Redesign and Realign

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris Bueller/Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Have you ever had one of those moments when you seem to blink and find yourself in an unfamiliar place. You wonder how you ended up here in light of where you were planning to land way back when you made your plans.

Life happens. It’s fluid and if we’re not careful with our days, they pass too quickly and we stand in a place we weren’t planning to visit let alone spend our days.

silly girlsAs a mother of two little girls who are five and seven, I’ve been told often to cherish every moment because time will go by quickly. These little girls will suddenly be grown and heading off to college.

But, as a mother of two little girls who are five and seven, I question this advice often. Because, honestly, the days are long and there are times it seems we are stuck in these days.

Even so, life happens and days pass, and even though they feel like Groundhog Day (wherein Bill Murray’s character lives the same day over and over and over again), I realize that the plans I made a year ago, several weeks ago, yesterday, remain unfulfilled.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

When I face these moments I tend to panic.

And these moments aren’t just related to parenting. They show up in managing finances and budgeting, in living out my marriage vows and expectations, in living out my God-given purpose, in pursuing my writing, and in any number of big and small aspects of life.

I look around and realize that few of these things looks anything like what I saw way back then, when I started down this path.

In some ways, they are better. And in other ways, they are disappointing, to say the least.

IMG_6750But, life is fluid and, fortunately, God is unchanging and He has a better handle on any of this than I do. And He remains a God of second chances and redemption and redesign.

And I’m ready for a major redesign of my life, my heart life, my attitude life, my spirit life. I’m ready to realign all of me with who He is. I’m ready for surrender: genuine, absolute, nothing-held-back surrender. Again.

I’ve been holding too tightly to the way-back-then ideas and plans.

But, God is calling me to more. He’s calling me to abundance.

The irony of receiving this abundance is that first there needs to be less. Less of me. So much less of me: less of my will, less of my control, less of my me-centric focus.

There is so much promise in His calling and when I take hold of it, and Him, I receive a deep sense of hope that sweeps out the fear that clutters up the corners of my life. He provides glimpses of His vision to me, but when I try to create that vision in my strength alone, it leads me to this place: the end of me.

But it is here, at the end of me, where God can redeem His plan in me and He can redesign my days and my life.

This end of me is where everything truly begins.

Desperate Measures Bring Great Delight

IMG_6464One of the things I love about a good story is the ability to take me out of my here and now and put me into the events facing the protagonist. Even more, I like to step into the hero’s shoes, identifying with her and seeing myself in the story, sharing a sense of camaraderie with the main character.

I solved mysteries with Sherlock Holmes. I started a revolution with Katniss Everdeen. I stood in the galley with Scout and watched Atticus Finch’s closing argument. I learned the magic of words with Liesel in a basement in Germany.

And I betrayed Jesus by a fire outside the high priest’s house in Jerusalem.

That last one is Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle disciples and one of the people I so often closely identify with when I read about Jesus’ three-year ministry in the gospels. Peter was bold, impetuous, outspoken and sometimes acted without thinking things through.

But there are days like today when I feel like I’m stuck behind the crowd struggling to be heard or to see what’s coming or to do something bold. There are days when I feel more like Zacchaeus than Peter; but usually only the part where he can’t see. That’s too often where I stop the story: feeling desperate and feeling defeated.

But that’s not where Zacchaeus’ story ends.

Zacchaeus’ story is one of tenacity and ingenuity and delight.

1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.

5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. (Luke 19:1-7, The Message)

I love the way The Message describes Zacchaeus: He wanted desperately to see Jesus.

But there’s a large crowd separating Zacchaeus from the thing he desperately desires. Even so, Zacchaeus isn’t stymied. He runs ahead on Jesus’ route and climbs a tree so that he’ll catch a glimpse of this man about whom Zacchaeus has heard so much. And I’m betting that he would have been satisfied with that brief glimpse.

But Jesus gives Zacchaeus so much more than he could have possibly imagined; He invited Himself to dinner at Zacchaeus’ home.

Can you even imagine? An audience with the King of Kings when all you were hoping for was a glimpse of Him as he passed by the crowd beneath your sycamore tree?

Because that’s how God works, isn’t it?

