You weren’t made to fit in somewhere - you were made to fit together with someones.
Pull up a chair and open your mouth and I’ll bet everything I have that we’ll find a source of connection, of togetherness.Read More
You weren’t made to fit in somewhere - you were made to fit together with someones.
Pull up a chair and open your mouth and I’ll bet everything I have that we’ll find a source of connection, of togetherness.Read More
"Well that is just stupid."
"I should cancel this entire project."
"The people who ordered this book are going to be so disappointed when they get it."
"Pretty sure God didn't actually tell me to do this. I'm probably just an insane person."
"I'm definitely wasting my time."
"Gah, you need more."
"Gah, you need less."
"Aren't you so sick of yourself?"
"What are you doing? All this work for basically nothing? Seriously, get a job. "
"This is the worst thing you've ever written, ever."
I'm putting my little "Capturing Thoughts" book together today - hoping to have a proof to show you all soon - and these are actual thoughts I heard floating through my mind while working.
I cannot remember one time where God has said move and I have been able to move without opposition and without doubt.
But I also can't remember a time where God has said move and it hasn't been 100% worth it.
So when these thoughts floated on through I gave them a brief nod and kept working.
I said a little something to myself each time and moved on.
I said something about how I'm 80% sure this is what God asked of me and, honestly, 80% is pretty good. It's enough to do this work.
It's enough to pour myself out on these pages.
It's enough to bear the soul wrenching, ego ripping parts of writing and sharing.
It's enough to bear the tedious, monotonous parts too.
Especially when I'm 100% sure He will work through this book for His glory - 100% sure He'll work through it for my good.
I'm going to do through the doubt.
Because I'm 100% sure it will be worth it.
I want to be good.
I want to be objectively a “good” person, and sometimes I wander into a headspace where I think I am. Based on my own measurements, I am “good.”
I measure against my perception of others, I measure against who I used to be, and I measure against my own definitions.
So when an accusation comes, an accusation that I am less than good, less than holy, less than righteous, less than perfect – I balk. I rally the defenses. My mind becomes filled with reasons I measure up to some concept of “good.”
I rail and I cry and I pound my fists against this injustice and finally, because I know it is the only place to find the peace I need, I fall to my knees and I let my Father tell me how it is.
And he takes away my measuring tools. He reminds me HE is good.
For my own concepts of what is good and right, I can mount a defense. I can reframe and pile up evidence and create a list as long as my arm for why I fit the definition.
But I have zero hope of measuring up to Him.
I am completely defenseless. I fall so short of the standard, short of what humanity could be, short of what I could be. There is an enormous gap between myself and my God, a chasm between what I am and what is good.
I am defenseless.
But I am defended.
Jesus stands in the gap, lays over the chasm. When determining my righteousness, I won’t be measured, my “goodness” won’t be measured – He will be measured instead. His righteousness will be credited to me.
The mountain of defense, the reframing, the pile of evidence, the list of why I am good – these might as well burn. They would never be enough.
I don’t need them. I don’t need anyone to think of me a certain way. I don’t need proof I am “good,” I don’t need to defend myself against any accusations.
He is enough.
I don’t need a defense.
I am defended.
Years ago, I took a last minute trip to Iraq. It was two weeks away from my two year-old and it was traveling to a country perceived as dangerous, which made the trip selfish in the eyes of some.
In hindsight, it is easy to see God’s hand in the entire process, but in the middle, as I prepared to leave, I worried whether I was doing the right thing and acting with the right motives.
I wanted to go. I wanted it badly.
I wanted to travel back to the country I last saw as a soldier. I wanted to be a part of something positive there. I wanted to meet the people under different circumstances. I also wanted adventure. I wanted to get on an airplane and do something exciting. I wanted to do this thing – go to this place.
I told a friend what I was feeling, how I was scared this was a selfish act, a selfish decision. He responded, “How many people do you know who ‘want’ to do this?”
And something clicked for me. A big something.
A life-giving, freedom-giving something.
Wanting to do a thing, wanting to be a thing, wanting to go to a place – these do not poison an action. They are a part of every poisonous action, which is why I was confused, but wanting is not the poison.
If I am walking with God, abiding in Him, listening to the Holy Spirit – if I am ready and willing to stop when He says to stop, to go when He says to go, to stay when He says to stay – I don’t need to be afraid of my own desires.
If I am seeing Him for who He is, if I am daily giving my life to Him, I don’t need to stress, to strive, to stumble over every decision.
For six years, I have been doing more and more of what I want to do. Mostly, I avoid doing things because I think I should. Mostly, I avoid doing things because other people think I should.
