The other side of open-handed living

I Iistened to my feet crunch this road on Saturday and sat in the sun and touched the leaves and took deep breaths of dry, fall air. Earlier, I had caught up with a friend and there came a point in the conversation where we both acknowledged the constant need to live open-handed — to hold our lives loosely before God, not frantically grabbing on with our fingernails to keep what we think is good in life. This is one side of open-handed living.

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Bob Goff talks about it when he mentions living “palms up” and says, “it was Jesus who taught me there was nothing I could really lose if I had Him.” Amen.

That takes a heart certain of what I have and who I am in Jesus and the humility to admit I don’t always know what I need in my life.

We always talk about open-handedness in that way, don’t we? But I think there are two sides: letting go and receiving.

What’s harder? Receiving or letting go? I would say letting go is more painful. But is it possible that receiving takes more humility?

Sometimes it’s just easier to reject a gift. I might want to feel good about myself and “earn it” on my own some other way, rather than it being given to me. I might halfheartedly receiving it, swearing to myself that I’ll pay it back (which isn’t really receiving a gift at all). I might turn my head and like a martyr declare that I don’t deserve it (if I deserved it, it would be called a prize or a paycheck, not a gift).

It can be hard to just say “Wow, thank you!”

Sometimes I look down and my hands are full — I didn’t even realized I had been given gift after gift!

And other times, receiving feels weighty and requires much humility and, of course, unadulterated gratitude. Grateful acceptance is the only good and respectful way to take a gift and honor the giver.

Kelly Belmonte writes this: “When there is such a command to take from the selfless giver, I am flummoxed. I see that other people struggle with this as well, shifting uncomfortably under the weight of an unconditional gift. Could someone really mean that there is no expectation of reciprocity? What would happen if we took them at their word? Maybe, if we allowed love its full expression, it would not be emptied of intent by our trying to even it out.”

I see my struggle to live open-handed — both receiving and letting go — with the daily, earthly, life-gifts. But I also see that I can struggle to actually receive the Lord’s love.

Ephesians 3:18 says, “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”

What a love, unlike any I’ve known. I need power to comprehend it! I need help to understand it! And I need hands that are spread open to receive it with a grateful, humble, overcome heart.

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Read a Psalm and go to bed

Spanish ham toast and coffee make me smile 😋

I feel like I’ve been running on melatonin, coffee, handfuls of chocolate, and a few tissues these past few days. There are worse things to live off of, I know.

Jet lag teamed up with an overwhelmed heart and an overloaded mind to get the best of me. Smaller things come together to create a perfect storm.. or as they would say in Spanish, “se junta todo.”

So I’m doing what I can to be awake and asleep at the right times and rein in my emotions that tend to run especially amok when I’m tired.

The bad thing about sharing what you write is that your friends can throw your own words back in your face. 😉 Or maybe I should say that your friends can gently remind you of your own words when you need them. One sweet friend told me yesterday, “I think someone said once that it’s okay to not be okay.”

Alright, let me guess: Me. I said that. Got it.

And it IS okay to not be okay, but it’s just so uncomfortable when you’re there! However, I’ll sit in the not-okayness for now, talking to my own soul when it needs truth, calling it always upward toward rejoicing, but not rushing the process.

Speaking of my own words coming back to me, I remind myself frequently of advice I’ve given to friends when they’re not okay: “Read a Psalm and go to bed.” I think it’s pretty good advice, if I do say so myself.

A Psalm to still my heart, to draw me back to the centering greatness, power, and kindness of God and the littleness of me. And a good night of sleep to change my perspective. The need for sleep is a gift that God gives me to remind me of my human frailty and at the same time equip me to handle life with a bit more energy, grace, patience, and poise than I can without sleep.

A Psalm, a good night of sleep, and the constant reminder that it’s okay and I’ve got Jesus and life with Him is sweet.

Idols

I bent over my journal, pen in hand, trying to deal with good things that have turned into supreme things in my life.

