Category Archives: risk

Are you at peace? How do you make decisions?

Standard

How do you make decisions in your life? I think most of us would know what the ‘right’ answer is if we are in a relationship with God, or have some awareness of God. We would say we pray.

The hard part is….you can pray and even fervently pray and yet not really feel like you get a clear answer, an answer that you know for sure is from God.

How can you tell when God is speaking to you? It’s easy to conjure that kind of thing up and then wonder if it’s really God or if it’s just wishful thinking.

I think for many of us we probably live by the open door system. I’ve done it. A door opens, some type of opportunity and we assume that means we are to walk through. It’s an interesting philosophy. One that has taken me many places I probably would’ve never gone on my own. I have discovered though over time that just because a door opens does not guarantee that I should be walking through it. In fact, there are usually multiple doors that could be options…God gives me choices.

That’s a novel concept right there. You have choices. How many of you really feel like you have choices? I think far too many people don’t think they really do. They feel trapped in a situation with no way to get out for a variety of reasons and so they find that they live out life based on what is expected instead of by making deliberate choices. I’ve done this. I’ve felt the weight of the trap on my back. Expectations…realities…bills…conformity with the rest of the people.

One of the most profound things that I feel has been shown to me as I dreamed, thought about, approached and am now in my sabbatical is the reality that every one of us has choices. They may be hard to find…they may require a million tiny steps in a new direction, they make take time, they will most definitely require risk and stepping out in faith…but we all have choices.

If you were living in a third world country I would say your choices are far less. But even there, some choices can still be made. Definitely here in the U.S. we have choices. If we live in a way that we think we don’t…it just means that we’ve bought into a life that looks like everybody else and counts on money and security that I provide rather than what God will provide for me.

We made tradeoffs. We work our way up the ladder to get more money and security and in the end find that we are miserable and have greater health issues caused by the stress of living this way. We must decide what we really want our life to be about. We will make tradeoffs no matter what we do…we must decide which ones we are willing to make. No decision still equals a decision. Everyone makes tradeoffs.

The dad who is a workaholic to provide for his family finds that he misses out on time with his kids and they are all to fast grown up and gone.

That’s just one example but all of us no matter if we are stay at home or working are making tradeoffs. We just have to decide which ones are worth making.

Right now for me and my family…we’re trading money for freedom and time. Soon I will not be receiving my teaching income. I’m banking on the notion that us being free and having time together to be present with each other will be far more important to us than having the ‘right’ clothes, or a big house or a new car. Mine is six years old and I’m sure I won’t be getting a new one anytime soon. We are banking on the provision of God for security rather than a pension system. We are doing something that is very counter culture. Our nation is big about money, pension, security, more money, and insurance for everything and anything. We create our own cocoons that are supposed to take care of our every need.

The problem is that far too often in the process we lose our very soul. We give up on dreams and hopes and who God made us to be. Honestly, we stuff it down so much we don’t even remember who we are anymore anyway.

I realize this is a generalization and maybe you are perfectly happy in your job…if so…awesome! But I think there are many, many people out there who are living half hearted. They tell themselves they’re in the job their in even though it’s miserable to them, so they can provide good things for their family. I’m not sure that a lifetime of this way of living is good for anybody.

We must consider what really makes us come alive. And then find ways to do it. It might mean less money. It will surely mean less security. But if the tradeoff is that I passionately live out my life in pursuit of what I really feel alive doing…I think giving up some money and security might be a great tradeoff.

I’m still in the beginning stages of this whole thing so maybe what I’m saying doesn’t have much proof of actually working…but I’m willing to at least give it a try.

How do you make your decisions in life? Are there certain people that guide you, trusted mentors? Do you read the bible and hope that a verse will make it all clear? Quotes, song lyrics…not always reliable. A feeling…a chance encounter, a thought that runs through your mind. How do you know if God has really spoken to you? It might be different for each of us.

