Preparation and Expectation

A lesser known fact about me is that my dining table is (almost) always set whether I am planning a dinner party or not. I enjoy it. It is a rotating design feature in my home and keeps my table from collecting mail and other clutter I can’t be bothered to put away. My life, somehow, feels a bit more ordered when it is set.

This is a common dialogue for a first time visitor:

Them: “Are you having people over for dinner?”

Me: “Nope, I don’t have anything planned at the moment. I’m sure I will eventually.”

Confusion…Them: “Then why is your table set?”

Me: “Ummmm…I like it like that.”

Them: “Strange…that seems very American

Me: “Not sure…I think it’s just me.” 🙂

Recently, I have been thinking about this a bit more deeply. “Why do I like it set so much?” I’m sure it’s partly due to the creative element. My rockstar mom has made almost all the napkins and table runners for me…so it’s partly feeling like my family is closer than they are.

But mostly it comes down to HOPE and EXPECTATION.

I don’t need to have a dinner party planned to know there will eventually be one. That sometime in the future friends will come over to laugh and share a meal together. I am preparing in advance with an expectation it will happen. And it always does. Sometimes it is my initiative and sometimes it is a spontaneous evening. I never know…but either way I am prepared.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 24 in anticipation of honoring Jesus’ death on Good Friday and celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is one of His final sermons and He is talking to His disciples about the last days…how He will come again in judgement and establish His kingdom on this earth. You can feel the urgency in His words as He compels his disciples to stay alert…to be vigilant and prepared…because no one knows the hour or day He will return in glory…and they don’t want to be caught off guard. There will be trials…they will be persecuted…many people will turn away due to the rampant sin in the world…but those who endure will be saved.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm til the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:12-13 NIV

I confess that I don’t think about Jesus’ return enough. Most of the time I think about how thankful I am that God loved me enough to come to earth and cover my sins with His son’s life. I think about the resurrection and how I no longer need to fear an ultimate death. I think about grace and love…broken chains…redeemed lives. I mentally stop at Easter Sunday…get caught up in the present day and forget that Jesus WILL return. And when He does, will I be prepared? If I live with the EXPECTATION He will return, would my life look different? Would I stay selfish or surrender easier? Would I love more? Forgive more fully? Serve others? Live with more generosity? Build my life on hope even with significant trials?

This Sunday…look beyond the resurrection…will you be prepared?

I wish you all a very blessed holy week. Remember Christ has died…Christ has risen…Christ WILL come again.

Lynnea

 

Following the deep inner voice

You know the one…the one you hear in the stillness. When you turn off the TV or music. When you silence the distractions in your heart and your mind. It is an easy voice to push aside and ignore. It is quiet and sometimes extremely illogical.  It inspires to something

"The Voice" by Shel Silverstein

“The Voice” by Shel Silverstein

greater. Something bigger than myself. An exciting adventure that I can’t predict. But I am often too afraid to follow. Following means leaving my perceived security. My small little kingdom where I feel in control.

This inner voice is given many names. Intuition. Heart. Soul. For me, it is the Holy Spirit. It reveals the truth…and if I’m honest it can be a truth I don’t want to see. It can be a path I don’t want to take or a choice I don’t want to make. I will argue against it and justify another course. A more practical course. One that costs less and seems more secure. At a very deep level I know following the voice is best but it is in direct conflict with my pride and logic. How can I possibly do it?

Some lies of this world slowly contaminate my thoughts. I become less focused on heaven and more focused on myself and what I want. What I think I deserve. I have suffered. I have hoped. I have remained faithful. Where are you God? Why have you not responded the way I wanted you to when I wanted you to? I want to believe you will be faithful to your promises but it’s too hard…I want to be happy…I deserve to be happy…I deserve to be happy now…I don’t want to wait.

I am ashamed at my doubt because He has proven his faithfulness over and over but the deeper I go in faith the more insecure it becomes. I am risking more. How do I continue to trust He knows what I need? My fear of the unknown can shift my focus to the stormy water I am walking on rather than God’s promises. I lose hope. I lose courage because I don’t see a path forward and it feels impossible. It IS impossible……for me.

