Monthly Archives: September 2016

The myth of “doing God’s will”

I believe that if I’m doing God’s will than I should feel no pain.

A life long study of the Bible has taught me this is a myth and yet, I still choose to believe it with all of my heart until I can no longer bear the weight of believing the lie. Isn’t it strange that my heart chooses this lie over the truth time and time again, constantly seeking comfort and security and a longing to get “it” right. The second half of the myth sounds like, “When I get “it” right, when I truly hear from God, when I’m doing what He wants me to do then I’ll arrive at some sort of finish line.”

The finish line I am looking for resembles a overstuffed comfy chair with the softest afghan draped over the back and steaming hot cup of coffee with cream and sugar. In my mind it’s a place where I can rest and am rewarded for figuring out the mystery of “God’s will.” There will still be work to do but it will all align with my strengths, my desires, my wisdom. And God will say something like, “Well, you finally got “it” right. I’ve been wondering how long it would take you.” And then we’d happily be hand in hand doing the good work of the Lord in the way he always intended it to be done. Me, God, good work, no pain.

This is a story I’ve created to help me navigate the world’s disappointments and my misunderstanding of God’s love and plan for me and everyone else around me. Jesus himself promised that, “in this world we will have trouble,” but who wants to really believe that? I’d rather choose a different ending, thank you very much.

I’m part of a book launch team right now for a book called, Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin, which is the story of Dutch immigrants and their journey to search for religious freedoms in the United States. The pilgrimage for the main character, Geesje, is filled with heart break month after month as they travel far away from home to an undeveloped forest near Lake Michigan that is one day called Holland. She left the comfort and warmth and security of a home she knew and loved and followed her parent’s on this life altering journey only to find that life as she had once known it was gone, with no hope of return. At one point she asks:

“Why are we suffering in this place when all we wanted to do was obey God and follow where He led us?”

It’s an honest question. One I have asked myself more than once in my life. I have never known suffering like Geesje but still…”why?” Have you ever sat with tears pouring out of your eyes and begged the Father to reveal something to you that you just couldn’t understand?

As a Bible scholar, sometimes I pick and choose what verses I want to focus on, which ones I will read and which ones I will choose to ignore. It’s not a practice I would recommend you follow, there are huge flaws in my plan. Nevertheless, there are days that I want to be the one Isaiah was writing about when he wrote:

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

I picture myself soaring like the boy in the movie, The Neverending Story, with the wind in my hair and the warmth of the sun on my face. It’s glorious! Isaiah painted a picture of a glorious and safe ride if we place our hope in God. I don’t want struggle or question or hurt while I look for God’s plan.

My girlfriend told me a story a few days ago about how the eagle mom’s take care of their young. You see, there are steps involved if one is to soar on eagle’s wings. There is a process.

Eagle Nest

She told me that when a momma eagle has built a secure nest it is large and soft and filled with down feathers. It is a safe place, the safest actually for the baby eaglets. She brings them food, she shelters them from the cold and rain and wind. The mother bird does everything she can to insure that the baby birds will grow and mature and become independent.

But there comes a time when she decides they need to leave. No alarm clock goes off, there is no outside warning for the baby birds but one day the mother bird starts to take the nest apart, twig by twig. She pulls and tugs on the structure, she starts to take all the soft down feathers that once made the place a comfortable and warm home and throws them over the edge of the nest so they can fall to the ground. She makes the nest more and more uncomfortable and unstable until the baby birds can no longer rest or sit or lay down in the nest. They have no choice but to teeter, gripping the outside edge of the nest with their talons shaking from the wind and afraid of how high they are hovering over the ground. And just when it seems like it can’t get any worse, mom takes off and leaves the nest.

Now what?

In a few seconds, or maybe it’s a minute or two…she swoops down by the side of the nest all the while calling to them and instructing them to jump. She may need to do this multiple times but eventually, the baby birds have to choose to jump, putting their trust in their mother, hoping that she will catch them. And she does. Then they “mount up on eagle’s wings.”

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And it occurs to me that this is just the beginning for them.

That finish line that I’m longing for, the one where I finally arrive and can rest. I think that is the longing God put in my heart to remind me that this world is not my home. That this place where I stand right now, this life that I know so well is just the beginning. I believe in eternity but it’s very hard to think “in” eternity.

There are days, sometimes weeks or whole seasons when I’m gripping the side of my situation, wondering why and how I got there. Looking around and feeling as if God has left the building and I am all alone.

I pray, “Thy will be done.”

And I hope. I hope because I’m promised that those whose hope is in the Lord will mount up on eagle’s wings, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint.”

A wise man I know often tells me to look for the right questions, I don’t think “Why?” is the right question.

