the unintentional message behind accepting the status quo.

Check it out.
Such a cute video.
Encouraging.
A great example of optimism.
But another thought nags at me.
Scroll below the video if you care to explore that thought with me.

Sure. He’s the “GREATEST CATCHER in the WORLD!”

But that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to be the “GREATEST HITTER in the WORLD!”

But after THREE tries. T H R E E.

all by himself.
with no coach.
no instruction.
no advice.
no developmental feedback (constructive criticism)
no hard work.
no practice.

He GAVE UP his self-proclaimed dream.

and settled for what he was ALREADY good at.

(theoretically. At that moment, he has zero competition. “Greatest Catcher” status remains to be seen until he’s on the receiving end of an average pitcher’s fast ball.)

Does all that sound mean? pessimistic?

If the goal is to make him feel better, then yes. I suppose it is.

BUT. If the goal is to help him GET better, then how is cheering for him when he abandons his dream a good thing? How is cheering for him in this situation NOT encouraging him to give up instead of asking for help and working toward fulfilling his dream?

Seriously. Everything I do well, I probably sucked at in the beginning.

I serve as a career coach and one way I do that is to volunteer with a 12 week program that helps the unemployed and underemployed find, obtain and keep a family sustaining career. As you might expect, the people who apply to this program are looking for a better job. They’re looking for a career inSTEAD of a job.

But even more foundational than that, they are looking for CHANGE. They want a better life. A more stable income. Security. Self-confidence. Hope. Encouragement. Inspiration. They are sick and tired of the status quo and they are at a place in their life when they are ready to do something about it. Without exception, every single person who applies is, by the act of applying, asking for help. When they are accepted into the program, they themselves are agreeing to accept help.

So what happens when the coach they’ve been matched with or another student in their group hears their story and reacts by assuring them they are “fine” just the way they are and they don’t need to change a thing. They are ENOUGH.

If you are looking for change and you are being assured you don’t need to change because “you are enough” just the way you are, what does that mean? What does that do to your motivation? If your choices – by natural consequence – have led you to where you are in life and you are not happy with where you are, is hearing “you are fine just the way you are – don’t let anyone tell you that you need to change” really helpful?

Is it kind?

Is it true?

I find myself thinking about the old adage:

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”

and

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
~ Albert Einstein

and one of my personal favorites:

“It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”
~ Winston S. Churchill

In my experience, telling these students – or ANYone seeking change or betterment in any area of their life – that they are fine and enough is counter-productive. If you want to get better at anything, there ARE steps you can take and by the sheer nature of the word CHANGE, those steps HAVE to be different steps than the ones you’ve taken in the past and the steps you are taking now. I’ve written about some ways to approach changing for the better four times in the last few days alone:

1. It Doesn’t Matter if You CAN. It matters if you DO.
2. Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.
3. Looking for a Qualified Teacher or Credible Mentor? 4 Things to Consider.
4. problem solving and benchmarking.

The hard fact is that if you WANT change, you HAVE TO change.

Looking for a Qualified Teacher or Credible Mentor?
4 Things to Consider:

Don't Insulate Yourself from Developmental Feedback (constructive criticism). Be Brave. Seek it out.

Recently, in a post entitled “Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.”

I wrote:

“As scary as it is, if you REALLY want to improve, seek developmental feedback.

But NOT from just anyone.

Ask people you trust.
Ask people who have experience in your industry or craft – either firsthand or through extensive observation.
Ask people who have no vested interest in the outcome of your decisions…

…Ask for suggestions. Find qualified teachers and credible mentors.”

If you’ve decided to be brave and seek out developmental feedback from “qualified teachers and credible mentors” your first step is to:

1. Define “qualified” and “credible” so you can identify those people.

In my experience, “qualified” can be interpreted to mean that someone has a degree or certification or some sort of credential they’ve earned through a structured educational or training program. But much too often, that degree or certification represents completion in that program and not necessarily COMPETENCE. I’ve personally gotten more than a few clients because the “credentialed” person couldn’t actually DO the work.

