Sunday, November 26, 2017

let's bring some hope...because we can




















This morning I woke up to crazy headlines...again.
I have been feeling like I should chuck my phone straight out the window
when I read them...
maybe it would make the crazy go away.

Instead, I have taken to reading the Psalms because...BE STILL MY SOUL.
It feels like the world is going straight to Hades...not even in a handbasket....
we are just plummeting like a rock towards the fiery pit.

But the Psalms always bring me back from the edge.
They put everything back into perspective.
The world has always been the world.
Wild. Unpredictable. And broken.

And God has always been God.
Steadfast. Faithful. Powerful.
The Psalms remind me of what is real.

Ones like this....
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High with rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
and
I lift my eyes up to the mountains. Where does my help come from? 
My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.
and
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and he delivers them.

The thing is...hope will never be found in the headlines.
That is where fear and anger reside...headlines were made to get us whipped up.
They unsettle us and make us doubt the goodness in the world we live in.

But the truth of God's word...his Holy truth...is meant to anchor us with peace.
To still our beating hearts in the midst of the storm.
To lift our heads and get us focused on the One who is TRULY GOOD...and then some.
The One who is in charge and loves us most of all.

That would be Jesus.
The Hope of Heaven.

In the midst of chaos, Jesus always brings hope to the table.
HOPE.
In Him. And Him alone.

The hope of kindness and joy and forgiveness.
The hope of generosity and miracles and peace.
The hope of light in a dark place.
The hope of salvation. For you and me.

And we are like Him. Made in His image.
We are made with the great capacity for hope.
It is tethered to the fact that He has surrounded us with his LOVE.
He is changing us from moment to moment.
In Him we live and move and have our being.
And Jesus is chock full of HOPE.
Hope upon hope upon hope.

And the craziest part of it is - He is leaving it up to us to spread the hope around.
Christ in you....the hope of glory.

Did you even know that?
He doesn't have another plan.
You and me? We are supposed to be getting the job done.

In the midst of our own struggles and craziness,
with families and work and heartache and bills....
we can reach out with....hope. His hope.

We are the hope bringers in a world of headlines.

You reaching out in kindness. Me digging into the richness of  God's love.
You speaking truth and light. Me putting an arm around a frazzled neighbor.

You bringing holiday cookies to your mom friends.
Me sharing a word of encouragement with a co-worker.

You holding up your best friend whose marriage is frayed around the edges
Me reigning in my impulse buying ( Il love you, Christmas tchotchkes)
and giving more to those who need it.

You singing songs about the greatness of the God in your car...in your room...in the shower.
(Keep singing! SINGING BRINGS HOPE!)

Me asking Jesus to please change me...because sometimes I am hard hearted and judge-y.
(Pray with me! Soft hearts are a must when it comes to spreading hope.)

Us becoming more like HIM.
Because that is the only way we can bring hope.

Us letting His love shape our interactions....casting out fear.

Us asking for His will (not our grand ideas, schemes and truly worthy plans) to be done.

Us praying for our people. Our cities. Our world.
And asking Him to let His hope crack the sky...one more time...
ushering in peace and goodwill on this earth...to all people...
because that has been His plan all along.

All along.
A plan of  love. Peace. Healing. Reconciliation. Restoration. Bright joy.

Hope.

LET'S BRING IT.



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Peace vs. Pants





















I had a dream the other night that I was teaching my Lit class.
I was wearing a long sweater....
but as I gazed towards the back of the classroom,
I could see I had left my pants and underwear on the floor near my desk.
Mid-nightmare, all I could think was, "I need those pants and underwear!"

Understatement of the year.

In my dream I raced back to my desk,
snatched up my clothes and ran out of the room,
hoping against hope, that my sweater was offering full coverage.
The only place on the school grounds that I could find to pull on my clothes
was a gardening shed....with a faulty lock.

That shed was like New York's Grand Central Station.
As I was trying to yank on my pants, people kept trying to walk in.
I kept yelling at the top of my lungs, "I am in here! I am in here!"

These are some deep-seated, Freudian fears being revealed here, folks.

I told my dream to my sister, Jenny.
After saying, "Oh, no!" at least 4 times, she said,
"I'm no psychologist but I would say you are feeling vulnerable."

Once again....understatement of the year.

Now I am not superstitious...
but I am double checking to make sure I am wearing pants every day.

Because several teachers have told me that teacher brain is even
worse than mommy brain. You forget a lot.
So far I have forgotten my phone...my wallet...and my lunch.

I am determined not to forget my apparel.

And I have enlisted the prayers of my dearest friends, sending out texts, saying,
"Please pray for me. I'm going down."

This took some courage. Because I want people think I am pulling this transition off.
I want people to think I have it all together.

(Which is weird since the friends and family that I texted
KNOW THAT I HAVE NEVER HAD ANYTHING TOGETHER....ever.)

My unfettered dreams are showing the real picture.
I am operating out of vulnerable and fearful place in this season.
Which, if I think about it, makes me fit right in with my middle schoolers.
(Who wasn't completely freaked out in junior high????)

