Here in LA, moreso than any other place I’ve lived, I have very different roles.
I’m one person but my day job demands that I be on, analytical, and accurate down to the semi-colon that is required for SQL script to execute. I yank apart Java script over and over and over until it runs. I love what I do. And yet there’s an entirely different side of me that is wildly creative, a side that has been completely overlooked and is vital to my life. It needs expression too.
In order to transition from one role to the other, I need to know that I can. I am unaccustomed to the freedom to operate in that wildly creative, let it all go, rest, let someone else open the door, color outside the lines, fluid personna. But it’s in me and, wow, do I ever want to nurture that. A person doesn’t shift from a high control role into a flimsy, whimsy, walk among the daisies mindset easily. It takes work to dial down and, here in LA, everybody’s doing it. Everybody has their money-making gig, and their creative gigs. We’re all shifting from one to the next on a day-by-day, or even hourly basis.
I’ve talked about the bird who circles and circles until she can find a place to land. Without revisiting that allegory, it’s important to know that there are people in life with whom we can land. Who are those people and why are we so drawn to them?
Safe people have been broken and tested. They have walked through the dismantling of their ego, and had it handed to them in a baggie. They have found their space in the heart of the Father. It’s not that they lack motivation or drive. On the contrary, they’ve little need to prove their identity to you.
Safe people have learned the hard way. They’ve walked around the mountain a few times more than they care to let on.
Safe people like to pay the bills and appreciate financial security, even tremendous wealth, but have no illusions in regard to image or a certain salary solving their problems. They can be trusted with a little or a lot.
Safe people are free.
Safe people have been strengthened by their life’s lessons and they know how to stand. And, honestly, they just stand there. With nothing to prove, and at home in their skin they just stand beside you.
Be a safe person.
2013, a new year. The difficult thing about anything new is that one is at the start of a path never taken before. The Lord and I have a bit of a standing dialogue with one another on this. I’ve played this card with Him so many times in the past, thinking it will get me out of an insane circumstance I want no part of. For example, haggling with repair men over prices, car purchases, home purchases, big-anything-purchases. Minor stuff? I’m on it. Major? I want to bury my head in His shirt, and pretend I don’t need to make a decision. He knows it. The conversation:
“Then why are we having this discussion? I’m right here. Now, take a step.”
Sounds a bit toddler-ish, doesn’t it? Pfft. Nevertheless, a new beginning contains unknowns, scaries, and funky, “In 800 feet turn left on Cahuenga Boulevard.” Cal Hung a Whacky Who? Oh left! Left! Turn left now!
I’m thoughtful of how the Israelites everlastingly did.not.know. where they were going, when they’d get there, what they’d eat… wait a minute, what would they eat? The passages in the book of Exodus 16 are familiar but the principle is not as well known. The Lord daily supplied a substance called manna which, translated means, “What is it?” (Pretty cool, huh?) The substance was completely unknown to them, just as was the idea of daily relying on God’s provision. If the people gathered more than they could use it would not last until next day, it would rot. His intention was that they would daily gather just what they need for that day, for their family and that they would focus on Him a little bit more than they did before.
Scripture, if you take a step back is God’s story of increasing intimacy with mankind.
Oftentimes stories in the Old Testament foreshadow or project a visual image of a concept that is explained in the New Testament. This OT story is a visual image of the concept of grace, His daily provision. In order to walk at rest or better, to proactively love other people on a daily basis we have to connect with the Lord. It’s necessary to re-align ourselves, our hearts and needs with His heart. It’s not something we can soak up plenty of, and make it last. I like the analogy that grace is an awful lot like a good wine, which is meant for the present moment.
May your days in 2013 be rich and full of moments where you find His grace, His daily provision for rest, peace, laughter and above all, the ability to outrageously love those around you.
This train of thought has been brewing with me for a while now. I want to talk with you about unanswered prayer.
Broaching this topic is a bit risky. It’s like saying, “I want to teach you about God.” Hah! And so now you know. I know precious little about answers and the lack of them except what I’ve experienced. But, that being the point, we come into greater understanding by putting little bits together. Sometimes the pieces fit, right? And sometimes we set them aside, and go looking for a piece of blue sky for our puzzle.
But it is a puzzle indeed.
Only you know what life has handed you, and what questions remain unanswered. I’ll never be able to hand you the puzzle piece to fit that gaping hole you are staring at. I know this though, so many times we stare and stare at that gaping hole — that ache or longing for something or someone — and we think we know why it’s empty.
For so many years I thought my prayers had remained unanswered because I had done something wrong. Or that I failed God in some way, or hadn’t had enough faith, or hadn’t prayed right, or sacrificed enough. For real. I have repented, fasted, declared, obeyed, sinned, run the gamut of emotions, and flip-flopped all over the place trying to understand.
I wonder if you’ll hear me when I say this: It’s never, ever been Father God’s intention that you would beat yourself up over this thing.
He’s a super great communicator. If you had done something wrong He would have let you know and once you dealt with that situation, it would be over; i.e., it’s never His intent to punish forever. He’s not mad at you, and holding something over you for what you did in 1985.