Maybe you’ve forgotten that recently as you’ve faced one setback after another. Maybe you’ve forgotten that as you’ve struggled and fought to save your marriage or you’ve faced past due bills and a negative bank account. Maybe you’ve forgotten that as you’ve lost sight of the God-given vision for your life, your marriage, your relationships, your finances, your purpose.

But He hasn’t forgotten you. When you are desperate for Him – desperate to see Him, to feel Him, to hear from Him, know that He hasn’t forgotten you.

What’s in your way? What’s keeping you from seeing Him? Take your lead from Zacchaeus and get to a place where you can see Him even just a little bit. Watch for Him. Anticipate Him. That’s all Zacchaeus did. He put himself in a place where he could see Jesus. Jesus did the rest.

Jesus looks up and declares, Today is my day to be with you.

Don’t ever doubt that Jesus speaks these words to you every day. We may not always hear them because the crowd of our fear or our doubt or our worry or our troubles or our struggles have cut us off from Him. But take heart. When we are desperate for Him, He is eager to find us and to give us more of Him than we can ask or imagine.

May your story today be one that provides you the kind of delight that brought Zacchaeus scrambling down from his perch in the tree hardly believing his good fortune.

The Rest of Wisdom

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
    preserve sound judgment and discretion;
they will be life for you,
    an ornament to grace your neck.
Then you will go on your way in safety,
    and your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. (Proverbs 3:21-24)

Fear Not

(29/365 days of Fear Not)

Lately I’ve been having the strangest dreams. Some are more disturbing than strange. They involve evil people and being chased and becoming lost. And they disrupt my sleep, leaving me feeling disoriented and anxious until I remind myself that they are not real and I reconnect with my surroundings. I have to ground myself in the reality of what I know is true in order to dismiss what is not real.

And that’s similar to how I feel when I am hit or miss, lukewarm, and too sporadic in spending time with Jesus. When I don’t make Him a priority, I feel unfocused and disoriented and so much more anxious. I feel lost and wandering and have difficulty getting life done.

It used to take me some time to realize what was going on when I was a younger version of me. I’d pursue several other things before I finally set about seeking God’s presence and reconnecting my heart, my soul and my mind to Him.

When I am not tethered to His truth or to Him through His word, my life is out of balance and my judgment suffers. I begin making poor choices and heaping difficult consequences upon difficult consequences.

It doesn’t take me long to notice that imbalance these days and the name of Jesus flows from my heart and my tongue often and quite readily when I sense the first stumbling steps of my thinking and notice familiar fear creeping into my mind.

Wisdom, discretion, understanding, sound judgment.

Truly these are gems to treasure as we move through our days. Truly they keep our feet upon the path so that we will not stumble.

Even in the face of obstacles or difficult circumstances, they lead me always in the direction of God because although He will never leave me nor forsake me, I too often wander off from His ways.

But there is nothing more comforting than His presence when my day comes to its close and His words and His promises lead me into sweet sleep. I can rest in peace no matter what the day held because He is there. He is with me and I will not fear.

Take that, fear.

It Takes Courage to Wait

The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.

No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. (Acts 27:20-22)

Fear Not

(28/365 days of Fear Not)

Ever get in a big hurry to get something done? Especially if it’s something about which you feel passionate? Or to which you feel called?

You know it’s a God-given dream and purpose and so you take off at top speed without over-thinking things? Maybe without thinking about things at all?

I have.

Moses did.

Abraham did, with Sarah’s help.

Peter did. Often.

Jonah did. (Though he actually ran in the opposite direction).

It’s not enough to have a God-given, God-sized dream.

There’s also the God-timing to consider.

Moses ended up waiting 40 years to lead God’s people out of Egypt, tending sheep and living in the desert wilderness.

Abraham’s choice set the stage for the conflict between the Jews and the Muslims (according to many scholars).

Peter was often impetuous and sometimes chastised (and rebuked at least once) as a result.

Jonah spent some time in the belly of a big fish.

Fortunately, God is able to take our passionate rushing ahead and use it in spite of us. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be difficulties and consequences and storms. If we search through scripture, we’ll see plenty of instances beyond these few mentioned here where taking matters into your own hands wreaks havoc, sometimes only for the individual, sometimes far more reaching.

