Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Resting in the Moment

I'm a quick reader. I always have been. As a child the people around me were always astounded by the speed with which I would devour a book. I was pleased at that. I have to admit the recognition felt good. But mostly... mostly I just couldn't wait to find out what happened next.

I'm still that way. It's harder now that my eyesight isn't as good. It takes me longer to focus; longer to make sense of the words on the page. But, still... I've torn through two books today. That's in addition to spending time shopping with my daughter; doing laundry; checking facebook; fixing supper, etc....

I'll admit that the first book was a fairly quick read. The second, though, was a little more intensive... a little more thought-provoking. And there were several times I thought "This is good.... I need to journal and explore this some...." I was anxious, though, to find out where the author was going to end up. This wasn't fun fiction. But I still wanted to see what happened... what the answers were. I tore through it looking for the next good piece of info... figuring I'd journal about it after I'd finished it.

But when I finished... I realized... I don't necessarily remember those things that punched me in the gut as I was reading. I was so anxious looking for the next bit of info, wanting to know how the author dealt with the things in her life... that I blew on through, pushing past everything to get to the "end" and see what was there.

And after I closed the book and started preparing for bed, I realized... I should have stopped. When those bits brought emotion or provoked thought... I should've stopped right then. I should have allowed myself time to process and explore; to discover what meaning and application it had for my own life. But the things that should have been savored and chewed on were gulped down like a fast food meal. My incessant search for knowledge and my incredible drive to find out the ending cheapened the journey my heart could have taken. I went flying past to see what more there was when I should have rested in those moments.... wrestled with those moments, even. It's in those moments of wrestling, after all, that we begin to know God... that we begin to know ourselves. But my insatiable need to know the ending... to gather all the knowledge... took me right past all that.

And it dawned on me... how often I do that.

As a child I was always anxious for that next milestone. I may have been the only Kindergartner asking "When are we going to start getting homework?" No wonder my classmates had issues with me! LOL! But, seriously, I couldn't wait to be older... each milestone reached only meant a renewed hunger for the next one. It's only natural, I suppose. And yet, in the quiet of this night... and in the reflection of a book I should have journaled through rather than sped through... it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, I need to be more purposeful about being here, in the moment God has me in right now... and less concerned with trying to get to what's next.

The end will come, after all. It's there waiting. I don't really need to miss the journey in trying to get there.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

31 Days - Falling

I have a confession to make. Whenever I see the "trees" starting to grow in the gutters at my parents' home, I cringe and hope that my sister can talk her husband into taking care of the problem. No, I'm not really that lazy. I hate feeling like I'm shirking work. But any more than one or maybe two steps up the ladder and my heart starts pounding furiously. With the death-grip on the ladder, my hands wouldn't be much good for doing anything useful, anyway.

I'm also not one of those people you'll see peering over the edge of a canyon with fascination. Sure, it's beautiful. And I appreciate God's handiwork immensely. But unless there's a fairly high and very sturdy guardrail, I will be appreciating it from a safe distance. A very safe distance. Okay, maybe a slightly paranoid distance.

Because if I'm honest? I have to admit that just standing on our bed to change the direction of the air vent in the ceiling causes me to feel disoriented and unbalanced. I steady myself against a wall or by touching the ceiling because I feel sure I am going to lose my balance and topple over. Hello? It's a queen-sized bed, for crying out loud! Even if I did lose my balance, it's a fairly soft place to land! So why on earth does it induce panic?

I'm fairly sure it's not because my parents warned me against jumping on the bed as a kid....

It's because... my fear for the final day of 31 Days of Fear:

I am afraid of falling.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. History – my history – proves falling can be dangerous – and that I have a certain proclivity for it! There's the ankle I tore getting on a horse in college (yes, getting on... that was fun to explain to the ER staff). And the other ankle I tore up several years ago getting down (yes, down) from putting decorations on our Christmas tree. And the knee I messed up as a teen on my first (and only) snow-skiing trip (yes, in Indiana... and no, I don't have any plans to ever go again). Falling happens. Especially to me, it seems. And it usually hurts. So there's some truth in the fear. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

When I first considered writing on this topic, I thought I would be talking about a fear of heights. I don't like being on the edge of a cliff... I don't like being on a roof... I don't like being on a ladder. But as I started thinking about it, I realized it wasn't really the height that bothered me.

You see, when we were in Hawaii several years ago we did a helicopter tour – with the doors taken off. The pilot warned us that takeoff can unnerve some people. We shot straight up and banked and I laughed out loud. Seriously! I loved every minute of it. Except... I did have a death grip on my camera. Truth is, I was even afraid to switch from my SLR to my videocamera – I was sure I'd drop them out the gaping hole of a door if I tried. I may have been strapped in, but my camera wasn't!

