Joy, Happiness, and Good Clean Fun

While the Christian life is not necessarily filled with temporal happiness, it is supposed to be filled with joy.  We all know that.  But I think we forget something – well, those of us raised in the American Protestant tradition, anyway.

Being with God is supposed to be fun.

If you read your OT, you’ll see the instructions to the children of Israel in regards to the holy days and feasts.  Do you know what they were supposed to do?  Bring their tithes of food and drink, and go to Jerusalem and have a party.  Yep.  Says to go to Jerusalem and eat and drink to the glory of the Lord.

Yes, life is full of valleys of shadow.  Places where fun just isn’t.  And we’re supposed to live righteously through those valleys.  Endure.  And those of us who fight against the follies of the flesh can forget… God made us for fun.  There *is* such a thing as good clean fun!   And we should have it.  We should make room for it.

Because we don’t have a bloodless faith, a dead faith, a faith that lies only in our minds.  We have a living God, a holy Bridegroom waiting for His bride, One who made wine and was called a glutton.  He laughed – we can laugh.

When we get our hearts right, when we get our heads right – laughter should be a part of our lives, and so should fun.

There is a time to *every* purpose under heaven.  Maybe even a snowball fight.  ;)

Not-instantaneous Process: And that’s okay

This weekend, I was emptied.  Saturday was all joy and good tired.  By the end of Sunday, my neck had locked up again and I was a mess.  This morning?  I was sore at heart and so tired.  Empty.  Beyond my capacity.

This morning, I went off on a long walk.  I have committed to having an “adventure” day where I go off and do something interesting with my body, or at least go walk somewhere without sidewalks and concrete once a week.    I miss the wilderness, my soul craves it.

I left some stress up with the eucalyptus.  And my raw parts were soothed and healed, and I started the process of filling back up.   At least a tiny bit.  I realized up there with the wind in the trees that I’ve talked about how awesome God’s work in our lives has been, but I hadn’t thanked Him directly – so I did that.  I sang a little bit.  I’m not whole, filled up and brimming over – but I’m okay.

This process of change, where I leave off the bits of me that need to go, and take up burdens, grow stronger… it’s no more fun than any physical process of strengthening has ever been.  I had to have physical therapy once upon a time.  And my PT appointments weren’t easy.  But although there was pain, there was suffering – it was okay.  I accepted that as a necessary part of the process.  So too is this.

God is giving me enough – and more than enough.  I get unexpected little grace notes all through my days and weeks.  I feel His hand, I feel His blessing, I feel His mercy.

I am very tired.  And sometimes I’m sad, and sometimes I’m overcome with joy, and sometimes I succumb to worry or anger.  But it’s okay.  I accept this change.  I know God has it in hand.  It’s okay with me that He stretches me past my comfort.  If He did not, I would not change.

At first I felt like I had it all figured out, that I’d analyzed all the things in my life that needed to change, that God was going to change.  And I listed them out and looked up expectantly and said, “Okay, so this is what needs to change, I’ll change that, we can be done, right?”  -rueful head shake-  No.  Because having some idea (some slight idea – I don’t think I know all or most of what He intends to teach me) of what must be done isn’t the same thing as building up the habits and muscles of actually doing it.  Of repetition, even under stress.

This process is going to take time.  The storm is going to hang out for a while.  And I *don’t* know what will be at the end.  I know God will work it for good, but I don’t know if it will be for *my* good or not.  I don’t feel any assurance about any of the stuff the prosperity preachers would tell you to feel assured of.  But it’s okay.  It’s okay.

Because God didn’t ask me for that kind of faith.  God asked me to submit to Him, to follow Him where He takes me.  I don’t have to beat myself up for not being someone I’m not … yet.  I don’t have to finish this test in half an hour.  I can’t.  I can just let this roll over me, and go forward.  His will be done.  I know He’ll do good with me, because that’s who He is.

It’s okay.  And it’s okay that I’m not enjoying it.  It’s okay.  I’m not in control.

He works all things together for good

Romans 8: 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Have you ever sat down with that verse and really contemplated it?  It promises that God will work everything out for good for those who love Him.

Things it doesn’t promise:

- Temporal good.  It doesn’t say, “Love God and find a Rolls Royce in your driveway”.  There are plenty of very poor Christians, Christians going through dark times, Christians whose entire lives are lived in pain.  If it meant “temporal good”, Peter’s epistles would be contradictory and we could assume that all the martyrs were unsaved.  That’s not just wrong, it’s offensive.

