Thursday, May 1, 2014

Preaching with Your Life

This is my first post in a series on Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Each post will cover one of the eleven chapters of this book on seeing God and learning how to live fully... right where you are. Each post will be tagged 05/2014 and One Thousand Gifts. All quotes in italics are from the book.

Chapter 1: An Emptier, Fuller Life

Your life is a sermon. I know some pastors who can bring the Word. I mean, really bring it. Take it out, read it real, break it down, make connections, put those pieces together, and make stars come to your eyes. "Wow! I never knew it that way. What power! What truth!" But I've never known a pastor who could preach the way a life preaches. The way patterns of days unfold and the way a person goes -- it says far more than any twenty, thirty, sixty minutes of starry connections. The way you talk to your children, the way you start your day, the way you end your day, the way you go about your way for every minute in between... it says far more about what you believe (and what you believe about God) than you could ever put into words. And string those days along by weeks and months and years and you have a raging, roaring sermon of a life that proclaims: "This is my truth!"

What is your truth?

"Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren't satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other."

Some days, I wake up and I know it will be good. My heart and eyes are wide open and I'm so full of love and excited. I hug my kids and tickle them and play silly games and everyone is fed and happy and glory be! Some days... not so much. My back hurts and my eyes sting with tired and I just. don't. feel like it. And I grump and mope and gripe and it rains inside our house.

"Where hides this joy of the Lord, this God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?"

Some days, it's just too painful to be happy, joyful, to be up. "But haven't you seen the news?" Tornadoes and babies dying and millions of souls in slums sorting trash (actual, literal trash) for their food. Closer to home, moms miscarry and husbands lose jobs and kids need surgery and never enough sleep. The days grind by through dishes and laundry and I lose some hold on what I ever did with myself. 

"When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna... They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery."

Some days, the sermon my life preaches about God is that He is stingy and rude and doesn't care very much. He's all up there going about His glory-seeking business and I'm all down here up to my elbows in dirty diapers. If I squint my eyes hard and squeeze the last drop of joy out of my heart, I hear myself mumble, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you for this day. I don't even really know what I am thankful for about this day, but it was a day, so it was a gift, so thank you." And I feel my heart open up just the littlest bit.

"That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave."

Those days that seem to grind the hardest, the ones with puking babies and cranky, defiant toddlers, the ones with terrible news from doctors and impossible decisions to make... I must admit, those are the days I find myself talking most to God. "Lord, please this... Lord, that. Lord, hear me, please. Do you see this? Help this." And we break down and break through and God hears. I know, because I'm still here. 

"Since we took a bite out of the fruit and tore into our own souls, that drain hole where joy seeps away, God's had this wild secretive plan. He means to fill us with glory again. With glory and grace."

The search, the fight of every day, is always to find the light in the darkness. The pinhole spot, the tear in the cavern wall that screams, "This is the way!" And the days can be dark. This dark is no joke. The darkness of cancer that eats and viruses that burn and depression that presses and anxiety that spins and loneliness that aches. Consuming darknesses that feel they are impenetrable. But there is always light. Even at the bedside of your only daughter, bruised and swollen and hungry for air. There is light in the hope of life and a caring nurse. Even in the diagnosis that will take you from this world. There is light in the hope of life beyond and your partner all these years. Even in the depression and loneliness that bores you down like a stripped screw. There is light in the hope of a friendly ear and a new day.

Joy matters because our lives matter. The sermons they preach are going out. People are watching and listening and learning. From us. And they want to know. They want to know where to find God in the darkness. They want to know how bad things can happen to good people if He cares. They want to know how to carry on through life's drudgeries and disappointments. They want to know the point of it all.

And we can preach a God who is powerless and careless by our frightened, anxious, fretting hearts. We can preach a God who is unkind and impatient with our harsh words and our hasty hands. We can preach a God who never wanted us to have a good thing by never opening our eyes to see a good thing.


We can preach a God whose power reaches beyond our lives to the whole world by our praise of His name in the storm. We can preach a God who is loving and patient far beyond what we can imagine by our over-and-over again forgiving and loving and caring touch. We can preach a God who gives and gives and gives us all good things, forever raining down, giving even to His death... by opening our eyes to what is already around us. The simple things, the profound things, the daily things, the life-altering, universe-tilting things. We can preach this God. We can shout sermons in our days that preach, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!" (Isaiah 6:3) 

The whole earth is full of His glory. In flowering blooms and laughing children and powerful peace. In raging storms and warring factions and dried-up streams. The whole earth... the whole earth... is full of His glory. And we must fight to see.

Tune back in on Saturday, 5/3, for my post on Chapter 2: A Word to Live... and Die By

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