Never Enough

A while back the pastor at my church asked an interesting question.  He said, “What if you said to God, even if nothing else happens in my whole life, this is enough?”

I have been so blessed and though nothing this side of heaven will ever be perfect, I’m in a good place.  I went through a tough time changing jobs and dealing with some rough depression but despite all that I did say, Yes, this is enough.  I have been used by You and I’m loved by You and that’s enough.

But my God is so much bigger and so much better and wants so much more for me.  I stepped out in faith when I quit my job last spring.  I stepped out when I took this job.  I was obedient and I was content.  And just like that He called again.

During my unemployment I started volunteering with the kids at the local children’s shelter and was so blessed by them.  I got busy making the transition to a new workplace and took a break but now He’s calling me back there.  Someone there needs something I have to give.  I don’t know where it will lead but I’m excited to have the opportunity to serve the most high God.  Because what I’ve learned on this journey so far, being content with where you are is never enough for Him.

It’s Not About Them

Why am I different?  Why do I always have to be the odd man out?  Why am I on a different path from everybody else?

Of course why is irrelevant.  I’ve already talked about that. But I seem to always end up on a different road.  And sometimes that’s uncomfortable.

It’s so much easier to be seen doing the things God calls you to do.  When your calling matches up with what church folks expect, it’s pretty easy.  You get to talk about it and share it with the people around you.  You don’t get funny looks or the “What are you doing for God?” kind of questions.  It’s so much harder when you’re the one God called to abide.  Harder when you’re called to a solitary activity.

I’ve been hearing a lot of noise around me lately.  Noise about what everybody’s calling is and what they’re doing.  My church preaches relationship and obedience to God.  No matter what that looks like.  And yet when you know you’re being obedient, people still expect you to be something else.  In my church lately it’s been all about creating extended family through home group fellowship and study, becoming a prayer servant who prays for healing, and hearing the Father’s voice and giving prophecy to others.  These are all great things and I’m so happy that there are so many people participating and building family and reaching out to the community.  It’s awesome.  But I do not feel called to any of that at this time.  In fact, the Father has been quiet lately.  And that’s okay.

That’s okay.

And yet, I have all this static around me saying that it’s not “acceptable,” not good enough.  Everybody’s got all these stories, experiences, words, and they feel they have to share every one of them.  And me?  I don’t have anything to share because what God has for me right now is intensely private and quite frankly, no one’s business.  What right does anyone have to tell me that’s not good enough?

I feel like obedience is being lost in a sea of goals.  Life isn’t a video game.  Gifts of the Spirit are not levels to be beaten.  Your growth should never be measured against anyone else’s journey.  You are where the Father wants you.  Turn your eyes to Him, not to your friends or the church leadership.  Don’t join something just because your friends think you should.  Don’t do something just because the leaders preach it from the pulpit.  It may not be for you at this time.  And if that makes you different, then so be it.

Make obedience your goal.  It’s about Him.  It’s not about them.

“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”  Luke 11:28 (NIV)

Deep Water

Back in December a friend of mine suggested that the members of our church group ask the Lord to give us words for the coming year.  Mine were growth and friendship.

Now, I knew better than to try to predict what the year was going to look like based on two words.  But I admit I thought it would look something like God calling me to serve somewhere in the church and I would build deeper relationships with my friends at group.  My dog died in March so I thought maybe that was a sign God was going to send me somewhere. Or send me someone.  I wouldn’t have any strings.  I could go anywhere and do anything.

After seven months of 2016, I feel more isolated and alone than I think I ever have.  I feel distant from my group.  I don’t feel any call to serve at the church.  I haven’t been on a date in over a year and I feel really rejected.  All I want to do is read and write and sleep.  I’m moody, snappish, fatigued.

And somehow, I feel like I’m exactly where I should be.  When I read, I feel like me.  When I write, I feel like I’m moving forward.

I can feel myself changing.  It’s almost like gears and cogs moving around inside me, making me into something new.  It’s very hard to describe.  It’s like I’m becoming a hybrid of my hard, surly teen self and the much more loving and compassionate twenty something self.

I know I’ve been chosen for a different path.  I’ve always been different from everybody else.  I’m getting better at appreciating that.  He’s leading me somewhere.  I know it.  I just can’t see it.

This is deep water.  This is where a lot of Christians fear to go.  It’s much easier to go to church and visit God than to bring Him home with you.