I do what makes sense based on my circumstances, my strengths, my weaknesses. I walk closely with my God, so that my desires align with Him and I do the things I want to do.
I am a servant, but I am a servant to a freedom-giving God. I’m not a slave to my own expectations, nor a slave to the expectations of others. I’m not a slave to God’s expectations either – I could never meet them, they’ve already been met for me, and there is new grace and mercy for me every single day.
And for you, too.
You are free. Are you living free?
This is the background of a painting I’m working on. It’s meant to be a background, a foundation, a first layer. I started this piece with unbridled excitement. It’s experimental, it’s a leap, it’s not like anything I’ve done before, and I couldn’t wait to see it finished.
But something happened over the last couple of days, as I waited for it to be ready for the next layer. I became fond of the background. I became comfortable with it. I started to wonder if I couldn’t, maybe, just leave it the way it is.
It has a simple complexity to it. It reminds me of both the ocean and the sky depending on when I look at it.
I like it the way it is.
Instead of excitement over the finished project, today I felt fear over losing what I have now. Even though it was ready for the next step – I left it as is.
But tonight, I turned my eyes back to the plan, back to the reason I began this painting. I started to dream again. I started to envision the next layers, to get excited about the original vision. Tomorrow, I'll start work on the next layer.
* * *
I have purpose in this life. A race. A mission.
But sometimes I stop and I survey and I see how far I’ve come and I become fond of this place, this season.
I become comfortable.
Comfortable with my community, comfortable with my family, comfortable with my routines, comfortable with my habits. I forget the race. I forget the mission. I let fear freeze me.
I take my eyes off of eternity and dwell on the temporal. And when my focus is here and now, the excitement is drowned in fear.
I have to turn my eyes back to the plan. I have to dream again, to envision the next layers of the journey, to get excited about the mission.
The difference between the painting and my walk with God is this painting could end up total garbage. I could hate it. I could regret the moment I turned my eyes back to the plan.
But I won’t regret turning my eyes back to eternity. I won’t regret adding layer upon layer of surrender. I won’t regret any loss or failure or pain associated with the mission. I don’t know how the finished product will look, but I know it will be a masterpiece.
As for the painting, we’ll see.
I grew up without much of an introduction to God. I’d heard of Him, of course, but I didn’t know Him. Then I found Him, or He found me, and we were tight, because “tight” is something I said a lot in those days.
And then I fell away – it’s a longish story for another time, with lots of twists and turns, lots of striving, lots of pain.
I was lost again.
I found my way back in an instant. Literally, it was instantaneous – I walked into a church, my old church, the church where I was baptized. I was there for a funeral but the very second I walked in, it happened. I remembered.
I remembered God loved me. I remembered it was an all the time – forever - no matter what - kind of love. I remembered I didn’t have to go back up the winding path I slid down. I didn’t have to go back through every twist, every turn. I didn’t have to strive.
I only needed to turn toward Him.
And as I walked through those doors to celebrate the finished life of an old friend, I also welcomed new life in my own heart. The weight of the past six years slipped off of me and onto Him and He carried it away as if it was nothing.
I was found again.
Later, as I reflected on how simple it was to be found, an image/vision/whatever you’d like to call it came to me.
I was sitting in a car - lost, so far away, years and distance and mistakes and regrets away from my God. And in my earthly way of thinking, I was sitting in this car staring ahead, wanting to return, but unsure of the way back.
A stack of maps showing where I’d been sat beside me and I’d pull them out, one by one, trying, striving to see the way home.
And then I walked into the church building and in that moment the maps were pushed out of the way and I saw something. It was there the whole time, a part of this car since the beginning, stitched within me in my mother’s womb.
It was a GPS of sorts. A red escape button. Instead of maps to follow back through the way I came, it mapped out the closest way home. And because God is outside the bounds of earth distance and earth time, because the twists and turns and slides I took did not take me any farther from His reach, because the throne of God is not protected by moats and gates and high walls – not even, anymore, by a veil – I was instantly transported.
When I pushed the red button, I was instantly in the throne room, instantly with My God, instantly where I belong, instantly home.
I wrote a song about this. About how God is just a whisper away. I’ll share it eventually I’m sure.
He is just a whisper away, a red button away, from you too. You don’t need to search maps or strive or make your way back through the twists and turns and slides. He is just a whisper away.
Whisper to Him.
When Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land and they were defeating the cities in the area - clearing out the neighborhood so that Israel wouldn't be corrupted by the inhabitants - they first went to Jericho. God specifically told them not to take ANYTHING from Jericho. They were supposed to burn the whole place down and take nothing for themselves.
