Breakfast with a stranger.

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I dropped my car off at the shop for an oil change and tire rotation. An hour later, I got the dreaded phone call–apparently the little noise I asked the mechanic to check out was just one of a long litany of problems with my aging vehicle.

Because my car was going to be out of commission for several hours, I walked over to the Goodwill where I found a journal/workbook to keep me busy for awhile and then headed to a nearby diner for the duration. When I flipped through the pages of the journal at the store, it looked brand new–but now I could see that someone had filled in the first few pages.

So as I ate my eggs and bacon, I opened the book and started reading the reflections of the previous owner. It felt a little weird–a little wrong even–to be going through a stranger’s diary, but I couldn’t help myself. And it wasn’t really like I was snooping. After all, it was my journal now.

It was clear that she was struggling with some things–the same kinds of things I struggle with. She thought her life would be more together by now. She wondered how–or if–she would be able to accomplish all that was on her plate. And she too wrestled with pursuing her life purpose, which seemed to be far bigger than her available resources. I looked to see if she had written her name and phone number on the inside cover so I could call her, if only just to say, “Me too.”

She was at a crossroads. I am too. Wondering if I should continue my work, which feels like my calling, even though it no longer comes with a sufficient salary. The crazy thing is, even as my paycheck is reduced, I feel like God is giving me a bigger vision and asking me to expand my reach. His reach.

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This is the way.

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I’ve been seeing this George Bernard Shaw quote splattered across Twitter and Pinterest and I just have to say NO. That is not what life is about. For the record, Shaw was a eugenist who also said “If we desire a certain type of civilization and culture we must exterminate the sort of people who do not fit into it.” So there’s that.

As for you–you have already been created. You don’t have to waste your time recreating what God has made (in His image no less) and called good. We are under the illusion that we have an infinite selection of paths upon which to walk, limited only by our imaginations, when the reality is that God prepared a way uniquely designed for you. And we stumble around aimlessly hoping for some cosmic compass, when God says if you veer off the path, listen for My voice and I’ll get you back on track.

It’s so simple.

But we’re just like the ancient Israelites. Their mandate was clear: Get out of Egypt and go take the Promised Land. Be strong and courageous. Fight for your freedom. Possess your birthright. I’ll be with you the whole way.

But when they saw the giants–the mountain of debt with no foreseeable way to pay it off or whatever your giant looks like–they panicked. A bunch of them decided the Promised Land was not really their thing and proceeded to create another version of themselves which they no doubt tweeted about endlessly. Their whole lives were spent railing against who God made them to be and desperately seeking some more reasonable and appealing reality.

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine. In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,but you would have none of it.” Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” | Isaiah 30

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Pleasing God.

walkinfog“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Thomas Merton

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Birthright.

birthrightHave been sick all day with something I think I inhaled while pulling up the old carpet in my soon-to-be office over the weekend. Felt miserable…but the down time allowed me to read a friend’s work on birthright. I’ll be honest, it’s pretty depressing so far–a long litany of biblical characters who forfeited their birthright, mostly out of fear. Fear of not fitting in, of losing popularity, of having to engage the enemy. As scary as it is to fight giants as you occupy your Promised Land, there is nothing more terrifying than facing God after having surrendered your birthright. The thought that God gave me a priceless gift and I lost it because I was too self-absorbed or wounded or careless to cultivate it is devastating. And yet it is the exact thought that has manifested as a vague but disabling sense of anxiety over the past year. As I think about it, this is probably what prompted the post on deliverables. The conversation with my boss touched a nerve–deep down, I am afraid I will never be what I was supposed to be.

I’m hoping the book includes some good news on the possibility of recovering your birthright, even after you’ve made some spectacularly mediocre decisions.

Desperately seeking clarity.

20130321-000540.jpgA few days ago, I scheduled a visit with my former boss, who did not survive the recent election cycle. I wanted to let him know what an honor it had been to work for him and to wish him all the best in his future endeavors. He tried to be upbeat, but in the middle of our conversation he looked at me and said, “Even though you know there’s always the possibility you can lose, you don’t really think you will. There was so much still left to do.”

And maybe he will have the opportunity in some other capacity to do some of those things. Or maybe not. In any case, he won’t be able to do them with a title that opens doors and creates momentum to make things happen.

In the days since our meeting, his words have haunted me. I feel the same way. A little dazed and confused at a time in my life when I desperately need clarity and focus. Feeling that the door has closed to accomplishing some things that could have been significant and looking for some other access to my calling.

