The Mountain.

I’ve been thinking about my life recently (surprised? I know, right? Shocking.) and I have come to the conclusion that for most of my life I’ve been doing this thing where I allow myself the bare minimum of hope. I choose to invest in things to a limited degree to be kept safe.

I don’t like getting hurt or being disappointed. The possibility of these things is a frightening one. So instead of allowing for that possibility and living fully anyway, I have been in the habit of keeping options in my back pocket. I have subconsciously said to myself, “In case this doesn’t work, I’ll have this thing here to comfort myself with.”

I woke up recently to the fact that I can’t keep living this way. I just can’t. I can’t keep stifling the part of me that wants to hope for the very best of things. I can’t keep deciding to limit the work of the Lord to just the things that are reasonable. God wants great things for you and for me. He doesn’t settle for the small hopes and dreams that we choose instead of the weighty and glorious plans He has for us.

I have seen this over and over in my life. The Lord gives me more than I could hope to expect. Maybe it would be better said as more than I choose to hope for. I could hope for lots of things, but I write them off as unreasonable thinking, “Why get disappointed?”

To this there is a response from quiet part of me that daily grows louder. It claims that hope is worth having, that great things come with the possibility of great let-down and this is the reality of really living. Despite all the examples of hurt that I could cite to try and disprove this…this part of me makes too much sense to try that anymore. No more despair. It just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I give up. Do you hear me? I give up.

I shall hope boldly for the best things. Things beyond my ability to imagine. I will allow for a mountain of hope to be raised up out of the tumult of my lingering fear and past hurt. By the grace of God I will either build a house upon this mountain and dwell there my whole life or I will be shattered upon it and try learn to drag my broken self as high on it as I can.

I think these are the stakes of really living.

Lord give me strength and trust to really live. Amen.

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Settling in on the great deep.

I find that there are periods in life when things settle.

Periodically I’ll stress out about things being new and uncontrollable. Eventually though, I find myself settling into new stages of life. The things that I needed to think about in frustrating cyclical thought patterns to double and triple check that I am sure become facts of my existence.

I am becoming increasingly content with being where I am. Less scared of uncertainty, less prone to devolve into inner turmoil, less ready to believe fears in place of what I know to be reality. I find myself more ready and able to trust, more ready and able to receive unexpected and wonderful blessings, and more aware of the journey-like nature of this adventure.

You might say that if this journey I’m on is a ship at sea…I’m getting the hang of what it looks like to hold to a course, navigate by the stars (things that remain constant), and to realize that I’m not the only sailor in the world.

The wisdom of old grizzled seadogs and young adventurous rogues who have traveled the high seas before me is valuable and I take it whenever I can, but amidst it all I am constantly reminded that no one else has held the exact course I now hold.

This is new and will continue to be so. The feel of the wind in my face is exhilarating as I leave sheltered harbors and shallow seas that I have known in favor of  the great, mysterious, broadness that is sailing on the face of the open ocean.

I guess it’s scary sometimes, but this is real life. The stakes are high. They always have been…I guess I had never really thought that this was the case. It only became apparent recently. There’s the chance to lose lots out there in the uncontrollable sea, but it’s worth the risk. The best things always include risk.

Jesus, I need your help. I know we can do this. Let’s keep at it.

 

workplace haikus take 2

The internet was out all morning. Resulting in a lack of things to do. I wrote 16 haikus. Here are several of the best ones…or rather all of them.

1- Shaving

Lately I wonder

As I touch my face, if I

am good at shaving.

2- Sunshine

Outside the window

Sunshine plays in the district

Don’t turn on the lights.

3-Jeans

Friday is jeans day

I went and purchased these jeans

With Ben and Danielle.

4-Elevator

The elevator

Brings students to my work space

I like it…mostly.

5-Britney

Britney Spears sang a

Song called crazy. I think that’s

a coincidence.

