The Greatest Opportunity

Why a season of boredom may not be a bad thing:

1.) It teaches us we are not as important as we like to think we are. Don’t misunderstand me. Always keeps an appropriate perspective of how God views you. To God you are VERY important. He sent His Son to die for you. He chose you, and He delights in you. As far as the world goes, though, in the scheme of things, boredom will teach you humility real quick. If the hustle and bustle are taken away, and you’re life is put into an inactive corner for a time, you realize importance in the world’s hierarchy is only relative to position. Take a lowly position, be the doer of the daily things for a while, and you realize a humble pill may have been what you needed all along. Nothing is actually about you. Not even your life.

2.) You will learn that one of Satan’s greatest lies is that if you spend most of your days fulfilling a minute purpose then you must be of small purpose or purposeless altogether. This has been a huge struggle for me. I’ll be honest. When God tells me in His Word that He has plans for me, I expect them to be extraordinary plans–and by this I mean MY misguided definition of extraordinary (in case you think I see God’s plan for me as anything less). I’m envious of people whose whole life is dedicated to their extraordinary God-purpose: Missionaries embarking on the unknown, speakers who can stir hearts and teach clear truths, those evangelistic people who can walk up to anyone and share the Gospel–the list might never end. So how come God says He has plans for me, and then plops me in the middle of a season where I pass my days doing little of nothing that matters to anyone? Because for some reason this season matters to God.

I firmly believe it’s the unbearable times that He uses to shape us into the purpose-driven person He wants us to be. If I can trust God that I have purpose during the time that Satan would have me believe I have no purpose at all, then imagine what mountains I can climb with that trust after this valley is done?!

3.) When it seems God has given you nothing to do–Pray. Feel like you live Ground Hog Day or something? Pray. And I don’t just mean for direction out of your STUCK status (although pray for that, too); I mean pray about EVERYTHING. These last couple of weeks I’ve been realizing that if you feel like you’re in a place where you can’t do much, then PRAY MUCH! About everything. Your own hopes and fears. Other people’s hopes and fears. Pray about what God is teaching you in the boredom. Pray for those missionaries, those speakers, those sharers who aren’t as shy as you. Pray. Pray. Pray. That way even when you can’t explain to yourself anything else God wants you doing, you can say: “But I’m praying.” For myself, so many people have crossed my path lately about whom I think: “That’s why God’s put me where He has me. To pray for that person right there.”

4.) This goes along with praying. When it seems God has given you nothing to do–Listen. First to God. Be in His Word EVERY DAY. Swim in it. Drown in it. You can’t know what God wants for your life if you’re not listening to Him. Second, listen to the people around you. You can’t know how to pray if you don’t have your finger on the pulse of the needs around you. For myself, God has put me in a season of boredom surrounded by people who are going through HARD things. I can’t help but think He has put me here to be the ear and the heart they need as they cry and feel broken and do their own searching. God asks us to be compassionate. Sometimes the greatest compassion you can give to anyone is simply to listen. This world is full of sharers, but not many people truly listen. Maybe God put me somewhere where I can’t do much but listen and pray, to do exactly that: Listen and pray.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Maybe we have to stop looking for what WE can do for God (as if we’re so important, we add something to God’s greatness), and start looking for what He’s ALREADY DOING through us. Maybe that’s where the greatest opportunity lies!

“And we urge you, brother, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstance; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5: 14-17

Life is a Battlefield

If I seem quiet lately, it’s because I just haven’t had much to say. Some people call it writer’s block–when the words flee and a frustrated silence is all that’s left. Even the words of encouragement have gone. NOT that God isn’t teaching me things. He is, though I’m a poor learner these days. What I’ve been left wondering, after these few weeks of rest I’ve given myself, is this: How do I write words of encouragement to anyone else when I seem unable to encourage myself or even take heart?

Have you ever woke up one day to the frightening realization that your life is a battlefield? That some great spiritual SOMETHING is going on, and you can FEEL it–the kind of feel that squeezes your heart and grinds in your bones and leaves you exhausted. The kind of something that makes people ask: “What’s wrong?” And you answer: “I don’t know. I  don’t know…I just don’t KNOW.” Because really nothing is wrong–the same sun shines, the same kids smile and laugh, the same God-provision comes up with the dawn.