One man didn't listen. He took silver and gold and a cloak, and Israel paid for his mistake. When they went against the next city, Ai, they were ran off and they lost 36 of their men. When the sneaky man with the loot from Jericho was found out, his family paid - the whole family and everything that belonged to the man was destroyed. Harsh.
Once he was gone, God led them to defeat Ai.
And then something weird happened. God told them that they could take the livestock and the spoil of the city as plunder.
They were forbidden from taking from Jericho, but invited to take from Ai.
A bible scholar, or a historian, or maybe even someone who paid more attention while reading the story might be able to tell you what the difference was between the two cities. They might understand why taking from Jericho was dangerous and taking from Ai was okay.
But really, it doesn't matter for me right now. I needed to see this story in a new light. I needed to see how sometimes God asks you to give something up - to pass by silver and gold and fancy clothes. Sometimes He says "Give that up" or "Pass that by" or "Let that go" with no explanation - no promise of something specific He would give in return. He doesn't say "Destroy everything in Jericho, I'll let you take what you want from Ai," He just says, "Destroy everything in Jericho."
Mrs. Bible scholar/Historian/Person who pays more attention might correct me, but I'm thinking the plunder from Ai was even better. I bet that if they had known what they were about to receive, passing by Jericho would have been a breeze. But they didn't know. What they did know is this: God was taking pretty good care of them. These are the people who ate manna in the desert and quail when they whined about the boring manna, they saw Joshua part the Jordan, they had JUST seen the walls of Jericho fall because they walked around it and made some noise. They knew God is awesome. They knew God can do anything. But that one guy just could not trust that God had something better, so he slipped some trinkets and a jacket into his coat.
I just passed by something. I lingered beside it knowing God was saying no. I attempted a negotiation - "I won't take the whole thing God, how about this little piece of gold, maybe the silver, and how about this coat - I'll never find another one like this - maybe just the coat Lord?" But I had my marching orders - don't take anything.
So I didn't.
And that's pretty scary. But I have my own stories of manna and quail and parting waters and thick walls falling. He is trustworthy. All of the time. And if He says to leave the coat and Jewels in Jericho, I'm leaving them.
I'm leaving them, and I'm waiting for Ai.
I cringe every time I hear the parable of the talents.
Something weird happens in my stomach.
My face is all crinkly right now just thinking about it.
I'm the servant who buried the money. I badly want to be the one who invested and multiplied the master's cash, but I'm not. I took his talent, held it tightly in my fists, put my tail between my legs, and sprinted off to find a good hiding spot.
God gave me a great talent for rationalization (still waiting to see how that can be put to good Kingdom use). I can convince myself - and probably you - that the very best thing to do right now is to put this coin deep in the dirt, where no harm will come to it, where it will be waiting for the master when He returns. But the real reason for the digging and the hiding and the burying is FEAR. Same as the guy in the parable. He was afraid. I am afraid. He is me. I am him.
I have written since I was about six years old - I started with poems. And I kept writing. Poems, stories, songs. A lot of them I keep - tucked away in a drawer or in a box or in a file (I recently ran across a floppy disc with writings from my junior high years - those may be lost forever - it's probably for the best).
I have twice now reached over 20,000 words trying to write the same novel, and twice I have let it dry up.
I made a blog, wrote on it for an entire year, and shared it only with my mom.
I have been afraid for a very long time. But I'm doing life a little differently now. I'm getting my hands dirty, I'm digging up talents and starting to invest. It is scary. And also a little exciting. I kind of want to do it more.
Burying is easy and investing is hard.
Burying is the coward's way out. Burying is not humble. Burying is selfish.
Burying is listening to the evil little voice who wants to shut me up. Investing is telling that voice to shut it.
But people don't want to hear what you have to say . . .
You're totally right, billions of people won't want to read what I write. This is why I don't plan on tying the abstainers to chairs and clothes pinning their eyes open until they absorb my words.
But you really aren't that great of a writer . . .
So what? Moses sucked at public speaking and Gideon only had 300 men.
Everything I have belongs to God. This includes my words. He gets the final say on what I write, where I write, and who sees those words - not me. It is not humility to hide them in a drawer, it is pride.
I just finished watching Robin Hood, the three season BBC series, and I am genuinely, pathetically depressed there are no more episodes for me to indulge in.
Over thinker that I am, I over-thought this today. Why did I love the story so much? Why was I so sad to see it end? Why did I identify so deeply with a story set hundreds of years ago and why did I (seriously, I know how pathetic this sounds) feel like an actual part of myself was missing when it ended?
