Category Archives: Life in Christ

Stuff I want to worry about…

I realized one thing this week on my walk, and one thing tonight, working through that book that Elspeth recommended we all read this week.

Item 1:  If I need something, God is faithful to bring exactly that something into my life.  Fussing about figuring out all the details of exactly what I want is an invitation to covetous sin, and it’s stress inducing, anxiety inducing… and totally a waste of time.  God’s got this.  [Instead I should figure out what’s going on in my head and talk it out with God].

Item 2:  I am not on this earth, in this hologram, to fill every one of my dreams.  (This is very countercultural thinking).  If I think, “Gee I’d like to live somewhere else.  Where exactly do I want to live?”  You know what I’m NOT thinking?  (other than point #1)  I’m not thinking, “What was I put on this earth to do, and how can I serve God today?”  [Instead I should tell God everything, from how desperately I want to please Him to much I miss looking at trees].

….

I edited this… because I took the advice of that book and took my daydreams to God.  I was expecting to leave them on the altar, get my nose-thump, and get on with life.   I was very surprised not to get that “thump”.

Another lesson I’ve been learning lately, something from the still small voice… it’s to stop hitting myself about stuff that wasn’t sin that I’ve grown past.   Pardon my difficulty putting this in words, please.  It’s *not* that I don’t think there is stuff in my life to be sad about.  But I tend to respond to the instruction to step up to the next level by hating on myself for being on the level I’m at, or the level before that.

I am not yet perfectly grateful or perfectly trusting.  But I’m being called up, pulled up to the next stage in the growth of those virtues.   And maybe I need to be grateful for the place I’m in.  Maybe I need to be grateful for having gone through the years.  Maybe I need to trust that God is in charge of me, as I have so often begged Him to be.   That though He *could* make me as virtuous as I’ll be the day I die… today… that that’s just not how He does it.

Maybe I need to rest and go forward and stop turning ’round on this walk so I can throw stones at the woman I was a year ago.  Maybe I need to extend love and forgiveness to myself, as well as to others.   Maybe I should laugh at myself and resume the dance… and maybe in being in this moment, without denying my dreams or my past, maybe in that moment, I’ll learn patience.

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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.  

Arrow Not Shield

“When we think we are in control of the results, rather than called to be obedient as we release the results to God, we will experience guilt, tension, and discouragement”. – Dee Brestin, “Idol Lies”

My main spiritual gift is exhortation.  I’m God’s little cheerleader – the friend that will come alongside you and encourage you to do whatever it is that you need to do, the one who always has the optimistic lookout, the one who will smile while she kicks you in the rear.   I do that unofficially, I’m going to start doing that officially soon (finally found the right people to connect with at church… mentorship program here I come).  I enjoy being who God made me.

But it is VERY easy for me to fall into thinking that I have some control over the outcome.  I don’t!  Even when I’m working with someone hand-in-hand for years at a go, I don’t have control.  When I start believing that I control the results, and that the results have something to do with *me*… well, I get discouraged.  (It’s always the reverse of your best gift that is your worst sin – I’ve swallowed despair’s lies a time or two, to my shame).

I’ve been in a period of mostly short-term missions, where I’ve been learning to open myself up to just bringing a little of God’s light where ever He points me.  And thus He’s taught me to be an arrow.  Fly swift, straight, obedient to His direction. Do what I’m supposed to do, say what I’m told to say, pray and love and embrace and encourage.  God gave me the gift of love – I love easily and naturally.   It makes exhortation easy – I love very nearly everyone, so naturally I want their best.  It’s not like I can help it.  :p

But love makes me protective.  And I am not supposed to protect.  I got hit with that 2×4 today while doing my study.  I’ve been burdened with unforgiveness for someone who hurt someone I love for decades – I kept willing to forgive, doing the work, praying… and finally it broke today.  I was using that unforgiveness, that old hurt, to hold “strong” so that I could protect.   (Pretty sad source of strength, oh well).

But the Lord is her shield.  Not me.  The Lord is MY shield.  And all my loved ones – if they belong to God, they’re shielded by Him.  He never asked me to stand in His place – that’s His job. I need to let go.    He is the avenger of blood, He is justice, He will protect.  Not me.  Never have I been asked to do these things – I wasn’t made for that.  

To be who God called me to be, I need to be able to give my very best and then leave the results to Him.   To open my hands and to trust in the God who loves more than I could ever imagine loving.   I need to keep my eyes open to opportunities to do right – I’m being challenged to really step up in maturity – but I don’t have to carry the weight of the results.  Not my burden.   I’m just an arrow – I have to drop the burdens so that I can fly whereever the Lord chooses to send me.

So… time to fly!

Otherworldly Thinking

In this world, we’re told to:  Make our own destinies.  Take action.  Steer the course for our lives.  We’re told that we *should* control our situations, our surroundings.

It’s very counter-cultural to be willing to cast all cares aside and trust utterly in God.  And it’s *not easy*.  It should be.  But it is an otherworldly way of thinking, and it is a battle.  Ah, yes.  We’re supposed to take every thought captive.  But those captives can make quite a noise behind their prison walls….

