Posts Tagged ‘God’

ALMA antennas under the Milky Way

  • Have you ever wondered if God is real?
  • Have you ever wondered if your prayers are heard?
  • Have you ever wondered if your dreams, your hopes, your deepest longings really will come true?
  • Have you ever begged to be spared from a certain suffering, but then you weren’t?
  • Did you ever have moments or days or seasons in your life that were totally beyond your control?

Chances are, if you’re human, you can most likely answer YES to the above questions.

Life can be so beautiful. It’s full of amazing moments: The birth of our children. The day we made eternal promises and said “I do” and “Forever”. The day we accomplished something so amazing, we surprised even ourselves. The day we looked out to the horizon and cried because what we saw was simply beyond words; it was indescribably beautiful. You wanted to just freeze time and stay in this place forever. And that’s always when the first stab of pain hits you. Because you know you simply can’t. Nothing here lasts forever.

When I was a child, I thought like a child. Kind of like Margaret of “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret”. I had the same prepubescent worries as she did. Will I ever even need a bra? Will I eventually become a woman in every way? Will a boy even like me….ever?  Does God exist or care about me?   Like Margaret, I wondered where is God more likely to hang? A synagogue? A cathedral?  A mountain top? At the beach?

But those thoughts passed, as did those days. As a child, you can’t even see yourself as a grown up, when you don’t have to feel so awkward or get your feelings hurt so much. We were young. We were naive. We didn’t yet know what we do now: Those were the best days.

Life would get more complicated, time would march forward whether we were ready or not, for what was headed our way. We were still at the beginning of our journey. We still had more hurt to go.

Sometimes parents divorced. Sometimes they died.   Friends moved away.   We outlived our favorite pets. First boyfriends or girlfriends finally arrived on the scene. But they quickly departed too, taking the first of many bites to come out of our vulnerable hearts. Sometimes we moved away or our friends did. Some friends died inexplicably young. In less than a decade we transitioned from girls and boys to women and men. By the time we turned our tassel, we realized some truths:

  • Life isn’t always fair.
  • The hard work of our lives isn’t over just because we graduated, it was merely beginning.
  • I’m not sure if I’m ready to be who I’m supposed to be.

We continued to learn more. We worked. We said I do and we had babies—babies who grew from toddlers to little kids to teenagers to adults almost as fast as one of those rotating doors in a hotel lobby.   From band-aids on boo- boos to full blown medical emergencies where lives are on the line, the days passed. From seeing many dreams realized and some crashed—all these things happened too.

We went to countless weddings, family barbecues and gatherings, and funerals. Two thirds of them were fun and full of promise. The other third, the funerals, many of which were beautiful, never got easier. They only got more frequent. That too made our hearts heavy. We knew where this is all headed.

Which brings me to the point we all ponder in life, especially in times of crisis? Are you there God? It’s me. It’s you. It’s all of us as humanity, but it’s each of us individually and we want to know are you there? Are you aware of me, in this moment?

It’s the question people struggle with at their core, until they finally decide to choose. Even if you make no choice as to what or whom you believe in, you have made a choice, if only to stay grounded in ambiguity, unsureness, maybe even anxiety and insecurity.

Don’t get me wrong. Believers struggle too. But deep down they know. It’s the essence of faith. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the being certain of that which we do not see.

Faith is truly a tightrope walk. It’s just like life—trying to find balance and not lose your head, especially when you are way out there, fairly far from the gravity of comfort zone, security, familiarity, easy street.   And yet you know, there is a safety net below. Should you fall, you’ll be caught before hitting bottom. It just doesn’t look like it. Or feel like it. You have to get your head and heart in alignment with a thing called trust.

God is like that. He is real. He is here. He is there. He is everywhere.   He sent his Son Jesus to catch us like a safety net, even when we’re way up(or out) there!

Each of us are so precious to him. He knows when we hurt, or fall, are sick, are weak, or when we lose, or succumb, or waver, or any other weakness as defined by us. But He knows differently; something we often can’t wrap our head around: His love is perfected in our weakness. We just have to be the willing Captain of the vessel called Self that will allow him to travel with us, in us, and pass through us in order to change our destination, and thus destiny by simply saying, not my will, but yours.

Jesus said in this world, we’re going to have some troubles and he was by no means exaggerating! But he also said to take heart, for he has overcome the world.   Every time I hear that, I rejoice a little more inside. I reclaim the parts of my heart that which is unfair or unbearable or unexplainable tries to conquer. The truth gets etched a little deeper each time. Because it frees me:

  • From having to have all the answers.
  • From being responsible for fixing that which I don’t have the power to do.
  • From focusing on why (the unfair/hard/unexplainable) of pain, and instead focus on the who I can trust with all this (God/Jesus).

We are not invisible to God. And although the universe is a fairly big place (science can’t even agree on where/if it ends and how long it’s been around), we are by no means small. We are not insignificant in God’s eyes.

