Casting Our Nets Deeper

In Luke 5:4, 5 Jesus tells Simon to go deeper and let down his nets to fish. I really related to Simon’s response to Jesus in this moment. I am sure in his head he is thinking what’s up with this guy? Doesn’t he know I’m a professional fisherman and I’ve been at it all night? Simon’s response to Jesus is, “We worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” Jesus was saying so!

Many times in life we work really hard to do something well, whether it’s related to school, work, or a relationship. We put all our effort in and I am sure most of us have had those experiences where no matter how hard we tried at something we did not get our desired result. Recently I have been trying to start a private practice business. Now I am aware this is not an easy venture, but I have to admit there was a small part of me that believed if I casted out my nets they would be full of fish. I believed if I did everything I was supposed to do the business would take off. It still might, this is a new venture but at the moment things are slow.

God has been using Luke 5 to remind me that what we have and what we receive is not about our efforts. He ultimately is the one in control of all things. I don’t think this means we are to sit idly and wait for Jesus to pour out blessings on us, but there is a humbling reminder of our dependence on Him. In fact Jesus told Simon to “cast his nets in deeper water.”  In other words He was saying dig a little deeper, try again, and let Me show you what I can do. Did He ever!

“And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.” Jesus didn’t just show up with some fish He really showed up. So much that Simon had to ask for help. Does anyone else out there suck at asking for help? I know when I have too much I stretch myself thin and don’t lean into my partners for help. When this happens I start to sink and fall apart.

In just two verses Jesus teaches us about our dependence on Him, the value of obedience, and our need for community to help us. He shows us that even when it seems like there is no hope, He will be holding onto hope for us. In an amazing twist He shows us that when we are blessed with an abundance that is when we need to call on our friends for help and I am guessing to also share in what we have been given. Casting our nets deeper may not always make sense to us but I believe wherever He is calling us we have an amazing opportunity to follow. In following Him Jesus reveals more of Himself to us, which allows us to share more of Him with others. Perhaps this is how we can be “fishers of men.”

Casting Fishing Nets

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Where Do You Belong?

I must confess to you that I do not frequent the Christian radio stations. In general I either listen to songs on my iPod or NPR (I’m not a fan of commercials). Alas my iPod was dead and NPR was talking about finance so I decided to venture over to the local Christian station. As I drove through the city unfamiliar music blared out of my speakers. I wasn’t really expecting a song to wow me or take my breath away but I was struck by something I heard.

Now as a disclaimer I do not know who wrote the song I am about to describe or their intent behind the words. The basic sentiment of the song repeatedly stated, “I am not where I belong.” In the verses the singer seems to be giving us the message that we were created for Heaven so therefore we do not belong here. In John 17 Jesus prays for believers and basically says we are not of this world but He also prays in verse 15, “I am not asking You to take them out of the world but to protect them from the evil one.” It can be tempting to take parts of the Bible and to not look at the whole context. I believe that we were created in God’s image and I believe that we do belong to God and His world. The question this song aroused in me was, “In this very moment am I not where I belong?”  I am not so sure.

Have you ever heard the saying, “That person is so heavenly bound they are no earthly good?” In other words some people get so focused on God they do not contribute to the world around them. What if we started to believe that God placed us right here, right now for a very good reason? What if His purpose for our lives is to discover our belonging no matter where we are? By belonging I mean that every day we are given the opportunity to live fully. Living fully is a byproduct of the freedom and redemption Christ came to give us. When we live as free and redeemed people we can show the world that we belong wherever we are.

To take this point a step further, if we believe that the Kingdom of God lives in us as a result of the Holy Spirit, than in some ways we already have a taste of home. There is nothing wrong with longing for Heaven but my hope is that we use that longing to seek ways to live in His Kingdom today. My prayer is that by allowing ourselves to enter fully into each day we will draw others to His presence. Instead of hating our lives and wishing to be somewhere else perhaps we can model a way of living that is full of grace and joy.  Even in times of hardship we have an opportunity to see God’s greater plan at work. I am not saying that we should not have human emotion through life’s ups and downs. It would not be natural to pretend to be happy about where we are all the time but regardless of how we feel when we ask ourselves, “Where do we belong?” How do we answer?

Chasing the White Trail

As a little girl I loved to read and watch Alice in Wonderland. I imagined myself chasing a white rabbit down a hole that led to my world turned upside down. While on the hunt for the rabbit many things would capture my attention: Cheshire Cats, Mad hatters, and tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum. It’s not hard to distract me from my set task but add some spades painting the rose’s red, with an angry Queen playing crochet with birds and I’m a goner.

The other day I was hiking at my usual spot, but something was different. The creek was flooded and looked more like roaring rapids than a peaceful creek. I hiked along the blue trail to get me connected to the white trail. As I journeyed down a hundred steps to the start of my favorite trail marked by white paint on trees, I encountered waves where my path should have been. I looked ahead to see just twenty yards ahead the trail was clear. I decided to go trailblazing. I few scratches and mysterious creatures later I made it to the other side.

