Monday, August 30, 2010

Shedding fear

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should. Eph. 6:19-20

Today I think I've learned something really amazing. It's been another example of how we are broken down only to be lifted back up and rebuilt into something stronger:

This weekend, certainly this Monday morning, I had been feeling woefully inadequate. It was like I was being flooded with insecurities and fear. I felt so insufficient. I felt like a giant screw-up. Like I was ruining the good things I had been graced with, like my job, the relationships with the people God has put into my life. I just didn't feel good enough. I didn't feel like my best was good enough. I didn't think I was good enough.

But I had church this evening, and I'd been looking forward to it all weekend. I came in with a better attitude than I had sported for most of the day. I was nervously excited about the small group leadership meeting; I confess as we were circled around discussing our roles for the next eight weeks, I began to let a little of that doubt and fear back in... am I good enough? Can I handle this?

Even right before the message started, I get a phone call from my heart surgeon's office - finally! - and scheduled an appointment for about 2 weeks away. So I have about a million worries, fears, and doubts running through my head and heart as I sit back down to listen to the message. Then tonight's message really tore my heart out.
We have a necessary fight against sin

But before we can take up with fight, we must reject fear. Fear has no place in such an important battle.

So I know if I shed this fear, it will make me stronger, to fight sin.

If I shed this fear (the fear of failure, of not being good enough) it will make me stronger. I make myself vulnerable to make myself stronger. You must shed the fear to expose the Spirit that God has placed inside you; you can't let fear cover up the Spirit of God.

The pastor speaking tonight was literally answering my inner monologue from earlier today: "Reject fear - the fear of failure, of not being good enough. There is no need to have this fear. You can't go into battle against sin with this fear".

First, we must know that we have a necessary fight against sin. Much of Romans 8 talks about lining yourself up on clearly one side or the other: Spirit vs flesh, peace vs sin, life vs death. It also outlines a sense of urgency - if we don't take the fight to sin, sin will still attack regardless if we are prepared or not. ("So then brothers and sisters, we are under put to death the deeds of the body" (sin) Romans 8:12 NET). Romans 8:12 tells us we must "put to death" sin, that we have an obligation to wage this good fight. If "put to death" are not clearly fighting words, I don't know what else would be. So we arm ourselves with the word (Eph. 6:17, "take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God").

Second, embracing fear means we can't embrace the Spirit.
Romans 8 is very black and white. There are no clever gray areas for people to wait on the sidelines. You, personally, are being attacked by sin, and you, personally, can just sit there and take it or accept the aid of the Spirit who is here to fight on your behalf.
Romans 8:6-7 tells us "the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so." If accepting the Spirit of God means life and peace, then the other side to that coin would be a life of death and fear without the Spirit. 1 John 4:18 tells us "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love."
So with the Spirit, we do not need to fear. Romans 8 makes it very clear that sin and flesh are what brings punishment and fear, whereas the Spirit of God brings life and peace and love.

Do I get it yet?? I can't possibly accept BOTH the Spirit of God AND the fear that comes from the flesh. If I shed this fear, I can finally choose the side I need to be on - the side that includes the Spirit of God, life, peace. Fear gets in the way of accepting the Spirit. Its something that resides between you.

So you reject the fear. Get it out in the open and expose it. Let go of the pride that keeps you from sharing it, and humbly make yourself vulnerable - to the Spirit of God, and the life and peace that comes with it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Have you ever had one of those days...where the beginning and end seem so different, it seems impossible that they came from the same day? My Sunday started out rough. I confess to skipping a service in church that day (I watched online) because I wasn't feeling myself and needed the extra rest. I responded to a few messages, started getting excited about the day, and then was literally off and running from there on out.

The weekend's events had given me much to think about, and the running always seems to focus me and remind me of what's really important. I knocked out an easy 11 miles and all that time with me, an iPod, and a treadmill really got me relaxed and focused. It gave me time to think about how I was vulnerable, yet fearless. My health makes me vulnerable, but I'd also let my lack of relationships with friends and family and even with Christ at times put me into vulnerable positions. Without this external support, I was vulnerable to doubt, temptation, a number of nasty things. The message this morning at McLean was on dealing with temptation, but it struck a note on me when it mentioned that surrounding yourself with a biblical community of support was a great weapon in healing and avoiding temptation. I'm beginning more and more to see the truth of that.

