Take A Deep Breath and Jump

What if you flyI had a dream last night I can’t shake. I pay attention to those these days.

I was talking with a young woman, whose name I couldn’t recall, but she knew me. She was just about to graduate from college and was scared of loneliness. She knew her choices would inevitably cause drift from people she loved, and she wanted to hunker down in her current life. But graduation was coming. So she laid out a few options and asked what I thought.

I gave her my standard answer.

“I have no idea.”

This woman was clearly the daughter of some friends. I’d just spent the night at their kooky home/restaurant with the Central American vibe, but didn’t run into her until the morning. As she walked me to my car, I said to her:

“I don’t know what you should do, but I do know that any decision you make out of fear or to avoid some scary, unknown territory is the wrong one.”

Then I woke up.

The subconscious is funny isn’t it?

On Friday night, I made a decision to go forward with something that’s been scaring me for months. It requires a lot from me, things I’m not sure I have, and I have no idea how it’s going to work out.

But as I said once, right here on this blog, the Lord is trustworthy but if we remain hermetically sealed inside a world we can easily handle, we give him no opportunity to prove it. 

I believe this is how the Lord grows us up. This is how he’s growing me up, drawing me out of the shallows into the deep, where I’ve got no choice but to fix my eyes and walk. 

For weeks I’ve sensed the Lord saying: I know it scares you, but do it anyway. It’s how you’ll learn I’m right behind you, holding you up, whispering in your ear, this is the way, walk in it.  

More than anything, this is the faith I want for my life.

china-317460_1280

Leaping Tiger Gorge. China.

When in our tightly controlled (and let’s admit it, often boring) Western lives do we make those leaps? I don’t, then I wander around wingeing at God,

“Why don’t you show up and be real?”

Why don’t you show up and do something you actually need me for? 

I want, on a daily basis, to leap from the cliffs of fear-based life management and fly into the wild, so I know what it is to lose my breath and catch it again, to be astonished by the broad and capable arms that hold me.

I didn’t decide to go forward out of fear. I decided because the potential in this move delights me. And that, to me, is the voice of God.

On Grace and Hustle

redwoodsThis morning I was watching one of my favorite pastors, John Ortberg, talk about the cycles of grace. 

And just what living in grace looks like day to day.

But then 20 minutes later something annoying happened, and all that resolve to live in grace slipped off me like soap in the shower.

Maybe that’s a good thing, because knuckling down and trying harder to catch and harness up the unmerited favor of God is frankly, kind of dumb.

Are you smiling with recognition? Yah, we do this.

I’m always trying to find the right balance between grace and hustle, because I’ve got goals and I don’t believe in lying down waiting for them to fall on me. But at the same time, I was the 10 year old kid who wanted to be 16. I’m rarely content just enjoying were I’m at, soaking up the grace of God.

Here’s the only thing that makes sense to me in this situation.

john-chapter-15-verse-5-arlene-nanoukNothing! Jesus says.

I have years of practice hustling without Jesus, and frankly I’ve got a few funny stories from it, so it’s tempting to think he’s wrong.

But what I didn’t have then, and obviously don’t have now, is peace – plain and simple, the kind of soul peace, that Ortberg said, “makes people want to be around you.”

And if I examine the goal of most my hustle, it’s usually to encourage people around me to keep growing into whatever God has planned for them. To do that, I’ve got to have something good cooking in my own kitchen.

I’ve felt the soul peace Jesus describes a number times, and it is amazing. It’s a not unlike slipping into a warm bubble bath or sitting down to talk with your favorite friend after a long separation. It feels good like that.

And the only time I ever find it is when I abide for a good long while, somewhere quiet; dwelling in stillness and expectancy.

One other thing Ortberg said this morning that stuck:

You are going to go through your day no matter what. You can knuckle-down and hustle it, getting aggravated in traffic, annoyed and snappy with your colleagues, or you can invite Jesus into it first thing, saying “Can you help me with this day because I want peace – your peace.”

It’s a choice.

I blew it in a thousand small ways today because I’m hustling like a freak. But happily his mercy is new every day, and I’m going to get up tomorrow and try again.

Abiding first thing.

Afraid of Failed Resolutions?

Do you have a big goal for 2016? Are you shoring yourself up today, with solemn vows, threats and motivational thinking, so you don’t quit by February?

Me too. Here’s a thought for today.

amateurs

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was one of the best books I read in 2015. In it, he says the enemy of our progress is not the size of our goals but the “Resistance” we face in our daily attempts.

Yes, exactly! That’s what I do when I quit running or writing or practicing my French. It’s not even a conscious decision, it’s just that life seeps in the cracks, expanding and contracting until my resolve crumbles like busted up asphalt. 

That’s resistance and life’s not going to stop doing that. The professional shows up and hunkers down anyway, while the amateur sighs and rings in February.

I don’t suppose it matters much what you’re trying to do in 2016 –  lose 20, get out of debt, write a book, make your marriage better – the victory exists in the daily showing up, deciding to go pro.

pres4

But the professional is not dumb either, so rather than set a bunch of lofty goals I’m bound to fail at, I’ve crafted a few small ones, which, if I attend to them daily, should add up to something interesting in 2016.

Here they are:

  1. Write a little.
  2. Get on my mat.
  3. Drink water.
  4. Walk.
  5. Speak French.

Small and quotidian, without arbitrary quantities, (Science says that helps), each of them is something I enjoy, so if I will simply roll out my mat and get on it, or sit and my desk, I’m bound to stay longer than I planned. Over time, that adds up to interesting.

Pressfield who’s also written several heady books on Ancient Greece, says the question is not, did I write with genius today but rather, did I overcome Resistance? Did I sit down and try?

That is such a better question.

One more thought on the matter:

Do you ever wonder how King Solomon felt when his dad rolled out the plans for the Temple in Jerusalem and told him to build it?

Probably not, but I have.

“Uhhhh Dad?”

Here’s what David said to Solomon to encourage him, and it seems like a thought worthy of posting on the bathroom mirror this New Year’s Day.

stars6Remember, our part is to show up daily and act!

How nice that He promises to help us along.