Sock Seams

IMG_20131125_191853Gentle Reader,

I’ve been in a funk.

A multiple-year funk.

The last major work I finished writing was for the Women of Faith contest a couple…actually, possibly three years ago. I forget. And reading? I pick up books only to discard them. The mojo just hasn’t been there, not for anything greater than the hammering out of a post or the quick run-through of a familiarly-plotted novel. Words, lovely black-faced words on fresh white pages or screens, haven’t been as friendly as they used to be.

I was only vaguely aware of this funk until last Monday, when the volunteer coordinator at the shelter I’m volunteering at asked me if I had any life-goals.

Cue panic, stage right.

The truth is, I’ve been focusing on getting through each day. Sometimes on surviving the day. Or the hour. I used to spend so much time berating myself for not having brought about the end of world hunger with a Pulitzer and Nobel winning piece of elegant prose. I used to feel ashamed for not having accomplished more at such-and-such an age. I used to think that it was necessary to have a five-year plan and that if I didn’t check every item off the list, I was a complete and total failure. Then the world caved in. Getting out of bed and taking a shower became the major milestones.

For someone who isn’t wildly expressive, I sure do live on the extremes. Plan out five years or plan out five minutes. No happy middle ground.

This simple question, coming from a place of completely innocent curiosity, settled on me like a thick, smelly blanket. What are my life-goals? Why can’t I think of any?

In the midst of this gloominess, I picked up Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission by Amy Simpson. The hubby had gotten the book for me over the summer, for my birthday. It had been sitting on my nightstand for weeks, untouched. I’m sure I sighed when I picked it up and thumbed through the crisp pages. Why not read? Nothing else to do.

While I’m not the heavy predestination-y sort, I do believe that God orchestrates things for our good (Rom. 8:28). I think there are times when we’ve been wandering around for long enough and He lights a spark under our rears. Where I could barely get through the introduction before, now I couldn’t stop reading. And, gloriously, I came to this sentence:

The problem is, many people can get treated for the rest of their lives and learn to manage an illness, but will never be “over it.” (p. 114)

This screamingly-apparent truth brought new light to the question of life-goals and the answering thereof. While I firmly believe that God can and does bring total healing to people if that is within His plan for them, I also firmly believe that it can be within His plan to withhold total healing. I know that this is true because of sock seams.

I’ve worn socks my whole life. I’ve never had a problem with them. For the last two weeks, I’ve had to turn my socks inside out. I can’t stand the seams. This isn’t just a “oh, seams are annoying” and you carry on kind of thing. No. I have to turn my socks inside out. I’m afraid that the seams will get between my toes and I won’t be able to fix it. If I am in a situation where I can’t fix my socks, then it must be a Very Important Situation. I don’t like Very Important Situations. If I turn my socks inside out, I can avoid the discomfort and, possibly, Very Important Situations.

Does that really make any sense?

No.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). – Mayo Clinic

I thank God that I have what you might term a “mild” case of OCD. My obsessions and compulsions usually revolve around little things, like sock seams and getting my tape dispensers at work lined up exactly. But I know what it is to feel a physical ache and a great, gnawing worry when things aren’t “just so.”

Life-goals and sock seams. And then this, in my Sunday school lesson:

There are other children of God who are hurting and need to be comforted. – Rob Prince

Amy Simpson put a lot of effort into her book. She surveyed pastors and congregations to get a feel for the prevalence of mental illness within the Christian community. My friend, it’s everywhere. The person you sit next to at church could very well be slogging through mirky depths of sadness. Could have chewed her nails to the quick out of fear. Could think that he’s getting special messages during the sermon. There are people in pain and confusion, from the new guy in the back row to, gasp!, the pulpit itself. And even though we’re learning to talk about it more, we still struggle. We still don’t have ministries that seek to serve the mentally ill; it’s no wonder that this is often referred to as the “no casserole” disease. We stigmatize. We fear. We label.

We think of victory in terms of completion. The Christian lives a victorious life if she is no longer struggling, no longer tempted. I think that’s an incomplete definition. Victory is found in turning your socks inside out and going about your day. It’s acknowledging that, yes, there is pain, but that pain will not defeat.

I don’t know if I will ever write a book that gets published. I don’t know that you’ll ever see me work the talk-show circuit. I’m sure I’ll have more days like today, when I wonder if I should really be adding my feeble voice to the cacophony. I do know what my life-goal is, though: Hope. I want to share hope with people. I want to comfort the hurting children of God.