“Just take this idol from my hands. I want to be done with it!” I cried inside my head, a lump in my throat. As soon as I glimpsed the reason behind that plea, the lump in my throat turned into tears in my eyes. I wanted the idol stripped from my hands — that’s all well and good — but my motive was sobering to me.

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I realized that I only wanted the idol gone now that it had turned on me. Now that it was causing me pain. Now that it was controlling me, not the other way around.

Big tears fell over the realization that in that moment, my desire to smash my idol came out of a need to self-protect in the midst of pain, not out of grief over hurting my Savior and replacing him with a poor substitute.

I want my desire to dethrone idols to stem from a deep realization that they’re offensive to the God I love, that they’re taking his rightful place in my heart. I want to work daily to dethrone them, asking the Lord to do what I can’t do in myself, prying open my hands and changing my heart.

CS Lewis talks about how our love for God is deeply based in our need for Him and goes on to say “… our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knitted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.”

What a comfort to know I belong to a God who can untie the knots in my life and my heart and tie up the loose ends that my hands are grasping at.

The idols to which I turn do a shabby job of filling the spaces in my heart that ache with emptiness. That is true. And they are an act of unfaithfulness to the one who loves me again and again.

May the good things in my life that I have given a supreme place be ousted to the proper position in my life as I am overcome with the beauty of Jesus and grieved by my sin that throws His faithfulness in his face.

Trust

One thousand and eighty two days ago, I put this recurring reminder on my phone: trust God to do what only He can do.

At the time, I needed the reminder every afternoon before I went to one of the after-school programs I was directing. The group was particularly challenging and in a lot of ways I was at the end of my rope. The reminder was needed as a deep breath before walking in with love in my heart and firmness in my voice.

I needed the reminder that God is the only one who can actually change my heart my for the better – and the hearts of the kids. I needed the reminder that God is at work in ways I will never see and my role is faithfulness. I needed the reminder that my plans for those kids were small-minded in comparison to his plans for them. I needed the reminder that I am weak and He is not and more often than not (okay, always), I should trust Him to run the show.

The reminder shows up on my phone to this day. Mostly because I never took the time to take it off. I guess I can be somewhat of a virtual hoarder.

But, now I find that when I actually take the time to read the reminder and let it into my brain (instead of it going in one neuron and out the other), it always applies to something in my life. Always. There are things that only God (not me, a human) can do and so often I don’t trust him for them.

I want to trust God to do what only he can do to the point that it creates excitement in me. Excitement because although I don’t know what he will do, I trust it and wait expectantly to see what it will be.

I want to have such trust that it creates a deep well of peace that’s never dry. I want to have such trust that it creates an emotional fullness and security that allows me to be vulnerable and offended without fearing rejection. I want to have such trust that anxiety has no power over me. I want to have such trust that hope stays alive within me.

So, I lead my heart to imagine what God could do, whatever my current situation is. What is it that only he could do? Then I tell my heart to stop trying to imagine that, because I can’t even begin think up all that he wants to do! Trust him to do what only he can do, even if I can’t imagine it.

I counsel my heart to trust in the God who has already given me everything; who, in Jesus Christ, has already come to me, a person designed to be close to God but incapable of achieving that myself. I remind myself to trust his heart, trust his intentions, and trust him to do the things that only He is capable of accomplishing.

“Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Esta bien no estar bien

Llorar en el aeropuerto. Me ha pasado varias veces y no lo recomiendo. Nadie quiere ser esa persona llorando por el terminal, pero si te pasa a ti, hay que aceptarlo.
Hace un par de años, estaba llorando en el aeropuerto justo antes de subir al avión – gotas grandes y no pararon. El chico escaneó mi tarjeta de embarque, me miró y me dijo, “Esta bien no estar bien.”

Empecé a llorar más porque en ese momento no estuve bien y no tenía la energía para ponerme una sonrisa y decir, “Estoy bien.” Respiré y cabeceé con una sonrisa de agradecimiento. No había necesidad de presentarme como una persona perfecta con la vida arreglada para subir al avión. Está bien llorar por el terminal. Está bien no estar bien.

