hope and acceptance: the peanut butter and jelly of life.

I recently had a conversation with someone at work.  She asked me what I thought about hope and acceptance.  She shared with me that she felt torn between the call to hope and the promise of God’s provision even in our current circumstances.  “How do you reconcile the anticipation of change with the act of consenting to our present reality?”   Well, it’s taken me awhile to tease out my thoughts but here’s at least a start.

I write a lot about waiting.  The reason is because I THINK a lot about waiting.  Waiting pisses me off.  Waiting causes me to throw shouts and curses into the wind in desperate attempts to rid my internal cogs and wheels from consistently churning over the agonizing elements of waiting.

Isn’t it funny how obvious epiphanies occur in the most unexpected of moments?

God caught my attention this morning.  It was in the midst of a prayer.  Suddenly, I was keenly aware of the fact that waiting is the reality of this earthly life.  Essentially, waiting = living.  Think about it.  How much of the Bible is spent sharing the stories of fulfilled promises or resolved outcomes?  Not much.  Seriously, if you aren’t paying attention, you could easily miss the entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land.  It’s buried beneath the commands God gave Joshua regarding the way they have to enter and the strict rules they must follow as they take their first steps from the dry ground of the Jordan River into the Promised Land.  Certainly, the fulfillment of God’s promise is extremely important and the central theme of God’s Word.  And yet, the focus is so much more on the journey.

So, what does this have to do with hope and acceptance – or did I just go off on the grandfather of all tangents? (Please, if that’s what you are thinking you’re obviously new to my blog.)  Remember those frustrating analogy questions on the SAT?  Blank is to Blank as Blank is to Blank?  Well, the way I see it hope is to acceptance as peanut butter is to jelly.  There’s really no point in separating the two.

Hope is the desire for something to become reality, to be transformed into truth.  It’s synonymous with waiting.  Here’s the kicker ~ whatever we are hoping for HAS ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED.  Faith is the ASSURANCE of things hoped for.

as·sur·ance: full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty

Now, it may not come to fruition in the timing, way, or expectation we plan on or desire, but the promise is there nonetheless.  And this is where I believe acceptance comes in.  God has called us to “rejoice always” because “the Lord is near.”  Acceptance says I have to believe God’s ways are much better than my ways (Deuteronomy 32:4).  And acceptance says I have to wait (i.e. hope).  But, I’m not waiting in vain, or more importantly waiting alone.  I’m living in the waiting.  And in my living I am joined by a God that promises this:

“I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. 
I said, ‘You are my servant;’ I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:9).

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antsy pants.

Do you ever think about what happens after some of the stories in the Bible?  I think about that….a lot.  I wonder how the individuals who encountered God felt after their experiences, or what questions people had after God commanded them to take action.  Did they ever doubt? Or curse? Or question their circumstances?  I compare my imagined responses with those of some of the more famous figures in the biblical text (Mary, Joseph, Abraham), and I’ll be honest ~ my envisioned reply is never as faith-filled or void of questions.  Sometimes we’re given a taste of insight into the inner minds of those who were called specifically by and for God’s purposes.  But it’s never enough for me.  When I encounter God, my mind is RACING.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Moses and his 40-year quest in the desert.  How did he continue persevering when God seemed all but absent in His ultimate plan?  I would have failed miserably had I been in Moses’ shoes.  I’m the type who, when I feel God has given me direction or affirmed a desire I have been seeking His guidance and provision upon I want immediate action.  Ok, God, you’ve given the green light ~ now let’s see things fall into place!  40-years of waiting?  No thank you!

Yes, I am your classic antsy pants.  Sure, I’ll take forever to make a decision, but once the decision’s been made, I want to see changes occur immediately.  Somehow that doesn’t seem to fit with God’s orchestration of my master plan.  And so I wonder…what was going through Moses’ mind when the Promised Land was merely some foreign, far-off mystery destination that God pledged to provide ~ but not within the security of a specific time frame?

