Thirst.

I can see it in my own life, the days I’m content, but also the days my eyes are raw, when I can’t seem to drag myself to the water’s edge. My thirst isn’t great enough.

There’s nothing to push me to God on those days.

Wadi Mujib

The waist-deep water was clear to my toes, and I felt its cool cut clear to my soul.

And all I could think was … how do I get more of this in my life.

That week in the Middle East, the sun had baked our building like a piece of baklava. We’d been putting wet washcloths in the freezer, getting them out just before bedtime and going to sleep on top of our beds with them tucked behind our necks and under our legs.

And in the middle of the night, when I’d wake up in the melted-washcloth puddles, I’d walk to the shower, spray my arms and legs down with water and go back to bed without drying off. It was water that had been simmering in the water tank on the roof all day as the temperatures soared above 100 degrees. But it was better than nothing.

I loved that place. But it was hot, y’all.

It’s safe to say we hadn’t slept great the morning we woke up early to road trip to Wadi Mujib, an oasis with a cold, clear stream in the rocky Jordanian desert. The stream starts with a roaring, tumbling waterfall and runs through a crevice in steep canyon walls until it hits the warm, salty Dead Sea, and our friend Maurie told us it was one of her favorite places she’s ever been.

But it had nothing for me that morning.

My eyes felt salty when I met Abi in the sweltering hallway between our bedrooms.

“I feel like I haven’t slept in days.”

Me too.

Neither of us felt like dragging ourselves across the desert. We each wanted to fall back into our oven-of-a-bedroom and toss and turn in hopes it’d eventually feel better.

We debated.

We changed our minds a couple of times.

We ended up in the car with our friends.

And I couldn’t be more glad we did.

It kinda changed our lives.

When you visit Wadi Mujib, you kind of drop from a staircase above the stream into the rift in the rocks and land in the calm where the water lulls before it moves on to join the sea. Then — all strapped up in a life jacket they provide — you work your way upward to the source. Like a salmon, you wade against the stream with water sometimes waist deep, sometimes ankle deep, sometimes pouring over huge rocks that you have to use a rope to pull yourself up over.

We. Were. Ready.

We might’ve been reluctant to leave our sun-baked apartment, but once the water was in sight, we were all coming in hot. Where the stream pooled at the base of the crack in the mountain, we hit it at full tilt.

We didn’t care that we probably shouldn’t be drawing that much attention to ourselves.

We’d been craving this for what felt like a thousand dry, hot months.

And because of that, it was one of my favorite days of my life.

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*****

In the middle of the night the other night, I was lying awake, eyes salty, brain unable to rest, heart regretting a thousand things.

I wished I’d spent more time in the Word that day, that week. I wished I hadn’t failed that friend so badly. I wished I’d been a more centered version of myself than I had been.

I’d tried hard at things, to fix them, to love well, to meet needs.

I’d failed miserably.

I wished an appetite for God would’ve won the day.

But it hadn’t.

Instead, salty eyelids were scraping across dry eyes, and a dry heart was keeping my anxious brain awake.

And I was plotting how to fix the things I’d messed up, tossing and turning, and scrolling Twitter. At 3 a.m., I landed on an old, retweeted post from John Piper called “Serve God With Your Thirst,” and I opened it. And Wadi Mujib appeared out of the desert in his words:

God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket brigade.

If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell people what you’ve found.

My hope as a desperate sinner hangs on this biblical truth: that God is the kind of God who will be pleased with the one thing I have to offer — my thirst. That is why the sovereign freedom and self-sufficiency of God are so precious to me: they are the foundation of my hope that God is delighted not by the resourcefulness of bucket brigades, but by the bending down of broken sinners to drink at the fountain of grace.

The day I hit the water at Wadi Mujib, I threw myself in with abandon, laughed harder than I’d laughed in ages, ran underneath the waterfall at the top like a kid and then floated on my back all the way back to the base like I didn’t have a care in the world.

I had nothing but thirst, and I found nothing but wonder.

And I almost didn’t go. Trying to sleep in a baking hot room sounded better in the moment.

And it almost won.

*****

John Piper also wrote that if you don’t feel strong desire for God, it’s not because you’ve drunk deeply and are satisfied. “It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

I agree.

I can see it in my own life, the days I’m content, but also the days my eyes are raw, I can’t seem to drag myself to the water’s edge. My thirst isn’t great enough.

There’s nothing to push me to God on those days.

I’ve let my desires turn to lesser things. I’ve numbed those desires with lesser objects.

As thirsty as I am, I’ve got no thirst left to give Him.

It makes passages like Psalm 42:1 ring dull in my heart. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

It’s not a thirst that comes on its own. It might be pricked by things — like the words of Maurie saying it’s the best thing ever, trust me. But in the end, I have to choose to go to the water’s edge. I have to choose to dive in His Word. I have to choose to stop dulling the thirst and give it to Him, just like it is, all of it. I have to let the thirst ache. I have to let Him draw me in.

It’s there that my thirst comes alive.

When I plunge.

Nowhere else.

