Pages

Friday, January 30, 2015

Help!

For some people, asking for help is one of the hardest things in the world to do.

And when I say “some people,” I mean me.

I’ve really taken to heart our society’s way of refusing help when needed.  “No, thanks, I got it,” is my go-to answer for nearly everything.  I will struggle through a project rather than ask for help every time.  The only time I will ask a person for help is if I just really don’t want to do something.

Which is not that often.  Mostly I’ll trudge through a chore or activity alone, just because I don’t want the world to think I’m incapable of doing it.

You know, the world – that enormous, living planet we live on?  I don’t want it, nor its 7 billion residents, to know that *I* need help.

Silly, isn’t it?

I’ve missed out on opportunities for relationship by shoving fists in my pockets when someone offers a helping hand.  I don’t want to know exactly what I’ve missed.  A richer relationship with someone?  A more positive situational outcome?  Ease of work?  Time well spent?

By refusing help, I could rob someone of the opportunity to be generous.  Someone who today decided to help as many people as they can.  Someone who is trying to be less selfish and more giving.  Someone who needs to help another for healing.

Jesus asked for help.  He knew that we were not made to live alone, to do everything ourselves, to operate singly.  He knew we needed community, and he knew the human condition was such that we need help.  We are not God.  We have limitations.  Much as we try, we literally cannot do it all ourselves.

Jesus asked his disciples for help during prayer (Matthew 14:32-34).  He asked God for help (Matthew 14:36).  He taught us how to ask God for everything (Matthew 7:7, John 4:10, John 14:13-14).  The Bible is full of instructions about asking for help.



Despite his holiness, Jesus possessed an I-can’t-do-it-myself attitude when it came to God.  The communication lines between him and God were open all the way.  He didn’t pause before asking God for help, and he asked people for help when he needed it.  He didn’t ask indiscriminately, but intentionally.

Following his lead is hard, but necessary for my own spiritual growth.  I’m not learning anything by trying to do everything myself and raising my palm against offers of help from others.  This form of pride will hinder my spiritual life.  If I don’t ask for or accept help from people, how can I ask for help from God?  How will my lines of communication with him stay open?

There’s never a better time to start.  Anyone want to help me do this thing?

Dear Lord, I want to depend on you.  But I don’t like to feel out of control.  Teach me to be more like Jesus.  Give me the wisdom to give up my independence to you.  Amen.


*******

Friday, January 16, 2015

Bad Things Are Happening

I don’t watch the news.

I cannot tell you how many times my husband has called me from wherever he is to ask “Did you hear about (insert horrible event)?”

No.  I haven’t heard.  I haven’t seen, and I haven’t read.  He can’t believe that I would be so ill-informed on purpose.  I do have reasons.

The bad stuff poisons me.  It haunts me actively.  My imagination runs wild with the stories, the anguish, the meanness.  A normal day can quickly turn to despair just by dwelling on the bad stuff for a few minutes.  Many people don’t understand how a person could so willfully ignore the details of what’s happening in the world.  Don’t I want to know the details, the repercussions, the facts about what’s going on?

No.  Not really.

After the terror attacks in Paris last week I turned on a live stream of the commentary as a search for the attackers unfolded.  Paris is my favorite city in the world.  I have a friend who lives just outside the city, and I felt like I should know what happened there.  Almost immediately I saw a video of a man shot and killed, his life intact one moment and his dead body slumped up against a wall the next.  The image was blurred but it’s all I needed to see to know that I had seen enough.  I marveled that not too long ago a person could go though her entire life not ever seeing a person die but these days you can sit in front of a screen in your home and witness death on demand.  Death used to be more sacred.

The whole day was colored by these images.  I imagined this man’s spouse, his children, his friends all watching his life end this way.  They will never unsee the images.  They might replay them over and over, just to have proof that their loved one walked the earth, that he once had breath, a morbid need to see him alive once, twice, twenty times before his life was stolen away.

I imagine what could have prevented his death.  A change of heart by one of the attackers, a steel door, a last-minute fire drill at the magazine offices, a water main break that sent everyone home.