And a few years before that, Carl and I spent a day at an amusement park. Despite his fear of heights, I managed to talk him into trying Cedar Point's newest roller coaster, Millennium Force. At the time it was the highest, steepest, fastest coaster in the world, breaking six different world records. I loved it! My hands were up all the way with a grin on my face the entire time. (BTW - the hands-up isn't a show of bravery... it actually helps lift your body for that coveted "air time" – which I love!) It was a blast! At least I thought so. Carl hated it.

So... how can I feel panicked while simply standing on a bed and yet laugh out loud in a helicopter with no doors... or throw my hands up with a smile on the world's fastest, highest, steepest roller coaster?

As I thought about it, I realized it's not really a fear of heights. It's a fear of falling (or dropping something important). Still, why am I panicked on the bed and positively giddy on the roller coaster?

I think it comes down to one thing: trust. What am I trusting? You see, if I really look at it...

Fear reveals something about my faith and trust.

If I am standing on a roof; the edge of a cliff; or even my bed, the only thing I have to trust is my own sense of balance. Myself. And I don't trust myself. I know I mess up. There's fear; and quite frankly, a reason for the fear.

When I am on a roller coaster preparing to plunge from a staggering height at unbelievable speeds and I'm smiling about it? You have to know that I am trusting in something I believe to be far greater (and more reliable) than myself. I'm strapped in; secured by the safety arm. There is no fear. There is only joy and an anticipation of that moment of weightlessness where I feel like I'm flying; feeling free... and yet safely confined... by arms I trust more than I do my own.

So... fear is a flag:

Fear gives me the opportunity to stop and ask,
"Am I trusting in myself? Or Someone greater?"

King David wrote:
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
(Psalms 20:7-8, NIV)

Chariots and horses were the tanks and fighter jets of the day. They represent the strength and power of men. But David says those who trust in them will fall. Deep down I think we know that. We know we're not infallible. That's why we fear:

We fear because we're trusting in the wrong things.

We trust in chariots and horses; in ourselves and things of this earth. And we know they are not infallible... that we are not infallible... and so we fear.


We fear because we're not fully trusting in the right things.

David says that those who trust in the Lord will stand firm. So if we trust Him – really trust Him – there's no reason to fear, right? God is perfect. His plan is perfect. His love is perfect. It's what we've been told all our lives. Sometimes we even smile and repeat it back during the tough times... maybe trying to convince ourselves as much as everyone around us. It's what we're supposed to believe. We're not supposed to question; not supposed to doubt; not supposed to fear. Because perfect love casts out all fear, right? (1 John 4:8).

But.... What do we do with that when cancer strikes our friend, leaving her kids with no mother... or a drunk driver takes the life of a child? What do we do with it when our spouse walks out the door... or our teen is trapped by an addiction? What do we do with it when we look at the harm in our own lives and wonder, "Where was God? Why did He let that happen?" What do we do with it when we feel like we're falling hard and fast into a pit of darkness? And what do we do with it when Jesus himself tells us that we will have trouble in this world? (John 16:33)

If God doesn't keep the bad stuff from happening, how can we not fear? How can we really trust Him to protect us when we know He lets us fall?

I asked my psychologist that same question a few months ago. He asked me to consider what it was I was actually trusting God for. As I considered it and we talked about it, I suddenly remembered something I'd written after another tough season over a decade ago:

August, 2002
About a month ago I asked a question about regaining the blind faith I realized I'd lost. I don't know that you do get that same "blind" faith back, but I think maybe what you do gain is even more valuable. I don't have that same naivety. But somehow my trust is actually, I believe, even stronger. Somehow I think trusting having seen the danger that's out there is more valuable than "trusting" while oblivious to it. It doesn't take much trust if you don't see the dangers.... Kind of strange to explain, but the faith I'm finding I have now is even more sustaining. I think that before all this I trusted Him to keep me from falling. It seems quite naïve, but it really didn't dawn on me how precarious of a position this life is or how hard a fall He might actually let me take. Now I trust Him to keep me in the fall and I think that's more than trusting Him to keep me from the fall.


As I think about that, my mind goes back to that roller coaster. My favorite part of the ride is that moment of weightlessness at the top where you feel like you're flying. But falling is still part of the ride; part of the plan. When that safety bar was locked into place and the ride started moving, I knew I was going to fall. No question. But I wasn't scared because I trusted those arms – greater than mine – to hold me in place during the fall. You see, they weren't there to keep me from the fall, but to keep me in the fall. Huh. Just like my journal entry.

