Take chances. Abandon all the rules. Ditch the recipe. Color outside the lines.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bringing Buckets

I don’t usually post my poetry on here as part of my blog, mostly because I don’t feel that it accurately communicates what I mean all the time.  Poetry is more subjective.  Poetry engages your heart, grips it, and refuses to let go until your head finally gives in.  I do love poetry, though.  I find myself writing it most often in my times of struggle between what I know to be true about God and how I feel about myself. 

This week at church the message was about rivers of living water.  Such a beautiful truth, these rivers of life.  They flow from a limitless source of completion and make beautiful whatever they touch.  God, complete and full, incessantly pours upon us His rivers of grace, forgiveness, love, satisfaction, glory, and righteousness.  He has no need for us to give Him anything back, to bring our buckets of runoff to Him and say proudly, “Look what I did!”  As if one raindrop could fill an ocean.  Still, we bring our buckets, our pathetic, stagnate buckets and think ourselves great.

God says, “No, child, I need nothing from you.” 

His desire is not for us to serve Him, but for us to be served by Him.  He not only drowns us in His rivers but makes rivers come up out of us!  See, we think that serving others is another way to please Him, to gain His favor, because that’s what we are “called” to.  We forget that we are vessels.  Broken vessels.  We forget that we can give nothing to others without having received it from Him first.  We forget that they are HIS rivers IN us. 

How human of us.

We see greatness come from something we touched and think, “I did that!”

How quickly we forget the desert that preceded His rivers. 

Without Him we are nothing and because of Him we have everything.  We were hopelessly overwhelmed by a life of expectation and He made us enough.  We were failures and He made us perfect.  Everything that we could never achieve He has called us to and made us adequate, no, more than that, over qualified for.  Such a divine paradox He has made us, that we are both less than we think ourselves to be and greater than we can imagine. 

He’s kind of fantastic that way.

So, here is my poem, inspired by this weekend’s message.  I hope it caresses your heart and stimulates your mind; and I hope it inspires you to forsake your bucket for the experience of the river.

Bringing Buckets
By Jess Hays

Like worn ships tossed by the sea
Tattered sails torn apart in the breeze
We use our ability to try and gain glory
Attempt to avoid capsizing under the weight of unworthy

We preach holiness and leave out his favor
Want righteousness but see no need for a Savior
We talk a lot but don't say much of anything
Forsake love to focus on people sinning

He offers us rivers and we bring him buckets
Futilely hoping what we give is enough
He offers us life and we trade it for religion
We want to live by His rules so we ignore His forgiveness

His radical grace made an outlaw of me
And gave me a new mission to set others free
Now His full blessing He's given to me
So this broken vessel is no longer afraid of the sea

Friday, January 3, 2014

Resolve to be Unresolved


The New Year is upon us!  Right now millions of people around the world are busy making their lists, setting their goals, and throwing out all their junk food.  Resolutions can be good things, motivations to be healthier or live fuller lives, they motivate us to flourish in our short time here on this earth.  It’s great to have goals, but it’s important that we don’t confuse our “needs improvement” list with the voice of God.
Thousands of Christians are, at this very moment, sketching out their New Year’s to do lists.  These lists are filled with things like “Read the entire Bible this year” and “Witness to my coworkers.”  Don’t get me wrong, reading the Bible is great! Everyone should definitely check out Judges, there are some pretty cool stories in there!  But if your list consists of only the behavior modification, “reading the Bible,” then I guarantee you will fail. 

That’s the problem with today’s brand of Christianity; it focuses too much on behavior.  That probably has something to do with the culture of our world today, a culture that breeds list makers and duty focused go-getters.  We’ve traded being a Christ follower for being a moral member of society, and those are two very different things. 

Morality calls us to be good, act upright, to sit still, and behave.  Jesus did not sit still and behave.

See, Christ came to offer us freedom as we put Him in chains.  He came to lavish love as we shouted hate.  He came to offer us righteousness while we lived in depravity.  He pursued the ones who ran and defied death.  He embraced the infectious and called the uneducated to tell His story.  He brought wine to the party and healed on the day of rest.  He befriended the prostitute and turned away the religious.  He did so we don’t have to.  He sacrificed so we could stop sacrificing.  He did it all so we can stop trying so hard. 

God doesn’t want you to read your Bible because it’s on your resolutions list.  In fact, He doesn’t even want you to read your Bible because you think it will bring you closer to him.  He wants you to read your Bible because you know how loved you are, how much He treasures you, how righteous He has made you, and knowing that makes it impossible for you to not want to read more about Him. 

God doesn’t want you to witness to your coworkers because He needs more people on His team.  He doesn’t want you to do it because you think it’s stocking up some extra eternal brownie points or that it will get you in a mansion closer to His.  He wants you to be so overwhelmed with the grace He has poured on you that you can’t help but tell everyone you know how freaking awesome it is!

God has no interest in what you can do for Him.

His interest is that you know what He has already done for you.

It’s time we stopped.  Stop.  Stop it all.

Stop worrying.

Stop agonizing over our failure to do enough.

Stop pursuing perfection.

Stop reading your Bible, praying, witnessing, giving 10%, and going to church 3 times a week.

Stop everything that you do because you “have to.”

You no longer have to wonder if you’re loving Him enough because He loves you enough.

It’s not about if you do enough because He has done it all.

You don’t have to question if you are righteous enough because His righteousness is yours.

We are not defined by what we do for Him, how well we achieve within our religion or how well we behave according to society’s rules.  Our identity lies in what has been done for us, giving us freedom from a performance driven religion, calling us to something far greater than just a behavior modification. 

We serve a God who is so big that He chose to become the smallest of us, His broken creation, in our most vulnerable of forms, a baby.  A God who forsook everything; His kingdom, His comfort, and His power, to come to our world of death and pain and pointless suffering and die a criminal’s death so that we could have the birthright of His Son.  So that we could enjoy everything He gave up to walk, with the dusty feet of a carpenter, among us. 

How could we have the audacity to think that anything we could ever do could even begin to compare to that?

How can we forsake such a beautiful gift of love for a sorely unmatched replacement of religion?

This year, let your resolution be to give up your resolutions.  Let your days be filled by the remembrance of how loved you are, how perfect he has made you, and how impossible it is to lose that.  This year choose to stop doing and just be.

Resolve to be unresolved, uncertain of where you’re headed but confident in who you are.  Enjoy the fantastic, unpredictably delightful ride that pursuing Him takes you on.

Grace and peace with you this year and every day in it, don’t be afraid to just be.