The Pursuit

f64c4ac5c778d0defb9840823fbf0db6Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the tassel on His robe, for she said to herself, “If I can just touch His robe, I’ll be made well!” But Jesus turned and saw her. “Have courage, daughter,” He said. “Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22)

A women who was vulnerable, weak, and devastated from a chronic health condition pursued Jesus with strength and faith. She trusted Him and leaned forward toward Him. She reached with everything she had.

I think of her often as I pursue God. No matter how I feel, do I pursue Him with a similar strength and faith? Do I stretch with everything I have to reach Him?

Jesus responds to the woman with power and sensitivity. He encourages her.

He knows our pursuit and our faith, which encourages me. I can’t physically reach out and touch Him, but I can reach Him. And He responds with power and sensitivity. Every single time.

Celebrating Dad’s Life

A year ago, I spoke at my dad’s celebration of life.

It was one of the most difficult and easiest things I’ve done. Difficult, because I had to choose what to say. Easy, because I had a lot of options to choose from. Difficult, because I didn’t know if I could emotionally get through it. Easy, because I knew Dad would want me to speak.

I woke up that morning with two thoughts:

“It’s not everyday I get to speak about my dad’s life.”

And “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

I realized I was wrong about the first thought. Yes, I’d only get one chance to speak about my dad’s life here on earth, but I get to speak about my heavenly Dad’s life every single day. And what I needed to say that day had to do with both. I had to honor both. I didn’t need to make it more spiritual or create a sermon. It needed to be authentic with doses of hope and laughter. I realized the words I’d say were way less important than the reasons I said them.

I couldn’t say them in my own wisdom or strength.

My dad had given me all the wisdom and strength he could while he was living. I still carry it with me.

And God continues to give me the wisdom and strength I need for every day and every situation.

On that day, I stood at the intersection where all that wisdom and strength collided.

What I said wasn’t perfect. Others could have done a better job. But that’s okay with me.

I celebrated dad’s life with the people who loved him the most. And as I looked at some of the faces in the church that day, I saw God’s love for me in the faces of people who love me. And I felt comfortably weak, because He is strong.

 

Dismissing Weakness

fa9db8c0924ef1edf529be2eb5501a03God can use anyone at anytime. We dismiss ourselves, but He doesn’t.

Lord my God, You have now made Your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. (1 Kings 3:7)

Solomon dismissed himself…at least, in some areas. But those areas became the basis of what He trusted God to provide. Instead of using his lack as an excuse, he used it as a springboard of trusting faith.

Your servant is among Your people You have chosen, a people too numerous to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:8-9)

We often want to hide our weaknesses. They make us feel vulnerable and unworthy. We want to dismiss them, but when we do, we dismiss ourselves.

God wants to use what we think dismisses us, because He knows our willingness to admit them and trust Him puts us in the exact position to rely on Him to use us well, weaknesses and all!

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maxresdefaultWe can stand firm without being a smart aleck. We don’t have to taunt people. We can simply state truth. We can be bold yet respectful. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

David said to [Goliath]: “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies—you have defied Him.” (1 Samuel 17:45)

David didn’t confront Goliath in his own wisdom, courage, and strength. He didn’t “get in his face.” He stood firmly on God’s direction and truth, then continued to follow Him.

Perhaps we think boldness means strength and courage, and it does, but not always the way we apply it. Strength and courage on our own won’t get us anywhere, or at least, it won’t get us anywhere worthy of staying, anywhere longstanding. The best strength and courage comes through humility. When we are bold with our humility, we are as bold standing up as stepping back, as bold in our discerned silence as in our declarations and confrontations.

Speak (and be silent) wisely.

Are You Struggling With A Struggle?

struggle: to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition; to proceed with difficulty or with great effort (www.merriam-webster.com)

When have you struggled with something? Have you stayed in the struggle?

It seems like a stupid question. After all, who would want to stay in a struggle? Yet how many things have you repeatedly or consistently struggled with? Thoughts of struggles tossed and turned in my mind recently, and I began to wonder if we sometimes begin to define a struggle as such simply because of the repetition or consistency. If we could deal with something and be done with it, we might not define it as a struggle, but when it consumes increasingly more time and energy, we define it as a struggle.

We can settle into the struggle because it becomes consistent in our lives. There’s a pattern, and even when we don’t like it, we can become somewhat accustomed to it. In a sense, we settle into or stay in the struggle.

The question is: Are you active in the struggle, or have you taken a passive role, expecting not to be able to change anything or becoming paralyzed to make an attempt to try anything?

The definition of struggle indicates action – a quite intense action: to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition; to proceed with difficulty or with great effort.

What are your struggles?

Most will respond in one of two ways. Either they’ll indicate something acute going on in the current season of life or something chronic that seems to be repeated over a longer period. Perhaps you look back on your life and see consistencies, so you connect the dots and call it a struggle. You’ve made strenuous efforts to proceed through the difficulties. You’ve pushed against the opposing winds blowing into your face. You’ve set your eyes on forward progress and knocked barriers out of the way. Even if your situation hasn’t changed much, you’re struggling, and you’re not staying in the struggle because of the efforts you’re making.

On the other hand, if you’re labeling consistent issues in your life as a struggle but you’ve made little effort to change or move forward, you’re staying in the struggle. Actually, you might not be struggling at all. It might feel like you’re struggling, because you’ve become accustomed to thinking struggling occurs when nothing changes, but struggling involves change.