(Sometimes a certification is necessary to meet eligibility requirements, but I stopped getting certifications to enhance my credibility a few decades ago when I recognized that, in many cases, anyone could become certified if they paid for it. I chose instead to diligently pursue competence, strive for excellence, demonstrate a strong work ethic and genuinely care about the needs and success of my clients, which resulted in a solid reputation and a client base built by referrals.)

So, if a credential isn’t a dependable measure of qualified or credible, then what should you look for in a mentor?

Someone who is doing what you want to learn to do – and is doing it well.

These are the people you want to emulate. Research their credentials, find out where they obtained their education and training and who their teachers were. Check out their websites, their Linkedin and any other social media presence they may have. Look for articles they’ve written or interviews they’ve given. If you discover they’ve quoted a book, read it. What they’ve done and experienced has helped them get to where they are today and there’s value in that information. After you’ve learned all you can about them on your own, consider reaching out to them personally.

2. In a career search, one way to find good advice would be through something called an Informational Interview.

An informational interview is different than a job interview in that there’s no specific job opportunity available. Rather, the conversation centers around learning about a particular field or career or even a company, so the interviewer can gain a better understanding of best practices and potential pitfalls. Usually, the interviewer comes away from an informational interview with some solid advice from someone who is or has been where they want to go. Approaching someone to interview can be scary, but you would be surprised at how often a complete stranger is willing to give you a few minutes of their time to give you insight into their chosen profession and tell you about their journey.

For more information about how to prepare and conduct an informational interview, check out What Color Is Your Parachute? 2019: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles.

3. Identify good teachers by identifying their students.

Finding a good teacher can be tricky. Forget about advertisements. They are often written by someone about themselves and who would ever say anything negative about themselves when they are advertising their own services? Instead, seek out (a) word of mouth referrals, (b) search for social media comments and reviews by their clients (and former clients) and most importantly (c) look at their students, especially long-time students. You would never intentionally get a haircut from someone if you knew all their clients had terrible haircuts. The same mentality applies when it comes to evaluating a teacher.

For instance, I’ve taken voice lessons on and off for decades. I found my current vocal coach because I heard someone sing and thought “Wow! I want to learn to do THAT!” I was drawn to excellence in a student’s performance and I wanted to know who their teacher was – I NEEDED to know who their teacher was.

If you are considering a teacher and none of their students are doing what you want to learn and doing it well, it could be that none of their students are talented or teachable, but the odds of that are slim. If you can’t find a single student of theirs who is demonstrating excellence, or at least growth, my personal advice is to find another teacher. If you still decide you want to work with them, don’t commit to a long-term student/teacher relationship with them immediately. A few lessons or classes during a trial period should tell you whether you are a good fit.

A Caveat:

If your teacher only ever gives you positive feedback, don’t settle for it. Compliments may make you FEEL better, but it won’t help you GET better. After all, if you were perfect, you wouldn’t need their help. Ask them directly to TELL you what weaknesses they see you struggle with and what you need to work on.

4.

Finally, if your teacher runs out of developmental feedback (constructive criticism), YOU’VE OUTGROWN THEM. It’s time to move on and find another teacher who will challenge you.

Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.
(And don’t punish them for it)

Give the people you trust permission to tell you the truth

Do you want to improve?

To get better at what you do?

If the only feedback you are receiving about the

work you are doing…
the risks you are taking…
the things you are creating…

is positive, consider that for a minute.

Is that what you want? Is that what you need?

How do you tell the difference between someone who’s being nice
and someone who’s telling the truth?

If you NEVER hear negative – or even neutral – feedback how do you know what you need to improve?

If you’ve been the victim of 100% positive feedback…
If you are a member of a group of people pleasing back patters…
If you ask counterfeit questions, like “Wasn’t that GREAT?!” when you ask someone for their opinion…

Consider the possibility that you have a subjective and unrealistic opinion of your finished product – whatever it is.

Consider the statistical improbability that you are doing everything so well what there’s absolutely no room for improvement.

As scary as it is, if you REALLY want to improve, seek developmental feedback.

But NOT from just anyone.

Ask people you trust.
Ask people who have experience in your industry or craft – either firsthand or through extensive observation.
Ask people who have no vested interest in the outcome of your decisions.

