refocused

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  ~Micah 6:8

I was having a rough day emotionally.  Really, a rough week.  I’ve been over-tired and that makes the days long.  Being tired distorts the lens through which I look at life.  Little things seem big and big things seem gigantic.

Tonight I was letting myself just get worked up.  I can’t even say what I was worked up about because it’s sooo inconsequential to anything.  And I decided to go on BibleGateway.net to see what the verse of the day was and it was the verse I posted above.

It was like drinking cool water on a hot summer day.

Sometimes I over-think things (this is not shocking news to people who know me) and I find myself worrying about things that I should not worry about.  Telling me “don’t worry” is seldom effective in turning my attention from my generally inane worries.

Saying “don’t worry” makes me try to find ways to justify my concerns.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, put the verse from Micah in front of me tonight just when I needed it.  The verse does not say, “The Lord requires you to be awesome all the time, to never make mistakes, and to win popularity contests.”  What the verse does say provides a lot of freedom.  God has shown me what is good:

Act Justly.

Love Mercy.

To Walk Humbly with our God.

In the simplicity of the words, there is so much beauty.  God does not explicitly list of rules and regulations, but He gives us wisdom.  Am I seeking justice?  Am I being merciful?  Is (whatever behavior) allowing me to walk with Jesus?  And the thing is, more often than not, if I am being honest with myself, I know when my actions are good – and when they fall short.

If you read the rest of Micah 6, he spends a lot of time reminding the readers of all the things God has already done for them.  How easily I forget all that God has done!  Writing down 100 joys over the holidays was a great reminder of the abundance of blessings God has put in our lives – big and little.

And so I think about what was troubling me before, and I know that it was just a distraction.

 

the one where i use an aviation metaphor

Physically, mentally and emotionally, it’s been rough.  It hasn’t been a crisis of faith, per se, but rather a crisis of HOW to have faith.

I believe in God, check.

I believe that His son Jesus is my Savior, check.

I have found, though, that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to look at our recent heartbreak and ongoing struggles to become parents and understand how to deal with it as a Christian.

When I am worked up about everything, I find myself tossed about by these storms and unable to find my bearings.

Which brings me to my aviation metaphor.  Ahem.

As a pilot, Frank has trained extensively.  When he first trained, he learned how to fly visually.  Flying visually is exactly what it sounds like – he would fly only in conditions (clear days, generally) that allowed him to identify landmarks and (most importantly) airports by sight. Flying on clear days is lovely, especially in small planes.

But as a committed pilot with aspirations to fly for airlines, Frank had to take his aviation training to the next level.  He had to learn to fly using only the instruments on the dashboard of the plane.  As part of his training, he actually wore a hood that didn’t allow him to see anything except the instruments in front of him.  He had to do this for two reasons: 1) because sometimes what you think you are seeing is not the whole picture and 2) because sometimes he has to fly in conditions where he won’t be able to visually see landmarks.

One night Frank took me flying.  It was a gorgeous night with a layer of low white clouds under a dome of shimmering stars.  Since there are controls on both sides of the plane, Frank let me take the “wheel” and instructed me to orient the plane so that it would be level with the horizon.  After a few minutes, Frank pointed at one of the instruments that showed how level the plane was relative to the earth.  Even though I thought I had the plane level with the horizon, I was very wrong.  The horizon I thought I was following was really a cloud, not the actual curve of the earth.

It is not enough, sometimes, to fly on sight alone.

Frank’s aviation training is a great metaphor for the grossly uncomfortable position that I am in right now.

Most of the time I can walk in my faith by “sight” alone; I either hear from God or I see landmarks from Him that point the way.  The answers are, for the most part, obvious.

Right now, though, we are stuck in the midst of storms and can’t see the ground or familiar landmarks.  Flying visually is not an option.  We have to rely on faith and the tools that God has given us.

I guess it’s a good idea to keep my seatbelt securely fastened, eh?

loopholes

We’re at the part of our regularly scheduled program where I start looking for loopholes.

Well, maybe not actively looking for loopholes, but today I thought one fell into my lap.  At church, Pastor Darren Whitehead talked about Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”

My ears perked up.  If asking was all it took then, man, I’ve been asking for a while.  Maybe I just need to remind God of what I want.  Maybe he just hasn’t heard what I was saying.  Maybe if I just reminded him of this verse, He’d say, “Oh, ok, that’s right, you got me, here you go!”

As with everything in life, context is just as important as content.

Matthew goes on to say, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ”

Parents do not seek to torment their children (well, bad jokes and green beans aside).  Matthew is right – parents do not substitute horrible things for healthy things simply to do harm to their children.  A rock instead of bread? A snake instead of fish?  What loving parent does that to their child?

