Thursday, November 11, 2010

Following the Yellow Brick Road


Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

“Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz

I don’t know why, but for some reason God speaks to me in themes. Maybe it’s because that’s what I need to listen or just the best way to explain things to me in terms that I understand. Maybe I just have a soft spot for analogies (which I so totally do). Irregardless, I keep noticing a trend of things like that happening. A thought will start by me or someone else and just take on a life of its own. From there it will be revisited through various friends (discussions), tv, music, church, and any other place that I draw information from.

A couple days ago I wrote about feeling like I am on a path and feel like I took a pit stop for a rest and just never got back up. Since then (well before then as I think back), all I keep hearing and getting is this reoccurring theme of being on a journey, a path, and writing my own story. I keep being consciously reminded that I am supposed to be writing MY story, not duplicating other’s stories. I have to admit that’s a hard thing for me to accept. I look at the road others live on and I want that. I also have to admit that living a life trying to duplicate the circumstances of others is a lot of the reason I am in the place I am in (going through the tough broken time that I am). It’s embarrassing to admit, but I am guilty of believing that because others that I respect and try to live life like get to live out a certain story that God has planned the same for me. Sadly (but in reality thankfully) God has written a different path for me. Apparently one very different from what I wanted and expected. My story isn’t like anyone else’s. It’s taking me this long to realize, my story (like everyone’s even though I don’t see it) was uniquely written for me. For some reason, this valley is an important part of taking me to the next part of it.

It’s gonna take a strange path here (haha “path”) so stay with me (well I think I’m funny, haha). I thought this was kinda cool…

My sister for some reason got this idea that (I guess because I kept mentioning a path) that my life right now is a lot like The Wizard of Oz. This is funny because that is one of my favorite movies ever (and it used to scare the crap out of me when I was a kid-a little foreshadowing perhaps? Haha). She said, “You need to stay on the yellow brick road.” You keep wanting to get off, but you need to keep going (from here on out I am paraphrasing what she brought up and then where my overactive imagination took it).

I have hit the poppy seed field and if I don’t get up and fight against the sleep I will just lay down and never continue. The poppy seeds in my life are the fear of my unknown future, the fear that comes with giving up control. It represents complacency in my walk with Christ because growing is harder than turning back and giving up. Some days it just seems easier/better to just going back to existing rather than learning to live. It’s also trusting that the path before me is strong (and right) and the city (one of the many Emerald destinations God takes us on His path) truly exists (that there is more than this hopeless place I feel I am currently in). 

As I struggle to get up and continue on along the path, I also must fear the flying monkeys that threaten to snatch me off the path altogether. I think those monkeys represent the temptation to just stray from this life, from this plan and just be like everyone else. I mean, as long as we have accepted Christ what difference does it make if there is no growth from here? It would be easy to take care of myself only. And I’m not even talking about making bad choices or outwardly hurting others, I’m just talking about living life concentrating on anyone and anything before God. I have a lot of good people in my life, people I care about and who genuinely care about me. But I so often feel alone on this path I am talking. As good the intentions are of most of those friends, we are spiritually and emotionally in very different places. It’s often very hard to look at the intense feelings I have and not let myself feel ashamed of them. I want to stop and admit that is SERIOUSLY wrong of me, but in honesty it is how I feel (and I’m sure others can agree they do sometimes too). But, as my wise mother reminded me yesterday, God isn’t calling me to be accountable for everyone else’s growth (which I often let myself believe I am). He is holding me accountable for my own. I don’t have to continue to grow, I could just hang back here with everyone else (who hopefully will continue to grow at their own pace), but that is not who God created me to be. That’s not my path.

The enemy, much like the wicked witch, uses these weaknesses in me (and these are two of the things that have a tendency to inhibit my growth) to slow me down and knock me off the path. My fears are magnified, doubt is placed, loneliness becomes my guide. I start to see the point of this life (and goal) as being happiness and comfort, both of which God says are fleeting and temporary. It’s hard to feel truth’s light when you are hiding in the shadows. God is calling me to a life of more than just settling for easy and being mediocre. He wants me to go the spiritual distance.

