In so far as…

I don’t think we ever really outgrow the desire to be a part of the cool kids group.  Or, maybe it’s just me. I want to feel a part of something-to belong-to be granted access to the secret handshake that will open doors for me. And, then again, maybe not.  Accepted? Yes. Who doesn’t want to feel that? The rest? I am not good at fitting in because I question. I challenge. I pursue. All things that well meaning folks tell me to do less of; suggest that if I did less of these things that I would be more content, more accepted, more fun to be around. Great. Thanks. I’ll take those suggestions under advisement.

While those ‘suggestions’ may seem practical or like a quick fix so I can be like everyone else-be more acceptable-I have just one tiny observation…they go against everything I was created to be. I am put together a certain way. Believe me; I have tried to be more like the cool kids. To be happy, to smile more, to say all the right things, to dress the right way, to whatever the ‘right way’ and here’s the rub: it just. Isn’t. Me. It isn’t who God created me to be. I am searcher, a life-long quester, a look deeper into kind of person and to deny that is to deny that I was created with intention, that there is purpose behind my aching and defiant heart.

Scripture tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” but so often we believe we would be so much more wonderfully made in the image of someone else other than God. The ‘if only’s’, the comparisons, the ‘suggestions’, the doubts, they take our eyes off of Him, who created each perfectly, and turn our focus instead to the reflection in a tattered mirror of who we think we should be. Or, worse yet, who others think we should be.

The distractions of ‘should’ obliterate our opportunities-the work He puts in front of us by casting doubts, keeping us looking sideways instead of straight ahead and introducing hesitation. There is an old quote-it’s actually slightly misappropriated in its present form but the gist is dead on-“He who hesitates is lost”. When we open the door to doubt or compare what is before us to what others are accomplishing we hesitate, we stop in our tracks and then stumble back, stunned by our lack. What better tool in the arsenal of evil to stop the good work that needs to be done than preventing its beginning?

I wish I could say that in all my wrestling that I am motivated to action. I suffer from the deep paradox of humanity. I long to take a stand and make right the world where there is so much pain and destruction. I long to see the fall of the proud, loud-mouthed, and power hungry who bellow their righteousness for all to hear. My heart grapples for peace, clutching at vaporous strands. I do all of this yet forget to greet my neighbor in my distraction. I sup alone when I could surround myself with companions. I toss and twist when I could knead the bread of friendship. I hesitate.

So, back to wanting to feel a part of something… Every year I see people posting their ‘word’. They choose a word to be a challenge or a guide throughout the coming year.  I’ve tried joining in but-me being me-a single word never seems to make the cut. This year was no different. As January loped along I saw word after word posted and couldn’t manage to home in on any particular one. I did, however, continually feel a nudge towards something different. Of course.  Prayers were met with a response I kept denying because it wasn’t what I thought it should be-it was supposed to be a word. Instead, what I was met with was something entirely different. It was an action. And not even a single action-it was pressed on me to DO. Do something. Do anything except accept stasis. Take action.  And, as is the wont of a creator who knows how to get under my skin, He planted a verse-repeatedly (which is no small task for little ole me who struggles with memorization) in my thoughts. Actually, more than one.

…act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God…

Micah 6:8. I love this verse. I also love the various translations that can be found as well

…to do what is right to other people[just], love being kind to others[mercy, loving-kindness] and live humbly, obeying[walk humbly with]your God. (Expanded bible EXB)

…to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (Good News Translation GNT)

…do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously-take God seriously (The Message MSG)

All similar-all meaning the same thing; all a call to action. Do. Be. Act. Live. Love.

He also placed on my sideways looking heart this verse:

…and do your best to live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (CEV)

Some translations add

…if possible, so far as it depends on you…

…do your best to…

…as much as possible…

There is such grace in the addition of this phrase as it grants permission to accept we won’t do it perfectly, but that we live in such a way that we strive for this peace.

This second verse is the fly in the ointment for me.

