Five Minute Friday: Expect

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

What outcome are you trying to control?

That question came from the lips of one of the ladies interviewed for the Hope*Writers online conference. (Wish I could remember who). The twelve sessions with authors and editors were worth listening to for that one piercing arrow alone. Anxiety is directly linked to control, or lack thereof. So what is it that you, that I, am trying to control?

Thinking along those lines leads directly to the heart of fear. If we can look full-face at the core with all of its blood and gore, we can begin the process of dismantling it in the grace and truth of Christ. Going beyond the fear into the reason for the fear is an important step in finding freedom from the fear. Deal with the cause, not the symptom.

Maybe I’m slow, but that’s exciting and new to me.

Kate says: expect.

Go.

Every woman struggles with the urge to hide her true self. We feel we are too little and too much all at once. More often than not, the image we project through behavior, clothing, ambition, home decor or a million other little things is just that – an image. Who we hope to be, who want to be, who we think we should be.

It’s our armor.

Our defense.

Because we expect to be hurt. People let us down. Fathers. Friends. The men we should never consider dating but wind up with for far too long. Mothers. Children. Coworkers. Husbands. Ourselves.

We want to be authentic. We want the outer to reflect and celebrate the inner instead of masking it. We want to let the guard down.

It’s hard.

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending my church’s district women’s retreat. The setting was picturesque, the music moving in the richest way, the preaching profound. But what got me, what really got me, was the experience of having my calling as a teacher affirmed in front of a group of mostly strangers. I had opened my mouth and blazed forth with opinions and suggestions regarding the importance of Bible study. I expected to be shut down or at the very least for people to just roll their eyes and move on.

I never expected to be built up.

It broke something deep inside of me.

I’m always apologizing. Always toting around a vague sense of guilt and a strong sense of shame. Always worried that I’ll offend or have offended someone and they’re just waiting to pounce. Always trying to control the environment. Not in a direct, manipulative way. In a, “I don’t want so-and-so to be mad at me way.” Sure, I have what I’ve been told is a very direct (okay, blunt) writing voice, but that doesn’t carry over into my “real life.”

I’m done.

This day, May 19, I’m done.

The pastor at the retreat invited us to hang out with the Samaritan Woman of John 4 all weekend, taking us a little deeper into her story every session. The woman couldn’t just sit there and magically wait for the freedom Jesus offered her to change her life. She had to grab on. She had to take what He was giving. She had to fling herself into the mystery of grace, not knowing what would come next as a result.

She had to expect the good.

I can’t fulfill my calling or experience the abundant life Christ offers if I keep expecting the bad, if I keep shrinking back against the wall. I’m tired of being bound up. I’m tired of avoiding new relationships because old ones have been bad. I’m tired of keeping silent.

I’m tired of expecting the worst at all times. I know bad things are going to happen. I’m not trading in dark glasses for rose-colored ones. Rather I want clear vision, straight-ahead vision, eyes-on-Christ vision. To see the good and expect the good. And when the bad comes, to see it in the light of the Good, Good Father.

Like a flower just beginning to open, full of hope and promise.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden
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31 Days with the Savior: Everything

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Gentle Reader,

Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” – Mark 12:42-44 (NKJV)

Jesus turns everything on it’s head. Again.

Surely those who are “important,” those who can give the most, are the greatest in His eyes. Surely He values the wealthy and the powerful above “regular” people.

He doesn’t.

Don’t misunderstand. Jesus doesn’t turn people away from Himself because they happen to be rich or in a position of influence. He doesn’t turn people away who happen to be poor “nobodies,” either. Anyone can come to Him. But position and the amount in our bank accounts make no difference to God. He sees our hearts. He sees what truly matters.

Jesus wants all that we have, whatever we have. No, we don’t have to go out, sell everything and live on the streets, but we do need to rely on Him. That’s what He asks of us. That’s why He praises this widow and her two little pennies. She gave because she wanted to. She put her whole life into it. That kind of thing makes the Savior smile.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the Jesus: 31 Days with the Savior series, go here.

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.

What Do They Want?

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Gentle Reader,

As Chris and I were making dinner this evening, we discussed the day. This is one of my favorite things about our relationship; chopping, stirring, simmering and tasting go hand-in-hand with gentle, unwinding conversation. The topics flip back and forth. Stories get added to. Worries are aired. The pressing concerns of the previous 8 hours fade away.

After relating one particularly difficult situation to him, I found myself saying, “I don’t know what anyone wants from me.”

One little sentence can reveal so much about the state of the heart.

A large part of the anxiety I struggle with comes from constantly trying to live up to the expectations of others, whether stated or dreamed up by myself.

I don’t buy into the line of thinking that says we should have no expectations of each other. For example, my boss should expect me to be at work on time and my husband should expect me to be his best friend and cheerleader. Those are good, right things. Problems arise when others have standards that are not good and right. You will always be there exactly when I need you and you will be in the mood/frame of mind that I want you to be in. Your problems will never take precedence over mine. You will never give me a funny look. You will always be cheerful. You will never complain and you won’t ask for help. You will…

The truth is, I do know what is wanted, but that want is impossible. I know because I’ve had that want, placed that expectation on others before. I can’t be more Jesus than Jesus. Bless His name, He shapes me every day. Little rough edges are smoothed away by His dear hands. But He’s the one who’s always “on,” not me. He’s the one who’s the best possible friend anyone could ask for. He’s the one who has all the answers. He’s the one who has the ability to give, give, give and give some more. He never gets tired, never gets crabby. He – alone – is perfect.

What people want, what they need, is Jesus. If they know Him, then they need more of Him.

That’s where the mind of life and peace is.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people?If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

My journey to faith. (15)