Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Personality Plus

The people in the Bible lived outrageous lives.

Some lived to be over 800 years old.  Jonah was swallowed by a fish.  Noah and all those animals.  Moses’ amazing feats.  Jesus’ disciples hung out with him after his death. 

I’ve seen enough crazy stuff in my life to believe all of them.

And why not?  God can do anything.  If he wants to make whacko stuff happen, he can.  He sort of corners the market on doing whatever he wants.  I’m amazed and thankful everyday that he’s able to do all of it for good.

The stuff that really makes me wonder, though, is what was in the heads of the people in these stories?

We sort of know what Jonah was thinking about after being swallowed by a fish – his book is sort of like a diary.  But what was Noah thinking when the animals started coming?  How about when Moses raised his hand and the sea parted?  Was he jazzed by this?  Did he try it out later with a cup of water, under the cover of his tent?

Were these people like OMG that was amazing I want to do it again?  Maybe except for Jonah.

Or were they totally together, fully confident in their abilities with God at the steering wheel?  Like people today who do things like chase tornados and free sex slaves and jump from helicopters into enemy territory and stuff like that? 

How was David able to stand against Goliath?  What was he thinking?  We know that he was confident that God was with him overall, but he was human, wasn’t he?  There had to have been some small part of him that was like “This is nuts, what am I doing?”

I love thinking about the people in the Bible.  They were regular humans, experiencing life as we do.  Maybe the details aren’t the same between us, but they lived and breathed and ate and drank and interacted and worked and loved and cried, just like the rest of us.  Did they know they’d be in this book someday, that their lives would be used as stories to teach generations of people about life and faith and God?

None of us know how we really influence others during our lifetimes.  Most of us will not have books written about our lives.

But we all have the opportunity to live our lives according to the instructions God gives us, just as our favorite Bible characters did.  We can use their lives as examples of how to live our own, and we can model our faith after theirs.  They were chosen by God to teach us the lessons he wants us to learn.  Despite whatever was going on in their heads at the time, they are the ones that we look at when we are going through something similar.

I might have a Goliath to face today.  Will I standing tall before it, drawing on the power of God to face it head on like David?  Am I relying on God to clear the obstacle ahead of me like Moses?

Truth is, I don’t know.  Do any of us know what we will do at the moment of crisis?  Our plans and expectations may change in an instant; we may find that we’re not as brave as we thought.  We may even find that our faith wasn’t as strong as we thought.

It’s sobering and humbling to know that what we think and how we act could be two very different things.  I’ve proven that to myself many times over.

I don’t trust myself to follow through every time.  But I do trust God, and I pray that he strengthens my faith enough to withstand trouble when it comes.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

At A Loss

For the past four or five years I’ve kept a journal of daily devotions.  It’s a good habit that I started for Lent one year to avoid having to give up something that I really enjoy.

Also because I don’t understand how holiness begins with giving up chocolate.

I read a page of a devotional book every day (I read Our Daily Bread, or ODB for short, which reminds me of this rapper in the 90’s named Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and now you know the types of connections that form in my mind), reflect on it, and write about it in a notebook.  The reflections aren’t always groundbreaking, nor are most particularly deep or revealing.  Many of my thoughts on the devotions are featured here as blog posts.

But recently, eh, I haven’t really been feeling it, you know what I mean?

My good habit has become more habit and less good.

It happens in life: you start out doing something that is good for you, whether putting the effort into a new relationship or exercising or going to church, and eventually you find yourself going through the motions and your relationship stalls, your exercise routine stops yielding results and during prayer time at church you’re looking around to see who else is at church instead of actually praying.


It’s where I’m finding myself lately.  Sort of flailing, sort of bored, sort of at a loss for spiritual insight.

My journal (and I feel like this blog, too) reads like a watered-down manifesto of Sunday School lessons: Trust the Lord.  Life is hard, but God can help.  We need to seek God’s help in everything.  Thank you, Lord, for helping me.  God is good.  God is great.  Let us thank him for our food.  Amen.

Okay.  That last one isn’t in there.

But you get the point – my spirit life is a little meh, a little boring, a little too many words and not enough of anything else.

And I’m having a little trouble getting beyond it.   

Usually when a person finds herself stagnating, the natural response is to change it up.  Start doing something differently. 

I’ve done it before.  I’ve changed up the routine, found a new way.  But it seems that the more I chase things that are new, the more often I need to find another one.  Something isn’t right.  It isn’t a good fit.  It burns out quickly and I am back at the beginning again.

I don’t want to spend my life chasing new and different.  Even “A Relationship With God” is just a thing if you say the words but don’t do anything with them.

Maybe all those devotionals where my only response is “Trust the Lord” and “Seek God” count for something.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What'd I Miss?

The boys in my family want to know all of the details, all of the time.

Neither likes to miss anything.  They like to know what happened, what’s going on now, and what will happen.  And they ask questions.  Questions about the details.  The questions, people.  They are real, and they are many.

I am not like this.  No news is good news.  Spare me the details.  I’d rather not know.  Only tell me if necessary.  I think this stems from a) having endless questions hurled at me since becoming a mom, b) the limitless quantity of information in the world, and c) my desire to not be in charge of all the details.

