I was taking a walk the other day when a little boy who couldn’t have been older than two or three suddenly ran out from behind a house, looked at me, and yelled, “Hi, Mom!” Now, this greeting was surprising on at least two levels. First, I’ve never come close to mothering a child. Second, I’d never seen this little boy before. I laughed, but then got to thinking about it. Kids aren’t the only ones who get confused. As adults we sometimes do the same thing; we don’t see things as they really are, though we may not notice at the time. We call it love when it’s really lust. We deem something or someone a success or a failure, when really we’re merely thinking in worldly, temporary terms. We consider situations hopeless when God’s cooking up something really great. God must react to those mistaken assessments with laughter, much as I reacted to the little boy, and also with grief, when these situations pull us away from him.
As I turn 27, I find myself struggling with questions about where I should be and what I should be doing. As I crawl closer to my “late 20s” it’s hard not to evaluate life so far and consider my current situation versus that of others and the expectations I had for myself through the years. When I look at it compared to the world’s standards, I’m lagging behind in a lot of areas.
Like a lot of people these days, I’m really struggling to find a job. As some of you know, I worked with a team of missionaries in Mexico City for most of 2008. I could talk about my time there for hours, but let’s just say it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. But I arrived home last winter in the midst of a brutal economic crisis. I’ve looked online nearly everyday for the last four months or so and have had little success. Thus, I’m pretty much itinerant, living with my parents, my sister and friends. Also, as my friends get married and some begin to have children, it’s easy to feel a bit left behind sometimes. Besides that, I still yearn for Mexico and constantly ask myself (and God) if I should be there or here.
So let’s review: no job, no place of my own, unmarried, confused about the future. This is not where I expected to be at 27. But this is exactly where God expected me to be and that’s so much more important.
I think as Christians we should constantly remind ourselves of the things that God has already done in our lives. When I get bogged down by my frustrations, I pull out journals I’ve kept over the years and meditate on things God has done for me. I’m not a stranger to waiting on God’s provision. I waited for almost a year to see if the funding would come through and everything would line up for the Mexico City trip to happen. It was a year filled with uncertainty, stress and worry. But it worked out perfectly. If God had my life so under control then, even though I wasn’t aware of it, why would now be any different?
And I also remind myself that we all have different needs, which God knows utterly. I could have all the things my younger self expected me to have at 27 and still be completely unhappy. God wired me with a heart for Mexico and took me there. And in order to have the incredible experiences I had there, other things had to be put on hold for awhile. But those things will happen when God, in His complete knowledge of the world and of me, deems it right. And that makes the world’s standards insignificant.
But what do I do in the meantime? Despite the comforts I just described, I still have days when I’m really frustrated. And when I’m frustrated, it inevitably spills into my relationship with God. And it’s confusing, finding myself vacillating between trusting God’s provision and getting discouraged when nothing changes. Sometimes I get hung up on just asking God for things - for guidance and for signs - or just complaining to Him. Don’t get me wrong, God still wants to hear those honest petitions and expressions of anguish. But sometimes I lose track of seeking God merely for the joy of seeking him, being in his presence and knowing him better. At times my soul doesn’t long for Him, but rather for direction, an answer.
Since my time in Mexico City was so important to me, it particularly touches my heart when things I’m learning or experiencing here are affirmed by friends there. As we talked about having “eyes to see as God sees” at Immersion a few weeks ago and I processed through these thoughts, I talked to a friend in Mexico City about some of my frustrations. In response, he said “Ask God to give you understanding so that you can see what He wants you to see”. I don’t think God wants me to just see my struggles. The point of this period of my life is not just to find out the answer or the next step. As I wait for guidance and opened doors, God wants me to see the joy of a beautiful Iowa spring, of reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, of learning to salsa dance, of meeting my first niece. He wants me to see his faithfulness as he provides in his timing, and his comforting presence when everything seems messed up. And, most importantly, He wants me to see Him.
A side note: Please continue to lift up the people of Mexico City in prayer as the city is disrupted and frightened by this influenza. Thanks.
