Those Ol’ Pesky Expectations

“Life lesson I learned today: It is so freeing to release your expectations of what others should be and what they should do for you and let them be free to be who God made them to be. It’s freeing to give grace to others and see them in the best possible light and always believe the best about them. It’s what God did for me, so why shouldn’t I do that for someone else?” (Me)

The only reason I’m putting what I wrote above in quotes is that it’s from 2012 while the rest is from today. I just wanted to clarify in case you think I go around quoting myself.

I’m relearning this lesson. It’s better not to have expectations of people and just let your expectation be that God will move in their lives just as He has moved in yours. I’m learning to operate out of hesed, giving without expecting anything in return and leaving the rest to God. After all, I’ve been the recipient of this kind of grace time and time again, mostly when I needed it most but deserved it least.

I expect that God will continue to transform me. I expect that God will transform you. I believe with all my heart that God will continue to work all things together for good for you and for me. And I believe that’s a very good thing.

T-I-R-E-D

For some reason, tonight I just got tired. No real reason why. I just knew that at some point around 9:30 pm that you could put a fork in me because I was done. D-O-N-E done.

But then I remembered that the God I love and serve never gets tired or needs sleep. He never wavers nor wearies. He’s the same today, yesterday, and forever. He watches over those who belong to Him. Even better, He delights and rejoices and sings over them in the night while they sleep.

And He knows. He knows all the burdens and anxieties that you carry that keep you up at night. He knows the troubles that wear you down. He has said, “Give them to me. Take My yoke instead, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Just come to me, all you who are overburdened and weary beyond reckoning, and I will give you rest.”

So I can sleep tonight knowing that nothing catches my God by surprise or takes Him unawares. He’s in charge and will keep those He loves safe and secure through the watches of the night.

To Another Unnamed Friend

This is not a sequel. This is not like the last time I wrote about a friend who will remain nameless. This time it’s very much positive and uplifting, but I don’t want it taken the wrong way, so I am writing it here.

Thank you, my friend. I can never express in words how much it has blessed me to be your friend and to get to know you. I know you are going away soon, moving halfway across the country, and I will miss you deeply.

I always look forward to seeing your contagious smile each Sunday. You have such a charismatic and winning way about you. I secretly hope that some of your enthusiasm will rub off on me. Any time I see you, my day is instantly better.

I had hoped at one point that maybe some day we could be more than friends, but I see now that is not in God’s plan, so I am very much content to be your friend for as long as God allows. I know God has someone special for you, and whoever he is will be blessed indeed.

When God brings me a wife (so I’m hoping), if she is half as outgoing, has half as much of a servant’s heart that you do, if she is half as lovely, then I think I will have received more than I deserve.

I can’t wait to see and read and hear about what amazing things God is going to accomplish in and through you in this new season of your life. I hope you will keep me posted on it all. I will be praying for you every time God brings you to mind.

I have been and always shall be — your friend.

A Kindness Revolution

It seems these days the culture around us is becoming more and more hostile to the Church and the Gospel. More and more, they frown upon any mention of Jesus or the Bible and try to silence those who practice their faith in the public arena.

To be fair, the Church deserves some of the blame. For too long, we’ve been known more for what we’re against than what we’re for. We have a top ten list of our favorite pet sins that we love to condemn because those are the sins we don’t struggle with.

Yet we have the message of hope that our culture needs. If the world is suffering from the poison of sin, we are the only ones who have the antidote that will save them. But I think in this day and age, we have to earn the right to be heard again. We can’t presume anymore that people automatically think that Christians are the good guys or that they know anything about the Bible or Jesus.

The way we earn the right to speak into people’s lives is kindness. We can love people outside the faith, not treating them as statistics or numbers or notches on our belts for the number of souls we saved. We can treat them the way Jesus treated people when He was incarnated on earth, the way Jesus treated us when we were yet sinners.

We can show them a better way by how we live a different way, following Jesus down the road of forgiveness and turning the other cheek. We know that the best witness that no one can ever argue against is a transformed life, so we seek that transformation by the renewal of our minds in God’s word and in community.

It’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance, and it’s our kindness that will lead them to God. We can still speak the truth about right and wrong, calling evil for what it is when we see it, but doing it in a kind and loving way– not a harsh and condemning way. It’s not about winning arguments or proving our “right”ness, but about helping people to be reconciled with God and to find true peace. And that’s done by kindness.

What God Loves

“The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection . . . . That is my special work,” he added with the light of a great joy in his face. “Transforming things” (Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet on High Places).

I’m not much on focusing on what God hates as much as what He loves. Here are a few things I’ve noticed that God absolutely delights in:

God delights in turning the impossible into possible. When the world says that something can’t be done or that someone is past all hope, that is when God steps in and shows off.

God delights in making dead things come alive. You and I were dead in our trespasses and sins, according to Scripture, but God didn’t leave us that way. He made us as fully alive as we were fully dead.