I think there must be a better question.

I’m choosing HOPE today my friends, how about you?

 

51jm4prd8hlWaves of Mercy, by Lynn Austin will be released on October 4 and will be available where ever books are sold. www.lynnaustin.org

 

Re-route…re-route…re-route…

I was driving to my mom’s house to pick up a friend and to take her to a speaking engagement in a town about 45 minutes away. I live in “Chicago-land” which means everything is at least 30 minutes away and the towns stretch out one after another for hours until you reach Iowa.

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So I pulled out my Waze GPS app on my phone.  Before I left my house I plugged in the address of where we were going and I started driving to my mom’s which was no where near our final destination. As I made my way up LaGrange Rd my Waze app continued to re-route, re-route, make a U-turn, re-route and look for new routes to the destination I had requested. The further I got from my starting point the more the app had to work to get me successfully to my destination. The GPS didn’t know that I was intentionally avoiding and ignoring it’s instructions. It continued to remain faithful in routing to me to where I wanted to go over and over again.

Sometimes I wonder if the computer could talk, what would it say after I made the 3rd or 4th wrong turn? How many times would it allow me to go the wrong direction before it finally would say, “just forget it” and give up and shut down.

This picture of my phone screen updating and spinning until it found another pathway for me to travel to get me to where I said I wanted to go feels a lot like today and yesterday and probably tomorrow. A few years ago, I said I wanted to be a writer. I told God, I have something to say, please give me a platform to speak to people.  I started this blog. I joined a speaker’s group.

I wrote a small booklet and sold a few copies…Make Things Happen

and then I stopped. I got scared. I quit for awhile.

Re-route…re-route…re-route…

After some re-routing I found myself bursting with words and ideas and courage so I began to write again. My post about Lucy got more love and more hits than anything I’d ever written before. It was exhilarating!

Lucy and Danielle

 

 

7 months old. She is doing so well. Smiling and growing.

7 months old. She is doing so well. Smiling and growing.

Lucy’s story routed me to a living room where I sat down with an accomplished, published author who was interested in what I had to say. She wanted to give me a platform.

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She believed in me, she wanted to pay me to write and to learn from her and her experience. She was inviting me to come into her writer’s world, to look around and spend some time there.

Re-route…re-route…re-route…

Changing direction isn’t always easy. There’s traffic and lights and pedestrians. If I’m traveling down the road going East and the GPS says take a left, I’m suddenly not going East anymore. That’s a no brainer. But what if going East is all you know? What if you’ve been traveling East for so long that you’ve forgotten how to turn? What if you like going East because you know this route so well, you can travel it with your eyes closed? Driving with your eyes closed is NOT recommended! However, I think I’m guilty. At least here in my preverbal car.

I’ve got to turn and if I don’t my GPS will continue to re-route me until I am heading the right direction, it won’t quit, it won’t relent, it will be faithful to get me where I should be going.

Re-route…re-route…re-route…

I was invited by my author friend to attend the Breathe Writer’s Conference in October, not just invited but the whole experience was offered to me free of charge. I don’t even have to find a place to stay, it’s covered. At first I’m honored and amazed, humored almost. Because in my mind, I hear that too familiar voice whisper, “You’re not a writer. You could never attend that with integrity…you’d be an imposter. And everyone would know it.”

I know this voice, it’s the voice that convinces me I’m less than…can’t measure…have nothing to say… Do you know the one? Do you have that voice? It sounds so logical and it’s incredibly convincing. And when I start to defy the voice it is incredibly effective at stirring up just the right amount of fear and doubt to make me NOT follow the GPS directions.

The most hopelessly lost I’ve ever gotten on a trip is when I have a GPS but I refuse to follow it’s direction. I look at the screen and think, that can’t really be what it wants me to do and I decide that I know better and suddenly I’m lost and being re-routed again.

My friend, the author, she made me register for the conference. She made me take out my laptop and write my name and address in the form and check the boxes that describe my writing. She sat next to me and waited until I was finished and she wouldn’t leave until I had completed the task. I’m so thankful for friends and mentors who sit by me and believe in me when I don’t. I need them. Without them, I’d be hopelessly lost or worse, stuck on the same path never looking to my right or to my left but endlessly driving East.

Re-routing isn’t something to avoid. Re-routing will get us where we want to go eventually. It will be complicated and it may require a U-turn, which can be terribly embarrassing and sometimes even illegal if you don’t do it right. I guess re-routing is just part of the journey. I probably shouldn’t resist it so much? I don’t know. Time for me to go check my GPS screen again and see if I need to make a turn.

I wonder, what path you are traveling right now and if you’ve ever been rerouted? Why did you reroute? And, how do you know when you are back on the right path going the right direction? What do you think?