It makes me think faith doesn’t have an end point.  And yet ~ if I take even just a momentary glance at how I walk with God, the truth is I live like it does.  I have constant expectations of fulfillment.  When I am reminded of God’s promise to provide I want the provisions immediately.  The thought of having to wait ~ and the accompanying emotions and obstacles I instantly anticipate ~ scares the *bleep* out of me.  And I wonder if Moses was scared too.  I know he was angry.  His anger was what got him in trouble and prevented him from seeing the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan.  Couldn’t God have just allowed him an infinitesimal glimpse of the end result?  Just a tiny taste of the final execution?   But then I think, how would I respond if I did have a glimpse at the outcome ~ the bigger picture?  Do you really think Moses would have continued forward if he knew that his lot in life would be to never even set foot in the Promised Land?  That he would fail miserably at following in faith when it came down to the final hour?  Ummm…I’m gonna go with no.  So, that leaves when wondering.  Perhaps the lack of immediate clarity is actually a gift from God.  Instead of being antsy I should work on being grateful that I don’t have to bear the burden of seeing the how my journey will unfold until I’m absolutely ready for what I will encounter on the next step.

Posted in Faith | 2 Comments

assurances.

Do you ever pray with your hands crossed behind your back?  I do.  Often.  I say, “God, I am 100% committed to doing this,” and think, ever so deviously, that I can trick God into then providing some type of assurance that I have made the right choice before having to fully pledge myself to whatever decision I am agonizing over.  Assurance.  It’s been around for a long time.

Simply put, assurance is experiencing freedom from uncertainty.  And where did that begin?  Think Adam and Eve.  If I have knowledge of the outcomes, or the thoughts, intentions, or proposed actions of others, I am no longer in need of assurance.  I have it. Adam and Even had assurance in all that was necessary ~ God loved them and God provided for them.  And it was good.  Unfortunately, they were deceived into thinking they needed more (ohh…..sounds familiar!).  And God allowed them to receive knowledge beyond what was assured.  I think in that moment ~ we became intrinsically intertwined with a deep, and often sinister, longing for assurance.

A truthful examination of my daily life yields the reality that I am motivated by the need for assurance.  In all honesty, this blog itself is a cry for assurance.  Sure, I love having an outlet to release my thoughts.  But deep down, when I write about the tough stuff, I am really hoping others will say, “ya, I go through that too.”  I seek assurance on a regular basis.  I desperately want to know that people love me in spite of my faults and insecurities, that choices I make will have positive outcomes and fewer negative consequences (or more importantly ~ are just right), and that ultimately things in my life will come to fulfillment in ways I am hoping or longing for.  But looking at those motivators for assurance-seeking tells me that I’m really running from fear, uncertainty, and, of course, trying to control (does that EVER go away!).  Further, when I look to others (or things) for assurance I am taking away God’s power to sustain and complete me and placing it in earthly hands.

Is assurance all bad?  Absolutely not.  The very definition of faith includes the element of assurance (I Timothy 3:13; Hebrews 10:22).  It’s the act of resting solely in that assurance and releasing my ties to the necessity of earthly assurance where the challenge lies.

Posted in Control, Faith | 2 Comments

i heard it though the grapevine.

Giving my brain a bit of a break these days.  Which really just means the thoughts are still jumping around in my head, I’m just not taking the time to organize them and force them to make sense outside of their cozy little nesting home.

In the meantime ~ if this were my bathroom, I think I’d be an eternal raisin.  Here’s to “window shopping.”  Hasn’t the internet made EVERYTHING convenient!?

from here

***this post title was probably a bit misleading…but I couldn’t think of anything else so I went with something that had to do with raisins. 🙂

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“hey, four eyes!”

I’ve been recognizing something in myself recently.  Most days, I walk out the door on my way to work and fail to take a specific set of glasses with me.  Ok, I wear contacts, but stick with me here I’m feeling a desire to speak in metaphors today.  🙂

I never forget my critical glasses ~ the ones that let me scrutinize and critique the daily occurrences and people I encounter.
I always bring my busyness glasses ~ the pair that keeps me running about with little time to stop, take notice, and breathe.
I’m pretty sure I have multiple pairs of grumble glasses ~ those are great for seeing all the elements that go wrong or differently than you wanted them to.
I have kindness glasses ~ they guide my eyes to people I care about and love to connect with.

