Living Already

 

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

 – Omar Khayyam –

Don’t miss it.

I know you dreamers, because I am one. This is what I’m saying to me today, and to you today.

Let’s not miss the life we actually have while we’re busy looking through pictures of other people’s lives–their best moments–caught on film. And we compare ourselves to that, and we live in that world, a world of people’s best moments sewn together like a patchwork quilt of reality. And then we look at our own reality, and it doesn’t seem to quite measure up

We spend hours on Pinterest and Facebook, looking at all the things people are doing and the places they’re going, and the things they have.

On Pinterest, we save all the things we’d like to get or do for ourselves…and we forget the things we already have. The things we are actually doing. The places we actually go every day.

In books, we take adventures, make friends, come to love characters. When I finish a book, I often wish the characters were real, because I love them so much. I would never be one to criticize reading, that’s for sure…but I wonder. Is this another place where we can accrue to ourselves people that we like, people who we identify with…and then forget that there are already people in our lives who, like it or not, are ours? People whom we are not just asked, but commanded to love, by the God who loved us first.

We dreamers can live in the future…all the roads yet traveled, all of the beautiful things yet to be seen or touched. The beautiful family we might one day have. The wonderful people we might one day know.

And we forget the simple magic of the hum of our tires on the roads that we travel day in and day out.

Lost in dreaming, we can lock ourselves away form the hard work of making relationships here and now. Relationships that are strong. Relationships that matter.

And I’m as guilty of this as the next person. I’ve pinned up all of the future glories that I dream of. I mean, I’ve spent hours pinning pictures of boots. Short boots, tall boots, ankle boots, knee boots…and it’s not even that that’s bad.

It’s just…today I woke up and the boots I’m wearing are the ones that were already in my closet.

And the way I did my hair is the way that I always do my hair.

And my fake little imaginary world didn’t change that.

I can drive down the road that I drive a couple times a week, not even seeing it. I’ve let myself grow dull to it. I’m so busy thinking about Pinterest-board trips that I don’t stop to enjoy the one that I’m on today.  I told myself that I’m tired of this road.

But why am I so tired of it? I don’t want to be.

Maybe it’s because I keep looking for the bigger and the better and the next and the someday.

I think that’s it. Someday.

It’s not even that I don’t like this road…it’s that I’m too busy thinking about the next one.

So, to all you dreamers out there like me, please. All we have, all that’s been promised to us, is today. This road. This family. These people’s love. These moments. These realities.

Please don’t stop dreaming. But remember that those dreams are just that…dreams. They’re not real yet. And if they do become real one day, enjoy them then.

I don’t think they will taste nearly as sweet if we wring all the enjoyment out of them before we even get to them.

I’m not so scared of my dreams not coming true. I’m more scared of missing the dreams come true that I already have, that I’ve forgotten were once dreams, because they’re real now. And maybe when they’re real, we dreamers go to the next dream.

I don’t want to be like that.

Today, this dreamer is going to live in today.

And tomorrow this dreamer is going to live in tomorrow

And I’ll keep pinning the pretty boots on Pinterest, and I’ll keep budgeting for long vacations, and I’ll keep dreaming about what it would be like to have a special family of my own one of these days. I’ll smile and I’ll dream. I’ll always keep dreaming.

But I won’t forget that I already have a family of my own–a different kind, but my very own. And I already have boots that I really like. And I already go places with people I love.

Thank you Lord, for the alreadys.

And help me not forget where I really live.

Maybe this is called contentment. Learning to live and love where you are.

Today. Already. Now.

 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
 – Philippians 4:11b-13, NIV –

Lying-Awake Nights

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I’m lying in bed and it’s 11:31 p.m.

And my face is sticky, because I’ve been crying into my pillow. My nose is dripping. I’m hoping to avoid a mirror for a while. Good thing it’s dark in here.

I keep rubbing the back of my neck, hoping for the words to well up again.

All I hear is “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” It’s playing from my computer speakers, speaking to me in a language I’ve known so long. The words that I know by heart echo inside me, even though all I hear are simple piano notes.

It’s like my heart knows the way home, even when I’m tired and it’s dark and all is ajar.

I’ve been praying my thoughts with Psalmist-like honesty. I know that I’m not alone in these nights. How many of you, my friends, have also laid awake in bed kept awake by your fears?

