Trusting the Lighthouse and Not the Egg Timer

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“A mind preoccupied by planning pays homage to the idol of control.” – Sarah Young

Ouch.  Did you feel that?

It was the sting of words hitting a little too close to home.

I’m  a planner and, if I’m not careful, I can fall back into this trap of obsessing over the next steps. I have to remember to breathe, to let go, and remember one of my favorite quotes from Francis Chan…”You might think you have a good plan, but you don’t have a universe!”

I come from a long line of worriers. My late grandma used to worry better than anyone I have ever met.  She even had a couple of nervous breakdowns under her belt to prove it. When I was a kid and we would go over to her house to visit, she’d advise me to keep my shoes on during a summertime Arizona monsoon…just in case we would have to make a quick escape.  I also remember how she would tell me to make sure I could find my clothes in the middle of the night, just in case I ever had to get up out of bed and evacuate. This fear she had stemmed from living through a couple of serious floods in Pennsylvania when she was a little girl. She knew all too well the panic you feel when catastrophe hits.  Yet trying to make sense of her advise while sitting on a couch in the middle of the (more dry than wet) Arizona desert was a challenge.

During another visit, she told me her doctor had prescribed meditation because of her nerves. She was to meditate 10 minutes a day…doctor’s orders. She chose a chair in her bedroom and started to meditate. Even at my young age, I thought it was strange that she grabbed the egg timer from the kitchen, placed it on the table next to her, and set it for ten minutes. tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick….BING!  Nothing says rest like listening to the constant tick of a clock. 😉

“A mind preoccupied by planning pays homage to the idol of control.”

Even though I have been predisposed to the worry gene, I refuse to buy an egg timer. That’s not to say I don’t some times make the mistake of  picking up “egg timers” and allowing them to temporarily dictate my life…but my goal is to not let them take up permanent residence in my life and in my heart.

As I’ve mentioned many times on this writing journey, my desire in life is to live expectantly without expectations. Living expectantly reminds me that it is possible to have hope and joy without trying to control every detail waiting around the corner. By not having fixed and set expectations on how something is going to play out constantly reminds me that…

no, I don’t have a universe.
no, I can’t control outcomes.

And if I don’t have a universe and I can’t control what’s around the corner then why do I want to even try?  What good can possibly come of it?

I spent nearly a decade as an adult trying to stay in the driver’s seat of my own life. That “fun” road trip taught me that I have poor navigational skills. I took countless wrong turns and eventually felt trapped in an endless maze of bad decisions. Things that I thought would bring me happiness and joy ended up leaving me feeling empty and restless.

Today, I don’t want to live that way. It’s exhausting and sometimes causes pain that could have been avoided had I just not tried to play tug of war with my Creator and my Perfecter.

 

Staying on the Road to Somewhere

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“I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan which is far beyond myself. This sense of cooperation with God in the little things is what so astonishes me, for I have never felt this way before. I need something, and turn round to find it waiting for me. I must work to be sure , but there is God working along with me. My part is to live this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will. This seems to be all I need to think about.” 

I read this quote this morning in Jennie Allen’s book, Stuck. It’s a quote from a man named Frank Laubach. In his book Practicing His Presence, he shares how his decision to make a conscious effort to dwell on Christ continually, “moment-by-moment, conversation-by-conversation, activity-by-activity,” had impacted his life. These were some of the words he wrote in his journal a few weeks into the deliberate journey.

They reminded me of a question that was brought up by the pastor at church on Sunday:

“How many of us have a plan for maximizing our joy in Jesus?”

The pastor premised his thought by sharing how generally “if you believe something will give you joy…you plan for it.” He gave a great example of going on vacation. We typically don’t go away one or two weeks without some sort of plan in place. We don’t just show up at a hotel without having taken the intentional steps of booking a room. Our goals when we go on vacation is to find rest and experience joy and to hopefully do this with minimal worry or anxiety.

I love this quote by Mr. Laubach because, wow, does he have a plan in place for maximizing his joy in Jesus.  His goal is to stay continually connected to the giver and supplier of that joy.

Another thing I love about this quote was when he says, “I must work to be sure, but there is God working along with me.”  Again, this reminded me of something that has been addressed for the last two Sundays and a quote I shared with you last week. “We must take intentional steps in the direction of our affection…grace is opposed to earning not effort.”

