Category Archives: Countering (and encountering) Spiritual Drift

The Answer to Life? Just Be! . . . and Classic Rock

Did you draw the line
In the sand again?
Did you make a stand
Out on a limb?
Don’t be so hard on yourself
‘Cuz you can’t change the world
No, you can’t change the world alone
Just be . . .
(lyrics by Tommy Shaw/Styx)

First of all, thank you for making “Dear God, I’m Tired of Growing” my most popular post ever! Getting down in words the flood of emotions and thoughts I was having that morning seemed to have an almost cathartic effect on my psyche. Not only was it the biggest response ever, I had a great day.

Now, most of you will nod your heads with a shrewd little curl of the lip and say, “Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. That sounds about right.” I know. When I told a few people about the day I had, and that I had the most hits ever on my blog, that was the typical response.  And I found this interesting if not a little puzzling.

Why?  Not why did I find it puzzling, but why would so few people be surprised at the way things turned out . . . almost as if to say, “What did you expect?”

Is it just general knowledge that “God works in mysterious ways”? Is it a karma thing? Kismet? The balance of the universe? I was honestly intrigued by the unanimity of responses I got: Which begs another question . . .

Why did it take me so long to get to this point?

Or two questions . . .

Why isn’t everybody doing it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about giving up here. I haven’t given up.

I’ve given in.  There’s a difference.  It may be a subtle difference, but it’s there. And I’m not even sure what I’ve given in to.

Maybe it’s giving in to the pressures I’ve been putting myself under for these last . . . how many years? Not rolling under or being crushed by the stress or the day-to-day frustrations, but just letting them go. Or having them let go of me. Maybe it’s simply the realization that the stress I’ve been under has been of my own doing: with work; with home; with religion. I don’t know, and I may be completely wrong.

It just intrigues me that no one was surprised by the outcome, yet no one seems to be applying it within their own lives or situations. What gets in the way? What stops us from jumping off that cliff?

Is it the worry of what others will think? If it’s a crisis of faith, maybe you worry about what God will think, or what He will do. If it’s an issue at work, maybe you worry what your colleagues will think, or what your bosses will do. If it’s a family issue, maybe you worry about what your spouse will think, or how your kids will react; or your parents.

Those are some weighty issues and I’m sorry that I don’t have a lot of deep, pithy answers for you. I can only give you perspective from the stresses that I’ve heaped onto myself.

If you’ve asked God to lead in your life, you’ve got to trust that He is and that He’s a big enough God that he can handle your mistakes, your missteps, your anger and your questions.

If you feel overwhelmed at work, all you can do is your best, and give it 100%. It sounds cliche, I know.  Yet if you can’t get everything that’s being heaped onto you done, but you’ve done everything you can to the best of your ability, you’ve still done your job.

If it’s a family issue, it’s also a love issue. Everything said and everything done, as long as it’s done in love, is everything you can do.

But . . .

What if it’s not any of that? What if it’s the fact that we’ve been living life with this stress, or under this pressure, so long that we don’t even recognize the weight anymore? Or worse, that in a perverse way, it’s become a comfort to us; like an old worn jacket, or snug blanket. We wear it, defiantly almost, like it’s a badge of honor or achievement.

“My life is hell. I’ve earned this stress!”

This is the situation that I think may take the most time and patience; maybe the fine art of timing as well. I believe it’s going to take someone at the right time, under the right circumstances, to speak into your life something so profound; yet looking back on it, so simple and so obvious that you’ll wonder how you never saw the resolution on your own accord.

Life works like that.

Soon, you’ll begin to tell people about how you had to get yourself to point-X for someone to be able to tell you truth-Y and now everything is just hunky-Z. And the people you talk to will probably go, “Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. That sounds about right.”

And that’s okay. Don’t be surprised, after all, they’re not.  And so it goes.

Look, nothing’s changed in my life other than my reaction to it; and it’s not perfect. I still get frustrated and uptight. I still get annoyed. I’m still human after all . . . and I still work in retail. But I can start to see it for what it is, or what it just might be . . .

Just life.

How do I choose to react to life in this moment?

Listen to a little Styx perhaps and “Just be”.

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Faith & Spiritual Drift: Do Something Crazy

Matthew 14: 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said . . .