Especially if they’re irritated by sock seams.

My journey to faith. (15)

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When It’s Spam

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Gentle Reader,

The spammers have found this here blog. I’ve gotten “comments” from entities offering to sell me everything from Canadian geese to…well, we just won’t go there. They aren’t even sneaky about it. Long lines of gibberish interspersed with links to suspicious websites automatically get set to the spam queue and I delete them as often as possible. For awhile I would try to wade through the nonsense to see if legitimate comments were floating around, but I don’t even mess with it anymore. It’s spam.

Junk.

As I wiped out the 111 “comments” in the queue this afternoon, I started thinking about how so much of what I’ve held on to is spam. So many of the words that run on a well-worn track through my mind aren’t worth a single millimeter of space. Not only are they in direct opposition to what God says is true about me, what actual experience says is true about me, they’re just junk. A waste. A distraction. I’ve allowed other people to pour their insecurities, frustrations, fears and plain ol’ meanness into my mind. Into my heart, really.

When you become a wastebasket for other people’s trash, soon the only thing you’re tuned in to is trash. You can’t grasp a compliment. You can’t see anything good. If someone spreads a rumor about you, the rumor must be true. If someone says a certain thing about you, that thing must be true. If someone decrees that you are ____________, then ___________ must be true.

It’s time I learned to distinguish the difference between someone who genuinely cares about me pointing out something that I need to work on and someone tearing into me because they can. I’m nobody’s dumping ground. I’m not the source of all the problems in other people’s lives. I’m not responsible for anyone’s happiness, success or relational satisfaction. I can’t make choices for anyone other than myself.

It’s time to see spam for what it is.

And delete it.

My journey to faith. (15)

This post also appeared on the Far East Broadcasting Company Gospel Blog on April 7, 2014.

31 Days of Brave: Closing

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Gentle Reader,

How to put a bow on this?

I don’t know when fear became the marker of my life. I don’t know why I chose to buy into those screeching lies. Maybe they were easier to believe than the truth. Maybe I got tired of fighting. I guess the why and the when don’t really matter, difficult as that is for me to type. What matters is that my story doesn’t have to end the way it began.

Neither does yours.

The Enemy wants us to believe that bravery is impossible. The walk with Christ requires courage. We can’t make the choices we need to make, say the things we need to say or believe the things we need to believe without it. Take out courage, take out the person. Satan can’t take our salvation away from us, but he can certainly keep us from walking in victory and freedom.

If we let him.

That, I think, is my big take away. Bravery is all about choice. We forget that we have choices. I’m not usually emotionally demonstrative, but as I’m writing this I’m feeling the lump rise in my throat. The Cross and Resurrection did everything for us, and that everything includes restoring our power to choose. We’re not helpless. We’re not permanently inclined toward selfishness, brutality, fear or whatever else marked us before. Before the forgiveness of the Lord. Before the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

God Himself defines us. And He says that we are brave. He says that we have the power that raised a man from the dead within us (Rom. 8:9-11, Eph. 1:19-20). He says that we are not just conquerors – we are MORE than conquerors (Rom. 8:31-39).

So let’s end with this:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

– Psalm 27 (NKJV)

My journey to faith. (15)

For all of the posts in the 31 Days: Brave series, go here.

31 Days of Brave: Ur

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Gentle Reader,

I’m working through the She Reads Truth: Women in the Bible plan right now, and the focus is on Sarai. There are so many things I’d like to know about her. And Abram. How did Sarai react when Abram told her to pack up the house because they were moving…somewhere? How did Abram know that this really was the Voice of God? Did either one of them have any previous knowledge of or experience with the Lord? What about their neighbors and family members – did they laugh? Scoff? Reflect?

So many questions.

What strikes me most deeply is that Abram and Sarai couldn’t stay in Ur and be obedient to God. The two things were totally opposed. Even though bravery can mean staying, like we talked about yesterday, it can also mean that you get your gear and go. No matter how it feels. No matter what other people say.

And really, that’s the call of God. Move forward, into the unknown, and trust that He is there. He issues that challenge to His children every day. The specifics look different for each of us, but we’re all on the same journey, putting that one small foot in front of the other, believing that He’ll reveal the path before us. It doesn’t have to be a physical leaving. It can be walking away from bitterness, gossip, our own plans.

We start out in Ur, but we’re not meant to stay there.

My journey to faith. (15)

 For all of the posts in the 31 Days: Brave series, go here.