If they believe you are sincere in the asking…
If they have the courage to tell you the truth…

and the feedback isn’t 100% affirmation and praise,

DON’T PUNISH THEM FOR IT.

DON’T argue.
DON’T shut down.
DON’T assume they are wrong.
DON’T dismiss them as a credible resource.
DON’T dismiss the feedback.
DON’T ASSUME THEY DON’T LIKE YOU.

Consider. Search their words for all possible truth. If you’re really brave, seek out a second opinion – again – giving them permission to tell you the truth.

Ask for suggestions. Find qualified teachers and credible mentors. Set realistic long and short-term goals for improvement. Work toward them. Consistently.

Improvement is rarely easy. But in the end, the hard is what makes it great.

#memoryverse Proverbs 16:9 ~ when things go “wrong.”

John Piper quote God is doing 10000 things#memoryverse

“The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

One of the most difficult things I’ve experienced in my striving to follow God’s guidance in my life is when

I pray, persistently,
I seek wisdom from His word and from faith-filled brothers and sisters in Christ,
I “count the cost” and
I make a decision that I’m am confident is one that follows the leading of the Holy Spirit, a decision that – through all the dependent tasks and decisions leading up to it – is covered in God’s fingerprints.

And then the outcome is ab.so.flippin.lutely. HORRIBLE.

How does this happen?

WHY does this happen?

Because the outcome is only horrible from my point of view.

Sometimes, after making plans and following through, circumstances go as expected and everything makes sense.

Sometimes, after making plans and following through, circumstances exceed my hopes and expectations and even my imagination and I’m left in awe of what God can do when I have the courage and motivation to be obedient and if I don’t fight back or dig my heels in while I stand in His way.

Sometimes, after making plans and following through, circumstances tank.
Things go horribly wrong and I doubt my understanding of every single answer to prayer I received leading up to that moment. I doubt my ability to interpret what scripture taught me about my decision. I doubt the wise words from brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don’t doubt God. I’m confident HE got it right. I doubt myself. MY ability to get it right.

Sometimes, after circumstances tank,

(1) I immediately get to see how God redeems the situation, often through the unexpected benefit of someone else or someone being drawn closer to and more dependent on Christ.

Sometimes, after circumstances tank,

(2) I find out months or years later how God redeemed my “failure.”

Sometimes, after circumstances tank,

(3) God never shows me or tells me why.

I hate door number 3 the most.

I’ll admit, there have been seasons of my life where a “failure” has resulted in paralyzation. I’ve spent months bogged down in fear of making another “mistake.”

prayer can never be in excess SpurgeonPrayer has been the antidote every time. Prayer leading to dependence on Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Will I make another “mistake?”

Count on it.

I may lie low for a while and regroup, but when I persist in prayer – not necessarily prayer for a “do-over” or for God to “fix” something – but prayer for God to draw me closer to Him, for Him to bless me with the ability to see people and the world through HIS greater perspective instead of from through my own limited limited and skewed vantage point, my courage is restored.

My confidence in Him overshadows my lack of confidence in myself.

The next decision presents itself and I face it with Him. I make plans, giving Him veto power. I make plans knowing the outcome isn’t up to me.

I’ll be honest. I don’t always like the outcome. But I make plans in faith, knowing His ways are higher than my ways.

#memoryverse Proverbs 16:9 ~ give people permission to tell you the truth.

Courage Dear Heart C S Lewis#memoryverse

“The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

It’s January, time for new year’s resolutions and fresh starts. New goals. New plans.

I feel a metaphor coming on.

When I use my GPS to help me get somewhere, I not only have to set a destination, but I have to set my current location.

I don’t know about you, but in life, when I set a goal, I don’t intuitively take an honest, objective look at my current situation. Intellectually, I know that when I want to “go somewhere,” I need to have a clear and realistic understanding of where I am now, before I start trying to figure out how I’m going to get where I’m going. I wish I could say I always take stock of my current situation before I start.

But.

When I STOP and pray about a goal,
when I ask God to show me if the goal is in line with His Word and if it’s a goal He even wants me to pursue,
when I ask for His guidance on how to achieve it,
when I ask Him to show me who and what I need to help me,
I see things much more clearly.

