Christian Living

More on Scarcity

I’ve been thinking more about scarcity this week. We ended up recording our podcast episodes on the topic in the midst of having our car’s engine die, needing to bake our MacBook (for the nth time), and finishing my first complete draft of book one in my fantasy series (and not having money for an editor). It’s been a stretch. Today is a “preach to my soul” sort of post.

It’s so easy to point to money or time as the problem. If I just had more money, I’d buy a better car or replace the engine without stressing. If I just had more time, I could get more done. If I just had more _____. What goes in your blank?

But circumstances aren’t the problem. The more I grow, the more I agree with Jon Gabriel who said, “There’s such a strong cause and effect relationship between what’s going on in the inside and how my outside is manifesting that that’s the only direction I look.” Our beliefs determine how we respond to circumstances and, over time, those choices determine the shape of our lives.

So what does it look like as a Christian to get rid of scarcity?

I think we have to start with who God is. Without that foundation, there’s no room for anything but scarcity. If I’m responsible for providing for myself, it’s scary when we don’t have money to buy necessities. If I’m responsible for providing for myself, it’s scary when there’s not enough time or money for whatever I’m worried about.

But when we start with God and His care for His children, we live in an abundant world. A world where God creates enough resources for us–whether that’s flat-out miraculous creation (just ask missionaries about that one) or provision through a job or provision through some other unexpected means.

After all, the essence of scarcity has to do with the future, with projecting the amount you have and the amount you need and getting trapped in the distance between those two.

I wonder how the disciples felt in Matthew 14:16 when there’s five thousand people and they tell Jesus to let the people go find food and Jesus tells them to feed the people. Did they freak out? Did their hearts race as they compared the amount of money they could pool together and the number of people? Not to mention the distance between them and any food. Or did they dismiss Jesus’ instructions as some kind of mystical teaching moment (a la martial arts masters: “A whole wave knocks you down, the spray just gets you wet.”)? Or maybe they realized Jesus was setting up for a miracle.

Even when they brought the five loaves and two fish, it wasn’t nearly enough. In fact, the gap between what they needed and what they had to meet that need was enormous.

But that’s the God we serve–He’s all about growing us, increasing our faith, making us into the people He’s designed us to be. He’s also the God who created the universe out of nothing. Proverbs talks about how God allows the wicked to collect money to give it to the righteous. In Psalms, there are verses about God’s abundant provision. He’s the owner of everything that exists. So when we look at our need, we need to look at what God has instead of what we have. And from that perspective, why would there ever be any need to go into scarcity? It’s as silly as a child whose loving, engaged parents are billionaires worrying about money.

Copy of blog_ Taking the easy road

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Christian Living

How many truth-tellers are in your life?

Truth-tellers–the awesome people we have in our lives who tell us like it is, regardless of what we’d like to hear. I really, really appreciate the people in my life who do this. One of my values is to be someone who is open to correction.

It’s hard to be corrected. It hurts and is embarrassing, but I grow because of it. I’ve been thinking about 1 Timothy 4:11-16 where Paul says:

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV–emphasis mine)

I hate when people see my mistakes. It’s really hard for me to be open enough with anyone to admit my flaws, let alone have them point out my flaws. As I was thinking about all that, this passage struck me. If people are seeing Timothy’s progress, that means he wasn’t starting out at the finish line; he wasn’t perfect. Paul is encouraging him to be open enough that the people around them can see his growth.

I wonder what our churches would be like if everyone followed that advice. Would we be more accepting of people’s flaws? Would we be more accepting of our own flaws? Would we be better able to encourage each other and to point out small issues before they become big problems? What else would change?

Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and seen where they bring problems on themselves? My husband and I were just talking about how we need people outside of our family to see the obvious things we could change. Sometimes things look obvious from the outside but are less simple from the inside, but sometimes they really are that simple to fix.

I’m also consistently in awe of people who can put themselves out there like this. Brene Brown talks about how important vulnerability is–that without it we can’t have joy, love, creativity, or innovation. It’s vital to a thriving life. It also takes a lot of courage to live so openly.

Those are the two sides to having truth-tellers in your life: being open about your life and being willing to be corrected.

So how about you? do you have truth-tellers in your life? Are you the kind of person who is open to correction? Are you the kind of person who can be vulnerable enough for people to see your life?

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Seasonal Relationships

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: seasonal relationships. No, not the relationships you have with family you only see during the holidays—although I’m sure there will be plenty of blog posts written across the internet about that particular topic; I’m talking about the temporary nature of people in our lives.

Growing up as a military brat gave me a unique perspective on friendships. Sometimes I feel like a total weirdo—mainly because most people around here have lived here for their entire lives, sometimes for generations of the same family. I’ve found people with this kind of locational permanence tend to see friendships/family as forever. I have to admit that when I was a kid I went through a phase where I just gave up on having friendships: what was the point of getting attached when we were just going to move again?

