Jodi Tomlinson

We know it deep in our bones…way down in our soul…in the places that are often covered up by routine, broken hearts, and fear. We know we were created for more, in the spot that’s never satisfied until we give it more of You. We were created in and for a wholly different kingdom, bound to return and this skin doesn’t always seem to fit just right. Sometimes this air feels too thin and these hearts too fragile.

But You, God…You are both the beginning and the completion of that…more. Not only do You invite us to a table prepared with more than we could ask or think, but You lead us there and then sit down to dine beside us.

I have set my heart on You. You are too lovely, this life is too short, and there is too much good to be done to waste myself on anything or anyone else. May we never forget who we are and to what we’ve been invited.

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Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection fulfilled over 300 prophecies. No other religious leader this world celebrates has ever done that. No one else was foretold. No one else so announced. The likelihood of one man fulfilling every prophecy the way Jesus did is something only a God could do. It was a miracle.

Jesus birth broke a 400 year silence. There had been no angelic visitations, no prophets, and no miracles to tell of. Jesus showed up and changed everything. God interrupted the silence in a way that was unexpected but it was the way He said He would. God always keeps His word. Even when it seems like He’s forgotten, like the silence is going to last 100’s of years. At just the right time – He breaks through and He changes everything.

God, You are the God whose love is more beautiful than any language we could use to describe it, than any landscape this Earth holds. You are the God whose mercy is newer than the perfect feet of a newborn baby. Your grace is more calming than a well-trained musician, rain on tin, the waves on the shore, or a gentle breeze in the leaves.

Whatever we need – You are. You are the promise keeper. The One that never forgets. That never gives up.

Thank you for never giving up on us. Keep us forever tethered to You. When our hearts are a mess and our minds tangled, never give up. Keep us close. And closer every day.

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I’m sitting at the computer listening to my favorite music and watching from the window as my girls play outside in their bathing suits. The summer was so hot that the swing set sat lonely much of the time, but now autumn is closing in on us. The temperature has cooled. The days are calmer.

Heaven is touching down in my backyard. I see it in the colors and I hear it in the sounds. A year ago, God was inviting me into a season change I didn’t want. It was the same time of year but it sounded different. It was almost all bitter with intermittent sweet. I was scared. Change is still hard after all these years. Maybe even harder.

We didn’t do school today. The yard held more to learn than our books. The day needed fresh air, imagination, and freedom. We gave in to the need. Joy came this morning. She is such a strong, beautiful friend. She needed my attention. So I gave in to that too.

I could sit with a cup of tea and a good soundtrack watching my children for hours. Their joyful innocence, uncontrolled beauty, and contagious belief captivate me. The hope and love I have for them envelopes me and makes light of any care I carry. I fight tears as I watch them on their invisible horses, climbing towers, and fighting enemies.
They are my highest praise.

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The decisions of a leader are never easy. I’ve found myself secretly sympathizing lately with those from my past that I have followed. I wonder if they lost sleep, cried late nights, or stirred up ailments too. Just hearing the Spirit of God on a situation can be difficult enough but then following through with what you hear when others didn’t can be the most difficult. Many times it’s a responsibility I wish wasn’t mine…but it is. Hopefully God can trust me to do the right thing with my stewardship.

I heard God calling me deeper many months ago. He knows I was reluctant to follow. I was in a very good place. I knew He wanted to enlarge some territory in my life and move me to new glory but I really didn’t want to leave where I was. It may have been a first for me. Most of my life has been spent trying to leave difficult seasons. I was in a very different place this time. Deep down, I hoped this new season would meet me with as much joy and adventure as the last one did. So far it has been full of hard decisions, complete exhaustion, and lonely choices. With each advancement, the stakes seem to get higher. To go where most won’t, you have to live like most don’t. Which means many others will never understand. All I know is that if God is where I’m going, I’m all in and I am holding on to the promise that joy comes in the morning.

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I heard a phrase once that stuck with me. I’ve now heard so many speakers say it that I’m no longer confident who said it first. God is looking for a “long obedience in the same direction.” I am wholly convinced this is true.

This life can be so monotonous. It can seem like we work hard just to get up the next day and do all the same things over again, all hoping and praying that our children will continue the process. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and discouraging. Some days I don’t even know where to start and no matter how long and hard I work I can’t get out from under the load.

But this I know to be true: Jesus deserves it all, not just the miraculous but also the mundane. I would follow Him to the ends of the earth. I would run if I could but sometimes the routine only allows for a crawl. That’s okay with me. I will stay in His direction no matter how long and hard the journey. I will lift my eyes up from the work because when I do, I see Him…everywhere. And He is beautiful. And He makes all things beautiful in their time.

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I really like completed things. It goes against every fiber of my nature to not finish something. I’ve finished books I didn’t like and tasks that were unimportant just because I started them. A well-organized closet and a clean house make me happier than they probably should. I think a totally crossed off to-do list is reason to celebrate and if that ever happened for me, I just might frame it.