We can look from the most powerful telescope billions of light years away and all we see are dots. But God can look across space and time and see us, every bit of us—our tears and our dreams-and all He can see are stars. We are His star, the crown jewel, the masterpiece of His creation.   Whether we are searching outward as far as our eye can see, or inward, as deep as our heart can bare, our heart beats strongest when we choose to simply be still and know He is there.

 

God is so big, He is real, and is involved in the details of our lives.   Verses (promises) that inspired this story:  Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 11:1, 1 Corinthians 13:11 John 16:33, Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 46:10

Books I’d recommend to anyone who is searching:Purpose Driven Life

Search for Significance

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God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you? ” — William Arthur Ward

 Photo by Liz Gray

I saw this caption in a travel magazine promoting  tourism of the country of Turkey.  I saw it and immediately thought:  I wish that was my original idea!

It’s not.  But the practice of the concept can be an original idea for you, for me, for all of us, starting now:   This very moment.

Stop multi-tasking for a second as you read this.  Think about this deeply.  Look around.  Are you inside or outside?  If you are inside, where are you?  At home?  At work?  On a mobile device in the great outdoors?   Take a panoramic mental snapshot of what’s around you:  Architecture, mementos, photographs, nature, security, landscapes, gifts, birds, business, people, stars, flowers, insects, sky, sunrise, clouds–signs of life abounds everywhere.   When you look at the world, what is it that you see?

Do you see beauty?  Do you see what God has created?  Even if it’s man made, did not God put the original idea, the skill set to craft, the desire to create, first in the mind of you or someone who thought I’m going to build this amazing bridge or paint this amazing portrait or mix compounds in a new way and create a cure.

We live in a distracted world.  For sure, we have inherited a problematic world that multiplies daily in terms of crisis and depth of despair.  The news sucks, people everywhere around us are sick and dying, we are overworked, underpaid, overstressed, and undernourished in every way—spiritually, physically, and emotionally.   We are slaves to too much technology.  We can’t keep up with our own self, much less anyone else.

How do you turn it off?  How do you silence all the chaos that surrounds you and ensuing drama in your head?  What is it that works for you?  Do you have something?

  • Supportive Friends
  • Faith
  • Prayers
  • Hope
  • Music
  • Art
  • Love of or for someone other than you

I hope you have one, two, or even all of the above!

      We can’t always change our circumstance in life.  That means there is only one thing we can change:

Our Perspective

      I don’t know about you, but when I look at the world, this is what I see:

Flowers, character lines on old faces, color, deliciousness, babies, painting, design, patterns, solutions, craft work, words, kindness, goodness, feats of wonder,  sculptures, melody, truth, beauty…….

On and on it goes.

Sometimes I complain, believe me I do!  But with faith and daily prayers, good friends who hold me accountable to truth I can live by, the symphony of music, and an attitude that is growing a little more each day in gratitude, I am discovering that God’s love for me is bigger than any problem or emotion.  I still don’t measure up to my ideal version of myself, but knowing God loves me despite my flaws (many) and forgives me despite my guilt (much) frees me from self-condemnation while at the same time humbles me that He still has even more blessing in store for me.

Faith as a belief is an essential partnership with God which allows you to focus less on you, more on God, less on circumstance, and more on acceptance of what is.  We can ride the wave, go with the flow, and bend like a willow tree.   Faith as a practice is not about appearing or trying to be perfect or fit a stereotype, but to be the real you as God intended in order to be at peace.   Quirky, funny, emotional, deep, driven, ridiculous…..whatever it is, just be YOU so you can get past all that and start tending to the needs of others.

May you step out today in courage and stop fighting that which you can’t control, start changing anything about yourself that you can and know you should, and may you have enough heart to look around and see beauty…..everywhere.  This is the confirmation that God sets in each of our hearts that whispers you too are loved. 

Ready?  One, two, three…..breathe in!  INHALE LOVE.  EXHALE.  GRATITUDE

MORE THOUGHTS ON FAITH AND GRATITUDE:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”   Epicurus

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”  Elizabeth Gilbert “Eat, Pray, Love”

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”  A.A. Milne – “Winnie the Pooh”

 (Quotes from GoodReads)

     

Love has a hem to her garment that reaches the very dust.

It sweeps the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must. – Mother Teresa

     Have you ever noticed when you are totally overwhelmed with a set of challenges (one for each finger I say), life has an uncanny way of dealing just a few more major blows– all at once?  Here you are standing tall as trees, trying to be strong, and be responsible and systematically solve the issues?  This feels like a theme for me these days in life.

I recently bought a post card from the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum that sits in front of my kitchen window.  It has NO PICURES, just five simple words to remind me of today’s modus operandi:

Failure is not an option.

       It’s the famous line uttered in the Apollo 13 mission and subsequent movie.   It’s a verbal and visionary reminder to keep trying, to keep going…at all costs, beyond energy, beyond strength, above all:  beyond no, and I can’t and I don’t know and I’m tired.

       You must, must, must find a way, in order to complete the mission and come home safely.