These last few weeks the FEELING of exhaustion has gone beyond impatience with God’s timetable. It’s gone beyond struggling to silence the lies Satan has been bombarding me with. It’s been learning to be thankful even when everything feels barren and upside down. It’s been learning that God cares even when I feel no one else does or when I feel unworthy of care. It’s been owning the truth that God loves me in spite of my failures. It’s been awakening to the peace of knowing “when one door closes, somewhere He opens a window.”(To quote the Sound of Music.) It’s been realizing that RESTING does not mean you are lazy. It’s been admitting that I CANNOT do it all.

So what encouragement do I give when I find it hard to focus my tired mind on any encouragement myself? I feel like I’ve said it before. Whatever you’re praying about or for, keep praying because God hears, and He will answer. Focus on the small things to be thankful for if you have to, and leave the big things that feel upside down to God. Go find your Bible and a quiet corner and maybe a gorgeous view of His creation and spend a little time steeping in His promises like some much needed SON-tea. Let yourself REST in God for a day, a night, a weekend until He fills you up. Maybe it’s time to stop focusing on what needs to be done, and start seeing what He is doing. One focuses on self; the other focuses on God.

Like me, He may be taking you through the battlefield to realize the ONLY thing you can do is rest in His arms. Life may feel senseless sometimes, but God can make sense out of confusion. He made the earth with His word. He made man from dust. Put stars in space, and our earth right where it needed to be to sustain life. He calms storms, commands the wind and the rain. He cares for sparrows and grass and the hairs on your head–and YOU, my friend, are much more valuable to Him than any of those things. So take heart. He cares, and He can do it. Whatever it is. He can do it! Period.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thess. 5:16-18

“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me… For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness… This God–His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.”

Psalms 18: 19, 28, 30

Be The Sharer I’m Praying For

I had an epiphany this week: I want so badly for someone to share Jesus with those people who are on my heart, and it occurred to me, as I fumbled around with putting spiritual things into my conversation with an unsaved friend, what if I’m The Sharer someone else is praying for? What if some mother, brother, sister, grandma, spouse is out there praying for someone to share God’s Love and the Gospel with the person I’m standing next to? Have I failed God by being silent? Have I failed this brother or sister I’ve never met?

I know if God is calling the person I stood next to, He will still work out His will and bring them to Him, but what if my stepping stone could have been the quickening one? Wouldn’t I want the believing coworkers or friends to speak up to that person I’m praying for?

Maybe we should start being for others what we want them to be for us. Maybe we should start taking God seriously when He says “tell everyone what God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39)  It’s great to be ecstatic about God at church. Believers needs the encouragement, the push to be equally in awe of God. But don’t we need to shine the same ecstatic light before our unbelieving friends?

Yes, I know the chance of rejection is greater. Sometimes the circumstances aren’t perfect (for instance, employers and coworkers frown on religion in the work place). Some friends will shut you down before you start, but your light might be the only light that person next to you will ever see. That being so, what impression are you making for God?

God doesn’t stop doing awesome things just because you walked out the church doors.

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. For God who said, ‘ Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4: 5-6

My Disqualifications: OR Reasons Why I’m Still Single

Maybe it’s because it’s wedding season. Maybe it’s because my birthday is in a few weeks, and I’m one year closer to thirty. Maybe it’s because lots of guys like to look lately but none of them want to ask. But singleness has been on my mind (as if I need one more reminder of how my life never seems to go forward).

In college and my early twenties, I liked to talk about it, diagnose it, hear people’s opinion of why it’s silly I’m still single, or hear their conclusion of why it makes sense. In the (we’ll say) twelve date-able years I’ve lived, I’ve heard many diagnosis of why I’m still single:

Too ugly. Too tall. Too fat. Too smart. Too naive. Not open to relationships. Too picky. Too desperate. Crazy-stalker-woman. Stuck up. Too shy. Too much of a prude. Too Christian.

A lot of things disqualify me, it seems. I’m not exactly everyone’s (or anyone’s) cup of tea. But when you get close to thirty, unmarried, and with no prospects, a lot of people like to give you advice about how to STOP disqualifying yourself. People mention Christian Mingle– eHarmony. TINDER. Co-workers drop the names of relatives, friends. People say things like: “Just be more open. If someone asks you out, just say YES.” 

