The Opposite of Scarcity

I’m going to be honest, looking for a job when you’ve been gone overseas for a while, is hard. It’s hard to not take a “no” personally. It’s hard to not be discouraged. It’s hard to live in peace and confidence that God will work this all out, and to not give into fear. It’s hard to not live on a constant plane of anxiety or stress. And it’s hard to not continue to think of the “what ifs” that plague my mind.

The last two posts I have been talking about scarcity. Wrestling through what it means when we say “God’s got this, it will be ok.” And, wondering if that is really true. In the end, I do believe it is true. But I must be willing (and “willingness” is a huge word) to accept that what rock bottom or scarcity may mean to God may be much different than what I think. I must willing to accept that rock bottom may mean much more than losing a job or even becoming homeless. Becoming a refugee in the harshest sense, like Abraham or the Israelites under the direction of Moses or like the Christians under Nero, etc. Losing all that I hold dear…just like Job.

Brene Brown, whose work on shame is powerful, said “For me, the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough…” We have a warped sense, at least in North America, that when we have scarcity God will come in and provide for us in an over the top, extreme way- the typical American rags to riches stories we so love. I do believe that happens, and God can chose to do what he desires. But what if His plan is to simply give us enough. Enough to know we are loved. Enough to know we are taken care of. Enough to be “ok” and to know that it is true that “God’s got this.” I have been the recipient of God doing off the wall crazy over the top things. And, I was reminded yesterday, that God also gives what I always need- enough.

Like I mentioned above, this process has been hard, difficult and stretching me beyond what I thought my capacity for trust was. Yesterday was a bad, crappy day. Thankfully, I was scheduled to go hang out with people I love and cherish. My good friend and I sat on his porch and talked. And though there was no job offer, though there was no “here’s a million dollars I had tucked away for you” type of gifts, what he said were words of peace and truth. What he said was enough. It was enough to re-center me to God’s truths and peace….and joy. It wasn’t over the top, but it was enough.

I wonder where God is providing enough for you today and maybe where you can’t see it because you’re waiting for the lavish indulgence. Let’s see where He is enough for us both today, together.

be blessed today

Why Are You The Problem?

Life has a rhythm to it. There’s a cycle, a general flow that continues on with our with out us. God set these things in motion and they will continue so until He desires them to stop. The seasons, jet streams, the ocean currents, day and night, the orbit around the sun….they all have a consistent, faithful, periodicity about them. And so, we’ve adapted our lives to work in these intervals and time frames as well. We go about our normal routines and habits, continuing to move in some direction. We created systems to operate in, as fallen as they may be. We continue in this system. That is, until something disrupts the system.

We in the West especially, do not do well with disruptions to our “normal.” Sickness, a pipe bursting, a quick run to drop off the lunch at school that our child forgot, these disruptions can sometimes be small or massive, depending on who you are. Disruptions are things I’ve written before.  But this post is about something different. It’s not about something causing a disruption in your life. No, this post is far different. It’s about being the thing, being the person, who disrupts the system. Not for the sake of saying “screw you all, I’m gonna do what I want,” or for some sort of pride or selfish gain. No, disrupting the system because you have chosen health over dysfunction.

There’s a psychological term that became very impactful to me several years ago while taking a psychology class in grad school from an awesome professor. He was talking about dysfunctional families, for example. Often times, there is one child who will be acting out, acting oddly different than the rest of the family. In some cases, sadly, these behaviors are detrimental to the well being of the child. In other cases, the behavior is actually good, but because it is sssoooooo different than how the family operates, it looks as though the child is the one with the dysfunction. This child is called the “Identified Patient.” Psychologists began to notice this type of situation happening time and time again and realized it had nothing to do with the child, really. It had everything to do with the dysfunction of the family.

Today, we can see this same type of situation in families. But it doesn’t just stop there. Churches, businesses, organizations, schools…anything with a group of people, we can see this very same scenario played out. And it is sad, because often times those in the middle of their dysfunction, cannot see that they are the ones being dysfunctional. I have seen people, Identified Patients,  torn apart from the raw sinful dysfunction around them. Iris and I have walked through that very same type of situation as well. For those of us that follow Christ, really for anyone, we always have a choice whether or not to engage with the dysfunction or not. The alternative option may not be a good option either, but we always have a choice. We also have a choice to continue on in playing the game, enabling the dysfunction and communicating to those involved that this type of behavior is ok. Or, we can chose where God is leading us, which is never to play the game of enabling dysfunction.