Just as I thought I was in the clear, I turned a bend to find the trail flooded again. This time I found myself hiking up a steep embankment through thorny bush, dead leaves, and scurrying animals. At this point a sane person may have stopped but just ahead was another white marker telling me I had bypassed the flood again! This started a pattern that repeated itself about four times and two snakes later (I hate snakes!).

Then to my dismay I found myself standing on a cliff looking at a sea of brown water separating me from the rest of the white trail. The chase was over there was no way across without the risk of getting caught up in the current or being eaten by the giant mythological serpent that surely inhabits those waters. With a sigh I turned back realizing I had to retrace my steps and earn a few more scratches on my arms.

I am not the kind of person that gives up easily. When I do have to give up I feel like I am going against my whole nature. Yet when we get ourselves fixated on a path or a lifestyle that can hurt us maybe failure is the best option?

When we choose our own way to live, we risk following a path that will lead us to dangerous waters. This can be literal, but it can also be symbolic for various addictions, relationships, and behaviors that essentially do us more harm than good. Those “white rabbits” lead us further from truth and closer to destruction. They distract us from what is most important.

We all have a life to live and a path to walk. We can walk aimlessly hoping to bump into our fate or we can choose a more intentional course. This will take practice, discipline, and help from others. The things that ensnare our hearts can be powerful but they are not more powerful than the love of God. He can break any addiction or bondage but often times we must be willing to turn around and retrace our steps. Many times we will need help from trusted friends or trained professionals.

 In humility we must admit that we are powerless to go on without God’s help.  We must realize it is time to abandon the white trail and seek higher ground. God will provide all we need as we turn toward Him and His path. He will be our guide, our comforter, our healer, and our friend. He is the one I want to be chasing.

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Do You Speak In Red?

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So I was talking to a couple ladies today about how I like to write and speak. I began to tell them that when I speak I’m a lot like Jesus… Immediately some alarms went off in my head to alert me to error of my ways. As I fumbled around trying to not sound completely grandiose one of the ladies said, “So when you speak are you speaking in red letters?” I laughed at her reference to Bibles that highlight Jesus’ words in red. I quickly tried to explain that I liked to use parables/stories to teach about various truths. But what a novel idea she had! I mean seriously what if we could all speak in red?

As our conversation wore on we started talking about who Jesus would be hanging out with in modern America. In my humble opinion I don’t think He would be spending most of His time with the church. As we all agreed on who Jesus might be spending His time with, the more important question came. What would Jesus say to them? That was one of those moments I really wish that I spoke in red!

Because of culture shifts, reading Jesus’ words at face value is not always quite as powerful. When we add context to those letters we start to learn about a man/God that was a bold lover of people. He was not worried about societal norms or acceptance. He was about radically loving people that others refused to show grace to let alone love. If speaking in red means that we love people in innovative ways then sign me up. If red letter Tracy means people will have an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus then I am in. If communication in red leads to a lifetime in the Kingdom for more people than what is stopping us? I can’t say I am there yet but I am all about becoming a person that speaks in red.

Wine, Rest, and God

Being newly self-employed I have not quite gotten the hang of things. I woke up this morning with great intentions to conquer the world but my body had other plans. About midway through collecting tax documents I crashed. There was no energy to give. I decided to take a shower to “wake me up” (about 1pm); I was hoping that would take care of things. Not so much. I laid in bed writing lists of all the people I needed to contact and all the self-starter things I needed to do. I decided I would go work at a local coffee shop to inspire some productivity. As I walked down the stairs to my car my legs began to quiver and protested the direction they were walking. In frustration I went back in the house sat in a huff, and wondered what was wrong with me.

As I thought about my dilemma light dawned. I realized I had been working off on for eight days straight. My body was crying out for rest all day long and it took until 4pm to get the message. In my defeat I decided to rest with a nice glass of wine and a movie. For the first time today my body responded with a resounding, “Yes!”

I think many of us devalue the importance of rest. We have our to-do list along with other daily demands. Like any other superhuman being we nonchalantly say, “I’ve got this.” Little do we realize in the midst of our busyness we have forgotten to live.

Ironically stillness is the very thing that will give us life. I remember one time while I was meditating by a creek I marveled at the way it reflected the trees and the sky. In this moment I heard the Lord’s Spirit whisper, “In stillness you reflect my beauty.” When we are consumed with busyness we are more like a rushing river but as we slow down we can reflect His Glory that resides in us.

Rest is not easy. Slowing down is not easy. Even when my body is not moving, my mind is moving a mile a minute. Yet when I slow down and rest my whole being, I am more available to God and whatever He has for me that day. I think of the friends that called me before my wine and movie rest and then the ones I talked to after. You can guess which friends got the better part of me.

