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Monday, May 30, 2016

The Cost of Winning

Ecclesiastes 2:11, "Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun" (NIV).

Sometimes I think to myself, "Wow, self, you are way too negative!"  Then I read Ecclesiastes, and I reconsider.  I mean, at least I'm in good company, right?

Galatians 1:15-16, "But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being" (NIV).

Matthew 13:44, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field" (NIV).

Here's the thing: nothing that you or I can achieve on our own is going to count for anything in the end.  This is a very hard teaching for me to accept, because I like achieving.

Yesterday, I was playing with toy airplanes with my four year old nephew, Noah.  Mostly, I got to be the "bad guy airplane", which was just fine with me.  We battled and raced, and in the end, the "good guy airplane" would take me out, and Noah would say, "I win!  One more time!"  I quickly learned that, "one more time," in Noah's world, actually meant that we were going to play airplane battles until we died.  I should not tell you about the moment when I was crawling up and down the living room floor, racing, and losing badly, when my fourteen year old daughter looked at me and said, "Mom, I don't think you know what you've gotten yourself into."

At some point, we switched planes, and I thought to myself, "Surely I will win now, since I have the 'good guy airplane'".  It's been a little while since I have had a four year old boy.  It seems that I had forgotten how this works.  Even as the "good guy", I lost.  So I said, "Noah!  The good guy is supposed to win!"  And Noah just laughed as he informed me, "I like to win."  I paused for a moment before acknowledging that this child certainly belongs in this family.  We all like to win.  Sometimes at any expense.  And frankly, sometimes the cost is far more than a good guy/bad guy airplane battle.

I was going somewhere with this...

Oh yes, Paul...

A Pharisee, best of the best...  And then God calls, and Paul is on his way, preaching to the Gentiles, without even asking!

And this guy in the parable that Jesus tells...

He sells all his stuff and buys a field, and only he knows the value.

I just can't imagine any of this goes over well.  It costs everything.  Paul's friends must count this a huge loss.  The field guy's family must think he's crazy!  This is upside down thinking, but Kingdom values almost always are.

Don't get me wrong.  Winning is great, but sometimes losing is better.  Sometimes what looks like losing is actually the big win, in the long run. 


PS  There was this one brief moment when Noah looked at me and said, "We both win!"  I told him that I love games like that best.  Then he went on to beat the life out of my airplane over and over again...

Sunday, May 29, 2016

People Pleasing

Galatians 1:10, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (NIV).

Well, there's nothing like Scripture to smack you in the face first thing in the morning.

If you don't know me (or my family) personally, you have no idea how many times I have heard this verse quoted over the past nine months.  Thank you quiz world.  You see, Galatians 1:10 is the first memory verse in this year's quiz material.  My oldest three children have it memorized.  Many of their friends have it memorized.  Dozens of times, I have sat behind a table and announced, "Question number 11 is a quote question, question number 11 coming, question.  Quote Galatians, Chapter 1, Verse 10." 

An entire school year has passed, and it was not until this reading that it occurred to me that this verse is speaking to me.  I suppose this might be further proof that Scripture is, indeed, a collection of living words and that there is great value in reading (and hearing) the same things over and over again, even ad nauseam...   

The truth is, I don't want this Scripture to speak to me.  Seriously, has this ship not sailed?

But also, this quote:

"At least one day in every seven... Stay home, not because you are sick but because you are well.  Talk someone you love into being well with you.  Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch.  Test the premise that you are worth more than you can produce - that even if you spent one whole day of being good for nothing you would still be precious in God's sight.  And when you get anxious because you are convinced that this is not so - remember that your conviction is not required.  This is a commandment.  Your worth has already been established..." -Barbara Brown Taylor

This is really difficult for me.  I have come to measure my days by how productive I have been, and I compete with myself on a regular basis to do more... to be more.  I hate to disappoint to a degree that it has become an unhealthy driving force.  I thought I had kicked it some years back.  Apparently old habits die hard.

But I know what it is to have healthy rhythms.  I have lived this chapter before.  Interestingly, when I put myself in the best position to please God, I often find that the people I love are happiest, as well. 

I Kings 18:21b, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him..." (NIV).



Saturday, May 28, 2016

We Don't Talk Enough

Psalm 32:3-5, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.   Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.'  And you forgave the guilt of my sin" (NIV).

Sometimes life is ridiculously confusing.

I just wrote about talking too much.  And here I am reading about the importance of breaking the silence.  Maybe it's not so much that we speak excessively.  Maybe it's that we don't say the right things...

I have never been very good at adapting to rising temperatures.  Sure, I whine and complain about the feet upon feet of Michigan snowfall during the winter, but let's be real - it's mostly because I hate shoes.  In my ideal world, it would be about 65 degrees every single day, but the truth is, I will always take a good blizzard over sweltering, oppressive heat.  Always. 