The catch is this; life does not always play out like a great movie or space mission.  In fact, as clever as those amazing astronauts were, was there something more than mere intelligence at work?  After all, who gives us our amazing minds?

Perhaps there is a force at work bigger than the size of the circumstance.   Smarter than the smartest mind in the room.  Stronger than the strongest person or fire or storm that threatens.

Yes, we stand tall as trees, but God fells us to our rightful position sometimes:   our knees.

We’re not as big, or smart, or as important as we think we are.    We are not responsible for the resolution of everything!  That’s such a hard, hard lesson for me.  I just naturally associate doing nothing with being lazy.   I keep forgetting that letting go, actually does mean let God.  Nothing in the world feels harder than surrender.  After all, in battle, isn’t surrender essentially the same as defeat?

In battle, yes.   In matters of faith, surrender is true freedom.  Why?  Because that’s when the soft winds of grace can blow in.     What is this grace exactly?

It’s unmerited favor.  It’s granted when you don’t deserve it, perhaps because you don’t deserve it.  Or perhaps because you do.  It’s because despite your failure of choices or abilities, you deserve it, simply because you are loved.  It’s because despite all this which is not of your own making is not happening unnoticed by God.   You are loved.  And the solution will arrive right on time.  But not on your time, on God’s. 

      I think of grace as perseverance strapped safely in by faith.  It’s the ability to step out and endure before the answers arrive.

What is “that thing” you so desperately need right now to solve your most pressing problems?  More money?  More time?  More wisdom (something you hadn’t considered before)?  More energy?  More love?

    Probably “that thing” is the ONE THING you just can’t do by yourself, no matter how hard you try.

Solution?  Stop trying already.  Hear me right.  You still have to get out of bed each day, get up and do the best that you can.  Work as hard as you can, but work at it as if you are confidently expecting God to pull through for you.

Maybe muster up a tiny bit of joy as you are working.  Prayers of gratitude for what God has blessed you with will strengthen you further.  What do you already have working for you?  A family who loves you?  (Think how many people in the world don’t have this!)  A body still capable of working, even though it tires?    A mind which, though sometimes filled with doubt, can still decide, change, adapt to, and embrace new situations and challenges?     Basic needs such as a food, shelter, clothing?   I hope you see the gift of grace you have already obtained here.

If you have time, I hope you’ll watch the video. Mother Teresa had it right all along.  God designed us in this simple yet unique way.

To love, and to be loved.

      That’s it.  To love.  You struggle, yes.  But look beyond you, clearly there are harder struggles that you have not been called to endure.  That’s not good luck; that’s grace.    And yet there is a lesson here:

Amidst the chaos, the unknown outcomes of pressing problems, and being pressed for time all around, is there a way to extend grace to someone else?    Who nearest to your center of gravity simply needs to be loved?

 Failure may feel as if  it’s not an option for the challenges we face.  But grace is.    And grace is the one that will help us complete our mission and carry us safely home.

More Wisdom from Mother Teresa:

We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.

A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.

As a WordPress.Com blogger, I enjoy participating in the Weekly Photo Challenge.  This week’s theme is Urban.  Well, this scene is about as urban as it gets near the Theatre District in NYC…closer to Off Broadway than “On”. But you get the idea.

But as the current curator and sometime sommelier for u2areloved.com, allow me to submit this pic.  Here’s why!

In every pic, there is a hidden jewel.  And if you know me, or know the band I’m a bit smitten with, then you will see it.   Right there in the middle is Bono and U2 band mates reminding one that:

U2 360 Concert is in NYC on 07/20/11

Because like their song says, “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”

Kind of like the theme of this urban photo.

Kind of like the theme I’m trying to express on my site here.

Kind of like what God has done in my lifeHe taught me to see beauty, even in the stark things, the hard things,  this wretched truth of the life we sometimes live.

Show a little LOVE if you LIKE and LIKE the U2areloved blog here!!  Thanks friends.
New blog post coming soon!  Life’s been a bit crazy lately….

u2areloved

Liz

Sometimes it’s so hard to live in the now.  It’s so easy to stay stuck in what happened yesterday or what we either hope will happen tomorrow or what we fear may happen.   When I look back, I used to dwell more on negative events and conversations and stay there and it would cause all sorts of anxiety because of what may happen next in the future.  Conversations and events that never materialized were a constant companion, but not a very good friend.

But now I’m getting older and time is more precious.  If I’m going to rent space from the past or the future in my head, then it best be a good place.  I like to call it my happy place.  Indeed it is.

It’s sometimes accompanied by U2 music.  It might be one of their concerts.  More than likely it involves spending time with family and friends during the big and small moments that make life worth living.  You know these moments.  They are the ones that whisper to your soul:

Don’t forget this; try and remember every detail.

 Carve this memory in your heart; for it will warm you all your days.