My next stop (after a quick but very necessary post-run shower) was to McLean Bible Church for my small group leader interview. It was great to be able to connect with a person over there. It was more like pouring my heart out and showing who I was; making myself vulnerable and sharing my history and testimony, but doing so fearlessly. I've found that humbling yourself, making yourself vulnerable, being completely honest with others by being completely honest with yourself, has been life-changing. I've also found that this is how you build or rebuild relationships with one another. "Love must be sincere.". Romans 12:9

Short version, the interview went well and I'll leave the details and action items to another post. Baahh action items.. you can tell I've lived in DC too long.

Afterwards, I decided on half a whim to deliver a small gift to some friends I had lost touch with over the past few years. One of them - thankfully! - was home, and I was able to catch up this evening. What I really loved was that our conversation was so God-centered. It had been far too long since we had been able to have such deep discussions about our faith and future and trials and hope. Mostly because we had let other things get in the way (at least I know I had let other priorities and hurts sneak in and sabotage my relationships).

By Monday, it had really struck me what it meant to be honest with myself. I had been honest with myself Sunday, when I realized there were things left undone with friends. When I honestly looked back at my feelings for what they were, I was able to recognize the divisions with these relationships for what they were, and attempt to repair them. "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." - Romans 13:8. If I am honest with myself, then there is no room for excuses or justifications for putting off mending these relationships. I would have felt like I was sinning by not addressing something I knew to be wrong. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone". Romans 12:18

Being so honest with myself has been like turning a light on in a room. Look, the emperor has no clothes! If I can be honest with myself about my own shortcomings, then there's no reason for me to try to hide these from others or even feel ashamed about my shortcomings in front of others. We have all sinned and fallen short. Again, I think by being openly vulnerable, and showing that we have weaknesses, and are human, we can break down the barriers that people tend to naturally put up between one another. Because if we're to get to other people through their barriers, we have to first tear down our own.

When we tear down our barriers, then we can begin to exchange gifts to one another. Encouragement, love, hope, faith..."I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." - Romans 1:11-12

Saturday, August 21, 2010

People will surprise you

The past twenty-four hours have been one of those learning experiences you'll never want to pray for, but you feel better have come out the other end of of it.

Yesterday late morning I went to go get my heart scanned. This scan will determine if I am a current candidate for surgery (it's all explained in more detail in my last post (Hope II, Miracles).

Basically, instead of waiting until I can get an appointment with the surgeon for him to examine my scans, I decided to pop the disk in from my morning's scan myself. I had watched my doctor's look at and explain the scans every 6 months or less for the past 6 years, so I figured I had a fair idea of what I was looking at.

Unqualified as I was, I looked at the scans anyway to measure the aneurysm now, and the copy 6 months ago. Short version, I measure my recent scans to show that it has grown at least 3mm, perhaps more given my conservative measuring. Since this shows a clear increase in the size of the aneurysm, and my surgeon said that ANY growth would warrant surgery...well, I started freaking out a bit.

It was in the midst of my freaking out that I found out a few things about myself and the others around me. The response when I said I needed help was overwhelming, and humbling. It was quite an experience to realize I'm not alone and there are people out there who would drop everything to make sure I'm okay.

After that rough day, capped off with running 6 miles, a few teary phone conversations, and most of a pitcher of sangria with a friend that night, I woke up this morning finally feeling at peace with what is going on, or rather at all the confusion going on. All of it made me realize God was in control the entire time. He puts people in our paths that we will need later. He humbles us when he throws wrenches into our detailed life plans (or are we throwing wrenches into his plans..?). And he gives us all of these so that we are equipped, whole, and mature people in Christ:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4

My next morning was spent at the Loundon County Juvenile Detention Center. In the strange calm I was experiencing today about my health, I dove right into it. (Literally, I tackled Kishore (of Hope Wells Up Juvenile Prison Ministries) upon walking in the multi-purpose room where the kids were gathered). He introduced me to the only two girls that were currently being held and immediately I fell back into my wild, crazy, goofy self. I wanted to put these kids at ease and let them know that I was there to listen to them, support them, and love them, regardless of why they were put in there.

