"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." ~ John 3:8
I love this verse! It whispers to me of the mystery of Trust, of the security and freedom to be found in surrender. Why am I excited about surrender?
"He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." ~ James 4:6-8, 10
Solomon tells us that God "mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34) That's why James exhorts us to "Submit yourselves, then, to God." Jesus himself prayed, "Not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
All these speak of laying down our own agenda to embrace that of the Father. His plans, His ways are so much higher and better than our own. But we fearfully turn away from them to lay our own railway track over an abyss. How utterly foolish! How pitifully futile.
My dad explained it once that the grace of God is like a strong wind. Have you ever tried to walk facing into a 30 mph wind? It's not easy. What if we were to turn around (repent) and go the same direction the wind is going? What a difference it would make! If you were driving, your gas mileage would be great. ;) The opposing force has now become an enabling force. The wind didn't switch which way it was going; we did.
God is always the same—yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) The Spirit-wind will not stop blowing or change direction just because we decide we have a "better idea" than what God would have us do. When we humble our hearts before Him, acknowledging His greatness, His infinite wisdom, His RIGHTeousness, He "lifts us up" like eagles soaring on a current of supernatural favor and strength.
"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." ~ 1 Peter 5:5-11
A door into a room usually only swings one way. If I try to push on a door that says "Pull," or vice-versa, I might grow frustrated and complain that the door is "stopping" me. However, it's only a matter of submitting my preconceived ideas about how the door should have been hung and following the instructions. Did the door lock itself when it saw me coming? Of course not. Was someone on the other side of it pressing hard so I couldn't get in? Not likely. What shall we conclude then? If we continue in our obstinacy, chances are we'll be getting nowhere fast.
I'd rather soar.
Before a concert, April 2009
A few years ago, I was feeling at loose ends. Finished with "high-school" and still at home, I yearned for more to do, more to learn. I was helping around the house, cooking, cleaning, tutoring, and singing in the town choir, too. I was also studying acting quite a bit, via the internet and the library, training my mind to think like an actor, as I felt it was an area that God was leading me toward. My life was not empty by any measure, but I asked God for something more. What came was an unexpected as it was welcome!
While at my younger sisters' recital that fall, I heard a clarinet solo for the first time. I was instantly interested in learning to play it. When I mentioned it to my mom, she was surprised by my sudden enthusiasm. But when after a week of prayer and research I remained excited about it, she helped me contact the clarinet teacher in town.
The teacher informed me that all her class slots were full, but she would let me know if there was an opening. So I prayed about it, and still felt peace. Two weeks later, she called to let me know that one of her students had dropped out! I began classes in January of 2008, and soon joined the orchestra as well.
I started out with the basics, as it was the first instrument I had ever tried to learn (except for rudimentary piano skills). My mouth muscles were sore for weeks while I learned the techniques of blowing evenly and with proper pressure on the reed, but with consistent practice my proficiency improved rapidly. The classical training gave me good musical habits, and I moved through the study material at a motivated rate.
When the "season" changed, and I moved from Spain to the States, I moved on in a way. But I feel that time was well spent. I have my own instrument now, and I try to keep my skill up without it becoming a distraction. My life is richer when I'm making music.
Have you ever felt stagnant, like a once-clear pool of water now lethargic from waiting...for something? I've come to realize that patient waiting doesn't have to be a drag, because I can actively enjoy the season I'm in even as I prepare for the next one God has for me. By recognizing the opportunities around me, I can redeem the time, even as I wait for that next "big" step.
But another consideration is getting too busy. I think we've all experienced this to some degree. At times I find myself saying "yes" to too many things, and then I discover I don't have enough time or energy for what I believe is truly important—my relationships with God, family, friends, and others God brings across my path. If I become consumed with "productivity," and "doing" as much as I can, I can lose sight of the overarching goal to love God and others with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength.
"Being" is important. Being conformed into the image of Christ. Being thankful in everything. Being out in nature, enjoying God's creation. Being salt and light in the world. Being still before the Lord. Being watchful in prayer. Being available to listen to a friend. Being who God has made me to be. Being a giver. Being honorable, trustworthy, cheerful, encouraging. Being patient.
As Paul says, I want to "strain toward what is ahead," but also "live up to what we have already attained." (Philippians 3:7-16) What keeps us from that goal? Verse 19 explains: "...Their minds are set on earthly things." Whoops. Solution? Verse 20 continues: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there." That's how we keep our lives focused!
I'd like to share with you a poem I wrote three years ago (2008). The idea behind it is that if we reach for the abundant life we are offered by the Father and live that life unabashedly before others, we empower others to grasp His grace as their own lifeline.
A LIFE LIVED ON PURPOSE
by Rebekah Cook
Complacency would have us believe
That what is more comfortable is better;
That what is more familiar is safer;
That what requires less effort is more enjoyable
...and the easier it is, the more worthwhile.
But if we would live with no regrets
Then we must shake off all passivity,
And loose ourselves from conformity--
Resolving to live life at its best
By living in light of the life to come.