Most people mean well with their advice, but just as a girl who’s been single for (almost) twenty-eight years of her life can’t really understand the problems posed to someone in a relationship; someone who’s never stared down (or surpassed) thirty while still single can’t really understand the problems posed to someone automatically contemplating the word: NEVER.

You get to the point where you start asking yourself and God: Why DID I turn down those people I turned down? You look at old possibilities and realize they’re MARRIED WITH KIDS, and you think– huh, that could have been me if only I wasn’t stupid. You start asking yourself: am I okay with a younger guy? How DO I feel about tattoos? What about someone who made a mistake when he was younger and he already has a kid? (Because, face it, this is an imperfect world, and thirty’s an age where any kind of baggage is a real possiblity.) How do I feel about NEVER, no one– just me and Jesus and no kids of my own for the rest of eternity?

Honestly the answer to that final question is this: Not good at all. I don’t feel good about that at all, and then I feel guilty for feeling that because we ARE talking about Jesus here. And I have to remind myself not to be bitter. If that’s what God asks of me, I know He’ll give me the strength to live it, own it, enjoy it, rejoice over it. And maybe all this He’s taking me through is just to get me to the point where I am okay with that, to root out the bitterness. 

My answer to the previous questions is this realization: the life God gives us is never going to look like what we expect or anticipate it to look like. I know I’ve said that over and over lately about other circumstances, but it applies here, as well– in the patient place, waiting for the man God might ask me to love. He’s used the last few weeks to open my eyes to a new disqualification I add to the list myself: Too judgemental.

How can I ever expect someone to want me with all my sin-inflicted and self-inflicted scars if I’m not willing to accept someone with scars of their own?

I can’t predict the future. It’s no secret to any of you who read my blog that lately I can’t make heads or tails of what God is doing, but I do know He is doing something. Especially in my heart lately. Especially about this. And in ways I never expected. 

To those of you who, like me, fight the long wait, fight the bitterness and disappointment, who still long to love God passionately even though this very big-seeming prayer hasn’t been answered: Hold on. God knows what you want. He knows what you need. And most likely He’s working to bring you to where you see Him in a surprising, surpassing mixture of both.

To those of you with friends who may not have chosen to be single but still are: just love them. Don’t try to fix them or force them. You never know what God may be doing in their heart. Please, pray for them, because prayer is the best cure for bitterness, a balm for disappointment. And remember, if they are a Christian, always point them back to their first LOVE. Circumstances may desert them, disappoint them, or let them down, but God never will.

“As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

Psalm 42:1-2

Hopefully, Expectantly Close to Him

To be as still before God as the hillsides in the morning before everyone is awake. To know His peace like the sound of a rain shower in the summer evening charcoal gray and growing dark. To be as light-hearted as the mists that rise from the motley-green folds of my favorite hillsides–to know burdens that evaporate like that into the white, low hanging sky. To be as excited by Him as a second glance excites from someone you wish would give a second glance. To know the crazy, heart-pumping love that God can give. To be wound up, electrified by Him. To be so in love with my Father that everything, every instance, every second glance, new beginning, continued blessing is seen as grace flowing from His throne.

I don’t want to miss His presence anymore. I don’t want to miss it when He explodes onto my world in ways I never expected. To be free from the fear. The box I put myself in. The box I put God in, too. To knock down the walls. To do things I never thought I would do. To thank God for every minute–for the boredom, the disappointment, the hard thing, but also for the excitement, for the love, the peace, the new things and old favorites. To stop being half empty and start filling up. To be patient. To be kind. To be respectful. To be thoughtful. To see others and not myself. To love good things– to look for it in others and nurture it in myself. To be true. To be constant. To be HOPEFUL! To be hopefully, expectantly close to Him.

That is my prayer.

