Proximity vs Intimacy

Before I get into the bulk of what I want to say, here’s a quick follow-up regarding the meal I made a week ago:

Praise Jesus my friendships aren’t based on my cooking abilities.  It was awful!  First of all, the main dish I made wasn’t even gluten-free.  The pasta was dry and rather tasteless.  The top of the casserole was super hard, and the “baked potatoes” I tried to make were raw.  We were too impatient to wait for the vegetables to bake completely, so those we raw, as well.  The corn muffins were good (thanks, Agnes!), but the overall meal was pathetically sub-par.  The average response of my friends while eating was “Katie, it’s not that bad”, which told me that it was, indeed, that bad.  I think the worst part of it all, even worse than the morbidly bland pasta, was the realization that I’m not naturally good at cooking!  Something I so desperately want to excel in, I’m not naturally able to.  My mom assured me that cooking is an acquired skill, but for someone as impatient as I am, that was terrible news.  Thus, I hereby surrender my desire to instantly be good at cooking to the Lord, in hopes that He will redeem my feeble attempts of delicacy.  Have mercy on me, Father, a mediocre cook!

Speaking of mercy, let me give you a little taste of how awesome my weekend was.  I had the blessing to spend four sweaty, beautiful, fellowship-filled days at Rockbridge, a Young Life camp in Virginia, with 700 other leaders, worshipping and learning about our Beloved Creator Lord.  Here’s a list of reasons why the weekend was awesome:

1) The cooks at Rockbridge, unlike me, are good at what they do.

2) Sunshine

3) On-point worship

4) Teaching that was out of this world.

5) Uninterrupted time with people I love a lot a lot a lot.

6) Time with my team!

7) Seriously so much laughter

Let me expound upon #4 a bit for you.  If you were with me this weekend, you can stop reading now, because what I’m about to say will pale in comparison to what we actually heard.  But if you weren’t there, prepare for some nuggets of gold.

Another note: I’m about to get real, so…be ready for that.

We had two unbelievable speakers.  Tim Brown, son of God and president of Western Theological Seminary, was our morning speaker.  His evening counterpart, Rick Rogan, Director of Young Life’s Northeast Region, brought a distinctly impactful point of view.  Together, their words made for one of the more convicting weekends I’ve ever lived through.  One gem that stuck out to me most vividly was one discussed by Mr. Rogan.  His question was this: Are you, Christian, settling for proximity to Jesus?  Or are you striving toward intimacy with Him?  My answer was this: I am absolutely, 100% settling for proximity.  I am going to church, leadership, doing contact work, listening to sermons, praying occasionally and calling it intimacy with the Father.  Dagger to my soul, I’ll tell you what.  The rest of the teachings followed suit.  I was so utterly convicted that for a moment, I questioned how a sinner like me could ever be redeemed from such stagnant existence.  Thanks be to God that I’m already redeemed.  But think of it!  I’m trading deep, intense intimacy with my CREATOR for being around people, things and establishments that are “about” Him.  What a foolish thing of me to do!  I was reminded of Jeremiah’s prayer;

24 Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—
not in your anger,
or you will reduce me to nothing.

This is the God that I’m choosing to run from.  A God whose perfect justice would reduce me to nothing, yet whose mercy secures my eternity and sustains me even in this very breath! How could I believe something else, anything else, is more deserving of my time, affection and intimacy?  I’m a sinner, people.  But praise Him that He knows that and sent His Son, Jesus, for that and that the Blood of Jesus covered that.  Amen?

And that’s what I’m thinking about today.  I hope you think about it too.


Confessions of a Compulsive Organizer

The office in which I work is currently going through an all-building make-over.  The entire building (which is a beautiful, old, gray stone house) is getting repainted and re-carpeted, room by room.  Since the end of the school year, absolute chaos has ensued.  There hasn’t been one single week that there hasn’t been a mountain of paper and files and big blue bins towering beside the student desk where I sit.

Next week is our turn to be made-over.   This means everything in the office has to be packed up and moved, and then moved back and unpacked once the painting and carpeting is done.  Now, let me explain this office to you.  It’s Miami’s News and Public Information Office.  What we do is handle all the news that is written about the university, people associated with Miami…we do it all, even articles that merely mention a student or professor…we get it.  You’ve never seen so much paper in your life. Unless, of course, you work at Dunder-Mifflin, which would be awesome.