When I genuinely pray for Him to help me figure all that out, the Holy Spirit leads me to reflect, not just on my desires and plans, but also on where I am right now.

rose colored glassesSometimes, that means taking a long hard look in the mirror. An HONEST look. I don’t like seeing my weaknesses. They ain’t pretty. But I need to know the truth.

Sometimes God reveals it to me.
Sometimes God uses people to reveal it to me.
Sometimes the truth comes unsolicited and wrapped in emotionally charged language. I can dismiss the words because they were spoken in anger instead of “in love” but when I’m smart (and brave), I strip away the emotion and search the content for nuggets of truth.

Just because feedback is mean, doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth in it.

Sometimes, I need to give people permission to tell me the truth. Friends, acquaintances, experts, strangers…

When the only feedback someone ever gives me is positive, I usually say that person “blow rainbows.” Their feedback loses credibility with me. It’s statistically improbable that I’m great at everything I do.

Sometimes a friend who loves me will take me aside and tell me a hard truth.
Sometimes I need to ask a friend what they think and give them permission – encourage them – to tell me the truth.
Sometimes, I need to pay people. In my life, I’ve paid therapists and voice teachers to tell me the truth.

And then I need to be quiet and listen. Because my knee-jerk reaction is to explain how they are wrong. How they don’t understand. To try and get them to see things from MY point of view – the point of view I had before I asked for the feedback.

Then, I need to process what I hear. Investigate. Search my heart and the circumstances to determine if there’s truth in the feedback. I’m not the most objective person when it comes to evaluating my “current location.”

Are you making new goals? Pray and ask the Lord to show you your current location.

and “Courage, dear heart.”

“Not by Might. Not by Power. But by My Spirit” says the Lord

In my previous blog post, practice God’s presence. forget. remember. repent. (repeat, ad infinitum), I talked about practicing the presence of God by pretending Jesus was physically present with me everywhere I went. I confessed that, despite my sincere intentions to be aware of God’s presence with me throughout my days and my moments, I chronically forgot Jesus was with me. I realized I couldn’t remember on my own.

I needed help.

I was striving – and struggling – and failing – to consistently engage in an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Christ.

Change is difficult, but I’m a firm believer in the old adage “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” I knew that this intimate, living dependent relationship I so desperately wanted wasn’t going to just happen because I wished it.

It requires intention.
It requires discipline.

Intellect says you make time in your life for the things you love.
Reason says that if you want your life to change you’ll have to do something different.

So I had tried intention and discipline. With the best and strongest of intention.

No matter how “hard” I tried, consistency was elusive. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.

And then, God reminded me of something Paul said:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
Romans 7:15, 18b

solidarity, brother.

My natural inclination is to try harder. But if Paul couldn’t even do it…

My next inclination is to feel guilty about it. Is that What did Paul did? Continuing to read in Romans:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Romans 8:1, 5, 8-9

Intention is needed, but it is not enough.
Discipline is needed, but it is never going to be enough.

Remembering that Jesus is with me everywhere I go requires a dependence on the Holy Spirit.

I could. not. do. it. on my own.

So instead of trying to remember Jesus was with me all day long, I began to pray that the Holy Spirit would remind me that Jesus was with me all day long.

Sounds like semantics, but oh, what a DIFFERENCE.

I already know the Holy Spirit dwells within me because of my relationship with Christ:

Not by might not by power by my spirit Zechariah 4 6

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26

I can’t remember on my own. I can’t do anything on my own. But the Spirit who dwells within me CAN.

Therefore he told me, “These signify the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD who rules over all.”
Zechariah 4:6

So, I stopped “trying” to remember Jesus was with me everywhere I went and I began praying for the Holy Spirit to remind me, again and again and again, of His presence in my life.

Do I forget to ask the Holy Spirit to help me?

of course.

to be continued…

ordering my environment.

I wrote a few weeks ago that when my head is a mess, I am compelled to order my environment. In practical application, this means three things: cleaning. purging. painting.

and I guess decorating. If you count framing stuff I’ve been meaning to frame for…ever. and putting new flooring in downstairs. and getting rid of useless decorative items that just take up space in my house.