I close my ears because I don’t want to hear the gentle, deep inner voice. The one speaking love and calling me to true freedom…because it is a freedom that requires sacrifice. A sacrifice I don’t want to make but deep deep in my heart I hear these words:

“Happiness is temporary and insecure…you know that…but the joy you find in me is eternal. You think you know what you want but please believe that I know better. I am writing a story for my glory. I haven’t forgotten you. I created you for a very special purpose but trust me when that purpose and the path forward are hidden from you. When it feels like you are staring at an ocean with an army behind you. I am right here. I love you more than you can comprehend. Follow me.”

I want to follow. I know that it is best for me to follow. But it is hard and I can’t do it alone.

“I know. I’m not asking you to do it alone. I will help you…but you need to choose.”

Deep breath. How can I possibly choose? And the wrestling starts all over again…but somehow I feel closer to a choice. Each time through the cycle the choice is more and more clear. Will I have enough courage to make it?

Blessings,

Lynnea

More than you can handle

In the past couple weeks I have been confronted with the phrase “God wont give you more than you can handle” from a few different sources. Friends on Facebook. Comments on blogs. Adrian Peterson’s response to the tragic loss of his son. The best was this article entitled:

Confronting the Lie: God wont give you more than you can handle by Nate Pyle (www.natepyle.com)

It is a common Christian response especially in the face of tragedy but as Nate points out in his article…this idea is Bullshit…and not even biblical. The bible does not say we will never be given more than we can handle. In fact it often says the exact opposite. Here is an excerpt:

 This particular statement, that “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” isn’t even in the Bible.  There is a statement that sounds like it.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”  But notice that verse is about temptation.  That’s it.  You won’t be tempted beyond what you can stand up against.  This text is not saying that you will not experience more than you can bear.  That idea just isn’t Biblical.  If anything the exact opposite is true.  Look at this text.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:8,9, emphasis mine).

Later, Paul will write it is when he is weak that the strength of Christ is seen.  In other words, when we can’t do it any longer.  When we are fed up.  When it has become too much.  When we have nothing left.  When we are empty.  When it is beyond our capability to deal with it.  Then, in that moment, the strength of the God of resurrection will be seen.  Until we get to that point, we rely on ourselves thinking we can handle it and take care of the problem.

Amen brother. And I can say from the past year and a half the process of being pushed out of my capacity into Christ’s is not pleasant and feels like I am being given more than I can handle…because I am…just not more than he can handle. This is where I need to quote Nate again because he describes how I’m currently feeling so well.

Don’t hear me saying I am rejoicing because of the last couple of weeks.  I am not.  Not once have I danced around our house shouting, “Yeah suffering!”  Instead, in the midst of pain and hurt, I am actively expecting God to do something.  I don’t know what.  I don’t know when.  But I am expecting the God of resurrection to heal us.  I am expecting God to restore us.  I am expecting him to redeem this situation.  I am expecting him to do this and so I will be actively looking and waiting for him to do something.  I believe expectant waiting can only happen when we exchange our feeble platitudes for an authentic faith that engages God with the full brunt of our emotion and pain.  Only then can salvation been seen.

Once again…amen. We can wait expectantly together because our God is faithful.

Blessings,

Lynnea

One hill at a time

My head and heart are spinning. I have these moments where it feels like there is just too much to process. But I am going to start this post by saying God IS good…all the time…in everything.

I learned recently that a dear blogger friend was claimed by this beast of cancer. Jellebelle was a beacon of light and encouragement. Her writing was raw and authentic and we had a connection through the digital divide. She received my very first tree pendant and we even bridged the virtual gap over a bowl of Pho in Seattle. I’m glad I was able to give her a physical hug. Her spirit in this world will be missed.

I can’t put her passing away together with the PINK media onslaught that is October. My Facebook feed is filled with the most ridiculous awareness campaigns that are so disconnected from doing anything effective. Philips is lighting up monuments pink. The NFL has their “perfect catch” program. Corporations slap a pink ribbon on the products to sell more and then donate an extremely small percentage…even then:

60% of funds raised and donated in North America are being put back into awareness campaigns. Currently only 5% of funds raised and donated in North America are being used towards prevention research.
– Pink Ribbons Inc

Seriously, the dramatic need for AWARENESS is over. These numbers should be reversed with the bulk of the funds generated going to RESEARCH…and an actual cure rather than just better treatment. 40,000 women still die every year in America and that needs to change…but it wont the way things are currently working.

