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.

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.

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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

Try and fail

Someone, flustered by disorganization and their scattered thoughts, told me “I’ll get my life together soon.” I just said “We never do. That’s a myth.”

Getting our lives together is a myth. When I was newly out of college (and still sometimes now!) I would get home and just say to myself “you’re doing it, Rebecca! You’re doing this adult thing.” I say that to myself because I realize I’m trying and failing sometimes. I’m playing the game. I’m in the ring. That means I’m doing this thing called life and, dare I say, doing it successfully.

“Adulting” successfully is not doing things perfectly, but rather giving it a go every morning. I’m convinced that sometimes it’s the attempt that matters. That is adulting, this is life, and no one ever actually “gets it together” or figures it out because, among other reasons, life is constantly changing.

In fact, if someone has it so “together” that they never seem to fail.. then I’m afraid they’re not really living life at all, they’re managing and controlling and doing what they can but not what they could.

Assured success: that’s my comfort zone. I want perfection and successful execution of whatever I set out to do, so I tend to pick things that I know I can do. Bad place to camp out. 

Can good habits be cultivated? Can success and excellence be pursued. Yes, and they should be and that’s what I strive toward. But the first step is often an attempt and maybe a fail, and lots of grace and kindness for yourself in the trying-failing-success process.

If you’re engaged and open and feeling and dreaming and trying and failing and crying, you’re doing it. Be brave enough to be vulnerable enough to try and fail.

Quick to do good

Recently I set out on a secret helping mission — the kind where you surprise someone with something they need or secretly do something to help. Secret helping missions are fun.

But this time I was on the bus home, frustrated because my mission had failed. I had a great idea, set out to do it, and it just didn’t pan out. I texted another friend, expressing my frustration and she replied, “So what do you think about the adage ‘It’s the thought that counts’?”

I replied: “Not sure. I think it’s dumb I guess.”

person using smartphone(photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

Because it’s not really the thought that counts, is it? That day on the bus home it wasn’t my thought that counted because the idea in my head meant nothing to the friend I was trying to help.

I’ve said it plenty myself. “Oh well, it’s the thought that counts,” I say when I have a great idea, try to do it, and it just doesn’t work out. It’s the thought that counts.

Or is is the trying that counts?

Good thoughts that don’t turn into action don’t count for much. In the end all the good ideas in the world do nothing to bring comfort, to relieve pain, to encourage, to help, to build up.

Thoughts turned into actions are what count, even if the effort isn’t a perfect, raging success. The trying is what counts. The obedience to do the good thing is what counts. My heart is changed and filled and, if all goes well, the people around me are changed as well.

“Every day you can do one thing you you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.” – Ann Voskamp

person washing fork(photo by Catt Liu)

It’s about the trying, the showing up, the being there, the doing, the putting thoughts into actions, even if those attempts don’t have a 100% success rate. Sometimes helping is awkward. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. It’s okay. The showing up is what matters.

A few months ago I was thinking and praying a lot about what it would mean for me to be quick to do good. Quick to help. Quick to love. Quick to serve. So that if an idea pops into my head, I won’t spend time thinking about it, coming up with why it’s inconvenient, why I don’t have time, or why it would be awkward (and my selfish heart is very good at that!).

Instead, I want to learn how to jump into action, to get right to the good that God put in my mind to do. I want to learn how to let the love of Jesus quickly compel me into action. I want to be quick to be selfless. Quick to go on lots of fun, secret helping missions.

That’s what counts, isn’t it? Being ready to do good, quick to act, efficient at turning thoughts into actions. Quick to serve and make it fun, even if it’s a little messy.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another 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

 

 

Cheerleaders

A coworker gave me a gift. A fountain pen. Because I’d never had one before. Because I love pens. Because I write. With this gift and his words, he said, “I like what you write. Keep writing.” A simple gift turned into a huge encouragement.

Just like that we can communicate to another human: “I’m cheering you on.”

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What does it look like to be each other’s cheerleaders? To actually show them that we “believe in them”? To effectively and creatively communicate to them that we’re behind them, that we think they should go for it?

Cheering people on is much more than simply telling them that they can do it. It’s equipping them to do it, giving them the tools for their trade, providing them with the space and opportunities they need to develop, stretch, and grow.

Taste buds

One of my greatest pleasures in life is having good food experiences. I delight in it. I mean the whole shabang — delicious food, great company, excellent service, cool atmosphere. And obviously the yummy food and taste-bud-exciting flavors are the base of a great food experience.

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Have you every thought about the fact that we have the capacity to taste with our mouths? God could’ve just made our mouths to be the first step of digestion, crushing the food that we need. Or he could’ve made us like flowers that simply glean our nutrients from our surroundings. Efficient and miraculous, but not very enjoyable.

We are not robots that connect to a battery, nor are we flowers that spread their leaves toward the sun and extend their roots into the ground. We get our energy from food but it doesn’t stop there.

We’ve been gifted with the ability to taste! To relish the flavors of tart lemons and spicy peppers and summer peaches and juicy steaks.

We aren’t even simple animals that eat and prefer one taste over another. We are humans that define tastes and experiment with textures. We are beings that create, combining tastes and textures to make edible works of art. To create food that is meant not only to provide us with the energy we need but that’s also meant to be savored, enjoyed, and delighted in.

I am a tasting creature with the capacity to enjoy — that is no small gift.