To achieve this heavenly satisfaction
We'll have to do more than sit back and watch.
Our time here is too short to botch--
Too limited to waste hesitating in fear...
For if we try nothing, that's what will happen.
I want to look back on a race well run
Where I trusted God's guidance day by day,
And said all I was supposed to say,
And know that I did all I could've done
To show God's love in every way.
...To know that I didn't shy away from change
But stretched, and grew, and risked, and gave
And didn't hold back, but laid down all
My struggles, my tears, insecurities, and fears
To laugh and sing and live for Him.
Life takes place when you step out on a limb
And pick the fruit you find growing there.
So invest in your friendships, both old and new
And follow the dreams He's giving you....
Because a life of purpose is a life lived
Loving God and writing songs go together naturally for me. So when I heard about a feature film project (called Indescribable) happening this summer depicting the history of the writing of the hymn, The Love of God, I got excited!
I contacted Morning Star Productions and sent in an crew application as well as an audition for a role. I haven't heard back about a part yet, but they did call and ask me to serve on the crew as the 2nd Assistant Director. The catch: now I didn't know if my schedule even allowed for it. I already had a speaking engagement at a film workshop on June 25th, and the film shoot was going to be starting on the 20th. So I prayed and gave it over to God.
Just a few weeks later, I was informed that due to equipment availability, the beginning of production was being delayed until the 28th! Just last week I confirmed with the director, Stacie Graber, that I would indeed be able to join the production team. I actually met her last fall here in VA when we worked together on a feature film called Alone Yet Not Alone.
This will be a huge learning curve for me, but also an excellent opportunity to help teach others what I do know, as there will be many young people helping on the crew who are new to the film scene. I would appreciate your prayers on several fronts:
1. Travel logistics. The shooting location is in southern Texas, so I'll probably be flying. Please pray for good prices, a smooth trip, and wisdom when I'm packing.
2. Job research. Understanding what my position will entail, and preparing to do that effectively.
3. Overall health and stamina. That my rest both leading up to and during that time would be sufficient and of good quality, so that my energy levels are high. Also that my eyesight holds up well to the amount of "screen time" necessary.
4. Priorities. That my other responsibilities would not overwhelm me so much that I wouldn't have time and energy to prepare for this. And vice-versa....
5. Relationships. That I would be able to work really well with the rest of the team, and be a blessing there.
To learn more about the film project, visit Indescribable! There is also a teaser trailer for it on the website.
Here is the third verse from the hymn:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole though spread from sky to sky
What exquisite imagery! As indescribable as God's love is, it sure is a joy to try more and more ways of putting words to it. It's beyond anything we could even hope to fully comprehend, yet the adventure of diving into its depths is not to be missed.
For me, whether it's naming a kitten, a company, or a blog, the creative process is marked by careful deliberation. The name must capture the essence of what it represents, be easy to say aloud, and ideally have a deeper meaning found in Scripture.
As I often find that others have good insights into who I am, I asked for suggestions on titles for my blog. No prize was offered, but I still got some good feedback. : )
Tablet of my Heart is the one that grew on me the most. It's one I thought of myself, but the idea was sparked by a comment my brother made. (Stick around long enough, and you'll find that the guiding wisdom of said sibling is not an anomaly...) He reminded me how I'd chosen my email address, basing it on one of my favorite verses in Proverbs. So, while the verse at the top comes out of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, the initial inspiration slid in from Proverbs 3:3.
This led me to do a short study on the word "tablet" in the Bible. The majority of times used it refers to the stone tablets given to Moses carrying the divine inscription of the ten commandments. A few times it indicates the inscription of a divine prophecy. When the priest Zachariah tells his relatives of the name given by God for his son, he does so by means of a writing tablet. The remainder of times the word "tablet" is used, it expressly refers to a human heart.
The book of Proverbs urges us to write kindness, truth (in some versions, "love and faithfulness"), and the teaching of wisdom on our hearts. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God promises to remove our "hearts of stone" and give us "hearts of flesh." When explaining the new covenant we have with God through Christ, the writer of Hebrews quotes the prophet Jeremiah:
"And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, 'THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,' He then says, 'AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.' " (Heb. 10:15-17)
In the 2 Corinthians verse I used in the blog's heading, it all pulls together. We ourselves are Christ's letter—a message directly from God. Engraved not on stone hearts, but on human hearts of flesh, also given to us by God. Written by God himself, just like it says in Exodus 32:16: "The tablets were God's work, and the writing was God's writing engraved on the tablets." A message for whom? Verse two tells us the message is for everyone to know and read.
Hold on a sec. Everyone is going to read my heart? Sounds like a lot of pressure....But if we read on through the chapter, we see that by knowing the message doesn't come from ourselves, we can have great liberty, boldness, and confidence through Christ to share that message.
So that's my hope. That as you get to know me by literally, in this case, reading what is on my heart—you might "look intently" at the glory of the One who has written the story of my life, and be transformed through that gaze.