To top that off I just returned from 3 (good, intense) weeks traveling to New York, Croatia and Slovenia. It was a whirlwind of friends, food, wine, laughter, tears. It was also the first time I had seen my husband in 9 months. Emotional roller coaster is an understatement. No wonder I am feeling a bit exhausted at the moment.

In light of all this I go back to God is good. In the storm. In the emotions. In the unknown. In provision. It is hard for me to continue to let go and trust but the more I do the easier it is because I see His faithfulness.

Here is an image from Slovenia that centers me right now. There is a lot I wish I knew…but I do know my trajectory over the next hill and I have faith that I will be able to tackle whatever lies after. And I should look up and enjoy the scenery while I can. 🙂

Blessings,

Lynnea

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I’m not going to fake it

“Principles are what people have instead of God.
To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God’s or your neighbor’s sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there’s no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child.
Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them.
‘Principle’ is an even duller word than ‘Religion’.”
― Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

This quote came across my Facebook news feed this week and I had to re read it a few times as the message sank deeper into my heart. At first pass I thought…What?! Aren’t principles good? Shouldn’t we stand for right and wrong? Shouldn’t we have those lines that we wont cross?

The second read I thought well, I guess principles are our own construction of right and wrong. They can become rigid. A list of shoulds and should nots to adhere to. Fundamental behavior rules that we accept as true as we construct our own moral framework. We replace God with our own ideas of how to act. And when something falls outside that framework we judge it and cast it off without looking deeper into the heart.

The third time through I stopped at “Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them”. He didn’t forgive these people who had beaten, humiliated, and executed him because he SHOULD. Because a moral code told him to. He forgives them because he honestly LOVES them. He can see in their hearts. He can see beyond the behavior to the pain and the wounds. He can see their need for a savior. And even though they are taking his life he responds with compassion and forgiveness.

WOW…that is some kind of love and it’s there for all of us.

This is the point where I’m like Yea! Thank you for loving me that much! Thank you for your grace and compassion and forgiveness!!

And then there is a voice inside me that goes “Because I love you…go love others with the same sacrificial love”

Eeeerrrkkk (squealing brakes 🙂 ) It’s one thing for me to receive that love but to offer it to hardest to loveothers? That costs something. That costs A LOT. That costs EVERYTHING. However, if it’s been freely given to me…shouldn’t I freely give it? Yes. But let’s not pretend it’s easy. I have been in a very difficult healing and forgiveness process and I will admit to days where closing my heart and giving in to anger/bitterness seemed like the easiest way forward. My heart was hard. My pride was hurt. My sense of justice was screaming. My principles shattered. I knew deep in my soul that love and forgiveness were the only way to bring freedom into my life but I didn’t see how it was humanly possible. And honestly it wasn’t humanly possible but I had hope it was divinely possible.

So, this was my prayer “God, I’m hurt and angry. I confess to an extremely hard heart and not much hope for true forgiveness. I know you ask me to love this world like you do. To offer compassion and forgiveness to hurting people. There is nothing in me that wants to…BUT there is a small crack in my heart for you to work. I need you to honestly do this because I can’t and I’m not going to fake it.”

Deep in my soul I felt something like this “Thank you for keeping a crack open…I’m not asking you to fake it…I can and will do this. Trust me.”

It doesn’t happen immediately. In fact it is a slow, agonizing process but that crack is widening. Much like a rose going from a tight closed bud to a flower in full bloom. Every day brings almost undetectable changes but add them up and transformation is more obvious. The hardness is softening. The ice is melting. A miracle is happening. Authentic love and forgiveness are replacing anger and self righteousness. The impossible now feels more possible. And all I can say is Praise the Lord…I’m not faking it!!

Happy Monday,

Lynnea

So, what about the ants?

I often get asked about my faith and why I believe what I do. How do I know God exists? Isn’t “religion” an old fashioned idea? Aren’t we just physical beings responding to programmed biological impulses?

It is difficult to answer these questions because faith is so personal and nothing I can ever PROVE. So I speak from my experience.

