Have you ever read a couple of lines in a book and had to stop because the words resonated so deeply within you that you needed time to stop and allow them to sink in and soak in and expand.
Four years ago, I read a book by Karen Ehman titled Let. It. Go. It rocked my world. Seriously. Two years ago, I was honored to endorse her next book, Keep. It. Shut. Another awesome book. But her latest, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World, is even better.
By the time I got to page 19 I had already nodded my head and underlined at least 75% of what I’d read. And then this in the last paragraph on that page …
Although he was the Son of God and on a very big mission, Jesus was never too busy to notice … Because Jesus wasn’t about doing big things. He was about doing the right thing. (emphasis in original)
Y’all. For real. I just stopped.
Because really, I want to do big things. I want to write books and give talks that inspire and push and challenge. I want to raise a daughter who is a world-changer. I want to teach the Bible in such a way that people can’t help but want to know more about the Author.
For my whole adult life I’ve prayed to do big things for the Kingdom. And then Karen gets all up in my face with her simple reminder that Jesus, with His very big mission of saving the world from eternal death and separation from God, was focused on doing the right thing.
So, what did I do? I shut the book. Really. I did.
I set it to the side and thought, “I don’t know about all that. I mean, Jesus did HUGE things. Like feeding the multitudes with a few pieces of bread and some little sardines. He walked on water and raised Lazarus from the dead. Not to mention that he died as our sacrifice and was resurrected to give us eternal life and the promise of reconciliation with God.”
But those words kept nudging their way back into my mind.
He was about doing the right thing.
I picked the book back up. Karen shared about Jairus coming to Jesus on behalf of his daughter. You remember the story right? As Jesus was going to heal the little girl, a woman touched him and was healed from her very long, very isolating illness. (You can read the whole story in Luke 8 and Mark 5.)
Karen wrote, “Jesus is calling us to stop and notice. To live alert.” (p. 21)
Not alert to my needs, desires, and plans. Nope. Not at all. Jesus is calling us to live alert to the people around us, to how we can help, encourage, and serve others. And then Karen (who clearly wanted me to quit reading her “all up in my business” book) wrote these words,
Rather than trying to do something grand for God, perhaps we need to embrace the obscure instead. To stop trying to be profound or important and instead just be obedient.” (p. 21)
I thought about when Casiday was little and we told her she only had one rule to follow. Her only job was to obey us. Whether we told her to sit quietly or to clean her room or to each her mashed potatoes, her sole responsibility was to obey, to do what we told her to do. All those times I’d reminded her of the value of simple obedience for her protection, for her good, came rushing back.
God is always whispering that same simple truth to me, “Obey. For your protection, for your good. You can trust me.”
Full of challenging truths shared in Karen’s signature winsome style, Listen. Love. Repeat. kept tugging at my heart with gentle reminders of biblical truth. There are a ton of practical ideas for living alert and lots of creative ways to train ourselves to reach out, to notice others. There are suggestions for application and recipes to try but, most of all, there is a necessary challenge for all of us:
to choose other centered living in a self-centered world
And, it starts with those words from chapter one—to be obedient by doing the right thing instead of seeking the recognition from doing big things.
I don’t know where this holiday season finds you. But I do know how difficult it can be to stay focused on selflessness this time of year. Even as we shop and bake and wrap and decorate and carol and give, our hearts and minds can get full of the clutter of selfishness. We can keep score instead of humbly serving. We can pull in rather than reaching out. We can become consumed by giving the best gifts under the tree and miss knowing the Best Gift in the manger.
Whatever the holidays bring, my prayer for all of us is this:
May our eyes be open to the people around us. May our hands be reaching out to give and serve. May our feet take us to places of greatest need. May our words be full of hope and grace. May our hearts be full of love and mercy. And may our lives be lived with obedience, ever alert to the needs around us. May we seek to be obedient, doing small things for our Mighty God. May we know the satisfaction of choosing to do the right thing for the people right in front of us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I received a free copy of Listen. Love. Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World and am happy to share a hearty recommendation of Karen’s latest book. You can find Listen. Love. Repeat. at all major book retailers as well as online at places like Amazon. If you decide to purchase a copy, I’d be deeply grateful if you chose to do so through my affiliate link for Amazon.