Tag Archives: God

Trick or Treat

Walking through the stores right now it’s pretty easy to notice two things.  First, that Halloween is quickly becoming (if it isn’t already) as big of a deal as Christmas is.  Second, that Christmas is right around the corner.  Being that today IS Halloween, the last tid-bits of remaining Halloween paraphernalia have been pushed to the end, and room is being made for Christmas.  Which is interesting.  Well, not the Christmas part.  That part I sort of understand.  It’s the Halloween part.

Now, granted, I never really celebrated Halloween as a kid.  My wonderful parents decided they didn’t want to potentially expose me to potential evil that might occur on this night.  So, it makes sense that I don’t completely understand the hype.

Except that, I really think I get part of it.  Aside from the obviously addictive draw of candy’s sugar, and the fun of getting to play dress-up as an adult, there’s something more there.

Otherwise there wouldn’t be scary movies and haunted houses and people trying to scare each other.

But even more than that, Halloween is pretty much the only time of year when, if you’re not Christian, you can admit that maybe, just maybe you believe in, or at least are intrigued by, the spiritual world.  Any other time people might listen, but you wonder if secretly, inside they think you’re crazy, or just being tolerant.

But this time of year, talk about ghosts and haunting and spiritual encounters is really encouraged, and no-questions-asked pretty much accepted.  And I think we like that.  I think it’s like a breath of fresh air to be able to actually talk about this world that exists, that normally we’re too smart, advanced, and educated to admit that there’s something inside of us that knows a spirit world exists.

So, what do you do with that?

I don’t know.  That’s up to you and God.  But it’s interesting, and kinda encouraging, really.  And, really, opens the door for some interesting conversation potential.

Have a great night, and stay safe!

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To Be Loved and To Love God

DSC04118-1

                What does God’s love for me feel like?  And, for that matter, what does me loving Him back look like?
I’ve gotten this question a lot recently.  It almost seems to be whispered by the air, filling the minds of many wondering teenagers.
And I totally get it.  I mean, how DOES God, a non-human being (or presence, or whatever un-humanly-fathomable God is) love us humans?  We are incredibly physical beings.  If you buy into the five love languages (gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physicality)…all of those are pretty dependant on this physical world.  How can God, who is outside of time and space, reach into our little three dimensional world and express His love to us through one of the incredibly limited ways we receive love?  I mean, really.  How?
And, okay, say that God does reach through time and space to show me He loves me and…I don’t know…has some flower bloom extra-brilliantly for me with the exact right lighting, right as I’m walking by?  How do I know that was God, and not just a really pretty moment?  What if I didn’t even notice?  Or, if God does one of His “talking to me” things which feels a whole lot more like instinct or premonition or my subconscious trying to get attention, how do I know it’s God?
Yeah.  Exactly.
And how do I love God back?  I mean, He’s not human, not to mention He’s not even really a “He” (No, don’t go yelling at me for that one, it’s true.  If God made man AND woman in His image, than both reflect Him, which means He isn’t a He, nor a She, but both…somehow.  We can talk – nicely- about it if you want.)  How do I know what He likes?  He’s not human or a creature – how do I even know He CAN “like” stuff?  I can’t give Him a hug.  I can’t give Him Christmas gifts.  I can’t even find His profile on Facebook (well, I found a Facebook page that was named “God”…but I’m pretty sure it’s not actually His), so I can’t like any of His pictures or statuses.
So, HOW!?!
I really wish there was a formula.  I wish I could play Cogsworth (the clock dude from Beauty and the Beast) and tell you exactly how God loves you and how you can love Him back.