– I believe God exists because I can’t look at the beauty, diversity and complexity of this world and think it happened by accident. All the details. Everything working together. I don’t necessarily believe the earth was created in our equivalent of 7 days but ultimately I’m OK with not knowing. I’m thankful every time a sunset or an alpine lake takes my breath away…or I’m in awe of how intricate the human body is because it helps me to remember how awesome God is.

– I do not believe we are just physical beings…balls of hormones and biology wandering this planet with only a need to evolve and pro create. For me that is too simple and is actually a cop out from taking responsibility for your own behavior. “Biology” made me do it. I’m programmed that way I can’t help it. That might be part of the story but I think we are so much more than that. I look at this world and I see pain and heartbreak…joy and passion. Why do we need community or crave relationships? Honestly, I believe there is a deep longing to be loved and accepted in each one of us…we just have different ways of going about meeting that need. Relationships. Success. Sex. Since we live in an imperfect world this need will never fully be met and that can cause pain. And again everyone does something different with this pain. They can bury it…pretend it doesn’t exist. Numb it with work or alcohol. But I believe this basic need is there in all of us and I believe it can only be met by a relational God.

– Isn’t religion an old fashioned idea? Well, you’ve got me there. I don’t like “religion”. Because, honestly, I don’t often see a lot of love and acceptance in the message they share. I hear rules. Do’s and don’ts to get into heaven or stay out of hell. Judgement. It often doesn’t resemble the Jesus I know. But if you want to talk to me about how to find freedom in love, compassion, kindness, grace and mercy…that’s my religion. That’s what I gunny-optimistic-ant-comic-pebble-magnifying-glass-human-fine-idea-picsstake my life on.

So, what about the ants? A response that I have gotten is for me to look at the ants. They just go about their business purely programmed by biology. They don’t love. They seem to survive just fine executing the tasks they were created for. They create armies and wars. Aren’t we just big versions of that? Aren’t you putting too much significance on our existence? Interesting argument. Honestly, I don’t know what the ants have to do with me? I can’t speak to their experiences. They might survive purely on biology. I have no idea but either way it has no bearing on me. I can only speak to my human experience. And my human experience involves emotions. Hearts longing for love and acceptance. For intimacy. We are relational people. And I believe that need for intimacy is ultimately met in a loving, relational God. But I’m not asking you to agree with me.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Photo: www.funnyasaduck.net

Making sense of the senseless

Our brains are amazing things. They are the command center for our entire body…taking information in the form of electrical impulses from all the senses and synthesizing it into…sound…touch…taste…images. We can manipulate complex arguments and form opinions. We take the information we receive and fit it into our framework of the world around us. As we see and experience new things (hopefully) that framework adapts and changes.

But then there are things that happen that just don’t make sense. Realities that I can’t fit into my framework because I can’t get my brain around it. How do 3 teenagers go from being bored to taking an innocent life? Bored!? That is so delusional and self consumed with such an extreme disconnect from the reality and consequence of their actions. Senseless. My heart breaks for Christopher Lane’s family.

There are days when I feel like I view the world through the emotional equivalent of 3D glasses with each eye letting in a different image. One eye lets in the beauty, hope, redemption and love. New Life. A breath taking sunset. Forgiveness. While the other eye lets in pain, heartbreak, wounds and suffering. A senseless killing. Selfishness. Evil.

My brain attempts to make sense of this information. To merge both images into one. I can’t do it. I don’t believe things will ever make sense this side of heaven. And I’m going to leave it there recognizing that some things don’t fit.

I believe God exists…a good, loving, merciful, graceful, personal God.

I believe evil also exists…evil that wounds, kills, hates and enslaves.

I also believe that even though I don’t understand how everything works around me, I want to be a person in this world that chooses love, hope and redemption…amidst the chaos and pain.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful song from David Crowder Band.

…And I don’t know what to do with a love like that

and I don’t know how to be a love like that.

When all the love in the world is right here among us

and hatred too

So, we must choose what our hands will do

Where there is pain…let there be grace

Where there is suffering…bring serenity

For those afraid…help them be brave

Where there is misery…bring expectancy

Surely we can change something…

Surely we can change something.

Blessings,

Lynnea