There are times I find myself facing a decision in life, a hard one, one that I do not think I can handle or control on my own, something that scares the crap out of me – I am calling this a mountain…. because, let’s be honest – that’s what it feels like.
I believe God places us in front of these mountains throughout our lives because He knows the amazing life that is on the other side waiting for us, the Promised Land. He wants us to trust Him and in doing so He wants to mold us and teach us and bless us beyond our wildest imagination. *
*Christian disclaimer: God never says life is going to be easy, but He does promise His strength for those who trust Him, fulfillment, contagious joy, peace, patience, love…. etc. Now, you can’t put a price tag on those things people!
There are 3 stages to every mountain:
1. Base Camp
2. The Climb
3. The Promise Land
The base camp is your comfort zone. Sure, it can be nice and pleasant most of the time, but there is a part of you that feels like something is missing. You see the mountain in front of you and you can’t help but think to yourself “I wonder what’s on the other side?” Sometimes I like to be in denial about the mountain in front of me. I may stay in base camp for a lot longer than I should because I’m afraid and I do not believe what God promises, because if I did, I would get off my butt! Unfortunately a lot of people stay in the base camp their entire lives, fear takes its grip and they can’t let go. This is a sad…sad thing.
The Climb is…. well, let’s be honest, it’s hard. It’s hard to trust, it’s hard to let go of your comfort zone and give up control in your life. The climb is when you say to God “okay, let’s do this!” It’s hard work, it’s a struggle, and it’s a time of great struggle but with this comes great reward, growth and excitement.
Things that will help you on your climb:
n. pl. Sher·pas- local people, guides that can help you through your climb. This could be a close friend, someone you can trust, who has great wisdom and has maybe climbed a similar mountain and can encourage you along your trek. God places these specific people in your life and uses them to encourage.
n. Symbol O– When my heart is breaking or I’m scared, it can literally be hard to breathe - can I get some air up in here!! Just saying the name of Jesus gives us breathe, he is the life giver and will always be there with us.
n.– I bet you didn’t see this one coming, ☺ it’s God’s word. The B-I-B-L-E! God spells things out for us in His word to direct us. Read it!
And finally, the Promise Land which is intended for all of us, and it’s not just when we get to heaven. It’s our sweet spot, the best God has to offer for our lives here on earth. He wants this for each and every one of us; we just have to let Him take us there. This is a life of greatest fulfillment. Maybe you know someone who is living here, they are full of life! This is what God want for you too!
Some mountains seem bigger to us than others, some are scarier to overcome, some make you want to pee your pants. ☺ However, I believe God calls us to LIVE LIFE to the fullest and I truly believe if you are bored in life, you have no one to blame but yourself!
Let’s get a climbing!!
This is something that’s been on my heart for quite a while now, and I have yet to come up with any answers as to why we do it.
Let’s face it, Christian or otherwise, people are just generally not very good at communicating with one another. Yesterday over a bowl of Potato Pepperjack Soup from South Union (outstanding soup, by the way), a friend of mine told me that her friends know that when she says, “Nothing!” that she is actually trying to say, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Everyone does this is some way or another. Smiling and nodding at someone when you’re not really interested in what they’re saying, or saying you understand someone so you don’t have to face the embarrassment of not understanding – all sorts of little lies and miscommunication.
So, if everyone does it, what’s the problem?
Well, quite a few things. For starters, lying isn’t good. Even in a casual greeting, if someone asks how you’re doing and you tell them, “Good!” when you’re really not, you lied to them. I don’t think we’re called to tell the truth unless we think that the person isn’t really interested in hearing what we have to say.
That’s just one example. But, there’s one particular behavior regarding poor communication that I am finding interesting. What I’m finding is that our propensity as people, when we’re confused by another, is to go to a third person. When someone behaves in a way that perplexes us, we go ask someone else why they did it. When a significant other is speaking another language to us, we run to a friend of the same gender for translation.
My question is: How rational is this? If you’re confused by someone, what are the odds that another person is going to understand them any better than you? Sure, they may have more reasonable assumptions than you, but they’re still just assumptions, right? Wouldn’t it be more rational to ask the person who is confusing you what they actually mean?