I mean, of course, as for God’s love, He has shown us the ultimate love by coming to Earth and taking our place and the consequences of our sinful lives.  Which is really, untruly, unfathomable.  But, on an everyday basis, in an incredibly physical world, sometimes we need a little personal reminder, right?  A man can marry a woman, but if he doesn’t tell her at least daily after the ceremony that he loves her, things are going to get rather ugly.  She’s eventually going to believe lies and she’ll forget that he loves her.  Saying “I love you” only at the wedding is just not enough.  This is common sense (or should be).
Same is true of us and God, I think.  I say that feeling a bit guilty and ashamed.  I mean, Jesus’ sacrifice should be enough.  But I’m human; I need a daily reminder.  (I think this was true before the world got all messy too – hence why God came down and walked with Adam and Eve in the garden often.)
After wrestling with this for years myself, the best I’ve come up with is actually pretty simplistic.  Though, keep in mind, unlike Cogsworth, I really don’t believe there’s a formula to this.  God, though orderly, is willing to enter into our mess, which means He’s not bound by formula.
First, you just gotta believe.  If you love God, if you want to love Him better, if you’ve surrendered your life to Him, than you need to remember that the Holy Spirit dwells with you.  He helps you out.  And often that feels like, for me anyway, a huge urge within me.  A desire that is so pressing is almost feels like a need. I had it explained once to me as the “blow fish” feeling – it feels like everything inside you is pounding / getting larger/ pressing to get out, and if you don’t do whatever it is you need to do or believe whatever you need to believe, you’ll explode.
Sometimes He’s much more quiet than that, and I wake up one morning realizing that I believe something I didn’t know I believed, or that I’m determined to do something I didn’t know I was going to do.
And I have to believe Him loving me happens in those moments when I feel close to Him.  Those moments when there is no real reason to feel extra close to Him, but I do.  Or when I notice that yellow flower growing on the side of the road, or I get a needed hug from an unexpected source.  Or dinner is extra delicious for no real reason.  Or, those incredibly rare, extra special moments when I’m being still, or even taking a walk or a hike or something and I can almost, physically, feel His presence surrounding me.  I have to not let my mind explain those treasured moments away.  I have to have faith that those experiences are actually God reaching out to little, limited, broken me.

As for loving Him back, I firmly believe that God gave each of us things we love to do, that can be forms of us telling God we love Him, us worshipping Him.  For me, that’s writing, taking pictures, going for walks, spending time in His creation, or having good conversations with friends and my kids.  For my dad, it’s learning or completing a Sudoku puzzle.  For Mom, it’s gardening.  For some, it might mean baking.  For others, it might mean painting or sewing or doing ceramics, or creating sculptures.  For some it might mean throwing a football, or scoring a basket.  Or driving.  Or doing some sort of complicated mathematical formula.  It looks like many different things.  For me, the key is picturing God in my mind, doing it with me.
And, of course, the main way we love God is to love others.  We are His reflection.  We carry His image within us.  How we treat each other is how we treat God.  Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul” and the second was to “love your neighbor as yourself”.  He said it in the same breath, even though he had only been asked what the greatest was.  It was as if the two commandments lead to each other.  As if one can’t really be done without the other.  Love God – through people, through your neighbor.

So, in summary (because people like summaries and I’ve “talked” a lot):
TRUST
trust that, when you think it might be, that it actually IS God speaking to you, loving you.
LOVE OTHERS –
Do whatever you have to do to let others know you love them.  Pretty “simple”.  Ha!
DO FUN STUFF –
Do stuff you enjoy, the stuff that gives you endorphins (even if, as is often true in my case,
there is no physical reason why you should be having endorphins running through you) and
invite God along.  He’s coming anyway, you might as well acknowledge Him, hang out with Him,
get to know Him better. It’s so much less awkward than when you’re ignoring Him when He’s
coming along anyway.

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The Exception

DSCN8247                So I’m half way through my semester, and one of the main things I can tell you that I can take away from my Brief Therapy class is “the exception”.  When nothing else is working in your life, think back to a time when something was working, preferably something that was working that is similar to whatever “everything” isn’t working right now, or a time when the “everything” was working.  Generally something was different.  That one different thing was what was helping it work.  That different is called the exception.   Once you figure out what the exception was – do more of it.  It’ll help fix whatever “everything” is going wrong.
One of the ways I remind myself to slow down is to always carry a camera with me.  It’s a reminder for me to take time to listen to God, or to be aware of God’s love for me.  I have found, in taking pictures, that often my favorites are ones with “exceptions”; ones with the one scarlet leaf or even a cluster of crimson flakes clinging to a towering pillar of golden coins.  Pictures with a single white rose amidst a garden of red, or the sunflower that has its held titled just so, allowing the sun to illuminate it, while the rest are pointed in just enough of a different angle so as to not be lit-up.

The exceptions.  They’re the ones that make us stop and take notice.   They’re the ones that help make things better.

The exception – this is what Christians are called too.

The thing is, it’s hard to be an exception.  There is something inside humanity that seems to desire to fit in.  And yet, while we want to fit in, we want to stand out.  We seem to innately understand that the unique ones are the ones that are noticed, and we want to be noticed and not blend in with the crowd.  We want to be recognized for who we are, for the person God crafted us to be, and we recognize that God only crafts unique individuals.  We want our individuality to be known, and we want to be loved despite (or even better – because of) it.