I was also reminded of seasons in my own life when intentional steps to discover and experience more of Jesus led to some pretty incredible places.  Unfortunately, what prompted those intentional steps were a few years of unintentional and/or stubborn steps that led to several wrong turns where some painful and hard lessons were waiting for me.

Today, more than anything, my desire is to spend less and less time on the roads that lead nowhere.  I want to go somewhere…because I’ve tasted the hope and freedom and joy of somewhere!

“Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me; don’t let me down!
I’ll run the course you lay out for me if you’ll just show me how.
teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!” Psalm 119: 29-33 Message 

When the Mess Turns Out to Be a Delight

One of my least favorite things to do is car maintenance and car repair.  I am good at taking my car in for its routine oil change but I dread it…like I dread going to Walmart. Two weeks ago, my husband’s car broke down. We were briefly stranded in a Dollar General parking lot waiting for a tow truck.  Yet, even as we sat there, Roger and I realized that it couldn’t have happened at a better place and time.  We had just arrived home from vacation the day before.  It could have happened on vacation. Yuck. The car happened to break down a couple of miles from my brother-in-law’s house. He was able to pick us up and loan us one of his cars for a few days.

Can an inconvenience get any more convenient than that?

Turns out Roger’s car is having some sort of clutch issue. The good news…the manufacturer says it is covered under warranty.  The bad news…many folks are in need of this one part and it’s currently on back order.  Because of this, his car has been in the repair shop for two weeks.  Again, my husband and I both realize how the situation could be worse. There was a season in both of our lives when we only had one car and when it broke down there was no alternative option and, on top of that, there was no money available to fix the car. For the past two weeks, Roger has been driving his old 1996 Ford Ranger truck to work.  After charging the battery, it’s been running great even though it has over 250,000 miles on it.

Last weekend, my car, a 2009 Toyota Corolla, started making a weird sound.  Oh no,  I thought, what should I do?  Roger’s car is in the shop (indefinitely) and he’s driving our normal back up option. We are out of back up plans. There seemed to be only two options available.

I could turn my car radio up really loud and pretend the noise wasn’t there…buying time until my husband’s car got out of the shop, hoping the problem didn’t get any worse.

OR

I could schedule a repair appointment and sit  in the dreaded repair shop waiting for it to be looked at.

I’m happy to report I made the WWARAD decision (What Would A Responsible Adult Do?)

A neighbor gave me the name of a shop that did great work on her car.  When I called Monday morning and described the issue, they informed me that they didn’t do that kind of work (they work on axles, etc.) but they did refer me to a shop not too far from them.

I called and they scheduled my appointment for yesterday morning at 8:00am. I have to say, that this was the best experience I ever had at a car repair place. Yet, when I drove up, I was a little hesitant. The property was lined by a chain link fence and there were hundreds of junk cars scattered around the property, The office was a run down looking building right in the middle of this car graveyard. When I walked inside, my surroundings kind of looked like a tame episode of Hoarders. Stuff was everywhere. There was no “waiting room” but there were chairs set up sporadically in the midst of the mess.

However,  I was quickly reminded of two truths:

  • Never judge a book by its cover
  • Sometimes the most beautiful things are found in the midst of the mess

I received incredible service from the moment I pulled my car into the parking lot. Within a few minutes they had diagnosed my problem (a bad water pump). When the mechanic pulled up the specifications on the computer, it estimated the labor would be over two hours.  The mechanic exclaimed, “there is no way that’s going to take me over two hours to replace. We’ll get it done quicker than that for you.”

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For the next 90 minutes I sat in this mess, sipped my coffee, and chatted with the two lovely ladies working behind the counter…a grandmother and her granddaughter. We talked about family. We talked about where we lived. We talked about where we attended church.  I had a delightful time. :-)  I pulled into the lot at 8:00 am. I pulled out before 10:00 am.

I love being pleasantly surprised, don’t you?

Can you think of a time when you’ve braced/prepared yourself for the worst and it turned out being good instead?

How One Willing Step Can Change Your Life

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“We must take intentional steps in the direction of our affection…grace is opposed to earning, not effort.”

This was one of the takeaways from yesterday’s message.  We kicked off a new series at church last week where we are learning more about what it means to live a life where we “prize” Jesus.  The pastor shared with us 1 John 2:6 “Whoever claims to live in Christ must walk as Jesus did.”