It was—difficult to convince myself of the benefits of having a temporary closeness. But somewhere along the way, I realized that all our relationships are temporary: People move away. You might move away. People stop wanting a relationship or get too busy to have friends (by the way, that last one really should be a blaring alarm in your life—if you’re too busy to have friends, you’re too busy to grow). People move on with their lives without you. They grow and change in ways that can cause relationships to fall apart or fade away. Hopefully, you’re growing and changing and that can sometimes put strain on relationships. Even if someone remains faithfully involved in your life the whole time they’re alive, they’ll still stop being around when they die until (if you both know Jesus) you die too.

Relationships here on earth are temporary so why invest?

The picture that came to me years ago was the idea of seasons. God puts people in our lives for seasons. Lord willing, you have some people who are in it for the long haul—your spouse, a close friend, other family, etc., etc., etc. But not everyone is going to stay forever. Every person you come into contact with can change you though. And the closer their relationship with you, the greater their ability to affect you is.

I have this picture of playing pool: if all the balls represent different people, your trajectory in life can change because of someone else. It’s a double-edged sword. The people we’re closest to are the ones who change us the most and hurt us the most.

Avoiding relationships can keep us from growing and make us pretty lonely. But expecting them to last forever can create some other problems—relying on people instead of God, for example. For me, I’ve found that the balance lies in reveling in the relationships I have when I have them—being open enough that they can change me and I can change them—but also being able to let go when the relationship changes for whatever reason. It can be a little scary because there’s no guarantee of how long the relationship will last and I choose to be aware of that fact and accept it. But no matter how the relationship goes, if I stay surrendered to God and let Him use it in my life, it’s never a waste. I’m always someone different because of who I interact with.

What about you? Have you noticed that people come into your life for seasons? Is that idea a comforting one?

Christian Living

Too Busy to Change

Hey folks! Sorry I missed last week. I spent most of the past week and a half in bed sick. Ridiculous how a cold can just lay me low at this point in my life/where my immune system is at.

Do you ever feel like the week just sped by? I frequently do! I can’t believe that it’s OCTOBER–OCTOBER! My oldest daughter just turned ten–also a shock to my system 🙂 Time flies, doesn’t it?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how being busy makes the time speed by like nobody’s business. When you’re busy, you just go through one day and the next and the next. There’s no time for extra things in your life (at least that’s how my life goes!).

This week my kids and I were talking about how people learn. Brain science is fascinating to me. Did you know that you can’t learn new skills if you’re in fight or flight mode? We’re hardwired to be unable to learn when we’re in survival mode. What puts a person in survival mode? Lots of things–anything that stresses them emotionally or physically. We need safe space in order to learn.

What does that have to do with being busy? Everything. If we’re busy, we don’t have that space unless we intentionally schedule it into our days. I don’t know about you, but some days I feel too busy to even catch my breath, as though if I slow down for a second, the rest of my day will collapse in a pile of unaccomplished tasks. My husband and I were recently talking about some changes we want to implement and trying to figure out when we have time to actually implement them.

I’ve recently become convicted that that level of busy-ness means that I don’t have space in my life for growing. Since becoming stagnant is my worst fear, this is a big deal to me. The sad thing is that, in our go-go-go society, being busy is almost unavoidable. So what can we do? How do we keep from waking up one day and realizing years have gone by without us growing?

I think one major thing is to create space in our days and weeks. My husband and I try to fit in a Sabbath every week. I personally love this practice. I was just reading a couple of entrepreneur books and listening to them talk about how key it is to work EVERY single day made me sad for the authors. I actually grew up with that work 7 days a week mentality but have since been convinced of the benefit of taking a Sabbath. It’s one of the things I do that remind me who is really in charge of making my life work–like going to bed at a reasonable time (Ps. 127:2) or tithing.

I also have a daily quiet time–something I think I would go insane without. I do prayer and Bible study and read back through my journal to remind myself of the things God’s been teaching me lately, but I also have time to just think and listen.

The other thing I’ve been working on is making sure I’m busy with the right things. James Clear describes the difference between motion and action: “Motion is when you’re busy doing something, but that task will never produce an outcome by itself… Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will get you a result.” It’s kind of the difference between getting caught up in doilies and dishes and being intentional about the things God has called us to do. There’s a kind of space that comes just from being who God designed us to be, a freedom that’s found in doing the things He’s called us to do.

 

So how about you? Do you have space in your life for growth or are you too busy to change? How do you keep space in your life (or put it back in)?