“In so far as it is up to you”  Yeah. What I take this to mean is that no matter what I hear, what I read, how I feel about what is going on, responsibility is still mine to conduct myself in such a way as to promote and live a peaceful path.  Again, yeah. This is the harder task (and I speak for myself) because it is easy to take action when angry, out of retaliation and/or self-righteous indignation; but to act, live, and walk with a heart of peace in the midst of circumstances I may disagree with-in some instances vehemently-requires supernatural intervention.  Thankfully I have a God that is up to the task.

So here it is February and everyone else has picked their word, begun their challenge and here I am just now figuring out what is written on my own page. It was probably there all along.  Do. Be. Act. Live. Love. Not a single word, nor a single action, but a way of living. I am being called to change the way I live my ordinary. To grow my boundaries to include what is outside my own ideas of what I should be doing and realign my heart to what I must be doing; to resist hesitation and step-one footfall at a time-out into the extraordinary grace only He can provide to create the change He desires.


Sitting this one out…and stepping out instead.

It’s Friday and the end of another workweek. It also happens to be inauguration day. In the past, I would have enjoyed the pomp and circumstance, the formality and the gravity of the event. This year? Hmm. Let’s just say I am going to sit this one out. I am not one to air my politics out in public-at least not too much. Let’s be real though-there is enough noise out there right now. In a world that is filled with words from the false mellifluous to the vitriolic, the noise is stunning in its overwhelming roar. Who needs more words?(yes, I do see the irony of writing a blog post but, please, bear with me) What is left that hasn’t been said, screamed, penned or flung? So, instead, I am choosing to turn off my social media, tune out of the cacophony and turn inward. Let me be clear-this isn’t a form of protest, it is self-preservation.

I am turning, instead, to meeting new friends, spending time with my family, prayer, and scripture and intentionally deciding to focus on Hope. Someone said to me “Come on, be optimistic!” and, after reflection, I have determined this is exactly something I cannot be. Instead, I choose HOPE. You see, optimism-though it has one foot in hope-has little to do with deeper truths. But, on the other hand, HOPE is what can carry us when optimism wanes. The depth and breadth of hope is astonishing in its unwavering endurance. Hope doesn’t just persevere, it endures.

In 1 Corinthians 13, a chapter frequently quoted regarding love, you find is a treatise, not only of love but a deeper reminder that we cannot see all of the story and  of where we need to firmly stand in order to endure.

For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 10

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known 12

It reminds us to grow, not just in stature, power, or the physical being but speaks to our spiritual growth:

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put the ways of childhood behind me. 11

Then the chapter distils, down to the essence, what it will take to endure-not in the sense of suffering through, but to remain, solidly, in spite of all that is around us:

And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 13

This incredible triad. This remarkably simple yet incredibly difficult triad; Faith, Hope, Love. To stand in the face of a world you disagree with, to cling to faith for what is to come is challenging-to say the least. To have hope in a world so torn by power, avarice, war, disaster, disease, base corruption, and the list could go on-to have hope in the face of the reflection that looks back at us, clouding what is beyond the glass,  can seem impossible. And then there is love. Love, something so basic-or so it seems-is the hardest and also the foundation of it all. How hard is it to love my neighbor? So hard that I seldom make it down my driveway to say hello. So hard that my anger at the world keeps me separate from the world. So hard that I sit around and wait for someone else to do the hard work of helping instead of putting on my boots and walking into the world.

So, instead of throwing myself into the miasma of the day I am going to sit this one out. I don’t want to observe one more event, one more disaster, one more anything because the reflection back can be devastating. Instead, I am going to choose to focus on the miraculous triad. I am going to reach out and do something for someone else, walk down that driveway, meet someone’s eyes; engage. I will do my best to turn my gaze towards Hope. I will hold strong to my Faith. And, I will do my best to live out Love with more intention and more direction. And, most importantly, I will pray. Not just for those personal desires or only for the ones I know but I will pray for our government, our country ,and our president. I may be sitting out on the pomp and grandeur, the riots and the celebrations but I cannot sit out on the significance of what this day means. So, I will pray.

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