I keep finding myself on the edge of a negotiation with God:

“Lord, I know you’re in control. I just don’t know what that means for me. What does that mean You’ll do? I trust that You’re good…but how does that help this situation? I still don’t know what You’re going to do. What if it’s painful? What if it hurts someone I love? What if Your plan isn’t the one I want? If You’re going to do what You want anyway, does it do any good for me to pray for what I want?

You know, at least for me tonight, I’m not really asking God if He’s in control.

I’m not even asking Him if He’s good.

I’m asking if He cares about what I care about. I want to know if He loves my hurting friend as much as I do. I want to know if He cares about my future as much as I do. I know He’s powerful and working out all that is good.

I just want to know how that applies to me right now.

On nights like tonight, the built-up emotions swirl in me until I’m left dry and tired.

But I lifted my head out of a soggy pillow in sudden joy and grabbed for my computer to tell you this story.

As I prayed gut-wrenching prayers, the knowledge stole over me.

“Lord, you love this friend more than I do.”

“Jesus, You don’t withhold anything good from me, not for one minute more than necessary. Something else better is happening right now, or this waiting would be over.”

THIS is what can sustain me through a night of tears. It’s not just that He rules and plans. The thing that puts my heart to rest is that HE LOVES ME! He loves me, He loves my people, and He cares about the things that weigh on my heart.

The idea of distantly-loving and powerful God doesn’t do much for me. But a personally-involved and caring One? He is a God I can rest in.

So I sniff and wipe my tears and smile in the dark.

“Rock of Ages” plays now. I will hide myself in Him.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee…

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling.”

 – Augustus Toplady –

 

 

 

No Good Thing

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When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

– Corrie Ten Boom –


Help me trust you.

I DO trust you. But I also fear you, dear Lord. I, silly child, fear that this one thing will be kept back from me. One incredibly good thing, scooted away from the table’s edge out of the reach of my grasping fingers.

But You do not withhold any good thing from me, do You?

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.” – Psalm 84:11, NKJV

I was praying this last week, struggling with fear. Fear that my plans would go awry and all my carefully-constructed life would go tumbling off into uncertainty.

I’m not sure this has ever happened so vividly before, but as I was praying–nearly crying–over my fear, this verse popped into my head. “No good thing will He withhold…” I suddenly thought. The words were immediate and forceful. Not a voice, but a sudden assurance.

It took me by surprise. What a good God we have! Not a moment after I confessed my fears, He allowed this perfect verse to jump into my mind.

I was immediately both calmed and convicted. A moment before, I had been almost panicking because I was not getting my way. Now, I breathed and realized something:

If something would be good for me today, God would have given it to me.

The fact that He held back this desire of mine doesn’t mean He is not good–instead, it means that what I wanted wasn’t the best thing for me right now. Maybe it will be good for me later. Or maybe it will never be a good thing for me.

How simple! And yet, my heart was so comforted by remembering the God is not a hard taskmaster scheming for my misery. How often do we picture Him that way, just waiting to squelch our dreams?

He is not like that at all! He is a loving, indulgent Father who delights to bring us joy…but He also delights to strengthen our character. Sometimes that means doing things that we don’t particularly understand or even like at the moment. But it will end up for our ultimate joy and good.

“My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask.”

– James 1:2-5, CEB –

That is my big struggle, how about you? To believe that “God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours” (John Piper). Because, honestly?

They just feel like plain ol’ delays and detours. And dead ends, sometimes, too.

But I believe they are so much more than that. Today, I chose to smile at that precious verse–that reminder that God will not withhold one single good and lovely thing from me. And I choose to trust that His definition of “good” is a lot more accurate than mine.

Take a deep breath. Isn’t that freeing? Today, God has given me every gift I need. Because He is so good.


“Outside of the will of God, there is nothing I want, and in the will of God, there is nothing I fear.”

 – A.W. Tozer –

 

Interruptions or Adventures?

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“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
― G.K. Chesterton―


Recently, I stumbled across a Youtube video of well-known Christian comedian Mark Lowry. I haven’t heard much of his comedy before. In fact, I don’t think I even finished the video clip.

 The only reason I mention him now is that the idea for this post came from him. On this video, he began talking about the things that we perceive as important, compared to God’s perspective. As we look at this idea together today, I just wanted you to know where I got the foundational theme for today’s post, as well as several of the Scriptural examples. While I’m not much of a Mark Lowry fan, I think there is quite a bit of truth in this particular observation.