This trait helps me task well and accomplish what God has called me to but it can also be overwhelming because there is always more to be done. There is always a new task, a new job, problem, mess, and dream. It’s a good thing. It means my life is full of good things. I’m glad I have so many people to love and serve. I am thankful for my house and my family that both contribute to my list of things to do. I am honored that God would call me to be a minister even when the byproduct is more to be finished.

But if I’m not careful, my tasks can overshadow what really matters. They can blind me and push beyond where God has called. It can turn into an impatient discontent that longs for something not yet accomplished. When I feel this rush in my soul for completion, I remember that my Savior said three of the most precious words ever spoken when He died for me on the cross. He said, “It is finished.” He is the greatest finisher. My ability to multitask is not what holds my life together – He is.

Jesus needs to always be at the top of our lists. Not so He’s another task to be marked off, but so He’s always where we start. God has given each of us an invitation to the holy of holies. Are we going there? Our work unto Him is done in the holy place but are we pausing long enough to go further still? The offer is on the table before us, will it make it to the top of our list of things to do?

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I’ve been asking myself a question lately. What do I want more than anything in this life? If I could have just one thing, what would it be? See, I’ve had the great honor of being lavished in blessings. I know it. I recognize it daily. God blows me away every time He answers one of my requests. Many many years ago, it ceased being about the answers for me and more about the sweet sweet display of our interaction…the fact that He doesn’t have to but He does. He knows more than any other that I would still love Him if His answer was no. So, what’s the one thing I still want? More than I could describe on this keyboard, I desperately want more of God. I have tasted and I have seen that nothing compares to Him. Every pleasure this world affords is fleeting and small in light of Him. The more I know Him, the more I want to know. He is the love of my life, will always be. But I think there is something I want even more. It’s the thing that keeps me up at night. It’s the one prayer that comes up daily. It is the thought before I do just one more task when I’m tired. It’s why I try so hard. The reason I love people that aren’t very lovable. I want to please Him. Deep down. In the parts of me that long and feel and desire. In the parts of me that are only strengthened by age, that time only further develop. I want to be a pleasure to the One that has given me more than any person deserves. The God whose love is more beautiful than any language I could use to describe it…than any landscape this earth holds. The God whose mercy is newer than the perfect feet of a newborn baby. The God whose grace is more calming than a well-trained musician, rain on tin, the waves on the shore, or a gentle wind in the leaves. The greatest desire of my life is to please Him, not because I have to, but because He deserves it. I want to please the One who has so pleased me. It’s my simple devotion. I remind myself daily why I do whatever I’m doing lest it ever become religion.

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Leviticus 26 talks of a people whose harvest overtakes their sowing. It speaks of a people that are freed from their bondage enabled to walk with their heads held high. I have treasured that verse since I was a child. It has been my prayer and my goal. I want to be that people.

 
I read it again this morning and verse 13 described perfectly what I feel happening in my life right now. It was something I’ve mediated on for years but it took on a whole new meaning in the early hours of this day. “You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.” I always imagined this would be a wholly welcomed experience but, see; I already have a good life. God has blessed me beyond what I could have ever asked. I’ve been freed from my bondage and enabled to walk with my head high. I have known a great harvest and thoroughly loved this season of life but God is calling me higher. There is more. I feel it. I hear it and I even long for it in the depths of my soul, but letting go has proven difficult every time I’m required. Surprisingly, this time is no different. This season of my life has been an answered prayer in more ways than there is to time to type. I’ve been living the dream, but God has a new dream for me. I know it. I can’t deny it any more. I can’t push it back. To stay here would be to feast at a table of goodness when one of greatness is waiting for me to sit and dine.

 
Every once in a while I get glimpses of this new thing. It’s both exciting and unnerving. It’s like a song in the making: a little fractured, a little undone, and not yet a complete melody. I can hear it in my head. I can even feel its message in my heart but I can’t yet sing it for you. The unknown is always unsettling. I find myself a little restless, a little anxious, and a lot reflective. I’ve never been there before. I’ve only ever known this degree of glory. The next is unexperienced and untested by me. I also know that every harvest requires calloused hands and back breaking effort. Those that work their own ground don’t know the pampering of prepackaged ease or the money back guarantee that it would be what they expected. In the Kingdom, we rarely get to choose what the harvest looks like, but I know deep down it’s always worth the reaping.

 
I don’t understand exactly what all that means and how it will translate into my daily life, but I know this: where my God goes, I will follow. I’m ready for the new harvest because God is there. He is the One that broke me out of bondage. He is the One that enables me to walk with my head held high. I will move out what needs moved. I will make room because I am in passionate pursuit of the God of the harvest.

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We were driving on the Buckman on Thanksgiving. It’s a three mile bridge that runs over the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. It still takes my breath away every time I’m on it. Sometimes the river is as still as glass and others it is so choppy that you think you’re looking at the sea. On this warm November morning, a light rain started to fall and a full rainbow stretched the entire length of the Jacksonville city skyline. It was such a beautiful picture of promise and hope.