Struggling is active, not passive.

I’m not saying you can fix everything. You can’t rearrange all the messy pieces of your life and put them together into a beautiful mosaic. You can’t explain all the cause and effects, see the potential, and accept what’s going on in your life with complete understanding. You’re human. You have limitations.

God doesn’t have limitations. Whatever you can’t do, He can. He can rearrange all the messy pieces of your life and put them together into a beautiful mosaic. He can explain all the cause and effects and see the potential with complete understanding. However, as long as you live in this messy life on earth, you won’t be able to see the beautiful mosaic in its entire splendor. You won’t have complete understanding. He’ll give you glimpses, but there will always be a gap between God and you.

And that’s where faith comes in.

Faith is active. It’s giving everything, the good and the bad, to God…and trusting Him with it. It doesn’t stop there. It’s not a one-time “please fix this” request. Faith includes a trust that God can fix it as well as the acceptance that God wants you to be involved in the process. Faith involves listening to what action God wants you to take. It’s a delicate balance, because it’s tempting to declare:

I’ve given it to God, so all I have to do now is wait for Him to take care of it.

or

I know God wants me to be active in the process, so I’ll figure out what needs to be done next.

Either rationalization indicates an imbalance in the relationship between a person and God.

Faith isn’t the absence of struggle. Faith itself involves struggle. In faith, we must acknowledge God, give everything to God, listen to God, and respond to God. Faith requires trust and action.

Be cautious in how you’re defining and responding in struggles. If you tend to push ahead in determination and self-sufficiency, you’ll need to pull back. Replace your self-sufficiency with God-sufficiency. Give it all to God, including control, and let Him tell you what the next steps are. He’ll guide and provide.

On the other hand, if you tend to sit back and wait for something to happen, especially after you’ve given it to God, you need to take a step. There’s likely something you’re holding back from God: yourself. Place yourself in his hands, knowing He isn’t going to let you sit and mope. He doesn’t let spiritual muscles atrophy. He’ll get you up and moving even though you’d prefer to let Him do the work. Let Him tell you what the next steps are, and be obedient. He’ll guide and provide.

So…are you staying in your struggles? Are you struggling in your struggles?

Most important, are you faithful in your struggles?

To do this, I work and struggle, using Christ’s great strength that works so powerfully in me. Colossians 1:29

Trying to Help Without Assuming Too Much

We have a responsibility to people God has placed around us. Scriptures are full of “one another” statements:

Love one another.

Be at peace with one another.

Forgive one another.

Accept one another.

Speak truth to one another.

Comfort one another.

Encourage one another.

Teach one another.

Admonish one another.

Pray for one another.

Yet we cannot control each other. People have choices, and they are responsible for those choices. Sometimes we have to make tough decisions as we care for others. We need to do something (or NOT do something) for someone because it is what is best in the long run. Or sometimes, we do what is best in the moment, because in some way, it works into the best for the long run. We do our best to steward relationships, but we don’t have full control…or full wisdom. We will mess up. So will they. But God can fill the gaps and turn the potter’s wheel. He can rework us and seal the cracks of insufficiencies, weaknesses, and errors. He will give us strength and purpose as we invite and allow Him.

We have a responsibility to others but not for them. That is in God’s control and wisdom. And that gives me comfort and peace.

 

Failing Forward

index“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry Ford

How do you respond when you fail?

  • I feel paralyzed. I don’t know how to move forward.
  • I struggle to learn lessons to apply to the future.
  • I don’t consider anything a failure.

The way we each define failure differs, but let’s agree that it’s an unsuccessful attempt at something. You have failed at something in your lifetime. We all have. However, that doesn’t mean we’re failures. God created you, and He makes no mistakes. He knew how you would succeed and fail before you did. In fact, He likely doesn’t see success and failure with the same perspective as you do. He sees the big picture of your life and how the details fit together. He wants you to grow throughout life, and the learning process includes failures and the lessons we learn from them.

How you respond to failure impacts your life as well as those who look to you for leadership and example.

Failing is unavoidable, but you can choice in what direction to fall. You can fall backward, sitting in the messy mud puddle until you are miserable, or you can fall forward, perhaps stubbing a toe or scraping a knee but ready for the next steps of your journey.

In order to fail forward, you must…

Deal with disappointment. Failing forward doesn’t mean you ignore the frustration and pain. In order to move forward, you must learn from past experiences. Otherwise, you’ll repeat the same errors. Evaluate the factors contributing to failure, but only look back long enough to gather strength to move forward.

Prepare to plan. Apply what you learn. You don’t need to have everything in life alphabetized and color-coded, but a failure to prepare usually prepares you for failure. Look to the horizon and anticipate growth, but be intentional in the steps you’re taking toward your goals.

Celebrate. Broaden your focus beyond your failures. You will find whatever you look for most consistently. Pay attention to the progress you’re making. Celebrate when you’ve met a goal, fostered a relationship, or maneuvered through a difficult conflict. Your celebration doesn’t need to be over-the-top. Treat yourself to a favorite coffee drink, long walk, or soothing bubble bath.

Find contentment. God wants to be the center of our lives. Life on earth isn’t going to be perfect or easy. He knows it, but it seems to be a realization that takes more time for us to accept. When our gaze is intently on God, we can find contentment even in the chaos. We can find peace among the mayhem. Focus on God. He will give you what you need even when you’re not sure what it is.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)