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in
On to the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out His hand

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, “Boy, You’ll never win!

 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”   32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

(Text: Matthew 14:28-33 NIV. Lyrics: Casting Crowns, “Voice of Truth” Mark Hall/Steven Curtis Chapman)

I’m beginning to realize more and more that most everything in the Bible is there for a reason, even this little story of Peter climbing out of the boat and walking to Jesus on the water. Yes, it obviously shows Jesus’ control and mastery of nature. Yes, it shows Peter’s depth of faith to even attempt to get out of the boat. But I believe there’s an allegorical story in these few passages applicable to anyone “treading water” in their lives, jobs, problems or relationships.

First of all, to have enough faith—in yourself, or in your abilities, or in God—to do something completely irrational. Jesus said to Peter, “Come.” He literally meant, “Come to me out here in the middle of the sea in the middle of this storm . . . on the water.” And Peter says . . .

“Okay.”

Remember, the other eleven apostles were in the boat with Peter. How crazy must this have seemed to them? But he did. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. How cool must that have seemed: To be able to pull off something so physically impossible?

But then life happened.

He looked around.

He started paying attention to his surroundings and to his predicament; to the world around him. That’s when he started to sink. He began to fail—flailing and foundering—under the weight of his own circumstances. He started to believe he wasn’t supposed to be doing what he was doing instead of believing in himself, his abilities and his God.

It’s what happens when any of us step out in faith in a decision, be it personal, relational, or work-related. Sure, it feels good to make the decision. It may even feel good to begin the undertaking. But then life happens: something doesn’t go as planned and you start to doubt your abilities. Or worse, the world begins to feed lies into your ear that you can’t/shouldn’t/won’t.

Your beliefs shift. Maybe you really can’t do this. You begin to pay attention to the waves (the difficulties and obstacles), the wind (the fears and criticisms of friends and loved ones), and the sea (the time, effort and discipline involved to be successful). Your focus shifts away from what truly brought you out here; your faith (in yourself and your ability and/or in God and His ability), and it’s not until you reconnect with that that you once again begin to rise above the reality that surrounds you.

For Peter, stepping out of the boat and towards his Savior, mentor and friend just seemed like the right thing to do. His circumstances should have told him “no”. I’m certain his friends told him “no” and probably called him crazy. Yet, leaps of faith often look like that from the outside: There is no rational way you should be able to pull this off.

Do you have a situation in your life right now, a choice to make between a conservative action and one that just seems so . . . out there? What does your “gut” tell you? Listen to it . . . often, that “still small voice” is your abilities, or God’s abilities through you, telling you to take that risk.

Jesus reached out and picked up a half-drowned Peter. His journey wasn’t over; not even close.

They walked back.

To the boat.

On the water.

Together.

A Need for Quiet

I won’t lie. I get some of my best ideas in the shower. I’ll bet you can relate. There’s just something about the hot water, the steam, the relaxing sensation of the water on your skin. What is it about that span of time that makes it so conducive to a free flow of imagination?

It’s mindless for one. I’ve washed myself enough times that I don’t really have to think about the process anymore. (And if I do, there’s something seriously wrong with me.) So the mind tends to wander; freed from the mundane tasks of everyday life; of figuring out what to do at this moment, and this moment, now this moment, etc.

For me, it’s the same with driving to and from work on a daily basis. Some of my favorite times in driving are when I turn off the radio, open up the sunroof, crack the windows, and I’m just . . . thinkin’.

–Okay, off topic for a second. I’ve got Pink Floyd’s “Money” playing on Pandora right now (Pandora btw, is the best thing EVER to happen to the internet!) and Gilmour’s solo in that song is his second best ever . . . here it comes, I’ll be right back . . .

Aahhh . . . Okay, I’m back. And see, there’s my point right there; you can’t seem to concentrate unless there’s a minimum of distraction—both external and internal.

Did you know that a “quiet time”—call it meditation, prayer, astral projection, whatever—is one of the few things that pretty much every religion has in common. That’s the one thing the founders and purveyors of every religious faith, every spiritual belief, got right . . .

We need quiet time.

But, how do we get that?

What if we start with just a couple minutes?