It’s where hope begins. Joy, peace too.

And where they stay.

*****

i dont wait anymore

 

“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book, now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.

It’s the story of how He drew me to thirst.

Throw yourself in. He’s waiting.

So is His story for you.

 

It’s not my story. It’s ours.

You feel vulnerable?

That’s the message I got from a friend after “I Don’t Wait Anymore” stopped floating around in non-reality and found itself in the hands of a few friends, family and strangers a few weeks ago.

Yes. Yes I do feel vulnerable.

I’ve felt uncomfortable. Exposed. Fidgeting on the couch while my biggest failures and most gut-wrenching moments with God float around out there in people’s living rooms and cars and Kindles.

All the things.

But after the shock hit my soul and I realized this new form of transparency wasn’t gonna kill me, something different happened. I heard from some people. I heard from some who didn’t love it. But I heard from others who said this is my story, too. This is exactly my story.

Y’all. I’d love to have a cup of coffee.

It’s our story. And I’d love to hear how God is writing yours.

IMG_6496Sure, it’s my breakup, my broken dreams, my grief over losing a friend that’s all written down in there. It’s my wrestling with God as He broke me of my selfish desires and showed me who He really is and what He’s worth.

But a whole bunch of us have been there, that place where things didn’t work out the way we thought they should, and people were telling us to internet date even though we didn’t really want to, and at night we sat around and felt the restlessness and uncertainty well up from our bones while we watched reruns of Friends.

A whole bunch of us have been in that spot where God didn’t really feel super close, and what felt super close instead was the disappointment of another failed fertility treatment, or the pain of putting a coffin in the ground.

A whole bunch of us have been in that spot where we didn’t quite know where to go from here and thought is this what God’s about? Do I even want any part in this?

A whole bunch of us have struggled.

But I’ve heard from sisters and brothers who are drinking their cup of coffee on the other side of the struggle, having tasted God and thrown everything else down to chase Him as the prize and let Him write the story of their lives. 

We’ve all got scars. We all still struggle. But we’ve got stories to swap of the way God brought us to the point of total surrender. Peace in the midst of pain. Inexpressible, glorious joy.

It’s made me thankful, hearing from you guys. Thankful for a God who chases us. Thankful for the journey that He has us all on, the one where we can see His love pursuing us with intentionality if we’ll just look.

It’s made me glad our paths have converged.

But it’s also made me thankful hearing from you sisters and brothers still fighting the restlessness and uncertainty in your bones. It’s a familiar spot … and I’m holding out a hand to you, friend. If you want to grab onto this story and see if it’s yours too, with trembling heart I say give it a read. But with a steady voice I’ll tell you one thing.

That joy, that peace … it’s real. He’s real. He’s worth everything. Make your life about knowing Him, and  when hard things come, you’ll see — it’s different. He’ll never, ever disappoint.

It’s a story you’ll never get tired of telling … or of living.

*****

i dont wait anymore

Are you ready to let go? Or at least ready to think about it?

His story’s just waiting for you to reach out and grab it.

Now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.

What if God doesn’t show up?

Because sometimes when you’re in that place where the salt rubs, where the ache is real, where numbness seems like a better option, it’ll get better isn’t what you need to hear. Hang in there isn’t what you need to hear.

Sometimes more than you need to hear anything you need to see something real.

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I sat there on the couch in the quiet, picking at the small, threadbare spot in the blue slipcover.

Frayed, I thought. I’m frayed. And a little afraid.

It’s not often we let ourselves go into the space where we’re silent and vulnerable with our deepest fears, deepest desires, deepest hurts. It’s even rarer that we put ourselves in that space on purpose.

Maybe it’s because we’re afraid to fully see our frayedness.

Maybe it’s just plain easier to be distracted.

Or maybe it’s because we’re scared that when we finally sit still and put it all out there, God won’t show up. And if we lay it all out, and He doesn’t show up to rush into that space, will our emotions overwhelm us?

Discomfort is a feeling we don’t really love.

But rawness and rejection are feelings we avoid at pretty much any cost.

This weekend, I got to meet a new friend who’s been walking some hard roads. We talked for a few minutes here and there before she sat down beside me at one point and said quietly, “I really want it. I know God’s there. But I just can’t seem to get it.”

The “it” was peace.

But she was afraid if she sat still, unbearable emptiness would gnaw at her frayed soul rather than peace rushing in and putting it back together.

It’s a valid fear. I don’t know that most of us haven’t felt that way before. Because what if it takes more than once? What if the first time we open our souls to the silence, it feels like salt in our wounds? What if it still does the second time? And the third time?

But what if, in order to really know God, that’s what we have to do? What if we have to face ourselves honestly and devote time to tune our hearts to want God more than anything else? What if we have to be willing to keep stepping into that silent space and tell Him we’re ready and willing to lay down the things we want — all of it — if we can get all of Him in return?

And that if the cost is a little discomfort, we still want Him.

And if the cost is all of ourselves, if it’s anything and everything, we still want Him.

It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.

As I sat beside my friend this weekend, all I could think to say back was … it’s real. It’s real, and it’s worth it.

