Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

We never outgrow God

Do you have deep friendships? Not just casual acquaintances–but real, deep, heart-felt friendships. I’m so fortunate to have so many people in my life who I can call friends–more than friends, family. And it’s been that way for decades–the same people. How many people can say that?

Last night, two of my oldest, dearest friends came out to visit me and my roomie, and as we sat on my rickety old couch and munched on tacos and watched Doctor Who, I couldn’t help but remember a time more than 20 years ago when the four of us sat around on the floor, playing games and dreaming about the future.

As I marveled, I realized we haven’t run out of things to talk about yet. If anything, we’ve got more to talk about now than we did when we were in third grade.

As we’ve grown as individuals, we’ve grown as friends. Our relationships with each other have grown wider and deeper and stronger, to the point that even years of separation or thousands of miles of distance can’t put a dent in our friendship. We just pick up where we left off. And if human beings can have relationships like that, why do we think that God is any different?

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 139:7-12.

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
    but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

I decided to believe in Jesus when I was seven years old on Palm Sunday in 1990. Granted, that’s the day I remember stepping out of my pew and walking the aisle, but Jesus was a part of my life every day before then. I’ve been following Jesus for a long time, though I’m not sure I really began to live for Him until I was older. But I never doubted Him. And I never stopped talking to Him.

We’ve always had a fairly casual talking relationship, me and Jesus. I just tell Him everything that’s on my mind. And what amazes me is that I’ve never encountered a problem in life that He wasn’t big enough to handle.

Not anything has been bigger than Him. When I was little, that was expected. Everything was bigger than me. But as a grown up, you’d think I run into trouble every day that would stump Him. But it doesn’t. And it’s not that God has gotten any bigger. Just my understanding of what He is capable of and how much He’s done for me.

Like my friendships, which have grown deeper and stronger and have matured as I have, my relationship with God has grown too. Or maybe it would be better said that He’s stayed the same and I’ve just come to realize how enormous He is.

One of my favorite parts of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is the brief interaction Aslan the Lion, the picture of Christ, has with Lucy Pevensie in Prince Caspian.

“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger”.
~ C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

I could put myself in Lucy’s shoes there. Every year, I grow older, and my troubles get bigger and more complex as the digits in my age continue to tick upward. I didn’t really appreciate this little scene between Aslan and Lucy until I was old enough to understand how true it is.

I’ll never outgrow Him. I’ll never reach the point where I can do life on my own. I’ll never reach the point where I don’t need Him every second of every day. Life is too big for me, but it’s not too big for Him. And with Him, there’s nothing I can’t do.

And just like my earthly friends, I never run out of things to tell Him. I never run out of conversations to have with Him. I never exhaust myself telling Him how wonderful He is and how thankful I am for all He’s done for me.

No matter where I go, He’s there. No  matter how fast I run, He runs faster. No matter how much I think I know, He knows more. There’s no place I can go to escape Him (as if I wanted to), because He’s everywhere. And there’s no level of wisdom I can attain that He hasn’t already mastered.

Are you a grown up? Think you’ve got life all figured out? Well, join the club. And realize, like the rest of us, that life is so much bigger and stranger and wilder than you can ever imagine, and there’s no way you can be prepared for every eventuality. The only way you’ll make it is to have someone bigger than you to rely on when the time comes.

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Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Go with the bubblegum

I went to the dentist yesterday. I understand needing to go, especially on a regular basis, but going to the dentist is never fun. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I don’t handle scraping well. Any kind of scraping. I shudder even when I scratch someone’s back because the vibrations of fabric on my fingernails send shivers up my spine, so having a dental hygienist scraping around on my teeth with a sharpened spike is torture.

But it’s a necessary discomfort. And I am blessed to have insurance that provides for two dental checkups a year. But something really excellent happened this time–and it wasn’t that I didn’t have cavities.

The dentist had different flavored polishes!

For years and years, all you could have was mint if you were a grownup. Mint. Mint. But not even good mint. Mint that tasted like it’d been rolled in sand and left in the sun too long. Bleck. Only kids got a choice of flavors. But now? Now you can choose cherry and strawberry and raspberry and a host of other flavors–including bubblegum.

Bubblegum! A dentist hadn’t used a bubblegum-flavored polish on my teeth since I was a little girl. But as excited as I got about that, I thought that maybe I should choose cherry. Or maybe I shouldn’t even be excited. Maybe I should just go with mint. Isn’t that what a real grownup would do?

Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Beautiful little girl playing with the otters at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 18:16-17.

Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

Where do adults get the idea that we have to act so grown up all the time? I think part of the reason some people love kids so much is that they don’t hold their emotions back. When they’re excited, you know they’re excited. When they’re sad, you know they’re sad. With a grownup, it’s hard to tell because grownups have had years and years of practice in hiding what they really feel and think.

Why? Because it’s childish to get emotional over things. At least, that’s what we’re told.

Children are real. They’re open and honest and genuine. Sure, there are some corkers who figured out how to lie and manipulate at an early age, but that’s learned behavior. Most kids I know are genuinely honest little people. They’ll tell me exactly what they think.

I miss that as an adult, especially in the big bad grownup world of politics and corporate careers. And I don’t understand why we have to give up that openness and honesty as adults. I don’t see why we have to lose the innocence and the excitement of childhood just because we’ve had some of our dreams come crashing down.

I think that’s why adults lose the joy of childhood. Children are idealistic. They dream and play and imagine, and then they grow up and realize that the world is broken and their parents don’t have all the answers and their teachers don’t know everything and they won’t always be rewarded for doing the right thing. How else do you react when you realize those things? It’s a lot easier to stop believing, to stop imagining, to stop dreaming, especially when it seems less and less likely that your dreams will come true.

Well, here’s something awesome. If you’re a Christ-follower, you never have to stop dreaming. Just because you have a dream and it doesn’t come true right now, you don’t have to give up dreaming altogether. That’s one thing amazing about God. He wants to fulfill our dreams, but they have to come true according to His plan and His design. We just have to be patient.

So don’t be ashamed of childlike faith. Don’t be afraid of childlike excitement, especially when God is doing something amazing. People may look at you funny. People may think you’re nuts. Don’t worry about it. Deep down inside they’re just wishing they knew God well enough to find the same kind of joy you have. And if you get the opportunity, don’t hesitate to share it with them.

And the next time you’re at the dentist and you get the opportunity to have bubblegum-flavored tooth polish, do it. I did. And it made my day.

Child at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

The bigger you get, the bigger you think you are

Do you ever long for the simpler days of childhood? Do you ever wish you could go back to when life didn’t rush by so quickly and when you didn’t have so many responsibilities? Days like this (birthdays that is)  make me remember how life used to be when I wasn’t a “grown up.”

There are perks to being a child. You don’t have to pay bills. You don’t have to worry about politics. You don’t have to buy groceries that seem to get more and more expensive every day. You’re too young to drive so car payments and insurance and gasoline doesn’t bother you.

But nobody can stay a child forever. Everyone has to grow up. Right?

Child at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Child at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 18:2-3.

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Ah! The Disciples must have provided Christ with unlimited entertainment and constant frustration with their questions. I’m sure we do the same to Him. Our questions probably make Him chuckle sometimes because we get so fixated on things that don’t matter.

In this instance, the Disciples wanted to know who was the most important person in eternity. They wanted to know who among them was going to be the best when eternity began. And as usual, Jesus turned them on their heads and spun them around by explaining that people who are like children will be the greatest in eternity. But what does that mean?

What does it mean to be like a little child? Haven’t we already established that everyone has to grow up some time? Even Peter Pan grew up (if you watched Hook). And the Bible itself talks about how it’s important to not be a child anymore in 1 Corinthians 13:11. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

So how can Jesus say that people who are like children are the most important? Does that mean that we all need to behave like children all the time? Well, no. There are verses too where the Bible says we aren’t to be like children, that we need to mature in our faith and in our actions and our thoughts.

What Jesus is talking about here is our pride.

Think about the way a child handles pride. Children don’t really have it, if you think about it. They have confidence because they’ve never failed. They have innocence because they’ve never had to deal with people. But they aren’t ashamed to ask for help. They aren’t afraid if they don’t know the answer. And if they’re happy or angry or scared, they show it.

It’s easy for a child to trust their parents to take care of the problems in life. Why? Because their parents are bigger than they are. Any problem a kid has, they can usually take it to their parents, and they can solve it. To a child, all problems are bigger than they are, so they run to the biggest person they know (mom or dad) to fix it, rather than trying to do it themselves.

But what do grown ups do? If you’re a grown up like I am, I try to fix it myself before taking it to God. Why? Because it’s a me-sized problem. It’s something I can handle on my own. I don’t need God’s help. I can do it myself. And even with the problems I know are too big for me, I still try to do something about them first before I go to God. I lay awake at night worrying about them. I tie myself in knots fretting over things I can’t change.

Anyone else ever catch themselves doing that? Well … stop. It’s a waste of time and energy, and it distracts us from what matters.

