Is God Always the Hard Choice?

It’s One Word Friday!

Ok, so I’m not sure how I got there, but after becoming a Christian in my teens, I fell into a default mode that always assumed that God’s will must be the hardest, and most painful choice I was faced with.

Broccoli or brownie?  Broccoli must be more holy.

Cat or dog?  God surely hates cats so He must want to refine my character by inflicting a cat on me (if this is true, I’m not committed enough to be a disciple) Continue reading

What to do When You’re Stuck, part one

Years ago, when we were newly married and just learning to play golf, my sisters-in-law and I were on a course together while our husbands played ahead of us.

Other than sister-in-law, Rose hitting a tree and having the ball careen back over her head, farther away from the hole than where she started, the day might have been uneventful except that sister-in-law Betsy had the bright idea of driving the golf cart through a sand trap.

Golf carts, in case you were wondering, are not dune buggies.  Their wheels spin like the blades of a fan – a lot of movement, but no forward motion.

I’ve been been thinking of that spinning-wheel-spitting-sand-stuckness lately because that’s the way I’ve been feeling.  

Stuck is not a feeling unique to me.  If you’re not there now, you probably have been.

  • Maybe you’re stuck in a job you don’t like.
  • Stuck in a relationship that’s not healthy.
  • Stuck in a financial hole.
  • Stuck with a problem that seems unsolvable.
  • Maybe doors seem to be closing and you can’t find the proverbial open window.  They’re all closed too.

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In my personal “stuckness” I’ve been re-reading Nehemiah and trying to apply some principles from his life.

Nehemiah is the guy who was wrecked by the report he received in exile that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins.  He is the leader who God uses to oversee the rebuilding of the walls.  Look at just a few verses from the book of Nehemiah:

“I prayed before the God of heaven. THEN I said…”

“I prayed to the God of heaven AND I answered the king…”

“We prayed to our God AND posted a guard…”

Here’s the thing that strikes me most deeply:

Nehemiah never acted without praying and never prayed without acting. 

For some of us, our tendency is to major on problem-solving.  Strive, fix, do, without inquiring or submitting or listening for the counsel of the Know-it-all-Guy we say we want to give control to.  So we spin our wheels often digging in deeper in the sand.

For others, the temptation is to do a lot of praying and reflecting and “put it in God’s hands” assuming that means He’ll magically do all the work and we can go sit in the lawn chair with some ice tea, thank you very much.  Abandon the golf cart for someone else to deal with, as it were.

I tend to fall into the first camp – fire, ready, aim (to use a different metaphor).  So here’s what trying to apply this Nehemiah principle is looking like these days in my life:

I pray early each morning.  And by that I mean I rant at God a little bit in my journal, telling Him about all the stuckness in my life, in case He hasn’t been paying attention.

And then I ask Him what He’s going to do about it, and what He wants me to do about it.

And then I try to pay attention to the constructive choices I can make, circling back to God to say “So what do you think about THAT?  Whatcha gonna do now?  And how close are we to getting out of this sand trap?”

Maybe as you pray, the action God will prompt you to do is to get counseling, or take a Financial Peace class, or apply for a job, or find a mentor.  

PRAY, ACT, REPEAT.

If only that was the magic formula.

But wait!  There’s more!  Next post…

In what ways have you been (or are you) stuck?  What helped?

 

 

Living Instead of Liking a Better Story

First, let me say loud and clear: I LOVE the ministry of Jen Hatmaker!  I think she is an amazing, funny, inspiring, kingdom-loving mom and leader.  If you’ve been following this blog long you’ll remember when we did our own “experimental mutiny against excess” motivated by her book, 7, so clearly she’s been influential.  If you haven’t read her stuff, you should!

But the other day I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and came across this:

photo-8The rest of the update reads: “…minutes past Remy’s bedtime. Tra la la.”

So I’m looking at this and thinking, “Oh, that’s nice.  Family.  Beginning of summer.  Building good memories.”

I’m happy she could post that, but it’s not a big deal, right?  It’s not like her kids won American Idol or converted Kanye West.  I would hope many of you could post some nice slice of a pre-bedtime moment if you have kids, or a nice pic of you and friends relaxing on your deck if you don’t, right?

What baffles me is what’s under the update.  4,700 people “liked” this, and 138 people commented!

I showed husband John and asked him why he thought so many people engaged with a simple picture of someone’s kids playing in their back yard.  He said something which I thought was brilliant (I think most of what he says is pretty brilliant though).  He said: Continue reading

Learning From Those Who are Dying and Those Who Are Living

On Tuesday some dear friends welcomed their first baby, Nel.  New life, greeted with great joy.IMG_5900

This morning, Wednesday, we got word that a 93 year old friend had entered the kingdom of heaven overnight.  He had a mind as sharp as our polar vortex wind, but the body of a helpless infant.  The last time we visited him he had been in hospice at home for over a month and when we saw him he felt like he was just. done.  He was ready to greet death with great joy.

Upon Dallas Willard’s death, John Ortberg wrote of him:

“He (Dallas) said that a person is a series of conscious experiences, and that for the one who trusts and follows Jesus, death itself has no power to interrupt this life, for Jesus said that the one who trusts in him will not taste death.  Dallas died on May 8, 2013. I’m not sure if anyone has told him yet.” Continue reading

Two Truths and A Lie

Let me just start by admitting I can be a major cranky pants baby.  I can whine about my bad hair, long lines, and limitations.  Like this stupid foot injury that has kept me from running.  And the whole Polar Vortex conspiracy against Minnesota which has made doing anything outside (my spiritual pathway) virtually impossible because by the time you get all the layers on that you need to survive in minus a bazillion, you have to go to the bathroom and so it takes you all day to get in a walk around the lake and you don’t get all the other stuff done you’re supposed to do.

