Giving God a Name - An Ode on Beauty

And so we covet beautiful things, experiences, people. The more beautiful something is, the righter is seems. The beauty that we find in God’s world or through exercising the creative abilities with which he has blessed us is deliberate and meant to cause us to seek and feel our way toward the One in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:26-28). In a poem or in the trout-filled river, we see our Lord fleetingly, a glimpse as he turns the corner. Love, tall grass, laughter and music, the raucous variety of people’s lives and the fragile insects—these are clues that point to something bigger and truer—to a Creator who delights in life.

Beauty lures and captivates us, and for many outside of Christ, the pursuit of beauty becomes a religion in and of itself, providing a type of purpose, significance, healing and joy. I speak with firsthand knowledge, for I once belonged to these ranks. To those who find Christianity irrelevant, offensive, hateful—I once thought as you think. I gloried in yogic chanting and The Arts, in self expression, in great literature and in eastern philosophies. The classics were my holy scriptures, and I found wisdom to live by in the pages of James, Faulkner, Morrison, and Cather. I entertained notions of reincarnation, astral projection, crystal healing, the goddess and Wiccan beliefs. I celebrated harvest and the moon’s cycles and believed I heard the music of the spheres.

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A Still More Excellent Way

Perfectionism, in direct opposition to the gospel, strangles off the channels of grace by which the Lord intends to nourish us and bless others. It keeps our eyes turned inward and focused on ourselves rather than on love. It leads us off mission and makes us the little gods of our lives. Jesus says that He comforts us in order that we should comfort others in the same way (2 Cor 1:4), that we are to go and make disciples (Matt 28:19), that we are to bring flavor and life to the world around us and shine brightly so that people know who has sent us (Matt 5:12-16). He says that what will set us apart in this world will be how we love (John 13:35). It takes such energy and self-focus to keep up appearances and wage an endless PR campaign. I am not about my Father’s business when my true concern is how I am being perceived. Love is snuffed out, and all of my interactions with people become mere manipulation. The noisy gong and clanging cymbal of my lovelessness are deafening.

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The Mother at the Well

Motherhood requires all that I have, and I quickly find that what I have really isn’t all that much. The distance between my sufficiency for these things and true sufficiency is laughable. I am not selfless enough, patient enough, consistent enough, holy enough, energetic enough, creative enough, wise enough, or loving enough to be a good mother. No, I am a desperate woman at the well with five husbands who are not my husband, begging Him for a drink, embarrassingly wiping Jesus’ feet with my tears and hair. I love much because I have been forgiven so much.

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Graven Images

Even for God, words were inadequate. He sent His very Son to flesh out that skeleton frame, those misunderstandings indwelling the human heart despite His careful sentences and pillars of clouds. The Word made flesh. That is holy work — supernatural, divine. I cannot do that. I cannot bring words to life, birth them into inflating lungs and bulging veins and sprinting legs. But because He made me in His image, I, too, am a lover of words, a creator — a creator of pain, chaos, disappointment, laughter, memories, children, gardens, popsicles, and novels. I long to create bad collages and worse poetry, to freeze time and see the truth and pin it there to the page — to see beauty and marvel and scatter it. There is immortality in the beauty of a moment, holiness in apprehending His glory as He passes by.

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Laura ZieselComment
Messiah

The crux of it is that if I don't understand my brokenness and sinfulness, I will never embrace or appreciate Jesus, the healing gift that cleanses and restores me to right relationship with my Creator. If I don't think I'm broken, I won't think I need fixing. And that is one of the biggest lies that keeps so many from running to God. 

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Two Bookcases

Of course, I had no idea about all this when I stopped reading anything that wasn't the Bible or theology, but the Lord knew what I needed and how my entire world view needed reorienting. And so He saturated my mind with His life-giving, life-changing, illuminating, and might I add, often gorgeously written Word. And there is nothing like it. The most profound, exquisitely written poetry or prose does not even begin to approach the same universe as scripture.

