Singing in the Dark

“If we wait till we have clear enough vision to see the expected end before we stay our mind upon Him who is our Strength, we shall miss an opportunity that will never come again: we shall never know the blessing of the unoffended. Now is the time to say, ‘My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed. I will sing and give praise,’ even though as we say the words there is no sense of exultation” (Amy Carmichael).

It’s much easier to praise God and be thankful when all our plans come to fruition, when we have the perfect spouse and the perfect kids and the house with the white picket fence.

But what if you don’t have any of these things? What if your spouse and kids aren’t quite perfect? What if the picket fence is faded and peeling and the house is falling down?

If you drew a breath in the last few seconds, you have a reason to praise and give thanks, if for no other reason than you’re still here. You still have a purpose to fulfill that no one else can do and a gift to contribute that no one else has.

You can praise and be thankful without knowing all the answers or, sometimes, without knowing any of the answers, because your trust is in the One who is the Answer to all questions, in whose face questions fly away into nothing.

Usually these times mean that God is preparing something for us that our feeble minds can’t handle at the moment. If we truly knew what He has in store for those who love Him, namely us, then our brains would explode. It’s too much to handle all at once.

So trust in God’s heart when you can’t see His hand.

That’s all for tonight.

 

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.

 

Gravy

Waking up, breathing in, and breathing out. That’s the gift. Everything else is gravy.

I had quite the interesting evening.

It started off as a normal Thursday. I stopped by Best Buy and browsed a bit. I stopped by Barnes & Noble and browsed a bit more.

I ended up at Maniacs for dinner, which seemed easier and more convenient than trying to turn left onto Mallory at 6 pm.

The trouble started when I got in my car to drive home. I put my key in the ignition and turned. Nothing.

I tried it again. Nothing.

I waited a bit and tried once more. Nothing.

One of the guys who worked there tried to jump-start my car. Nothing.

I ended up calling AAA. The guy who showed up tried the same thing. Nothing.

Then he did something I’ve never seen before. He took a long wooden pole and jabbed it at something in my engine while the jumper cables did their thing.

I almost felt like burning incense and chanting to help out. It felt that mystical.

Whatever he did, worked. I was able to start my car and drive to Advance Auto Parts, where further testing revealed that my battery, starter, and alternator were all fine and dandy, thank you very much.

I still don’t know what happened. Maybe I’ll never know.

I do know that sometimes God is trying to get me to trust in the dark. It’s not enough to trust Him when all my prayers are answered and when all my dreams come true.

Perhaps the best place is trusting no matter what. Even if my car doesn’t start, even if my life doesn’t make complete sense, even if I never see another tangible sign of God, I still have more than enough reason to praise Him. I still have more than enough reason to trust Him.

Can you trust God if the job offers don’t come? Can you trust God if the spouse you’re praying for doesn’t get well? Can you trust God if the money doesn’t come through to pay those bills? Can you trust God even if you can’t see any hope that God will ever bring that significant other into your life?

Ultimately, God is enough. When you finally get that, you can trust Him no matter what. I think I got one step closer to that tonight.

 

What I Love on a Friday Night

The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten” (John 1:9-13).

I love how through following Jesus and dying to self you find your true self.

I love how the best expression of who we are and what we were made for is to be a “child-of-God” self.

I love how it all starts and ends with God, not me.

I love that because God started and will end it, I can rest assured that the end is already as good as done and I don’t have to fret that I will somehow screw it up.

I love how no one who ever truly wants to find God and know Jesus will ever be disappointed for all find what they truly seek.

There are lots of things I love about this passage, but those are a few.

Most of all, I love how God’s got me right where He wants me even when I have no idea of where I am or where I’m going and I can ultimately trust Him more than what I can see or feel.

 

Severe Mercies

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“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — ‘severe mercies’ at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better” (Elisabeth Elliot).

I saw where you entered through those gates of splendor you had written about all those years ago. I read where your own suffering had ended, that ‘severe mercy’ that God gave you to bear, Alzheimer’s disease, was finally over.

You taught me that the mark of a man is in being both tough as nails about what he believes and fights for and tender toward those he fights for.

