On Assuming…

It happened again last week.
“Oh, you don’t have kids? I thought you did.”

And then, when I say, “Nope, never married, no children”, I get the pitying look or words. Which is another (false) assumption –that I am not OK with the state of my life.

Sigh.

We all do it.
We briefly interact with people and decide who they are, what they believe and their intent.

The young black man in a hoody and jeans.
He must be up to no good – when really, he is on his way to grad school.

The older, well-dressed white guy.
He must have always known “privilege” – when really, he is a survivor of the Holocaust.

The overweight woman.
She must eat really badly and never exercise – when really, she has already lost 60 pounds.

The young woman covered in tattoos and piercings.
She must hate herself – when really, she has enough self-love to live boldly.

The person with heavily accented English.
He must be uneducated – when really, in the land of his birth he is a renowned scientist.

Our experience, our culture, our current set of influencers – all of these help to inform our minds of what those things “must” mean.
How that person must feel.
What their life experience must have been.
And how they feel about it all.

We fill in the blanks of their story without ever stopping to know if it is the truth.
We assume.

Which is bad enough.
But then we often act on our assumptions.

Putting up walls with some, simply because of their skin color. Or their tattoos. The way they dress. Or the way they smell.
Drawing close to others because they must be safe. When in reality, they have nothing but ill-intent in their hearts.
Deciding in advance what our experience will be with that person.
Or where they are coming from.

It happens to me. All. The. Time.
So I am guessing – assuming? – it happens to you.
People who barely know you draw conclusions about you. Your life. Your thinking. Your experiences.

Because of all the ways I am misunderstood based on assumptions, I have decided that there are only a handful of assumptions to make about ANYONE. And these are the only ones that are safe to make. All others are fraught with danger.

  • Each person you meet is either heading into a crisis, is in the midst of one or is heading out of one.
  • Every adult human carries a deep wound that influences their thinking, decisions, and emotions. The wound may be scarred over and they may have found a way to cope, but it still exists.
  • A simple act of kindness – a smile, a nod, a hello, holding the door or offering a hand – will influence his day for the better. Even if you get a scowl in return.
  • She has thought of giving up more than once.
  • He desperately desires to be loved simply for who he is.
  • No one is doing life perfectly. If they tell you they are, they are lying.
  • She has a God-shaped hole in her life. It may or may not be filled with God – but it is filled with something.
  • Each person you meet will live forever. It could be forever with Christ. It could be forever without Him. But he or she will live forever.
  • Every wrong is seen and will be judged. Someone will pay for his sin. It will either be him or Jesus.
  • You may be the only Jesus he ever meets and the only Bible she ever reads. You just don’t know so it is best to assume you are.
  • That person was created in the image of God and is a beloved by Him simply for that reason.
  • Someone is always watching, always listening, always taking in what you are saying. Or doing. Or not saying. Or not doing. Often your audience is far larger than you intended.
  • You want to be understood. So does he.
  • You want to be heard. So does she.
  • You need help but don’t know how to ask. So does he.
  • You long for better and so does she.

I am so glad that there are people who really know me and who rarely assume anything about me.
Instead, they ask.
And I am always delighted when I meet a stranger who doesn’t seem to be boxed in by assumptions about me.
I want to be that person.
I want to look at you, at him, at her, and see who you really are – a beloved creation of the Magnificent Creator, a person heading with every heartbeat for an eternal destiny, with or without Christ. I want to see you as He sees you and love you as He loves you. From the inside, out. Whether I know you or not. I want to assume that you could use a friend.
Use some love.
Use some kindness.
And I want to be a conduit of His love to you.
Because I don’t have to assume He loves you.
I know He does.

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Is It Lifeworthy?

It was a typo in one of the online devotionals that I read.

It said, ““Dear Lord, Please help me to live a lifeworthy of You. Help me to bear fruit in what I do and make choices that lead to holiness.”

Lifeworthy.
Not a word, just a typo.
But it got me thinking.
That is actually a great filter!

