More Than A “0”

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

Recently I had a “0” birthday – a passage birthday, where you mark the end of one decade and the beginning of another – it was a BIG one, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, either!

In my family, I’m the party planner, the one who makes sure that “0” birthdays are duly and appropriately marked. As the big day loomed, I wondered whether anyone was planning anything for it, especially since it was on a weekend day, making it much easier to coordinate a family get together. Then the weather forecast turned up with snow, a winter weather advisory type of snow, and all bets were off.

So I set my sights on something that’s traditional in our family, a “pity party.” I told myself that I mattered to no one, that after all the efforts I make to mark milestone birthdays of those I love, no one could be bothered to do the same for me.  It’s funny how the mind can play tricks on you, how the smallest suggestion of uncertainty, of misgiving can snow-ball into full-on fear and dubiety.  I even tried to go down the“God-doesn’t-care-about-me-either” road, but try as I might, I just couldn’t do it.  Every time I got myself worked up to a good “poor me” cry, letting doubt and self-righteous indignation get the best of me, the voice within whispered, “who knitted you together in your mother’s womb and wrote all your days before you were even conceived?” The voice of truth reminded me that I didn’t get here of my own volition. I wasn’t the one whose plans had directed my steps and carried me to this day.

Sometimes, it’s easy to get things a bit mixed up, backwards.  We live in a topsy-turvy world steeped in self-obsession: We talk of self-worth and self-help, admire the self-made and the self-reliant. In fact, we’re so obsessed with self-importance that there’s little room for anything else. We tell ourselves if only this would happen, then I’ll be happy, or when I get that, I won’t need anything else out of life, but these yearnings are all about self-gratification. When we attach our feelings, our self-worth, our hopes to external things, focusing so intently on how great we think we are, becoming a “god” unto ourselves, we completely forget who it is that “numbers our days and sets forth our paths.”

“I will lift my eyes unto the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” We are called to walk by faith, which is trust, and not by sight. But, it’s so easy to have a blind spot in our thinking – a “board in our eye” – that keeps us from seeing the truth, from trusting, from knowing the fullness of God’s love for us, which assures us that we are so much more than a mere “0.”

A Happy Birthday comes from remembering to dance with the one who brought you and celebrating the grace by which you have arrived at this place in time.

~SLM

Blindness: The Best Medicine

​In my Monday night group, we’re studying the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul, and we were asked why we thought God would strike Paul blind to get His point across. Was it to simply humble him, or did God have something else in mind on that fateful day on the road to Damascus?

Among the possible reasons we came up with were: 1) When one sense is taken away, we compensate through one or more of our other senses, so maybe blindness obliged Paul to listen; and 2) Sometimes, drastic measures are called for so that we may “see” what God is saying.

Listening is, by far, the one thing humankind struggles with the most. We have been given eyes to “see” and ears to “hear,” but we can’t seem to coordinate their use. When we see, we seldomly listen, and listening is paramount to recognizing the voice of Wisdom, the voice of God.

Like Paul, we can become so convinced of our own wisdom that we can’t even see what is right in front of our faces. We think we know, and we’re passionate about it, even when what we “know” is completely wrong. We tend to live life in a bubble of our own making, and when we look for validity, we tend to only see those things that confirm our correctness, our righteousness, giving us a false sense truth. That’s why we are told that we shouldn’t worry about the speck in our neighbor’s eye, when we have a board in our own. It’s because we look at the world with impaired vision, and reality is more vast than our limited scope can comprehend, and perhaps, being struck blind is what we need, when we can’t see any other point of view but our own, when our prejudice gets in the way of our ability to see the truth.

Often times, it does, indeed, take something drastic to stop us in our tracks. A bolt from the blue is exactly what is needed, a shock to our senses meant to get our attention, to help us reevaluate what we think we know, to make us see things in a new way. Paul’s whole life changed after that fateful day. His blindness gave him the chance to listen, to evaluate in a new light, God’s light, all he had learned and studied up to that point in his life. Sometimes blindness the best medicine to show us how we’ve been blind, to humble us with the light of truth, and to send us down a whole new road.

~SLM

The Narrow Path

Lately, I’ve been chewing on the book of Genesis, the story of Adam and Eve’s epic fail in particular, considering what it says about human nature, and what wisdom can be gleaned from the account.  My nephew thinks I’m crazy to be fixed on a “silly old myth that doesn’t have much bearing on life in the modern world.” But, is that in fact true? Have we really “evolved” beyond a tale of choices and consequences, of responsibility and self-examination?

If you think about it, it’s really much more than a “silly old myth” about a man and woman, and a snake; it’s about the choices we make and the consequences of those choices, choices that, even now, in our modern “evolved” world, are presented to us every day of our lives in a myriad of forms. It’s also about taking responsibility for our choices, owning up to the mistakes we make, rather than pointing the finger at someone else.