You shared the words that your first husband, Jim, wrote, before he was martyred for his faith: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

You showed me that faithful obedience and surrender to Jesus aren’t the keys to joy. They are the joy, that a heart given over completely to God is a heart at rest.

You helped me see that trust doesn’t always require explanations or answers or reasons why. Faith is its own reward and God above all is enough.

You defined true femininity when you wrote these words: “. . . my plea is let me be a woman, holy through and through, asking for nothing but what God wants to give me, receiving with both hands and with all my heart whatever that is”.

I hear God saying to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into your rest.”

I and so many others will carry on your legacy you left behind in your books and speeches and letters. We are your legacy.

So thank you. May all who come behind us also find us equally faithful.

No More TNT?

It was weird not having my usual TNT discipleship class tonight at Brentwood Baptist Church. I’d gotten so used to these Wednesday nights as part of my routine and now, once again, my routine has been changed.

I’d willingly go through all of it again if I could. Even the public speaking part, which is definitely NOT my forte.

It’s also funny how something I was a part of for only a year became so ingrained into my life that it almost feels like withdrawal not going anymore. Relationships are the same way. When people move off, it seems strange not to see them around anymore, even if they weren’t in your life for very long.

I used to say how much I liked change and how exciting it all was. Now I’ve experienced quite a few changes and it doesn’t seem so exciting anymore. Scary? Yes. Thrilling? Not so much. Unpredictable? Absolutely.

What I love now more than anything is the God who stays the same amidst all the constant changes. It’s true that the only constant is change. Well, it’s mostly true. The only constants are that God remains God and that everything else changes. Except His Word and His promises.

Sometimes I think it’d be nice to have a heads-up on some of the upcoming changes so I could prepare physically, emotionally, spiritually. You know, bring an extra pair of underwear along for the special occasions where it gets really exciting.

But only God knows. I may not trust what tomorrow will bring but I can trust that God will orchestrate it for my good. There’s nothing so bad that God can’t use for good and eventually turn it to the best possible outcome.

God knows the future because He’s already there. God knows my past because He’s there now, healing those wounds of mine so that they no longer bleed into my present (stolen from my pastor). He’s also right with me right now. That’s the best part.

 

Keep Calm and Keep Believing

 

funny-keep-calm-quote2

We’ve all royally messed up when it comes to relationships. Maybe you’ve lost only a few friends along the way or maybe you feel like you’ve run everyone away. Either way it never gets easier when someone finally gives up on you.

It’s easy to become resentful and bitter, but in the long run forgiveness feels better than being weighed down by all that anger. So choose to forgive, not because the other person deserves it but because you need it.

Only forgiven people can forgive and only those whom God has forgiven can really and truly forgive those who have hurt them.

Of course forgiveness doesn’t mean automatic restoration of trust. That has to be earned. Some relationships will never be like they were before. But still forgiveness is always right and always good and always worth it.

I recommend eating something chocolatey after forgiving someone. It helps. Sorta like eating chocolate after fighting off a dementor. Yes, I just went Harry Potter on you.

You forgive because you know you fail. You know you will inevitably need forgiveness yourself from just about everyone you know. It happens. Treat others like you would like to be treated when you deserve rejection but find mercy instead.

Don’t forget the chocolate.

Where My Trust Is Without Borders

image

I think I’ve alluded to this in previous posts, but I am currently unemployed. I haven’t worked since January. There have been times, some of them very recently, when I wondered how I was going to pay my bills. That’s a scary place to be.

Then I sang a song during the 11:11 worship service at Brentwood Baptist Church. It spoke of keeping my eyes above the waves and walking out on the water to wherever God calls me to where my trust is without borders.

I honestly never thought until just now that that’s where I am. When you utterly reach the end of your resources, you find out where your faith and trust lie. You really understand that old cliched saying about never knowing how much you need God until He’s all you’ve got left.

So many can’t find jobs. So many probably have felt worthless and useless and unemployable. Like no one wants or needs what they have to offer.