Is it “lifeworthy”?
In other words, does “it” (whatever “it” may be) add life to my soul?
Bring life to my spirit?
Add life to my thoughts?

What I take in – the music I listen to, the songs I sing, the books I read, the things I choose to follow on social media, the things I click on to watch or read – are they “lifeworthy”?
Do they point me to hope?
To “things above”?
To a godly perspective?
To all that is real, all that is eternal, all that is good?

Or do they do the opposite?
Do they drag me down?
Feed the parts of my inner self that I am already battling?
Feed the hate, feed the fear, feed the anger, feed the sin?

Paul put it this way when he wrote to the Philippians:
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”
Philippians 4:8, AMP

So are the things I am taking in “lifeworthy”?
If they are, they are going to feed the godly parts of my inner self, causing me to grow stronger in my walk with the Lord and in the actions and attitudes that spring from it.

And that one is hard enough.

But let’s take it a step farther.

What about the things I am putting out there? Are they “lifeworthy”?
Am I using my words to build up or tear down?
Am I using my social media posts to encourage reconciliation or division?
Am I speaking the Truth in love and leaving the consequences to God?
Or am I speaking what I think you want to hear, afraid of what the consequences might be?

Are my actions “lifeworthy”?
Am I living loved?
Am I living like I love you?
Am I living like God loves you?

And am I putting out all that is “lifeworthy” across the board in my life?
Or is it only at certain times in front of certain people?

Am I doing what is “lifeworthy” when I drive?
In a long line at a grocery store?
When I am waiting for someone or something?
On the phone with the telemarketer?
When I talk to the person I simply do not click with or even do not enjoy being around?

Even then, do my words speak life?
Do my actions?

Another set of verses from Philippians:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife],
but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous],
regard others as more important than yourselves.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (AMP)

Lifeworthy input.
Lifeworthy output.
A good filter.
A good question for every situation.

Is what I am about to do or say “lifeworthy”?
Will it encourage, uplift, equip or show love to the other person?
If not, why am I doing it?
Why am I saying it?
If I have to say the hard thing, am I motivated by love?
Or anger?
Love?
Or hatred?
Love?
Or self-righteousness?

Is it “lifeworthy”?
Impossible to do on my own.
Fully possible through the power of the One who said, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”
Jesus, in John 10:10 (AMP)

But if we access the power and use the filter, then we will live the verse that the original author was quoting in her prayer, which is in another letter from Paul to the Ephesian church:

So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior—a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation], with all humility [forsaking self-righteousness], and gentleness [maintaining self-control], with patience, bearing with one another [a]in [unselfish] love. Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful]. Ephesians 4:1-3

A Beautiful Mess

The verdict is in.
And the jury is correct.
I am a mess.

I am weary.
Weary of the never-ending conflict in our culture.
Weary of trying to do the right thing.
Weary of navigating tough circumstances, tough people, tough conversations.
In my words.
Relationships.
Actions.
Attitudes.
Decisions.
Weary of fighting the good fight.
Externally, but internally, too.

Frankly, I am even weary of me.

It would be so much easier to shut down.
It IS so much easier to shut down.
To not engage.
To not speak up.
To not risk being misunderstood.
To not try so hard to do what is right.
To simply drift.
To turn my head.
Look away.
Not see.
To choose apathy over love.
Towards you.
Towards “them”.
Towards even me.

This weariness that is deep in my soul led to this journal entry this morning:

God:

I am a valley of dry bones.
Breathe life into me again.
Help me to rise as a soldier, ready to fight.
One of the army of the resurrected.
Unable to fight on my own, yet filled with power because of You.

I am a disciple in the boat, terrified.
Questioning Your ways
Weary of fighting a storm while You sleep.
Or appear to sleep.
With my heart questioning if You really are concerned about me as a person.
Do You hear my cries?
When will You answer?
With David and Habakkuk I cry out, “How long, Oh Lord, how long?”
Have You forgotten to be kind?
How I long for You to calm the wind and waves in my life, in the lives of those I love.
How I long for You to stand up and speak to them, silencing them once and for all.