But this is where you find out who you are.  When it’s hard and uncomfortable and you can’t see any point in it.  When the water is over your head and you have nothing but Jesus’s hand pulling you up and Him saying “Oh, ye of little faith.”  This is where you let Him pull you out.

This is where you walk on the water.

The Problem of Why

About three months ago, my dog died.  She was only six years old.  She got sick, she was in pain, and she had to be put down.  I only wrote about Patti on this blog once, about how it took me a long time to really love her.  She was stubborn, frustrating, difficult.  I struggled to train her and worked really hard.  I had to improvise a lot.  You couldn’t follow the rules of the training methods with her.  Patti made her own rules.

I started calling her my “little lesson in acceptance.”  I wanted a Westie because they’re adorable.  I really wasn’t prepared for her energy and her strong will.  She wasn’t a lap dog and wouldn’t sleep in the bed.  She always wanted to be in the middle of whatever was going on.  She wasn’t the dog I hoped she would be but I grew to love her and accept her for who she was, a loud, high-spirited, loving, sweet, adorable, playful terrier.  Despite her anxiety and refusal to be groomed, we had a good time together.  She would “tap” your leg when she wanted something and growl at you when she wanted to play.  We spent long afternoons sitting on the swing outside and evenings throwing the ball around the living room.

Her death hit me hard, a lot harder than I expected.  It was the middle of tax season so I had to get on with the work, get on with life, but I cried nearly every day.  There were holes all through my life where she used to be.  The dining chair no longer sits under the window in the living room so she can see out.  Her blanket isn’t on the left seat of the couch.  Her bowl isn’t in the kitchen.  And I was angry.  I asked God, Why?  Why take my dog?  She was still so young.  It wasn’t her time.  The Bible says you’re good, how is this good?  How is this grief, this hole in my life, this pain, good?

He didn’t answer why.  After a few weeks, on my Saturday morning drive to work, He simply said, “It’s My will.”  You see, He is the sovereign God of the universe.  When we sign up to walk with Him, we sign up to play by His rules.  And we don’t get an explanation.  We are called to walk by faith, not by sight.  I don’t see why as a question anymore.  I see it as a problem.  Every time I ask why He does something, I’m lacking faith.  I have to cut “why” out of my vocabulary.  Because the why doesn’t matter.  What matters is that He is good.

Do I still cry for Patti?  Yes.  Does it still hurt?  Yes.  Is He still good?  Yes.  Patti taught me a lot about dog ownership and myself.  Her death taught me about faith.  It taught me that even when the storm is raging and the pain is so bad that it’s like the world is ending, I still know God is good.  Because three years ago I chose to pick up my cross and follow Him.  Where He wants me I will go, no matter what it costs.

When the God who made the universe said, “It’s My will,” I said, “Okay.”

Mud in My Eyes

“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” John 9:10-11 (NIV)

It wasn’t mud. It was a fancy 21st century laser but it’s essentially the same thing. I had Lasik surgery recently and to say it was awesome is an understatement. It may not have been an instantaneous healing but it was a miracle nonetheless.

Let me back up. I became near-sighted at eight years old. I had to get new glasses every year and at 14 I got contacts. I hoped I could get Lasik done soon after high school but of course my vision had to stop changing before I could go for a consultation. Year after year I went for my annual exam hoping they would tell me my eyes had leveled off and year after year I was told I needed a higher prescription. It became really stressful to go to the optometrist. I hated going for that exam more than any other, even the gynecologist. Finally, two years ago my prescription stayed the same and last year I was cleared for a Lasik consultation. My eyes had leveled off at a whopping -9.00. If you don’t know how bad that is, consider yourself blessed.

I couldn’t make time for it last year and I was scared to have the surgery. I was afraid that I would be the one in a million who loses her eyesight to a botched surgery. I still wanted it because even with contacts I wasn’t seeing 20/20 and my glasses were Coke bottles I had a really hard time seeing with. But I was scared. I thought I’d just make due. My eyes weren’t getting worse anymore. Then I went for my appointment and was told the strain of not having my vision fully corrected with contacts was causing the prescription to go up again.