This road that God leads us down is not easy. Remember the 12 Steps and what we see in scripture? Often times hardship is the pathway to peace. One of the clearest times Iris and I walked through this, we had several people tell us that we should abandon ship, jump out before it continues to get worse. And, yes, I believe there is a time for that. But we continued to follow God’s leading into it because He hadn’t yet released us from that. Was it hard? Yes. Did it feel shitty, hurtful and at times, hopeless? Yep. It did. But we also had people, deep people, people who understood pain, who understood the suffering of Christ, people who have walked continue to walk that road of hardship, who patiently sat and listen. They are there even now,  to encourage us to keep Christ center, no matter what, to trust in Him and to not care what others think or what rumors they may say, but to simply (how hard “simply” can be) stay the course. These are the voices we listen to and staye a tune because those are the voices of the Spirit speaking.

Yes, in some cases the identified patient needs to examine themselves and see why they are acting in a way that is detrimental or harmful to themselves. But if you are living a life of Christ, trying to do the right thing, making amends when need be and owning your own stuff, please be encouraged by this-God is there amidst the cloud and fog. He is there. I have been there, and I’m sure I’ll be in the midst of that again.

When we begin to life a live of health, spiritual health, in a system that is dysfunctional all twisted and warped by the fallen world we live in, it disrupts the way things have always been. People who have grown quite accustomed to the dysfunction, learned how to play the game, moved in and set up shop there, do not like to be disrupted. And sometimes the uncomfortability of the disruption comes at you full force.

Christ was a disruption. He was living a life of true spiritual health in every way. When those attacked him out of their own dysfunction and hurt, he simply showed grace, love and Truth. Eventually, this got him killed. Yes. But not even the gates of hell could stand against him…not even in death. If He truly cares for the flowers in the meadow, or the birds each day, how much more will he be there in the fog? How much more will he rescue us? Reach out and find people who speak, breathe Truth into you, and lean onto them. Trust in Him, and I know how hard that is.  May you not lose heart, may you be a person of peace who God uses to bring Christ to a broken system and a broken world, and may we all accept what God has laid before us as the pathway to peace.  That’s my prayer for you…and myself today.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.borongaja.com

Waiting, Part 2

So, what if we took the Advent season as a time of becoming more aware of God’s presence in the waiting? It’s an interesting thought.

When I was young, I would put together plastic models. Mainly classic cars. I never wanted to do it as a serious hobby, just a way to pass the time. I would be all excited as I opened the $6 box of plastic parts, some covered in chrome others were the rubber tires. It didn’t take long to figure out that no matter what I did, I couldn’t make them look exactly like they were on the box cover. In order to do that you needed a hobby knife, special paints and an expensive airbrush system. It just wasn’t going to happen.

The other reason why they would never be featured in a museum was because instead of waiting an hour for the glue to dry and take hold, I would wait…five minutes. My fingers would get glue on them and then I would have glue fingerprints all over the model. Of course, I wouldn’t wait for the paint to dry either, so it would be glue and colored paint fingerprints on the windows, the sides and on the shiny chrome parts.

I’ve noticed for me that when I think life is moving too slow, when the waiting is longer then it “should” be, that is when I start to fall back into the habits that can be destructive. Controlling, manipulation, passive aggressive behavior..it all comes back. Sometimes subtly, sometimes pretty strongly. Some things really do need to be moved faster, but others don’t. I know especially when I start falling back into those habits, that I need to go back into the waiting. It comes down to a lack of control.

What else requires waiting….ah, great waiting. There is great waiting in pregnancy. We don’t want to rush it as some major damage could come to the baby as well as the mother. Pregnancy is meant to take nine months. It is the way God designed it. If we tried to rush it, took some super pill and the next day had a baby, that could have some serious implications. And, would that baby be as cherished if it was instant gratification? In the past few years, several of my friends have adopted. Based on their experiences, it seems that adoption processes take a long time. Most take longer than a pregnancy, especially international adoptions. But as each day goes by during that process, for those parents, the longing for their future child grows by leaps and bounds. There is a determination and longing that grows by the moment.

And, let’s be honest, if the pregnancy part was instant, then we would want to find a way for the baby to grow from infant to adult overnight, right? Skip the diaper stage, maybe skip past the spilling, clumsy stage. Oh, and while we’re at it, we might as well skip the 13 going on 30 attitude stage, and just have them go straight off to college—-check that, we don’t want to pay for it, it is expensive, let’s just move them onto their first career.