     Funny thing is this:  It’s not the most extravagant place I’ve ever been.  It’s not the most famous person I’ve ever met.  It’s small.  It’s true.  Remember when Bono sings in “Miracle Drug” that, “Freedom has a scent, like the top of a newborn baby’s head.”

That’s it.   The memories of new life, or the beginning of an amazing journey, the moment that happens that you know from here out, everything is different, life is better, it’s richer, and it’s truer.  The moments that follow this one are enriched because they are defined by this one.

 

I think of walking and looking up at the tall redwoods of the Muir Woods north of San Francisco.  These trees are often thirty stories high, and they instantly shrink us as you walk their paths.  I think of wild horses that still run free when I stayed on Shackleford Banks off the coast of NC with my father when I was a little girl.  He built us a covered shelter out of drifted scraps of wood.

 

      I think of the homeless man on the corner I enjoy giving cookies to or a new shirt.  I don’t pity him, I only see him.  I see a soul who is worthy and smile because I know God sees him so much more.  I think of the sight of each of my children the first second I held them in my arms.  I will always believe in love at first sight.  Because it’s a repetitive theme, I know it’s true.

I dream of and for the future.   And sometimes I get a glimpse of events before they happen.  That’s a whole other story, but people that know me, know it’s true.    Call it a finely tuned sense of intuition, a gift, or a curse, I sometimes know before I know.  Both the good and the bad—shadows of the future come into view before the people or events that shape it will.  I’ve learned to appreciate it.    I can expect blessings and trials, but through both of them, I know I don’t walk alone.

When we start examining our hearts, it’s amazing what we find.  I think God is more likely to give us a “heads up” when we get honest with ourselves what hurts us, what inspires us, what delights us, what leads us to change, what challenges us and pushes us forward.   Before anything ever happens, do you first believe whatever happens, it will be used for your good, even if it is not good?   For that is freedom.

I always believe something is at work here, bigger than me, beckoning me to push through and go forward always.  To not look back and have faith even when the future seems so uncertain.   There will be hard times too, but I believe the God that took me this far, won’t abandon me later.

All we ever have is now, that’s why the cliché is true that it’s a gift called the present.  Every moment and event before this one lead you here.  Did you choose well?   There’s still time.   Tears, laughter, love, loss, abandonment, fulfillment, fear, grief, intensity, joy, hurt, love, disillusion,  ambition, passion—it’s all going to happen.  Maybe not today, but another time, another place.   Will you be ready?

Live ∞ Love ∞ Laugh ∞ Pray ∞ Listen to U2 ∞ Sing ∞ Trust ∞ Don’t Panic ∞ Feel ∞   Hear ∞ See ∞ 

∞  Ready?  GO!

Signs and Wonders (Do You Feel Loved?)

Posted: July 18, 2012 in Faith, God, Love
Tags: , , ,

How many of us lift up a simple prayer sometimes and ask for a sign.  Just give me a sign Lord!  So, a few days ago when I was driving to the beach, I saw this sign by the side of the road.  Simple.  To the point.  What was it advertising?  I didn’t see anything else beside it.   Oh come on, someone doesn’t just pay for those words and not advertise a product!   Well, somebody did.

There has to be a story here, I thought to myself as I made two consecutive  180° degree turns in my van, just so I could digitally encapsulate forever this profound message.  Simple, yet profound.

Somebody cared enough to put these words on a billboard.  Somebody thought you needed to know.  Who in your life needs to be told?  The long term girl friend you kind of take for granted?  The wife you’ve known for fifty years who already knows you do—you’re long past having to say it?  What about the mother who you haven’t called in over a year?  The daughter you’ve been estranged from and you’re too chicken to call?    The friend who you let down?

Maybe there’s a him that needs to hear it just as well.  Who says men don’t need to hear it?  Maybe it’s your child or teenager.  Just because they have an attitude doesn’t mean they don’t long for it.  Either way, if YOU ARE HERE, then maybe this is your moment, your sign.

Love has two parts:

  1. Do
  2. Say

Do!  Actions speak louder than words and hopefully your actions are leaving heavy carbon footprints in the heart of those you love.  It’s the little gestures that count, the sweet notes, the surprise call, the dinner on the roof she wasn’t expecting, mowing your elderly neighbor’s yard, taking your daughter fishing, and a thousand other things you can easily think once you decide you’ve got the time.

Say!  Actions may speak louder, but words are the shadows of these deeds.  Love is the loudest whisper ever spoken, if it is said true.  Love is what you wear or omit when you go out in the world.  Love is what you broadcast when you speak, write, sing, or create.   It’s a feeling, yes, but so much more.  It’s an action, a decision, and it’s never static.  Love always leaves a mark.

Do you feel loved?

It’s so simple actually.  Start with something you do.  Then follow it up with something you say.  Trust God with the results.  Listen to good music.  Take note of things that are beautiful.  Appreciate life!   Pray.   Be patient and show kindness.  Let love be your outward habit towards others.

You are here.  You are not lost.  You are worthy of giving and receiving love.   Go forward smiling with a song in your heart and with God’s blessing.