- That the good that is worked is for you.  So…. when you’re old and sick and have to be cared for, your mind has returned to childhood and you think your nurse was your elementary school crush… exactly what life lesson are you learning?  You’re not.  But maybe your nurse, son, daughter, grandchild… maybe they’re learning things they couldn’t learn without your physical existence.

I believe, because God loves us, that He doesn’t count our tears as cheap coin.  I do believe He 1) values things that we do not and 2) is capable of investing that coin in ways we could never imagine.  We have been encouraged to think that our lives are only about us… so my tears, my pain – they’re about me.  And they relate to my immediate problems.  But what if my pain isn’t a lesson for me, or *only* a lesson for me?  What if I need to be changed not for what I want right now, but for a way in which I can serve him 50 years from now?

There is a temptation to make God smaller, to make His ways more understandable.   It’s not a bad thing to search for the lessons in life’s storms, to eagerly seek out the changes God wants us to make.  Which one of us is perfect?  Which one of us could not spend more time in awe, watching God work all around us?  No, that’s a good thing.  But when we *reduce* the effect of the storm to the immediate, we can reduce ourselves to bargaining with almighty God.  “If I submit to You, then You will do this thing I’ve been wanting You to do”.  Well, maybe not.  Maybe that wasn’t the point.   

God is capable of taking your storm and affecting you, and your neighbor, and someone you’ll never meet 100 years from now (does He tarry that long).   You can eagerly submit to His will, eagerly follow Him wherever He leads you – and those are good responses, right responses.  

But as I submit now, kneeling in the dust I realize… my submission, my desire to do whatever pleases Him… those things aren’t going to make the storm stop.  Because it’s not all about me.

Trackback:  http://lovingintheruins.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/fixing-what-you-can-fix-2/  Thanks for helping me find some words.

Elul, Rosh Hashanah, and Life

I went through a couple of years where I observed the Biblical holidays with a crew I was hanging out with online.  It was weird and felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes, so I stopped, excepting Passover.  It’s not that I don’t think those are the real holy-days, because I do.  It’s just.. well. Give it a try some year – celebrate a year’s worth of holidays that you’ve never celebrated before.  Be sure to confuse all your friends and relations by making them try new traditions.  Anyway.  I have the holy days marked on my calendar – but the run ups?  Nope.

I popped over to one of my buddies’ blogs and she mentioned that this was the month of Elul.  My response was, “Well.  -swearword-”  Why?  Because *this* has described my month perfectly.  (from chabad.org)

As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and stocktaking—a time to review one’s deeds and spiritual progress over the past year, and prepare for the upcoming “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashanah andYom Kippur.

As the month of divine mercy and forgiveness, Elul is a most opportune time forteshuvah (“return” to G‑d), prayer, charity, and increased ahavat Yisrael (love for a fellow Jew), in the quest for self-improvement and coming closer to G‑d.

Wha?  So I’m preparing for a new year?  And I went through that spiritual inventory because I felt the need but somehow it was totally timely?  Extra helpings of introspection and looking at the changes I need to make?  Oh.  Well NoBloodyWonder, then.  

I’ll be celebrating Rosh Hashanah this year, properly.  Because the Jewish year 5775 is going to be a big one for me.

I’ve been processing through a lot of emotion and doing a lot of thrashing around and complaining.  Hey, my best friend/sister of my heart has stage three breast cancer (at least, testing still happening).  That’s a lot to process.   She’s moving four doors up after years of trying to find a house… and it’s fallen out that she’ll be moving in when she starts chemo.  Yeah, my life is about to change.  (Hers too, but part of MY process is leaving other people to their own processes).

I’ve talked endlessly about being task oriented rather than trying to steer.  Well, this is my year to learn.  I’m going to be given the opportunity to stay so busy that keeping my eyes on my own paper (hattip: St. Velvet) is going to get a lot easier.  Even so, I have a choice.  I can thrash around on the line like I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks (I can’t believe we only found out on the 19th), and I can end 5775 with my faults magnified… I’ll be 10lb heavier, more stressed out, my kids will have another sucky year in school, and I won’t have gotten one step further along in my professional/personal development.

OR

I can use my good brain and the gifts God has given me to bless my BFF, and then let Him do what He’s going to do.   I can do the things that come so very easily to me – after a lifetime managing a house, I can feed a couple of extra mouths without noticing – and I can make time for her.   I can stay task oriented and continue to take care of my own stuff – continue to stay on top of my kids’ schoolwork.  Continue to take care of my body and take exercise daily.   Continue to spend serious time in my sewing room and think hard about what I’m going to do next and how to get there.  In other words, I can do what God has called me to and stop trying to steer.  (He’s peeling my hands off a couple other steering wheels here too, to my mingled amusement and discomfort).