I see how each of the character’s plights compare to human nature in general. We are all looking for wisdom (brains), heart (emotional fulfillment), courage (the noooiiivvvee…I couldn’t resist), and a home (our place and identity, who we are in Christ…although most of us never stop to try to figure it out). God created us with these needs to seek Him to fulfill them. I was trying to figure Toto out, I guess he’s those loyal friends who God  blesses us with on this path, the ones that help save us from the poppy seeds and flying monkeys, the ones that stand beside us reminding us this is a pit stop, not our destination.

I literally could probably come up with a dozen other metaphors for life and God from the film, but this is probably a good place to stop. But I do like a good tie in quote or set of lyrics and “Over the Rainbow” fit in perfectly. Our destination is a place where there will be no troubles, where things are made right. But until then, it’s important to keep following the yellow brick road.              

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Seeing God for who He is


“If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small about of water I can scoop into my little can. God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependant lives.”
-Francis Chan from “Crazy Love”

I think one of the things that keep me from truly trusting God and surrendering my heart is the fact that I can’t comprehend Him. My incredibly small mind cannot fathom the power of the Almighty God. I let my fear of failure and insignificance spread over into my faith. How can you step out in faith when you are afraid that His promises cannot be kept?

I feel like the analogy above fully describes me. I try to fit the majesty of a God the size of the ocean into my little soda can view of possibilities. My 12oz little piece of God. God doesn’t even exist within time. How stupid to think that just because my mind cannot comprehend His capabilities, that it should cause doubt of those capabilities.

We are programmed to trust what we can prove. What we can touch, taste, see, smell, and hear. We sometimes may allow ourselves to trust in our feelings. We rarely trust what we cannot experience with our senses and what we are afraid to feel. Faith is a tough thing. It is not for the faint of heart. God is asking us to do a huge thing by trusting Him.

But understanding whom God is and who we are not is a huge part of learning to trust Him. To see how significant He is and how insignificant we are in comparison is incredibly humbling.

But I think a huge deterrent to trusting Him is also our limited view of how much He truly loves us. We tend to just feel like God cares for us in a warm way. But we just don’t get it. HE LOVES US, like really, truly loves us. That’s a BIG deal! He loves us deeply and waits for us to love Him back. To someone who often let’s the enemy convince me I am unlovable, this is everything.

What if I lived my life like I am loved by the creator of love and life? What if the thoughts I have and decisions I make reflected this truth in my life? What if I loved as a result of being loved?

Understanding Christ’s love for us, truly acknowledging the sacrifice He made for us as being an act of love, that should change everything. Realistically, it usually doesn’t, but it should. To truly see God for whom He is; magnificent, loving, fair, completely able, these things should change everything.

But why doesn’t it? Well as usual, it comes down to a choice.

My choice usually tends to be a fear of God. Not a fear in terms that He will hurt me, but that He is not who He says He is. For me, it’s in terms that I am afraid to believe that when He says to have no fear because He makes all things right, I cower in fear anyway. Because it’s easier to be afraid than to believe, then to trust. It’s easier to believe that God cannot overcome the impossible.

I have such a bad habit of boxing God into the little realm of understanding I have. I forget that He governs all things for He is the one who created them. He can do whatever and anything He wants. How foolish to continue to fear when God has conquered all things that we may fear.

The first step to trusting the almighty, yet invisible God is to seeing Him for who He is. To acknowledge that just because we are limited by the impossible doesn’t mean He is. I want to stop being afraid and boxing God into a corner and giving Him limiting attributes isn’t going to help me do that. Only letting Him out of the box and into His rightful place will.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rest stops are for temporary use only


“We’re holding onto the pain because it’s all we have left. But we don’t have to, we have a choice.”
-Chuck Bass, Gossip Girl on letting go

I know, you must be asking, how I can take a quote from a show like that and equate it to what God is teaching me. Well, conventional or not, pop culture occasionally spits out rare gems and in this case, it truly got me thinking about my current circumstance.

I wouldn’t put it past myself to do just that. To hold onto the past because that’s all I have left to hold on to. I don’t let go easily, I have such a hard time with it. I hold on to the past with such a tight grip. The control game again. It’s easier to hold onto what has been than embracing the unknown future.

I have unconsciously (although a few times quite consciously) run from God this last week. I knew that this weekend was supposed to be the much-needed break from my circumstance that I asked for. It was supposed to be spending time with God and learning to move past this. Instead, I spent the time feeling sorry for myself or embracing resentment. I also spent a great deal of time in self-loathing mode.