And yet – being the exception is scary and potentially painful, and so we also have the instinct to simply be blend in with the crowd.  I think we want to fit in because we’re insecure and need the safety of a group.

We’re confused, basically.  We want to be wall flowers and the life of the party all at the same time.

Beauty is always unique.  The minute it becomes commonplace, it is no longer as easily recognized as beautiful.  It no longer makes us stop and stare.  We no longer appreciate it.

But being willing to be the one that stands out, the one that everyone stops to notice, is hard.  In our currently messed-up world, it means being willing to be ridiculed or worse, celebrated.  It is painful.

And yet, this is exactly how God created us – each with our own unique thing that can make others stop and take notice.  And as Christians, our lives are supposed to be the exception to the world around us.

There is pain, sure, in being the exception, but there is beauty too.  And this is what Christians are called to – being the exception.  Being the ones who can fully embrace the being God originally created them to be.  Being the ones who accept better than anything else.   Being the ones who can see pain and need and joy better than anyone else.  Being the ones who can see the exception in others and celebrating it.  Being the ones who can enter into others’ pain better than anyone else.  Being the ones who love all types – the easy and the hard, the confusing and the understandable, the painful and the happy – better than anyone else.

Be the exception.

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Filed under Personal Image, Relationships, Self / Emotions, spiritual life

A Wrestling God

Hey Guys!  I (Amy) am back, for this week at least.  Meagan wanted to work on her next entry a bit longer.

I am firmly convinced that God is a wrestler.  Causes weird mental images, doesn’t it?  I don’t really like to think of God in one of those weird unitard things modern wrestlers wear.  Or as a Greek wrestler.  More like a dad wrestling his 7 year old son, playfully pinning him to the ground.

And yet, in my own life, the wrestling doesn’t always feel so playful.  Mostly it’s just frustrating, despite the fact that wrestling with God seems to be a pretty common theme – in my own life, in the lives of those who are several steps ahead of me on this journey, in the lives of my kids – we all wrestle with God over something.  Whether it comes to wrapping our heads around an aspect of God’s character, or working through trying to forgive someone, or trying to accept His love for us, or working on a certain vice, it all seems to be a pretty messy wrestling match.

I wish someone had told me that when I was younger.  I wouldn’t have thought I was the only one for whom this Christian thing didn’t come easy.

I mean sure, I had heard the story of Jacob wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-32), but Jacob was a trickster, a shepherd, a polygamist and one of the patriarchs of the nation of God.  That description didn’t apply to me, and so why would God wrestle with me?  Why wouldn’t things come easy so long as I loved Him with all my heart and tried to please Him (which, I admit, years later is pretty much impossible without His help).

But more often than not, I find myself identifying with Jacob (re-named Israel), wrestling with God, asking Him “why” or “how come.”  Whoever said following Christ would make life easier was lying, or that understanding God, or even stepping in His footsteps would be easy – liar.  Life might be more fulfilling (in the long run), but definitely not easier.  And  I’m still trying to figure out why.

I mean mostly, to me, it doesn’t really make sense.  I ask God to help me forgive someone, or get “over” a certain sin, or understand His love for me, and He seems to take it as a challenge:  “Oh, you want to see yourself through My eyes?  Well, fight me for it.”  And I don’t get it, because isn’t that something He should WANT to give me?  Something that is good and will help our relationship?  Something that will help me reflect Him more truthfully?  So why make me fight?

It’s like He wants to make sure I really want it – whatever it is.

Or that somehow, in the struggle, I begin to understand the worth of what I’ve asked for.

It’s like He’s like a good parent – He doesn’t want to just hand me it, He wants me to work for it.

But when I was a kid, no chapel speaker, Bible teacher or youth pastor ever told me that.  It was like I was the only one wrestling with God.  It was frustrating.

So, I’m putting this out there.  If you’re on this journey with God, and He’s at all a central figure in your life, He’s gonna wrestle with you.  God seems to like to fight that way.  And it’s okay.  In the long run, you’ll appreciate whatever you were wrestling over better anyway.   And don’t feel bad about wrestling with God.  Don’t let anyone tell you this life is easy.  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong to fight with God.  Don’t deprive God of a fight.  He can totally take you anyway.

