Actively Passive

When we knew God was leading us away from Russia, we began to ask “Where to?” God was silent…actually silent for awhile. There were many times I sat down with my spiritual director or a “soul friend” and lament. Lament is something we have forgotten in our North American church culture…but that’s another post. My laments were of sadness, the reality of grief of the loss of leaving somewhere we thought we’d be for a long time. And then there was the lament of frustration, the colorful language of fear, confusion and disorientation coming out. This was a calling out of God to be true to Who He said He was in His written word-a lamp shining on my feet and a light shining on my path. I forget that a torch, or an oil burning lamp doesn’t cast a very bright light…nothing like my LED backpacking headlamp does. No, a torch is just a few steps….

Anyway, my frustration led me to do what I know how to do…actively seek out where it is, hoping something would stick. Not quite throwing a wet noodle on a wall to see if it would stick, but close enough. I am a big believer in throwing things to the wind and seeing what happens. You don’t know unless you try is my philosophy, and so I did. Cold calls to churches in Canada, emails to churches in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Sweden. Conversations with friends and friends of friends in Paris, the States and other places. And yet, nothing took. My active seeking out was becoming fruitless. As much as I am this active way, Iris is just as much the other way. Waiting to see what drops in our laps and then follow through on it is more her way of seeing where it is God is leading.

In these two seemingly very opposite approaches, you might imagine a massive amount of conflict. And, yes, that would make logical sense. But for us it is tension. Not tension in that we’re at odds and we need to walk on eggshells all the time. No, I mean good tension. Tension  like that of a keel and the sail of a sail boat. The sail catches the wind which pushes the boat. The keel however, catches the water and uses it as a ballast to keep not only the boat upright, but also to keep the boat from being blown all over the place by the wind. This way, the sail and keel work together to harness the wind to move it forward in the most effective and efficient way possible. They work in tension at all times. And both of them are completely utterly passive. They simply are there, at tension with one another, and allowing the wind to move them.

Last time I wrote about being passively active, the idea that we can be constantly active without even realizing it. This can mean coming to God with an agenda of our own when we make time for Him, and/or it can mean that we are living out our agenda all the time, simply asking God to bless it. I asked Iris the other day if she could sum up how she approaches God’s leading and she said it like this, “It’s watching for where He’s leading and then walking towards that, as opposed to going after every avenue and waiting for Him to close doors.” That latter part, that’s me. I’ve learned to follow my gut, and usually that works for me. However, there are times that I’ve learned I need to become actively passive. That is, simply wait on God and see what falls in my lap. Sure I earnestly seek Him in certain areas, but I’ve come to a point where I usually come to Him expecting…..expecting Him, and nothing else. Since I started living this way simply being, and I don’t do it all the time, but since I started approaching life this way, there have been far more unexpected experiences, lessons, encounters and Truths I’ve been met with than I would have ever expected. It’s the active decision to just be. There is an incredible amount of peace in that, that surrender and release. Believe me, I continue to experience it.

Perhaps today is a day you need to become actively passive, stop the doing and and just be. I know it’s super hard, but what would happen if you tried that today, asking for awareness of God’s presence and allowed Him to do what He does?

be blessed today

Calling-The Truth

Before caller ID, cell phones and any way of predicting who was calling me, I didn’t know who was calling until I picked up the phone.  When I would, there were certain people that in an instant, I knew who they were simply by the sound of their voice.  Maybe it was the influx of their voice, the intonation in the “Hi,” or it was the way they said my name. My parents each have a unique way of saying “hello” that I can identify in a second. My siblings do as well. So do incredibly close friends of mine.

Iris has a certain way she says my name, and it is something that commands my attention, demands pause from what I may be thinking about and brings focus to what she is about to say. Many times in the past, and especially these past difficult months, that voice, those words, my name as she says it, have brought me calm, comfort and peace. It’s what happens when two people are in such true love and bound so tightly to each other and to a redemptive God. At least that’s what they say, whoever “they” are. I’m not a romantic. But if I was, that would sound romantic to me. At least I think it would. But romanticism or not, it is true what I say of the power of our love, her voice and the voices of those who love me.