In the Book “The Road Less Traveled,” psychologist M. Scott Peck, says, “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity.” Blaming others for our behavior is nothing new, we’ve been doing this since time began. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and a quick look at the any newsfeed suggests that we haven’t changed much since. Dr. Peck goes on to say that when we blame it means “we then give away our power to that entity.” So Adam gave his power to Eve, and she in turn gave hers to the snake, absolving all, save the snake, of any wrongdoing, right? Not at all. Contrary to what we think we are doing, when we blame others for our actions, we aren’t exercising our “get out of jail free” cards, we are actually giving our power to those we blame, assigning the control over our lives to an outside force, making us hopeless, helpless, a victim.

Eve made a choice to eat the fruit and serve it to her husband. Adam made a choice to eat the fruit, even though he, too, knew it was forbidden. We all make choices, and we can choose whether or not to partake, yet if we do, we must know that there will surely be consequences. We can eat of the fruit, or not, but that road, if we choose to go down it, is wide and well-traveled, and where it leads? Well, that’s a different matter all together. And, making our way back? Well, as we have been told, “Small is the gate and narrow the path that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14)

The narrow road is fraught with difficulties and challenges, because our desire to back up, to have a do-over, our resolve in the matter, will be tested again and again. Speaking truth in the face widespread dishonesty and doing what’s right, when no one else does, is not easy. Accepting our shortcomings, taking responsibility for them and resolving to change is harder still. Yet this story challenges us to confront the difficulties we face in life, to own up to our faults, to look for that “narrow” path. In truth, life is difficult, it’s unfair, no matter which path we take, but the difference is this: The narrow path teaches us so much more about ourselves, about the nature of reality, of God, and how we fit into the cosmic plan; it gives us perspective and teaches us perseverance, and trust, and leads us to life, and to God’s peace.

~SLM

 

When in Rome Part 1: According to His Purpose

Sometimes it’s hard to see the purpose in the world around us. We aren’t able to understand how all the pieces fit together, and what we can comprehend, doesn’t make any sense to us, yet in Romans 8:28 Paul says this: “And we know in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Who is to say that the trials we face cannot be for the betterment of ourselves or someone else. We learn so much more about whom we are and the nature of life through our difficulties, our struggles. We cannot know how our burdens and triumphs may influence others, and likewise, we cannot know how our words or actions affect those with whom we interact.  If we know not sorrow, how can we know what true joy looks like? How can we be grateful for all that we are given, our mental and spiritual gifts as well as the physical, if we have not known hunger? And, if we are certain that God’s plan is good, we can go down that road, the one that’s uncertain and unsettling, where dangers may lurk and sorrow may live, facing incredible odds. We can walk through the fiery furnace with peace in our hearts, and praise on our lips, knowing that:

“Lord is our keeper, we have everything we need. He lets us rest in fertile fields of green and leads us to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives us new strength, and guides us to the right paths, as he has promised. Even if we go through the deepest darkness, we need not be afraid, for the Lord is with us, His shepherd’s rod and staff protect us.” (Psalm 23)

No matter what happens in life, what joys or sorrows besot us, we can rest assured that what we face is what God has intended so that He may accomplish His good purpose.

~SLM

 

Transitions

Letting go and letting God is much easier said than done. When our lives are unsettled, then transitions occur, our troubled minds find no rest. This is when we must resolve to trust the most, but is usually when we are the least willing to follow. We stand frozen, like Lot’s wife, mournful for what we are leaving behind, unwilling to fathom that what lies ahead could well be what we’ve always dreamed of. Instead, we allow ourselves to be convinced that the difficulties and strife we’ve just come through is far better than what may come into. We make many small transitions every day, a new boss, a road closure, an unexpected delay, without letting them stop us in our tracks, yet the larger ones paralyze us. How are they different? We have no trust that what we are being delivered into will be better than what we are delivered from. God’s timing is hardly ever our timing, and if it were, we’d probably never follow His plan. Matthew 6:34 tells us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I guess it’s human nature that we are more willing to “stay with the devil we know” rather than take the leap toward something more. It’s sure, it’s safe and trusting means we admit we are not in control, we admit we haven’t made very good choices.

But what about the God we know? Have we no trust in his ability to keep us? Why is it so difficult to cling to His promises? Psalm 23 begins with this line: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing – NOTHING! Even when it looks like there is no road, we must trust that God will provide. We see only a small portion of the puzzle, and when we reflect upon our journey, don’t we always see just how lovingly we’ve been cared for?  

It occurs to me that it’s our attitude toward our life’s events that needs adjusting. How different, more calm and blissful would our lives be if we stopped lamenting what we perceive as misfortunes and embraced God’s plan? What if we were to relish the twists and turns of this roller-coaster ride we call life, and face each day with this thought: These are exciting times that God has provided for me, I can’t wait to go down this road, to see how this will all shake-out, and to see who I will become as a result of it all!

~SLM