It’s no good, to dwell on the bad.  Everybody tells you this.  It can destroy your mind, your relationships.  Yet I can’t seem to think about anything else when it’s right there.  I try – using refocus, distractions, prayer – but the bad sneaks back in.

A while ago, a friend spoke about protecting her mind from evil.  She said that she really has to be careful about what she reads or watches on TV or in the movies.  She and her husband have a hard time finding things to watch together because he’s not as sensitive as she is.  I related to this wholly.  My husband has no problem watching violence, war, death onscreen.   He can forget about it as soon as the credits stop rolling.  Over ten years ago I watched a movie – a psychological drama, not even a horror movie – that I still can’t get out of my mind.  I… just can’t.

So I don’t watch.  Or hear.  Or read.  I get the gist, and then I try to put it out of my head.  I know that terrible things are happening in this world.  I follow the lead of my friend, and this advice:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.  Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.  Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message)

I want to be worked into God’s most excellent harmonies.  I may be soft of mind, someone who just can’t dwell the truths of the world, and for my ignorance I may suffer.   I may miss the details.  I will never be an international journalist.  I will not be involved in many conversations about current events past the cursory “Did you hear about…?”

No.  I haven’t heard.


*******

Monday, January 5, 2015

Let’s Try Something New This Year

Happy New Year, friends!

Each new year brings a need to refresh, reset, restart.  I will be more thankful, grateful, serene.  I have grand plans, if not concrete goals or resolutions.  This year I will be better, more accomplished, more focused.  It’s a great feeling, to start anew, but inevitably life says ha, ha.  Things really aren’t so different.  You really aren’t so different.  Move along; the hamster wheel is slowing down. 

Great feelings gone. 

All I want is a little peace and contentment with what I have, and maybe a little bit of motivation to do one or two teeny, tiny, *big* things.

Gentleness.  Peace.  Contentment.  These were things that Paul wrote about, characteristics he displayed and taught to the new Christians of the churches he ministered.  He used his own life as an example, told them how in everything he did and in every place he found himself, he learned to be content, whether in need or in plenty, in good times and in bad.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sure not Paul.

Sometimes I wonder if I would be more like Paul, more outspoken about faith and definitively more Christ-like if I had a dramatic conversion like he had.  Though he also killed Christians up to the moment of his conversion, so... 

Dramatic life = dramatic conversion.  That doesn’t really describe me.  Not even a little bit.

It’s easy to romanticize and simplify a life like Paul’s, one painted with broad brushstrokes, the big moments highlighted and the small ones glossed over.  It’s easy to overlook the details.  In his writings he certainly didn’t dwell on the moments of his life that we all face, those moments in the middle of the night when we are gripped by panic about small things.  That wasn’t God’s purpose for him, to go into detail about those moments.

He most certainly had them.  Right?  Imprisonment, shipwreck, beatings, health issues – the man had problems.  I don’t know that I fully believe that Paul didn’t struggle under the weight of his problems, that his mind was a steel trap filled with only godly things, banishing all dark thoughts. 

We don’t really see those moments of weakness from Paul’s life.  I’m projecting them for sure.  I like to know that even the strongest among us – those who exude confidence and righteousness and positivity and all those good things that we are all to aspire to display – are also human, just like me.  I like to think that if Paul, the greatest missionary that ever lived, had struggled with life knowing all that he faced and still found a way to trust God’s truths and be content with them within the context of his life, then I can find a way to do the same.

I like a little personal connection with my saints.

Fortunately, the one who Paul tapped for inner peace and contentment is the same one who is there for me.  God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit – there are actually three.  Three beings who are present to draw strength from, to lean on, and to model my life after.  The same Good News that Paul preached and taught the churches to have faith in and rely upon is there for me.  For all of us.  Our job is to acknowledge it, believe it, and trust it.  When we give our worries and negativity over to God, we will experience that peace. 

In small moments I have felt that peace, when I remember to go to God first with my troubles.  With practice I hope to seek God constantly, in everything that I face in life, the good and the bad.  I will see what Paul experienced then, in my own context.

This year, like every year, I hope to get a little closer to Paul’s peace.

*******

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; 
they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)


Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)