While not every problem in life is necessarily a God-sized problem, He still wants to help you with it. And we need to get into the habit of taking our problems to Him no matter how big (or small) they are. We need to stop trying to fix everything on our own and run to God to ask for help.

He won’t turn you away. He won’t ridicule you or tell you that you’re wasting His time. He wants to help. He wants us to be like children in that we seek Him first before we try to do it alone and end up making it worse.

There are aspects of childhood that we do need to shed as we get older. But needing God? Asking God for help? It doesn’t matter if you’re 100 … or 60 … or 30. You need God now as much as you did when you were younger. Maybe more. Not necessarily because your problems are bigger … but because you are. And the bigger you get, the bigger you think you are.

So whether your problem is me-sized and your automatic garage door is no longer automatic … or your problem is God-sized and your best friend is off wandering around alone in some crazy foreign country while you have to sit and twiddle your thumbs praying that she is okay … God is big enough to handle all of it.

So stop trying to do everything by yourself. Ask God for help. He’s waiting to hear from you. And even if your problem is small, ask anyway. You have no idea how small it really is, especially from God’s perspective.

Cow in the back pasture at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Chew on this

There’s a wonderful Amish dairy a few miles down the road from me, and they sell old fashioned cheese and butter and raw, unpasteurized milk. It’s pretty fantastic, actually. I love milk and milk-related products. But what if you tried to live on a diet of milk? Just milk. Nothing else. Yeah, you’d get a lot of calcium, but what about all the other nutrients you need? And, yeah, real milk tastes great but wouldn’t you get tired of the same thing over and over again?

Milk is good for you. It’s essential, especially for infants. But God gave us teeth for a reason, and milk isn’t generally something you chew.

Cow in the back pasture at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Cow in the back pasture at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Peter 2:2.

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment.

Babies need milk. If they don’t get it, they won’t grow. And they need to ask for it, cry for it. It’s an absolutely essential part of their diet, and if they don’t receive it, they will grow up unhealthy.

But what happens after they grow? What happens to babies after they are no longer babies? Adults need more than milk. Adults need proteins and fibers and complex carbohydrates. Adults need to eat vegetables and fruits and meats. If an adult tries to survive on milk, he or she won’t be very healthy because milk won’t provide the nutrients than an adult requires.

So, yes, babies need to cry out for milk. But adults are a different story. And it’s the same with our faith.

There is Scripture that is easy to swallow. There are some truths of the Christian faith that are easy to digest, that you can wrap your head around. Basic, fundamental principles that you need to absorb if you’re going to grow any further.

God loves you. God sent Christ to die for your sins so you can have a relationship with Him. God wants to have a relationship with you.

Easy stuff. Awesome stuff but easy. Of course, God loves us. Of course, Christ died for us. Of course, God wants to have a relationship with us. That’s the foundation of the Christian faith. That’s the part everyone focuses on.

Milk.

Those are the basics. But if all you hear and all you believe and all you think about and all you try to understand is that God loves you, Jesus died for you, and they want to be your friends? Yes, it’s a wonderful message, but don’t you want more? As an adult, don’t you want deeper knowledge? Don’t you want your questions answered? Don’t you want something to challenge your mind and keep you thinking? Don’t you want something to chew on?

That’s meat.

The trouble comes with the fact that some Christians look for their “meat” outside of Scripture. They’re satisfied with the milk part because it’s easy and it doesn’t require them to question beliefs they’ve held for years (evolution, dietary requirements, clothing restrictions, etc). So they drink the milk from the Bible but they go to the world to find their meat in other religions or in social circles.

You want something to chew on, Christians? Anything you pick up outside the Bible will eventually break down. Either you’ll get tired of the taste or you’ll find that you eventually are able to wrap your head around it. I saw an article yesterday about how science is pushing God out of the way because eventually since we will be able to understand everything through science, that means we don’t need God anymore. That’s meat somebody bought in a market.

The beauty of Scripture is that is never gets old. It never breaks down. It just grows more interconnected with every puzzle piece you snap in place. You and I will never reach the point where we can understand it completely.

If you really want to challenge your mind, if you really want something to think about that will make a difference in your life and in your choices, try chewing on Scripture for a little while. Try thinking about the verses that challenge your long-standing comfort-zone beliefs, like what you eat or what you wear or why you skip the third verse of hymns. Some Bible verses will change your thinking completely. And other verses, well just because someone told you they are in the Bible doesn’t mean they actually are. Think about it. You could be basing your entire religious faith on a verse that doesn’t actually exist.

But how will you know unless you read it?

Here’s what Hebrews 5:13-14 has to say:

For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.