I want to be something I’m not yet.  I want to be like that hermit on the hill who trusts God to bring him food and drink, sunshine and rain, joy and meaning.  I want to soar effortlessly along, flying on wings of faith.

“I want” is always a problem, is it not?  🙂  Are we humans ever satisfied? Satisfied with ourselves, satisfied with our surroundings?

I look at myself and I am displeased.  I make the mark, “Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” and I fall short.  (Duh).   And I grit my teeth and shove hard on that prison door, leaning on it to hold it closed.   Instead I should be holding this verse to heart…

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Instead of holding the prison door with my strength, perhaps I should take those thoughts captive so I can hand the string over to Christ and have done.  Not burying the worries, but surrendering them.  Surrendering them over and over again – as often as they come up.  Talking things out with Him, not just confessing anxiety.

Not every moment of life can be easy.  For me, being patient in a time of change is terribly difficult.   It doesn’t have to be easy, it doesn’t have to look easy.   Because I have hope.  Hope not in the change, but hope in Christ, that whatever comes will be beautiful.   All this *will* pass………………

It’s positively otherworldly, to let it go and not try to hang on and steer.

Love and Courage

I was thinking about the paladining thing again today…. and was called to read 1 John 3.

1 John 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. (NASB)

Sometimes I get sucked into this world’s wisdom, and wonder, “should I play it safe, should I put up the defenses and concentrate on my own life”?  And … that’s not Biblical.  Sure, we should concentrate on purifying ourselves as He is pure (also in 1 John 3) but … for what purpose?  It’s not for the purpose of our salvation, we know that our works of righteousness are as filthy rags to our Lord.

Looked up the word love as it is used in this verse … Quoting from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, in regards to agapao (love/charity):

“Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered.  Love seeks the welfare of all (Romans 15:2) and works no ill to any, (Romans 13:8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,’ (Galatians 6:10).

Love is about putting ourselves out there to do good stuff for those around us.  It doesn’t matter how we *feel* about it.  And we’re *commanded* to love.  That’s the Big One.

God never EVER told us to make nice safe pleasant lives for ourselves.  He told us to go out there and love others, as He has loved us.

God is ultimately in control of my safety and well-being.  He is the creator of the Universe.  Control is an illusion… the gunshots I heard the other night could have come through my bedroom wall and sent me directly to Heaven, no stopping along the way.  But they didn’t.  The wave that I dived under today could have broken my neck.  A shark could have swam up and eaten me.   A car could have hit me – good heavens, I drive on I-5 regularly, that’s probably the most death-defying thing I could manage!

So – since my safety is in God’s hands, what’s really in my hands is what I do with my days, hours and life…………..

I will love.

 

Culture Shock

I’ve written a bit about this before – how conservative Christians are going through something akin to culture shock, because the larger culture is writing our static sense of morality as a failure to stand by the Christian values of love and kindness. It’s terribly painful, the more so when we know that it isn’t true. We aren’t always NICE – but we do actually do things for those less fortunate, so we’re probably kind and loving.

But why do they attack us? Why not the Amish or Mennonites, with whom we have 90% agreement on things Scriptural? Because the Amish are not a power. They’re quaint. Conservative Christians did hold a great deal of power, and people who say that they are Christians still do.

We are, as is everyone else alive, manipulated by the currents of society. We allowed ourselves to be shooed into one “team” – and social media has done one thing exceptionally well, and that’s reduced dialog between intelligent people to teams chanting fight songs. All of us – conservative and liberal, Christian, Pagan, Jew and Gentile… we’ve been reduced to teams.

The opposing team (or teams) sees us as a team to be deposed, a power (a dangerous, not-to-be-trusted power) to topple, an enemy to vanquish. If we are lucky, they merely wish to reeducate us.

And so we find ourselves, having lost the culture wars, being treated like any other fallen foe. We were expecting a frontal attack, we were the victims of a whisper campaign. Confused, upset, acting out… trying to win hearts that have been seduced away by bread and circuses.

But we have a way through. We can come together around the person of Jesus Christ. I might disagree with some of you about daily practice – but we can agree about who He is, what He does, and that He is in charge. We can circle up the wagons and worship our Lord together. We can hold each other up in prayer, we can encourage one another, we can strive to bless one another.

And then – then, with our hearts gladdened, we can remind each other that this is not our home… and that our enemies aren’t flesh and blood. Not one of those people who hates us so much is truly our enemy. They are all potential siblings in Christ, all potential members of our family. We have been given instructions for such a time as this – all we have to do is open our Bibles and read. And then love. Love those folks spitting in our faces. Love them and welcome them with open arms when they hear the Lord’s call.

Whether we believe that this is the time of the end, and soon our Lord will call us Home, or if we believe that this is just another time of trial to walk through, the Church as a whole *will* be on the other side of this change. We know that to be true. So let us stand firm.

We can see and deal with the stages of grief as the world hands us the black hats… but let us hold the regard of this world loosely. It was never *this* world that was made to love us, and we can never lose the Love we have been given.

Nothing may be “normal” again – normal doesn’t matter. God does.