Now I am not telling you to drink wine every time you need rest. What I am saying is it’s important to find ways to be still and to know God is present. In stillness we become more available to the indwelling presence of His Spirit. These are the moments we can find true rest. These are the moments that will be reflected in our relationships with others. In these moments we can lift our glasses and say, “Cheers!”Be Still

Fishing for Crawdads

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When I was younger I used to go fishing for crawdads with the boy that lived across the street. He always said they were good eating. I never tested one out to confirm this statement; however when I moved to the South I found out there is a whole slew of people that think crawdads are quite tasty.

Now we would usually look for crawdads in this partially underground tunnel that connected a retention pond to a small creek. One rainy day the water had risen significantly and we were trying to walk on the sides of the tunnel so we would not get swept up by the current. I saw a big crawdad float by me and I lunged for it! Of course I lost my footing and went for my first white water ride into the muddy creek. I never did catch that crawdad. Shortly after I sloshed my way home, dripping mud everywhere, and to my dismay was forever banned from catching crawdads in the tunnel. Apparently my mom thought I had better things to do with my time.

Have you ever put your attention on something that didn’t really matter to you? Now the boy across the street was passionate about catching crawdads and in his 10 year old world that really may have been his calling for those days. As for myself I was not so passionate about catching crawdads but I did find myself easily pulled into his excitement. For me it was the journey that led to something new. Even now I find myself looking for new adventures. Many times these adventures lead me away from the very thing I am truly passionate about.

Many of us get caught up fishing for crawdads in our lives. We go out because it is something to do and that’s better than nothing. We settle for mediocre adventures or even the passions of others. We get so caught up in things that do not matter we soon find ourselves caught up in a current that takes us further from our dreams.

Sometimes it is hard to figure out what is stealing our focus. We can only ask ourselves what is the value of what we are pursuing? Or we can ask if we are pursuing anything at all? When Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God He compares it to a great treasure that man finds. He buries this treasure in a field and then proceeds to spend all that he has to buy that field. How does seeking God’s Kingdom become more important than fishing for crawdads? I know that sounds like a ridiculous comparison but perhaps there is some truth to it.

By developing a relationship with Jesus our desire to pursue Him and His Kingdom will grow. Many things in our life will try to distract us from this pursuit but as we evaluate what is important to us and what is important to God our focus will shift. Instead of living our lives drenched in mud with nothing to show for our efforts we can live a life that is full of joy and purpose. It is in Him that we live and move and breathe and have our being. Stop fishing for crawdads and above all else seek His Kingdom.

 

Maps, Guides, and Adventures

So I have this infamous ability to get lost. There have been several times when a wrong turn has transformed a 10 mile trip into journeys into nearby states. I’ll never forget as a teenager accidently driving to Wisconsin instead of a nearby mall in Chicago. It is amazing where one misstep can lead you.

Ironically I do not care for using maps. I enjoy the adventure and I love to figure things out. Today I was hiking and a little boy in front of me was hitting a stick against every tree, rock, and lizard in sight. Unfortunately for his mom his stick swept across the map she was studying and flung it beneath the stairs we were climbing down. Of course I immediately came to her aid in retrieving the map… Nope that is not what I did. I laughed at her, passed her on the stairs, while exclaiming, “Oh no!” She stood frozen on the stairs staring down at her map. Her husband called up to her as she pitifully told him about her maps demise. Already in action mode the father told his son to climb down and retrieve the map. Mission accomplished.

As I pondered on maps, getting lost, and guides I realized that there are some of us that like to wander aimlessly excited by wherever life may take us, and there are others that want to know every step and every detail. As I walked I kept thinking about if the lady was truly lost I could have directed her along the right path. She could have followed me. My guess is she is the kind of person that would ask for help if push came to shove. I have also learned the importance of asking for directions on my many adventures. I know there are some people in the world that don’t like to ask for directions and they will stubbornly stay lost or sit in fear not knowing where to go. When embarking on a new adventure some sort of guide can come in pretty handy!

In life God wants us to be found. He will always point us in the right direction if we are willing to listen. Easier said than done, right? In some ways following His direction is so easy and in a lot of ways it is really hard. The first step is being willing to learn His voice. Just like you are familiar with your spouse’s voice, your mother’s voice, your father’s voice, and the voice of a dear friend, God wants you to know His voice. Once we know His voice following His direction, His map for our life is easy.

For some the hard part is hearing His voice or even believing that God wants to speak to us. He does! In John 10:27 Jesus says, “The sheep know my voice, I know them, and they will follow me.” Sheep will not follow any person that calls out to them but because of their relationship with their shepherd they recognize his voice and follow him. The only way I know to become familiar with someone’s voice is to spend time with them. Spending time with God looks different for everyone. If you are spending time with Him that leads you to familiarity with His voice than I think you will find it easier to rely on Him to guide you in life. Sometimes it will feel like someone has thrown your map over the ledge and other times you will feel like you are wandering aimlessly. Jesus wants to enter into both situations to be your guide. He may not show you the whole path but He is always faithful to show you where you need to be in that moment!