6-Vengeance

Cursed internet

you have betrayed me again

Vengeance will be mine.

7-paint

Drawing on paint is

A poor substitute for what

I would like to do.

8-Merit?

It is a strange thing

To actually be well loved

Do I deserve it?

9- Drawer

Drawer of rubber bands

Always filling and filling

Seldom are they used.

10- Sticky Notes

unecessary

sticky notes without purpose

time passes slowly.

11-Lock it up

My dear internet

I am not patient with you

Please do lock it up.

12-Future

If the future were

Hiding behind a closed door

Would I open it?

13-Twisty Pen

The white twisty pen

Confuses the students who can’t

Fathom that it twists.

14-Things on the Desk

Date stamp and stapler

rest peacefully by the tape

flanked by sticky notes.

15-Train

Sione and Val

Arriving via the train

Bring hilarity.

16-Your reward for reading this far

My sleeping girlfriend

Does not want to be texted

Deep sigh of boredom.

Deep breaths. Pray. Then some more deep breaths.

I find that there are times in my life where I try and gain leverage over the things that are beyond my control.

Thankfully, it manifests itself internally. I’m not trying to control other people, just me. Nonetheless, this is not a terribly positive event.

Really, it comes down to me wanting things to be the way I want them to be. At some level I believe that if I exercise enough will and mental/emotional effort that I can choose my own destiny. That somehow I will awake to find things going exactly how I desire, if only I try and contort my own perspective, emotions, or thoughts enough.

What it looks like is me believing in an absurd fashion that if I think hard enough on my own (we’ve already discussed what that looks like in a previous post) then I shall eventually arrive.

I’m scared of things not working out the way I hope they will. I am scared of theoretical/hypothetical possibilities of loss, hurt (both of myself and hurting others), and rejection.

So, in the manner I described before I choose to do mental battle with these fears. Arming myself with rationality, the supposed ability to choose how I feel, and an emotional sense of manifest destiny I ride boldly forth to meet the enemy of my confidence, peace, and ability to rest in where I am…The only issue here is that that enemy is myself.

In an effort to conquer fears of the aforementioned things by means of control I find myself in a state of mental and emotional civil war. Certain parts of me that I don’t want become labeled  “bad” whereas the others are labeled “good.” I tend to be of the subconscious perspective that fear and trust cannot coexist, that one must choose either 100% despair or 100% hope, that if there’s a shred of doubt or fear then it must be put to death by means of the arms that I just finished describing. That in the glorious mental battle of my own private civil war the things I want will come out on top. I shall triumph over myself and things will thereby become all that I hope and desire.

I hope you are starting to see as much as I am that this is a sham. It’s a bold-faced lie. I’m certain that there are things in my psyche, heart, and mind that I don’t want. I’m certain that I would love to be in a place of 100% hope, fearlessly stepping forth into the adventure of the unknown with every passing day, trusting in the Lord with all I am that where I arrive will be a place of blessing, joy, and peace. But, I’m not there… and that said…I cannot force myself to be there. Being my own enemy is not positive.

I can’t be the king of my own destiny. Control is not something one is issued at birth. Being born is the ultimate example of a lack of control. Life starts this way. You cannot choose where, how, or to whom you are born.

What I’m getting at isn’t some kind of knock against free will. That’s not my intent. We do choose some things freely.

What I’m trying to say is that I need to practice choosing to be. I need to learn to be where I am in all the beauty and wholeness and also in all the brokenness and frustration. I am a blessed mixture of things that I am grateful for and things that I despise. Flailing impotently at the things about myself that frustrate me will not change them. Who I am is an unfinished piece of art. A half-finished marble statue. I guess I only really get to choose to allow the artist to keep working and to participate in the work that has already taken place.

I’ve decided that the best way to do that is to go with what the subject indicates. Instead of entering into a space of internal civil war I will take deep breaths, then I will pray, then I will keep taking deep breaths. I will keep trusting with all the hope and faith I can muster that God will keep working, that I will be blessed with increasing wholeness, and that his plans for me are good.

