Bridges Giving Way

“When bridges seem to give way, we fall into Christ’s safe arms, true bridge, and not into hopelessness. It is safe to trust! We can be too weak to go on because His strength is made perfect in utter brokenness and nail-pierced hands help up. It is safe to trust! We can give thanks in everything because there’s a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust! The million bridges behind us may seem flattened to the earthly eye, but all bridges ultimately hold, fastened by nails. It is safe to trust.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

Lately, it seems that chaos is in control. I read recently about yet another mass shooting, this one in Las Vegas on the last day of a music festival. I wonder yet again why someone would want to fire a semi-automatic into a crowd of people.

It seems more and more that death and natural disasters are becoming the norm, and security is an illusion.

Then I read the last page of the Bible. The last page doesn’t end with “and they all died.” It doesn’t end with “they tried to make the best of a bad situation.”

The Bible ends with God making all things new. Or as C. S. Lewis put it, the end is in reality the true beginning of the real story, of which all of history was merely the title and the table of contents. This real story goes on forever and each chapter is better than the one before.

This present story is filled with heartbreak and sadness. The story that’s coming will be about how God wipes away every tear from their eyes and how there will be no more sadness or weeping or death.

So I say, “Come, Lord Jesus. Until then, be with us in the midst of turmoil and hardship and suffering. Be with all who mourn. Be our safe bridge to cross when all the world gives way.

Amen.

The Ultimate Longing 

“For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven. There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You. I admit how broken I am in body and spirit, but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever” (Psalm 73:25-26 VOICE).

Ultimately, that’s it. No matter how you are at the moment or how well you think you’re doing, the real victory is living out of God’s strength instead of your own.

Every desire of mine, whether I acknowledge it or not, finds its ultimate fulfillment in God.

I see more now that all those unfulfilled desires and unrequited dreams really all were longings for what only God could grant.

Even when I got exactly what I thought I wanted at the time, it always turned out to be less than satisfactory because a thing can never deliver the true joy and happiness that God can.

That’s my prayer for you– that you understand more deeply that when a longing is denied or a dream gets dashed to pieces, that the deepest yearnings at the heart of those desires are all rooted in the person of Jesus.

May you find that God is more satisfying and gratifying than anything and everything this whole world has to offer. You find true contentment when you finally grasp that God Himself with nothing else added is enough.

That’s what Lent is truly about– abstaining from good things to find joy in the best things and making room in your heart and soul for God to speak and breathe and inhabit.

I’ve managed to make it through one whole day without any social media and I live to tell the tale (even if there was a little bit of withdrawal). If I can do it, I know you can.

 

 

Impossible = I’m Possible

It’s after midnight and I’m weary and ready for bed. I don’t have it in me tonight to do 100% completely original material, so I hijacked . . . I mean borrowed a guest writer to fill in for me.

This spoke to me the first time I read it way back in 2015. I still cling to the truths herein:

“Hey Soul? Feeling like it’s looking a bit impossible? BUT GOD!
Like there’s not a chance of change? BUT GOD!
Like there’s no hope for a different ending? BUT GOD!
‘But God, who is rich in mercy…’ Eph.2:4
Two Words, Change Everything: BUT GOD!
Change every internal conversation with those two words ‘BUT GOD’ —
and you change your life.
What looks impossible changes —
because when we pray to a GOD WHO IS ABLE —
He changes us & our impossibles into the impossABLES” (Ann Voskamp).

 

You Get Joy

“When you take your life for granted?
You get jealous.
When you take your life as a gift–
you get joy” (Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts).

On the surface, that sounds easy, right? Who in their right minds wouldn’t choose joy over jealousy and peace over comparison?

But in a society that runs on envy and comparison like fuel, choosing to see your life as a gift to be cherished rather than something you’re owed that you can take for granted is like imitating one of those crazy fish that swim upstream every year. It’s nuts.

The hardest thing in the world sometimes is to celebrate with and for those who have what you don’t– what you desperately long for and pray for and still don’t have– relationships, solid finances, stable careers, etc. It’s easy to get competitive and develop an “us versus them” mentality that leads to a way of life where you have to outdo, outspend, out-everything your neighbor.