Yes, I have many frames that cover my eyes, influencing and manipulating the way I view my immediate surrounding and the world at large.  But, I rarely remember to look through the glasses of abundance.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things AT ALL TIMES, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (II Corinthians 9:8 NIV).

“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done” (II Corinthians 9:8 The Message).

Why is it so easy to loose sight of abundance?  If I really stop for a moment and examine my life, the truth is ~ even in the midst of tragedy ~ I am surrounded on all sides by abundance.  It is God’s promise to me.  He doesn’t just give until we’ve met some quota.  He keeps giving above and beyond.

a·bun·dance noun: a more than plentiful quantity of something.

I have a difficult time trying to fathom the reality that God continues to give beyond what I need.  And yet, I have no difficulty focusing my eyes (and my heart) on what I don’t have.  Why is that so?  Because living through the lens of abundance requires purpose.  It challenges me to intentionally center my life, my thoughts, my actions, and my beliefs around the truth that I am continuously poured out on abundantly.

Where can I find abundance in my life?  I can start with the simple…inhabiting the western world alone puts me in an exclusive bracket of wealthy abundance, and I certainly fail to account for that regularly (in fact, that very reality could occupy the content of multiple blogs).  I have an abundance of love in my various relationships.  I am also abundantly blessed with an amazing work environment.  I love that I have abundant laughter in my life.  I am especially grateful for God’s abundance of grace (I Timothy 1:14) and mercy (Titus 3:6), because I’m pretty sure my actions dictate needing those things on an hourly basis!  I could easily create a list a mile long and yet I still leave those glasses sitting on the counter (or worse, misplaced under some dusty crevice) as I head out to start my day.  So, I am challenging myself to consciously, purposefully acknowledge and give gratitude for the overwhelming abundance I am blessed with.

After all, out of the recognition and embrace of abundance comes the choice and desire to give.  And I believe this practice places us in the heart of true community.

Posted in Abundance | 3 Comments

truth vs. deceit. a rivalry of epic proportions.

I had a conversation with a friend the other night (there’s your shout out Joe :-)) that got me thinking about the concept of deceit.  In all honesty ~ my mind went everywhere with this subject.  I thought about being deceived by others, I thought about the actions I might engage in that produce deceit, I thought about how I respond to deceit, and I focused rather consistently on how we allow ourselves to be deceived when it comes to the various elements of our relationship with God.

And then I thought ~ why don’t we talk about Satan that much?  After all, isn’t he the father of lies, the great deceiver?

Personally, when I experience separation from God and a lack of connection my immediate response is self-criticism.  What am I doing or not doing that is preventing me from experiencing the peace and presence of God?  I transition into analytical mode (well ~ I’m likely already there) and I begin my checklist review of possible contributing factors.  Satan doesn’t typically make the cut.

Now, before I make it sound like I am completely absolved of any responsibility ~ let’s not forget the power of choice ~ I am 100% capable of choosing or not choosing to respond to, or more accurately fall prey to, believing the lies I encounter.  That being said, I thought long and hard about the ways in which Satan uses my natural inclinations and character to deceive me in my relationship with God.  And, surprisingly (please read thick sarcasm here) I settled on my gift obsession passion for analysis.  Is that aspect of my identity wrong?  Well, in the spirit of challenging lies with truth, if I believe the absolute authenticity of God’s word ~ the answer has to be no. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful” (Psalm 139:14).

My capacity for evaluation is wonderful.

But, doesn’t it make sense that Satan would attempt to use those characteristics that are innate features of our unique creation to deceive us into believing our actions/failures separate us from God?  Umm…YES!