So, the choice comes down to take courage and wait on the Lord or take courage and know you’ll survive the storm though your ship may sink and it may take you longer to realize your dream.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent far too much time taking courage in my self-created storms because I’ve raced out ahead of God. I’m in a season of taking courage and waiting.

And, honestly, I’m loving every minute of it.

Awaken to More

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:11-16)

Fear Not

(27/365 days of Fear Not)

Sometimes I forget.

I forget that this life I’m living is only a vapor.

I forget that this life isn’t about me.

I forget that this life I’ve been given is a gift from the One who also breathed the stars into existence.

I forget that the Creator of the universe knows my name.

I forget that my heavenly Father knows the number of hairs on my head and the word I’m about to speak before it’s formed on my tongue.

I forget that He who lives in me is greater than he who is in the world.

Sometimes I forget.

But more often, at least in recent days, as I abide in Jesus, I awaken to His presence within me and around me.

More often I claim His promises.

More often I seek Him with all of my heart and all of my soul.

More often I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

More often I cast my cares on Him.

More often I live by faith and not by sight.

I am a child of God and His Spirit dwells in me and guides me.

No longer do I need to live fearfully.

As I greet each day I know that I am living out the purpose that God sealed in my heart even as He knit me together in my mother’s womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that includes the good works and the dream that God created for me and calls me into each morning.

Take that, fear.

For This Day

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.  (Psalm 118:5-7)

Fear Not

(26/365 days of Fear Not)

For this day, I meditate on this truth.

For this day, I claim this promise.

For this day, I cry out to God.

For this day, and every day, I give thanks that when I cry out to my Father in heaven, He hears me.

He brings me into a spacious place where I can feel the freedom of His presence and bask in the glory of His creation.

The Lord is with me; He is my helper.

As I move through the days of this life and live out the dream that God has given me, I revel in the knowledge that God helps me to be who He calls me to be.

Doing Battle for Your Dream

Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei.

The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”

So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land. (Numbers 21:33-35)

Fear Not

(25/365 days of Fear Not)

As I walk through the scriptures to discover whether the phrase, Do not be afraid, indeed appears 365 times, I come across verses like the one quoted above and I can’t help but think, Okay, so it does say, Don’t be afraid, but how can that possibly be applicable to the average person today?

I’m not planning a march across foreign lands.

I’m not planning on running into enemy kings who want to challenge me on that journey.

I’m not planning on doing battle with anyone today.

Or am I?

Sometimes, it’s too easy to read passages about God taking down enemies of the Israelites and become confused, or even more, to question God’s motivation or His actions. (To that last one, I’ll simply say that He’s big enough to handle our questions, but even as He told Job, Where were you at the foundation of the earth? Did you stretch the plumb line by which I laid the foundation stone? Were you there singing with the angels when the earth, the sea, and the sky exploded into existence? There are things that God does that we cannot and will not understand.)

And so, back to this particular passage that tells Moses, and us when we read it, not to be afraid. God is about to deliver Og into the hands of Moses just like He did with Sihon.

Of course had Sihon and Og kept to themselves, neither would have been handed over to their death.

Moses wanted nothing more than peaceful passage through the land in order to reach his destination and they refused. They chose to stand in his way.

But I’m not planning to move through foreign lands.

Or am I?

Is my God-given dream and purpose one that moves against the culture? Is it one that challenges the status quo or the mediocrity or apathy with which the world has become too comfortable. Then I will be moving through foreign lands.

But I’m not planning on running into enemy kings who want to challenge me on that journey.

Or should I?

If my God-given dream and purpose is going to challenge the status quo and the selfishness and mediocrity that has fallen heavily onto the culture, will I not face the enemy of God as well as naysayers and haters as I move forward with God?

I’m not planning on doing battle with anyone today.

But I may.

Isn’t that why the Creator encourages me to put on the full armor of God every day? Because He knows that there will be spiritual warfare along the way. Especially if I am pursuing the dream and purpose that God planted in my heart long before I discovered it and began living it out.

Even so, as I face these moments and these naysayers and obstacles, God is with me. He assures me, Don’t be afraid. I’ll take care of this.

Isn’t that what He did when He entered the world as a baby? Isn’t that what He did when He died on the cross and rose from the grave?

When I live out my dream and my purpose with God, there is nothing I need to fear.