Joy comes when you stop competing and start cooperating, when you can genuinely be happy for the person who gets what you’ve waited for so long. Joy comes to those who see and choose to focus on what they already have instead of what they lack.

Joy is not our default. Joy isn’t automatic like breathing. Joy is something we must choose every single morning, and sometimes with each moment. Joy is good.

Right now, joy is a very sleepy geriatric cat on the pillow next to mine. Joy is satisfaction from a full eight hours of work (even if I wasn’t able to get everything done that I wanted to accomplish). Joy is any kind of Halloween candy with chocolate in it. Joy is a warm bed under a ceiling fan. Joy is knowing that real value lies in what can’t be bought or sold or even owned.

Once again, I choose joy because I choose to see this life as a gift.

 

 

 

Another Good Borrowed Prayer

“Lord, when I don’t like me,
You still love me, You still like me, You still lavish me with acceptance.
When I am fed up with me, You invite me to Your feast,
When I am done — with me, with life, with everything,
You whisper, ‘Hang on — I am making *all things* — *you* — new.’ (Rev21:5)
And when I want to quit, You cup my face: ‘This great work I started in you? I won’t stop that beautiful work until you are fully, completely, gloriously beautiful’ (Phil1:6, 1 Cor2:7)
So this becomes our brave & broken-hearted hallelujah, the one we sing into the dark, even when it’s hard to believe:
I am His Beloved, His Beloved, His Beloved… and even now I will be held.

In the name of the only One who loved us to death & back to the real & forever life… Amen.” (Ann Voskamp).

This is a good prayer for the week that never seems to want to end. This is a doxology for the difficult days that seem to come in bunches and never in just one.

I still remember the line from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that I quote to myself periodically: “Everything will be fine in the end, and if it’s not fine, it’s not yet the end.”

I remind myself that even the worst of days where nothing goes right still only lasts for 24 hours. It may feel longer, but the tell-tale ticking of the second hand on the clock tells a much different story.

I suppose this is another variation on my infamous “Don’t give up because God’s not done with you yet” rah-rah cheery blog posts. I don’t care. I’ll keep thinking of different ways to keep preaching the gospel to myself (and hopefully you as well) until it finally begins to sink in. And I think it’s working at last.

 

Perspective

“How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can’t I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in” (Ann Voskamp).

That’s it.

It’s all about perspective.

It’s all about giving thanks and being grateful.

It’s all about living in the present, thankful for what you have instead of envious and bitter over what you don’t.

God is always present to those who know where (and how ) to look. Those with open hands of both receiving and releasing of surrender, not with clenched fists that grasp and clutch.

Gratitude is a choice that I must make every single day. Every day I get, I must choose to pursue joy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control. For me, it’s not a “have to” as much as it is a “get to.”

Not that I always do. Some days, I let fear win. I let anxiety and envy win. It’s easy to do when you listen to all the other voices around you instead of the Still Small voice inside you. The voice of your Abba that sees past your scars and still calls you Beloved.

But each new day is a chance to choose again and make a new beginning.

So, make Monday count. Buck the trend that says that Mondays have to be horrible and bad because they’re Mondays. Even Mondays can be good if you choose gratitude and thanksgiving.

That’s what I’m choosing tomorrow. That’s what I hope I’ll choose every day after that.

 

 

Random Life Lesson

If I could give you one random life lesson, it’d be this– celebrate the life you have and not the life you wish you had. Enjoy the season of life you’re in by living in it rather than merely marking time until the next season or pining over the last one.

If this isn’t where you want to be, make the most of the present by preparing yourself now for who you want to be when that life you really want does come around. If you’re single, that means you work on being the right person more than looking for the right person. As my pastor said more than once, when the time comes, you can’t start getting ready– you have to be ready.

Most of what really constitutes life happens while we’re busy making other plans. Or to rephrase it for more modern times, life is what happens when you’re looking down at your phone and texting about what you wish would happen. Oh, the delicious irony.

It’s not the grand cinematic moments that you remember most fondly. It’s a combination of several unobtrusive small moments that add up to great memories.