This, of course, can’t be done without making deliberate choices every day of our lives.

One thought that came to mind after thinking more about this was how it all starts with a willingness to be willing. What I mean by this is that, sometimes the steps in the direction of Jesus seem small, but what matters is our willingness to take the steps in the first place.  When our hearts are willing, His power is unleashed.

  • I think about the man who said to Jesus, “I do believe, help my disbelief”…  when he took the intentional step of bringing his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing. (Mark 9: 24)
  • I think about the woman who had been bleeding for years. She took the intentional steps and made her way to Jesus through a crowd of people, this was the hope running through her mind and heart… if only I touch the hem of His robe... (Matthew 9:22)
  • I think of the beautiful friends who carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  The doorway was blocked and they took the intentional (yet inconvenient) step of lowering him down through the roof.
  • I thought about this post from a few weeks back about how the Lord uses even smallest amount of willingness.

We see instances all through Scripture of how small intentional steps will lead us closer and closer to a BIG God.

No, there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s grace or His healing touch…but there are steps we must commit to taking, today, in order to position ourselves where that grace and healing is freely being offered to us.

What is one step of willingness you need to take today? 

 

Fear, Truth, & Caterpillars

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This afternoon, while out on a lunch hour run, I began thinking about the one and only video blog I shared with you all about two years ago. I stepped outside my comfort zone and shared a bit of my personal journey in front of the computer screen instead of behind. I was a little nervous.

I’m not sure what prompted this video blog memory. Maybe it was the beautiful 80 degree spring day. Springtime tends to make me think of second chances. The beauty of rebirth can be seen all around us.

As I ran along, the idea of sharing this video once again crossed my mind. Then, of course, the battle started to play out in my head.

Fear: Is it really necessary to share it again? It was scary being vulnerable like that.

Truth: Yes, but it’s been two years and you do have some new readers…maybe some of those readers would benefit from hearing more about the journey. Maybe parts will resonate with them. Maybe it would offer those who are struggling a little encouragement and hope.

Fear: Yes, but…it’s full of flaws and I am not a great speaker.  This video reveals so much of that.

As this battle between fear and truth played out in my mind, I suddenly realized what song was playing in my ears as I was running up the road. It was that song again! The one that I heard here and here…and a few other places too.

Truth: “This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me”

As this truth washed over my fear, I noticed that up ahead of me on the road two ladies were stopped. They were looking at something in a tree. One of the ladies had her phone out and seemed to be taking a picture of the tree. When I approached them, my curiosity got the best of me.

“What are you looking at?” I asked.

“A huge caterpillar nest.  There are a ton in there!”

I stopped running and went over to take a closer look.

I started down the road again and smiled.

Caterpillars.  Caterpillars transform. They’re on a journey too, Lord. Today they crawl, but one day they’ll take off and fly.

If you’d like to watch a bit more of my journey, you can do that HERE

Redeem This, Lord. Redeem Even This

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Redeem this, Lord. Redeem even this.

I’ve shared here on many occasions how, over the years, the first prayer that usually comes to mind when I hear about pain and suffering is: Lord, overwhelm them with Your presence. This is a request I make of God more often than any other…more than for healing…more than for fixing.  Because I know from my own faith journey, that His presence trumps all of that.  His presence is what gives us the ability to see everything else.

My second request, and one I’ve found myself uttering quite a bit over the last few days are the words I typed above.

Redeem this, Lord. Redeem even this. 

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I woke up on Good Friday to the news of the massacre in Kenya at Garissa University. It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around such evil. 147 lives were lost. And each one of those lives has a name and a story. Each life has family and friends who are experiencing the most unimaginable level of grief right now. A senseless loss. My heart and my prayers go out to them.

On Good Friday, as I read about the attack, this story was woven into the details:

One of the students was spared because she covered herself in the blood of another and the terrorists mistook her as already among the dead.

Today, she lives to tell the story.

When I read about this detail, it made pause. Wow. That’s desperation right there. The lengths people will go to survive. I am so thankful this young lady covered herself in the blood that was available.

This morning I came across an article called Where Was God During the Garissa University Attack.  The author of this article, a Kenyan, is the one who pointed out the deeper lesson to me and one we can take away from this young lady’s account.