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Filed under Biblical Characters and their lessons, spiritual life

Grasping Christ Among the Tangles

Hey Guys!  Meagan’s back with a follow-up from last week!  YAY!!!!!

Hiya! Have I said what a privilege it is to get to share my thoughts and meditations with you? It’s a huge privilege and I hope it will be encouraging.

So last week we were talking about how easy it is to compare yourself to everyone around you and feel inadequate. I caught myself doing this *again* this very past week at work, even though I make a good salary and have a “real career.”

Here’s why I was moping: I work for scientists. Not just any scientists, but the kind who get interviewed on CNN, have their research featured in Science Magazine, and are changing the world by inventing vaccines to stop disease in Africa, engineering working human body parts, and targeting cancer cures. My boss is a Nobel Laureate. Every day, I come into my building and am surrounded by engineers, bioscientists, and every other kind of over-achieving Ph.D. you can think of.

Then there’s me: I got my B.S. (B.arely S.craped by) in Journalism, got laid off when the newspaper industry died, and was slowly sucked into research accounting, where I have now been stuck for 5 years. I don’t race in triathlons or volunteer to help Haitian refugees. I don’t have any particular skills or accomplishments to put on my life resume.

I wanted to write for the New York Times— to write stories about gorillas in the mist, and doctors helping people in the slums of India.

Instead, like some of you, I’ve been thinking about my life, going “how did I land here?” Some of us never merge into the Ph.D. track to ultra-life success. And not because we didn’t try.

Walking to my intimidatingly-large bioscience building Monday morning, I was overwhelmed, unmotivated and uninspired. Trudging into my drab, windowless office, I felt unappreciated and largely ignored by the scientists I support (unless, of course, they need something that involves money). Sorry for whining at you.

The point is that I started concentrating on wanting to feel significant. To do things that I believe are significant like influencing and inspiring others, taking care of the poor, giving of myself. Hear me: Those desires aren’t wrong. My focus was wrong.

God reminded me on the walk to work–

“Where do you get your value? From them? Or from me and what I say is true about you?”

“From you, O Lord.”

“What is more precious to you—their evaluation of you, or mine?”

“Yours, O Lord.”

Alright, but do I really believe that? Do my actions and thoughts consistently reflect the things I say to God? It’s easy to say in the moment, but not so easy to practice, is it?

Yeah, I feel ya. I cry out to him in my self-inflicted pain: “I know you say you’re there, God, but how do I find you in this mess?! How in the world do I even start?”

Some pastors, well-meaning but shallow Christians, and devotional writers will preach: Just put your eyes on Jesus. Just. As if it’s that easy. Well, instead of condescending to you, I’m going to give you an actual, practicable answer. Ready?

How you find life purpose and peace through Jesus:

The ugly answer, as in all things that are life-changing, is (and sorry for this):

It takes brokenness.

Then desperation.

And then it takes practice.

Not simple. Definitely not pretty.

Why these three things?

  • Brokenness: Your grand life plans = Epic Fail. All kinds of things break people: discovering a cancerous tumor, the death of a child, spouse or sibling, losing a job or a home, addiction and mental illness, being the victim of a crime or natural disaster. Sometimes it’s bad choices you make. Sometimes it’s bad choices others perpetrate on you. Sometimes, it seems like the universe just singled you out.
  • Desperation: You realize you aren’t actually the master of your destiny. Loneliness and fear descend upon you like a shroud. You cry out for help into the empty air. Times of desperation are when you are most likely to be open to change – to finding a better way that can sustain you in the long-term.

(Before number three, there is a wall that some people are unable to break through. That is a discussion about suicide, for another post.)

  • Practice: You emerge from the shattered glass that once mirrored your life, and grasp on to something. Let’s hope the something is not a radical new diet or extreme-makeover fitness program. Let’s hope it is Christ. You may not be the master of your own destiny, but you are the master of how you respond to it.

You don’t just magically change from your old, bad habits though. You constantly revert back to them like a baby blanket that you believe has protected you from harm, but really has no power at all.

To change, to really hold on to what you have found and fully transform, you have to practice. Like any athlete who sustains herself through the finish line.

Well, crap. How do I “practice” grasping on to this invisible, elusive Christ?

Don’t be discouraged! There are some tools to help you start. And unlike a trendy fad diet, the results are lasting– because they are backed by a King who wants to know you, who wants you to succeed in the life He gave you, and who will help you along the way…

We’ll get to some practice exercises next week. This week, meditate on what brokenness looks like for you. Consider what it feels like to be desperate.

