay, and destruction; rather, we are to build up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20), not because heaven is like a giant vault that will keep our treasure safe but because the kind of treasure Jesus means is not material wealth but the evidence, or manifestation, of how I’ve spent my time on earth.  If I choose to dedicate my life to building up a stockpile of material things, when will I have the time to devote to caring for the poor or hungry, or visiting the sick or imprisoned (and I think this means not only the incarcerated but also people imprisoned by physical or mental illness), or even just serving those near me joyfully and generously?  And why is this so important?

Jesus said that our Father, who is unseen, takes notice of what we do in secret, which I think can mean the things that do not produce a tangible outcome or product.  God rewards us for having our priorities straight.  I think that is very good news!  Unfortunately, the world does not operate on the same principles that God does, and the world’s influence is very powerful.  Our culture tries to program us from birth to want certain things, a certain standard of living, regardless of what it will take for us to get it and then sustain it.  The other day I read a very interesting article about what our grandparents’ generation considered necessary, not only for survival but simply for a comfortable life, compared to our parents’ generation, my own, and our children’s.  It really is surprising to realize how much of what we think is “need” is really just “want.”  When I look at the way many people around the world live, I am pretty ashamed to turn my gaze back onto my own life and all the things I have surrounded myself with to ensure my own comfort.  I wonder what I have done lately in secret that would please my Father.

Thinking about these things can bring us back to the kind of life we are called to live.  Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not condemning all material things, and I don’t believe Jesus requires us all to give away our belongings and start a big Christian commune (although the intentional community movement is growing in the United States—Google it if you’re curious).  It’s simply a matter of priorities.  When I ignore the unseen (easy to do because it’s, you know, invisible) in favor of the seen, my life is out of balance.  Maybe I need to withdraw from the world a little bit, watch less TV, read fewer magazines, and instead spend more time in scripture, prayer, and serving.

Can a return to attention to the invisible instead of the material actually make me more grounded?  Will pushing back against my culture’s pressure to buy stuff make me more content?  It seems paradoxical, but then Jesus is the master of the paradox:  you can save your life by losing it, really?  Maybe it seems counterintuitive only because it’s counter-cultural, and culture exerts such a mighty influence on us.  This is a battle I’ll have to wage daily, so I can begin each morning by praying:

God, please let me live for you today.  Let your priorities be my priorities.  Loosen my grip on the things of this world and open my eyes, my hands, and my heart to those who need to know you and experience your love and grace.  Let my words and deeds be pleasing to you, and let this page of my life be written in your Story so that when I fail you I can be confident that you will give me other opportunities to live a day that brings you joy.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

But with you there is forgiveness,  so that we can, with reverence, serve you.  (Psalm 130:4)

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  (Micah 7:18)

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  (Matthew 26:28)

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  (Luke 7:49)

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:24)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.   Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  (John 20:19-23)

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  (Colossians 3:13)

(New International Version)

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.

Genesis 1:31 and Ecclesiastes 3:11-12, New International Version

Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

Kansas City Zoo

Kansas City Zoo

As I write this, the wind is shrieking outside my window, rattling the siding and windows.  Although my home is reasonably new and well insulated, if I hold my hand against the door frame I can feel cold air pushing through.  Until my family moved to Iowa nearly eight years ago, never had I experienced the 30-40 mph sustained winds with 50-60 mph gusts that are not at all uncommon here.  Snow and rain blow sideways, and the birds struggle not to get pushed backward.  What a day!

The rushing wind brings to mind a story from the book of Acts:  “When the day of Pentecost came, they [the apostles] were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:1-4a New International Version).

Last week the Christian church all over the world observed Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent, the forty days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter.  It is a time for us to reflect on our faith walk and to prepare our hearts for both the sorrow and joy we will experience as we commemorate our Lord’s last meal with his disciples, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his betrayal, trial, and crucifixion, and, finally, his resurrection.  During last Wednesday’s service, many of the faithful had the sign of the cross traced onto their foreheads with ashes, a symbol of mourning and a prompt toward sober reflection.  The cross marks us as believers and followers of Jesus. Although we enjoy celebrating the joyful occasions, we are a people who must also remember and grieve the sorrowful ones.

That cross made of ash is an external, though temporary, mark.  There is a more important mark that does not appear on our flesh; rather, it is evident in how we live our lives.  The apostle Paul exhorts the church at Ephesus:  “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32 NIV).  We are marked with the Holy Spirit, a sign to us of our redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  And what was done at the moment of our surrender to God through confession cannot be easily undone.  Once we have invited Jesus to capture our hearts and rescue us from our sin, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us, and we are indelibly marked.