Da algo de libertad cuando alguien te da permiso no estar bien. Un día una conocida me pidió disculpas por ser un Eeyore y no un Tigger ese día. Dijo que estaba desanimada por varios motivos. Le dije, “No me pidas disculpas. Está bien no estar bien.” Me miró y lo reiteró, como si nunca hubiera estado segura de la idea: “Si que esta bien no estar bien, verdad?”

Después me preguntó si la podía usar la frase en su próxima obra de arte. Quizás me haga famosa. O debería ser famoso ese chico que trabaja con la aerolínea, que no me conoció, pero no se encogió al ver mis lágrimas.

¿Por qué te abates, oh alma mía, y te turbas dentro de mí? Espera en Dios; porque aún he de alabarle, Salvación mía y Dios mío.” (Salmos 42:5) Dios puede con mis tristezas y quiere que esté con él, esté como esté. No tengo que arreglarme antes de acercarme a él. Pero tampoco me quedo así, compadeciéndome. Hablo con mi propia alma, dando importancia a lo difícil que estoy viviendo, pero también diciéndome que hay que esperar, hay que cantar, hay que alegrarme en Dios.

“Oye, Rebecca, escúchame, que te tengo que hablar. Te voy a recordar de algunas cosas, alma mía.” Allí está la diferencia. Se puede tener dolor, y reconocerlo, pero aun así tener una paz profundo que solo Dios me da y una alegría que no cambia con las circunstancias de la vida.

Estés donde estés hoy, pases lo que pases, acuérdate que está bien no estar bien. No hay que fingir. Déjate pasar por el duelo. Rodéate con la gente que te va a abrazar sin palabras y después, en el debido tiempo, va a ayudarte a sanar, a aprender del duelo, y a seguir adelante. Y después da a alguien en tu vida el permiso no estar bien contigo si realmente no está bien. Compartamos las alegría de la vida juntos y también las cargas y tristezas.

Wasting Years or Wasting Moments

We sat at dinner. The sun had already gone and the day was almost over. We sat in silence and we also talked and I replied: “Thinking about the future only overwhelms me because it makes me want to be sure I’m living well right now. Down the road, I don’t want to regret how I’m living now, or what I did or didn’t do.”

I don’t want to waste the years. And that is good, but my guess is that we get caught up in not wasting the years and forget to make sure we don’t waste the minutes.

In the end, I wonder if its that the years can’t really be wasted, only the minutes can be wasted.

La imagen puede contener: flor, planta, naturaleza y exterior

The years are part of our story, so they’re never really worth throwing out. Because when we look back at the fabric of our lives — the years woven together, the string that runs through them, God’s hand through it all — we see how it all works together. The years, they weren’t wasted even if at the moment they felt like it. Even if they were filled with suffering or plans that didn’t work out or experiences that others would label a “mistake” or “failure.”

Of course we should try to live our years well, with the people we need to be with, doing what we should be doing, where we should be doing it. But instead of fretting so much about whether or not we have wasted years, maybe it’s better to focus on living the moments well, no matter where (or how) we find ourselves in any given year.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:24

More manna comes in the morning

“Don’t resent the moments simple because they cannot be frozen. Taste them. Savor them. Give thanks for that daily bread. Manna doesn’t keep overnight. More will come in the morning.” – ND Wilson

In the Old Testament, God gave his people bread from heaven. His bread for His people, His provision. And it couldn’t be kept overnight except for the sabbath. Basically, they were to rejoice in the gift, accept His provision and follow His instructions for it.

And that is still what I, one who belongs to Him, am to do today: delight in all the sweet moments, perfect provision, and gracious gifts of today. I should not resent them because they’re fleeting or worry about what will come tomorrow. The gifts I’ve been given today are meant for today and tomorrow’s gifts may be different but they will also be good.

“Rebecca, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:41) I want to joyfully collect my manna for the day, spend time with my God, and trust Him and His heart.

He knows me in and out, better than i know myself, and like a good dad, He will give me GOOD things, not just the things I want him to give (Matthew 7:11).

He has given me manna for today and I am thankful for it. More will come tomorrow.