Um… Amy Leigh… can I hijack your blog for a Part III?

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Tripping Over the Potholes Of Comparison

This week I have the honor of setting aside my random thoughts and contemplations and instead, I get to introduce you to one of my dearest friends – Meagan!  After much persuasion and a bit of patience (good writing, like wine, takes time and a bit of squeezing), she’s finally graced us with a guest blog post!  I’m thrilled. 
                She has written articles for several well-known publications, has traveled to one or two  corners of the Earth, is a wife to a pretty decent dude, lives in them there mountains, is the friend of a fox or two AND is provider of sugary nectar for several hummingbirds.  But as cool as all that stuff is, those things are merely indicators of the large heart and vibrant spirit this woman envelops – not who she actually is.  She is a woman who has the humility to merely seek the Father, vigilantly deal with her personal healing, love those around her, and enjoy life as best as she humanly can. 
                Meagan has been a major force in my life over the time I have known her, and I am excited for you to meet her and get to know her heart too.  Also, when you’re done reading, leave a comment for her! 

It’s so easy to look at others — and I do it all the time — and see what we don’t have or who we aren’t. “She’s written a book,” “she has a nice house,” “he’s smarter and more capable than me,” “he’s traveled the world, “she has an amazing job,” “she overcame cancer and is a doctor now,” and, my personal favorite, “They all have purpose and I don’t have anything that is special about me.”

The fact is, looking around at everyone else denies and detracts from what God made you. It’s kind of an insult. Yeah, I may not have those things or talents or experiences that the people I look up to have, but we’ve got to learn that those external things are not what give us value. What gives me value is the unique person God made me, simply because he loves me. I have worth, because I belong to the God of the universe. My identity is as His — not as the things I accomplish or the talents or stuff I have.

How could he have made me and not love me? Would he have spent so much time making me that he knows every hair on my head, and not given me a unique purpose in this world to live out? Would he let me miss out on that– if I’m really seeking His will? Certainly not — he’s not a petty, ruthless God out to show you how bad you suck compared to him and everyone else. Instead, he is your champion and cheerleader. Embrace what he gave you, learn to love what he made you.

So stop looking around at everybody else, stop looking down at the potholes in your life — your inadequacies, your circumstances that look to ensnare you in an endless pit of discontent — and look forward to Christ alone.

A wise lady, my counselor of 15 years, told me: If you are running from a monster, and you look back at it, all of your energy is consumed by focusing on it instead of the path of escape. If you are running a race, and looking around at your competitors, they will overtake you.

Keep your eyes focused on the one thing that can keep you going forward, in the right direction. Christ alone.

So that I don’t leave you without any idea of what that means, here are some ways to get your eyes off yourself and others, and on to the place they belong.

  • Instead of waking up and thinking about the day in front of you, pray this prayer FIRST thing: “God, what do you have for me today?” Wait and listen. Tell him your thoughts, feelings and fears and listen. Keep talking to him, keep listening. This will be very difficult to do at first, so don’t beat yourself up, just keep trying. If your mind strays, come back to talking to him.
  • Then, as you are eating your brekkie, or before you leave for school or work, read a Psalm every morning – pick an encouraging one, not a sad one or the ones that have ancient Israeli history that you can’t relate to. As you read, focus on God’s promises and his greatness.
  • Think of what promises he’s kept to you and WRITE THEM DOWN. In a journal, on a notepad, wherever. It will help you remember them. Think of the scripture you read throughout the day.
  • As you go throughout your day and good things happen, or you are encouraged by something, WRITE IT DOWN on that notepad, thank God for it OUT LOUD (even if you work in a cubicle, do it as a whisper). Praising God audibly discourages the enemy’s attacks.

 

That’s a start. We’ll do more next post. There’s lots of help to be had. Keep up hope.

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Pirate Eyes

Pirate hori
Today is National Talk Like A Pirate Day.  No really, apparently it is.  I discovered this amazing tid bit of glorious holiday-ness when I was in college.  So speak with pirate-speak, me matey.  Strrrretch out yer “arrrrrrrrrs” in everrrrrrry worrrrrrd you use.  Yell “Aye” and “Nay” as often as you can.  And, if you’rrrrre super-clever and piratey you’ll slip the quote, “I disincline to acquiesce to your request” at least thrrree times into yerrr speak.