I am Hagar in the desert, dying of thirst.
Rejected. Lonely. Misunderstood. Maligned.
And yet hearing Your voice once more, telling my heart that You are the God Who Sees.
And knowing You are The God Who Understands Rejection.

I am the small child who doesn’t know what she wants.
What is best.
What should happen.
What to say.
What to do.
How to navigate the many, many hills, valleys and curves on this winding, circuitous road of life.
I think I know – but then I change my mind.
That leads to a confusing prayer life!
And leaves me once more with the only prayer that “works”– “May YOUR will be done.”
Because, frankly, I am stumped.
And more than a little afraid of what Your will might look like in my life.

In other words, I am a mess, Abba.

And the Truth of the matter is that I am a mess.
But the whole Truth is that I am a beloved mess.

I am wholly and dearly loved – which makes me holy and able to love.

Not because I am fabulous.
Not because I have it all together.
Not because I am never weary, fearful, or faithless.
But because You are Good.
You are the God of the second chance – and the 200th chance.
Forgiven 70 X 7 by You, I must forgive others in the same way.
And forgive myself as well.

So, Abba, for the gazillionth time, I echo that guy’s prayer from Mark 9: “I believe – help my unbelief.”
I confess that I am a mess
And that You are the only Hope I have.

Please be God alone in my life once more.
Please take my weaknesses and show Your strength
Please take my holes and fill them with love, with grace, with Your heart.
Take my broken heart and mend it as only You can.

I am desperate for You.
I cannot do what needs to be done without You.
I am lost without You.
Please move as only You can.

*******

I recently read that the biblical words “glory of God” are really best translated as “evidence of God”.

So when Romans 8:28 says that God works all things together for my good and His glory, it really says He works out all the details of my life for my good and to show evidence of His power in my life.

So if I pray, “Show me Your glory” I am really saying, “Show me the evidence of Who You are.”
And when I pray, “Be glorified today at my expense” I am really praying, “God, show them the evidence of Who You are in my life, no matter what it takes.”

And I want that prayer to be Truth as it leaves my lips.
As the cry of my heart.
But for you to see the evidence of God in my life, there has to be breaking.
Storms.
Tears.
Crises.
Because these are the things that crack my heart wide open.
So that the light can shine.
So that the world can see.
So that the evidence that God is real, powerful and at work can be seen in my life.

So He allows me to be a beloved mess.
He allows you to be one, too.
To keep struggling.
To have tough circumstances.
And tests of faith.
To walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
To be hurt by others.
To be disappointed.
Rejected.
Afraid.

Because it is then that the Light shines through.

Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:
But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves.

So I will accept that I am a beautiful mess.
An earthen vessel of human frailty
A cracked pot.
With an incredible Light shining through.
A treasure of power working from the inside out.
Taking all that is a mess in me and turning it into evidence of Who He is.
So that all the messes around me can be blessed.
Can know the power available to them.
And can know Him for themselves.

A beautiful mess in the hands of a Holy God becomes a mosaic of infinite beauty as the Light shines through the brokenness.

Louisa’s Story: ‘Tis So Sweet…

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It was a beautiful day to be at the shore. Four-year old Lily giggled as the waves lapped at her toes and then darted back to the blanket where her parents were enjoying their meal. The sun was warm, the waters cool. An idyllic day.

Until the cries of a young boy reached their ears! He was out in the deep waters of the sound, flailing and fighting to keep his head above water. Lily’s father raced to rescue him, diving into the water and reaching the boy in record time. But then, as Lily and her mother Louisa watched in horror, the boy’s panic overtook both him and his rescuer. In a matter of minutes, both went under for the final time.

The year was 1879. And the mom in that true story was Louisa M. R. Stead. After that tragic day she wrestled with God. And out of that wrestling, she penned the words to a hymn that I love. She wrote:

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, for grace to trust Him more! And she did trust Him more and more.
Enough to get on a boat with Lily and head to South Africa to work as a missionary. This had been a life-long dream but poor health had prevented her from going earlier. There on the field she met her second husband, Robert Wodehouse. Together they served the Lord in South Africa, the U.S. and finally Southern Rhodesia (which is present day Zimbabwe.)

