Snapshot Moments, Video Life

240_F_16248506_F05h1oUKwBIIm8dsgrii07O3wIByUZxa.jpgIf someone showed you snapshots of my life, you’d assume a variety of things about me.

I’m not talking about the actual photographs stored in boxes and computers. I’m talking about moments of my life that might seem like isolated incidences…until studied in a photo.

Has anyone said to you, “Remember the time you…,” then they proceed to bring up one of those not-so-proud-of-it-so-why-d0-you-have-to-remember moments? Our families are good at it.

But we all change. We need to take videos, not snapshots.

Sure, snapshots are good for fun, silly, even bittersweet memories, but for capturing our lives, we need to be willing to consider a series of snapshots over time. We need to string moments and situations together. We need to refuse to keep someone in a time capsule, when they’ve clearly grown up.

 

Give people room and grace. See how they change. Acknowledge growth to encourage more – in both yourself and others.

When Life Challenges Us

the hikerThe one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies lacks sense. (Proverbs 12:11)

 When have you wanted to give up but persevered?

What were the consequences of a time you gave up?

When you have persevered, what was your motivation? Why did you do it?

The quick and easy route seems so much more appealing than the winding, hilly, rocky one. We think we want as few obstacles in our way as possible. But don’t they make the journey all that more worthwhile? That’s not to say we should seek obstacles and hope they get in our way. The seems-to-be-insurmountable will rise ahead of us whether we want it to or not. We don’t have to fabricate it.

When I speak, sometimes family members come along. On a particular trip years ago, my husband and youngest daughter went to Colorado with me. They had some adventures while I was at a conference. When I got done, I wanted at least one day to do some hiking in the Rockies. I chose a shorter, less challenging hike than I might have tried on my own, but we soon learned that it was a bit more challenging than our daughter could face. When we could see our destination, but it was nearly straight up a rocky incline, my exhausted daughter sat down and declared she didn’t think she could make it. It upset her, because she knew it was my only chance to hike during that trip, but I assured her it was okay with me to head back down the mountain. We had accomplished a lot. Sometimes the journey is as important as the destination. Sometimes finishing well includes knowing when to turn back.

We rested for a while before she suddenly stood up and began to scamper up the mountainside. She didn’t answer our questions about whether or not she was sure she wanted to continue, and we couldn’t keep up with her. She was waiting for us at the top and said, “I had to give it one more try.” We applauded her for persevering. We explored the top of the ridgeline and enjoyed the view for quite a while before heading down. The view wasn’t nearly as breathtaking as the change I noticed in my daughter when she stood at the top. Sometimes our determination is plain stubbornness that can potentially get in our way or become counterproductive. Other times, it cultivates healthy growth that changes us.

Take a walk today, or ride a bike. Do something that challenges you. Go a little farther or a little faster. Consider what your daily choices reveal about your persistent spiritual cultivation.

Faith for the Wrong Reasons

1017servingwrong_581902485We shouldn’t turn to faith just for solutions to our problems.

Instead, faith provides and drives our peace, purpose, and journey.

We get it topsy-turvy at times. It’s similar to when we look to specific verses in the Bible to apply to the situation for which we most need an explanation or solution instead of getting familiar enough with the Bible so that we have a broad view of the character of God and His will for us. The broad view gives us enough guidance to apply into specific situations, but the limited view often causes us to misapply our limited understanding.

When we use faith in limited circumstances to solve our crises or soothe our anxieties instead of letting it continually permeate, challenge, and nourish us, we live a life of unnecessarily anorexic faith. We see enough or too much where there is a lack.

We claim faith for the wrong reasons.

Pursuit of Peace

indexTurn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

We cannot just expect to receive or find peace or reside in it. We must seek and pursue it.

In our instant-access culture, we often expect for things to come easily and quickly. We define “search” as a few key strokes to get immediate access to everything we need or want. That is not God’s typical way. The process of pursuit is rewarding, even necessary at times to choose well and appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

The pursuit of peace is more about our pursuit of God than achieving peace.

Reality Check

78c372262db9b19678466bab9dd41100_400x400There’s something about reading the entire book of Job. We all get the basics. Job was faithful but encountered  beyond what seems to be a fair share of troubles. He struggled, others got involved and gave him all kinds of advice and explanations, and God didn’t say a whole lot until later in the book. And that’s when the reality check comes in.

Basically, “Um, hello, Job. Can you stop for just a second please? Remember me? God? Let me remind you of a few things. In fact, I’ll just ask you a few questions.”

Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer Me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me. Where were you when I established the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? What supports its foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Who enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its blanket, when I determined its boundaries and put its bars and doors in place, when I declared: “You may come this far, but no farther;
your proud waves stop here”? Have you ever in your life commanded the morning or assigned the dawn its place, so it may seize the edges of the earth and shake the wicked out of it? The earth is changed as clay is by a seal; its hills stand out like the folds of a garment.
Light is withheld from the wicked, and the arm raised in violence is broken. Have you traveled to the sources of the sea or walked in the depths of the oceans? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the extent of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Where is the road to the home of light? Do you know where darkness lives, so you can lead it back to its border?
Are you familiar with the paths to its home? Don’t you know? You were already born; you have lived so long! Have you entered the place where the snow is stored? Or have you seen the storehouses of hail, which I hold in reserve for times of trouble, for the day of warfare and battle? What road leads to the place where light is dispersed? Where is the source of the east wind that spreads across the earth? Who cuts a channel for the flooding rain
or clears the way for lightning, to bring rain on an uninhabited land, on a desert with no human life, to satisfy the parched wasteland and cause the grass to sprout? Does the rain have a father? Who fathered the drops of dew? Whose womb did the ice come from? Who gave birth to the frost of heaven when water becomes as hard as stone, and the surface of the watery depths is frozen? Can you fasten the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion? Can you bring out the constellations in their season and lead the Bear and her cubs? Do you know the laws of heaven? Can you impose its authority on earth? Can you command the clouds so that a flood of water covers you? Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go? Do they report to you: “Here we are”? Who put wisdom in the heart or gave the mind understanding? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the dust hardens like cast metal and the clods of dirt stick  together? Can you hunt prey for a lioness or satisfy the appetite of young lions when they crouch in their dens and lie in wait within their lairs? Who provides the raven’s food when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38)

Go ahead and continue into Job 39 if you want. It’s riddled with more questions. And I always read these questions as directed not just to Job but to me. And not just to me but to people in general. I mean, what are we thinking when we try to understand what God has done, estimate what He will do, and even try to take some of that control away from Him (or refuse He has it in the first place)?

Don’t get me wrong. I think God is okay with our questions. He’s okay with our struggles. Both indicate we’re working through something, that we’re on the journey instead of indifferent.

I never want to be indifferent again. I don’t have all the answers. I have a lot of questions. Yet I am more certain about who God is the closer I get to Him and the more passionate and persistently I pursue Him.

God is God.

Don’t define Him. Let Him define Himself as you seek and get to know Him. He’s worth the journey.

To Seek and Surrender

imagesOne day Elisha went to Shunem. A prominent woman who lived there persuaded him to eat some food. So whenever he passed by, he stopped there to eat. Then she said to her husband, “I know that the one who often passes by here is a holy man of God, so let’s make a small room upstairs and put a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp there for him. Whenever he comes, he can stay there.” (2 Kings 4:8-10)

Holiness shows. People won’t always be able to identify exactly what it is that sets someone apart. They might say things like, “She is just so calm and has a peace about her even during chaos,” or “I’m not sure what sets him apart, but there’s something different that draws me to wonder more.” Of course, not everyone wants to know more or get closer. Sometimes the evidence of God’s presence in someone’s life repels them, because they simply aren’t in the place where they want to welcome God yet.

But when someone is curious and receptive, he or she extends hospitality. It shows an open and generous heart, searching for God’s presence. Hospitality shares life. So does holiness.

Holiness isn’t perfection; it’s humble growth. It’s the process of faith. It’s the result of faith, the evidence of faith. It is what purposes and drives faith as well as what faith develops. It is a goal and a motivation toward the goal. It is what we choose and how we surrender. Seek it, and surrender to it.

Retracing Your Steps

Then the Lord said to him, “Go and return by the way you came…” (1 Kings 19:15)

sander-zelhem-green-passageSometimes we need to retrace our steps. Sometimes what is behind becomes what is forward. Our past is often woven into our future, not just in memory, but in learning something new, changing our perspective, healing, correcting. We don’t return to the past because we need to camp there, feel sorry for ourselves, or try to recreate a season or situation we loved. We repurpose the journey. We open our eyes to the possibilities. We let God guide us to new experiences in some old places. He extends the invitation because He knows our futures the best. He knows what we need ahead, and sometimes that means returning the way we came, not in our stubbornness or selfishness but in humble obedience to Him.