Though it’s not a perfect example because we are all imperfect humans after all, it is still an example of God’s calling on us. Or to be more precise, God calling us to Himself. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are constants. They are unchangeable, immovable and stable. Last time, I wrote about the seemingly to me, ridiculous amount of emphasis we put on our “calling” in the Church here in North America. The questions of “are you called to this church, this people group, this country, this organization” are asked as if to further prove without a doubt that you are doing what God wants. Though you may desire to do something, go somewhere, minister to a certain people- that desire isn’t good enough. Though you may be gifted, skilled and have learned or God given abilities to effectively minister to them, that’s not good enough either. You must be “called.” As opposed to simply praying and discerning, even through group discernment, that perhaps your desires and God’s are aligned.

But in my searching the scriptures the past several years, trying to gain footing when it seemed like my “calling” was wrong, I found something astonishing. Actually, it’s what I didn’t find that was so astonishing. What I didn’t find was God calling anyone to anywhere, any one group, any church or organization. Instead, what I only found was that God called people to Himself. Called them to relationship. Called them to deeper intimacy. Called them to greater trust in Him and greater understanding of how powerless we really are (Step 1). Calling us, each and everyone of us, to the ONLY stable, constant, immovable thing (in this case a person)….God Himself.

What He does do is lead us to different places, groups, ministries, churches, jobs, organizations, states, countries, etc. Those leadings can change anytime, anyplace. And in many cases, those leadings can seem incredibly foolish when we apply our mere human logic to it. But His calling us to Himself…..it’s like that voice that calls my name, that demands my energy to listen and commands my attention. The only person we are ever called to. That voice of God, that calling of Him into a deeper relationship with Him full of Truth, full of Love, full of Peace…that calling never, never, never changes.

Never….no not ever.

be blessed today

 

 

 

The Break

I had a pretty heated discussion a while back with a friend. I had spoke with them in great detail about some private things, and had assumed it wouldn’t be a big deal for them to hear it. After hearing it, they began to push that I give them permission to share this with with other people. I calmly replied back that I would appreciate it if they didn’t say anything. And then, then came more pressing. Pressing and pressing, and me in shock that my friend would have pushed this hard to share something so private. My trying to keep calm and trying to wrap my head around why they were pushing so hard, I finally said firmly yet sorrowfully, “Listen, I cannot control you. If you want to share these details, it’s your choice. But I have asked you repeatedly not to and would hope that you would honor that request.”

That was the end of the conversation. We said our goodbyes, and I got in my car and just sat there, dumbfounded. The damage had already been done. No, not the damage of sharing private information, they had decided to not do that. No, the damage was the break in our once close relationship. That encounter caused me to hold them at arms length, and the intimacy we once shared, was no longer present. Eventually we made amends, but it took awhile for that to happen as I was so incredibly hurt.

God allows us the desires of our hearts. Either those desires are in alignment with His, or they’re not and He allows us to pursue them anyhow. He won’t control, instead He gives us the freedom to choose. But, it comes with a cost. It comes with the price of a broken relationship with the Creator, the Builder.

That is exactly what happened with Adam and Eve. He allowed it, sure. But it cost them something we have been trying to get back to as a human race ever since. And we’ve tried to fill it with everything we can, but not with God.

The next few posts, I’ll be sharing something I’ve been wrestling with and have not come to an end conclusion. But it does have some pretty significant impacts on how I view God. Not my original thoughts, but ones I think that are worth wrestling in the mud with.

But for today, it is simply the acknowledgement of a gracious loving God, who even when we are pursuing something that will hurt our relationship with Him, He still allows us to simply so we are the ones who choose Him for who He is. Romans 1 is a very clear picture of that. And, because He is just that gracious, kind, compassionate and loving, when we get into the pit of our pain from those choices, He is still there willing to carry us on His broad shoulders, with gentle hands and strong feet on solid ground. What a blessing that truly is. I hope we all can reflect on that picture as we go through the worries of today and try to save off the worries of tomorrow.

be blessed today

 

When We Become Yesterday’s News…

We all went on a hike as a family a few days ago. On the top of a mountain, walking the trail around, we had gorgeous views and bright, beautiful sunshine. The pines and Eastern Washington weather made for a good little hike. Though the top of the mountain was fairly flat, the edge of the trail was edged with, well, nothing. It was a cliff. Not a tall one, but at least a 40 feet drop, but far enough to cause a parent to worry. I am all for my kids being curious, getting close to the edge to get a bit of that rush feeling, but also within arms reach so I can keep a hand close to them in case they get a little too close.

So, I let them entertain their curiosity, me keeping close and keeping a close eye on what they were doing. Why? So they wouldn’t fall. Why wouldn’t I just let them fall? That seems like an odd question, right? I think anyone reading this would understand why I was keeping such a close watch on my kids, why I wouldn’t them to fall, right? It’s because we all understand that I love my kids, I cherish my kids, I want to protect my kids. I value my kids. They are valuable to me.