The Saturdays at the detention center sort of go like this: Kishore's there early, talking to kids, and the volunteers start trickling in. At first the kids are still congregating in their own groups, and are even sometimes visibly shy or uncomfortable talking to these strangers. Then we circle around Kishore for the worship service that he leads with a mic and guitar. The volunteers try to sit immersed in some of the groups of kids - I warned the poor kids in front of me that I sing loud and off key, so they better sing loud enough to cover me up. As the volunteers start clapping along, the kids will too - by the second chorus of the first song they begin to realize they are in fact allowed to enjoy themselves.

After worship, the whole group circles up and bibles are handed out. Today we had 11 of the 17 kids choose to come to church instead of the alternative activity (that day, "current events"), and with about 8 volunteers, we had a nice large group. We each read some of Romans 1 around the circle. We get through the passage, and of course this chapter ends with "God's wrath against mankind" - at first that's all the kids focus on. Eventually most of them are speaking up and out with questions, and we went from Romans 1, to the concept of the holy Trinity, to everyone being forgiven.

We then broke into small groups - all the while the kids easing more and more into conversation and feeling more comfortable about speaking out. When I finally got to talk to the two girls again as part of our small group (the two girls, me, and four other volunteers), they seemed a bit more at ease with us and with talking. We got to hear about their stories, their hopes, or rather why they felt hopeless. It was only about another 30 minutes I got to talk with these girls one on one - but what I wanted to reinforce to them was that they were loved and cared for. I kept internally thinking about my experience the night before, and the overwhelming response I got from people who cared about me. Now that I had that confidence that there were people out there like that for me, I could convey that confidence to them: that they had similar people, friends, family in their own lives that loved them, prayed for them, and cared for them. Before we wrapped up (or were kicked out, due to strict time schedules set for the kids), the more quiet of the two girls admitted that she didn't know what to think of us at first and was afraid, but that in the end, she was glad we came. I made sure she had my phone number and email (I even peer-pressured the other volunteers to do the same) and that they could contact me for any reason at all. Since we had read Romans 1 as part of the larger group, I re-read Romans 1:12 for them: "That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith". I wanted them to know that they were each other's cheerleaders, and it was important to surround themselves with people who would support them and reinforce their good decisions - and prevent them from falling into the same cycles of in and out of juvi.

Everything considered, from the ups and downs of this weekend, I feel pretty good about where I am. I recognize that God is in control, and he sets things up the way he does for a reason. Our trials make us stronger, and equip us to pour the grace given to us back on to others.

The prospect of heart surgery now doesn't seem as scary as much as it does exciting. I don't know what will happen, and the fact that I have been presented an opportunity for such change is amazing. God never just gives us these changes, but presents us with opportunities to make the changes happen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hope, Part II (miracles)

"For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."
Romans 8:24-25

I feel like this verse has a number of different applications to the way we address that which we cannot see and touch. Let's say I have a car that is sitting outside my house. It started yesterday. It started the day before that. This car has been reliably starting for the several years I have owned and driven it, and I've got no genuine reason to believe it won't start tomorrow like every other day I've turned it on. Would I say "I hope my car starts tomorrow?" Likely not. Hoping my car starts tomorrow when I know within a 99.999999999% chance that it will start is not hope. This is "hope" that is seen and it is obviously no hope at all.

But don't we do this with our faith some days? Do we not say, "I'll believe it when I can see and touch it"? But if we are not hoping for something crazy, but rather something predictable, then it doesn't require faith to believe in, now does it? It simply requires some deductive reasoning and cleverness, and magically, we're our own gods, because we made what we hoped for come to pass.

Faith and hope really go to together when we hope for something crazy. I would call it a crazy hope when there is no way this could happen without God showing up. How often do we try to do things that we know would fail without God there? Do we ever try REALLY crazy things?