But, we almost never do this, and I have no idea why. I do understand that there is merit in sorting out your own feelings and thoughts with a friend. For instance, if you’re in a disagreement, sometimes it’s constructive to explain how you’re reacting to the situation to an objective third party as a “head check” to make sure you’re not being unreasonable. However, beyond that point, involving someone else can be downright destructive, and basically gossip. The inflection point is when the conversation fails to be constructive. Gossip, in English at least, is defined as “idle” talk (pointless).
I have a coworker who loves to assume he knows other people’s motives. He is convinced that everyone else is motivated by cynicism and is out to make his life miserable. I know this because, well, he tells me about it. Almost everyday I’m told how one coworker who was assigning him work was particularly condescending to him (when in reality, he was just doing his job) or how another coworker is overreacting and being a hot-head about everything towards him.
Here’s the hard question though: If he actually felt talked-down to, or irritated by perceived anger, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to talk to those people, and not me? Probably…
...Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to tell him this instead of griping about it in a blog? Probably…
Anyway, if any of you have seen the movie Doubt, you might remember this. But, I heard a cool analogy about gossip in that movie. It really challenged me to think differently about how I address situations involving a third person. It challenged me to ask myself if I really want to discuss something important and reach a conclusion, or if I just want to complain and make someone else look bad.
Here’s a paraphrase of the story based on my [questionable] memory:
A woman went to confession, and asked the priest about gossip. She explained what she had done, and asked if what she had done was really gossip. The priest told her that yes, it was gossip and that yes, she needed to confess and repent for it.
After that, he told her to go home, take a pillow from her bed, go up to the roof of her house, and stab the pillow with a knife.
She returned to the priest and he asked if she had stabbed the pillow like he asked. She told him that she had. The priest asked her what happened, and she told him that she saw feathers, tons and tons of feathers.
The priest told her to go recollect all of the feathers that had flown from the pillow. The woman responded telling him that it would be impossible. The wind had blown them in a million different places and they couldn’t possibly be found.
“THAT is gossip!” the priest replied.
So, as a fellow human being, I’d encourage you to be counter-cultural. If someone isn’t being clear with you, or you don’t understand them, do the “weird” thing and ask for more explanation. If someone is upsetting you, take some time to cool down, and then talk to them about it. They’re not easy conversations to have, but they’re necessary. The world will know we are followers of Christ by how we love one another – never forget that!
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.”
Philippians 3:12-14, “But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”
God has been teaching me a few lessons these past few weeks about my race:
1. A good diet and plenty of water are crucial. I struggle to run when I have not eaten well for the day and have not had enough water. Same goes for our spiritual races. We need to be in the Word and drinking of the Living Water for our nourishment. How is your spiritual diet?
2. It is hard to run a race facing backwards. It just does not make sense, but yet I do it in my spiritual race. So often I look back at my past mistakes and past failures rather than looking ahead at who I am now and where God is taking me in my future. I’m looking the wrong direction and find my race to be much easier when I turn around and run forward looking ahead. Are you looking back? I encourage you to focus on the race ahead and on the finish line for a much better race.
3. “90% of the race mental and 10% is physical” my coach would say. It is so true...especially in an endurance run. In the middle of a longer run I catch myself looking down at the ground in front of me rather than keeping my head up and focused on the race ahead. I also find that I start to think about how much my body aches and how tired I am rather than thinking about the finish line and how great it will feel to finish the run. In life, are we focusing on the here and now or the finish line. Do we have our eyes on the prize?
4. It is much easier to run with the wind than against the wind. Nothing is harder and more discouraging than to run directly into a strong wind. Nothing is better than having that strong wind at your back to help push you along and keep you strong. Are you running with or against the wind? I pray God will guide me and show me His path for my life so I can always run with His wind at my back. I don’t always know which way I am to go or what I am to do, but I do know I want to go God’s way because I want to run with the wind.
How is your race? Do you run each step with a purpose? What are you running for? What is the prize?