You too are loved!

And I feel loved
Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved
And it looks like the sun
But it feels like rain
And there’s heat in the sun
To see us through the rain

Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved
Do you feel loved

“Do You Feel Loved?” – U2

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.    If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8

What is it about a beach sunrise that trumps a regular sunrise?  Yesterday morning I had my feet propped up on a deck rail, a warm coffee in my hand, two sweet dogs laying by my side, and watching the ocean on the horizon.

Such sweet relief!   Our souls often feel weathered due to the storms we’re forced to endure. We learn:

Change is the only constant we navigate by

Waves continuously change and crash, but the sea and the mysterious laws that govern it are eternally constant. I sat there vaguely pondering  this, but mostly I was trance like in a state of non-thought.

Then my dear friend of twenty years came out with a plate of delicious fresh garden tomatoes grown with the help of her hands and love for gardening.  We sipped our coffee as we watched the sea.  “Look!” she said.  “Dolphins!”    A pair of dolphins were swimming just past the waves’ breaking  point parallel to the shore line.

I rarely stay at such quiet beaches, so I had yet to see dolphins at sunrise.  I’ve hoped for it on many trips, but never got to see them with my own eyes–until yesterday.

It’s real, I thought.  I never saw dolphins swim at sunrise before, not because they didn’t exist or I wasn’t looking hard enough, but because it wasn’t my time to see.  Prayers are answered in God’s time, not ours.

There is nothing like the ocean that seems to settle our faith and our doubts between the temporary and the eternal  like watching the ocean for an extended period of time.  Our soul is soothed as we watch the ocean free from life’s pressures, distractions, noise, and rampant thoughts that compete for our attention.    Ah, to just watch the ocean with a truly open mind, and without awareness of time passing.

See God has planted the seed of eternity in every man’s heart.  It’s hard not to love the sea whose every breaking wave crashes onto shore, only to return softly back to itself.    From a distance it’s so beautiful.  But if you are standing at the waves’ breaking point, all you hear is loudness and feel its fury.  You certainly feel the power if you attempt to stand there.  Fixing your feet here is impossible.  But a few yards ahead or behind the breaking point, all is calm.

Our lives are exactly like that.  The storms come.   The circumstances come in bulk and threaten to pull us under.  We are standing at the breaking point where it’s loud, and we’re unsteady on our feet.  We see the shore and we see the horizon, but in the midst of the breaking point’s fury, we can’t seem to move further out to sea or return to shore.

Yes, viewing the ocean from the distance of being across the street, I had a wider and quieter view then when lying on the sand only a few feet from where the tide comes in.  I look at the sea from this distance and feel nothing but peace from the top of my head to the tips of my toes still sugared in bits of yesterday’s sand.  All is well with the world—or at least, in this moment, in mine.

Yet I know this same sea has blanketed fury on coastal cities in time past.  It’s destroyed property and taken lives.  Untold thousands have drawn their last breath of air before succumbing to the ocean’s depths.    Boats and ships sink.  Storms come.  People drown.   My worst sea nightmare would be of being stranded in a life boat, dying of thirst, yet wondering if I’d be rescued.

Yesterday I watched dolphins swim across the ocean.  Somewhere else in the world, in this very same sea, somebody else was on a sinking boat fighting to stay alive.  At their moment of peril, did dolphins cease to exist?  While I marveled at the magnificence of dolphins, did I not care for the person struggling in the sea just because I didn’t see them or know of it?

Our circumstances, perspectives, beliefs, and geography separate us, yet we are still united in our humanity.  When one suffers, humanity suffers even when others are not aware.  Thankfully, God sees the big picture of our lives with an ultra-wide angle lens—a perspective we can’t conceive.  It is not constrained by width or depth or time.   God is able to see both these moments, and every moment and every one.

I want to have and maintain peace like I did yesterday morning.  Can we have daily peace, even though there is continual chaos in the world, even in our own lives? If so, how God?

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.  James 1:5-8

This is one of the hardest and truest bible verses to me.  We are told that it is our doubts that blow our lives all around, sometimes to bits!  Our circumstances and our emotions toss us in such a way we can’t find True North, we can’t navigate our way home.   We get pulled between other peoples’ words to us and expectations of us and our feelings towards it all.   We don’t find solutions, because we don’t believe we will.

We get tossed by each event that threatens to overtake us, simply because we’re out of control.  We already know that in many circumstances, the control was never ours to possess anyway.    Still we fight the Captain of our soul for command of the wheel.  Sometimes our own mutiny is the real cause of our undoing.

It’s been said that seeing is believing.  But the real truth is believing is seeing. 

Would I have believed in dolphins had I never seen them at sunrise yesterday?  Of course!  I’ve known dozens of people who have already seen them; I’d seen them on TV and pictures.  That’s a no-brainer.  Everyone knows dolphins exist.

