I operate in the default state of forthcoming disappointment whenever I approach the campus parking deck. I always assume my electronic transponder won’t work to raise the arm to let me into the deck.
I have memories. I have memories of cars honking and attendants coming to manually save me because my transponder fails.
So each time the transponder works, I rejoice!
I’m amazed at my capacity for fear and disappointment. I think of my little faith and what it would mean to assume victory with every approach.
I find a new quote from Dwight L. Moody:
“All the devil’s mountains are mountains of smoke; when you come up to them, they are not there.”
I consider that mountainous obstacles vanish in light of God’s overcoming power.
I’m reading a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, delivered in 1856 at New Park Street Chapel in Southwark. The lines make me rejoice over divine mercy all over again. As I think about the guarding power of Christ’s righteousness and the simultaneous indwelling sin that still operates, I find myself amazed at what it means to be saved from sin. He states:
A Christian is a perpetual miracle. Every hour that I am preserved from sinning is an hour of as divine a might as that which saw a new-born world swathed in its darkness and heard “the morning stars sing for joy.” Did ye never think how great is the danger to which a Christian is exposed from his indwelling sin?. . . Christian! Mind thy danger! There is not a man in battle so much in danger from the shot, as thou art from thine own sin. Thou carriest in thy soul an infamous traitor. . .”
I love thinking of walking about as a perpetual miracle because of Jesus within me. And, although guarded by righteousness, I attend to the reality of a sin nature still operative. I think of a danger I don’t understand, and I confess and pray for God’s leading and protection afresh.
My cat, Merlin, rarely interacts with me.
But lately, he brings me this little mouse on a string for me to bounce around. He stays by my side, batting and pawing, and meowing with what seems like joy (who can tell with Merlin?) I love the interaction so much, and have so longed for this aloof cat to connect with me, that I tell the family:
I’m off to get more cat toys involving strings and mice!
All evening, I pull the string, and Merlin chases and paws and attacks. He doesn’t run from me, but instead he comes near, waiting to play more. I realize that with cats–just like with teens and friends in general–you can’t always choose the when and how of connection. If you wait and connect on their terms–in the manner that most delights them–you’ll find a joyful little moment.
So maybe Merlin won’t cuddle on my lap, purring with delight, but he will bounce by my side if I involve a mouse and a string. I’m not petting him yet, but he is indeed coming near.
I’ve told you before that some of my neighbors say I have the spiritual gift of “pep.” Pep refers to high energy, liveliness, and high spirits. It’s true: God did give me pep.
My youngest daughter still invites me to walk her down the hill to middle school each day, and she loves my “Morning Pep Talk.” She lists out all her worries and stresses, and I bring the pep. There’s also an Evening Pep Talk, but that’s for another time.
So lately, I’ve been proclaiming this (in case you need a Morning Pep Talk).
Listen, girl! Listen! Your day doesn’t control you; you control your day! God gave you dominion over your environment, so you’re the boss! You’ve got this! When stress or disappointment comes, it doesn’t boss you around. You take charge! You have dominion where God has sent you. Whatever happens today, you have choices to take charge and lead. No more of this anxiety or fear controlling you, child! No more! God has given you dominion! God has given you strength, peace, joy, and hope all day long! You’re worried about this thing? No more! You’ve got the Holy Spirit going before you, making a way. God gives you power to bring order and peace wherever you go. So you go into this new day with all the joy and peace and order there is to have! Oh, and laughter. I pray that you laugh a lot today.
When I’m giving the Morning Pep Talk, my daughter says, “Mom! I love it, but you are talking too loud! All the neighbors can hear you.” She shushes me, but she is smiling.
So if you heard some woman walking down the street this morning, shouting about God giving us dominion over our environment, that was me giving the Morning Pep Talk. I’ll be there tomorrow at 7:30 AM with fresh pep for Friday.
I love writing because it helps me make sense of my life. It stakes my experiences to the ground where I can examine them and turn them toward the best light.
Writing brings what’s inside to the outside, and here, memories don’t strangle or mock. They stay imprisoned in sentences I control, now made small by grammar. But if I want to let something free, I make beautiful moments shimmer more, like I’m shaking the glitter of words, enlarging and feathering and leaving a trace in every corner.