So now I find myself at the cusp of a decision. I’m back east, wondering if I should jump back in to the frying pan I kissed goodbye to {scorched lips and all} this time last year.

How I need a shot of God confidence and certainty right now. Confidence that He still loves me, regardless of the outward state of my life and the mediocre choices I’ve made. And certainty that I can still fulfill His purpose for me.

Morning joy to evening mourning.

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Spent a joyful morning catching up with a friend over tea, with a slight hiccup in that we each went to different cafes. Turns out the funky place I thought was unique in all the world has a twin. When we managed to finally get ourselves in the same location at the same time, we enjoyed what ended up being a three-hour conversation about the state of the world and our purpose in it. She is passionate about protecting the dignity of women by giving them meaningful options to abortion in the form of tangible resources and I felt a little like a traitor to the cause because I work for a non-profit organization with a different focus.

This evening I “liked” Phil Cooke’s Facebook page. He’s the author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born To Do, which is all about…well, that. When I stumbled upon his page, Phil had posted the question “Think fast, what are you supposed to do with your life? What’s the one big thing you were born to do?”

I should just be able to blurt out the answer without thinking at this point in my life, but I can’t. It’s a question that haunts me every single day. Most days I work hard to create enough important busy-ness to drown it out.

I can rattle off at least thirty-seven things I think I should be doing or might like to do in the future…and I can add another dozen things other people think I need to have been doing for quite some time, but I can’t really say with any degree of certainty I was born to do any of them.

I believe the most profound sense of joy has to come from knowing you are right in the heart of God’s plan for your life…being all He created you to be and doing that one big audacious thing He created you to do.

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time…I’m talking decades here…poking around the edge of whatever that thing is, yet never striking into the heart of it. And I feel simultaneously disappointed in myself for missing what should be obvious and angry with God for hiding it from me.

The truth is, I sometimes wonder if I forfeited my purpose like Esau forfeited his. Did I trade it in for the pursuit of lesser things? For things that produce temporal happiness, but never joy?

I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness, or cared to live until I chose to die. For these two discoveries I am beholden to Jesus. {Malcolm Muggeridge}

Five women.

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The first disguised herself as a cult prostitute in order to seduce her father-in-law. The second was a common street hooker who harbored enemy fugitives in her home and then lied to the authorities about having committed a treasonous act. The third belonged to a culture that burned their children alive. The fourth was a newlywed when she had an affair with a man who later arranged to have her husband killed. And the fifth was a teenager who was engaged to be married but then became pregnant by someone else. Her fiancé agreed to marry her anyway so the baby would have a father, but planned to divorce her right after the wedding.

Characters in a trashy reality TV show?

Hardly.

These are the leading ladies in the lineage of Jesus. They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. But these women were hand-selected by God to bring forth His own Son to save humanity from our sin. While the “good” women in the family tree went largely nameless, these five are explicitly mentioned in the opening paragraphs of God’s New Testament to humankind.

I love that He weaves the most unlikely among us through His redemption tapestry.

Occupation

One of the more troubling things about the rapture as it has been taught in many evangelical churches over the past 30-40 years is that we now have a generation that not only expects, but practically demands that it happen in their lifetime. It’s a weird kind of entitlement mindset.

Not unlike the Hebrews as they wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. They were so frustrated that God did not immediately deposit them into paradise after rescuing them from bondage that most of them never got where they were supposed to go.

Jesus said to occupy until He comes.

oc·cu·py:
1. To fill up time or space
2. To seize possession of and maintain control over by or as if by conquest.

Which will it be?

Got light?

These are challenging days in America. Everything that can be shaken seems to be shaking and there are times when evil appears to have the upper hand.

Our inclination is to look helplessly to God to rescue us from the impending night. While the impulse to look up is proper, Jesus told us we are the light of the world. As long as light is out in the open, it will obliterate darkness simply by its presence.

Detractors would argue that the church has grown cold. That she has lost her fire.

I disagree. The church is hot, but her flame is not always obvious.

Jesus said people don’t light a candle only to cover it up. I think He was being optimistic.

He also said to let our light shine before others so they can see our good works. But these days we’re apt to be selective about where we let our light shine. After all, a shining light in a dark place is likely to be noticed and may even attract unwelcome attention. Let’s face it, Jesus was the Light of the world and look what the world did to Him.

But at the end of the darkest day, the Light prevailed. Always has. Always will.

On occupying while Rome is burning.

The war creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life.” Life has never been normal.

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He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself.

C.S. Lewis: Learning in War-Time, 1939