Let me share some of my own personal story here. I have an ascending aortic aneurysm. It's essentially a ballooned out artery immediately next to my heart. It really is as scary as it sounds - it's a very serious condition and I shouldn't be able to do much given this at all. A few years ago, when I was about 22, I was in for a regular check-up and they measured the aneurysm - it measured at 5.9cm (keep in mind, the operative begins back at 5.5, and I was well past it). Needless to say, my doctors, my mother, and myself - we all freaked out. I was a wreck for over a month while waiting to get an appointment with the surgeon again. As I was sitting in the middle of my bible study group, I was a broken person, without hope - I really thought that this could be the end of my life. My bible study group, my church, they prayed over me, broken and hopeless as I was, that I would be healed and the aneurysm would shrink. Aneurysms don't just go away or shrink on their own; I accepted their prayers, but I couldn't bring myself to hope for something impossible.

After a month of literally heart-wrenching waiting, I went to see the surgeon again. The aneurysm that had formerly been well within operable range at 5.9cm was now 4.9cm, outside of a range that required surgical intervention. There was NO WAY this could be possible. The surgeon attributed the "error" to a mis-reading of the previous scan. There was no other answer that made sense to him. There was no other way to explain what had happened without God.

There is much I should not be able to do, especially given the fact that I have this time-bomb in my chest. But now I have learned that I am invincible with my hope and faith in God. After that frightful, scary, and hopeless month of waiting to find out if I'd have surgery, I took up running. In the past six months I have already run over 500 miles, including 2 half marathons. I have climbed up the Manitou incline and run on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. I have motorcycled from the 'burbs into DC during rush hour traffic. I have realized that I can really do anything when God is with me. Many of the crazy or stupid things I do would be difficult under normal circumstances and should be impossible under mine; and yet I hope to complete them anyway. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31) We know that God can provide us with anything - it's never a question of capability. If you really believe He spoke us into existence, then why don't you believe he can perform the impossible - miracles? And if we have this great God on our side, who seriously thinks they can stand against God and win? Who seriously thinks that there is a task we cannot perform if God wills it?

This is crazy/faith. Without God, these things I do would be crazy. With God, it is simply faith.


This Friday, my aneurysm will be scanned again for my 6-month followup. This is a crucial scan this time around because if the aneurysm has grown, it will produce a clear pattern of growth over the past 18months that will warrant surgery. If this scan displays a smaller or at least stable aneurysm, then I will likely be able to put off surgery for at least another 3 years.

I'm not sure what to pray for, to be perfectly honest. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18) I'm trying to remind myself that it's really not a big deal in the scheme of things, and could in fact be an opportunity. While it's a risky surgery, I'm now at a point in my life where I'd rather have it over with and enjoy the time off to figure out what I could do with my new life. If it's stable, I'll continue to be monitored regularly and continue to have the prospect of surgery weighing over me. I think I will pray that the aneurysm is gone completely. This isn't "possible" - there is no way this could be true...unless God showed up. I think I will pray that God shows up.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." - Hebrews 11:1.

What do we hope for? What do I hope for?

"But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." - Rom 8:25

There's a lot that I hope for... much of it I don't think I deserve. I hope to love and be loved. I hope to have the courage to dive into ministry and leave "safe" behind. I hope I can learn the "secret of contentment". I hope to learn how to be satisfied with who I am and what God has given and made of me, and not want for anything else.

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy"
-1 Peter 8

Often we let doubt be the other side of hope. We let the devil creep in and turn what we hope for into doubt. We let him turn our hope - a pillar of our faith - into something that makes us ashamed. Like we're ashamed to hope for something, like we don't deserve it. When we abandon hope, we abandon God - we call Him a liar because we're telling Him we don't believe he'll grace us with what we're hoping for.

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body" - Phil. 1:20

Now this is some crazyfaith. To believe in ourselves, to trust in God that He made us, saved us. We banish doubt and fear, and let hope and trust in. What if we let ourselves stop getting in the way of ourselves? What if we stopped doubting and started hoping?

"But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does" - James 1:6-8

We must have hope that God's forgiveness will really be graced to us. We must have hope that he really will give us what we ask for when it is Godly, and faith that he can deliver it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What is your life?

Our plans are silly. James 4:13 tells us as much:

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

What is your life??

