This Can’t Be Right

14657310_1460833877264039_930398364757535582_n-300x149Then they said to Him, “John’s disciples fast often and say prayers, and those of the Pharisees do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” (Luke 5:13)

We often question out of our expectations and experiences, as if certain things can’t change. We see differences and proclaim, “Well, this can’t be right, because it’s not what I know to be true or normal.” But what if our ideas and expectations need to be tweaked?

They often do.

Just because someone or something doesn’t fit our cookie cutter molds doesn’t mean we should reject them. We can listen, learn, and when appropriate, change. Sometimes we accommodate what we learn into our existing ideas and practices, and the two meld together. Other times, we set aside what we encounter but not before learning from and wrestling with it. But when we simply reject things without filtering, either quickly or over time, it through truth, we miss out. Just because we don’t like something or it makes us uncomfortable is not a good reason to toss it aside.

Instead, we can search for truth among what we encounter, what we experience, and what we expect. And we can let that truth change us into who God wants us to become…instead of changing ourselves into what we most want.

The Familiarity of Foreign

unnamedI regularly write for a website that posts daily devotions. There is a team of us who write each month to share the responsibility and provide a diversity of voices. While the site is written in English, it is equipped with translation capability, so people around the world can read it. After this month’s post, the site admin sent me the following message she received about it:

Bonjour à Qui de droit  !

Merci pour  ce texte qui parle de lui-même ! J”ai beaucoup aimé   Tes écrits ….Gloire à Dieu ..Il est important de s”humilier

et de faire “comme Jésus a fait pour Nous ” !  Alléluia !
Merci d”exister !!!!!!!!!!
I don’t speak French. I have just enough experience with a variety of languages to (very) loosely translate.
It’s always fun to get encouraging feedback.
There’s an added “cool” factor when that feedback is in another language.
But I hope encouragement is never foreign. If it is, we can’t relate to or receive it. We have to find some commonality to find meaning in it. And in that way, the foreign becomes the familiar.
Perhaps it’s not always as familiar or as comfortable as our native tongue. Maybe we encounter people or situations that seem to pull the comfortable rug from under us. But isn’t that part of the joy and adventure, being able to consider what is outside of ourselves?
Let’s celebrate differences, not just for differences’ sake but for the pursuit of connection and unity in the midst of it. We don’t have to be uniform. There will always be enough to divide us. May we determine to see beyond the barriers and reach out with a hand, a hug, or a simple smile.

Appreciating the Subtleties of Surroundings

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

Cameras are good, but they can’t see the subtleties the eye can see. As I stood in the mountains and looked all around me, I saw waves and shadows dance across the tree-covered slopes and snow-capped peaks. Each time I raised my camera to capture a glimpse of beauty, I lowered it to soak in the reality instead. My camera lens has a boxed frame. Moving it a little to the left or right, up or down to include one more slice of beauty always eliminates another slice. Even when looking straight forward, my eyes include the subtleties of my peripheral vision, something my camera cannot capture. My eyes capture movement and gradual changes that my camera misses.

I love photography, but sometimes, I just sit back and let my eyes capture the best views possible. I let them place an imprint on my memory for later reference. Then I snap a few photos, not to accurately capture the view but to capture the moment, so I can remember the experience even better.

As much as I love photography, I love the way God allows me to experience the world around me even more. I think we can miss out on the subtle provisions He gives us to experience and live in the world. Instead of taking them for granted or looking for technology or other aids that will do a “bigger and better” job, perhaps we could sit back, look around, and enjoy our surroundings…and appreciate that God has given us not only the surroundings but also the means to enjoy them.

This Day in History

Search “this day in history,” and all kinds of important things come up. But I wasn’t there for many of them. Even if I was alive, I wasn’t actually at the place mentioned.

My Timehop app is more personal. It tells me what I posted, what photos I took, or who tagged or messaged me a year ago, two years ago0, three years ago, and so on. Since I’m not consistently active online, on some days, Timehop is nearly bare. However, about a month ago, there was a week packed with reminders.