God delights in subverting our plans. We think we know what we want and where we want to go and who be, but God has a bigger plan and a bigger dream for us than we could ever hope for or imagine.

God delights in those the world ignores. He lifts up the lowly and places widows and orphans into families. He uses the nobodies to shame those who think they are all that and bag of chips. He built His church using outcasts and outsiders and ragamuffins.

God delights in you. God delights in me. God rejoices over each of us with loud singing and dancing every night and whispers words of love over us as we sleep. If you are His, then He is with you and for you every single step of the way from here to heaven.

My Idea of Dating

One of my favorite movies ever is Say Anything. There’s a scene in that movie where the main guy, Lloyd Dobler is talking with the father of the girl he wants to date. The father asks him, “So what do you want to do with your life?”

In response, Lloyd gets a bit nervous and rambles on about kickboxing being the sport of the future and all that. But then he has a sort of epiphany and says one of my favorite lines from the movie — “I just wanna be with your daughter.” In other words, “I just want to spend as much time with her as I can and learn as much about her as I can to know her and love her better.”

I’m about to embark on a bold odyssey because here I am sitting here able to count the number of dates I’ve been on in my life on one hand and never having been in a dating relationship. Yet here I am about to wander into the deep waters of what my idea of dating is. So here goes.

I know that the vast majority of dates are going to movies and going out to eat. That’s fine. I have no problem with that. But I think I want something deeper.

I want to have deep conversations with the girl and find out as much as I can about who she is. I want to find out all of her favorite things, what makes her tick, what truly makes her come alive, and what can shut down and close up her heart.

I want to take her to all my favorite places and go to her favorite places. I want to stroll through quiet nature trails, walk in the rain, watch the sunset. I want to open her car door and hold her chair for her. I want to buy her flowers every now and then, or better yet, bring her wild flowers growing in a field.

I believe that a man’s job in any kind of dating or marriage relationship is much like cultivating a flower to help it unfold and blossom into something glorious. I think he’s supposed to cultivate and bring out the woman’s inner beauty and help to reveal and uncover all that God has made her be and to help her step into full womanhood as a wife, mother, and daughter of God.

I might not be very good at all this, but I think I’d like to try. I’d like to be an old black and white romantic movie in a sea of The Bachelors and Bachelorettes and all the other reality floating out there in space. Sort of a Humphrey Bogart saying to Ingrid Bergman, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

I know that dating isn’t a perfect science because men and women are imperfect beings, but helping each other grow into their God-given potential is one way dating can be done right, even if it doesn’t lead to marriage.

Again, these are my thoughts. Right or wrong, good or bad, they are mine and no one else’s. This all may be simplistic or naive, but maybe I am simplistic and naive. Still, I know that my Abba is very fond of me and I can now say that I believe that I am ready to venture fearfully yet forcefully into the wild, wonderful, scary world of dating.

Seeing the Goodness of God

Some days are filled with blessings and it’s easy to see the goodness of God. Other days, not so much. Some days, you realize that you have feelings for someone else, only to find out that not only do they not have the same feelings for you but are actually dating someone else. That’s when you can cheer for them and be happy for their newfound joy, but it still hurts a little.

Some days, you listen to the wrong voices. Those voices tell you that you’re not enough — that you’ll never be enough — and that no one could ever love you as you are. Most of the time, you know that voice to be a lie, but on those occasions when you’re tired, you get confused about which voice to heed.

Even on those days, the promise remains: you will see the goodness of God, not in the sweet bye-and-bye pie in the sky hereafter, but in this life. You will see it with your own eyes. Even through the hurt, you will see it.

Then you can have confidence. Not in your own unwavering faith or in your steadfastness, but in the goodness of God even during your seasons of minuscule mustard seed-sized faith and faltering feet.

Those tough times don’t last, but the goodness of God remains forever. That’s what you can cling to every single day that you live.

The Unexpected

“[Life is] getting past the unexpected, and perhaps learning from it” (Violet Crawley, Downton Abbey: A New Era).

I finally got around to seeing the new Downton Abbey movie. It was well worth the wait and served as a worthy successor to the first movie and the series. But that line hit me like a wet pool noodle.

How much of life is different from what you and I expected? How much of it is dealing with interruptions and changes and general chaos that results from things not going as planned?

My joke is that I go to have a conversation with someone and they don’t follow the script I have in my head of how I thought the conversation would go. Anyone else? Just me? Cool.

But growth happens when you can not only get past the unexpected but actually learn from it. As the old quote goes, life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.

I’ve learned not to trust my expectations or my plans. I’ve learned to trust in God and His plans. I’m learning how to lean on the Lord with all my heart and to trust not in my own understanding (to use my paraphrase of the famous verse from Proverbs. I’m learning to keep believing and trusting when my heart is heavy and my faith is weak.

Life is a series of unexpected events, but God is still faithful and will get us through.