Like a bowl of rocks.

seriously.

at one point in my life, I PAID for a bowl of rocks and put them on a flat surface in my house. To hold candles. Candles that are – to this day – still wrapped in plastic.

purging. This particular purge isn’t so bad. The biggest purge I’ve done was after my hysterectomy in 2009. That was bad. My house and it’s contents suffered nearly two years of female neglect because of chronic anemia and limited activity, followed by another 6 months of recovery after the surgery.

This purge is deeper.

A stripping down to basics purge.

On May 31st, I said I wanted “I want every superfluous thing in my house gone. GONE.” I’m looking at EVERYTHING in my house as if I were moving. Would I want to pack it? or get rid of it?

I’ve thrown away and shredded so. much. paper. We’ve already made one trip to the dump. I’ve completely emptied every bathroom cabinet and only put back the things we need. I’ve gotten rid of pointless dust collecting decorations, including the bowl of rocks. I’ve even gotten rid of over 100 books.

I’ve been posting some of my progress on my public facebook page. You don’t even need to have a facebook account to see it.

Yesterday’s facebook post:
An entire pick-up truck load of furniture and multiple boxes of books, clothing, appliances, and pointless decorative dust collectors – all now in the FUMCO Whale of a Sale storage POD. I have zero dining room chairs and I do not care. I didn’t love them and they took up too much space, so they had to go. Based on that criteria, all members of my family will be staying. I suppose the cats can stay too. Tomorrow? The linen closet purge. I have to make room for the single tablecloth and the single set of placemats I’m keeping after giving away my buffet. ‎#pruning ‎#purging

Today’s facebook posts:
11:57am – Can’t decide what to do today. So I’m going to do everything. 5 minutes at a time. & fb/tweet my progress for accountability & motivation.

12:15pm – 1st micro-action of the day: Weeding the rose bed. Took 10 minutes. Love it when a huge bunch of weeds turns out to be a lot of runners.

12:23pm – How many fridge shelves can I clean in 5 minutes? Three. & I cooled off enough to go back outside. I’m gonna need shoes. ‎#microactions

1:15pm – Prune long neglected roses-10 minutes, put roses in vase, download & learn photo editing app-15 min. ‎#microactions (click any of the photos to enlarge)

before_and_after_rose_prune[1]

3:06pm – An hour deep cleaning the kitchen, including the window, the front of the cabinets, the wall, the prints and my cobalt. More dust collecting decorations to get rid of. ‎#microactions

cobalt_glass_in_window[1]

3:13pm – This is going to be hideous. & hot. But tomorrow is yard waste day. Any guesses how long it will take? ‎#microactions

terrace_before[1]

4:06pm – If you do it fast enough, weeding is cardio. (posted “before” pic earlier) ‎#microactions

terrace_after[1]

4:56pm – 20 minutes to make this mess. But my view is much clearer. Gotta bind all this up after I pick PinkGirl up.‎#microactions

tree_trimming_before_and_after[1]

9:28pm – Got on a roll. FavoriteSon and I mowed and he whacked weeds while I bound up what seemed to equate to a small forest. I ran out of daylight. And I may have discovered a new smell. A cross between sunscreen, bug spray, gasoline and sweat. ‎#pruning ‎#purging

yard_waste_day[1]

I took an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory. Hopefully, I’ll be good to go tomorrow. I never did get to that linen closet today.

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series “the search for Joy.”]

I want me to want You.

yes. I did just sing that to the tune of a Cheap Trick song.

But I’m talking to God:

Lord, I want to wake up every morning aware of an innate desire for intimacy with YOU.

I want God not my idea of God CS LewisI want to delight in YOU.

but I don’t.

I call myself a Christian.

but I can’t remember ever, in my entire life, delighting in ONLY God.

In my memory and conscious understanding, I have always…

ALWAYS

tied my delight in the giver

to the gifts He gives.

I’ve tied the protection to the protector. The blessings to the one who blesses.

And most recently, not only have I tied the art with the artist, but I’ve placed my desire for that art in front of the artist.