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Stretching and Being Stretched

I recently read two very different Star Trek AOS fan fics. In the first fic, the author did some really amazing things with Spock’s childhood and how his father’s disapproval and his peers’ bullying formed him into someone with serious issues in how he viewed himself. He started to believe them–to see himself as less than vulcan and less than human and, ultimately, less than a person. So the author used that starting place to stretch Spock and to force him to grow in some really neat ways. It also gives a really interesting potential window into the movie’s background and sets up Spock to change the people around him. He becomes a force for change. I love stories with good character development!

In the second fic, Jim negotiates some awesome thing with another species, and they reward him. They decide that the thing Jim needs most is a happy childhood, so they give him this potion and he reverts back to the last time he was truly happy (when he was living with his grandparents at age 3 or 4). This is not an unusual plot for Star Trek AOS. What was unusual about it was that the author made it so that he didn’t retain any of his adult memories and in the end, the crew was unable to bring adult Jim back. They decide it’s their job to give him a happy childhood–especially McCoy and Spock–so they go through the process of raising him. It was an unfinished fic, so I don’t know exactly where the author was taking it, but what really struck me was the author’s note about how he/she had had a happy childhood and was appalled at Jim’s childhood so he/she was going to give him a happy childhood.

The author KILLED Jim Kirk! I mean, the essence of who he is in AOS is defined by the experiences he’s had. Yes, if you wipe his memories, he’s still alive, but so much of what he’s passionate about is a direct result of his screwed up childhood. For instance, would he be so against “no-win scenarios” if he hadn’t had his father die in one (and/or gone through Tarsus, depending on your AOS character philosophy)? A huge part of what makes him a good captain is all those crappy experiences that shaped his life.

John Eldridge talks about how Satan’s flaming arrows are lies that we get told over and over in our lives. A recurrent theme in my life is the idea that I wreck the lives of everyone who gets close to me. Crazily enough, I’ve been told that by a few different people. And for a long time it was just part of my identity. I used to see myself as so broken that it was like I was made of broken glass and whenever someone got close to me, they’d get sliced open.

However, that analogy only works if everyone else around you is made of flesh instead of broken glass. The reality is that we’re all like rocks in a tumbler, getting our rough edges smoothed off by each other–or like iron sharpening iron. We’re both stretching others and being stretched. So yes, I know I’ve hurt people in my life–who hasn’t?–but that doesn’t mean I should stop getting close to other people or see myself as having more destructive ability than any other human being. We all hurt the people in our lives. It’s part of being broken humans. But all those rough edges we’ve got are less like knives waiting to slice each other open and more like tools that God can use to shape the world and the people around us.

After all, if we let them, it’s the difficult things in our lives that shape us and give us a destiny.

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Effortless Power

So…. Wow. It’s been a while. I know I’ve said, um, pretty much every time that I’ve blogged in the past year that it’s been a crazy year, but really, it’s been a crazy year. Now that I’ve finished editing Push on the Rock, I figure I should start blogging again–or at least I figure I have energy I could spend on blogging.

So one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is energy–as in having enough energy to get through the day. Simpson said that he felt younger and stronger at age seventy than age thirty because he had learned to “live using God’s strength, accomplishing fully twice as much mentally and physically as I ever did in the past, yet with only half the effort. My physical, mental, and spiritual life is like an artesian well–always full and overflowing; speaking, teaching and traveling by day on by night through sudden and violent changes in weather or climate is of no more effort to me than it is for the wheels of an engine to turn when the pressure of the steam is at full force or than it is for a pipe to let water run through it.” (Streams in the Desert 9/27)

Reading that made me think about the “art of effortless power” Peter Ralston talks about with Tai Chi. Effortless power comes naturally as a result of aligning oneself with the five principles: being calm, relaxed, centered, grounded, and whole and total. As crazy as it sounds, this is something that I’ve actually experienced in my practice of Tai Chi. It’s amazing to be able to punch without feeling my muscles tire, or to walk and have it take more energy to stop than it does to keep going. I think, like so many things, this physical reality has a corresponding spiritual reality and that’s what Simpson found.

It spurred me to look at the five principles and examine those spiritual realities.

1) Calm: In Tai Chi this means mental calmness, but I think when we look at the Christian life, it’s equivalent is to fully trust God. Like Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV). That mental calmness can only come when we’re not worried about anything–that doesn’t mean that you’re calm 24/7, but rather that when you worry, you choose to trust God.

2) Relaxed: In Tai Chi this is the reality of being physically relaxed, of letting your weight drain through all your joints and into the ground. My Tai Chi instructor likens it to water draining through a hose without kinks. Spiritually, I would argue this means surrendering to God…. getting rid of any hinderances to relying on God–in every single area of my life.

