Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Confident Uncertainty

I am becoming more and more
comfortable with uncertainty.
For so many years, I wanted to know
just how everything was going to work out.
And so I adhered to certain “formulas"
to make sure nothing went wrong.

Then life started happening in ways
that I didn’t expect that it would.
I was grounded in the fact that
if I did X, I would get Y.
So when Y didn’t happen, I began
questioning everything that was X.
Unmet expectations mess up the way we see.

Expectations are often based on formulas:
I do this and that happens. 
But the Bible isn’t a book about formulas;
it is a book about Love.
Love God and love your neighbor.
Let mercy triumph over judgment.
Clothe yourselves with compassion, 
kindness, gentleness and humility.

When we focus on doing X so that
we get Y, we can also believe that 
people not doing X will never get Y.
We can begin to believe there is only a 
particular way of doing certain things.
So we get judgmental. Superior.
We forget about Love.

Others' decisions are going to look different  
from the ones we make. They’re supposed to.
We do the best we can and trust that God
is good even if we, or they, get it wrong.
If love and mercy and care and
compassion and gentleness guide us,
then we can accept all the challenges 
confronting us in life, all the differences 
we encounter, and all the uncertainty
we face every single day.
It’s called faith in the goodness of God
and trust that He works all things
together for good.

It’s not a formula, but it works every time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Broken Open

“After breaking open the jar, 
she poured it out…" 

So much in life—loss, rejection, failure—
can leave us feeling broken.
It can take a while to realize it’s not about
being broken; it’s about being broken open.

We spend a lot of our lives self-contained.
We give what we must, but mostly we are
holding on to what we have to survive.
With responsibility and commitments, 
we can feel like we have nothing left to give.

I think that's normal in our earlier years.
But over time, the trials of life begin to
deconstruct the container.
Things aren't working like they once did,
and maybe not much looks like we thought.

Mostly, our hearts hurt and we wonder
what happened and what went wrong.
Until we see that nothing is really wrong;
we are just seeing that things are 
much bigger than we thought they were.

The larger perspective that we're
beginning to see is one which can hold
everything together by love and mercy
and grace and compassion. And we are
the containers for those precious oils,
needed desperately by everyone who breathes.
It’s paradoxical that the precious jar 
is most useful when broken open.
It has taken many years to blend 
together the oils that the jar contains.
They are indeed expensive.
When we begin to see their value,
though, we care less about the cost.

People don’t care so much  
about what we hold dearly,
they care about what we give freely.
They may not care about our opinions and
really don't care about our political views. 
But there aren’t many who don’t want
our love, compassion, grace, and mercy.
We can pour those out all day long.

It’s what broken open vessels do best.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Confident in Uncertainty

"Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation...
present your requests to God."

Do not be anxious about ANYTHING.
These days I can find it hard not to
be be anxious about everything...
no matter where I look, something
tempts me to give in to anxiety.

When distracted by an unruly thought,
and I forget that prayer shifts my focus,
I become a magnet for others like it. 
And I find myself overwhelmed with
anxious thoughts. And eroding faith.

It takes courage to stand in uncertainty, 
"confident that I will see God's 
goodness in the land of the living."
Regardless of what I am facing, 
what those I love are facing, 
or what this nation is facing.
Prayer gets us to the place of still waters, 
where anxiety cannot thrive.
And we hear Him say, 
"I will fight for you and you can be still."
I need to be still today.

His promise of peace is my assurance 
for a sound mind, a steadfast heart, 
and a still spirit in the midst of the swirl.
My peace magnifies the worth of the gospel 
and opens a crack for someone 
to come in and say,
What are you hoping in?

My hope is Him.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Can We Continue to Love in Hope?

Hope is being able to see that 
there is light despite all of the darkness. 
Desmond Tutu
Trying to make sense out of this season,
for me personally and for all 
that's swirling around us.
It can be hard to wrestle with all the 
thoughts that fly at us in a day.

I was reading a book by Henri Nouwen 
and identified one of the swirling thoughts.
friend had asked him if he thought
humanity would survive the century.
A question certainly relevant today.

"But important for me is not if 
our civilization will survive or not 
but if we can continue to live with hope."