But God?  That’s another matter.  It can be hard to either believe God exists or that He actually is good or cares for you or the world that you live in.  How could God care or be good when there are storms such as wars, disease, famine , poverty, injustice,  and cruelty inflicted on living beings that God breathed life into in the first place?  Are those people or creatures less valuable to God then we are?  Of course not!  Then why?

WHY is the question we don’t have the luxury of asking.  When we do, our brain is limited in the answers it provides.  We can’t find rationale for pain or unfairness; our limited explanations don’t satisfy.   That dissatisfaction breeds doubt, and the cycle of being tossed about commences.

WHY is the universal question whose answer is like the sea.  It rises up, and then rolls back out.  We think we almost know sometimes; we think we have our lives figured out.    Then the storms come.

We have to trust in our faith that assures WHO, and not the knowledge that seeks to explain WHY.  Don’t allow waves of doubt to take your truth back to sea.

Man tries to explain his life and events, and the most brilliant, pedigreed people still fail miserably.   Life is a mystery.   The question is can you be at peace and NOT have answers sometimes?

I hope so.  That’s faith—being comfortable in not knowing the outcome or why.   If we can choose to live our lives as mirrors, so that our words and deeds reflect  light and love, rather than a telescope that tries to see and explain time and circumstance—that’s visionIf we can choose to love God and believe he exists, even though life isn’t fair, that’s true freedom.  Doing these things diminishes doubts, until they eventually die.

We don’t get to choose the location, timing, or severity of our storms.  We only can decide on who is in charge of our ship that sails over every breaking wave.  Choose well so that you can navigate safely.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

 

Every breaking wave
On the shore
Tells  the next one there’ll be one more

I don’t know if I’m that strong
I don’t know if I’m that strong
Don’t know if I’m that strong
To be somebody
To need someone……….

……..The waves know
We’re on the rocks
Drowning is no sin

You know
That my heart
Is the same place yours has been

(Partial Lyrics—U2 –Every Breaking Wave)

 

 

 

 

I am going to go way out on a limb here, but hope you will stick with me to the end.  I want to ask you something.

How deep do you want to be loved?

      I’m also going to be unashamedly real in my answer.   THIS MUCH!  No, I take that back, even more!  For fans of U2, this song certainly has such a life of its own and certainly connects with people spiritually—yes, men like it too, not just women.   U2 has said its “goal is soul” and this chart-smasher proves it.

Let me talk about something else though.  Sometimes a person just can’t deliver the goods.  Not your mate; not a rock star, not your best friend, not even yourself, no one!    The thing is we are human, and thus limited by our humanity.

In our most giving capacity, we can’t totally be the very thing that someone else needs or wants from us, or more painful, we are capable, but we willingly hold back.  Yet the most painful of all, is even if we love with all of our soul and being, we still fall short, because of this one simple fact:

We can’t sustain it. Time promises this.

     We can’t sustain the intensity because we are constrained by time; the best moments can’t last.  Those perfect moments in life are also the cruelest because they don’t and can’t last, and some of us chase them until the end of our life, trying to recapture or recreate them in all their significance and magnificence, in the way we perceive beauty.  Yes, sometimes we need it like a drug.

Herein lies love’s curse:  I can’t live—with or without you.

       Hear me right.  This goes beyond sex or friendship or passion or reason.  It cuts right to the core of who we truly are.   It’s the deepest part of our soul that can almost seem misunderstood by others. We can’t even form the words that describe our desire for this love, this way to be loved.

Perhaps the closest word is perfect.  We want perfect love delivered perfectly!  No drama, no conditions, no expectation, just pure and perfect love.  This is the dilemma of our lives as we chase what we never had, what we thought we once had, or fight to maintain what we appear to have (if only to us).

Like the song says, “we give ourselves away.”  Indeed.  We give ourselves away as we work and we live and we do—everyday.  The sands in our hourglass fall a little bit faster each day.  Most of us push ourselves constantly past expectations—both of ourselves and others.  Still, it’s not enough.  In our most satisfied moments, we want just a little bit more.

This weekend I watched a mom and her children I’ve known for years bury their dad and husband.  You didn’t have to be their best friend, to grasp the depth of their loss.  The rawness of their fresh pain ripped everyone.  We all want to do something to spare them from this; we can’t.   It’s because on earth, we can’t keep it.   Either way the best love will eventually be stripped from our open arms or our clenched fingers.  That’s why we don’t need to manipulate, control, trick, smother, beg, or insist for another to love us perfectly.    That only insures us they won’t or can’t.

Believe me my heart struggles with this, but my head knows this:  Another human being can’t love you deep enough or long enough.  There has to be more.

There is.  God steps in.  Yes, God–the be all and end all of the perfect love we crave.  This too is hard, because we’re walking and loving not by sight, but by faith.    We’re walking and loving by truth and promises, not by what we feel.  That’s a heavy thought, but a freeing reality that makes our burdens lighter to carry.