This verse keeps coming to mind...
"You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you."
Isaiah 26:3.

My mind has zero peace. It is not even close to being stayed on Him.
It is stayed on worry and anxious thoughts and a fear of lost pants.
I have always had control issues.
I struggle with trust.

But He promises if I trust Him? He will fill me with perfect peace.
That would be super great. Wouldn't it?
Sweet mercy. Yes. It would.

Our eyes are made to gaze in wonder on the God of the Universe.
Our hearts are designed to reside in a place of love,
knowing that we are cared and provided for.
Our minds are created for peace. Not heart-thumping, mind-numbing fear.
.
I need to rip my eyes off of my proverbial pants
(my lack, my anxiety, my people pleasing, my fear of the unknown)
and focus on the One who loves me most of all.
The One who doesn't know the meaning of the word "impossible."
The One who casts out fear with His mere presence.

I want to be "stayed on Him."
Stayed on His goodness and strength and purpose.
Stayed on His great love and hope and joy.

I want a shot of that perfect peace He is offering.
Don't you?

And...that really is....the understatement of the year.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

i don't like gray areas




















I am well in to my third month of teaching 8th grade lit and writing.
This week I almost had a nervous breakdown over in-text citations.
What, pray tell, are in-text citations?
My point exactly.

During our class discussion about how to include an in-text citation,
it became apparent that the real problem was not so much  figuring out
HOW to cite a fact in the paper as it was figuring out WHICH facts should they be citing.
Excellent question...for anyone but me.

It was at this point in our class dialogue that a slight sweat broke out upon my brow.
I could see the confusion in their eyes.
I am pretty sure they could see it in mine.

I told them with confidence, "You don't need to cite birthdays or common information like that."
One student asked, "But what is common information and what isn't?"
This unleashed another volley of questions.

What I finally said was, "Don't cite anything just yet. I need to get back to you."
Because clearly, I am the un-expert of in-text citations.

I talked with several master teachers and high school teachers and guess what?
It is somewhat SUBJECTIVE what you cite in a paper.
Each teacher had a little different take on it.
Well, just stick a fork in me and I'm done, folks.

Because I need black and white.
I don't like maybes or gray areas.
I like certainty and rights and wrongs.
This is true for me in lit class...it is true for me in life.

The problem is, that life and faith, like in-text citations, have a whole lot of gray about them.
This journey...it is so confusing. I can't seem to get it right.
This transition to full-time teaching has me spinning.
It has upended our family norms not mention the fact that things like citing
facts for an 8th grade paper can keep me up at night.
Who ever thought that would be a thing?

This shift has left me anxious. I may or may not have been experiencing mild heart palpations.
I have been feeling uncertain about...my calling...my gifts...my go-tos.
I am left thinking...
Am I doing what He wants me to do? And I becoming who He wants me to become?
Am I messing it up? (I'm pretty sure I am messing it up.)
So much seems unclear right now...super gray.

The truth is that so much of faith...is fog. Mysterious. Uncertain. Nebulous.
Not one of us get it quite right. Figuring it out on our own doesn't work so well.
We are foverer fumbling in this life.
Getting to God on our own merit just isn't happening.
All have sinned and come short (SUPER SHORT) of the glory of God.

That is why Jesus came.
He is about the glory.
He knows we have none of our own...so He fits us with His.
He promises to transform us from glory to glory.

The thing is? It is borrowed glory.
We believe in Him....and He credits us with His righteousness.
We trust Him...and He cracks the darkness of our lives with His brightness.
We hold on to Him with arms wrapped tight...and He delivers us.
All the glory belongs to Him.

Thank goodness it is not up to us to get it right.
Thank the sweet Lord that we don't have to figure it all out.

His glory cuts through the gray.
We are bent and broken and He speaks healing and hope over our lives.
We are lost in the storm and He warms our wind-swept hearts with the light of His love.
We are locked in confusion and He bursts in with clarity and guidance.
We are anxious and vexed and worried and He wraps a blanket of peace around us.
We are exhausted and bone weary and He makes us lie down in green pastures.
We are soul-hungry and He brings Sunday dinner...
a fortifying banquet to celebrate His goodness and strengthen our hearts.
That is glory.

We have to remember that the penetrating, gray fog of life is sitting right
over the ever-widening, unending ocean of God's love.
And you and me, we sit smack dab in the center of that ocean.
It flows over and around us and it bouys us up.
And His love is not subjective. It is the same yesterday, today and forever. Vast. Limitless.
He doesn't change His mind about us. He loves us all day. Every day.
Even when life feels gray.

The truth is we are surrounded on all sides by His love.
We need to keep reminding each other of that.
Because we seem to forget when the fog rolls in.

Jesus loves you, friend. And He loves me.
He is with us, holding us, keeping us, preserving us, lifting us up, in this moment in time.
That is a solid, unbending fact.
That is the embodiment of truth.
And THAT....
is anything but gray.