Why you ask? Maybe I’m still learning new things about myself. Maybe it’s because holding onto the pain is easier than letting go. Easier than admitting this past is no longer my present and certainly not my future.

I’m fully aware I am the reason I cannot move out of this place. I want to, but it’s so easy to just lay down and die (or in this case rest in the land of monotony). It’s easy to stop along this path, sit down and say I don’t have the strength, will power, or desire to go on. To declare this is the best it can or will be. How ironic that the thing I am most afraid of happening may very well happen because I choose to go no further.

We all have a choice to walk along with Christ or decide we can do it on our own. We all have a choice to fight or surrender. We are fooling ourselves if we believe God needs us to make what He wants happen. He doesn’t, His plans will go on, and His glory will be made. But to choose to be an active part of that is within our grasp. It’s not the easy way. It’s not the way the world tells you to go. It’s not the popular path that will bring you glory. In fact, it most likely will be painful and often lonely, possibly even humiliating and/or debilitating. But it will be SOMETHING. It will be more.

You see, as I am learning, no matter what you do, no matter how good you’re intentions are, no matter how desperately you try to make the right choices you will experience pain, loneliness, and a whole other plethora of uncomfortable and damaging feelings. They cannot and will not be escaped. It’s part of our fate as sinners. But when we pursue Christ and ask Him to take our lives and let us be a part of what He is doing, there is this beauty that He arises from the ashes of the despair we have made of our time here.

So you see, the fear, pain, & despair is a part of life. I am having a hard time learning that lesson. I think I wanted to believe that I could escape it some how. That maybe I could be some kind of exception to that rule. But there are NO exceptions. These things are the human condition. Thankfully we have a merciful creator that can make all those dirty wrong things clean and right. Our story doesn’t have to end with that despair. My story doesn’t have to end there.

Although my walk through the valley is so much smaller than many others, it feels like I have been here forever. I don’t want my story to end here because it was easier to stop to rest and never get back up. I want to continue on and allow God to do great things with my life. It’s easy to wish I had been left where I was before, but what could he do with that? Within the impenetrable wall I had built up to keep me safe?

That wall is gone. He is giving me a choice. Erect a new one and live in that shallow, dirty hut along this barren valley or hop on His back and keep going. Try to keep resting on my imperfect and failing strength or let Him be my strength. To put it into words seems so easy, but it’s not. Not even close.

It’s time to start living differently. To start thinking, acting, feeling, and loving differently. A lot of the problem is that I am afraid of change. I am content to stay where I am. But it’s imperfect here and the way of doing things isn’t working for me.

In a lot of ways, I think it’s time to start growing up. Emotionally any how. It is a continual struggle as we learn as we go. I just need to keep learning and more importantly, keep going.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Open Eyes


“Seeing the light is a choice, not seeing the light is no choice.
-Douglas Horton

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. I feel like I am back to having tons of things to write about because I am finally back to listening. I literally could not sleep last night because I kept coming up with things I think God is telling me and I wanted to get them all written into my phone for further exploration (in writing). I am seriously excited because I feel like I have been going through a self-imposed dry spell. I had been buying into the belief that this life is about me and that I can do it on my own. How wrong that belief is.

A good place to start (and I have no idea what kind of pace this entry is going to have since I have so many thoughts to expand on) is realizing why I keep getting to the place I need to start back over. I just started reading this very introspective book called “True Faced” by Thrall, McNicol, & Lynch. It’s about trusting God and others with who you truly are. I am only a couple of chapters in but I highly recommend it! One of the important points they make is the fact that we live with shame, guilt, hurt, fear, etc because of unresolved sin.

Being a Christian for most of my life, I find that I am all too guilty of giving wide berth to obvious sins and tiptoeing the line of “white-lie” typed sins. But I completely overlook the kind of sins that do lasting damage. Not the kind that we usually do and understand for their sinful nature, but the kind that come natural and we forget or don’t even realize we are sinning when we do them. Things like worrying, not trusting God, and believing we are capable of surviving this life without His help. I realize these kinds of sins are the reason God is keeping me in this valley. I need to resolve them before He can take me to the next place. I need to be undone before He can put me back together (that’s a quote Chris Alston from CCCC used last night at the Gathering, sorry I don’t have the name).