And there it is.

Last time I wrote about being important. How being important was something external. That we are constantly trying to get accolades or approval from other people. Being important is something you must achieve and constantly strive to keep up. But that can, and usually does, imprison people and hold them down because there is the expectation that either you keep up with it, or you fall to the side and fall out of importance. People can lose importance. We can lose our status. One definition I read said that important is “having relevant value.” And if you stop being relevant?

Being valuable is different. Yes, things can lose their monetary value. But we can never become less valuable to God. We aren’t a thing that needs to continue to be relevant in order for God to pay attention to us or to continue in relationship. No, we are something much greater-we are valuable. Valuable, by the same dictionary, “is having great value.” Even more than gold, or platinum. We are called children, sons, daughters, made a little lower than the angels as it says in Hebrews 2. Being valuable is all in the eye of the beholder. And since our Beholder is God, we don’t ever lose value.  Since we are at the apple of His eye, I’d say we are in a place of the deepest of relationships.

No ladders to be climbed to Him. No need for constant applause and cheap token awards. The Creator, the Builder values us above all other creation. I hope this finds you where you need to hear it today. I know I needed to.

be blessed today

That Numb Feeling

I like the cold. I like to play in the snow, hike in the snow, be in the snow. And I do like it when my hands get so cold, I can barely feel them. You know what I hate? Pins and needles. I hate that feeling. Like constantly hitting your funny bone and it’s this awkward hurting yet annoying pain all at the same time. At my desk, sitting in a seminar or lecture, my leg will go to sleep and then I have to go through the annoying process of waking it up. Then there is the weird feeling of trying to walk when my foot is asleep…so weird. Like this rubber attached thing to my body that i know is there, I just can’t feel it.

And so it is with our feelings. Yes, feelings, I am talking about feelings again. I to, have had my ups and downs, days that I wish I was number to not feel the pain and hurt. And, days I was numb unable to feel, or at least unable to feel anything nice and enjoyable. Yet, there are times where I think feeling numb would feel better than what it feels like at that moment.

Thankfully, I have enough people around me to help me not go numb; to not let my heart or my head go to sleep, but to feel what is actually going on around me. Even if that means I feel the “negative” or “bad” emotions that much more intensely. To go completely numb is to not feel even the “good” and “positive.”

Jesus felt. He felt sad, shame, anger, lonely and glad. To push back the hard ones causes a dulling so that the welcomed feelings can’t be felt either. And sometimes they came together at the same moment. So,  he embraced them. He felt every one.

Many of these feelings, these emotions come from grief and loss. Loss of stability, reputation, identity, loss of the way things once were, loss of a loved one, loss of expectations, etc. Grief and loss are powerful. And they are feelings we need to feel. Jeremiah was feeling loss and grief so much that he wrote an entire book in the Bible about it. Yet, I cannot, for the life of me, remember ever hearing a sermon straight from Lamentations. Never. Why? Because we hate feeling this way and feeling has been shamed in our culture.

Feeling our feelings and allowing ourselves to feel, allows us to connect with our inner most beings in a deeper way, allows us to connect with others in a deeper way,  and allows us to connect with the Creator in a far deeper way than we had ever imagined. This is part of being human, the good part of being human, the part of being a human that God created-relationship. This allows connection with God on a level so deep, many don’t dare to travel. This is real relationship. I pray we all connect with him on that level ever deeper today.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: writerscafe.org

#Blessed

I looked at his high end sports car as it zoomed into the parking lot. He was always sharply dressed. His house, though not a mansion, was far more than what I had growing up. He had a manicured lawn complete with special sod for the putting green in the back which had it’s own separate, special lawn mower for the small 25 by 12 foot parcel of putting grass. He was a strong member of the church that he was a member of, which consequently, was directly across the street from his business which is where I was standing, ready for him to open the doors so I could start work. When asked, or a comment was made about his house, car, business (in general, his affluence), he would simply say “Praise the Lord, I’m just blessed.”And so used to be my thought of “blessing” and “being blessed.”

Used to be. Not anymore.