I think one way in which He speaks is that He gives us a sense of peace when we are on the right track. Not because everything is easy or perfect. That’s not what I mean. Following our passion and following God is not about ease or pain free living. But I think we will still have a sense of peace that overcomes the questions and doubts. A peace that lets us know that no matter what we see right now…we are on the right path, making tiny steps in the right direction.

When I lack peace…when I feel unrest in my soul I know something is wrong.

Are you at peace today? Again…peace does not mean…no problems. It just means that you know with confidence you are headed in the right direction regardless of the way things look.

We can bump along through life and just live our lives like balls in a pinball machine being thrust here and there and thinking we have no choice but to go. Or we can realize that’s not how God works. He has given us choice, hearts and souls, passions and dreams. We have the ability to make change in our lives and I believe that as we have the courage to go for it, to really be all we were made to be, He is already there waiting to meet us there and help us.

 

When it’s hard to lean

Standard

It’s hard to lean when you feel like you’ve leaned before and been let go.

Trust is required in leaning. If you feel like you’ve trusted and been let down it’s hard to lean anymore.

Which leads to the question of what to do when we feel like God has let us down. We all feel that way from time to time…it’s natural. I think it’s even healthy to admit that we feel God has let us down.

Yes we ‘know’ that God is good and faithful and trustworthy…but knowing those things doesn’t always mean that we feel those things to be true.

Just this weekend we had a bit of a meltdown about this kind of thing. I had to go to the hospital today to have some outpatient surgery. routine. not a big deal type stuff. My youngest was completely in panic/tears, etc. last night because…the thought of something happening to me is so devastating for her. I could tell her to lean and to rest and to be at peace and that all would be well…and I sensed in my spirit that it would be. But for her it took her straight back to 2007 when her dad was going through medical stuff that was supposed to work out and it didn’t. She leaned then…she felt the bottom drop out of her world. It’s pretty hard to ask a person who has had the bottom drop out to lean again.

God’s definitions of safe and secure seem to be different than ours.

I prayed with her. I tried to console her and she ended up sleeping with me last night. All is well. I’ve gone through my procedure and am doing fine…but I understand why it was hard for her. When you trust and lean and fall off a cliff with what feels like no one to catch you it can be quite painful.

So I say…lean into Jesus and maybe even make it sound easy to do. It’s not. It involves some painful letting go. But it is easy from the stand point that it’s not about me…it’s all about Him and what He chooses to do with my trust fall.

We like happy endings. Sometimes we just don’t realize where we are in the story and all of the things that need to happen in the story before the end.

Not every day in life will be a happy ending. Not everything in life will be easy or painless…in fact a whole lot of life is painful and hard. And still…we must lean.

Daily, moment by moment we walk up to the edge, turn around and fall back and trust that God will be there to catch us no matter what.

If leaning is hard for you…why is it? Where do you feel like God has let you down? What’s at the source of your fear and doubt? That’s probably a pretty good place to start doing the hard work of dealing with faith and doubt and questions and struggle. It needs to be in the open. It needs to be talked about in real honest ways so that healing can come.

For me today…I knew the chances of it being a cancer issue were incredibly small…but the thought had already run through my mind anyway. I thought…”surely, God wouldn’t expect my children to have two parents struggle with cancer…” I mean how would that even be right?!? I also felt like I worked through the process of coming to peace with whatever happened and wanted to be able to accept whatever direction things went.

All of this over a routine, normal, outpatient type of surgery that was no big deal. But it wasn’t just about today’s events…it was about a trust fall we took back in 2007 that is still painful.

Yes God ultimately caught us and we are still alive and doing well…but that fall was a painful one and terrifying enough that for two girls today…they remembered and were not in the mood for another trip down that side of the cliff. Thankfully today…God didn’t require that of us. I’m grateful.