I have been asking God all this time to take away the pain I am feeling or change the way I feel about my situation (as in make it so I don’t care about it). Like the merciful father He is, He decided to take another unlikely route within my unique circumstance, He has decided to show me how displaced my feelings have truly been. This has allowed me to focus on the real problem here, not my broken relationships with others, but my fractured one with Christ. I have been looking for a tangible problem to solve instead of the reality that my problem is with my relationship with God.

I have lived a reasonably sheltered life. Although we have gone through a lot of problems within our family, I cannot say we aren’t blessed in so many ways. I think somewhere along the way I started to form these thoughts (mostly in the absolutes again) about how life would be or go. I wasn’t na├»ve enough to believe that I could control every facet of life, but I was pretty sure that I knew how things would go. To some degree I had this impossible list of parameters for what I want (sorry, back to being vague, but it’s important to guard some facts-nothing bad just too personal to me and other people for a public forum). I continued to believe that until God could fill every part, I would just continue on my life as best I could until that day came. So when the day came that I found the “missing piece” that fulfilled almost all of that list (specifically the more difficult of the list) I made sure it was what I wanted, I discussed it with wise counsel, and prayed about it. And then I leaped. I made a very crucial decision in life. Problem is, in hindsight I realize, I asked God but I’m not sure I took the time to be still and make sure it was what He wanted, I just saw what I wanted.

I look at the choices I have made and realize that while they weren’t bad or wrong, they may not have been wise or what’s best. I may have focused too much on the impossible part that I thought I saw God filling instead of making sure those choices are what God wanted for me. I was way too caught up in what I wanted rather than making sure that’s what God wanted for me. In the world of absolutes I was living in, it made sense that if the outside (the impossible side) was right than it must be right.

I have learned an important lesson about taking time to truly know and listen to God. To take time to be still. I have often wondered why I did not hear God the way I thought I should. I wondered if the problem was me or He was just going to take the “act out and let Him close the wrong doors” approach with me. But truth is, I often just want the immediate answer while most times God’s answers may be subtle or require endurance to hear.

While doing what makes you happy and seeking wise counsel are important things, stopping and listening to God is the most crucial part. While sometimes it is important to step out in faith and hope God leads by closing wrong doors and opening right ones, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Sometimes it’s best to wait to make decisions or take actions until you are at a place where you are pursuing God and listening when He speaks.

Thankfully God uses all choices to inevitably lead to His glory. All we can do is pick up the pieces and learn from the past. Use those choices to help us better understand why we are using broken things to supplement what is not yet broken.

Seeing things in their true light, for what they are, makes me sad. It makes me fear I have hurt others with my actions or sometimes wish for the bliss that seemingly accompanies naivety. But it also reminds me that the road I was on was incomplete and far from God. That path (at least the way it was and continuing that way) could never be God’s plan for my life. He promises wholeness and fulfillment, the kind I never could have found if I just kept wandering the other way. And every part of this struggle is leading me to the path He has and is creating especially for me.

We all have a choice to make, open our eyes and see things for what they are or stay blinded to the truth of our past actions and future choices. It’s time to start looking at life with my eyes wide open. When I do, I see God everywhere.

   

   

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Choosing what is right over what’s easy


"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
-Matthew 7:13-14

I have been seeking counsel from a lot of different people in my life. For those that are not aware, I do not usually ask people for help (with the exception of those who I am very close to and know me so well that I know they love me no matter what my faults are-hey, as I have said before I am a lot more insecure than I seem). I just have a hard time trusting people (not because of their flaws but because of mine). I allow myself to be there for many people but not let many people be there for me.

It’s exciting for me to open up to people and even though it’s hard, it’s sometimes refreshing to expose my vulnerabilities and allow people to love on me. Sometimes I think my road is so hard because I don’t allow people to do that. Plus it blesses people to bless others. And I want nothing more than for other’s lives to be changed through my struggles.

The problem I have when seeking counsel from others is that often others don’t truly understand where I am coming from or may cause me to doubt what I am doing. Last night, conversation from a very few sweet friends got me very confused. These friends have been encouraging me to start doing what’s right for me (what’s easy) instead of what is actually right. Where their intentions were good, I’m not sure their advice was (for my unique circumstances).

This whole time I have been trying to focus on doing what’s right. Not just what’s right for me, but what’s right for everyone involved. The problem is that some of that, facilitating others to grow, is keeping me from moving on (continuing to grow). So is switching to doing what’s easy (which in my case will actually hurt others) the right thing if there is a chance that it might make things better for me? Where logically that might make sense, I mean who is going to take care of me if not me? But I just can’t see that being what God wants here.