He went on to say that because the Lord
promised to stay with us at all times, 
we must always live with hope. 
And in spite of all the chaos that surrounds us,
we have to avoid the temptation of despair,
becoming more aware that God is present.

And I realized how easily I let go of hope.
In spite of all "the chaos that surrounds us,"
all the challenges I face personally,
all the things I can't seem to fix,
all that seems wrong in this nation,
all the scandals, lies, vitriol rhetoric,
division, hatred, and fear based accusations--
we must remember a bigger perspective.

So, we look up instead of down,
up instead of out there, up instead of in here.
Whatever we face personally or
what we face as a nation.
He is with us. Every single day.
Our hope matters.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Only the Best and Beautiful

“He learned by experience that one
train of thought left him sad, the other joyful--   
his first reasoning on spiritual matters.” 

Oh, the power of our thoughts.
We are told to fill our minds and
meditate on the best, not the worst; 
the beautiful, not the ugly.
"Do that, and God will work you into
His most excellent harmonies."

Meditating on the best and the beautiful...
My natural tendency is to play everything
out to its worst and ugliest conclusion.
You know, just so I'm not caught off guard.

But every thought comes with
an emotion attached. And worrisome
thoughts come with the worst: fear.
Fear puts our bodies into fight or flight--
stress—wreaking havoc on our bodies. 

I am convinced Philippians 4 offers us
one of God's most loving commands.
We can focus on the bad, the things
we don’t want, or things we're afraid of.
And suffer all the consequences of that.
Or we can find something good to
think about. And allow God "to work
us into His excellent harmonies."

I don't want physical pain, emotional 
pain from the past, or fears concerning
the future to shape this day.
This day will be shaped by what I 
decide is excellent and beautiful.
His news is always good news.
Once again, I decide that His thoughts
are better than mine. Always better.
"Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.” Ps 23:6
A beautiful, true, and excellent thought--
the one I'm going with today.

Friday, September 2, 2016

When a Season Becomes a Time

So, heres the thing about a season:
it lasts three months.
When the dark days of winter come,
I remind myself that it's not forever.

But this past "season of broken” 
has been hanging on longer than that. 
Sometimes we go through something that
 doesn’t have a natural counterpart.
It’s not so much a season; it’s a time.
Two things I know about this “time."
The first is that I am not in control of it.
And the second is that I need His radical
grace and His love more than ever.
His love is changing my eyes, the way I see.
Love never gives up, never loses faith,
is always hopeful, and endures through
every circumstance.

The more I walk this broken road, 
the more I am convinced that love must be
the foundation of all we do, think, and are.
Because it is the foundation of the universe.

I don’t want to love more so that I’m better,
more moral, or more acceptable to God.
I want to love because God is love.
"Therefore love. Without distinction, without
calculation, without procrastination..." 
Henry Drummond

As we allow His love to heal our broken,
and His radical grace to fill our souls,
perhaps the only thing we have to give  
to the walking wounded all around us 
is the same love and grace that we receive. 

"Even before He made the world,
God loved us…"
This is a “time” to be still and know
the love of God for the world He made.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What Love Does

My commandment is this—
to love one another.  John 15

Jesus commands us to love others:
Christians, neighbors, enemies.
"Love others like you love yourself."
We can only do this if we know His love.
Left to itself, our larger than life ego 
will always want to be all we need.

Most of Jesus’ teachings address the ego.
Don't be judgmental, angry, or greedy.
Don’t seek revenge or withhold forgiveness.
Love doesn't look like any of these.
Love isn't rude, angry, puffed up, 
self-serving or resentful.

Sometimes we go through a season of
brokenness where the ego has nothing to offer.
Brokenness doesn't feed the ego.
It doesn’t lead to a greater desire to judge,
criticize, preach, or be verbally aggressive.
It leads to a greater desire to be 
gracious, merciful, and kind.

Because during these seasons, we are 
sustained by His love, mercy, and kindness.
It's all we know. And it is enough.
None of us deserves the grace, 
mercy, and kindness that is Christ.
We get it anyway. 
It’s what love does.
We are living today in a broken world,
one in desperate need of love.
Oh that we might see our own broken,
and allow the love of Christ to be all we need.
Our desire to represent that love to others might
 just shut down some of the loud, opinionated,
and angry ego running wild in culture today.

His command is this: love one another.