51jm4prd8hlMy friend, the author, is Lynn Austin. She writes fiction that reads like a devotional. Her latest book, Waves of Mercy, will be released on October 4, 2016. It is the true story of Dutch immigrants who travel across the world to settle Holland, MI. If you are looking for a good read, I highly recommend spending time in any of her books. 

 

Excavating my heart

 

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I have lived in my “new” house for almost 11 years now.  We built this house and when we moved in everything was brand new and it was clean and everything worked. That’s not the case any longer, my carpets are hopelessly “kid” stained, my dishwasher and stove both had to be replaced, the “new” pool needed a new liner this year and the back door now leaks.

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Two weeks ago I watched with dread as an earth mover was delivered to the back field behind my house. One man got out and put up a silt fence and then flags and marked off property lines for another house in the field behind my “new house,” I’ve been afraid of this day since the day I moved in. Early the next morning, I was awoken to the loud sound of that earth mover firing up it’s diesel engine as it prepared to begin the process of digging the foundation for a house that was always expected but never wanted.

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This big empty field has been our backyard since we moved in. The kids have had the joy of playing baseball and football there, it’s been a source of discovery as they have searched for treasure and animals and fossils, we have used this field to fly kites, to blow off rockets, and to build snow forts. We have also used this field as our dumping ground for grass, leaves, sticks, used up jack-o-lanterns and there may even be an old pile of bricks back there, but I’ll never admit they are ours. This big empty field is part of our backyard, except it’s not and now it’s being claimed by it’s rightful owner. And I’m not at all happy about it..as if I have any right to be mad.

That morning I watched the earth mover slowly transform a beautiful field into an ugly eye sore. While I watched, I told God all about my frustration and disappointment and fear of losing the empty field. I told him that I liked the empty field and that it was a good thing and that I didn’t want this new development encroaching on my space.  All the while, the earth mover kept moving the earth and digging deeper into the ground unaware or unconcerned that I was upset at his progress.

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Sometime during my rant to God, a unwanted thought floated through my mind, “What if…what if, this house that you clearly don’t want is the home of your next best friend?  What if…this house behind you becomes the source of one of my biggest blessings in your life?” And with that thought, I started to see the earth mover, my empty field and this new hole in the ground in different light. I started to consider the possibilities, I started to wonder if it was possible that our old field could turn into a new adventure, a new beginning. I watched the earth mover move over the same spot hundreds of times, it looked like it would never accomplish it’s task of digging the new foundation. Every time it would pass by a section to move some dirt, a new section of dirt would fall into the hole that was just created. It’s slow, loud, methodical and purposeful actions were performed over and over and over again until slowly I began to see the foundation take shape.

What if our hearts, our lives, our dreams, our futures were like this empty field and God was the earth mover? I am often content with what I know. I tell my kids all the time that the “crazy you know is better than the crazy you don’t!”  There are so many times when God starts to move things around in my life and I become concerned, angry, whiny and just don’t want him to mess with me. My response to Him, my acceptance of His plan usually doesn’t have any bearing on His work. He continues to slowly and purposefully remove the old dirt from my heart until he has cleared enough away for me to begin to see the plan take shape. It’s my choice to accept his work in my life or to fight it with everything I have. One choice leads to a lot more pain and stress than the other. But even so, it’s still not easy when God is excavating our hearts and lives. The dirt still needs to be moved and shaped and lifted and dumped. Transformation needs to take place and that transformation is always loud and long and something old needs to be taken away in order for something new to take shape.

Right now construction has stopped. It was 24/7 for a few days and now, nothing. There are no workers, no cement trucks, no hammers…nothing. It’s nice to have a reprieve from the noise but I’m stuck looking at an unfinished house. No new “bestie” is moving in any time soon with the house looking like this. And so I wait…

 

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Waiting is one of the most painful and yet constant things in our lives. It requires nothing and it requires everything all at the same time. Here’s the thing I know about the builders of the house, they will be back. I know that this house will not stand like this forever, I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Why don’t I have that much faith in God the Almighty? Why do I doubt that God will finish what he has started in me? I use up so much energy fretting and wondering and pacing…I’m not sure what else I should be doing but telling God about how and when and why and what he should be doing probably isn’t it.

Do I trust God enough to come back? Do I believe that he values me enough to finish me? Do you?

Many times in the Bible God’s people waited on Him to answer their prayers, to save them from trials or to bless them in the face of adversity. This process of learning to trust God had to be taught over and over and over again to each new generation. We are no different than the ancient Israelites.

In Isaiah 43: 19 it says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

Hang on my friends, God is preparing something…it says so in his Word.