Because God is my Father, then surely when I have asked him for a child, He is not substituting it with an empty womb just for jollies.  As a matter of fact, the last line of that scripture says that God our Father is even MORE generous than our earthly fathers.

So I come to a familiar place in my walk with God.  I am faced with two opposing ideas: either God is who He says He is and I am wrong, or God is NOT who He says He is and I am right.  In this particular case, the two options I was weighing were Option 1: God must not be a very good Heavenly Father OR Option 2: my brain cannot fathom the generosity of God.

Considering that so many things in my life bear witness to the great goodness of God and there is a 2,000+ year old book testifying to the grace and goodness of God, I have to say that Option 1 is not possible.  While I’d love to recount for you the many times I didn’t get what I wanted, each of those times is perfectly balanced with God providing something that I hadn’t considered – and it was infinitely better than what I thought I wanted.  And sometimes I didn’t get what I wanted just because it wasn’t good for me.  Like chocolate cake for breakfast.  Mmm.

Pastor Darren told a story about taking his 3 year old daughter to an apple orchard.  She immediately ran to the apples in the grass and picked them up and tried to eat them.  But the apples on the ground were rotten and wormy, and Pastor Darren took those apples away from her.  He lifted her up and showed her the fresh, ripe apples in the tree that were infinitely better than the rotting ones on the ground.

So often I forget to lift my eyes and see the better fruit that God has for me.  I am so focused on wanting an apple, I don’t consider anything else and run to the first rotting apples I see.  And that helped me see that Option 2 is the accurate view.

But the problem with Option 2 is that I want children so badly that it can be so hard to realize that God has a bigger vision for my life, a better view and a greater story to tell.  “What can be bigger, better, or even greater than having kids?” demands my temper tantrum throwing little self.

That just tells you how short-sighted and selfish I can be.

And the loophole closes.

[not] doing great

I have had a rough week. I think I am hanging on to too much and have been on the verge of tears every day. I have so over-loaded myself that I haven’t been very positive. And now along with being sad, I am also angry.

FK talked to me a lot about being more positive. Starting with small, good things that are going on. But I feel so hopeless that I am having a hard time pulling myself out of it. And I feel like a failure that I am not more positive. I feel the weight of Frank’s disappointment in me for not being more positive. And my family’s disappointment. And then I spiral. I lump all of this disappointment in me for my lack of positivity in the face of a lot of crap, right on top of all of my other failures (too emotional, too insensitive, not available, not nice, too nice, too serious, not an attentive wife/friend/sister).

I want to go to God with this – all of the things on my heart and mind, but as I told my dear friend Dorothy, I am scared that God’s response is “You need to do this, too.” I don’t want to DO anything else. I don’t want another thing about myself to fix. I am so tired! And I have a horrible feeling that I will look back on this time of my life and think, “Well, that was nothing! That was easy!”

And I guess the other part of it is that I have recently been challenged in how I think of God. I don’t think I ever really thought of God being a benevolent father-type who set up a trust fund and doesn’t want me to ever have to lift a finger. I have had to re-examine what it means to believe that God is sovereign and Lord of my life. I have had to re-examine what it means to fear the Lord. To respectfully fear the Lord – not to be afraid. So I don’t even know how to take this to Him. Before, I had a kinder (easier) -incorrect – vision of God. Maybe it was wrong – I’m not sure yet. But Frank was telling me on the phone that I needed to discipline myself and work on changing my attitude. He is right. He is totally right. But it just felt like another thing to put on my to-do list. The list that never seems to end.

Regardless of how I think about God, I know that I have to lay all of these concerns down at His feet.

I can’t change a lot of things right now without losing things that are important. I can’t distance myself from my family because I know that there is work to be done there – that my family is a mission field in a lot of ways still. I have to fight the good fight and have the difficult conversations – this is part of discipline. If I walk away, I will be giving up ground. Important ground.

My job is my mission field right now, too. Even though it is difficult, what needs to change is not my job at the moment, but my attitude about it. And my approach to it.

This fertility issue. I need to change my perspective about it. I need to find peace in this waiting time. I need to enjoy my husband when he is around and enjoy my time alone when he is gone.

I need to address that I am angry on the inside. Angry can sometimes be good when it motivates people to do the right thing. And angry can sometimes be bad when it bends and breaks you. This time, I think it is bad. I think that this is because my soul is mis-aligned. Normal, Christian souls are probably supposed to walk vertical and upright ::pointing to fake x-ray of a soul’s spine::, so all souls point to the glory of God. But because I’ve been carrying around the weight of all of these other things – my soul is bent, sort of like an “S” and is pointing in all sorts of directions.

I am sure that this re-alignment can be accomplished by spending more time reading the Bible and being with God. It’s so simple, but it is so difficult! And it requires discipline. It is my only option.