I’m really starting to hate my mirror.

the view ain’t pretty.

Have I always tied my delight in Him with the delight I experience when I serve Him by doing something that satisfies, assuages my insecurity or bolsters my ego?

Have I ever simply delighted in the giver? Without experiencing the delight of a gift?

Have I ever delighted in the artist? Without finding delight in the art?

Have I ever found delight in the one who blesses, even when the blessings are disguised as trials?

maybe.

but if I have, I can’t remember it.

If I have, it was fleeting and subconscious. Never sustained or intentional. Don’t remember ever being aware of it.

And now? Now that I’ve intentionally chosen to stop doing the things that fill me with delight, when I’ve intentionally decided to find delight ONLY in Christ….

decided.

I decided.

Go ahead. ask me how that “decision” is working out.

dismal. failure.

It would seem I am as completely incapable of deciding to delight in God as I am in sticking to any other goal I’ve ever set for myself.

This another one of those times where I’m extremely thankful for my belief that I am not special.

Surely I’m not the only one who has failed at this particular goal.

I headed straight for the book that introduced me to the idea of delighting myself in God in the first place. John Piper, don’t fail me now. You better show some personal ugly in the middle of all that theology and lofty vocabulary. I need to see some Jack in you, JP.

God must have led me to it, because I have no idea how I found it. I immediately loved the title: “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy

3rd sentence in the Forward:

“When all is said and done, only God can create joy in God.”

Sentences 5, 6 and 7:

“To be satisfied by the beauty of God does not come naturally to sinful people. By nature we get more pleasure from God’s gifts than from himself. Therefore this book calls for deep and radical change-which only God can give.”

My inclination was to head straight for Chapter Twelve “When the Darkness Does Not Lift” but I’m gonna hold off skipping to the end.

Instead, I’m jumping to the chapters on prayer because I’m still wresting with with petitionary prayer in light of my overwhelming awareness of just how selfish I am.

Stay tuned. This could be kinda like watching NASCAR, but for Christians. Either I’m going to crash and burn or there’s an epiphany and a straightaway ahead.

Meanwhile, still listening to this:

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series “the search for Joy.”]

Holy Veruca Salt, Batman.

If you’ve been following along for the last week, you’re probably wondering what the heck is wrong with me.

yeah.

me too.

My husband and a friend have both referred to it as me being “refined by fire.”

I should probably be happy about this.

I’m sure one day I will be.

Meanwhile.

You may be wondering. Where did this come from? Was there a trigger?

yes. yes there was.

two, actually.

AtypicalAtheist posed the following question to me in an email:

“If you didn’t believe that there was some higher being able to influence the course of events, of what possible value would prayer be?”

and immediately, I found myself asking the same question, but going deeper. Do I really believe prayer changes GOD? If God has a sovereign plan, why pray? If He already knows everything, why am I telling Him everything? He doesn’t need reminding. He doesn’t forget. And why do I pray like a widow?

The generic Christian reply is “We pray because Jesus prayed.”

thank you. thank you very much. that clears it right up for me. I’m better now.

not.

Thankfully, I know I’m not that unique. I know someone has asked themself these questions before. I was betting they had written about it.

It would seem I am in good company. Everybody from Pascal to C.S. Lewis to Yancy, to name just a few.

Philip Yancy in his book, “Prayer” said

“I envy, truly I envy, those people who pray in simple faith without fretting about how prayer works and how God governs this planet. For some reason I cannot avoid pondering these imponderables.”

solidarity, brother.

A second thing happened within a matter of days of receiving AtypicalAtheist’s email. God opened a door for someone I know. He provided a phenomenal opportunity. Out of nowhere. Total “God thing.”

And I remembered something I used to say all the time. “God can do ANYthing.” Beyond what we can ask or imagine.

I realized that I couldn’t see God’s hand in something I was pursuing. Tunnel vision pursuing. And none of what I was pursuing was beyond what I could ask or imagine. It was all “reasonable.”

Veruca Salt wants the golden eggand it was all me.

me. me. me. me. me. I wanted what I wanted. the way I wanted it.

and I wanted it now.

Holy Veruca Salt, batman.