From the moment we are born and start to grow up, are family and culture has a plan for us. We go to all our school and graduate. We go to college, we meet a nice girl or guy. We graduate college, land a plum job, and marry our nice girl or guy. We have kids, and continue plucking away at our jobs until we retire.

I can't count how many friends and acquaintances I know where this "checklist" has been faithfully checked off and whittled away over the years. This checklist is imposed on us by our parents, our family, our culture... they all measure our success by how we measure up against this checklist.

Have you graduated school? Good work, son, you're on track. Why can't you go get a good job, (you know, one like the one your aunt has)? Have you met a nice guy yet? No? Well obviously you're doing something wrong, go back and fix whatever it is you've messed up, so you can get back on track.

I want to know where God is in this checklist, and where we start listening to His plan for us instead of our own.

You are a mist for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins".

Jesus calls us to follow him. "Come, follow me, and I will make your fishers of men". At once, they left their nets and followed him. (Matt. 4:19-20) In James, we are told that if we know the good we ought to do (follow Jesus) and don't (live our own culture-based lives), we are sinning.

So what do we do to reject the culture and its demands of us, and embrace what plan God has for us?

Personally, I find myself at the point now where I am ready to run away from what culture wants. I know it will be hard, and I know my family will be disappointed in me for getting off of track of my "checklist". My hardest part now, is to listen to God, and really hear and listen to what His plans are for me now.

I find myself thinking then ever that God has bigger things in store for me than climbing the corporate ladder. He never makes it easy too, because the empty corporate ladder dangles in front of me; if I want to take it, I've got a very secure well paid job, possibly an executive position waiting down the near future. I am good at what I do here. But is this where God really wants me? How am I glorifying Him by climbing the corporate ladder? I've been working here for a year and a half now, steadily getting better at my job, and becoming indispensable. However outside of work, I had stopped looking for a church, stopped making time for friends - the only thing I invested myself in besides work was running. Now I'm beginning to realize that while I've been investing myself in work, I've turned into an incomplete person who thinks she doesn't need God, friends, or family. If this is what I turn into by being a successful scion of our popular culture and completing my "checklist"... then I don't want it. Give me poverty and hunger, take away my job and security, if only it means I'll be a more Godly, whole person.

Like I said, I've packed my desk in my head. Now I'm just waiting for the opportunity to serve Christ in the way that He's planned for me. I pray that when I hear Him calling, I'll recognize it and follow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Safe and Content

Safe and Content. These words usually follow one another in our common vernacular. To be safe, secure, is to be content. Contentment follows all of your circumstances lining up to outline a secure place for you - whether its your home, job, family, etc. But Biblically? I'm not sure if these words really belong together.

I listed to a message today about contentment that was centered around Phil. 4:11-19.
"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength....My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

So while in prison Paul writes to those in Philippi that he has learned how to be content. I'm not in prison, in fact I'm living comfortably, have employment, a family that loves me, and yet I am incontent. Part of the message included an admonition to be thankful for what we do have, rather than resent what we think we're missing.


Now what about safe? Paul was certainly not safe or secure, and yet he was content. I think my personal issue with what is 'safe' at this point in my life has little to do with physical comfort or security. I am concerned that my life is too 'safe' - that I am too afraid to venture away from a comfort zone I am already familiar with. What could I be missing out in life because I am unable to see a path out of this comfort zone?

I've already mentioned that I don't think my current job is where I need to be right now. But it is there, and while I have it, I am secure and I have everything I need to live comfortably. So I suppose my biggest question for myself, is why do I feel the need to flee my comfort zone? Is it because I feel like the grass must be greener somewhere else? Do I want a new life because I think think I lack contentment with my current one or because I think it's too safe and God has more out there for me? Can it be both?

For me, it's get's down to the issue of patience. I want to invest in new opportunities, but I want these to grow right away. I want to control my circumstances and watch things change before me. I SHOULD wait for God to present me with the opportunities He has planned for me. I confess to being impatient while waiting for my life to change.

Now I need to ask God to teach me to be content while I wait in Limbo, not knowing where He wants me to move, or even if He wants me to move. To be content while I wait for Him to show me what I should be doing right now, and if it is my current occupation and circumstances, that I am content with that as well.