Somewhere in the heart of all us, if we’re honest, is the little boy or little girl who just wants to be held, to be pulled in close, and to be looked in the eye so deeply you can see our heart.  We want affirmation that we are good, we are loveable, and that it is seen by someone bigger than us.

U2, both their music and especially their front man Bono, seem to master this “soul-connect” with people by expanding the invisible thread that connects our hearts to one another.  The truest, ok maybe the sanest, of U2 fans know this:   It’s not about Bono or the band or even the amazing music itself, it’s the love that comes from a higher power, and they’re just fellow travelers like us, mere humans, who allow it to pass through via music, lyrics, and most of all— heart.

Every good song, concert, moment, or relationship concludes.  So what’s left?

God’s love is the cure.  It transcends space and time and imperfection on our part.    We just have to get our head and our heart around it sometimes.  May you travel light, find your song to sing, love people, and live well!

 

For me, I take it on faith that perfect love exists because there is a God, He is good, and He loves us.  There are some of my favorite scriptures on love and faith:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrew 11:1

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?  Romans 8:24

There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 (ISV)

And to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   Ephesians 3:19

On July 4th I published my post (Out of Control) Freak.   I woke up that day, wrote, and got on with my day making plans for July 4th with friends and family.  It seemed like another day, with the added bonus of being off work in the middle of the week.   I didn’t know the world was crumbling, changing form only a few feet from my home.

In the middle of the afternoon, the hundred degree heat sat thick and heavy on the ground. The sky grew black.  An explosion of thunder crashed as if a bomb went off.  Severe lightening and a pounding rain assaulted the heat.  Though it was ominous outside, I felt safe and secure in the comfort of my little world at home, near the half of family that was here and I prayed for my half that wasn’t here.

It appeared as if all was ok in my world, save for the barrage of fire trucks, police, and ambulances that began to flood our neighborhood.  I was busy writing and didn’t know only a block away, a fellow neighbor’s home was burning to the ground.   They were on vacation as their house perished in flames and smoke.  I also didn’t know that just over my fence, my neighbor of seventeen years got the dreaded phone call we beg God to spare us from:

I’m sorry; there’s been an accident.    Your husband was killed.

       Struck was the word used.   Yet he died as he lived; he was in the middle of doing something he loved.  He went for an afternoon ride on his bike before they were to leave for the beach.  What happens in a single hour?

  • A man who’s pedaled thousands of miles is struck by a truck in the middle of his ride.
  • Gawkers flood our street and follow plumes of smoke to see what is happening.
  • Pyrotechnicians are busy fusing fireworks on a platform while preparing for possible rain.
  • A neighbor rings my doorbell.  My writing time is interrupted.
  • Why isn’t my daughter back from work yet?
  • My friend is finishing packing bags and coolers when the telephone rings.
  • I want to finish my tasks so I can enjoy fireworks in a few hours.
  • Paramedics desperately try to save a man who was hit while riding his bike.
  • Thunder explodes.  Lightening crashes.  Then the rain comes.
  • It’s just another day.  It never is. 

Control of our lives is always an illusion.  I grieve for the moments I’ve lost due to anger, resentment, or frustration where I didn’t have control.   I wish I could take back moments I made the wrong choice or said words I shouldn’t have.  I wish I could freeze time and stay in the moments that were beautiful:  The moment you hold your new baby for the first time, the moments when you intensely loved and were loved, the sweet moment your child hugs your neck and jumps up on you.   We can’t; we’re out of control.

In life, sadly we get no do-overs.  We don’t get to remake yesterday; we only create today.  I found out by watching the evening news, something I rarely do anymore.  I felt sick, but prayed for courage and walked over in the rain to see my neighbor yesterday.   We shared quite a few conversations over the years.  We watched as new babies were born, and chatted when the kids played at the pool.  For years I smiled when I would wash dishes at my sink and watch her three rambunctious boys play with their dog and their dad outside my window.

Now there’s a good family I’d think.  They lived, and they worked, and they loved.  They loved Jesus, had cook outs, threw the Frisbee to the dog, and made plans for their future.  But they didn’t make this one.

In a few hours, I’ll be sitting in a church, most likely crying with hundreds of other friends and family members I do not know.  I’m sad and stunned by the loss of a great neighbor.   I can’t even begin to comprehend their loss of a father and husband who was cherished.

I only know this:  They are not alone.   When I went to visit yesterday, the house was full.  Full of comforting friends, grieving grandmothers, crawling babies, church ladies making food, and a sad dog wondering why all the people but no papa.  I walked in, and my newly widowed neighbor was laughing.  Laughing!  She was briefly in a happy moment as she was showing pictures to relatives.  This made me cry.  I knew when she turned around, there I’d be, another face with tears that kept repeating and confirming: It’s real.  It happened.  He’s gone.  I’m so sorry.

Hugs and tears were exchanged.  My feeble words were compensated for by God’s loving grace.  I was astounded by this mom’s great faith, for these dark hours where she stands and greets people warmly, clasps their hands and repeatedly says, “thank you.”  I reel at the unfairness of life.  I want to take this from her and spare her loving sons.  I can’t.  I have zero control.  They are going to walk through this anyway.