Thank you, God, for being so gracious and kind as to see me through these times. Thank you, Father, for my husband, my family and my friends – all of whome are so precious to me. Thank you, Lord, for providing for me before I even know what I need. Thank you, dear Friend, for holding me even when I am throwing a temper tantrum.

1Peter: 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.6In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

things are not always what they seem

Tonight we were reading about Esau losing his birthright and his blessing to his younger brother, Jacob. It’s an interesting story in the Bible that initially, we could not see the meaning of as a group tonight. But as we investigated and the women in our group looked into it further, we started to understand the deeper meaning and I think it was a very interesting discussion.

In the Jewish culture, birthright was everything. If you were first born, you were entitled to leadership and inheritance, etc. Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the older of the two and was therefore entitled to everything that would belong to a firstborn son. Despite all that he was entitled to, he gave it all up one day simply because he was hungry. Tossing away his birthright like that was essentially throwing it in God’s face. At that point, both the birthright AND the blessing belonged to Jacob. When Esau tried to secure the blessing from his father, and Jacob stole it out from under him, the fact of the matter was that Esau wasn’t entitled to that blessing by his own decisions. When he wept and pleaded for his father to provide him with a blessing as well, this desire did not come out of a repentant heart that recognized Esau’s sin and error, but rather out of a heart that believed Esau was still entitled to receiving something.

And I think that is the key: When I approach God with an attitude of entitlement and begin my request by essentially saying, “I deserve this” or I list all of the things I have done to earn God’s favor, or I whine/beg for something without acknowledging the extreme deficit of my sin – I am approaching God with a wrong attitude. If I know that God is sovereign (ruler over all things) and God is holy and God is good, then who am I to beg and plead for my own desires without acknowledging that it is only by God’s grace that I can even ask for these desires?

I think that God hears us out. If He didn’t, prayer would be a bizarre and cruel thing. Sometimes the things I ask for are not the things that are best for me. Like a father who gives His child leafy green vegetables for dinner instead of a chocolate bar, God has my best interest at heart, even when I do not agree.

But I am a little too tired to finish all of these thoughts. I will have to write more on this and an eternal mindset sometime this weekend.

love

until it hurts. And then keep at it.

I’ve been reading the OT and reading about Jonathan’s love for his friend David. Learning about Jonathan’s intense loyalty, the lengths that Jonathan went for his friend and the pain that Jonathan must have felt turning away from his father in order to support David reminded me that love is a choice. It is not always a fun choice or the easy choice… but it is always the right choice.

the need for connection

This week I went to the Gifted to Lead conference with one of my dearest friends, V. The conference addressed women in leadership specifically. It was impressive to be in a room of 1,000 women who were leaders in their communities and churches in one way or another. The Nancies did most of the talking (Ortberg & Beach), but they also brought forth a panel of women in leadership that were at different stages of their lives. Key things I leared:

1. Being a woman and being a leader are not mutually exclusive. God did not make a mistake when He gave specific women the gift of leadership, just like He did not make a mistake when He gave specific men the gift of leadership.

2. The question is not, “How can I be a women and a leader?” but rather “How can I be an excellent leader?”

3. There are so many women who are leaders and who have been absolutely hurt by their churches, their families, and their communities. Some of the stories I heard around our table were heart breaking. One woman was a Children’s minister at her church. Her church had a council of leaders that represented the ministry groups. This council was not exclusively male, but they hadn’t had a woman on the council. Instead of asking her and risking the questions from the congregation, they invited her husband and told him he was only there because of his wife’s leadership in ministry. The husband was devastated because he was not adequate to be a leader on his own ability and giftedness and the wife was devastated because she was not chosen because she was a woman. They struggled in their marriage as a result.

4. I am so blessed. The industry I work in is made of many women. It is not groundbreaking for me to be promoted or another woman to lead the department or run the agency. My husband is so supportive and excited. He is awesome encourager and cheerleader. And, he is also very gifted as a leader and doesn’t feel threatened. It’s cool to be a part of team K!

5. To be a good parent is to be who God made you to be. I loved that. I have stressed a lot about being a stay-at-home mom vs. working vs. part time vs. full time vs. not having kids. Oh gosh, the anxiety is endless on this particular topic. Nearly all of the women on the panel were married and nearly all of them had children. It was comforting to hear them say that it is a greater injustice to raise children who witness you not living up to the call God put on your life vs. raising children who see their mommy and daddy doing what God made them to do. And some women are fabulous SAHM. And some women just cannot be a SAHM. That is something that we each need to discern and determine. Is it easy to do either? No.

6. Tribes. Women need to stick together. ’nuff said.

I think that’s all for now!