It's funny how when we stop looking for something, we find it. I had given up on looking for something, had settled in, and decided that the best course of action was to let what might happen, happen. God would put it in my path when I was ready for it. And so when I stop looking, and I feel caught unprepared, God drops it in on me. Now I don't know what to do with myself. It's such a nascent thing He's given me to take care of... I can't bring myself to trust that it's real. I always find doubt creeping in to tell me that it's not really there. Now, I again need to find or learn patience as I wait for this thing to grow from something new and small, or if it doesn't grow, I need to learn contentment.

I realize that's cryptic... but my job, my life, whatever my purpose is, I suppose I need to stop looking. When you stop looking, is usually when you find things. I pray that by not trying to control my own circumstances, I can make room for God, and for Him to drive my circumstances.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Do you wake up, and have your mind racing ahead of you as you peel yourself out of bed? Ok, I totally admit my first thoughts are about why, oh why, is my alarm going off this early. Two or so snooze buttons later I eventually get off and running and the mind is racing.

So my train of thought as I prepare for work this morning was how I needed to be living for myself. That probably sounds as weird as it looks on the page... what I mean is that I've got to get my own to-do list started, and start tackling my own goals and dreams. And boy, do I have a laundry list.

So most of today was spent about contemplating this laundry list...
....Get back into shape on piano so I can really enjoy playing with the worship teams again (gosh do I stress out about not being good enough).
....Write a book about my journey, my health challenges, where my hope comes from, and how my faith makes me feel invincible.
....Stay healthy, run... do all the races and marathons I can possibly run.
....Dive into ministry. Build people up (Eph. 2:22... in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit).
....Build relationships with people. Learn to accept their grace and help, learn how to bestow my own grace and aid.
....Travel EVERYWHERE and take agabazillion pictures of it all. If God creates so many beautiful places for us, how can we be content to see only our small corner of it? (Rom. 1:20...For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made...)
....Get trained as a medic so I can be tangibly useful on a missions trip.
....Go on a missions trip! (Or several!!)

And all the while glorifying God and following Jesus.

As I'm contemplating this laundry list of what I REALLY want to be doing, I'm stuck at work, trying to focus on what's in front of me. Instead I'm putting out fires and giving attention to all the little short term things that pop up. The several projects at work that all are 'priority', making sure I'm in school and set for next semester, trying to stand up my new account for my health insurance, grocery shopping, errands, clean, figure out why the car is making these funny noises and how I'm going to find the time and money to get it fixed. Quickly my day got overwhelming. And frustrating, because I'm realizing that I'm spending all my time and energy on things that don't really matter, at least that don't really matter to me.

This all makes me think that I need to prune away the things that are keeping me away from my "laundry list".
"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 'Sir', the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' (Luke 13:6-9)

Luke 13 also tells me three years. A period of "ample opportunity". A prescription of patience, because no sturdy tree grows that way simply overnight. A good tree takes time to strengthen. I realize three years is not the golden rule, what's important is the lesson implied. But when do I cut it down? When do I abandon my pursuits as fruitless and go on to something more worthy?

My health only leaves me with so much energy through the day. I have good days and bad days, and I never know which is coming up next. So I try to maximize the time I have when I do have energy. Only there are so many distractions present, and these consume the precious energy and time I do have, leaving me little to devote to things that really matter.

If you were to live each day like it was your last, would you really be worried about the trivial things? Or would you try to work on your own laundry list? Live like not a single minute is unimportant or expendable, (Matthew 25:13, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour").

The plan for now... patiently await God's plan. Invest in other trees that could grow fruit, and wait for one to bloom.

Waiting. is. not. easy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Seeing God through the iPhone

This past weekend, I up and went off on a 12-hour roadtrip on short notice. I decided Thursday morning what a crazy amazing idea it was, (by Thursday night I thought I was just insane), and left early Friday morning. I was able to borrow a sleeping bag and tent on short notice, threw some stuff in a bag, and left with pretty much only my iPhone and google maps app to guide me.

Now I was given a general direction (north, to New Hampshire), and new how to make my first steps. I had driven north through Baltimore dozens of times and considered it pretty familiar, safe, easy to get to, not much chance of getting lost... sort of a comfort zone if you will.

