Reflections from the Helm of a Canoe [on Walking with Holy Spirit]

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. The late Missouri summer humidity was bareable. I was surrounded by a family of friends. We were laughing. We were swimming. We were loving on Jesus together. We were seeing God do what He loves to do... reconciling people to Himself. We were experiencing life the way we're meant to... like a bunch of grown up kids reveling in their Father's goodness. 

I was in a canoe for the first time in nearly ten years. And I was steering for the first time... EVER. I was out to accomplish one task... Do. NOT. tip.... I wanted to make it 5 miles down the river, all on my own strength... My friend and partner at the front of the canoe was awesome. Even though we both struggled to feel confident in our little canoe, we made for a great team. And we began to find our own rhythm. We were slow and steady. The water was low, but not too low. We enjoyed some of the most amazing moments of just coasting along the river... when the crowds of Labor Day celebrations were nowhere in sight... and the the water was glistening... and the rocky cliffs were rising up alongside of us. In those moments, my soul would sigh... and take it all in... and yet, below the surface...

I was in my own world. Stewing. Not even sure what I was stewing over. Insecurity had mounted in my heart. Fear. An old faithful foe had crept up to my ear and began to whisper. When I was unaware of its nearness, I had begun to listen to fear and not Holy Spirit. I was striving. Striving to prove something. Striving to prove myself. It's a bit ridiculous in hindsight. Yet, I wanted to prove my own strength. My own ability to not need anything or anyone... Even in the midst of this striving, I was clueless.

THEN...some of the guys decided that it was time to give the girls a rest... they stopped us and put us both in separate canoes... suddenly I found myself at the helm of the canoe. No longer steering. No longer in control. I felt a lot of things. Let down. Powerless. Frustration. Gratefulness. Uncertainty. I wanted to prove to myself that I could finish. Now, I didn't know which direction I was going. Yet, my friend steering behind me... he knew we were going... he was good at this. But, I want to help! How can I help... no worries, Rachel, just be. Just enjoy the view. I picked up my paddle and randomly put it in the water... "Am I doing this right? Am I doing enough? What is going on?" Never mind the loveliness of the view in front of me... the comfort and ease of someone else rowing so I don't have to... Nevermind that I can just be. NO! I was freaking out on the inside.

[I wrestle. I don't like to not be in control. I don't like not-knowing or being able to determine my own destiny. I like to feel like "I've got this." If I were honest, deep-down, I long to just get into a car and be along for the ride. I like to coast... I long to not have to think about what's for dinner or how I'm going to get there. But, on the surface, and my default, self-protection mechanism and fear-based thinking... always reacts when I feel out of control or out of the loop..]

In the moment, I was not processing any of this... days later... I wake up to this truth. My feelings at the helm of a canoe... are the way I feel/act towards my Father on most days. My guy friends just wanted to give us girls a break, a chance to enjoy... and yet, I missed it. So sad. I finally get it. 

Jesus wants to love me... wants me to let Him love me. He calls me to stop fearing that I'm not enough... and let Him be enough for me. He calls me to rest... He calls me to enjoy the journey with Him. What a joy to just let Him love me... just enjoy His Strength.. just let Him steer my life in the way it should go... When He tells me to row on the left or lean to the right... I will, but I want to learn to just BE. That's what this season is... learning to REST in Him. So, here we go. Yes.

Do you struggle with this too? You don't have to be in control. Jesus says this in His Word... 

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Take a listen to this truth before you go... 



You know the moment that someone meaningful to you walks into the room. You don't even have to see them because you sense them. Their presence is there before your eyes meet or the tone of their voice vibrates into your soul. You sense their precious nearness and your heart warms in expectation of sharing time with them.


It's what all of us crave. We all seek it. Social media has created a vacuum of presence in our society. We've learned to be "present" in a room while connecting via text with friends, replying to a Facebook message or two, tweeting 140 characters of pithy-ness at some idiosyncratic corner of pop culture, liking a few Instagram photos and possibly pinning a recipe... all while sitting in the same room with other human beings. It is sad. We have learned to live a distant life in an uber "connected" world. It has become normal and even comfortable to hide behind screens and busy schedules.

And yet, we still crave presence. We need it. We need it from people. We need to be seen... to be heard... to be understood... We need to offer our presence to other people. We need to look someone in the eyes... listen to the cry of their soul... and comprehend who they are. That is part of being human. We were designed to trust one another. We were created for intimacy. One of the greatest gifts we can give to another person is the gift of our presence.

Deeper still, there is a Presence that we need more than that of anyone else. That Presence belongs to the One who knows us better than we know ourselves, Our Creator and Father. His Presence is Real... He is the Realest place to be in the world. He makes Himself available to us. In fact, His Presence pursues us. How often do we wish someone would pursue us... long to be near us? Our Father does. He does not pursue us out of insecurity, but out of a deep love for what is His. He offers us ALL of Himself and He desires ALL of us. He wants us to come to Him with unveiled faces.

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him. 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 (MSG)

Ironically, we fail to even recognize this Presence... His Presence is nearer to us than our next breath... He is as present to us as we allow Him to be... as present to us as we are to Him. Sometimes it takes effort to be aware His Presence. It requires a stripping away of those things in us that are afraid. A stripping away of self-sufficiency. A stripping away of unprocessed emotions. A stripping away of pride. A stripping away of unbelief. A stripping away of what appears to be real. And, it requires desperation...hunger... willingness... for the safety of His Presence.

Carve out space in me, Spirit of God. Cultivate in me a greater capacity to hear You... a sharper sensitivity to Your Voice... May I cherish Your Presence.


On Having an Undivided Heart

"Humans have a remarkable capacity for self-deception."

I read this statement in the book The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg as I was preparing to teach. And it struck me...pierced me, really.

Ortberg includes this statement in his chapter called The Undivided Life - in which he discusses the importance of living in the pursuit of one thing. He talks about the role of scripture in helping us maintain an undivided life.

In the process of reflecting on simplicity or undivided-ness of heart, he discusses two antonyms of this concept - multiplicity and duplicity. Multiplicity basically means that we have two natures warring inside of us. One nature longs to do what is right, while the other longs to do what is carnal or sensory or emotionally pleasing. Duplicity is this idea of having mixed motives. For example, you say you want to give to the poor out of the goodness of your heart, but you really just want the tax write-off. How tricky the human heart can be!

That night...right after teaching my class... I realized something... I often do things out of multiplicity or duplicity. I live in a state of comparison and multi-tasking... striving to control the outcomes of life... while all the while, I am telling myself that I am trusting God. Manipulation toils below the surface of my heart... wondering how can I make things happen my way. Or, I say I want to be close to God ... or a person... and all the while, I'm hiding... only revealing the parts of myself that are "in control." I only allow people close to the parts of me that have been properly put in place. I only let God deal with the parts of my heart that are "holy."

But God... He longs to reside in ALL of me. He longs to restore ALL of my soul (mind, will & emotions). He longs to make me whole. He wants to remove the walls that separate the "good" and "bad"... He brings people into my life to help Him deconstruct those walls. And I run. And I hide. And I pretend that I'm being vulnerable the whole time.

It's only when I allow His Word to begin to penetrate those hard places in my heart that I find the freedom to be fully His...undivided. It's only then that His Love can fully cover me. He never forces me to embrace this work... He waits patiently for me to invite Him into the divided-ness of my soul and to bring the wholeness we both long for...

Today, I say... in full trust... into my heart, Come into my heart, Lord Jesus... Come! Do what You do & BE who You Are!