Because sometimes when you’re in that place where the salt rubs, where the ache is real, where numbness seems like a better option, it’ll get better isn’t what you need to hear. Hang in there isn’t what you need to hear.

Sometimes more than you need to hear anything you need to see something.

And that something is what real peace from Jesus looks like when it’s smashed across someone’s face, across someone’s life.

I remember when I was in that place where silence meant salt-rubbing, the only thing that made me sit still, read the Bible and keep asking God to show me who He really was at any cost was that I saw some people who really loved Jesus … people who wore it a lot differently than I did.

I didn’t know how to get it. I didn’t know what it would feel like.

But I knew it had to feel different, or they wouldn’t be so different.

I knew it had to be real.

And that meant I could have it too.

I was driving somewhere the other day with another friend and talking about how easy it is for us to distract ourselves and not ever sit still, even when we know doing it is worth it.

And she said this:

“It’s such a hard thing to make ourselves do sometimes, especially when we’re not in the habit. But it really does make such a difference. And if you think about it, God is smart in the way He rigged this. Good things always take work and sacrifice, so why should the best thing we can have not take everything we have?”

She’s right.

It’s real, but it’s not easy.

It’s free, but it costs everything.

You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.

It starts in the quiet of our hearts with the whisper of His truth … the silence of our surrender … then the roar of His peace.

He’ll show up.

He always does.

*****

i dont wait anymore

And that’s the story told in “I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book … how the best things are worth our whole lives, and how God is worth so much more than our dreams.

Are you ready to let go? Or at least ready to think about it?

His story’s just waiting for you to reach out and grab it.

Now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.

Littleness.

I thought about it a couple of months ago as I lay in the hammock in the backyard in the dark, shivering but not really caring it was cold. The stars popped out like chill bumps, and my heart grabbed hold again of just how tiny it was.

And if we let it … that feeling of littleness can be a very good thing. 

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For a while now, on a lot of nights, a few minutes before we turn the lights off at our little coffeehouse, I grab as many gallons of milk as I can carry at one time and restock the refrigerator out front under the espresso bar. It happens all day long, but that’s the last one, the one that’ll wait for the morning crew to wake the place up in a few hours.

I like to dream that eventually that tiny daily act of moving milk is going to add up and give me guns.

Over days and weeks and months, it’s a lot of dairy.

I read somewhere once that a certain major coffee chain goes through so much milk in a year that it would take several minutes for it all to go over Niagara Falls. It feels like our little store on the edge of the highway could help prop that statistic up.

We fly through milk. And coffee beans. And people. And before I know it I’m loading up the fridges and turning the lights off again.

Mass latte production can make a single cup feel super little.

But this morning, as I sat with a cup squeezed between my hands, I thought about that. And I was okay with the littleness.

This morning, littleness is good.

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It’s funny how, with so much in our human world craving to be big, there’s a tiny but roaring desire tucked in our heart to be little, if we’ll listen.

I thought about it a couple of months ago as I lay in the hammock in the backyard in the dark, shivering but not really caring it was cold. The stars popped out like chill bumps, and my heart grabbed hold again of just how tiny it was.

One latte dumped in Niagara Falls.

That’s me.

With littleness comes a lot of frailty, a lot of weakness and inadequacy … and sometimes fear and trembling. With it sometimes comes things like fear of the future, lack of control, guilt over past mistakes, fear of messing things up.

And sometimes that’s all I can hear. I’m little. And there’s so much that I can’t do right, can’t control.

But last night as I threw the last few cups away and locked up the coffeehouse, I thought about how littleness can be the best thing we can ever feel, if we feel it like it’s meant to be felt. It’s the feeling we get when we stand on the edge of the ocean, or the Grand Canyon, or on top of a mountain, the feeling of being overwhelmed by something larger than ourselves.

We don’t want to feel big in that moment. We want to feel small. Because small doesn’t remind us that we’re weak … it reminds us that someone else is dramatically, wonderfully, amazingly bigger.

And that’s the reality we not only feel but crave. There’s something bigger. And we want to walk right into the middle of it, see it, know it, have it consume us.

It’s that feeling, that knowledge, that makes us want to throw our hands wide open, our arms spread out, face down on the altar of the God who loves us. It says I’m little, but You’re incredibly big … and that’s what I want – I want You.

It’s the kind of littleness we’re designed to feel, the kind that makes our hearts come alive, the kind that makes us strong with a strength that doesn’t come from us.

It’s the kind we get when we walk to the edge of who God is and tell Him we want our hearts to know His incredible magnitude, that we want to be smaller, but we want Him to be bigger.

It’s the kind that makes our lack of control the best thing for us. It takes us to the edge of Niagara Falls, to the edge of something greater.

And overwhelmed, we plunge.

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(@gracefortheroadblog on Instagram)

*****

i dont wait anymore

“I Don’t Wait Anymore” the book is finally HERE.

“Have you been waiting for life to turn out the way you expected?

… You’re not alone.”

Now at Barnes & Noble and other retailers. Check it out here.