I was reminded of several women’s events at which I had spoken over the years. One was a small gathering of moms. Another was a large conference where I met women from around the globe. Yet another reminded me of a spiritually full weekend of stories, conversations, prayers, and healing. I was reminded of the Living Proof Live team I served alongside for over a year, forging friendships, serving well, and growing in my own prayer life as I encouraged and equipped others to do the same. I also saw snapshots of writing: posts about what I was writing about and struggling with, links to blog posts that reminded me of a different season of life, and the memory of writing all day at Panera with one of my very best friends.

Each was a moment of time. And each is important to today.

Knowing “this day in history” isn’t as insignificant as marking a moment in the past. It’s not getting stuck in the past. It is being aware enough of the past to know how it impacts today. It’s appreciating what brought me to today. It’s setting a memorial stone, intended as a reminder of a moment. If we stay in the moment, we don’t need the reminder. But we move on, glancing back every now and then to celebrate where we’ve been and where we’ve come, and more importantly, what God has done in our lives each step of the way.

So, glance back every now and then. Instead of longing for the “good ol’ days,” celebrate what you’ve experiences. Instead of settling into the pain of a memory, recognize the difference between then and now.

God is beyond all time, so He sees your yesterdays, today, and tomorrows. He can give you glimpses that help you commit to the next few steps. Let Him show you a timehop, then celebrate with Him today.

Following, Transformation, and Preparation

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

When we follow the patterns of this world, we anticipate what will happen by our own logic or patterns of experiences. We dread, expect, or claim what will happen. Conforming creates patterns.

All patterns aren’t bad. Patterns can be positive and constructive. When we place standing stones to mark our experiences with and trust in God, the patterns that remind us how He has provided and guided in the past point into the future. We can trust He will provide and guide again…and again and again and again. However, we often cannot predict the specific direction.

When we are transformed, it becomes less about us and more about God. We acknowledge we don’t know the future and trust Him to prepare us for the situations ahead.

Preparation comes through transformation.

We’re not prepared today for our what we’ll face tomorrow. We’re prepared to face today. And today mandates our full attention and participation in order to receive the preparation, the transformation, we need for tomorrow.

Learn and Change

photo-27Yesterday, I shared about the Chagall windows and mentioned one which has a different colored glass that marks where a piece of shrapnel pierced it during the Six-Day War. In fact, many of the windows were damaged. When Chagall heard of the damage, he offered to restore them. He made them just as they were…except for the small piece of clear glass in the sea of blue, marking the damage from the war. It was a reminder of the damage. It was a reminder of the change.

With each event of our lives, we are changed. We might look the same and even feel the same to some degree. We may want to believe we’re the same, as if nothing happened. Or, we might respond in a completely different way and want to ignore everything of the past and build something completely new. However, we can’t ignore our experiences. We can let God restore them. We can let Him use the rubble to rebuild something beautiful. But He uses the raw material. He uses the template of who He created us to be.

Each time we rebuild, we need to learn something and change. With each step we take, we are different.

Do you avoid God’s change or invite it?

Sharing Thought Bubbles

Remember the game (as well as a counseling technique) of saying the first thing that pops into your mind in response to a word or phrase?

shareLet’s play!

Necklock.

Where’s Sunni?

Bless your heart?

Schnitzels, snickers, and shekels.

Yeah, man.

Picture chick.

That’s not how any of this works.

It’s fine. Totally fine.

Ask your Granny.

I’m gonna snatch a patch of hair out of your head.

For a small group of women who served and toured Israel last month, every single phrase is infused with memories, mostly hilarious ones. As they read this, they will be laughing and probably missing each other and our time together.

Others are confused or trying to solve the puzzle.

When we share experiences, we react to certain situations and words in similar ways. We feel united, connected. When we aren’t part of the experience, we can feel out of the loop, isolated, or confused.

We can’t all share every experience. But we can’t share experiences with people without effort. In order to benefit from relationships, we have to invest in each other. We have to get out of our comfort zones and take risks. Sometimes, you will get hurt. Sometimes, you won’t have the close connection you want. Sometimes, you’ll share a life-changing experience with people who become lifelong friends.

We connected in Israel, but you don’t have to get on a plane with strangers-soon-to-become-friends. Look around you. Experience life with people God has placed in your life.