Interruptions. Yuck.

They’re everywhere, aren’t they?

Those people that pull out their cars in front of you like they’re racing to a fire, and then slow down to about 15 miles per hour (in a no-passing zone, generally). The impossibly-long lines at Walmart on Saturdays. The phone ringing when you were about to get to that one thing you’ve been wanting to do all day. The person who just won’t stop talking to you when you really need to be somewhere else.

Yeah, those. Interruptions.

Funny thing is, Jesus seemed to deal with interruptions differently than we do.

In fact, as Mr. Lowry pointed out, it seems like more interruptions made it into the Bible than planned events did (or at least humanly-planned ones)!

Jesus sails across the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, needing a break.

Interruption. In the form of over 5,000 people (Matthew 14:13).

Jesus heads for the house of Jairus the synagogue ruler–and a woman crawls out to brush her fingers against the hem of his robe (Mark 5:21). Interruption. Incidentally, the gospel writer records as much about the newly-healed woman’s interruption as he writes about the miracle of Jairus’ resurrected daughter.

It’s almost as if God knows how preoccupied we get and arranged His book with subtle reminders that we don’t have it all figured out.

I’ve had plenty of interruptions in my life. How about you?

I’ll get things all squared away and nicely organized…and then life stampedes through and tramples my best-laid plans. But…funny thing…in the end, I’m usually glad. I don’t always get to see the whole picture, but every once in a while, God lets me see a peek of what He’s been up to in the things that I call roadblocks, interruptions, or inconveniences.

I want to look at interruptions differently. Instead of bewailing the changed plans, I want to see something else: people in need of a surprising, spontaneous dose of love.

I want to be like Jesus.

He was teaching in a house when suddenly the thatch was snatched back and the plaster crumbled, and a cripple dropped down from the sky. Lowered by four audacious friends. Interruptors of Jesus’ sermon (Mark 2:1-12).

Interestingly — as the comedian’s video pointed out — the Bible doesn’t even bother telling us what Jesus was preaching about. Instead, we get an up-close view of the interruption.

I think God likes interruptions, actually. I think He likes to shake up our lives a little — not in a petty or vindictive way at all, but in a fatherly, teaching-moment sort of way.

Interruptions are moments that God reaches down and reminds us that we aren’t in control after all — He is.

Interruptions are God’s gentle — or sometimes not-so-gentle — way of realigning our priorities with His.

Take the night that the outcast woman slipped into Simon the Pharisee’s feast. She started crying all over Jesus’ feet, dumping a fortune’s worth of perfume on them, and mopping up the pungent puddle with her unloosed hair. (Luke 7:36-50). Talk about an interruption!

Simon was horrified — this sinful woman was in his house! And she had the audacity to sob at his table, badger his dinner guest, and smell up the whole room with her fragrant gift. Interruption indeed!

But Jesus? He commended her, looked on her with love. She was no interruption to Him. She was no accident. She was a Divine appointment.

For Jesus, interruptions were no surprise. He’s God, after all. These events — seemingly random interruptions — were on His day planner all along.

So how do we — since we can’t see into the future (much less control it!) — act like Jesus when it comes to these moments that take our lives by storm?

Since we’re not in control of those “interruption” moments, but we know that God is…why not see them differently?

Instead of grumbling and getting bent out of shape when things don’t follow my day planner, I can beg for the grace (and the desire!) to stop and breathe, to really, truly SEE people and opportunities.

So…next surprise schedule change, next out-of-the-blue flat tire, next interminable line at the grocery store, I pray that my attitude will be less me-centered and more Christ-centered.

Forget my boring little plans.

Tomorrow is packed with adventures planned out by my all-wise Father.

So what do you choose, by God’s grace? Inconvenience or adventure?

My Least Favorite Word

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“Jesus replied, ‘You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.’ “
– John 13:7, CEB –

I get along quite well with most words, but there is one word I intensely dislike.

Waiting.

Not because I’m impatient (well, maybe a little…), but the word waiting is just so…dull. Lifeless. Boring. Blah.

When we talk about waiting–waiting to hear about a job, waiting for that scholarship board to make a decision, waiting for the right guy to come along, waiting for high school to end and college to begin–something settles over us.