That's the truth I need to hold onto:

God won't always keep me from the fall... but He will always keep me in the fall.

He promised through Moses:

"The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.
He will not fail you or forsake you.
Do not fear or be dismayed."
(Deuteronomy 31:8)

Truth is, that coaster was falling. I was falling. But I wasn't falling alone and that made all the difference. The arms were there to ensure I was held safely in the fall... controlled within the boundaries set by the creators; not flailing around on my own. I trusted the arms... I trusted the creators and their design – even though I had no idea what was ahead or how exactly it all worked. I trusted... and I enjoyed the ride.

Is that kind of trust easy in real life? No. Carl couldn't trust the coaster and spent the entire ride desperately wanting to abandon ship. And if I'm honest, there are times in this life when the ride gets a little rough and my head bangs against the safety bar and I think "This isn't so fun! I'm scared and I don't understand what's happening. Get me off – now!"

But that fear... it gets my attention... it asks what it is I'm trusting... and it points out where I'm not trusting. I've had to wrestle with that more than once. If I'm honest, I still wrestle with it. And I will most likely wrestle with it the rest of my life. That kind of trust just isn't easy. At all. But when you've wrestled it to the ground (yet again), for that moment you can actually grasp it... it's amazing.

The rest of that entry from August, 2002:
Now I KNOW bad things can happen... and yet there's more peace and trust than I ever remember really having before. I don't have any more answers now than I did at the point when I was angry, when I was throwing accusations God's way, or when I realized I'd lost my trust. And I can't tell you where that anger and distrust went. Only that it's gone. Only that once I admitted it, God took it. And in its place is a faith, but a different faith. Maybe it's kind of like the difference between believing what you can see and believing even when you can't see anything. Maybe it's the difference between just being oblivious and actually trusting. I don't know... but for the first time in my life, I don't have to look for answers. I'm NOT looking for answers, not trying to figure out the game plan. I don't need to know. My sense of well-being isn't based on figuring it out and knowing where He's taking me or why He's doing what He's doing. I'm at rest, at peace. I am just content to be.

You see... the psalmists had it right:

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
(Psalms 125:1)

... we rise up and stand firm.
(Psalms 20:8, NIV)

So as I wrap up this series on 31 Days of Fear (& Truth) I'd just encourage you to ask, "What is it that my fear is revealing?" Are you trusting yourself, leaning on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)? Or are you trusting Someone greater than yourself?

Father God, thank You for this journey of looking into my fears and for the things You've shown me through it. I have to admit that it's still hard to trust sometimes. It's easy to look at the pain of the past and think I need to protect myself. It's easy to get scared and brace for impact. But help me to remember that the fall is part of the ride. Without it, there would never be that moment of flying. And while You may not keep me from the fall, You will always be there keeping me in the fall. You're the Creator. You've laid out the course and set the parameters. And I can trust Your arms to keep me safely within them. I will struggle with that, at times, Father. Probably more often than not. But I know that even in the struggle You hold me. And I want to be able to hear You say, "Buckle up!" and look into Your eyes with a smile, throw my hands up in the air and say...
"I'm in... let's fly!"

Fear: I am afraid of falling.

  • Fear reveals something about my faith and trust.
  • Fear gives me the opportunity to stop and ask,
    "Am I trusting in myself? Or Someone greater?"
  • We fear because we're trusting in the wrong things. (Psalms 20:7-8)
  • We fear because we're not fully trusting in the right things. (Psalms 20:7-8)
  • God won't always keep me from the fall (John 16:33)... but He will always keep me in the fall. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  • Those who trust in the Lord cannot be shaken but will endure forever. (Psalms 125:1)
  • Trusting in God allows me to stand firm. (Psalms 20:7-8)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).

Monday, January 25, 2016

31 Days - Desire

photo by Kayla Dietz

Don't ask me to make a decision. I can't do it. Seriously, I've been known to laugh as I point out that it takes me 20 minutes to make a decision in McDonald's – before they expanded their menu to include wraps, etc.! Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration... but only slight. And....

I have to admit that nearly every time my husband asks where I want to eat, my answer is the same: "I don't know."

What do I want to do? "I don't know."

If I could have one wish.... "I don't know."

What's my favorite.... "I don't know."

Over ten years ago I wrote:
Our small group is on marriage enrichment. Carl asked the question, "Yeah, but what if SHE doesn't know what she needs?" Afraid that the group would think he was being funny, I looked at our leader and told him, "Ummm... it's a real question."
And... I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

Do you see a pattern?