And it's been hot lately.

When I read that line, "My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer," it resonated. 

I am exhausted.

But this has caused me to wonder, am I feeling this way because the hand of the Lord is heavy on me?  I wouldn't have phrased it this way until this morning.  To be fair, I think my life, right now, could be described as an extenuating circumstance.  Quite seriously.  The whole thing.  I do, indeed, thrive in fast paced, multitasking, arduous conditions that are marked by planning and deadlines and maybe an adrenaline spike here and there.  It's just who I am. 

But there was this moment, a few days ago, when I realized that I need to be in Ohio next Friday... and Illinois next Saturday... and Indiana next Sunday.  In my original plan, I was then going to drive across the country to the Pacific Ocean only to return to Michigan just in time to drop off my two youngest children with Grandma and Grandpa before turning around and driving to Oklahoma for a week, followed by 10 days off, a conference, a week of vocational training, family camp, a second week of training, 12 days off, a weekend trip with the extended family, and the start of my final term for this degree.

I cancelled the road trip west, but the truth is, friends; I'm still trying to make it work, in my head.  As I read over the preceding paragraph, I honestly thought to myself, "There are 22 days on which I have nothing scheduled.  Maybe I can make this happen, after all."

And I think I could, if I didn't also hope to earn As in my two summer classes (which is seriously questionable at this point) and learn German... and French... and maybe Greek or Hebrew... and write a 20 page research paper for the purposes of applying for a doctoral program... and purchase and begin renovations on the building we've been looking at for Via Illuminate.

What am I not saying? 

Apparently way too much, because this is the summer schedule of someone who is hiding... ignoring... chasing... something.

I'd like to say I've worn myself thin, but I think I'm actually wearing myself out.

I know exactly what lies at the root of this, for me.

I am struggling... quite deeply... again... with a "not good enough" complex.  You have no idea how much I wish I could just cut the crap and kick it forever.  I honestly have no idea what that's going to take.

Confession?  Hey, God, is that your hand?  Because this heat?  I'm sapped...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We Talk Too Much

Matthew 12:34b, "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of" (NIV).

I feel as if I talk all the time, lately.  My heart must be pretty full.    

Undoubtedly, there is a time for words. 

And there is also a time for no words.

I want my words to matter, and the truth is, I think people listen better when I use fewer of them.


I Timothy 2:2-3, "That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good and pleases God our savior" (NIV).

Ah... peace and quiet...  Now that's something everyone longs for, at least sometimes...


Monday, May 23, 2016

Oh, the Lies We Tell Ourselves

Sometimes when I read Scripture, I'm afraid I read my own narrative into it too quickly.  It is not difficult to pull a verse out of context, here or there, and to think to myself, "Wow!  That sure sounds like (fill in the blank with any name of any person who apparently needs my judgment at the given moment)..."  But sometimes, I fill in the blank with my own name.  And this is often when transformation begins to happen.

I Timothy 1:15, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst" (NIV).

Well then...

Who says that?

Initially, I thought, "I have no idea why this statement seems freeing when applied to my own life..."  Then I considered the implications. 

"The truth will set you free..."  (See John 8:32).

The number one problem we might have in the church, today...  Heck, the number one problem we might have in the world, today...  We all lie to each other.

"Be as you wish to seem" - Socrates

I'm not so concerned with the hyperbolic, vastly embellished narratives we create to make ourselves look awesome (although... I admit... these can be problematic sometimes).  I'm more worried about the subtle ways in which we convince ourselves that we're right... and they're wrong... and our sin doesn't matter... but their sin sure does.  I'm more alarmed by the ways in which we quietly divert our attention from pain in the world, refusing to take responsibility because we're not legitimately culpable... breathing a sigh of relief, because we're off the hook... embracing the loophole instead of the human being who is desperately trying to make eye contact.  I'm more disturbed by the divisive grab for power when we should be washing feet and making amends...

Proverbs 10:12, "Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs" (NIV).

Friends, I am amazing at creating conflict if I want to.  But I don't want to.  It feels so seventh grade, and I'm never going back to that!  Why would I want to be associated with hatred?  With drama?  Again, please don't misunderstand.  In some ways I feel like I'm beating a dead horse.  There are certainly times to speak up, and we should never, ever allow people to be oppressed by injustice.  But I think we need to define injustice, because we whine and cry about far too many things that don't matter when there are real crises in the world.


Psalm 25:11, "For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great" (NIV).

And may we move on from this.  May love cover all wrongs, and may we start over... day after day after day... participating in Kingdom work that makes us less selfish and more giving than we were yesterday... and the day before that...