(Before I begin, let me just say that my thoughts below may not be entirely correct so I look forward to feedback either way.)
The past several weeks have been quite a journey for me in my spiritual walk with my Savior and my God. I literally drove 3,750 miles on a 3 week road trip designed to get me out of my normal routine so I could focus on what God’s plans and purposes are for my life. During the trip God and I talked about and wrestled over several questions I have about my life.
What is my calling? What is God’s will for my life? Am I in the right place? Do I need to stay or do I need to move? Who am I supposed to love? Is my girlfriend the “one”? Does God desire to bless me? Does God really have a dream for my life beyond what I could ever think or imagine?
Twenty one days with over 50 hours in a quiet car and I can tell you I really don’t think I am any closer to knowing answers to those questions now than before I left. Am I frustrated or disappointed? Absolutely not.
God didn’t give me the answers, but I did learn one really big lesson: a life of following Christ and living in God’s will is meant to be an adventure. It does not guarantee certainty and is more likely to be a life of uncertainty.
It seems too often I think that following Christ or living in God’s will for my life means I will know all the answers to my questions. The reality is God wants me to move forward in what I do know while trusting Him to take care of the rest. I do know I am called to love God and love others. Really that is all I know and basically, beyond that, it’s in God’s hands. It sounds rather pathetic at first but that is the real exciting part!
In the world of uncertainty comes a divine adventure with the God of this universe who is infinitely creative and good.
It is so easy for me to put false security in my own strength, my own abilities, my own determination when I think God calls me out of what is certain into what is uncertain. As this happens, I cannot rely on myself and I truly need to have trust and faith in Him. I realized I desire to witness miracles in my life but I never put myself in a context for them. I never let go of my own security to utterly and completely put my security into the hands of God. It’s almost like how can God perform a miracle if I never give Him the chance.
One of my main prayers over the past several weeks was that God would turn my world upside down as I put everything I hold dear into His hands. This was not easy to pray or do. I gave Him my career aspirations, I gave Him my dreams, I gave Him the love I have for my girlfriend and gave Him many other things. Again, it was not easy.
I truly felt like I imagine Abraham felt when God told him to go but did not give him a direction or did not tell him where to go. Can you imagine what that would have been like? Talk about a life of uncertainty. How did he do it?
I believe he trusted that God loved Him God and would take care of Him. In the end, that is all I can do as well...trust that God loves me and will take care of me like He promises. I am sure this will be a lifelong learning process but to say the least, I have witnessed a few miracles in my life the past few weeks.
In short, I now try to take each day for what it truly is...an adventure.
A not-so-clever play on words for you. But, it's about the feeling I get each year around this time. Either that Easter week is actually just a big disaster, or that it's some kind of disease afflicting people.
One of my wise friends once said that he feels more spiritually attacked on Easter week than any other week of the year. It sounds a bit far-fetched at first, but given what Easter is really about, it would make sense that Satan would do his best to derail us in a time like this.
[If anyone replies saying, "Why would Satan be upset about bunnies and colored eggs?" you're going to get a virtual smack upside the head.]
But seriously, for the past few years especially, on the week when I am supposed to be celebrating the resurrection and life of Jesus, the son of the living God, I've been nothing but miserable. Every petty little annoyance will get to me, every miniscule worry can bring me down, and it takes everything I have to just sit down and read God's word at night, much less pray and mean it. And I loathe feeling like this. Given all I have to be thankful for, I feel such an ungrateful scum moping around like every problem I have is worse than everyone else's.
Maybe it's being busy with worship music that doesn't give me time to just relax and recooperate. Maybe my friend was right and Satan really is tempting me away from my normal flow of life and into a despression. Who knows?
All I know is, despite the crappy feeling this week may bring for some of us, there are angels around us just waiting to us to give them a chance. If this week gets to you the way it does me, just remember that God is always alive in your brothers and sisters. Open up, tell them how you feel, and let God in.
If any of you cross paths with me this week, and I seem less than chipper, you have my permission to remind me of this! :)