I submit that His work is bigger than the things I fear. I have seen this time and again in my life. He’s the winner. Pain, loss, rejection have only served as preludes to overtures of joy, beauty, and hope. My fears are powerless in the context of the transformative work of the Lord.

Deep breath. Help me to keep this in mind Jesus. Deep breath…here we go.

Take it easy there Seattle…it’s not Spring yet…or is it?

I was walking down the road to work today, and I saw something very interesting. There was this bush that was blooming. In the midst of the frost and chilly weather, there was a bold plant bursting into pink flowers. As I passed it I took a picture of it on my phone, but I also thought to myself something along the lines of “silly plant, it’s not Spring yet.” For a moment I snidely thought of how cold it was going to be for the flowers and how the silly plant had been silly in jumping the gun on Spring.

Then I paused and changed my mind.

I want the plant to be right. Sure it’s February, sure having flowers when it’s frosty out seems foolish, but you know what? I think that I’m the plant.

Things are springing forth unbidden. I honestly feel like in some ways this bush is a representation of the things happening in the context of my life. I went through an extremely difficult season (see the connection?) last year. I felt exhausted, worn down, and despairing. Then following a 2 weeks of driving boat and a 2 month time of reflection, prayer, and wandering in Europe I came home to a time of transition.

I felt definitively out of sorts for a significant period of time. Then, lately…flowers have been blooming in the frost. And unlike the flowers on the bush this morning I feel confident that the flowers blooming in the seeming frost of  my life will keep doing that.

It’s significant that this seems like the work of the Lord. Streams in the desert, flowers in the frost, hope out of despair, beauty out of suffering.

I guess that’s all I wanted to say. May the flowers in the frost be the signs of a Spring in your soul as they are in mine.

One Step at a Time.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about my thinking and I’m realizing that I’m an anxious person.

I sit and stew and stew on a particular issue (really more of an irrational fear based on the lack of control I feel) with the intent of getting control of it by thinking about it. What I end up doing is making myself mentally and emotionally exhausted. I don’t get any closer to a solution, and I get anxious in a fashion that builds upon itself. The lack of solution involves more useless thinking which adds more anxiousness, then more useless thinking without a solution…you can see where this goes. It goes nowhere. It actually creates a situation in which I have less control than I had before I started.

Today I had a moment of clarity that I wanted to throw out there.

I think that often I (maybe you too) need to stop thinking with the intent to control life. Rational thought is valuable, but there comes a point where it fails. I cannot think my way to a solution. Especially when that solution is just trusting God with uncertainty. I cannot give myself enough rational examples that lead me to a coherent logical place whereby my emotional and spiritual issues are magically solved by mere logical assent.

Then what can be done you ask? Am I doomed to have issues with trusting the Lord forever? No. I am not. There are several things that I’ve learned that I can do and actually be doing something productive:

A) I can pray. In these moments of rampant anxiousness I can talk to God. I can release my need to control things and allow Him to do as He will and I can ask Him to help me trust Him in that. He answers y’know. Sometimes I wish I didn’t keep needing to ask for the same things every day, but I inevitably do that with regard to the things I feel fine asking for…so I’d better get used to asking for the things I wish I didn’t have to ask for. It’d be lovely to suddenly arrive and be a whole, healthy human being…but I don’t know that this will ever happen this side of the Resurrection. That said, one of the things I’d better start asking for right now is patience and grace that I will be able to let myself have.

B) I can talk to people. I find that in the process of speaking my thoughts out loud I remember what I think in a productive way. I find that saying things reaffirms what I actually believe in spite of the unfounded fears that would try and claim to be my perspective when I’m by myself in my head. Also, more often than not when I talk to people, I also hear something from Jesus. He just up and speaks through them. I receive comfort, encouragement, and confidence through the people that God has placed in my life. For some reason these people don’t mind me talking to them about similar issues on a repeated basis.