One Lenten tradition is to give up something that you feel has become an obstacle to a closer relationship with Jesus.  I’ve never felt compelled to do this before; usually I just try to re-commit to the disciplines:  studying the scriptures, praying, worshipping regularly with my church, serving in my community.  But this year I realized that I had let my computer take over my life.  It serves a useful purpose (this blog, for instance), but it also had become a black hole that consumed too much of my time and attention.  Giving up the computer entirely was not practical, but I could give up one aspect of it that had become a big time waster for me:  Facebook.  I resisted joining Facebook for a long time, but I finally gave in last year.  It’s fun to keep up with old and new friends and to share interesting things we find on the internet, but I was using it as a way to avoid doing other things, particularly the work of figuring out who I am meant to be.

I confess, I am a big procrastinator, and if I can immerse myself in one thing, I can easily justify not doing something else.  But as I have written here before, I am on a quest of self-discovery, and I realized that I will not find myself on my Facebook wall.  So for Lent this year, I gave up Facebook.  It wasn’t that difficult.  I am still reachable by email, phone, and text.  I do miss reading all the interesting things my friends post, but I can let that go for 40 (or so) days.  The trick is not to replace my Facebook time with other equally wasteful things.  Every day I have to remind myself that the whole reason I gave that up is to focus on who God is in my life and who I am becoming and whether I am moving in the right direction or any direction at all.  I realized that I have allowed myself to get stuck, and something will have to happen to un-stick me, and that something is not likely to happen if I am glued to the computer watching silly cat videos (which I admit I have a weakness for!).

Come, Lord Jesus.  Capture my heart anew.  Retrace the indelible mark of your Spirit within me.  Rescue me, I pray, from fear, from worry, from the noise inside my busy head, and let my thoughts, my words, and my actions be pleasing to you.  Make me into the person you know I can be.  I surrender. 

In the mid-1970’s Linda Creed and Michael Masser wrote a song that was recorded in 1977 by George Benson as an R&B hit and then again in 1986 by a young woman with a powerhouse voice:  Whitney Houston.  According to the song, “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.”  The music is stirring and the lyrics are inspirational—but wrong.

I’m not saying that loving yourself isn’t important.  It is difficult if not impossible to love others if we despise ourselves.  But love of self pales in comparison to the truly greatest love of all:  the love God has for his creation, especially for his children.  Mother Teresa said, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  What is this great love, and how is it different from other forms of love?  I think the greatest love has at least three important attributes.

First, it is the gold standard for love.  All other forms of love are measured against God’s love.  The other day I was reading an interesting article whose author made a comparison between followers of Jesus Christ and the dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.  She said that the dogs in the show were not compared to each other or competing against each other; rather, they were judged against the breed’s standard.  For each breed, the dog that most closely matched the traits of the standard or ideal was the winner.  Perhaps we in the church, she wrote, could take a lesson from this:  instead of comparing ourselves to each other and competing with other believers for “best in show,” we should be judging ourselves against the ideal human being, Jesus Christ.

Second, great love is sacrificial.  When couples marry, I think the most difficult adjustment they must make early on is submitting to one another.  If you as a single person are used to doing what you want, when you want, spending your money the way you want, then having to consider another person’s priorities, preferences, and feelings can be a real challenge.  Selfishness is poisonous to marriage, as it is to friendship and parenthood.  Years ago, when I told my parents that my husband and I were expecting, my mother said, “When you have children, your life is not your own.”  I didn’t fully understand what she meant until our daughter was born.  Raising her required me to set aside many of my own dreams and desires to help her fulfill hers and to ensure that she always knew that my love was not only unconditional but unshakeable.  To prove His love for us, God made a great sacrifice.  He knew when He gave us free will and laid down the law about sin that we would have to be rescued from ourselves, and it was His plan from the beginning to demonstrate the greatest love of all by withholding nothing from us, sacrificing Himself in our place so that we could have an abundant life with Him both now and in the future kingdom.

Third, great love is transformational.  Something happens to us, or should, when we realize that Jesus gave up his heavenly throne to become one of us, to live among us, to laugh and to cry, to feel joy and pain, to die for us so that the rift between us and God caused by our sin could be repaired.  My daughter frequently tells me that I am the best mom in the world.  Although I appreciate the compliment, it is difficult for me to accept it because I am painfully aware of all my shortcomings and failures as a mother.  She has either forgotten those failures or has chosen to overlook them, and her love challenges me to aspire to become the person she  believes I already am.  God’s love also is without condition but not without expectation.  He does not want us to be content to be less than we can be.  Once we experience His great love, we can humbly ask Him to remake us, to help us become the people He intended us to be when He first imagined us.  We can be transformed by His love into a people who go on to share that great love with others in all the big and small things we do.