3) Centered: In Tai Chi this involved moving from the center of your body, rather than where we typically are focused (our heads). Spiritually, I think this translates into living my life from the core of who I am, who I really am; knowing myself and living out of that vs. trying to force something. I have to know who God designed me to be, who I am as a new creature in Christ, and what things are important to me. My husband and I recently cleaned out one of our closets and in one of my old notebooks, I found a story I had written back in third or fourth grade. I wrote myself into the story as a “future author.” I’d forgotten that I’d always wanted to be a writer. It was very affirming to be reminded of how much I love literature and writing–how much I’ve always loved literature and writing. I wrote my first story on a typewriter when I was four (it was about a cat and a rat, just in case you were wondering). It’s part of who I am. I also found some other things–little encouragement cards I used to send to the girls I discipled in high school, different prayers in my old journals. The more things change, the more they stay the same. God made me a certain way. There just are certain things that are part of who I am. And it’s easy to forget those things in the every day crazy of life. It’s also easy to forget the reality of who I am in Jesus, to start believing the lies about being unlovable, or unloved, or worthless, or lazy, or any of the other wrong things people have told me over the years. Being centered means living out of the essence of who God tells me I am.

4) Grounded: In Tai Chi this is being 100% connected to the earth, feeling all of your weight going down into the earth, so that when you push, etc., you do so with the force of the earth. There’s a concussive effect that happens when your body is relaxed, you’re centered and grounded, and you push/pull/punch, etc. It packs a lot of power. Quite painful if you’re the one being punched. 😉 Anyway! Spiritually, I think we can talk about this as being connected to God–being grounded in who He is and doing things through the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I forget who God is. Often. I get these crazy ideas about His character when I focus on my circumstances–like that He’s forgotten me, or doesn’t really love me, or isn’t kind, isn’t patient, isn’t forgiving, and on and on and on. I need daily time in His Word and His presence just to remember who He is, to re-ground.

5) Whole and Total: In Tai Chi, this involves utilizing your entire body as well as being aware of your surroundings. My instructor says that so often we live like we’re all gingerbread men. We have a front and a back, and we forget about the rest. Or I’ve seen people who just have heads, but if you tell them to raise their right arm and tap their left foot, they have to think hard to connect with those parts of their body. We tend to put our bodies on auto-pilot, but being whole and total means knowing where all of me is. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses, and using them both. It means interacting with the whole world around me, not just the three feet in front of my face. And this is where circumstances come in. I am now going to betray my dorkiness, but I love the Vulcan concept of “kaiidith”: what is, is. Being whole and total means recognizing what is because only when you work with what is can you change. You can’t change something that doesn’t exist. I have a relative who is waiting on someone else to fix their anger issues because they truly believe that those issues are the other person’s fault. It means they’re stuck because they have no control over their lives. We need God’s help to see what is. And we need His help to have eyes that are willing to recognize all of ourselves–the things we love about ourselves and the things we hate.

When I’m going through my day, I’ve started asking myself about the five principles. I talked to my Tai Chi instructor recently and he pointed out that you really have to do them in order. You can’t be physically relaxed without being mentally calm. You can’t be centered without being physically relaxed. And I love that. It’s so nice to have a quick and easy checklist to go through in my day: Am I trusting God? Am I fully surrendered?  Do I remember who I am? Do I remember who He is? Am I seeing myself and my circumstances fully and accurately?

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Waiting out the Confusion

To steal from Data, “It has been quite a day.” Or more like quite a year so far. My worst fears are that I’ll turn my back on God and that I’ll grow stagnant. So my husband and I pray regularly that God will keep us close and keep us growing, even if it takes being dragged along. God is so faithful to do that. I hunger for His best with every fiber of my being, but sometimes the pain of growing is overwhelming. There has been many a year where I feel like I’m barely surviving. I have to admit that this year is giving other years a run for their money. I haven’t slept more than a couple hours/night in longer than I care to remember. My heart hurts and I feel like I can’t catch my breath. I keep having that line from Sleepless in Seattle running through my mind “I’m going to get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out…” I find myself wondering what I did to get myself into this spot and wanting to do something, anything, to get myself out of it. But I have no idea what the right thing to do is. I feel like I’ve taken up permanent residence in confusion.

And then Isaiah 50:10-11 comes to mind. It’s one of those verses I’ve been hanging onto for a very long time, so it whispers through my soul most times I’m confused. Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment. NIV

I want to do something. But do I want to light my own torch? Do I want to make my own path? Some people, especially people who have the same type of personality as I do, think they know what they’re doing. I know better. I know from bitter experience that anything I do on my own is destructive. I know that nothing good can come from me acting alone. Nothing. So my options are limited: “Trust in the name of the LORD and rely on my God.” Relationships are so hard. People you love can slice you wide open and then leave you bleeding. Abandonment is rampant in our broken world. But God is always still there. Still ready to “bind up the brokenhearted” (Is. 61:1). Still ready to “increase the power of the weak” (Is. 40:29). Still fully capable of changing hearts. Still worth trusting.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psa 27:14 NIV

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Psa 37:5-6 NIV