Clouds tipped in Peach Sunshine

One morning this week Stephie and I decided to go for a run. The world wasn’t awake yet. Fog put a roof over everything. At one particular curve, it descended like a veil, obscuring the road beyond. For a minute we ran here worried the rest of our run would be limited to this perspective– a few yards of road to the right, guard-rail to the left, slice of asphalt just ahead. But then we broke through the veil, and the fog soared high above us. The mist lifted from the crest of the hill that was outlined sharp against the sky. The trees were green and alive, shaking their leaves in the morning light. When we turned around, high above us where the ceiling of white shred apart, we spotted a cotton candy sky and the sun-tipped tops of peach colored clouds.

Beautiful.

This is how my life feels sometimes– walled in by all-obscuring white, only able to see what is on my left and on my right. If I’m lucky an inch ahead. Most days I can’t even tell MYSELF what God is doing, let alone anyone else who might ask. Some days it feels like He’s doing nothing, because I run and run, and all I see is the white. What’s to my left and to my right. If I’m lucky an inch ahead.

For a runner I can imagine no harder thing than a vanishing finish line– a retreating goal. If you run and think it’s impossible to reach the thing you’re running toward, the temptation to give up is almost impossible to fight. My life feels like that sometimes– running, running, running– and I’m terrified sometimes it might just be a big circle I’m following to no end.

God’s perspective is the one above the fog, the one whose eyes pierce through, who knows exactly where all His most precious possessions stand. I have to remind myself of that more times than I can count. Yes, sometimes monotony or a closed in perspective, a set of circumstance that never seems to change can stick with us for years, can grind us down worse than a millstone, but we are moving toward something if we trust Christ. And just like when perspective returns after the fog stripped it down to one little box, one day God will open our eyes, and we will see just exactly what He’s doing and what He had us running toward all along.

There IS something better than this.

Even if I have to wait until eternity to see it.

May it be more beautiful than cotton candy colored skies and clouds tipped in peach sunshine.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

Blinking back at God

One of my favorite things about Bible study is that moment when the Holy Spirit connects the dots. That “AH-ha!” moment. I’m gradually learning that with God this same rule applies to our life experiences. Yes, sometimes the answers we’re waiting for don’t always pop into our laps two seconds after we pray, but sometimes as we wait for the completion of one lesson, God teaches us another.

After I published my blog for last week, Lies Looming Large, God proceeded to use the reaction to what He had laid on my heart to teach me even more about Him.

One of my friends messaged me with her own story about how Satan was using something she saw as a short-coming in her life to crack open her heart to his lies. Satan first lied to her by making her feel worthless because she couldn’t accomplish what she saw as a simple test other people her age don’t usually worry about. Then after he attacked her sense of worthiness, he dredged up all her old fears, old scars, old wounds–things she had given to God long ago and had ceased to define herself by in the meantime. He inserted the wedge and let loose the dam; it’s his favorite tactic, I think.

It’s a little hard to give someone a hug through words, but that’s what I wanted to do for her. She’s someone who’s been there for me through so much, has encouraged me, stuck with me through all the stupid, selfish mistakes I’ve made. I wanted her to know right then how much she means to me, that it was silly to view herself as a failure, damaged goods. Don’t you see what you mean to me?! Don’t you see what God used you to do in my life?! And I tried to let her know, but there weren’t enough words.

As I hit send on my reply, I thought: “Please, go through today confident that I believe in you.” And as my words flew away, spinning through the cyber ether, I sat and blinked at myself (or maybe it was God that I blinked back at).

The Ah-ha moment.

Isn’t that what God wants us all to do? I’ve been reading it everywhere lately, each author clipping together the thought with their own words. Live today in the confidence that God believes in you. Live like you are loved.

Here I was trying to will my friend into a place of peace because of what I know to be true of her and because to me she is worth a million priceless somethings. How much more does God, who loves flawlessly and completely and spilling over, believe in us if we are capable of this shadow of affection for each other? How would it look if we stopped living self-condemned and lived like we are forgiven and we are loved?

Because we are.

What if we left behind the defeat and lived head-held-high, knowing that God really does believe in us like the friend who loves no matter what? Because God does love no matter what. Not only are you not a failure, worthless, or broken beyond repair; you are chosen, precious in God’s sight, cleansed by His word, wearing the robe of His Son’s righteousness, and endowed with His strength. Lean on Him and live today confident that He believes in you.

“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,even as we hope in you.”

Psalm 33:20-22