I’m burned out on details.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of conversations that go like this: “I have something to tell you, but it’s a secret, so you can’t tell anybody, but there’s this person, and I can’t tell you who it is, but they did something, and I can’t tell you what they did, but it was bad.  Very, very, bad.  And we need to talk about it.”

And that, friends, is the worst.  In my mind I am filling in the blanks of whatever story you’re trying not to tell me, and let me tell you, those details are much more graphic and depraved than anything you’re trying to keep secret.

So don’t tell me.  I don’t want to know.

As a result, I miss a lot.

And that’s okay.  I’m a simple girl.  I can count on my fingers the amount of things I do every day.  I like to see empty spaces on the calendar.  I like to have big, open areas in the day to fill in when the time comes.  Or not, if need be.

I only have a vague idea about what's in the news.  I hear chatter about things in the world, like sextraffickingweatherpatternswarstrifeextremistgroupsviolenceracerelationschildrendyingdiseasepovertyhatecrimesrecessioncorruption
and I know I have missed a lot of what most people think are important because I don’t pay attention to the details about The Issues.  The World Events.  The Way Things Are Going.

Am I an avoider?  Maybe.  Ignorant?  Sure.  I’m not trying to justify my way as everyone’s right way.  I’m just letting you know: I’m okay with not knowing all the details, of missing some things.  I can’t be bogged down in the details – they keep my focus away from the important stuff. 

Love God and love your neighbors as you love yourself – this is the way to heaven, says Jesus.  I love that Jesus really knows how to get to the point.  When we remember these things, we are ready for whatever the world can throw at us.  He doesn’t promise that it will be easy, or that we won’t suffer, or that we may doubt his ways and dig in our heels and refuse to go on, but if we keep these simple instructions in mind, we can face anything.  When I put my trust in him, and let him lead me into the unknown, I know that I am doing exactly what he planned – not what I plan.

When I live my life according to details, I miss the lessons that God has for me.  Life gets in the way of my focus on him, and I’ve learned from experience that I can’t really live like that.  I miss too much of what’s important.

And I can’t risk that.  Not for all the details in the world.


Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you.  For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.  When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.

But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.  For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.  So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.  Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk.  But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.  Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.  So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NLT)


One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”  Luke 10:25-28 (NLT)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Deal With the Drama

My kids are both in middle school, and you know what that means.

Bring the drama.

Neither of them are drama queens – well, except when they get a scratch or bump their elbows or don’t want to do chores.  I can handle that.  “You’re not bleeding that much.  You’re okay.”  “Can you bend your arm?  You’re fine.”  “Do it, or else.”

It’s the relationship drama that is hard.  The friendship drama.  The drama that comes when children have feeeeelings, and those feelings get in the way of interacting peacefully with others.

The jealousy.  The meanness.  The insecurity.  The alienation.  The misunderstanding.

It’s hard.  Even though there haven't been many yet, it’s hard to hear the stories, because they were mine at one time.  I remember thinking: my friend said this.  My friend did that.  My friend passed me in the hall and didn’t say hi.  My friend sat with someone else at lunch.  I remember the feelings of despair, of worry, of fear.  What is happening?  I don’t want to lose this friendship.  What if nobody likes me?

As a modern parent my children share their troubles with me.  I have created these people who come to me for answers, and I can’t bring myself to dismiss them.  I know the hurts and the confusion.  I cannot just say You’re on your own, Drama Mama, a line my daughter picked up from TV when she was five.  If my children come to me with their drama, I want to fix it.  I want to change it.  I want to take care of it.  I want to share my knowledge, tell them how to handle it.  After all, it’s easy from my side.  Most of the time, their drama isn’t drama at all.  It’s just something for them to talk about.  They are learning how to distinguish between right and wrong.  They are figuring out that people are different from them in their beliefs and behaviors.  They are learning peace-making, how to explain themselves, how to communicate better.  They are finding their spot in the world.  If I tell them what to do, where to stand, and how to say everything, then how much of their handling of life is me, and how much is them?  I want each of them to be able to make good decisions without my input.

Romans 12:18 is one of my favorite Bible verses: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.  Short, easy to remember, simple message.  Live in peace with everyone, as much as you can.  Of course, life is messier than this implies.  This line doesn’t give you instructions about what to do if a friend wrongs you.  Nor does it tell you how to correct things if you wrong someone unintentionally (or, in the case of my middle schoolers sometimes, intentionally.  I never said my kids were always unwitting participants in any sort of drama).

We can ask for help, but ultimately we have to figure it out for ourselves.  Life is a swinging pendulum of elation and despair, hopeful beginnings and abrupt endings, encouraging words and harsh dismissals.  Through it all, we have to deal.

I pray that God will back me up on teaching my kids how to deal with their drama.  He knows my children way better than I ever will, and I am thankful that they are in his hands.  I can encourage them to keep bringing their troubles to me, and I can teach them what I know, but they are different from me.  They need to know that I don’t always have all the answers, but God does.  I am grateful that I can teach them this, that they can pray for guidance, for the right words to say, and for peace in their hearts when they go through the drama.

During middle school, for sure, but also for the rest of their lives.