I’ve learned that I cannot truly sing the song, “Blessed Be Your Name” if I am not willing to accept that God does both give and take. And, I cannot read the beatitudes if I am not willing to believe that their is “blessing” in both the giving and the taking of God. This relates to what I wrote about last time. We’re screwed up in our thinking. I’m not sure if it’s just an American church thought, or it is all of Western Christianity. I’m not upset that the man in the story above had a sports car, nice house and manicured lawn. He gave me my first job out of college as I stayed in our college town waiting to marry Iris. I think that it was good for him and his life. God gives us all the freedom to chose, and he is enjoying some of the things of this world. He gave generously to the church and to me as I was going into ministry. But to call that blessing, is to then say that because I don’t have those things, I am not also blessed. To believe that only those who are wealthy or well off are more blessed than I, is to say that God has some sort of grading system wherein He has certain children he really loves and others he just, well, loves. But God never speaks of favoritism when it comes to His children.

Looking at the Old Testament, or the part of our scripture that is pre-Christ, God would bestow massive wealth on those who were righteous. That is, they followed all customs, laws and rituals God ordained and they reserved the title and authority “Lord of all” to God. But And, when Christ came, he brought a more refined sense, a deeper understanding, a fuller perspective on what blessing was. It had nothing to do with wealth. That was a time that those who believed in God were under the law. In fact, it seems that wealth actually got in the way (see Ananias and Sapphira trying to hide their wealth and the early church selling all they had to name just two examples). Blessing from God post-Christ, seems to be all about relationship. So, why do we so often say we no longer live under the law, but still do in practice? Because we’re human and feel we have to earn something, achieve status, work on our own…towards a goal.

Looking at the beatitudes in Matthew 5, it lists several kinds of people-the meek, those who mourn, those who seek righteousness, etc. And with every single one of them, their blessing is about relationship-inherit the kingdom of God, seeing God, they shall be called children of God, the reward will be in heaven-it is all about having a relationship with and being in the presence of God. That is blessed.

Freedom from the law is realizing that we are already saved; we are already given grace; the relationship is their, waiting. We simply need to release the idea that if we work harder we will become more blessed, and give in to the Truth that God is blessing us with relationship (and I’m learning that simple does not equal easy). This is a daily, perhaps a moment by moment struggle for me. But when I do give in, I am reminded again and again of how valued, loved, cherished, and blessed I am. Perhaps today you need to give into this Truth as well.

be blessed today

 

 

So Here I Am Again

After being away from what you know or grew up with (like us living overseas), you have these expectations of what things will be like when you return. Some of these are serious and heavy expectations, realistic or not, like how you will interact with your family, old friends,  or even the Church. Some of these are far more light such as driving down the main street in your hometown, going past an old hang out joint, or even what the  Chicken Vino Bianco at Olive Garden tastes like (it’s no longer on the menu, but I can usually persuade the chef to make it with my “overseas, haven’t had this in years, it’s my favorite” story). These things are familiar. They are known. Like riding a bike, we have eaten these things, done these things or were a part of these things for so long, we can recognize them with a smell, the viewpoint of a certain tree or curve in the road.

I’ve been writing about the inward, upward path that God seems to lead us on as we follow him. Part of this, at least from my experience, has been having those moments of no clarity or those times of really having no clue what comes next. In my life, these moments have been crisis due to medical things, personal conflict feeling the world is against me, a major bombshell leaving no idea what happened to my plan, or God leading me away from something but not leading me to anything, at least not yet. I’ve had a lot of them. As I’ve mentioned before in these posts, we have an incredible support system of people in our lives that are constantly speaking Truth in and over us. Even, at times, we I don’t want to hear it. I have learned over time, and this is a hard lesson I continue to learn, that when this starts to happen, to lean into community and Christ even greater.

And yet, here I am again. I have come so used to my crisis cycle, that I can pinpoint exactly where I am. In a very small nutshell, when whatever happens happens, I first start my becoming more of an information seeker and more introspective. I try to figure out with all my human resources, what is going on…and why. As the fog starts to settle, I become more desperate and reach out to Christ, to my support system. This can go on for a while. but eventually, I become more at home with where I am. And that means more accepting of where God has me. Eventually, the fog lifts, and I can start to see the next step or two in front of me on my path. God may or may not speak to me during these times. But He is ever present. I can say that now. I haven’t always been able to. But like I said, I’ve become more comfortable in the fog than I used to be. I’m learning to be present with my feelings and emotions in the fog.  I’m learning to be more vulnerable in the fog. God continues to build trust into me. And if you lean into Him, I believe He will do the same for you.

So what about you? Are you becoming more comfortable in the fog God has us in from time to time? And when you lean into Him through it, what is the result? Do you have a support system? When will you start to build one? Your vulnerability brings hope.

be blessed today