When thoughts of waiting creep up on me, I think that I’m becoming discontent. Sometimes that is true, yes. But lots of times, I don’t think that is my problem. So, this is not a post about contentment. Sorry.

The word waiting seems so terrible because it takes my mind off the things God has me doing now, and puts my attention on the things God will do in the future.

The waiting isn’t the problem, actually. It’s not the poor word’s fault. The problem is ME. Even when I’m altogether happy with what God has given me to do in this season of my life, I can get wrapped up in the idea of waiting.

Waiting is not a bad word. The Bible talks about waiting on the Lord a lot. What I am talking about is the frequent use of “I’m just in a season of waiting,” as if we are not ALL in seasons of waiting. We’re always waiting on something, really. It’s not just a word for single girls to pull out to explain the lack of a significant other. In a constantly-changing world, there’s always going to be something coming up for us to dwell on. But that’s my point.

I would never tell you to stop thinking about the future. Single ladies, I would never tell you to completely stop thinking about getting married. Job seekers, I would never advocate ditching your career goals and living entirely for the moment. Mothers and wives, I would never tell you to stop thinking about when the kids will be grown-up, or when your husband will retire. That’s silly–the Bible commends wise planning and encourages us to look in hope to the future because God is in control (Proverbs 31:25; Romans 8:25; Romans 15:13).

However, I think the word waiting and I got off to a bad start because when I’m always thinking about what I’m waiting for, I lose the potency of the present moment. It’s good for me to smile at the happy things to come and to wonder what new bends in the road I’ll discover, but not at the cost of the Present.

You see, if I’m always focused on the waiting, I’ll never be able to concentrate on what God has given to me right now.

The concept of waiting has been rolling around in my mind for a while, and yesterday a novel I was reading helped me find the key. The book quoted from 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Give thanks in all things.”

Plenty of books have been written about giving thanks, but between a busy schedule and a large dose of forward thinking, it’s something I aspire to, but rarely do.

Do you know what else I’ve discovered?

Thanking is about trusting.

When I stop dwelling in the future and instead thank God for this moment (yes, even the hard moments), that is an act of faith. Deep down, I am declaring more than simple contentment. I am saying, “Lord, I have no idea what you will bring into my life tomorrow, but I trust you. I am not guaranteed one more moment than this moment, so in this moment, I praise you. In this moment, I choose to believe that You are good and faithful. With this moment, and every moment to come, I trust You.”

So…

Waiting is not really my enemy–but I refuse to make it my full-time job. Tomorrow holds adventure, it’s true. But I am not living in Tomorrow, I’m living Today. I will praise Him today.

God took good care of yesterday. I trust Him with today.

Tomorrow is in good hands.


“I do not know what next may come
Across my pilgrim way;
I do not know tomorrow’s road,
Nor see beyond today.
But this I know — my Saviour knows
The path I cannot see;
And I can trust His wounded hand
To guide and care for me.

I do not know what may befall,
Of sunshine or of rain;
I do not know what may be mine,
Of pleasure and of pain;
But this I know — my Saviour knows
And whatsoe’er it be,
Still I can trust His love to give
What will be best for me.

I do not know what may await,
Or what the morrow brings;
But with the glad salute of faith,
I hail its opening wings;
For this I know — that my Lord
Shall all my needs be met;
And I can trust the heart of Him,
Who has not failed me yet.”

– E. Margaret Clarkson –

 

Of His Weaving

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“The fear is suffocating, terrorizing, and I want the remedy, and it is trust. Trust is everything.”

― Ann Voskamp ―

Life.

Such a terribly sweet, sharp, messy thing.

A web,

Spangled through with silver-light threads

So easy, easy, easy

To snap with a searching hand.

So I walk on,

On, in this maze of misty strands

That pop and strain with tottery steps.

Tempted I am to

Shrink still, frozen,

Fearing with another footfall to

Break a fractaled weaving

From this shroud.

Or yet, fearing that with spinning fingers I might spout lines

Wisping, shooting into new-tangled lace not meant to be.

Shall I, oh shall I, crumple years’ weavings

Into a snarl beyond patching?

But calm, calm, blessed calm,

For the Weaver pushes His shuttle yet

To make taut the sure-silvered strand,

Send it flying, ducking here, leaping there,

O’erleaping scarlet, blue, and gold.

In all the right places, a web forms

Unbreakable, that spans out from

My trembling, time-bound hands.