Until recently, I didn't really see the connection between any of those things. I thought I was just easy-going at best; indecisive at worst. I'm beginning to see things just a little differently.

I think I have attempted, as best as I know how, to kill desire. I don't recognize my own wants or needs because I've done my best to kill them. I'm not sure of all the reasons, but I at least know some of them. Ranging from my childhood sexual abuse, to friends turned bullies at school... desire for relationship was dangerous – it was a weakness which opened me up to pain. Other desires felt unattainable; out of reach; and therefore foolish. (To be accepted by my peers; skate like an olympic ice skater; sing like Amy Grant; write like John-Boy Walton....). And those desires I didn't label as foolish, I usually labeled as selfish or wrong.

Desire made me weak; foolish; or a jerk (or all of the above). And that... usually brought the sting of rejection. And so somewhere along the line I decided it was better to kill desire than to feel its pain. It just hurt too much.

So... my fear for Day Thirty:

I am afraid of desire.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. History – my history – proves desire can be dangerous. Even scripture tells us "but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed." (James 1:14, NIV). So there's some truth in the fear: desire is dangerous. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids - blind, lame, and paralyzed.
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him,
"Do you want to be healed?"
(John 5:2-6,ESV)

Evidently there was a belief that at times an angel would stir the water and the first person to then enter the pool would be healed. So as Jesus passes by this pool with a multitude of invalids waiting for such a stirring, he sees a man lying on his mat who has been paralyzed for 38 years. Jesus stops... looks at him... and asks... "Do you want to be healed?"

Imagine for a moment the indignation of that man... "Do I want to be healed? What kind of crazy question is that?" He may have even believed for a moment that he was being mocked. I'm sure it wasn't the first time. He was lying at the edge of a pool with no way to get in – even if the waves did come, he had no one to help him. I can hear the taunts he's suffered at times: "How do you think YOU'RE going to get in there, cripple? Huh? Get real – you're never going to make it. Why don't you just go home?" He's heard it all before... and in truth it echoes the same despair that he feels in his own heart. Noone is going to help him. Noone ever has. Noone ever will. Noone cares. He's alone. And he's been lying on that mat a long time. A. LONG. Time.

Honestly, how long can we hold onto desire that is continually denied? A year? Two years? Five? Ten? Twenty? How about... thirty-eight? Ummmm... yeah. That's tough. We all eventually move to a place where we begin to protect our heart – numbing it with resignation or even bitterness. We find ways to deaden the pain. Maybe it's biting cynicism as we lash out at others. Maybe it's sitting down with a full container of ice cream and a spoon. Or maybe it's disengaging and "vegging out" in front of a TV, or my favorite – a book. Whatever our method, we try to find a way to build calluses around our tender hearts... to kill the pain of unmet desire... to kill desire. And I think what I am discovering is that you can't just kill one desire. Where one is damaged, others will follow. Like dominoes, they fall until there are none left.

Proverbs 13:12 tells us that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." I believe that's where this man is. Heartsick. Numb. He's an odd mix of hope and hopelessness. He's there, yet he really doesn't believe he has a chance. Not daring to dream, he's lost the heart-connection to his desire. He's just going through the motions. He has no answers to those who might mock him and ask "How are you ever going to get in there first, old man?"

And now someone stands above him asking, "Do you want to be healed?" What kind of question is that?! But when he looks up into Jesus' face, he doesn't see mockery. He sees compassion. He doesn't see rejection. He sees an invitation. And as he searches his heart for the answer, I think he feels something that was nearly dead begin to stir in his heart again. Desire. Yes, he wants to be healed. And his heart beats a little faster as he dares to dream. Maybe this man with eyes full of compassion would actually help him into the water....

But Jesus doesn't even look at the pool. He looks at the man. Actually, He looks in the man. He doesn't need the stirring of the water. He wants the stirring of his heart. He sees success in what's happening inside the man's heart, not in the pool.

Jesus wants to stir and awaken our desire!

We see a similar story in Matthew 20:29-32 where two blind men call out to Him. The crowd wants the men to be quiet, but Jesus stops and asks the two men, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

You can't tell me that Jesus didn't know what they wanted. So what was the purpose of His question?

I think He wanted to stir their hearts enough that they would give voice to their desire. Sometimes that's hard. If I give voice to a dream that seems out of my reach, I look foolish to the people around me. "Who am I to dream something so big?" So I keep quiet. Sometimes I'm afraid to give voice to it because it seems selfish. So I keep quiet. Sometimes I'm afraid to give it voice because denial (rejection) would hurt too much. So I keep quiet.