If I had to choose one word to describe this greatest love of all, I would have to say “quality.”  God doesn’t just love more—He loves better.  Our love is often impure, tainted with the residue of our sinful nature.  We sometimes hold back our love because we treat it as an investment, and without the assurance of a good return we hesitate.  But love is not capital.  Its quantity is limited only by the degree of our generosity.  God’s love is not only limitless, it is also pure and freely offered.  What could happen if we accepted the full measure of this love and allowed it to overflow us, overwhelming our failures and shortcomings, drenching the world in the greatest love of all?  I believe we would call that living in the kingdom of God.

Anyone who has children or has ever been a child is well acquainted with stubbornness.  Although stubbornness and determination could be considered two sides of one coin, stubbornness has a less-than-positive connotation.  We’re all familiar with the shouted “No!” accompanied by the stamp of a foot and the scowl on a small face.  We hope that as we mature, our stubbornness mellows into determination as we learn to choose our battles and dedicate ourselves to the causes that matter.  But stubbornness can rear its head when we feel powerless in a situation, when someone wants us to do one thing and we are inclined to do another (sometimes ANY other), and the only recourse we have is to grab onto our position with our teeth and refuse to let go.

But what do we do when that someone is God?  I would like to think that if I ever heard the actual voice of God telling me to do something, I would set down my pride and my stubbornness and be obedient.  But I know myself too well.  “How can I be certain that’s really you?” I would ask, and I would need some kind of a sign because heaven knows I wouldn’t want to deviate from my own wandering-in-the-wilderness path on unreliable information.  I like to think that I have a modicum of faith, surely a mustard seed’s worth, but really, in the times I’ve been tested I’ve usually felt as if I got moved by the mountain instead of the other way around.  So I have to wonder how hard I am listening for God’s voice if I am pretty sure I would ignore it even if I heard it.

If you hear God speak today, do not be stubborn. Hebrews 3:15

Like many of my friends, I stayed home to raise my child, intending to return to the outside working world “someday.”  Now that my daughter is nearly grown (I say nearly because she is a college student, and I think that puts her in that weird zone between childhood and true adulthood), I have been pondering what I am good for.  A 15-month stint in a data and call center convinced me that I don’t belong there, doing the same thing every minute of every day with two short breaks and a half hour for lunch.  After dedicating my life to the important work of raising another person from helpless infant to productive member of society (and, though I don’t take the credit, a wonderful, talented, intelligent young woman who wants to make her own mark on the world), I just can’t dig up much enthusiasm for helping some company make more money.  It’s hard to figure out how to transfer my gifts and talents from a relationship-based world to an output-based one, and I’m not sure I even want to try.  But there’s a nagging little voice inside my head that tells me I should be contributing to the household income, building our savings back up, getting ready for the next economic meltdown or the next layoff or the next whatever dramatic event nearly wipes us out.  So I start getting nervous.

My prayer is that God would reveal to me what I am, what He made me to be at this stage of my life.  And, like a lot of people, I look for signs and try to listen for His voice, hoping that one day it will just hit me:  oh, right, THAT’s what I should be doing; why didn’t I see it before?  Maybe I’m just dense, but it’s not happening.  Am I being stubborn?  Is God trying to break through all the noise in my head to tell me what to do, where to go, but I’ve already decided that I couldn’t possibly do whatever that is or go wherever He’s pointing because, well, I’m just not capable?  There’s an old saying:  God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.  But is He calling me?  And if He is, to what?  Maybe it’s to a season of regrouping, of immersing myself in His word and in prayer, getting back to the basics of a closer relationship.  Could it be that simple?  Why would I resist?  Because I am stubborn.  I don’t like the not knowing.  All I really want is to KNOW.  I want to know what the goal is and how I’m supposed to get there, step by step.  I want to know what obstacles to expect along the way so I can plan for them.  I want plan B and plan C and whatever other contingency plans I’ll need.  I want a straight path with no unpleasant surprises.  I want.  I want.  I WANT!  Boy, am I stubborn.

Does God not care what I want?  Sure, He does.  But when I’m honest, I know that it’s more important that He cares what is best for me.  That means that I should be able to be confident that whatever happens, if I allow Him to, God will use it for my benefit.  If only I can get past my stubbornness and my pride and my fear, maybe I can just take a step in any direction and it will be okay because I am not alone.  The God of the universe is with me.  Where might we go together?

Where, indeed.

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