“One of the students, Hellen Titus, told the Kenyan media how she was able to escape from the tragedy as the shooters hovered over her and her fellow students. She covered herself with someone else’s blood and was thereby mistaken for dead. That is exactly what Jesus has done for us; He invites us to be covered with His blood so that we can live. And when we are thus protected, we may grieve, but we do not grieve like those without hope, and we do not fear those who can only kill the body but cannot touch the soul.  So, why doesn’t God intervene in these types of situations? He has.” ~ JM Njoroge

It’s interesting to me how I first read this account on Good Friday, of all days, and didn’t see this correlation the first time around. It wasn’t until someone else pointed it out today, Tuesday. Isn’t that just like us, sometimes. The good news of salvation is right in front of us…and we don’t have the eyes to perceive it.

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Redeem this, Lord. Redeem even this.

What I mean by this is:  God, make this count for something. Don’t let this be in vain.

And, I know our Savior has the ability to do just that. I’ve seen evidence of this in my own life over and over again. Our Redeemer…redeems. I know it and I believe it. I know it just as surely and as confidently as I can look at the sky and tell you it’s blue, the grass and tell you it’s green and the ocean and tell you it’s big.

******

One of my husband’s brothers has  been in the hospital for almost two weeks.  Rodney has dealt with chronic health issues for years and years but everything has gotten progressively worse. He is very sick and unresponsive and there is a chance he might not pull through. My husband went to visit him over the weekend and this morning, as I was typing this post, we received another update from his wife. Things aren’t looking good and my husband is making the two-hour trip to the hospital again today to be with him.

Lord, overwhelm Rodney with Your presence. I know he is unresponsive…but I know things like that don’t stand in Your way.  Comfort him, Lord.  Allow him to feel and experience Your presence more than anything else right now. That is what he needs! 

And, Lord, redeem this. Redeem even this.  

Child-Like Faith & Wrestling Matches

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“You’re going to have doubts. You’re going to have questions.”

Those are some thoughts I shared with my 11-year-old son this afternoon. I love my son’s child-like faith. It reminds me of the passages in Scripture where Jesus says in Matthew 18:3 “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Yet, as much as I want my son to hold tightly to this child-like faith, I also want him to know it’s okay to have doubts and questions...it’s okay.

Because, one day, everything he believes will be put to the test.  And when his faith is shaken…I want my son to know that sometimes it’s in the wrestling, the doubting, and the questioning when we come face to face with a God who is bigger than our wildest dreams!

But the key to finding this big God?  Always stay willing to show up for the wrestling match.  

I went on to share with my son how the longer I walk this faith journey, the more I’ve come to understand that the help of the Holy Spirit is crucial. I told my son that when I was his age I didn’t know this. The Holy Spirit were just words when I was a little girl. I wish I had understood (a tad better) how important this aspect of the Trinity was when I was his age.

The Holy Spirit is the key ingredient for understanding everything else about Christ. Jesus told his disciples that He had to go away so the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth, could come and be with us forever.

And the Counselor doesn’t show up empty-handed. When we open the door and invite him in…he brings an arm load of life with him. He equips us with all the tools we are going to need to live the life Christ promises us when he said, “I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” John 10:10

He brings peace when everything around us shouts and points to chaos and worry.

He supplies joy when all we see are endless valleys.

He brings wisdom and knowledge when our finite understanding has been exhausted.

When darkness closes in, he points our eyes to the Light and our hearts to the Hope.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.  He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you…I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you.  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” John 14:15-18,25-26

 

Living in Questions-Clinging to Easter

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Easter time, especially these last couple of years, has reminded me of how faithful God is during seasons of transition.

As I thought more about this faithfulness recently, I couldn’t help but think of John Mark McMillan’s beautiful song “Death In His Grave”  We sung this song at church on Easter morning in 2013.  At this particular time in life, my family was in complete transition mode.  My husband’s job in North Carolina was quickly coming to an end and we had decided that it would be best to look for employment down in Georgia to be near his aging parents.  My husband had lined up two job interviews for the week after Easter, one in Atlanta and one in Dalton.  We pulled into town Saturday night and accompanied my brother-in-law and his family to Easter services the next morning in Dalton, GA.