But really.  I’ve felt ratherrr pirrrratey (annnd that’s annoying) for the last three or four weeks.  No, I’m not wearing large gold hoop earrings, I don’t have a strange urge to cover my hair with a bandanna, my personal hygiene is at normal levels, and I don’t have large, length-of-my-leg knives (otherwise known as swords) on a belt, bruising my hip.

No, I’ve been feeling piratey in the sense that I’m rather envious of some of my friends.    I want what they want, and I even have moments when I am green-eyed envious enough to want to just take it.  Not that I could.   I look at their lives, their relationships, their houses, their careers, and I get envious.   I just… I somehow foolishly thought I’d be where they are at this point in my life.  Well, no, that’s not true.  I thought I’d be living in the middle of Africa (somehow still with my curling iron) teaching missionary kids.  And I’m not doing that either.

Instead I’m in my early thirties, going to school to get a Masters that does not guarantee me a job (and definitely not a well-paying one).  I don’t have my own place.  I nanny for a living.  I’m crying a lot recently.  And romantically, well I’m bust.

The thing is, on an intellectual level, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.  I wouldn’t give up a single year or experience.  Looking back, God has obviously written my story, bringing me here, now, to this pretty painful moment (okay, not JUST to this moment, but to this season of life).  And I know good things are going to come of this time.  And I know I need to stay here, in this pain, in this confusion, frustration and loneliness.  I shouldn’t run from it.  I shouldn’t dwell in it, but I shouldn’t ignore it either.  I’m here for a reason.  I have lessons to learn here.  There are wonderful, joyful memories to be had here.  I need to stay and search for them.

I can’t dwell in the familiarity of the past, and I shouldn’t escape to the mystery of the future.

But my heart…well, my heart is pretty raw right now.  In my envy of those around me, I forget what I know about the character of God.  I forget that He is good (or I run to my “well, God’s good is different than ours” speech).  I forget that He is righteous, and jealous, and can get angry when His children are hurt or get distracted by smaller gods.  I forget so quickly how holy He is.  I forget that He is loving.  I forget that He has placed the passions and desires within my heart for a reason – whether or not I ever actually experience those passions and deep desires becoming fulfilled.  I forget that He is GOD.  That He can make anything – ANYTHING – happen, that He has a reason for everything (even in my piddly little life).  I forget that He moved Heaven and Earth with His love in order to redeem me.  I forget.  I forget all that He has given me (really, I have lived an incredible life).  I forget that He holds me, that He knows how many hairs are on my head, and that He cherishes every tear I cry.

I forget that He loves me better than anyone else ever has, can, or will.  And that as He is the one in charge of my story, He’s writing the best version – director’s cut – of said story.  I need to trust that He’s got this, that the desires in me will either fade away, or be fulfilled and either way they should send me to Him, not to staring at what my friends have.

As long as I don’t have the green, envious eyes of a pirate, life is good.

But even better – GOD is good, all the time.

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The Here and Now

We don’t always recognize the BIG moments when they occur – often they look like all the normal ones that bookend either side.

Which I guess is another reason to pay attention to what’s going on here, now, right now.  Because someday you might want to look back and remember this very moment.

This very moment that you’re living through might be the reason a group of strangers become friends and hang out.  Or the reason you apply for that new job.  Or the inspiration for a new song you write.  Or the moment you find the courage to smile back at him.

And if you’re so focused on the past, you’re not gonna remember this moment.

And if you’re too focused on the mystical future, you’re not gonna remember the details of this moment.

So pay attention.  Don’t wish yourself elsewhere.  Don’t try to just live through it; don’t agree to just survive it.

Pay attention.

 

(Yes, I realize this is just an extension of last week.  Not sure what God’s trying to tell me.  Maybe to stop complaining and to just enjoy the journey. )

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Facebook, peer pressure, cold water, and what to do

It happened.

I knew it would, and I had been trying to figure out how to respond to it when it did, but, when it actually happened, I still didn’t have a clue.

See, there’s this thing, going around on Facebook where people dump water over their heads in support of a horrible degenerative disease that goes by the initials ALS, and since over half my Facebook friends are kids, well, I was gonna get nominated to dump ice over my head at some point, sooner or later.

But see, I’m in this thoughtful season of life, when I want to think about everything before I do it.  So, I wanted to know where I actually stood on this “challenge” thing before I simply lemming-style dumped five gallons of ice on me – in public (well, filmed, and then posted on Facebook, so the modern form of public).  I know, I know, I’m probably over-thinking it.  Or, as my brother would affectionately say, I’m “femaling it up”.