If we did that, where would the memories of watching their first footsteps come from? Where would the memories be of standing before the court as they declared you the rightful parent from this point forward? Where would the memories of learning to ride a bike, walking through the pain of a friend hurting them, their first day of school, or the first time they read a book, when they learned to drive, walking through the pain of their first breakup?

There is great purpose in the waiting. We learn. We grow. We learn about ourselves, about others. There is also great pain in the waiting. Pain is just that, painful. At times we may chose to run from the pain and that only causes us to fall back into habits and hangups that we have suffered or been addicted to in the past. When we try to avoid the waiting that we need to go through, it only ends up hurting us, costing us more. Even if the waiting is painful, through it we will grow. Think about Jesus. Especially the week leading up to the crucifixion, there was great pain in knowing that He would be crucified. There was pain in the three days after his death. There was pain in the days He was on the earth before he ascended into heaven. And there is much pain now as we wait on His coming again.

But in that pain is where trust in God comes from. In the waiting is where dependence upon Him comes. In the anticipation is where we are emptied of the fallenness and layers of things put on us wrongly begin to be stripped away, albeit painfully, and become the person God is calling us to be, more and more.

Perhaps this Advent is a time where we we simply sit in the waiting. Maybe this is a time where He is inviting us into where He is working right now, in the Land of the Living among the chaos and destruction happening around us. What a joyous Christmas present-realizing and seeing where He is at this very moment! Will you join me?

I would love to hear of your experiences in the waiting-the pain and the joy, the lessons learned. Us sharing our experiences with others encourages us and grows us all. I know I would love to hear your story, please comment below. And, would you be willing to join me in the waiting?

Waiting, Part 1

This past weekend, we celebrated the birth of our daughter. She turned six and spent the whole day in the costume from a blockbuster children’s movie. We spent the day singing the soundtrack from the movie in the car going to preschool and on the way home…and at her party…and while she went to sleep that night. She has brought a massive amount of peace, laughter and sensitivity to our family. I am so thankful for her.

I was sitting here remembering the months leading up to her birth. Iris’ baby bump started to show, then there were the several stages of maternity wear and as the days got closer there was the anticipation of seeing her little body wrapped up in blanket. She was the first girl on Iris’ side of the family after four boys. So, our daughter, Emmi, had an entire closet full of clothes before she was born. From cheerleader onesies to footie pajamas to cute little skirts, she had them all.

There was a ton of anticipation for this little girl. And, of course, as any pregnancy goes on, it becomes more painful (from what I’ve been told). Though Iris loved carrying this little girl, she was ready for her to come and meet the world, too!

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.-Psalm 27:14

I’m going through a pamphlet with meditations for Advent that I purchased online and had sent to me. I just got it (the excitement of a real book-paper and all was almost too much to handle!). Simply some reflections as we walk through the advent season up to the birth of Christ in our celebration of Christmas. On Emmi’s birthday,  it had this verse from Psalm 27 written at the top. “Be strong and take courage.” Those are good words, great words to be exact. But….waiting on the Lord…….ya, not so much.

I know that I rush things. I know that I try to get things done quickly to move onto the next step, level, next adventure or project. It happens with work, it happens with my family time and it happens with the time I have set aside to meditate on Christ. Waiting is a part of life. Some things I hate waiting for like standing in line to pay a bill. Or, ugh, sitting in traffic. But there are other things that are worth the wait, like the birth of our children.

It’s almost as if the waiting was creating more excitement, creating more desire and longing, building a deep a treasure to be cherished, becoming more valuable by the day. They were worth the wait.

I have grown to become more aware of God’s presence in the waiting moments of life. Not always (I am only human after all), but I try to be more aware of His presence around me. Right before verse 14, David writes this-

“I would have despaired unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

In actively  becoming more aware of God’s presence, I have been able to see the goodness of the Lord. I’ve been able to see the land of the living unlike any other time in my life before. I can see that He is here, in the waiting, in the anticipation. I have seen Him here, therefore, the despair is no longer the first thing I go to. Peace, often times, is now what I go to first when I’m in that time of waiting. Even when that waiting comes pain.

It is the Advent season. What is that? It’s simply a season of waiting. Anticipation of when the Savior came to this earth. When He came in the form of a baby, not an adult. Not only was there waiting in his birth, there was waiting until His anointing when He began his ministry. There was pain in that waiting, but it was worth the wait.

What if we looked at Christmas with such anticipation? What if we looked at this waiting through the lens of the land of the living? What would change? What has been wroth the wait to you? Let’s commit to doing this together…