However, with this One-Word-Choose-Life-thing I’m trying not to be (a cranky pants baby, that is).  Which has led me back again and again to two truths and a lie:

1.  No matter what, no matter when, no matter where, we have choices.

Where do you feel stuck in cranky pants baby mode?  Right now, think…What choices of attitude, action, or reaction do you have that would mean choosing life in the situation that comes to mind?

I can’t run, for right now (limitation), but I can bike (choice).  I can’t bike outside (limitation), but I can bike inside on a stationary bike (choice).

I hate being inside, so I could whine and resist, but I’m blessed to have a facility I can use to exercise so instead I’m choosing to thank God for that (granted, sometimes through gritted teeth!).

2.  Everything counts.  Everything.  Something is always better than nothing.  You can’t do all of the things, but you can do something.  What is it in your situation?

Friday I pushed.  I went to the gym (that I hate), and biked 12 miles hard and fast (for me, at least).  I felt great.  I felt proud of myself.  I felt like I had triumphed over the Polar Vortex conspiracy and the foot demon conspiracy and all of the bad things in the world.

Saturday I was back.  I pushed again and biked hard, but only did 6 miles.  I could think, “LOSER!”, but instead I chose to say, “Everything is something.”  I needed to focus on the small ways I had chosen life.

The LIE?  “It’s all or nothing.”  The perfect ten mile run in 70 degree weather that feels like floating on air with a hot guy holding an umbrella drink at the end… or NOTHING.

You can choose to turn something off, do something new, make a phone call, thank someone, say “no”, say “yes”, listen…And every little thing you do to choose life counts.  Celebrate that!

What’s the one something you can do today to choose life that isn’t everything, but still counts?  Is it words? Attitude?  Actions?

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The Choice Today Gives You

A departure from Fearless Friday this week… Day after tomorrow our youngest daughter, Maggie will marry the love of her life.  It’s a week of celebrating God’s faithfulness.  Looking back and praying forward.  Our Maggie is  an adventure waiting to happen.  Someone for whom the world is full of friends she just hasn’t met yet.  Her ability to choose life is seen clearly in this post from two years ago

I never, EVER thought there would be a day in my life when I would accidentally end up in a nudist camp, looking for the Giant Lady’s Leg Sundial in rural Indiana. But that’s exactly what happened.

I just got back from the road trip my daughter Maggie and I took driving a U Haul, moving her to D.C. and stopping at quirky sights along the way.

Our trip included car dancing, U turns, bonding with fellow truckers, and stops like the sundial, a space acorn (we just missed the UFO convention) and a hot dog bun “museum” of sorts.  It was a blast. Three days of adventure filled with laughter.

I kept thinking of Deuteronomy 30:19 that reminds us to choose life!”  The life that God has created includes everything from the inspirational, to the sacrificial, to the…FUN!

So…on this Memorial Day weekend I hope each of you find a giant orange moose, or a space acorn, or something that gives you delight!

How are you choosing life today?  What are the life-giving relationships, experiences and spiritual practices that bring you joy?

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What do you do When it’s April in Minnesota?

As I write this it is April 15th and I am sitting in Starbucks and it is snowing outside.

Again.

I’m convinced Hell isn’t hot and fiery.  It’s Minnesota in April when it is cold, dull steel gray and snowing. Still.

Eternally (it would seem).

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Christmas Lists

I love making lists.

And I’ve been making a lot of them lately.

To-do lists, grocery lists, lists of goals, and especially Christmas lists of gifts, and party planning, and elf-like stuff.

I think one reason we make lists is because we like the illusion of control it gives us.  It says “I have a plan!”  We get to check things off, accomplish things (and yes, I’ve been known to do something and then add it to my list so I could check it off).

But sometimes those lists are the very thing that threaten to leave us clutching a bottle of Advil, wondering “How in the world did I get in this mess and how many days til January 2nd?”

And then I imagine Jesus saying, “Come to Me all who are weary with Christmas and give me your lists.”

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The Other “F Word”

One afternoon when Katy was in kindergarten she got off the bus and informed me that she had learned “the f-word.”

“Fart.”

She later told us she had also learned the “sh-word”

“Shut up.”

Honestly, in our family the real “f-word” isn’t fart.  And it isn’t another word that might come to mind.

It’s “fine”.

To my mind, “fine” may be the most terrible word in the english language.  And words matter as my friend Sharon always reminds me.

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THE Question, Part 2 and 4 Benefits

Probably once a week I get THE question, “What do you do?”

I don’t have a business card or a title or a clear-cut job description so I stutter a lot when answering.  Some of you can relate.  Others are reading this and feeling huge relief that they can’t relate.

Monday I wrote about how sometimes we can feel reduced to “names” and “numbers”, and other times we cling to our names and numbers like a life jacket that’s the only thing keeping us safe.

As much as we try to major on living out of our identity in Christ, that can be about as easy as feeling comfortable on a blind date.  So I’ve been thinking about others who may have struggled with this issue.

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