The absolute LAST thing I want is to find myself in a “successful” situation and say, “Look at what I did!” instead of “Look what GOD did!”

but I saw it clearly. that’s exactly the direction I was headed.

Not a good look in the mirror for me.

I was a mess.

You combine my inability to reconcile praying petitionary prayers to a sovereign God with a sovereign plan and not seeing God’s hand in what I was pursuing and you’ve got someone who came face to face with hopeless selfishness.

not a good place.

I couldn’t pray.

What does faith look like when you can’t pray?

It’s not pretty.

it’s dark.

it’s a pit.

In my last post, I said that my husband had suggested I re-read Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper and Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Garry Friesen

I said they were both responsible for pivot points in my faith.

It appears I’m at another pivot point in my faith.

When I first read these books, the basic premise each of these guys set forth resonated with me.

In a teeny, tiny nutshell?

Piper – Serving God does not have to be sacrificial. It can be – sometimes it is – but it doesn’t have to be. There isn’t some sort of causal, yin and yang relationship between how much I sacrifice and how much God is pleased with my service. I can serve God by doing what I love and I can find joy in it. God wants me to find joy in serving him with my gifts. The passion I have for doing so was given to me by God. Sacrifice is not the marker of mature spirituality. Enjoying what I do does not mean I am selfish.

Friesen – God doesn’t have a predetermined, detailed individual plan for my life that I have to discover. A plan that is derailed if I make a wrong choice. (THANK GOD. Because if so, I veered off course a long time ago. multiple times.) Friesen’s premise is that the idea of God having a specific, detailed, individual will for each person’s life isn’t supported in scripture. That God has a sovereign will and it does not change. God has a moral will that we are to strive to stay within. Within His sovereign and moral will, God allows us to choose. He gives us the responsibility to choose. He gives us the wisdom to choose. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust Him to work it for His good. Within His sovereign plan.

again, I agree with Piper and Friesen’s basic premises. But some of what they say…

was seriously screwing me up.

I couldn’t reconcile the dichotomies in what I was finding.

Why is it that I can read C.S. Lewis and call him Jack when he gets all puffy and full of himself, but with these two guys I had trouble actually separating the wheat from the chaff?

And I see the chaff.

next time. this post is too long. I wouldn’t have read this far.

and like I said in my last post, if you know me IRL, don’t weird out when you see me. Like you’ve never seen a hot mess when you’ve looked into the mirror before.

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series “the search for Joy.”]

reading. thinking. cleaning. painting. purging.

simplify clarify magnifyWhen my head is a mess, I am compelled to order my environment.

My husband is scared right now.

happy. but scared.

Happy because of all the stuff I’m getting rid of. And I’m getting rid of a LOT of stuff. a LOT of stuff.

Scared because of the honey-do list that goes along with ordering my environment.

poor guy.

I’m so thankful to God for him. He is my density.

In the middle (and at the bottom) of stirring this mess in my head, he said: “You really need to work through this. I don’t recognize you. It’s like you’ve given up. I don’t know whether to encourage you or give you a swift kick in the butt. You’ve lost your mojo.”

mojo. is that another word for faith?

It was bad. I couldn’t even pray.

What does faith look like when you can’t even pray?

it’s not pretty.

I needed to think. I need to think.

And so I clean my house. I paint my house. I purge my house. of books even. over 100 so far. I want every superfluous thing in my house gone. GONE.

GONE I tell you!

physically and metaphorically.

But in the middle of all the thinking I’m reading two books right now.

only two?

I know. But yes. These two are thick.

and heavy.

and not in a benchpress them kind of way.

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper

and

Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Garry Friesen

FirstHusband suggested I re-read these books. Smart guy.

I’ve read both of them before. But I was younger then. Not that much younger. But still.

They were both responsible for pivot points in my faith.

In all my thinking and purging, I need to go back to bones of what I believe and why.

Messy deep digging blog posts ahead.

Even so, if you know me IRL (in real life), don’t weird out when you see me in person. If you’re at a loss about what to say, we can talk about the little blond girl’s face at the end of this commercial. cracks me up every time.

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series “the search for Joy.”]