It was a Community Church and was similar to the one we had been attending for 12 years in North Carolina.  As we walked out of the Easter service that Sunday morning I remember saying to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you ended up getting the job in Dalton…we would already have a church to go to.”

I’ve blogged on many occasions about this season in our lives. We were in the midst of some pretty significant unknowns. Would my husband find another job before his current job in North Carolina ended?  Would we end up staying in North Carolina?  Would we end up living somewhere in Georgia? Where would “home” be six months from then?

Yet despite all the questions, I had peace during this time. I experienced soothing moments of reassurance during the entire journey. God had this beautiful way of continually reminding me of this Truth:  I have walked with you through many scary and question-filled times before and I will walk with you through this one too.

As I thought more about those transitional seasons in our lives, I thought about the time between the crucifixion of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus. Talk about a time when followers of Jesus had more questions than answers, this was it.  Not only did they have a ton of questions…but they were also walking through a valley of incredible sadness and grief. When I think about what this time must have been like for the disciples, it tends to put the transitional seasons in my own life into perspective.

On many occasions, prior to his death, Jesus  told his disciple that this (his death) needed to happen, he also reassured His followers that he would be back…yet, at the time, the disciples couldn’t seem to comprehend that truth. As a result, it seemed impossible for them to remember what Jesus had promised them before He went to the cross and, for a time, their fear became significantly bigger than their faith.

Isn’t that the same with us?  Perhaps we’ve walked along with Jesus for years now. We’ve experienced His love and His rescue over and over…then life throws a HUGE curve ball and what do we do?  We scurry back to the boat. We hide behind locked doors.  We take our eyes off His promises, promises we know to be true because we’ve experienced the personal touch of that beauty.  His story has changed our story.

Are you in a season filled with more questions than answers?  Take a moment to remember His promises and His faithfulness.

“And surely I am with you always…to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

“Laid down in grief…but awoke with the keys”

When I AM Does His Thing

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The poor and the needy seek water, but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, Yahweh, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the barren heights,
and springs in the middle of the plains.
I will turn the desert into a pool of water
and dry land into springs of water.
 I will plant cedars in the desert,
acacias, myrtles, and olive trees.
I will put juniper trees in the desert,
elms and cypress trees together,
 so that all may see and know,
consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it. ~Isaiah 41:17-20

I love reminders in Scripture that the Presence of God in our circumstances trumps the circumstance itself.  In the passages above, God doesn’t take the poor and the needy out of the desert.  No, He enters the desert and transforms the desert.

And why does He do this?

So that all may see and know, consider and understand that the hand of the Lord has done this,

There’s something so incredible about seeing our situations again after an all-powerful Redeemer has gotten His hands all over the hopelessness.

And for the rest of our life, it’s the proof we need to keep trusting…to keep moving forward in faith.

This was dead, Lord…and YOU LORD…YOU…brought it to life again. How did you do it, Lord? 

You take our impossible situations and place your “I AM” bigger stamp all over it.

You change our dark pits into spacious hilltops.

You change our cries of despair into tears of joy.

You take tired, weary and broken hearts and flood them with unimaginable peace.

And when you do, Lord, we are forever changed.

Come into our desert places today, Lord.

Come in and do YOUR THING!

Tears That Guide You Home

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It’s strange…this healing journey.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn to let myself feel it. If I need to cry, I cry.

As I pulled out of my driveway today, I looked at the beautiful trees lining my street and my heart sung with joy.  I wanted to pick up the phone and share that beauty with someone I love…and the first person that came to mind was my mom.

“I miss you, Mom.” I said it out loud, I acknowledged the ache.  And for the briefest of minutes the tears fell down my cheeks.

I then found myself thinking of friends of mine who are on much more recent journeys with grief. The wound is still so fresh for them. My heart aches for their ache.

“Comfort them, Lord. Overwhelm them with Your presence. ” I said it out loud.

Two truths embraced, two truths acknowledged:  the pain and the answer to the pain.

There’s an answer.  Thank you, Lord, that there’s an answer. Thank you for making a way.

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71:14

Linking to a post I wrote nearly five-year ago. It came to mind after my tear drops this afternoon.  In it, I shared my thoughts on some beautiful words that Douglas Gresham shared about the special relationship between his mom, Joy, and his stepfather C.S. Lewis.  If you have a few extra minutes, you can read it here Don’t Lose Heart