In recognizing this, I am able to see the ways in which my desire for answers and meaning in the experiences of my life can sometimes cause me to be deceived in my relationship with God.  The truth is ~ when I am trying to establish the plan or figure out what purpose certain incidents in my life serve, I am dangerously susceptible to the deceitful belief that God determines a cause and effect for every detail of my life journey.

Thankfully, God is always faithful to respond with truth when we are faced with the ugly reality of deception.  This was His response to me:

“You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do” (John 9:3 The Message).

I will not always receive answers or understand the meaning of certain circumstances in my life.  And when I’m hell-bent on resolution, it’s likely I’m asking the wrong question and consequently teetering on following the path of deception.  The truth is this: the imperative element is not ~ how does this circumstance affect me?  But instead ~ how can God be glorified?  Take that Satan.

Truth: 1     Deceit: 0

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what are you waiting for?

Waiting sucks. There, I said it. I used to love the anticipation that accompanied waiting for something, but lately I’ve lost that sense of excitement and replaced it with a much more watered down version of enthusiasm known as mild annoyance (and perhaps some of you who know me well would argue for a bit stronger descriptor!).

The truth is ~ life is full of waiting; waiting for circumstances to change, waiting for plans to come to fruition.  Unfortunately, I think it’s all too easy to become complacent in our waiting ~ to feel stuck, jaded, ignored, or resentful.

I am very blessed in my life to be surrounded by people who encourage and support me in times of waiting.  They listen patiently, pray earnestly, and drop nuggets of wisdom in my desperately outstretched arms.  But, I have to be honest; there have been multiple occasions during these times of frustration where I’ve been offered one little phrase that really drives me absolutely bonkers.

“Just wait.  Once you finish/get through/accomplish A, then B will happen.”

Hearing that phrase makes me want to pull my hair out…one tweeze at a time.  Why?  Because waiting will always be replaced with more waiting.  Think about it for a second ~ doesn’t it seem like you’re always waiting to overcome a hurdle, accomplish a task, take a journey, repair a relationship, end a trial, change careers, conquer a project, reach a goal, experience relief…and the list could stretch miles.

Waiting is inevitable.

So, I want to be known as someone who waits with passion.  Someone who presses forward in the midst of all the delays and holds ~ frustrations and all (because let’s be honest ~ the unpleasant emotions will always be there.  They’re not going anywhere people, so you’d better accept it).

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).

How ‘bout you ~ are you willing to wait with gusto?

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separation anxiety.

This has been a difficult blog for me to write.  I’ve mulled around the thoughts in my head for quite some time.  This is a raw, honest, agonizing place.  I’m a bit terrified to put these ponderings down on “paper” but I’m more terrified to keep them locked up in my brain.  So ~ out they come.

Separation is not an easy thing.  I’ve talked about attachment before on here and it’s something I think about often.  I’ve noticed in myself a natural tendency to fiercely attach to various things ~ whether they be relationships, circumstances, or accomplishments, believing they define my significance, provide me with a sense of belonging, and/or give me a purpose.  It’s sad for me to see how easily I am deceived.  And when I think of the mitigating factors behind by behavior, I’m faced with the painful truth that I am surrounded by separation.

God created us to be in constant fellowship and community with Him, but our sin has separated us from that perfect relationship (Isaiah 59:2).  Gratefully, we are not separated from His love (Romans 8:38-39), but I believe the fullness of the experience of being a part of Him is impossible as long as we walk this earth.  And whether we are willing or capable of admitting it, that separation is painful and we will stop at nothing to avoid it.

I think there are two different types of separation that exist.  One is the kind experienced by those who don’t have the knowledge of anything different.  Pain is existent, but the answer to why is buried in the depths of the unknown.  These individuals go about life not fully comprehending that there is a God longing for relationship, connection, attachment with them.  The other is experienced by those who know the truth and understand on some level what they are missing.

So, aside from the obvious, why is this so important to me?

I think God challenges us to catch a glimpse of His intentions by utilizing our earthly experiences.  After all, He repeatedly speaks to us through the analogies of our daily existence.  And so I come back to separation.  What in my life most directly resembles (although does not come even remotely close to touching) this aching severance that exists between me and my God?