It’s as though both they and God really love and care for me enough to take me seriously enough to listen, but not seriously enough to run away because I’m a mess. I would argue that they love me. Mess and all. This is often hard for me to understand why people would do that, but when it’s my turn I do the same for the people I love….hmmm…double standards chauncey? tsk tsk.

I work at Schmitz Hall. It’s this mostly ugly grey concrete monstrosity that dwells on the corner of 15th and 40th. I go to work there and every day after several hours of talking with folks, I eat my lunch on the top floor break room. It overlooks lake union, has a view of the Space Needle, and reminds me of how beautiful Seattle is. Beautiful beyond my control.

I sit there in the room in silence, either just looking out the window or talking to the Lord, sometimes sending text messages. While I eat lunch I find myself not wanting to stop looking out the window. While I’m there, looking at things God and men have done without my input, ideas, or participation…I realize that while I’m walking down this road one trembling step at a time…it’s going to be okay.

Thanks Jesus for deciding I’m worth sticking it out. Thanks to all my friends and loved ones for the same things. I see Jesus in you.

oh.

I was reading deuteronomy the other day and I had the realization that I’m just like the Israelites. It’s frustrating as you read the OT thinking to yourself, “These people are idiots.” God just fed them with bread from heaven and they’re freaking out about not having as much meat as they did in Egypt.

It’s interesting that the desire of the Israelites is always to try and get back to Egypt, to slavery. It’s also absolutely ridiculous. They were taken out of slavery into freedom with miraculous business. Seas opened, bread came from heaven, the Lord was faithful in the most impressive ways possible. Yet, still they want to run from the One who calls them to Himself. Throughout the text, the implication seems to be that they want to return to what they know and this God who meets them in the wilderness is terrifying and beyond them.

He claims them as His own. They accept (at least in theory), but I don’t think they ever really understood what they were getting into. He meant it. They might have been half-assed in their commitment to the Lord, but God doesn’t pussyfoot around with people once He’s chosen them. He’s going to pursue them. It’s a glorious and scary thing to be unrelentingly pursued by Someone who is fixin’ to bless you whether you like it, understand it, or want it.

While at one level I am confused and super frustrated by the Israelites stupid crap, I also am forced to acknowledge that their story is mine. I am scared of the path on which I walk with the One who calls me. It’s beyond me, it blesses me with irrational grace, and I only know a day at a time.

It’s much easier for me to allow myself to idly daydream about “How good it was” in slavery, in despair, in all the garbage that God has pulled me through. My inner argument being “I knew what was going on then, now things are so much more difficult…” This of course is a seriously flawed argument. Obviously slavery is easier to understand than freedom, but that’s not to say that ease of understanding means better or worthwhile.

All this to say, when I read the story of the Israelites, I see my own story. I see my own brokenness, failure with regard to following God, and general sense of fear of the One whose ways are not my ways. The questions of “Where are we going? When are we getting there? Can I know now?” often seem more important than the question of “Do you trust the One who goes leads you?”

It’s encouraging to me that while God repeatedly gets super pissed at the Israelites’ nonsense, He never leaves. Deuteronomy 31:8 says “The Lord you God goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you or forsake you, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” In the story of Israel God never leaves them alone. He goes to the absolute opposite extreme and gets so close that He becomes human. There’s really no escape y’know. He’s going to bless you. Sorry, you can’t choose whether or not grace is offered, it just is.

Today’s internet bound prayer:

Lord, I have issues trusting the path on which you lead me. I don’t know where we’re going and I’m often afraid it will be somewhere I won’t like. Help me in my lack of trust and overabundance of fear. Remind me of your love for me and help me to walk with you. I’m scared, but I’m not running back to slavery anymore. You’re not leaving either. Lead me and help me to remember your constant presence even when I don’t feel like I want you to be so close.

Amen.