It’s my choice – will I choose to let God do what He intends to do in my life, one day at a time, one task at a time?  Or will I sit here and fidget and fuss?  

So.  I will celebrate Rosh Hashanah this year, not because I think 5775 will be a year without tears, a year without stress, a year without sorrow… but because I choose to let God use this time to change me, to transform me into the woman He wants me to be (at least the woman He wants me to be in 5776).  I’ll raise my glass to THAT.

May God’s will be done.  

 

 

 

(PS RH starts the evening of the 24th, and we should all just be getting started with the way we’ll be doing things this year about then).

The Art of Letting Go

I’m an interfering wench… I mean, doesn’t all of life work so much better if I’m right there to pet it and cajole it and help it along?  No?  Are you *sure*?  Hm.

It’s hard for me to do my work and then let go and walk away.  I wouldn’t write so much about how necessary and blessed it is if I didn’t have it in front of my face!  It is especially hard for me because my “work” tends not to be physical work – I’ve never had a problem just cleaning something or doing work for an employer and walking away when it was done.  Finis!  No, I’m talking about emotional work, or “helping” work – you know, the “I’ll make life nice for this person” stuff.  Figuring out when you’re done and you need to step back is tricky.  

For me, the trick tends to be concentrating on God-as-employer.  God’s my boss – so I want to do all things as unto Him.  But I also must surrender my specific tasks to Him… so it’s not “I should make everything perfect for X” – no, my job is to “bake a cake” or “have this phone conversation”.   Do you see the difference?  I see it, but oh it’s hard to just stop after the job is done.  I can see so much more than needs work!  I’m an emotional workaholic.  -rueful laughter-  You know what that indicates?  That I’m working for *myself* – my own sense of satisfaction – not working for God.  (Ouch, btw).

I have been thinking of this in the context of … well, everything… but especially in the context of BFF and her cancer.  I’d LOVE to go just go barge in and arrange their lives for them.  But that’s *not* my job – in fact, if I start doing that, I’ll interfere with the lessons that God is trying to teach them during this time of trial.  I can do lots of helpful things, but they have to be tasks, not systems.  

The next year of my life is going to be full of lessons.  For one thing, I think I just figured out why all my church volunteerism has been put on the backmost backburner.  Guess maybe I had other work waiting for me.  Heck, even my pastor “magically” decided to preach through Ecclesiastes.  Who’s ever heard of a preacher preaching through that book on Sunday morning?  

God really DOES have everything coordinated.  I don’t like it – so many, many ways in which I don’t like it – but that’s really not my problem, now is it?

Not today’s verse, but the passage that was chosen for the front of our announcement page………

 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

Play your part in the orchestra of life, play it with all your might, and don’t worry about directing.  Surrender. 

I’m not going to lie and say I’m doing this very well, but I do know what I have to do.  

God’s Got This

I’m hurting today.  My BFF has cancer and every time we get news, it seems like the news gets worse.  Other stuff going on, just normal stressors that show up because you’re alive.  It’s been a really tense month … and it seems like most of the people I know are going through similar times.  

But because I’m a woman of faith, I keep my eyes open… always looking for the “why” and “how is God working through this” and watching to see how God’s orchestra of life brings in one instrument or another at a particular time and place for a particular reason.

I’ve already seen a couple of things start blooming out of K’s cancer diagnosis, and some really unexpected harmonics are happening.  It’s God’s timing.  He’s got this.

It’s hard.  So HARD to rest in Him and the head-knowledge that He does love us, more than we love ourselves, more than we love each other… and that He won’t ever waste our pain or the rocky places we struggle through.   He will work things ’round so that we’re just gaping at His awesomeness and His glory and His love.

But.  We have to watch and keep our eyes peeled, so that we can appreciate the whole symphony… not just the bits that we find most pleasant or most impressive.  

That doesn’t change that quite frankly, I’m a mess today.  I’m stressed, my shoulders are tight, I didn’t sleep well.  But this will pass.  This is going to be a rocky day – we’re going off to the doc for the Big Appointment, where the treatment plan gets laid out and questions get asked, etc.  Is it fun?  No.  But we’ll come out the other side.  God *does* have this sorted, and if He’s allowing it, it’s for a reason.  Probably reasons, plural.  He’s like that.

I know that.  I trust Him totally.  It still hurts, but I trust my Lord.

God’s got this.