In my lifetime I have been separated from two mothers.  One I only knew for nine short months.  Like those who have yet to grasp the potential of a connection with the Creator of the Universe, I am unaware of what that relationship could have been beyond the sustenance of 40 weeks in a cozy, nurturing, life-sustaining womb.  And then separation.  The other I knew for 29 years.  Together we weathered hardships and triumphs, shed tears of joy, traded words of anger and shouts of praise, and encountered many moments of laughter and love.  There were times of tenderness and moments of anguish.  And then separation.  Daily I am aware of this relationship that was ripped from me and the elements that once existed within it that I can no longer embrace.  Yes, some of the essentials are still there – death cannot change love, it cannot erase away truth, it cannot destroy the bond.  But, it causes separation from something I can specifically identify.  I know what I am missing.

I have dwelled in both realms of separation and the shattering of attachment causes deep aching within me.

And I sit in a similar circumstance with my God.  I long for what is unattainable in this life.  I know in many ways what is beyond my grasp and still there is so much more that I cannot even begin to comprehend.  So, I try to fill the missing pieces with impossible matches because sometimes the hurt seems too difficult to endure and the disparity between what is and what will be appears as though it will never end.  Separation hurts.

But hope is eternal.

 

Posted in Faith, Hope | 2 Comments

glad i’m not the scarecrow.

Sometimes I just can’t help but think it’s so interesting the way God created us.  Our bodies, our minds ~ we are such intricate, creative beings and the complexities of how those inner workings weave together to produce personality and temperament often baffles me.

The brain is a mighty organ.  Three pounds of matter physically controls every thought, movement, action and reaction we ever make.   One thing that I find extremely interesting is that we are essentially hardwired to think emotionally and sensationally.  Yes, ladies and gentleman alike. 🙂   The limbic system (also called the pleasure center of the brain) is the go to spot when we’re reacting without thinking (i.e. you’re hiking in the woods and come across a giant grizzly – limbic system says, “run like hell!”).  It also happens to be one of the more dominant portions of the brain.   In contrast, the prefrontal cortex (and yes, I DO realize I’m going all “Bill Nye the Science Guy” today) is like the brain’s organization system.  It takes in all the important information and makes decisions based on all factors involved – timeliness, importance, emotions, environment, etc., etc.  However, this part of our brain is that last to develop and the least easily to engage.  If we’re not consciously activating the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system is having a heyday.

Maybe that’s why emotions can be such scary – run as fast as possible in the other direction – elements of life.  They’re automatic and WE like to control (ok, well I do). After all, we can put a thought out of our mind ~ but we can’t wish or act away an emotion.

I wonder what our brain looked like prior to the fall of humankind?  I like to think that the limbic system was huge and towered over the prefrontal cortex even more than it does now.  Why?  Because we didn’t want or need to control anything then ~ God was the sustainer and perfector of life and His providence wasn’t just evident it simply was.  Of course, it still is, but we are so quick to fall into the trap of fear that things will spiral out of control should we let our emotions take over, that we try our hardest to live logically, calculating risks and benefits, in order to determine with absolute precision what is right.  We asked for knowledge…and we got it!

Yet, God calls us to live with emotion.  We are to shower kindness and compassion, safeguard our anger (notice there is no place that says to not be angry), display deep longing and desire, express sorrow, crave peace and comfort, and cry out with joy.  And given that we are created in His image, I have to think this is how we should be living more often.  Not to say that assessing facts and weighing choices are not valuable actions, but I think they steadily strip away our ability to let go and let God.

So, the challenge is to not just live with emotion but to step out in faith and release the reins of emotion in order to live authentically and develop a deeper trust in God’s ability to care for us.

Rejoice in the fact that you’re not the Scarecrow.

Posted in Control, Emotions | 2 Comments

dream house.

Who knew it would be in Idaho?

This house is designed by Olson Kundig Architects.

Did I mention I love it??

(oh…and I’ll take the man in the first photo too if he comes with it)

Posted in Favorites | 2 Comments