I so want to love God with the demonstrations of a huge faith but I know that I also love Him by waiting well. There is such a constant tension between the two. He is a big God capable and willing to do big things, but His timing is also perfect and He uses the waiting to do big things in us. I want to worship Him with both my faith and my waiting but my mind still struggles to know the season.

I think Noah did this well. We know the story of the ark saving Noah, his family, and all the animals, but we don’t talk as much about the building time…the waiting…the possible questions and even doubts. Scholars differ on how long that process may have taken. Many believe it probably took around 75 years. Noah waited for his promise longer than most of us have been alive.

We’re not given any record that Noah got more direction or encouragement after the initial commands until it was time to board. No one came to rotate duties with him. No one was standing in line to tell him what a great job he was doing. Ark building probably wasn’t even his fulltime job. His God was no less big because of his long wait. He was no less real and no less good.

Oh, how I falter in my comparative short seasons of waiting. So many of us give up when we don’t get what we want right away…when we don’t see the results we want. What if Noah would have stopped measuring, stopped nailing, or just stopped showing up to do the work? Would we be here? Would the animals be alive? God may have found someone else to do the job but, regardless, I wouldn’t want to be the one that quit. I don’t ever want to be the one that quit.

It may seem like a contradiction, but I don’t think we can have big faith without the waiting well. There’s a reason most of this life is a time of waiting. I think it is the waiting well that develops big faith and attracts God’s promises. It’s the one that endures to the end that is saved. It is the one that draws near to God continually that God draws near to. It is the one that is faithful in the little that will see much. It is the one that has learned to give in need that gets what they need. It is the one that offers their sacrifice of praise over and over again that pleases God.

Psalm 25:12 in The Message says, “My question: What are God-worshipers like? Your answer: Arrows aimed at God’s bull’s-eye.” If worship is an arrow aimed at God, I think big faith is like a fast, praise song. It gets there quickly and hits its target with force. But waiting well, faithfulness, is a song that God savors as it takes its time arriving at its destination and wedges deep in the heart of God.

People may have asked Noah where his God was. He may have even wondered at times. Just because God didn’t “show up” in those 75 years didn’t mean God wasn’t with Noah…that He wasn’t there…that He wasn’t at work…and that big things weren’t happening. Noah believed, waited, and he received his promise. How beautiful that first rainbow must have been to him.

God always shows up. He always keeps His appointments. The promise is ours. The check’s not in the mail, it was nailed to a cross 2,000 years ago. We’re not just waiting for a promise. We have The Promise. When we realize that, waiting on all the other stuff is simply worship.

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There are days I feel plagued by my persistent limitations. I carry them so constant and near, like callused skin that took years to acquire. I have limitations when I love; limitations when I give. I have limitations to my capacity, my energy, and my kindness. There is unyielding, nagging limit to my talent and my ability. I despise my limitations…my failings. Somewhere along the way, I thought I would be better by now…because God deserves me being beyond my smallness of character at this point in my journey with Him.

Like the rest of humanity, I am diseased. Not by the physically, life threatening type that plagues so many, but the unrelenting carnal sort. I teeter up believing I’m akin to superwoman, accomplishing everything on my to-do list without snapping at the children, then down to wretched depths of selfishness, insecurity, and guilt. Regretfully, I am at times my own greatest cheerleader and then in the corners of my private thoughts, my greatest foe. I swing from this pendulum more often than I like to admit.

I know of God’s love and acceptance. I know about the plan He has for me. I know I am part of a great story. I know I’m called to tell these things to the world, but then at times I crumble under the weight of leadership, the world’s influence, and my own expectations. I am overwhelmed with God’s goodness when I think of how perfect my life is for me, but at times, I still can’t escape the longing that overtakes me when I’m alone with my thoughts and the haunting of all the things that are still left undone…all the people I know that are so undone.

The mind of this perfectionist struggles to find order and comfort when life doesn’t go according to the design of my thoughts. I flounder and grasp for symmetry in a world that is so lopsided and unbalanced. My rest comes when I remind myself that where there is limitation, there is an occasion for a miracle. God is in our strength because He is the source of all, but when we become weak, He is given opportunity to move in extraordinary ways.

Since we’ve moved to Florida, we’ve had a lot of visitors. A guest room has moved itself to the top of my prayer requests. I’ve noticed a consensus among all that visit. I quickly recognize it because I’ve felt it too. The sentiment shared is this: vacationing is great, but there’s no place like home. Dorothy wasn’t the first nor the last to figure it out.

This reminds me that I am only a sojourner here on earth. I will never be fully at home. I will always long. I will always falter, breathing the air from an atmosphere that is thin and congested and unlike that of my final destination. I’m called to live like I’m visiting. I am a tent dweller who longs for home, as I should. I am limited but filled with a Spirit that isn’t. I am comforted by the very presence of heaven.

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