Knocking on doors

Someone this past week, was talking about opportunities in life, and said how we shouldn’t always be looking for another new thing or a better thing because we need to just be content and happy with what we’ve been given. It had a dissonant tone to it when I heard this…and I couldn’t really figure out why, but I think now I know.

Paul says that he is content in all circumstances. Content? He was satisfied with what he had, and did not want anything else? Yes. It’s true, he was content. Through prison, torture, allegations, investigations, hunger, exhaustion, persecution and ridicule. He knew that his satisfaction would never be met on earth, so he was utterly and completely content. And in this sense, I think we should all be this content. We should be content wherever we have been placed, in whatever race we are running, in whatever job, housing situation, social status, whatever. We should be content and know that our being, our self worth and justification will not come from the next best thing, but in the God who directs our paths and that wherever we are He will use to His glory if we allow him in.

However……Paul also says that he continues to press on toward the goal. Well what does that mean? If he is totally content, why is he “looking for more”?  As I said above, I think we should all be content in the circumstances that we find ourselves, yet throughout the Bible there is an example of never finding ourselves “stale,” but always learning, growing, trying, failing and trying again.  In our situation there should be a peaceful contentment, but in our spirit, in our soul, should there ever be a contentment? Shouldn’t we always be searching out what God is speaking to us? Where He is directing us? What opportunities might be shadowed around the corner, just waiting to be revealed by our search?

If I had been completely content, I would have never tried finding another job, I would have never been employed where I am today, would never have met the friends I now have, and would have been “perfectly content.” Yet I would have been missing something (though whether I would know that or not I’ll never really know)….but there’s a whole side of my life that I never would have found. I would have never gone to Mexico and found blessing through small conversations. I never would have had the opportunities to talk about Romania’s orphans to pastors all over the world. None of this would have happened if I had been ….content.

I AM content….every day….some days….but I’m never content to stay the same person that I was the day before. It’s Christ’s life that challenges me to grow, to run toward the prize, to be drawn closer and closer every day toward the Father who has blessed my life. In this sense, I will never be content. I hope I never am content. I hope you can be content in your circumstance,….but never content in your soul. Thoughts?

Expectation vs. Reality

You know how you expect things….you know they’re coming, or you think they’re coming…but the way you expect to feel when they come isn’t at all how they feel once it becomes reality? It’s like your expectations meant nothing because nothing prepared you for this. And no matter how long you’d been expecting it…it just wasn’t what it really was when reality hit? Hm.

It’s like if you play a scene in your head…you know that Thing A will be happening…so you process all the possibilities & probabilities of what will be the effect of Thing A, that causes Thing B. You convince yourself that Thing B will be great, that it’ll be grand, that it will work out. But when Thing A comes along, you react, turning into motion Thing XYZ and not even close to B….and then you freeze.

It happened tonight. As I’m wrapping presents, alone in my parents house. I’m wrapping all of my families presents. The door bell rings, from someone unexpected. Then here on the door is a friend, bringing care packages to my family, because he knows that this Christmas will be different. Yes it will. I knew it would be….I prepared for it. But as I took the packages, thanking him for his prayers & care, I placed them gently on the chair and started to cry. How is it that someone ELSE knew how hard a different kind of Christmas this would be….but to me, I had no idea! I get that this isn’t going to be like this every Christmas from here on out….but this one, THIS one….it’s just hard & it sucks. And everyone around me knew it….but I didn’t. I thought it’d be fine, it’d be an adventure. Hm.

As I’m writing this, two verses come to mind. Philippians 4:7, which says that “…the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus.” ….So I know that He is guarding me, and will put peace in my heart that I may not understand. And I also know that “The Lord is my Rock my Fortress and my deliverer, my God is my Rock in whom I take refuge.” (Psalm 18:2) Therefore I know that He will be the one to bring me through….to bring US through. I may not be prepared for what’s next….but I know that when my expectations meet reality, God will be the one who will comfort, provide, protect & reveal all that it is I am to know and do.

Our eyes are on You

We know not what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) It’s true, do we really know what we’re doing?  What is this mission we’re on?  Keep our eyes on Jesus. When we don’t know what to do, where are we supposed to look?  To HIM.  The author & perfecter of our life.  

Many times, things come into our life, and we count them as coincidence.  We ask why they happened, or blow them off like it doesn’t mean anything….but what if it SHOULD mean something?  I sometimes go through life, noticing some things and not others, or maybe paying attention to things that are big, and not noticing the seemingly insignificant happenings of my daily life.  But those things can and ARE used by God to shape us and mold us.  We as a person might be confused by the events of our lives, but God seeks to use those, in growing us into the person He’s designed us to be! 
So here’s a thought from Jerry Sittser “God, too, is an artist, but the materials for his works of art are not marble or canvas but flesh and blood. We are the ones he wants to shape into beautiful creatures. He, like any artist, sees what ought to be in us and chips away at everything that keeps us from it. That is the essence of God’s grace for discipleship, his initiative.”
Don’t you sometimes feel that God is involved, but kinda observing to a point what is happening?  I do sometimes.  I forget that He takes initiative in putting this or that in our way, to help us…maybe not what we would consider helping, but more…to form us, give us opportunities to grow perhaps?  Think about this quote from E. Stanley Jones, “Don’t bear trouble, use it….Take whatever happens–justice and injustice, pleasure and pain, compliment and criticism–take it up into the purpose of your life and make something out of it. Turn it into a testimony. Don’t explain evil; exploit it; make it serve you.”
Hm…puts a new vision out there, doesn’t it?  So when we don’t know what to do, or when we don’t understand what’s going on, we’re to look to God….but also, as Sittser goes on to suggest, we should keep one eye also on what God is doing IN us, not just around us.  What are we supposed to take from this situation?  Who are we supposed to become?  Why are we here and not somewhere else?  
Let’s look together, at the days we have here, there, wherever, and think together…..am I supposed to be learning something here?  If you’re answer is yes (which it probably should be…) then what is it that I’m supposed to see?  Seek God, and He’ll reveal that to you….individually.  It might not come right away, that’s why we’re to seek HIM.  So…go for it!