Don’t base your identity on what might happen and on the next phase– in other words, if you’re single, don’t define yourself in terms of a future spouse, or if you’re married, in terms of future children. Let God be the one who tells you who you are now and let that define how you live in the future, spouse or no spouse, children or no children.

As the old Robert Earl Keen song says, all you have is today. So much time and effort is wasted on worrying about what probably will never be. So much energy is depleted in obsessing over possible scenarios that never come to pass.

Just enjoy your present for the gift that it is.

 

Be Still

“Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God.
    I am honored among all the nations.
    I am honored over all the earth” (Psalm 46:10, The Voice).

That’s my advice for you this weekend. Be still.

I know you have that never-ending list of chores and tasks that never gets any smaller.

I know that you feel like you have to be on the go from sunup to sundown in order to feel productive.

I know that the kids have soccer practice and piano lessons and fifty other activities that they are involved in on a daily basis.

I also know that God was serious when He made the Sabbath as a day of rest. He meant it.

No one can sustain a 24/7 lifestyle. You just can’t.

Even if you could, when you’re constantly living at a frenetic pace, there’s no time to hear God speaking. There’s no time to listen to what He’s trying to tell you.

Slow down. Take a moment. Be still. You won’t regret it.

Cherish the moments and you will see God in them. Count the blessings right in front of you and you will tune your heart to sing God’s grace.

It takes time to tune out the world and tune in to God’s voice. It won’t happen in a microwave minute. You have to learn patience and persistence. You have to resist the tyranny of the urgent.

You can afford to leave some of your to-do list undone. You can’t afford not to hear from God. You can’t afford not to spend time with Him.

If you can tithe your money, you can learn to tithe your time and leave room for God in your schedule. After all, you still make time for what matters most.

I think that covers it for tonight.

 

Slow Down And Just Be

“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing…. Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away” (Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts).

Two words: slow down.

All around me all I see is impatience. On my commute to and from work, I see that the majority of people have an extreme lack of patience and an acute inability to wait. But good things come to those who wait, as I have tested and found true over the course of my life.

You can’t rush maturity. You can’t rush healing. You can’t rush growth. All the things that are worthwhile in this life take time. There is no microwave shortcut to becoming your best self.

I’m learning how to be still and listen. I’m still not very good at it. I can’t seem to quiet my mind long enough to hear anything outside my own head sometimes. But if you can be still and silent, maybe you will hear the whisper of God over you and find healing and salvation there.

Slow down and steep yourself in as many moments as possible. Put down the social media and actually be present in your own life. See what’s around you and look for God in all the places and people around you and you will find joy and blessing there.

God still says to you and me to be still and know that He is God. Cease striving. You will never find God in the hustle and bustle. It’s in the silence and solitude that God speaks to us.

Slow down.

FOMO?

“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there” (1 Corinthians 7:17, The Message).

I was the walking definition of FOMO long before such a term ever existed. Back in my college days, I went through a period where I would wander the Union campus in search of the exciting event I feared I was missing out on. There had to be something great with lots of people involved– almost everyone except me– that if I found it and participated would drastically alter my life for the better.

I probably wasted more than a few nights chasing after these mystical and mythical moments that never materialized.

Now, FOMO (or Fear Of Missing Out) is the prevalent excuse for a lack of commitment by so many– why tie yourself down to someone or something when the possibility of something better still remains?

It seems to me that with FOMO, you do miss out. You miss out on the beautiful ordinary moment you’re in while you’re searching out the elusive and illusory moment. Wherever you are, the grass will always appear greener somewhere else.

It’s like in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe where Eustace spurns good ordinary food in hopes of getting more of that magical Turkish delight from the White Witch. He ends up with neither and with nothing but regrets.

The opposite of FOMO is celebrating the moment God gives you and finding the gifts in it. FOMO says that God is holding out on you but faith says that God is true and trustworthy in all circumstances.

The antidote to FOMO is giving thanks for what you have over fretting over what you don’t have or working about missing out on what might have been. The cure is to see every moment as part of God’s plan to work all things together for your good. Even those ordinary moments.