Writing quiets the mind even as it works harder than at any other task in the decision of choosing from millions of possible permutations to craft just one sentence. It’s a gliding and a clawing both.
Writing is an incarnation, putting flesh to spirit, and a mystery beyond mysteries. It brings thought (how is a thought made?) to articulation to let others know it.
Writing is arrangement. It’s work that synthesizes and soothes.
Mostly, it helps me live as me.
My daughters used to ask me all the time what I would do if they came home with an “F” on a test. They were terrified of failing a quiz or an exam.
I began to say: “Well, I’d ask what you didn’t understand on the test, and then I’d celebrate that you’re not perfect.”
They’d say, “No, really! Would I get in trouble? What would you do?”
Our family once valued achievement so much that the stress of grades consumed even my children. Everything was about earning the A. Everything was about excellence.
And then my wise counselor reminded me (right around the end of elementary school) that the goal of all this education was cultivating curiosity and wonder for a lifetime. It’s not about avoiding the “F.” It’s not about achievement.
So I began telling my children stories of failure and recovery from failure. Let me tell you about the time I failed here. Let me tell you all about it! And look! I’m still right here, alive and well. I survived it! And I’m as curious as ever! Let me tell you what I’m learning. Let me tell you about this beautiful life I’m living even though I’m a failure here, here, and here!
Everyone has their “F” story, and sometimes it’s good to celebrate them because nobody’s perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and experiencing that humbling “F” does wonders for the soul. The “F” means we take a step back and think about what we’re learning and why. And once you get that worst grade ever, you realize you’re still the same lovable, wonderful person you were before the test.
So when it happens, we take a moment and celebrate. I’m serious. We don’t celebrate laziness or ignoring assignments or not doing one’s best, but we do celebrate that moment when you know you’re not perfect.
We’ve all made it beyond the “F,” and so will you.
I return from travels late last night, and I wake up to piles of laundry rising like the Rockies, suitcases scattered, and mail piled on the kitchen table. What a way to begin the New Year! I settle into the familiar rocking chair with my cup of coffee and Bible, ready to start the new journal of a brand new year. I know I’m a day late, and I feel the frustration rising that this year isn’t going well so far.
But at least I can start my beautiful new journal.
But I realize that I somehow forgot to buy my new journal for 2017. How can this be? I begin a new journal every new year. I sit in the chair in a disaster of a house with sniffles and a head cold beginning—and no beautiful new journal–and I think about how 2017 might just usher in a year of less-than-perfect conditions.
Oh, Jesus. What’s going to happen this year? I pray and try to find rest in this mess.
And the much needed conviction comes:
When conditions aren’t perfect, He is perfect.
The sentence is a reminder and a rebuke to my very organized self who only wants perfect conditions, perfect days that go according to plan, perfect meals, and even perfect sentences for manuscripts. And in this fantasy, nobody gets sick, nobody gets hurt, and nobody suffers. Yup, that’s the plan, God.
I write in the back pages of the old journal (all wrong!!) God’s words to me: When conditions aren’t perfect, He is perfect. Jesus is perfect! He’s always perfect! I trust in Him and not my conditions.
I welcome 2017 and the imperfect conditions that drive me to a perfect Savior. Amen!
Twice in my sister’s life, someone has told her, “You remind me of hope.” Her life embodied a spiritual principle that people noticed. She even received a gift of the word hope framed for her wall from one of those friends.
What a curious and wonderful thing to have one’s whole life remind others of some Great Thing! I thought of that catalogue of fruits of the Holy Spirit in which hope finds company but isn’t listed: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. I thought of wonderful things like mercy, grace, and blessing.
Could my life ever remind someone most of one of these? Which one? Could I be a living representation of what God had worked most deeply into me? For my sister, it’s Hope.
I thought about this all afternoon. For me, I think of God working His joy and transformation in me. So maybe what I could remind people of is how He makes people new and fills them with joy! This excites me for 2017!
Here is blog post from a dear friend with an analogy about laying down your life that touched my heart today.