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Laura ZieselBooks, IdolsComment
The Fight to Forgive

Forgiveness is not easy. Anyone who says otherwise is either far more holy than I am or a liar. It is a day by day, moment by moment decision to love Jesus more than myself, more than my disappointed, heartbroken and reeling self. It is the opportunity to fellowship with Jesus as I suffer unjustly, as I bless those who curse me, as I pray for those who have mistreated me, as I pour out mercy instead of judgment.

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Many Sparrows

As I've written this story, it's changed along with me. Two drafts and two years into its crafting, I was born-again and scrapped the entire project, re-writing it entirely with a new focus, heart, and point. It's been a constant companion from singledom to marriage, childlessness to a full house, unbelief to belief, the West Coast to the East to the South and back. It's changed names, characters, plots, and purposes, and here it is--static and done at long last. I sound awfully sentimental, but the truth is I am relieved. It's been too many years, and I'm ready for a new story. 

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Thanksgiving

Like so many foundational truths, the importance, rightness, and holiness of gratitude is easy to gloss over. It's far more natural and comfortable to vaguely acknowledge that I am indeed fortunate but then go about my grumbling, dissatisfied day, never actually changing or living out of that gratitude, than it is to cultivate a constant, sustaining sense of thankfulness for this life the Lord has given me and all that He has done for me, thankfulness for who He is and the staggering truth that I am His and He is mine, appreciation for the thousands of ways that the Lord demonstrates His love for us, for me, and for His creation every moment. 

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Altitude Sickness

That single verse from Psalm 138 lifted me up out of sinking sand and set my feet on firm ground. I will not fulfill my purpose for me. I will not even fulfill God's purpose for me. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. What peace there is in being the work of my Maker's hands, in knowing my place and His, and in worshipping Him, loving Him all the more for that vast difference

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A Better Country

At this moment in time, right before we pack up our house and head west, the Lord knows I'm upset, and He understands thoroughly the groanings of my spirit, my propensity to look back and want to cling to that which is familiar. I don't need to pretend with Him that it isn't hard. But I also see that holding on to that which is earthly and temporary is self-defeating and foolish, and that all my longings for permanence and painlessness will only ever be satisfied when I go to be with the Lord. I am an alien and stranger here on earth. My citizenship is in heaven, and I long for that better country, that beautiful city God has prepared for me. In the meantime, while I am still earthbound and clothed in this perishable body, I can rest in His presence, take comfort in His immutability, and do my best to keep my gaze heavenward. 

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Running on God

HOWEVER (and this is a big "however"), with our beginning this new phase of our lives and my husband away, there have been many additional opportunities to fear or worry outside of our impending move. And the enemy has been prowling and exploiting these challenges with tremendous adroitness and resolve. It's humbling and irritating how we can be filled with belief and walk victoriously in some areas of our lives but simultaneously struggle in others.

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Tomorrow

It is a formidable thing being married to a military man. Although you do not go through the intense physical and mental challenges that your husband does, you nonetheless pass through your own sort of gauntlet--the fervent prayers, the burdens that must be cast at the Lord's feet, the endless waiting and seemingly endless separations, the illusion that you have any control or say over your life, stripped away (talk about a lesson in submitting to authority and God's sovereignty).

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"And you are not being careful, and you are missing it."

I don't want to miss it. I want to be careful. I want to savor these times instead of always wishing they were somehow different from what they are. I've found that the sort of conscripted, menial servanthood of motherhood can wear a woman down if she isn't careful, if she doesn't purposefully do it for the Lord, in the Lord's strength, and with the Lord's heart. 

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Beginnings

I’m going to come clean. I don’t read a lot of blogs. Three, to be exact. Yes, three over the course of my life, not three yesterday or last week. I’m not really a bloggy sort of individual, so you’re going to have to bear with me; I honestly don’t know what I’m doing. This is probably going to be embarrassing and possibly terrible and certainly quite a learning process.

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Laura Zieselabout meComment