This is the moment we live our faith.  How do we respond when we go through what we didn’t ask for and once we are made aware of what someone else is going through?   I don’t know exactly; I know I can only start with this:  I pray.  I ask for wisdom, grace, comfort, and time to give these things.  I thank God for time we share with family, friends, neighbors, even when it’s brief.   I beg God for mercy and ask for all needs to be met.  I ask for this family to be surrounded by lots and lots of love, especially the long days ahead.

Every moment is indeed a gift; it really is a present.  I pray today that you can unwrap the love and then give it away.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah 43:1-2

Though our grief is devastating, God’s grace truly is amazing.

     Wild Child!   Such a fitting nickname for me, and so many of my friends—that is if we were still stuck in the 1980s.  Ah yes, the carefree 1980s when life was a continuous party, with intermittent breaks reserved for school and part time jobs.  Oh wait, that’s right, we brought the party with us then, so school really was a place of “higher education” and retail and fast food jobs could be experienced as “funemployment”.

Bonfires, boys, beer cans, secrets, laughter, dreams, and things with a funny smell were passed haphazardly amongst friends–we dreamers who were grappling with an idea of what we wanted, but still couldn’t quite name.    Though we were young, clearly we had left childhood, yet still had no clue what it meant to grow up—yet.

Who doesn’t remember the boy or girl at the party who was the center of attention, you know, the one who everyone said, “Man, he (she) is TOTALLY

Out of Control!

      Why that was a badge of honor!  It meant you were superior at taking risks, yet skilled enough to stop with smoke coming off your heels, before diving off a cliff completely.

Fast forward the VHS tape of our lives about twenty five years.  Out of control takes on a different meaning.  Translation:  I’m losing it! 

It means you still don’t quite have it together yet.  You grew up.  You became responsible.  You make lists of things to do, schedules for work, family, and activities.  You call people back, as well as reply by email, text, Twitter, and Facebook, all of which we missed out on in the 1980s.  You either faced someone in person or phone, or avoided them, plain and simple.  Now there’s no excuse for avoidance—we can be stalked by phones (of the land, cell, or smart variety) computer, and quite possibly GPS.

Back in the 80’s we lived, and dreamed about working—a little.  Now we’re “on” 24/7 and are most likely on speed dial with our boss, our clients, our spouses, our kids, our friends, and extended family.  Now we work a lot, and dream about what we would be doing if we were actually living.  You know what I mean, that thing we’d be doing, when we weren’t being so frustratingly responsible.

Hear me correctly.  Responsibility is good; no, it’s great!  We all can think of the self-chosen few who didn’t take responsibility seriously and missed the boat in terms of careers, family, or being independent.   It’s just that with all the responsibility that continuously weighs on us, who doesn’t dream from time to time of just letting go for a while.

Somewhere around forty plus, you realize you’re at the mid-way point.  You question yourself.  Am I successful (enough)?  Did my family/life turn out the way I hoped, more or less?  Should I have become more?  Should I have worked less?  Am I where I am supposed to be?

Maybe you grew up and made good choices and tried to do everything right.  Still:

Life happened.

People still died.  The divorce happened anyway.  You got let go, after all those years.  You had to downsize from your dream home.  Someone you loved abandoned you.  Your child rebelled anyway.  You were told your child has autism.  You didn’t think your spouse would get cancer so young.  Or maybe, you became a smashing success, but somehow the happiness you thought was attached to it, eluded you anyway.

Here’s the deal:  It was always about control.  In our rebellious youth we acted as if we didn’t need it, and by the very act of pretending and avoiding it; we proved we were already mastering deception–the very foundation of control.

Yes, we post our notes, and fill our calendars, and answer our email, all the while, we kid ourselves thinking we know what tomorrow brings.    Yet we know we’re just one phone call away from devastation, or a kiss away from an unforeseen good-bye, and sometimes the miracle moments too, the ones you never saw coming that leave you breathless.  Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that in our heart we make our plans, but God always directs our steps.

We crave control, and try to order our lives in such a way that we appear to have it.  But if you’re like me, God will occasionally interrupt your bliss and hand you a six-pack of situations.  Pop!  ZZZZZZZ!  Start chugging baby.  Before you have time to accept the harshness of the first bitter swallow, BLAM!  Have another one baby!  And another!   Go ahead; drink your fill!  There’s more where this came from!

    I’m not calling God a party-crasher.  I’m just saying– none of us get to stay at the party of endless fun!  We all get called to come home.  Funny thing is, when we surrender our need for all of it, all this control, and can truly turn to someone higher than ourselves, we can finally rejoice in letting go of what we never really had.

We’re out of control though.  It happens.  IT HAPPENED!  Out of control.  OUT OF CONTROL!!

We got spirit, we got soul!  We got some big ideas; we’re out of control!!

— Bono at Glastonbury 360  6/24/2011