I think it's because this is our story. A kingdom wracked with injustice. Starving people hanged for stealing bread. Slave labor in deadly mines. Livelihoods destroyed over failure to pay an unfair tax. War. Drought. Famine. And amidst the injustice, character is revealed.
There are those who rebel openly and fight against it - Robin Hood and his men. There are those who rebel secretly and fight injustice from the inside - Marian. There are the young and the sick and the elderly who can do nothing - who are at the mercy of the cruel if there is no savior to step in and fight for them. There are those who have money and title, but who do nothing. They fear the consequences of helping the poor. Or they rationalize - helping will not solve anything - sticking their own neck would be foolish. They stick their heads in the sand. They protect only themselves.
And there are the villains - the ones who want more and more and more. More money. More power - at any cost. The Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John and Sir Guy.
We have those characters. Here in the 21st century we have heroes and rebels and villains. We have weak and powerless people being crushed by greed and neglect. We have heads buried deep in the sand. We have gobs of injustice.
It is our story. It has always been our story. It is the result of sin. It is why Jesus came - to bind up the brokenhearted, to set prisoners free from darkness. To set us free. To set everyone free.
We are free. Right now, we are free.
In the series, Robin Hood lost his land and title because he refused to oversee an unjust hanging. He ran to Sherwood Forrest, no longer an Earl but an outlaw. In a run-in with a group of outlaws in the forrest, one of them said something that stuck with me -"We are dead men." They had lost their homes, families, a place in their country, a reason to live - they were simply surviving as men already dead. Robin challenged them to stop living as dead men. He gave them a purpose, something to fight for, something to fight against - something to live for. And later, when he was handing himself over to the Sheriff to protect an innocent woman- when his men said that doing so meant certain death- he said, "at least I will not die a dead man."
He was living free. Daily willing to lay his life down to protect the innocent. Entirely devoted to combating the injustices in front of him - never letting an opportunity to right a wrong pass him. Stripped of everything that his society valued - labeled an outlaw - walking with a price on his head. But in a way, more free than he could have ever been sitting in his manor, observing the injustices outside his window, and doing nothing.
For 36 episodes, I felt free too. Living vicariously through a fictional character, I felt lighter, as though my own chains were no longer holding me. Chains of practicality, of pleasing others, of meeting expectations, of meeting properly set goals and following carefully laid plans. Chains of achieving, of seeking wealth, of designing a comfortable and contented life. For 36 episodes, I was with Robin - living as a nomad in the forrest with one set of clothes - eating whatever small animal my friend managed to catch and cook over a fire - facing death every day - stripped of the life I cling to and welcomed into a life of purpose. A life devoid of so much that I value, but so full of the freedom I crave.
Isn't that what Jesus does? He strips us of the life we cling to - if we let Him. He welcomes us into a life of purpose - if we let Him. I wish I could be like Robin Hood - letting go of the old life easily and bounding into the new one with endless passion and energy and faith. But I am not like him. Jesus strips and I cling. He welcomes and I balk.
And sometimes, I sit in my pj's and lose myself in someone else's story instead of getting dressed and living my own.
I'm setting a new goal - to live free. I'm laying out a new plan - screw my plans and follow Jesus. I'll let you know how it goes.
*I wrote this piece about 4 years ago. I am grinning wide as I re-read the end because living free is still the goal, etched deep on my heart though I'd completely forgotten what started the initial spark. I have spent the years since writing this moving closer, stumbling lots, toward a stripped down life, which I will write some about - eventually.*
*Originally posted on Instagram in January, 2018*
Yesterday, The B (my seven year old) wanted to give money to a homeless lady while we were stopped at a light.
He saw her crutches and the snow falling and wanted to give her something. When I said I had no cash, he rooted around in the back and came up with a couple coins. “We can give her these!” But I shot him down. It might just be insulting. She’d hop over in her crutches in the snow and we’d hand her 35cents? It wasn’t enough. And it was a lot of trouble to go through to get it to her. Blah blah blah.
The light was green by the time I shut up long enough for the seven year old to say “but we can just tell her it’s all we have and that we wish we could give more.” So, we could tell her the truth. Interesting concept. And maybe the gesture alone was worth something. Maybe 35 cents added to what she had would have given her enough for a warm drink.
We drove through the light giving nothing, but I apologized and talked about it with B and I’m still thinking about it today.
I’m thinking about us, who think what we have to give is not good enough.
And I’m thinking of the people who miss out on so much because they need what we have.