We lean…and when it’s hard to lean we try to understand why…where we’ve been let down and felt pain…and we try to seek healing in those areas and come to peace so that we can keep leaning even when it’s hard. The only other choice is to walk away…and as I told Lydia last night…Walking away from God is not where you want to be. Not when the people you love are going to be with God. Maybe that sounds like I’m not focusing enough of the attention on God Himself…but sometimes, knowing that Mark is there is enough for me to want to be there too. I know that’s a small perspective and I understand heaven is not about him…but I hope you understand.

We fix our eyes on the Author and perfecter of our faith. And even if we’re a little scared…we walk up to the edge, turn around and fall back day after day counting on God to catch us.

We also day after day help catch people who are falling. God uses us to do that work. Today my pastor’s wife Kathy caught me and my children in big ways. She showed up at my house at 5:15am to drive me to the hospital. She sat in the waiting room with my oldest daughter. She visited with us and made us feel comfortable. She prayed with me before going into surgery. She was there when the doctor came out and told her what had been done. She pulled up to the door to pick me up and helped me into my home. She had already brought me flowers and a get well card this morning. She came back later and brought us dinner. Kathy was a one woman trust fall catcher today by the power and grace of God. We can be that for each other…we must be that for each other. Sometimes when people fall and feel the most pain it’s because the people of God have not stepped in to help ease the fall. I’m grateful today for Kathy:). And also for Lori’s frozen mochas brought to us tonight.

After the good food my girls said…”Mom…maybe one of us should have surgery every week” 🙂  That’s called being caught by the living God and realizing that He was trustworthy all along.

How about you…are you leaning? Do you feel like you’re falling? Have you already fallen and do you still feel that pain and struggle with it? Are you catching someone else who is falling? Where are you in the picture…I think it’s good to give  it thought. We’re either falling and needing to be caught or we’re catching and need to hold on and be strong for others. Where are you?

Leaning

Standard

Today in church we were singing the old hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”. The chorus says…leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms, leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms. As I sang the song I was struck by how simple our part is. God doesn’t ask us to be smart, or rich, or require us to be well-known or popular. We don’t have to be a certain gender or race. Our only part in the equation is leaning on Jesus. How hard can that be?

Maybe a little hard…leaning requires letting go and letting all momentum shift so that we might not be able to go back to the way things were. But leaning overall, isn’t that taxing. It’s not about working harder. It has nothing to do with who I am and everything to do with who He is.

This weekend I was talking with some friends and I realized that there are many Christians these days who feel that we are in the end days and are taking serious precautions such as stockpiling food, weapons, etc. Learning to live off the land so that their basic needs will be covered when things get bad here in America. I listened and just felt incredibly overwhelmed at the thought that God would actually want me to go to that much effort to stay alive. If I stockpile and worry about defending myself…how in the world can I still use my resources, time and energy to love others and to love God?

As I sang that old hymn this morning I was reminded again that we are safe and secure from all alarms when we simply lean into Jesus.

I can lean. I might not be able to do a whole lot of other things…but I can lean.

Leaning speaks of trust. Trust that God will keep you from falling.

I tried to explain some of this to my youngest daughter today and we talked about some of the horrible things happening in the world these days. We talked about the reality that someday…there might be some real issues here for us. We’re not guaranteed a life free of suffering…in fact pretty much the opposite. But in the end we decided…we’d just trust Jesus and whatever happens we’d just lean into Him.

Are you leaning into Jesus? What does that even mean to you? It reminds me of how I used to stand in line in front of my husband and I would just gently lean back into him knowing that he wouldn’t budge. His feet were planted…he could hold me without it uprooting him. A picture of how it is with God I think…

I miss leaning back into my husband. These days it’s easy to feel exposed and unsheltered…and it would be easy for me to try to make it not so. But no amount of activity on my part will equal the peace that I had leaning back into him.

I think it’s the same with our worries over the future, whether that’s the economy, politics, the end times…whatever stresses you out.

I’m choosing to lean and trust and I’m counting on the fact that no matter what happens…as long as I’m loving myself, my family, my neighbors, my community, God, my church, etc. it will be enough. Live or die I already know the end of the story anyway.

Safe and secure from all alarms…