He’s a super great communicator. If He wanted you to do something in terms of obeying Him in an area, He would let you know, and that step of obedience would become important to you. I tell you it would. That’s His nature. Scripture says, “… for it is God who works within you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” We are so wired! to be in relationship with Him. Don’t go chasing after legalistic things you think you should be doing in order to find your answers.
He’s a super great communicator but just like any loving relationship worth having, He gently tugs us out of our navel-gazing, and sometimes victimized thinking. At times He gently cajoles us, pulls on our sleeve a bit. Sometimes we’re looking for a direct answer and He just wants to talk. Period. Instead of giving me answers He’ll say to me, “Watch this…” and He’ll show me something or someone that interests Him. Other times He’ll play Hide N’ Seek. We’re after our answers like a heat-seeking missile and He’s dodging behind doors and peeking at us to see if we’ll chase! Why? Because He loves us, and He loves being in relationship with us. Father God gets a great kick out of telling me riddles. Oftentimes I know its the Lord speaking because my next step will be in the form of a riddle. Remember this … no matter how He communicates with you, what He shares with you will always reflect His character and His nature. You’ll see His character and His nature reflected in Scripture. Get to know His ways with you.
My greatest treasure in life is to have had some unanswered questions over the course of perhaps 20 years. There is grace that accompanies any suffering, any lack, and there is an enormous blessing in every affliction. It’s up to you to find it.
Most of the time, with unanswered prayer, you’re not ever going to know why or when or how long or who but you have a wonderful opportunity to know the Holder of the ‘Why’, and He wants to hold you. In the midst of your heartache, He wants to hold you; He wants you to let the “holding it all together” go, even if its for a few minutes. You get so exhausted doing that … holding it all together.
Just let Him carry it for a few minutes. Let Him carry you.
I will never forget the first time I found peace and solace in Psalm 125.
Those who trust in the Lord
Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever. Psalm 125:1-2
I was living in Washington DC at the time. I was riding the metro with my friend, Stan. As we rode the metro late at night, with all the lights flashing and tunnels. Then we got off at one of the stops — I can still hear the recorded station names in my head, “Georgetownnnn. Next stop!” And, “Alexandriaaaa.” You have to be there in order to feel cadence and intensity of it all. But it was likely in Washington DC that I discovered my love for the city.
After we got off the metro we ascended one of the many two-storied escalators one encounters in DC. That was my first experience of being able to see the moon, and nothing more. The moon hung in the stairwell of the escalator, just for me. It glowed and that’s all I could see. There is a sweet worship chorus that goes with Psalm 125, and I had learned it that Summer, probably from Stan. I recall he played guitar — I was always falling for the guitar players. <Sigh>
But, I digress! The moon! There was the moon!
There was a palpable feeling of peace, and the sense that all is well with the world. I felt it that night. I felt secure and able to rest. I realize now it was the Presence of God that I’d felt. There was a sense that He completely surrounded me, and that I could lean into Him. How many times He’s proven that to be true. When I am distressed or wound a little too tightly I’ll often go back to Psalm 125. I’ll sing the chorus, and walk my way back to the peace that I felt in that short and sweet moment.
When I lean into Him, I cannot be moved from the position of His Presence and the goodness of His Promises.
Not long ago circumstances were such that I felt a terrific stress lifted off of my shoulders. I felt myself sort of looking around, and wondering why my heart was quiet all of a sudden. The reasons for the peace were numerous, among them was the ability to pay off some debts. It’s hard to describe the hope that seemed to steal into my heart. I think, in a way, you could say that I’ve begun to carve out some space for me…pursuing things that are deeply important to me, and not waiting for a better year.
The other night friends and I had dinner at M’s in the Old Market. I had a lovely Sangiovese from a Willamette Valley vineyard, and they fearlessly dove into brews new and old. She had a Flat Tire and he did not offer to fix it. A leisurely four hours together found us wandering down the paths of old memories, and reliving them together. We laughed until we cried. I came away feeling so rich and full, and in my heart I was reminded of that same peace and bubbly joy. Where was it coming from?
If you do not know me you wouldn’t appreciate the intensity with which I charge at life. It’s great guns ahead with this girl. Analytical until it hurts. The numbers call the shots, not the feelings. In fact, feelings are so confusing that I find myself blogging on joy, in an effort to understand.
That’s it! It’s joy!
This is what joy feels like! Joy. It’s a mish-mosh of believing you’re loved and worthy of love; of being rested and at peace enough to stop and feel; and then moving beyond “doing the right thing” all the time. It’s a combination of living loved and giving it away. Joy is about loving myself, and respecting myself enough to say ‘no’ to some things, and ‘yes’ to others. Scripture says that if you try to save your life you will lose it, and if you willingly lose your life you will find it. God’s economy is always upside down to our thinking. Yet I think sometimes we try to find ourselves by giving more of ourselves than we really had to give…sort of like overdrawing on a bank account. In doing so, the portrait of who we are begins to crumble at its edges. Yet, if we take love all of the time, and never give it away, it will slip through our fingers and we will continue with that vacant gnawing in our soul.
I can’t help but think of the old song that Amy Grant made popular in the 90’s, House of Love.
Sometimes life is funny
You think you’re in your darkest hour
When the lights are comin’ up in the house of love.
Wishing you the surprises of joy and love as this glorious Summer inches it’s way into Fall.