I am having a hard time hearing God and knowing if what I am doing is right or what I am supposed to do. I have doubted if all of this is ok, for me and others. But I just can’t justify making choices that will affect so many other’s lives just based on my feelings alone. It is important to protect myself, but to what end? Where do you draw the line? God tells us that this life is about glorifying Him and loving others. I just don’t see how picking the easy path is doing either one.

As Jesus says in Matthew, many take the easy path, but it leads to destruction. Few find the narrow, hard path. Few walk the path that leads to true life.

Maybe for a while I need to be focusing on doing the right thing while protecting myself by not necessarily doing the nice thing. Maybe I need to continue facilitating growth in others, but not go out of my way to convince others (or myself) that I’m ok when I’m not.

Maybe a lot of my problem is the fact that I feel like I am supposed to be doing anything at all. Truth is, maybe I don’t hear God telling me what to do because right now, maybe not doing anything is the greatest step of faith I (a super control freak) can take.

If God wants to change my circumstance, if He wants things to be different, then they will. With or without me making those choices. A lot of my trust issue with God is my narrow belief that my choices make or break God’s will. But they don’t and scary as that is, I also thank God. I’m pretty sure I would make the wrong choice every time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Give me faith


I need you to soften my heart
To break me apart
I need you to open my eyes
To see that you’re shaping my life

All I am, I surrender

Give me faith to trust what you say
That you’re good and your love is great
I’m broken inside, I give you my life

I need you to soften my heart
To break me apart
I need you to pierce through the dark
And cleanse every part of me

I may be weak
Your spirit strong in me
My flesh may fail
But my God you never will
-“Give me Faith” by Elevation Worship

Another month has come and gone and I am disappointed to realize I am the same person I was. I have not changed much and any change that has been happening doesn’t seem to be in a good way.

I feel myself becoming overwhelmed with the familiar feeling of fear. Fear of the unknown future, fear that this is the best there is for me, fear that God cannot make me whole or bring me what I need. I have no idea why it is so hard for me to let go. Why it is so hard for me to believe what God tells me. That when I fail, he never does. Maybe it’s because I feel like I am always failing.

I have no idea what to ask God for any more. I feel like the pain that I continually put myself through is creating resentment in me instead of gratefulness. I don’t want to stay in the place I am in. But I know that if I move out of this place, that I will go back to living life dependant on myself and all of this was for nothing. Or worse, that this is truly all there is for me.

I just don’t know what I want or need anymore.

I feel like I have been spending so much time doing what’s right for everyone, but not taking some time to do what’s right for me. Maybe I need to go back to spending some time by myself and with God. I love my friends and fully believe God is positioning people in my life for me to feed into their lives and love on them. But I’m starting to think I’m not in the place where I can do so. I feel like I’m back to always wanting to talk about my problems and when I do, I’m not sharing what God is doing in my life, just how bad I feel. None of that helps anyone.

Maybe I haven’t been sharing lately what God is doing in my life and situation because I don’t see it. Not that He isn’t working through every second, but that I am not stopping long enough to see it. I have been really busy lately and I was grateful at first to be distracted and not focused on how hard things are. But now I realize that all I did was push my dependency (yet again) on something else, not God. I was happy because I was distracted, but that is temporary and does nothing to grow or change my life.

What to do now? Where to go from here?

Back to the same I suppose. Back to getting to know myself and God. Back to my never-ending task of learned to live in less of me and more of Him.

I first heard the song above the weekend before last and I love it. Seriously it’s like it was taken right out of my own thoughts. I feel my heart hardening and I need to God to soften it again so that my eyes can be opened to what He is doing, so that He may be glorified through my life and pain. I need Him to pierce through the darkness I am wading through and cleanse all the doubt I have, all the fears I hide behind, to make me whole where no one and nothing else can.

Most of all, I need to be reminded that if He says He is enough, then He must be. I need faith to trust Him. To trust that this is just the beginning of the great things He is doing here; in my life, in my heart, in this world.

I live in fear because I am weak and I fail, but God is strong and He never fails. True surrender cannot come with out firm faith that this is true. So I guess the best thing I can ask God for right now is: “Give me faith to trust what you say, that you’re good and your love is great. I’m broken inside, I give you my life.”