We see many miraculous healings in my church and I’ve said that if I could choose what God healed for me it would be my eyesight. At the Supernatural Conference I had someone pray for my eyes. Nothing happened but she told me God wanted me to trust Him. I admit I was disappointed. That night I woke up, looked around at the blurry (and I mean blurry) room, and sighed. Then God said, “I’m not done yet.”

Two weeks later I went for a consultation. I was sure they wouldn’t be able to do Lasik but maybe they could do a different kind of surgery. It would cost as much as a car but my student loans are paid off so maybe I could swing it. They told me I was a good candidate for Lasik and they could do my surgery in two months. I was shocked and elated.

On September 26, 2015, God healed my eyes. At -9.00 I fell just inside the parameters of Lasik and was the highest prescription they did that day. I had always been afraid of the surgery and I thought I would be a nervous wreck that day but I could have done it without the Xanax. It just didn’t make sense to be scared anymore. I finally released the problem to Him and He has blessed me beyond what I expected.

Finally, after twenty years, I can sit up each morning and see clearly. Lasik is truly miraculous.

Under Control

A couple days ago a co-worker and I met with the daughter of a client. The client is older and has lost mental capacity and cannot manage her affairs anymore. The daughter had brought us the information we needed to prepare her mother’s tax return. She explained that she has had to get a power of attorney and get permission from different banks and brokerage firms to handle her mother’s assets. After the meeting, my co-worker expressed concern over the mother losing control of her affairs. She said she couldn’t imagine not being in control of her life. I could tell this was a real fear of hers. And it got me thinking.

Control is a funny thing. We think we want it. We want to control every detail of our lives. We don’t want anyone or anything dictating what we should do or how we should live. Once we have control we feel safe, confident, everything’s going to be okay because I’m in control of my destiny. But is that really security? Does that really make us safe?

One of the biggest hang ups people have about submitting to God is control. God asks us to trust him. The word trust comes up many times in the Bible. But to truly trust God with our lives means relinquishing control, taking our hands off the wheel. This is hard for many people because we’re taught to be independent, to make our own decisions. Relying on others makes us weak. We have to take responsibility. Asking for help makes us inferior. But these are lies, lies from the enemy.

Do we need to live our lives and make decisions? Yes. Do we need to take responsibility for our actions? Of course. But grasping for control and putting undue pressure on ourselves is not the way to do it. People think giving up control makes you a slave. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Submitting your life to God’s plan gives you freedom. The freedom to stop beating yourself up, to stop being paralyzed by indecision, to stop worrying.

So much of the time worry comes from a feeling of helplessness. There will always be situations that are beyond our control. We worry because we think we have to change it. If we can just get control of it, it’ll be better. I’m the only one who can do it. All the pressure is on me. Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone who could take that burden off you? There is. His name is Jesus. He said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Letting Him take the reins means you don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to do it by yourself. And there is serious freedom in that. Let Him take control of your life so you can start living it.

Opposites Attract

“Repent” is a word that gets misused a good bit in the Western church. It has led many to preach the idea of “turn or burn.” It’s all about admitting you’re a sinner and you need Christ to get to Heaven. Yes, you do need to accept Christ so you won’t go to hell but there’s a lot more to repenting than getting a ticket to Heaven.

The Greek word for repent is “metanoia.” It means “change the way you think.” Our perspective comes from the world we live in. But the world is broken. I’ve been noticing lately that there are so many things the world says that the Kingdom contradicts. The world and our earthly minds say one thing while the Word says the opposite. For example:

The world says believe only what you see. The Word says live on faith.
“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

The world says God is a taskmaster. The Word says God is our Father.
“Our Father, who is in Heaven.” Matthew 6:9

The world says take control of your life. The Word says trust God with your life.
“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

The world says take credit for the things you do. The Word says give God the glory.
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

The world says you earned everything you have. The Word says it belongs to God.
“LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.” 1 Chronicles 29:16

The world says when you are full you stop. The Word says when you are full you overflow.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

The world says the supernatural is unusual. The Word says the supernatural is normal.
“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Matthew 11:5

The world says you are its product. The Word says you are from Heaven.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:16

The world says works bring you to your identity. The Word says walk in your identity and works follow.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

Changing our minds about these things brings us closer to God and deepens our relationship with Him. Learning to live from God’s perspective and accepting the opposites attracts us to Him and Him to us. Once you accept your identity as a child of God, you become full, you overflow, and you walk in power. Don’t let the world tell you otherwise.