But as I sang those words, a sweet peace came over me. My faith will be made stronger and I will know more deeply than ever how near my Savior is to those who cry out to Him in desperation. As weird as it sounds, the butterflies are still there. My stomach still feels tied up in knots. But I also know it will be okay in the end. No, more than okay. I will end up EXACTLY where God wants me to be and all this will totally have been worth it to get there.

So as much as I sound like a broken record, I’m still thankful for my life. I’m grateful for waking up this morning and living another 24 hours. I’m thankful for the best family and friends a guy could ever ask for who have stuck with me through good and bad, thick and thin (and through all sorts of other overused phrases like these).

Sometimes, faith really is believing when common sense tells you not to. It may not always look courageous. Sometimes, it may look like barely holding it together and summoning every ounce of strength to not quit on God. It may be praying the most honest prayer ever recorded in history: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” and making it through the next five minutes.

All I know is that I have never seen God forsaking His own. I have never seen their families abandoned or left wanting (my paraphrase of a Proverb). I haven’t seen God fail me or let me down or let go of me.

I do still believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. Amen.

Those Times

I’ve been living my miracle. I’ve been counting my blessings and finding joy in the everyday minutiae of life. But sometimes . . . .

You know the feeling. It happens when you’re tired or hungry or by yourself– or all three. 

You feel like your friends will all eventually abandon you. Little things, like someone not responding to a text or someone else who usually liked and commented on your posts not having done so for a few days, seem like proof that you’re not really wanted or desired.

You find it’s much easier to wallow in that old mire of self-pity and entitlement than to fight for the joy and to consciously bring to mind the blessings. Sometimes it does feel good (but not in a good way) to feel sorry for yourself and believe that no one truly understands or cares about you. Lies are sometimes easier to believe and more comforting than the truth. Well, most of the time.

It’s at those times when you want to lean on what you’re feeling as a gauge for how you’re doing. It’s times when you want to use your understanding as a crutch for figuring out your life at that particular moment.

But just remember this familiar verse:

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“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding [or feelings]. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6. Amplified)

I added that part about feelings, in case you wondered. But it’s implied in the Hebrew. 

Trust God, not in how you feel or what you think. Those things (thoughts and feelings) aren’t always trustworthy. But God is.

And I know from experience your friends aren’t nearly as ready to abandon you as you think they are. Sometimes, they just get caught up in life, their own pain, crazy work or school, etc. They haven’t forgotten or left you.

Remember even if one or two has left you, God never will. He’s promised with an oath as sure as Himself to be with you, no matter what, not only up to the end, but beyond.

That should help you get past those times.

 

Raise Your Hand: A Blog About Relationships

Ok. Informal survey. See if any of these scenarios fit you. Here goes.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been interested in someone and gone to the place where he or she works or hangs out in the hopes of “accidentally” running into him or her? And technically, that’s not stalking. It’s only stalking when you know for sure that person will be there.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever posted something on facebook in hopes that a certain someone would read it. Because that always works. Not. Of course, I’ve NEVER done anything REMOTELY like that. I’ve NEVER found out the hard way how completely futile that is.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever judged the health of a relationship based on how many times the other person likes or comments on your statuses and posts on facebook. Yeah, I seem kinda hung up on the whole facebook thing, but play along with me. Maybe you see the absence of response to your posts and texts as a lack of interest on the other’s part, or even an indicator that that person is upset with you or doesn’t like you. Again, I can say that I’ve never . . . . ok, I’ve been there, done that, thrown the pity party. Now I take pills and I do much better.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever obsessed over the next time you might see that certain someone and rehearsed in your mind what you would say to them. You even got the script down perfect. The only problem is that real life never follows those rehearsed scenarios and real people tend not to want to stick to your script.

What little I know about relationships is this: there are no perfect relationships because there are no perfect people. You can’t make any one person your life or build your future on the hopes of a relationship. To put another person on that kind of pedestal is to put that person in the place of God and put a burden on them that they were never meant to bear.

So I’ve learned to trust God. And pray a lot. And take deep breaths. And not freak out. The other person most likely is just as scared and intimidated and nervous and self-conscious as you are. They just have different ways of showing (or hiding) those things.

By the way, I bet you feel pretty silly sitting in front of your computer all by yourself with your hand raised in the air. You can put it down now.