Expectation-2

A while ago, I wrote about expectations, the ones that people have for us, the ones we have for ourselves and ones we have about other people. But what about those expectations that you fight yourself not to have, the ones that you know better than to have, but yet somewhere inside you, when the expectation isn’t filled, you realize that it was still there….though you tried to deny it.

It’s like no matter what you do, there’s always some expectation as to what will happen….either good or bad. Justified or not, your expectations are there, and get you excited or nervous or anxious or hesitant or whatever it is that you feel about an upcoming event or situation, and it just is what it is. So what do you try and do? Not get excited, or nervous, or anxious, or hesitant. You try really hard to tell yourself it’s not a big deal, just calm down, take a breath…it’s just whatever. But it seems to have an opposite effect. It’s like if you tell yourself it’s not a big deal, it really becomes one. You tell yourself not to get anxious, but then you do. If it’s something not to worry about, somehow it worries you.

Then it happens. The day comes, the moment comes, and it’s here. No more expectations, because what is IS, anticipation becomes anti-climactic. You find yourself rolling with the twists of the day, and pretty soon it’s over. Done. All cleared up & you’re through. And what of your expectations? Nothing. Except that somehow you feel like nothing really happened, and so then it comes to the surface that you really DID have expectations…yep, those you kept telling yourself you didn’t have. Well, la-di-dah, they were there, and now you feel a little let down that you had those expectations and nothing really changed. Nothing for the worse, nothing for the better…just okay. And you’re okay with that, honestly okay. But just okay. Not thrilled, not angry, just okay.

The next question is, how do you get past those feelings of expectation that you had, denied, felt, accepted & now are trying analyze? I guess that’s where faith comes in…trying to see that the faith in Christ that you have, will come through again, taking those expectations & doing SOMETHING with them. Putting my expectations in my neat little packing boxes, under the shelf, and waiting to see what God has in store for the next day, or month, or year. Waiting to see what will develop, what wont, where he’ll take you, where you’ll stay, what you’ll learn, what you’ll wonder about, who you are and who you’ll be. Expect something, expect nothing, but whatever you expect, expect that God will be there, when the expectations that you don’t expect, leave you expecting something more….

Expectation

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men. (2 Corinthians 8:21)

Lately, the thoughts of expectations have been clouding my mind….bubbling over into frustration & questioning. This person expects this of me…..the other expecting something else, one more expecting me to go here or do this, act this way or say this one thing. It’s frustrating. It bothers me when I feel that people expect much out of me….one way or another. Expectations of people can be good, challenging them to live up to things greater than their own self imaginings. It can also be a weight, dragging a person into continuous performance mode in which they are always doing what other people expect and not looking at who they really would be if they did their own thing. It seems that I also am one of those people who expects much out of the people who surround me. I expect that leaders will be good examples, I expect that teachers are knowledgeable, I expect that students are curious, I expect many things…..and yet because of that, I somehow believe that those same expectations are reflected back onto my life, and probably accurately so to some extent. It is then that I feel pressure, sinking into my soul, to ….be this way, know this thing, return this faster…. And being a person who really does not like to “be who everyone expects me to be,” I sometimes do things that are opposite of what I want to do, because they’re exactly what you EXPECT me to do. In high school, I was the pastor’s kid….people had certain expectations about me because of that, and I never thought that was fair because it wasn’t MY choice to be the child of a minister. So, in defiance to the “expectations,” I would say certain things, act certain ways that I really didn’t WANT to do, but I did it anyway to say “see, I’m really not that good,” or “there’s more to me than you think.” When really deep down, I probably WAS a lot of what people assumed about me, but wasn’t confident enough in it to stand up for myself. Lately, it feels that this type of thing is beginning to cycle around….people expect certain things and because I don’t feel “worthy” or “capable” or “motivated,” I choose to do the opposite. Take longer on an answer, show up late to an event, cancel on a close friend for no good reason. It’s kinda like the passage in Romans, chapter 7:15-25 that says “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

So can we change this ourselves? The expectation would be yes….we are powerful, strong, confident people who have the ability to change how we act. Yet, that is a worldly expectation that gives US power that should be God’s to yield where He chooses. Therefore, think about the following & pray with me as we struggle to be confident dependents on Christ: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)