The entire process of moving around papers and files and binders and big blue bins and paper clips has been fairly tedious, not only because of the amount of items that need to be moved, but because of all the useless things that pop up out of nowhere.  You know, the tiny American flags, the area code lists from 1991, the pencil sharpener, and the other pencil sharpener and the boxes that hold nothing but air.  Those are the frustrating things.  Any logical person would think “Just throw it out!”, but…for some reason, we’re not.  I ask and plead and get on my knees and beg to throw out the crumpled up presentation folder, but it stays, because someone might be able to find use for it.  Let me tell you something – no one will ever need a crumpled up presentation folder.

One thing I enjoy about my odd little brain is my organization.  I learned it from my father, bless his heart.  A neatly stacked pile of papers really get me going.  If you get me near a closet with hangers neatly displaying their contents equally far from each other, separated by type of clothing…well, I may just faint from jubilation.

One key rule of organization is this: if you don’t need something, get rid of it.  Unnecessary items create unnecessary clutter.  Sentimentality is the ultimate bad guy for someone trying to get their stuff in order.  “Oh, but maybe in a few years I’ll remember this broken necklace that I won at a carnival when I was twelve and I’ll miss it”.  No.  You won’t.  Throw it away.  The world will go on.  This is what’s happening in m y brain at work right now.

So here I am, at the student desk, with nothing to do but blog because all that can be dwelled upon and moved and moved again has done so.  I’m casting my stones at all these people who are in desperate need of help parting with meaningless objects and I realize…I do this.  In my heart.  I do this.  Let me explain.

I may be awesome at keeping physical space clean and organized, but when it comes to inside my heart, my mind…I don’t let go of anything.  Not one thing.  I hold on to every little thing that’s said to me, that happens around me or because of me or to me.  And instead of moving on, throwing it out, good or bad, I just carry it to the back room and stockpile everything.  In some cases, it’s okay.  But when it comes to sin, well, that’s not okay, not even close.

As Christians, we are washed clean by the precious, innocent blood of Jesus.  ALL our sin is covered.  We learn from it, and we hold on to those lessons, but the sin itself is useless, it serves no purpose but to trip us up as we attempt to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.  But (oh, that weighty word, but.  I could go on and on about this word, but [there it is!] that’s for another post.) but there my sin is, pressed tight against more sin on either side, crammed inside a recycled FedEx box, gathering dust in some corner of my brain’s stock room, which, by now, is bursting with boxes and boxes of sin, begging to be purged.

Hebrews 12:1-3 is one of my favorite passages of scripture.  Let me share it with you:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

How beautiful are these words?  If only I could apply them to my life!  Here’s what these words say to my heart and my brain and my soul.

Therefore, since you have all these awesome people surrounding you, pounding truth and love into you, get rid of that nasty sin that you have stockpiled in your brain.  All it does is consume your conscious thought and distract you from Jesus.  RUN THIS RACE that the Lord set out for you, fixing your eyes on Jesus, the one who ran it perfectly, and won.  He is your example.  For Heaven and Love and perfection, he bled and died, being mocked and tortured and spat upon, only to RISE (hallelujah!) and ascend to Heaven and sit down in His rightful place – next to His Father, Our Father!  Remember Him, who went through hell so you don’t have to, so that you can keep going, and finish, and be with Him forever.

It doesn’t have to be messy!  Your brainsinclutterballofmisery doesn’t have to overtake your being!  Christian, you can be free.  I’m saying this just as much for myself as I am for both of you reading this (thanks mom and dad).  Let’s purge this crap together.  I’m not sure how.  Prayer, lots of prayer.  Filling my mind with beautiful things, letting go of sin faster, repenting faster, feeling peace faster and longer and forever.

That’s about all I have to  say about that.  Keep running,  purge your stockpile, look to Jesus, even when the dust from your sin boxes gets in your eyes and makes you sneeze.  Clarity and joy and dancing is ours.  Let’s make some room so we can squeeze as much as we can into our human brains.

Here's a nice picture. I hope you think it's nice too.