Next time you’re driving by yourself, try to clear your mind for a brief span. Turn off the tunes and just see the road as it unfurls in front of you and into the distance. Next time you’re in the shower, instead of thinking about the day ahead or the day just ended; clear your head and watch the steam rising, swirling into a montage of designs, making its way past the water stream and into the lights. It’s in times like these that I notice my thought patterns shift from rapid fire gottadothisgottadothisgottagottagotta to more of a conversation; “I’ve got to do this . . . Well, if you do that, you might try it this way . . . Hmm, that’s pretty good and you know this might work too.” And on it goes.

I think that too often, when we seek to spend a little “time to ourselves”, we try to make our quiet time DO something. After all, we have to feel like we accomplished something in all that time we spent doing, essentially, nothing.

Kinda not the point, is it?

In fact, I’ve grown accustomed at times when I pray not really saying . . . anything: Just being quiet; still. God knows my heart already. He knows my wants, needs and desires—and there are times that I definitely put voice to them. But there are also times when I just want to listen, to clear my head and see if God has anything He wants to say to me. Most times it just is what it is . . . a quiet time. Then there are times, like in the car or in the shower, that a thought will occur, an idea will strike, and it will be so complete, so fully formed and so right, that I don’t think it could’ve come from anyone else.

What I find funny is usually these particular thoughts have nothing to do with bettering myself or my situation. Usually they have to do with conveying an impression, an action, or an idea for the betterment of someone else; something to tell my wife or something that solves a problem at work, maybe something I feel convicted to express in my writing.

Sure, you can say in a situation like that, that it was your own, or my own, personal brilliance; and it very well may have been. But what if . . .

What if there’s a genuine necessity to a quiet time?

What if there’s a true purpose behind it?

What if it’s a higher purpose?

What have you got to lose in trying?

A Long Walk on a Winding Path

My walk along the spiritual path has been long, winding, often diverted and on occasion, totally washed-out. I sometimes get those feelings of cynicism or self-doubt; that I’m a rather poor example of what one would consider a “person of faith”; especially by others that consider themselves “persons of faith”. Not necessarily one to be placed on the lofty wall of the great spiritually enlightened or held in reverence when speaking of those in the pantheon of righteousness.

“Yes, there was Moses of course, and Abraham, Joseph and that fellow Paul was quite smashing as well, but have you seen THIS gentleman! What flawless grace! What profound wisdom! What boundless patience! And such restraint and self-control!”

Mmmm, no.

But, as Lily Burana put it, as written in a 2010 blog post:

 “After all, the self-satisfied and self-righteous have come for me, too: YOU, a Christian? With those politics? With that past? . . . I knew they’d show up, those stingy, uncharitable moral goalkeepers, with their underlined passages in Leviticus and their pointy-finger God. It just ain’t a Jesus party without this particular turd in the spiritual punchbowl. Maybe it’s the believer’s rite of passage — until you’ve encountered this type and had them declare a fundamental component of your identity an “abomination,” you kind of haven’t lived. The challenge is to have your faith tested this way and not blink.”

Or, as Stacie Orrico sings:

“Don’t look at me, look at Him.”

I’m what you would call . . . human. Look around. On the street, in your neighborhood, on the pew next to you; we’re everywhere. There’s a lot more of us than you’d think. 
As many of you know, I’ve left the wild jungles of retail customer service, having been called on the carpet by Francis Chan in his excellent book, “Crazy Love” then seeming to have every single passage in the Bible that I read in some way relate to my life circumstances at the time. (Funny how that works!)  Recently, I was told by someone in our home group what an inspiration my wife and I were to all of them by stepping out on faith like we have.  After all, when I decided to give my notice at work, I had nothing to go to, no back up plan, nothing but the hope and faith that the steps we were taking were the steps God was asking us to take.  We had no idea where we were going just that we were being asked (told) to go.

I don’t feel like an inspiration!  I think my response was, “I don’t know about that, ‘cuz I have no idea what the hell I’m doing!”

Maybe though, that’s the point.  Maybe God is sitting up there going, “Yeah, but I do!”

I hope so.  After all, that’s what faith is all about.  And if that’s an inspiration, that’s okay with me . . . because it certainly isn’t me that’s drivin’ this bus!

“You ‘n me, God! You ‘n me!”