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.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Walking with the Eagles

Those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They soar like eagles, run and don’t get tired, 
walk and don’t lag behind. Is 40:31

New day, new challenges, fresh strength.
In the spiritual and in the physical, it takes
fresh strength to even walk sometimes.
But even as others may be soaring and running
all around us, we are NOT lagging behind.

I have run enough 10Ks and other races to
know I have never been a fan of lagging.
I trained hard so as not to be a “lagger."
But today is not about training;
it's about receiving.

God wants to give us all fresh strength.
It provides the grace we need to 
think positively, to hold on to hope, 
to choose mercy, and to believe 
that love always wins.
We desperately need these every day--
whether soaring, running 
or barely walking.
Yesterday’s strength is never sufficient
for what today holds in store.
But with fixed eyes, and waiting hearts,
He pours out fresh strength for 
where ever we are...NOW.
This race isn’t about natural turf one bit.

Today I'm walking with the soaring eagles.
Neck and neck.

Friday, July 29, 2016

When It Doesn't Look Like Summer

Sometimes we go into a season where
God allows “things" to be stripped away.
And, sometimes, that happens in the middle
of summer, where we seem out of sync 
with the world around us. 

I want to bloom, I want to flourish, 
I want to see what I expected to see.
Instead, all I know is that I’m not feeling
anything like the summer around me. 

Sometimes strength isn't bold and bright.
Sometimes it's quiet and barren.
Because that's what strength 
in weakness can look like.
It’s a quiet voice that says, 
“Don’t give up. I will cause you
to bloom again. It is called My Mercy."

Mercy, grace, and love are the
truest things I know right now--
and He is using them to "life" me.
Maybe a bloom will pop on a cold
winter day when everything else is waiting. 
The resurrection happened once,
that it might happen every single day.
So I feel a little out of sync, a little broken,
a little afraid of the quiet, a little vulnerable.
I choose to trust that He’s got this--
barren places will bloom again.

I focus on the beauty all around me.
 Summer is really not a bad season
to be going through winter.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Climb

When Jesus saw the crowds, 
He climbed a hillside. 
Those who were apprenticed to Him, 
the committed, climbed with Him.
Matthew 5:1-2

Jesus was about to deliver the Beatitudes,
the moral code of the new Law.
It would be harder to fulfill than the old.
His apprentices needed to climb to hear.

That "new" moral code still challenges us--
clinging to the law seems easier at times.
Climbing up with Him is the only way that 
living beyond law is even remotely possible.

"The simple moral fact is that words kill.
Making your speech more religious 
makes it less true. If someone takes 
unfair advantage of you, 
practice the servant life.
Love your enemies. 
Dont judge or you'll be judged.
God gives His best to everyone.
Grow up. Live generous and gracious 
toward others, the way God lives toward you."
Oh dear.
Sometimes "the committed" 
have forgotten to climb.
We have used words that kill hearts.
We have used Christian rhetoric 
void of love, filled with judgment.
We haven't given our best to everyone.
We have been stingy.

He is loving, generous, and gracious
to us, and we must be that to others.
The "committed" must climb up with Him
and refuse to come down.
Because up is not only better;
it is utterly requisite.

It is only there that we learn to
both receive and give the gift of mercy.
"God's mercy carries the day." Ps 52:1

Sunday, June 12, 2016

When "Reality" Strikes

Most of us know that we need to 
keep our thoughts positive.
But sometimes, our eyes are 
staring reality in the face, and
we see things that say otherwise.

Some days the loss, struggle, illness, 
disappointment or failure are all we can see.
On these days, it can be hard to require
our weary minds to see differently.

When our circumstances overwhelm us,
our focus must funnel to this present moment.
We mishandle the gift of this moment when
we cross the borders into the past or future.
We have to fence in our thoughts--
NOW is the only dimension they may go.

When we stay within the borders of NOW,
we can stand in the eye of any storm.
The Holy Spirit always leads us beside
the still waters of this present moment.
And, here, our eyes see clearly and
our thoughts become right.
NOW is the only safe dimension, 
and we must choose it all day long.
When "reality" strikes, we must make
adjustments to ensure we are standing in 
the sacred stillness of this present moment.

 God deals out joy 
in the present, in the now.
Ecc 5:19 (Message)

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Yes In Us

All God’s promises are stamped with the
Yes of Jesus. In Him...God’s Yes and 
our Yes together. God puts His Yes within us.
 2Cor 1:20
When we look face-on into a promise of God,
our only option must be to add our Yes. 
He put His Yes within us. It must come out.

The world we live in says that
No is the more realistic option.
Everyday, the negativity around us
makes it hard to focus on Yes.
So God tells us to think about things
that are good, pure, honorable, lovely.

This protects the Yes within us and
keeps us in integrity, or wholeness. 
When I am off somewhere,
it's because a murmuring No 
is fighting with an unwavering Yes.

He says Yes to this moment, to hope, 
peace, strength, healing, provision.
To His love revealed in Christ. To grace.
Is that what I'm thinking?
We must guard our thoughts with all we got.
They are roadblocks between us and Yes.

Yes is a "road" word,
not exclusive to sacred spaces,
but for every now moment we are in.
That little word can be hard to hear
when focusing on tomorrow. 
But when we're present NOW,
we can more clearly hear the Yes within.

Our thoughts on the good. 
Our focus on the present.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Speaking to the Superpowers

"My circumstances cannot preach to me 
who God is." ~daily conversation, me to myself

Day after day circumstances try to preach.
My mind is always on the pulpit pointing out
all the challenges going on around me.
The conclusion is usually something 
about not being able to trust my God.

Like bionic superpowers,
my thoughts never take a second off;
"Here's what we think, how we feel,
what makes us mad, sad, and afraid."
They are up and running. All. Day. Long.

In the garden, Adam and Eve only knew good.
That's how God described everything.
When they ate off the tree of knowledge,
they were introduced to evil.
The word for evil, Ra’, doesn't just mean bad.
It carries the sense of misery, grief and sorrow.

God didn't want us exposed to all that,
but those consequences are permanent.
So we’re warned about our thoughts.
Ephesians 4:23 tells us clearly:
"If there is anything good...
think about these things."
God always intended us to know good.

If we sit under the tree of Ra', we can
get consumed with sorrow and misery.
But the Tree of Life gives us knowledge of
the pure, the lovely, the excellent, the good,
and we are to fix our thoughts here.
"Then the peace of God will be with you."
Our circumstances will never lead to
His peace. But thoughts fixed on His
goodness lead us there every time.

We must be the ones who say,
"Here is what we think today."
End of story.