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In a conversation with my young ladies group this week, we talked about being in a spiritual rut. A quick poll showed that the girls fell into one of two positions: a) doing all the "good Christian things" while still feeling disconnected from God or b) choosing not to keep doing the "good Christian things" when they are feeling disconnected from God. If you think about it, you have probably found yourself in one or both of these categories over the years.

We talked about what might help us move out of apathy and towards connection. We discussed things that have helped in the past: youth camp, favorite worship songs, fellowship with others...and I asked them what I could do to support their next steps. I can't wave a magic wand and give them the spiritual highs they remember. If I can't do it for myself, I certainly can't do it for them!

The majority of the work is theirs and it's personal. There is no recipe or handbook, no fail-safe instruction guide for how to climb out of a rut with God. But there is a place for community, for shared experiences, for bearing each others burdens. While it's not our role to fix things for others, there is a call to love our neighbors.

Living in a developing nation, there are signs all around indicating where the development dollars are coming from. Government trucks donated by the European Union, firetrucks donated from Taiwan, billboards sponsored by the UN...all point to neighbors who are investing in the growth of this young nation.

I see parallels here. Even if the UN or the US have completely benevolent motives behind their investment (which is unlikely), their desires for Belize shouldn't supersede those of Belize itself. My best intentions for these young ladies can't be more than their own investment in their spiritual growth.

Being stagnant is characterized by lack of development, advancement, or progressive movement: i.e. a stagnant economy. It means inactive, sluggish, or dull. If Belize is to resist becoming a stagnant nation, it will need to actively push for progress, advancement and movement. It will need to have an outflow, not just taking in from outside sources, but contributing to its global neighbors as well.

The same goes for the young ladies, for myself and for you. Are we allowing what's been invested in us to bear fruit? Are we using that fruit to benefit others? Or are we inactive, sluggish, spiritually dull? Are we always on the receiving end, never pushing for own growth or investment in others?

"Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

John 7:38

One way to fight stagnation is in service to others. Another is getting up early and practicing the spiritual disciplines that you're normally too lazy to do. For someone else, it might be taking a day or a week to truly prioritize your faith walk, instead of cramming it into 90 minutes on a Sunday morning. We, each of us, need to find that out for ourselves; and not just once in our lives, but many times over.

God is unchanging. The difference between a vibrant relationship and a rut is the effort we are willing to put in.

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Emotions in a relationship are not static. They ebb and flow. They spark and grow dim. It's rare if, over the course of years, both parties are on the same emotional page at any given time.

This life of faith is a relationship between mortal man and an immortal God. Whereas time takes a toll on human relationships, God stands outside of time. His passion for us burns just as intensely today as it did on the cross. He is constant; I am fickle.

As I go about my daily life, it's so easy to take His love for granted. To cease to appreciate His care for me. To ignore His overtures, His gentle whisper to meet Him in secret. Other voices are so much louder, more insistent. His is quiet. His is unassuming.

A few blogs ago, I wrote that I relate so much with Hosea's wife, the prostitute. How time and again she was unfaithful, time and again, she looked outside her relationship to get her needs met. Instead of turning to her husband, she turned to other lovers. Aren't we the same?

Don't we look for validation from friends? Don't we seek identity from the world? Don't we seek peace from distractions like entertainment, food or alcohol? Does our job become the source of our stability, rather than God? In so many ways I am drawn to get my needs met elsewhere, to forsake my first love and run after fleeting pleasures.

I love that God made Hosea's marriage to Gomer a symbol of His love for us, His wayward bride.

Hosea 3:1 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

Human nature, I think, would wait for the adulteress to see the error of her ways; wait to see her come crawling back, hat in hand. Human nature might relish the sight of her, humiliated and degraded. But God's nature is one of complete mercy, of unending love. He is love. He "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13)"

Gomer might have known she'd made a mistake. She might have regretted walking away; we can't know for sure. Sometimes when our hearts wander, we can't see the path that would lead us home. Reconciliation seems impossible. The journey back feels intractable. The good news is that Jesus will come to us. He will woo us. He will walk the whole way to bring us back. His kindness leads us to repentance. His love heals our wounds and His forgiveness wipes away our ugliness.

As I reflect on all these things. I open myself up to being wooed all over again. Jesus, lover of my soul, captivate my heart again today.

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Talking with Eddie and several of our friends, there's a sense that we should be grown by now. Instead of feeling like we've arrived at a state of done-ness, there's a feeling of unbalance or uncertainty. By now (my 40's) I want to be the person I imagined myself to be as a child. I want to have arrived. I want to feel settled, no longer searching for meaning or trying to "become."

In relationships, in careers, in ministry and internally, we are constantly growing. Or should be. As a young person, I never thought of that. I never looked at my parents as works in progress. To me they were static entities that were stable and dependable. To think that as I struggled and searched as a young person, they were doing the same, is weird to me.

To be honest, coming to grips with the fact that I will never "arrive" is a little disappointing and a bit overwhelming. I don't want to keep working at things. I want to get my life where I want it and have it stay that way. I love the way Mr. Incredible described it in the Disney movie, The Incredibles:

"No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for... for ten minutes!"

My life needs fixing constantly; constant maintenance, constant effort, constant pruning. When I don't keep up with it, things fall apart. My health deteriorates, my relationships get strained or distant, I become a mess. And when I do, I don't feel like I have it in me to pull it all together again.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

This passage reminds me to keep on. Continue working out my salvation, continue to put in the effort, continue to figure out who and whose I am, and what the heck I'm here for anyway! It is God who works in me to will and act. If I can't summon up the will to do what I'm called to do, He will work in me to get me there. He will light a fire in me to get me moving when I'm tired and my progress has ground to a halt.

I need to have grace for myself. To let myself have bad days or "off" weeks. I need to acknowledge that I'm not done growing, but the growth I'm walking into will require God's strength and presence in my life.

I'm grown enough to know that much.

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