Oh, for grace to trust Him more!
To believe, when tragedy struck, that this was not the end of the road for her and God.
To move forward when all appeared to be lost.
To move out in faith into the unknown of being a missionary on foreign soil as a widow with a young child.

Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

On Checklists, Control and Reality…

Checking it off the list
Whatever “it” is
That check mark equals success.

Controlling the pieces
Figuring out the outcomes
Planning
Executing

And then doing the next thing

Whatever “it” is

Touch it once
Organize it
Make a system
Work a plan
Manage your time
Fulfill the obligation
Execute the strategy

And then move on to the next thing

A+B always equals C, right?
Do the right thing and the truth will win
Show up and do your best and you’ll get the good result
Plan well and the details will happen

Check it off the list
(Crossing it off is even better)
Then make the new list, the next list, the next thing.
And success will follow

Until it doesn’t.
Until the dream flops
The idea goes down in flames
The results are not the anticipated outcome

Or worse yet, circumstances spin out
Unheard of tragedies occur
The unexpected strikes
The prayer goes unanswered
The pain explodes beyond what you have experienced before
The checklist falls to the side, useless
The control you thought you had turns out to be a façade
A farce
A useless exercise in futility in the face of real life

And you realize:
You have no control
None
You cannot produce the desired outcome
Make the people behave
Force the circumstances to align
Control the results
Or the stuff
The reactions
Or the consequences
Of anything
Or anyone
At any time
Or anywhere
Even if you are the one “in charge” of that area

Your checklist – my checklist – may be a useful tool for remembering, for managing the details
But it doesn’t drive the circumstances
Your organization and attention to detail may be beneficial to a point
But they don’t prevent the tragedy
They don’t shield you from the pain
They don’t keep you from experiencing the valleys

Face it, friend.
Face it, Kathy.
You have no control.
Never did.
Never will.

Yes, be smart about life.
Use your time wisely.
Consider your resources and do the best you can.
Be a good manager of what has been given to you.
But loosen your grip.
Go into every event, every circumstance, every day with the sure knowledge to you are not Sovereign.
You are not the King of the World.
You are not the Creator.
You are not the Good, Good Father.
And you do not sit on the throne.
If you do, it’s time to get off.
Once and for all.

Go into every event, every circumstance, every day with faith as the engine, fact as the car and feelings as the caboose.
Oozing with the grace you have been given.
Acting as a conduit for the love of God.
Not conjuring up your own emotion for the moment.
Not putting on the face you think they want to see.
Not even holding on to your intended goals or outcomes.
With your checklist of details to remember and items to be managed held very, very loosely in your hand.
Willing for it to flutter to the floor if necessary.

Go, knowing that you will be let down.
By people.
By equipment.
By outcomes.

But bringing what you have to the table anyway.
Taking the fives loaves and two fish of your life to your Master and allowing Him to break them.
Break your plans.
Break your dreams.
Break your desires.
Break the expected, anticipated, desired outcome.
Break even the thing you love the most.

Because in the breaking, comes the multiplying.
In the breaking comes the new beginning.
In the breaking comes the nourishment of all the others on the hillside with you.
Not because you are a great planner.
The Queen of Details.
The King of Getting the Job Done.
But because you are the servant of the King of the World.
The God who loved you enough to put one thing on His checklist:
“Make a way for the eternal restoration of humankind through the death, burial and resurrection of my one and only Son.”

In light of that, I have only one real checklist, the eternal one:
1. Be saved by grace.
“For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith”
Check!

2. And then walk in grace.
“And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].”
Check!

3. Letting Him write the details of the to-do list, holding my ideas, plans, desires and thinking very, very loosely.
“For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set]…”
Check!

4. And the walking with Him in the good life, the one that begins here but never really ends, even when this body is done.
“…so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Check!

Who is in control?
Not me.
Not you.
So take what has been entrusted to you and manage it well.
But yield control to the Only One who actually has it.
You’ll be glad you did.