As I started to get out of familiar territory I found I needed to rely on my iPhone more and more to get me where I needed to be. I looked at the long list of unfamiliar directions it provided me, and I promptly ignored it. Even with my iPhone, I still managed to screw up and get off track (I refuse to count how many u-turns I had made that weekend). When I got through Maryland, I thought it would be safer to just stick to I-95 because I knew it would get me there eventually - so I took the scenic route through Philly instead of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. I completely ignored my iPhone and detoured. Despite this, it was willing and able to tell me exactly where I was, and how to get to New Hampshire from there. Often it involved a completely different set of directions than when I started: when I detoured through Philly, my updated directions had me go through back roads in Pennsylvania to get to the New Jersey Turnpike. I had trouble again not much later, and ended up stuck in New York - and still my iPhone provided the navigation I needed to get back on track. Eventually, I had made it to New Hampshire and I was clinging to my iPhone to give me the step by step directions I had now learned it reliably provided.

Is this not exactly how God guides us through life? We feel like we don't need Him when we're in familiar territory. We neglect to reference his Word to get us through the familiar because we can get by, by relying on ourselves and man around us. As we begin to step out of our comfort zone, He provides us directions. But often we don't listen, or think that we know better - and the only thing ignoring Him does is get us lost. So we're lost, alone, and the only hope we can see is by listening to God. The only other option is to stop moving and give up. But really, how appealing an option is it to remain stranded and separated? What if when I got lost in the middle of Massachusetts, I had just stopped my car, and called it a day? Doesn't that sound lame?? I'd be hundreds of miles away from any family, friends, jobs, or home, and nowhere near where I needed to be. Do we do the same with our faith? Do we give up or stay put, even when we know we need to be somewhere else?

His directions may sound crazy or complicated, but they reliably take us from off track, to back on. It may take us several tries, and we may get off track again - either we're not listening or we don't understand. Each and every time God is there to navigate us back to His path for us. The path changes depending on where we fall, and we learn from our experiences and use them to guide us. The point is we're always trying, always moving forward. We're relying on God to keep us moving in the right direction. We may not know where we're going, but we need to have faith that God is there, and that with Him we can never really be lost.

Monday, August 9, 2010

from the top

I don't know about you. But I'm one of these types of people who wants to do about a million different things. There's always a bunch of thoughts running through my head: things I want to do, places I want to go, ah-ha moments that I need to write down before I forget them. So maybe I can do a little of all of that here.

Let's focus on the crazy of crazy/faith for a moment.

Less than a month ago, I took an amazing vacation cruise through the Caribbean. What made it amazing was that I met a person there who blew my mind. He was one of these types that really get you to open up and think about what you're doing with your life. I was able to talk with him about my faith - the same faith I had put on a shelf about a year ago.

I came back from that trip feeling completely unsatisfied with the person I was at home. I realized that my job was my entire focus and purpose. Now that I had let faith back in my heart, I realized how unsatisfying it was to not be doing something that really mattered or touched people. I realized how scared I was that my life had become so empty, boring, and predictable. I'm only 24, and yet I've been presented with a 20-year plan at work. I'm terrified to feel like I'm on train tracks - if I keep doing what I'm doing now, I know exactly where I'm going to be in 20 years and it scares the crap out of me.

In short, I desperately crave change and adventure. Life and work here are unsatisfying, yes, but it's also what I know: it's comfortable and safe. If I want the change I so crave, I need to dig deep down, and reach way up to find out where my crazy faith is. Venturing off into the unknown is scary business, and it's only possible with my Lord Jesus. Who else will point me in the right direction, pick me up when I fall down, and provide for me? Too often we try to be our own God and decide what we should do or be without asking him. Or we try to rely on conventions of man to provide for us, like jobs, health insurance, etc.

Here is the crazy/faith: Rely on God. Go jump down the stairs, knowing that He's going to catch you. Go off and help somebody when it's inconvenient or dangerous, knowing that he's going provide for you and keep you safe. Go drive somewhere without a map or directions, knowing that God provides the tools and signs, and will work out the details.