The crowd tells these two men the same thing I tell myself sometimes: "Be quiet!" But Jesus tells them (and me): "Tell me. Don't listen to the voices telling you to be quiet. I'm telling you to speak up! Dare to dream! Dare to ask. Dare... to give voice to desire."

Jesus wants us to have faith enough to admit to and give voice to our desire!

He's serious about that. We're even told in James 4:2 that we have not, because we do not ask.

So why is Jesus so interested in stirring our desire?

I don't think I'm the only one who has been hurt or disappointed by desire. And I don't think I'm the only one who has denied desire. But here's the thing: if I attempt to deny desire, I'm not just killing desire – I'm making an assault on hope. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "We can only hope for what we desire." Think about it: we can have desire without hope, but we can never have hope without desire. Hope can't exist without desire!

The New Testament is full of messages about hope. In fact, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that the three foundational things to the Christian life are faith, hope and love. And 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be prepared to give an explanation for where our hope comes from. Peter indicates that our hope is what draws people to us; to our story; to our Savior. He tells us to be ready with an explanation when we're asked about it. And yet... there aren't many people knocking down the doors to our churches asking us about our hope. Why? I think it's because we've dulled our desire. Our hope is mild and bland because our desire is bland.

People should see and want our hope. But hope cannot exist without desire.

But Jesus doesn't want to stir our desire just for the benefit of others:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
(John 10:10 )

The thief comes to steal our joy. He also wants to steal our desire. He works to turn the desires God places in our hearts – misdirecting them towards his own purposes. If he can't steal our desire, he will work to kill it. He is even crafty enough to get us to do his dirty work for him – convincing us to kill our own desire. And in stealing our joy and killing our desire, his main objective is met: he destroys any effect we might have for the Kingdom of God. Without joy and without desire we are no longer a threat.

Jesus sets Himself in complete opposition to satan's purposes, though. Jesus tells us that He came so that we could live life abundantly; life to the full. We don't live abundantly when we are vegging out in front of the TV, numbing our desire and deadening our hearts. We live abundantly when we dare to dream; when we dare to give voice and pursue it; when we dare to reach to be all that God created us to be. And we just can't do that without desire.

Jesus came so that we could live life to the fullest and we can't do that without desire.

Look again at Proverbs 13:12:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
(Proverbs 13:12)

What does it really mean to say that "desired fulfilled is a tree of life?"

Genesis 3:22-24 tells us that our access to the tree of life was blocked after the first sin (eating from the tree of knowledge). God took it seriously enough that He posted guards with flaming swords to protect us from it. (Yes, to protect us, but that's another thought for another post).

In Revelation 2:7 and 22:14 we're told that we'll regain access to the tree of life in heaven. But for now? In between Genesis and Revelation? For now we don't have access to the tree of life. So what does it mean that desire fulfilled is a tree of life?

The first part of Proverbs 13:12 tells us that hope deferred leaves us heartsick. It saps our strength and leaves us weakened... despondent. But second part of the verse tells us that desire fulfilled renews our strength and rejuvenates us – bringing life back to the despondent, deadened heart. It is as if we were in Eden – resurrected and plucking the fruit from the tree of life.

Desire fulfilled gives us a taste of Eden – what our lives were meant to be.

And that... that is the way Jesus intends us to live... with a taste of Eden... an abundant life... and a desire for more.

Oh, Father... I wish I weren't so afraid of desire... afraid of looking foolish; afraid of rejection; afraid of pain. I want to reach out for desire... and I know that's what You want for me... what You want from me.... and yet I pull back and put up walls to protect my heart. Oh, Daddy, I'm sorry. Sorry for joining with satan to kill something that You meant to be beautiful. It's scary to even think about, but I'm swallowing hard and asking You to give me the strength to break that agreement with evil; to instead reach out for the desire that You want to stir within me. Help me dare to dream... dare to desire... dare to live life... and dare to live it... abundantly!

Fear: I am afraid of desire.


  • Jesus wants to stir and awaken our desire! (John 5:2-6)
  • Jesus wants us to have faith enough to admit to and give voice to our desire! (Matthew 20:29-32; James 4:2)
  • People should see and want our hope. But hope cannot exist without desire. (1 Peter 3:15; C.S. Lewis)
  • Jesus came so that we could live life to the fullest and we can't do that without desire. (John 10:10)
  • Desire fulfilled gives us a taste of Eden – what our lives were meant to be. (Proverbs 13:12)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).