And, I, still unseeing, do not see the forming mosaic, but

Fear yet that crucial bindings will be undone

By my own fingers.

But no,

No, the feeble glistening spinnings hold,

Though soft as silver breath, yet when I fall

Against them, are steel woven, thin-drawn but strong

As the immutable Hands that strung them.

Sweet, solid lines, may I not fear

To grasp you on the way,

For you, webbed art, are sure art,

And His hands are steady

In my faltering.

So will I hold tight to Divine weavings

As the taut sail lines cling to the Mast in the wind,

For in this way will I sail

And step on secure through the geometric filaments of His life-weaving

Not shrinking from a chance stumbling,

For nothing, nothing

Can unknot the threads of His tying.


Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

– John 14:27, NKJV –

Thank you, Petr Kratochvil at Public Domain Pictures for today’s photo!

Half-Frozen Lake

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“It’s wonderful to climb the liquid mountains of the sky. Behind me and before me is God and I have no fears.”

– Helen Keller –

My future is a half-frozen lake.

I’m standing on the edge, where the who-knows-how-thick present meets the sheer ice of what is to come.

When I lean forward, the frozen platform crackles, portentous.

Once upon a time, I dared to dream.

I took a step out onto the fragile thinness ahead and thought perhaps it too had crusted over. Safe to bear my weight at last. The first whispers of dreams were coming true—culmination of years of education and spiritual training and heart-to-heart talks with my family. In so many ways, my life was budding into what I thought it was to be. Calling, vocation, life service, my passion. Maybe it would all come together smoothly. So far, so good.

So I was out there, out on the just-frozen water, for a while. Dreaming that maybe these future paths could be real.

From the heavens, just yesterday, fell a stone.

Rough, ragged, sharp. The too-thin crust began to shatter.

Tears welled up, trickling warm on my pale, cold cheeks.

One of my dreams broke. Crumbled beneath my feet until my very heart depended on how fast I could leap back onto the thick, solid surface behind me.

I jumped and landed in a skid. I knelt on firmness as a thousand shards of ice-dreams floated away in the pale ripples.

I wasn’t heartbroken. Just sad, left with a dull ache of losing something I never had.

I wasn’t angry. Just disillusioned and disappointed. Disappointed with friends. Disappointed that I had fooled myself yet again. Disappointed that I thought life was clicking into place. Disappointed, yet left clinging to my best Friend of all.

As the little crystal pieces of hope drifted off, I held on to a song.

That the “trials of this life are [His] mercies in disguise.” Even “when friends betray us.”

And I’m thankful. So thankful, that my heart had not been tossed into that chilled lake when the future-ice gave way. So thankful, that wisdom had come through the words of a counselor all along, and kept me back from throwing all my weight onto the thinness.

So, again, I’m on the ledge. It seems like the thin places reaching across from the opposite bank are slowly stretching to meet my solid place.

The pieces of a future dream are melting into the past.

But now I fear stepping out again, fear testing the ice crusting over in front of my hesitant toes.

What if my dreams break off again? Isn’t it easier not to dream at all? The heart-sickness of hope lost is too much of a gamble, isn’t it?

That ice coming across the gap, smooth and sheening, enthralls me. It’s so beautiful. My eyes hurt with hoping that it’s not a mirage.

Future is fast merging into present, tomorrow becoming today.

Soon, the ice in front of my timid feet will cloud, translucent.

God never waits for the ice to go hard through, opaque.

He will call me to step out while the layer is still thin. While the dreams are tender and the hopes are fragile and I wonder if I really can stand it again.

“There are times in our Christian life when we cannot see beyond the next step. At that point, we have to trust God and venture out on the basis of His Word.”

– Alistair Begg –

One day, my feet will be on a solid bridge, a hope and a future that will not be cut off.

Ultimately, this hope is unshakable, eternal. Forever.

“We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see?But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience…..The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son.”

– Romans 8:24-29, CEB –

Grace, a frozen merging of all my todays and tommorows.

I’m learning not to fear thin ice.

After all, I’ve got a Savior who walks on water.

“Strength of my heart, I need not fail,
Not mind to fear but to obey,
With such a Leader, who could quail?
Thou art as Thou wert yesterday.
Strength of my heart, I rest in Thee,
Fulfil Thy purposes through me.”

– Amy Carmichael –

Thank you, David Wagner and Public Domain Pictures, for the great shot!