Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stop Evaluating

I am not going to waste another minute of my life worrying about or measuring my spiritual progress. My mentor read me a Brennan Manning quote that spoke to this idea, and it really resonated with me.

See, I’m an evaluator. I like to evaluate how I am doing in all the categories of my life, and my spiritual life is no exception. In fact, it’s the most deadly form of evaluation.

For example, I love the Bible. For a long time the Bible intimidated me, and then one day in college I started reading it and it came alive to me. The words seemed to rise up off the page and scream, “This is for you, Ashley! I wrote this for you.” It connected the puzzle pieces of my life and made sense out of things I did not understand. I felt like I had discovered a secret treasure.

Then I started sharing it with others. First in casual conversations with my closest friends, and then eventually leading Bible studies for high school and college girls.

Sharing what I have learned from the Bible brings me so much life.

But, at some point I made my time in scripture a part of my evaluation. My spiritual report card hinged on if I had spent time reading the Bible or not. Soon one of my favorite things became an obligation not a gift.

Maybe it started with the day I learned the phrase “Quiet Time” because it sounds like being sent to time out. And that’s what it felt like: “You’re sentenced to 30 minutes of Quiet Time.” Ugh.

So, what’s the answer? Stop reading my Bible? No. Stop evaluating.

Our system of evaluating is not at all how God sees us.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 neither are your ways my ways,” 

declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
- Isaiah 55:8-9

  Because here's the thing....
Brennan Manning - Ruthless Trust 

We are free to enjoy a relationship with God without weird expectations that we put on ourselves.

He just says,

“Come, all you who are thirsty, 
come to the waters;

and you who have no money, 
come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk 
without money and without cost.  
Why spend money on what is not bread, 
and your labor on what does not satisfy? 

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.  
Or more simply put, just, “Come to me.” 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Absolute Favorite Verse (Honest)

Isaiah 49:14-16

I’m one of those people that throws around the word favorite a lot.

“She’s my favorite person.” “That’s my favorite restaurant.” Blah. Blah.

But, honestly, this is my absolute favorite verse(s). And it has been for a while.

It just SPEAKS to me. Like if I sat here and thought about it long enough I could definitely start crying. Easily.

If I were asked to read these verses to a group of people, forget it. They would all be really uncomfortable because there is a 100% chance I would be crying.

So, here’s why. Let me break it down why these verses have this effect on me.

First, it starts out…

“The Lord has forsaken me, 
the Lord has forgotten me.”

Maybe I’m a drama queen, but I feel this fairly regularly. Not so much “forsaken” as in He’s turned His back on me. But, maybe that language is just a little strong for me. FORSAKEN is kind of harsh.

But, forgotten? Yes. I sometimes think He’s forgotten me.

Or just given up on me altogether.

I feel like a 5-year-old little girl saying, “Do you remember me, God?”

So that first verse is my line: “God, I think you’ve forgotten about me, and maybe given up on me altogether.”

Then God says: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
 and have no compassion on the child she has borne?”

And this is such a great line because he’s leading me somewhere.

He’s saying, “Could a loving mother forget a baby that she birthed and nourished?”

“Could a mother possibly have no compassion and love for a child that is her very own flesh?”

And you think, well this is obviously a rhetorical question. No way could she forget! What heartless woman would do that? Forget her child? Impossible!

And then the curveball:

 Though she may forget,

In other words, maybe so. She really might forget you. Mothers abandon their children all the time. People in general, not just mothers, let us down. They break our hearts. They turn their backs on us. They make mistakes.

But, God says:

“Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

He will never forget me. He will never let go of me. He will never leave me.

He has not given up on me.

And he will never forget you either, dear child.

He’s always been there, right by your side.

And He has the scars to prove it.