But I didn’t want to just mindlessly dump water over my head.  And no, it’s not because it’s cold.

See, I want my kids to think through something before they do it.  And if I want that from them, then I need to model it.

And I’m not really sure of the best response.  See, ALS is a degenerative disease where you lose control of everything.  And that’s horrible.  And if pouring a bucket of ice over my head will help someone research it and come up with a cure – great.  Pour five buckets over my head.  But see, pouring a bucket over my head means that I’m not giving money to fund that person to go find that cure.  So, I should give money.  Which I’d do if I had any (being a student will take all the money you’ve got – and then some).  But even then, even still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it.  Because, see, if I simply give money, than I can be done.  I don’t have to think about it anymore.  I can say I did my part and go dive back into school papers, or hiking in the mountains, or drinking coffee with one of my teens.

But that’s not really what we’re called to do as Christians.  We’re called to sit with each other in our pain.  We are called to help someone out – to take care of them – no matter what.  To stay there, where they are.  Not to throw money at them and then walk away.  Not to say, “Hey, look how much I care; I’m pouring water over my head” and then walk away.  I’m called to befriend those in pain, those who are uncomfortable, those who will ask much of me because they can’t give anything back.

So, how do I do that?  I don’t know anyone with ALS.  Do I go find someone who has ALS?  Do I just accept that God hasn’t put anyone in my life with ALS and focus on the people He has put in my life – and their needs?

Truth is – I don’t know.  I could dump a bucket of water over my head in solidarity or something, sure.  But…doesn’t that just bring more attention to me than to the thousands suffering?  I mean somewhere the video label will say ALS on it, and so everyone will know I care…but do I, really?

The only answer that comes to mind, as I wrestle with this, is one that feels trite because it has been a Christian cop-out so often – prayer.

I don’t know anyone with ALS; I don’t have anything to give; I don’t really believe pouring a bucket of watery frigidness will do any good, so what do I have?

I have God.  I have prayer.  And, in the long run, assuming I actually pray and ask God to do a work – in my heart at the very least – that might be the most powerful thing I could do.

Note – if I felt God was calling me to do something about ALS specifically, this would be different.  Maybe I’ll talk about that next week.

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Filed under Personal Image, Relationships, Self / Emotions, spiritual life

Mountain Tops and Attitudes

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I just got back from backpacking with some of the awesome high schoolers in the youth group I work with.  And I noticed something odd, something that has been niggling at the back of my mind for over a month now.

See, a little over a month ago I went camping with some of my middle schoolers from the same youth group.  We hiked a 14er (I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that means a mountain whose summit is over 14,000 feet above sea level).  Now, this is nothing new; we do this every year.  And I am the “in the back” leader, pushing those who don’t necessarily want to go, up the mountain (mostly because I’m one of the slowest hikers I know, so I naturally fit there).  Until this year, I’d never summitted a mountain.  We’d gotten pretty close at least twice, but never to the summit.  But somehow, this year, the group in the back made it all the way up.  Craziness.  I knew it wasn’t because I was in better shape.  Definitely NOT the case this year.  I chalked it up to having kids who were in better condition and more willing to hike than in years before.

But then, this last week when we went backpacking, a similar thing happened.  Hiking into the camping site, backpacks the size of some of our middle schoolers on our backs, we didn’t stop nearly as much as before.  And, the coolest part was, I, personally, didn’t have to stop nearly as much as in the past.  Really, I promise I’m not in better condition.

But obviously something’s changed.  Whether it’s because the kids needed me to push them less this time ‘round, or there’s less emotional baggage for me to carry, or what, I don’t know.  But I’m enjoying the difference.

It’s kinda crazy because other than not using strength to push other’s attitudes aside and encourage them, there really was not much different.  Which, I guess goes to show just how every important it is to have good attitudes about everything – and to have people around you who encourage you (as well as you can encourage).  When the people around you are only griping and complaining…life gets hard.  It’s hard to be the sole encourager; it takes a great deal of emotional strength to do that, which saps your physical strength.

So, I guess my challenge is to surround yourself with people who will encourage you as much as you encourage them.  Make it up the mountain with them.

And keep trudgin’.  It’s when we stop that we feel we can’t start again.

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Filed under Self / Emotions