Hopeful Still

A bit over a year ago, after some begging and pleading by Sam, a little blonde Labrador joined the family. He was given the name Trigger and true to form he stays cocked and ready and is only a short impulse from exploding into acts of total depravity at any moment, day or night. No shoe or porch screen or Posturepedic dog bed is safe from his curious teeth and for all the times his wake of destruction should have earned him swift punishment we’ve only adored him more.

By we, I do not mean Luke. Or Sydney.  Or Sawyer and Elijah. 

Yes, Trigger is a very bad puppy, but he has redeeming qualities the best of which is his eternal optimism.  He’s a hopeful boy completely oblivious to pandemics or politics and in return for being one of the objects of his deepest affection, I do my best to make time for his invitations to play. 

Because he does invite you to play. Rattle a doorknob or open a car door and he springs into action searching for an object to bring to the game of fetch he is certain is about to commence. His current favorite is a rubber dumb bell. Appropriate. But he will also bring a tin can or a 3 inch stick if that’s all he can muster. If you throw his toy du jour 30 times, he’ll return it 31 and even having done your duty, you can’t stay the guilt that comes when it’s time to call it quits. Could you say no to this face?

Hopefulness.  What is it exactly?  I think it can be summed up as confidence in the future or anticipating a successful outcome. Why is Trig triggered by his humans?  Because relying on experience, he’s got a strong feeling the return on investment will be high. Also note that he doesn’t offer to interact with cars or chairs or the water hose. (I take that back about the water hose.  He destroyed it, too, but it laid there, not participating nor appreciating the violence done to it.)  No, Bob, he’s only got eyes for his people because they are safe and they return the love. Most of the time.

2020 has had its ill effects and other than the obvious loss of life to those who’ve perished from COVID, I’d suggest hopelessness as a close second.  Zero confidence in the future and assurance of unsuccessful outcomes is the sub-context of practically every television broadcast, social media post, conversation.  Why are we so pessimistic?  Easy. We’ve exchanged the object our hopefulness from One who has never nor will ever disappoint His children to man, his human institutions, and the terrifying idealisms he espouses. No wonder we are depressed. 

I don’t think I’m alone when I say it has been work to plug my ears from the noise of a nation crying out for hope from those who are in no position to give it any more than a tree can play fetch with a dog.  It’s been hard to block it out and difficult to remember whose I am and resist the temptation to join. Though it guts me to see people seeking salvation from government, I understand it when those demanding justice do not have a relationship with the God who made them. If they understood what justice really entails, they wouldn’t be so quick to insist upon it because justice is both societal and personal, providing for the right and punishing the wrong.

For those who do know Jesus, let’s not be swept away with the tide of overcorrections, being tossed to and fro from one swing of the pendulum to the other.  James says those people are double-minded and unstable. (1:8)  In the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, we are to shine like stars and above all, keep our chin up.

How does a person remain optimistic? It may be easier to identify things that are certain to kill it every time:

  1. Obsession with secular social media. Does that mean we shouldn’t inform ourselves?  Of course not. But for every minute of news gift yourself with five of scripture to put it in perspective.  Otherwise you’ll lose your mind. The end.
  • Unproductive arguing with people who do not share a common hope in Jesus. Do We the People have a voice in government, and should we exercise that blood-bought right?  As US citizens, yes. As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, should we pursue the things that make for peace and use our blood-bought privilege to use our words to draw people in to the same hope we have?  Double yes. There’s a time for shaking the dust off but not before you’ve presented the opportunity for reconciliation with God first.  We are great at skipping the first part.
  • Hand-wringing over the policies of man and their effects.  Are many of those policies completely contrary to God’s commands?  Absolutely.  Will there be economic fall-out?  Depends on who you ask.  But God not only knew these times would come upon us but appointed us to endure them in confidence, not terror.  In the profound words of Luke McKay, it is what it is.  How are we going to leverage the opportunity before us to exercise our gifts in greater measure than ever before?    

I stated in my last writing (two in one week’s time!) that God has been compelling me to repent and rethink and return to former things in new ways. Maybe I didn’t say that exactly but it was under the surface. That can’t be done without faith in One who has the energy to remain engaged with me no matter how many times I come and go.

More than ever, pandemic or not, unified country or not, like a certain very bad dog, I am hopeful.

Is This Thing On?

Every time I pull up this website I’m always a little embarrassed over the length of time I’ve let it sit untouched.  Of one thing I’m confident, lives have gone on just fine without hearing about field trips with my kids (they are all grown now) or a handbag I found on sale at Target or a devotional thought about a spiritual thing.  Nevertheless, I miss the good ‘ole days of interacting with my blog friends.

But the mini-Apocalypse happened and it feels needful to make mention of the craziness that has been 2020.  In the same way I’ve always wished I had asked my grandmothers more about living during the depression with food rations and through actual World Wars, I think one day our grandchildren will want to know what dailiness was like during a global pandemic.  Historians will certainly take a stab at it, but anyone fleeing Facebook and Twitter will understand why it’s important we chronicle our own experiences and hold them close since any truth-telling that doesn’t align with the accepted narrative is likely to either be slapped with “fact-checking” warnings or deleted altogether.

We all bemoaned January being the longest month ever not realizing those would be the best 90 days of the year. February brought rumblings of a bizarre bat virus taking hold in China, and by March we were in a world-wide lockdown. 

Quarantine had its own progression.  Boredom eating, toilet paper hoarding, essential businessing, remote-working, elastic-waist pants wearing, home hair-coloring, more eating, exercising, involuntary homeschooling, social media fighting, which color matters protesting, city burning, police defunding, limited country re-opening, mask wearing or not wearing, election having, and election result questioning.  Each of these deserves its own commentary but not here and now.

This season of time has been unsettling and as recently as a few days ago I may have gone off on a tangent about how media censorship over the recent hotly contested election is reading like a page straight from an Orwellian 1984 playbook and expressed low level anxiety over the fundamental idealisms of the newly elected government and the effect on our livelihoods, but…I’ve calmed.  

Do you know why? 

Because the USA may be my country, but it is not my Kingdom.

Luke and I have semi-seriously discussed if a place existed where government was less convoluted, people less divided, and common sense still reigned. 

Here’s our list:  

  1.  

Oh wait.  There’s not one.  There are no places.

If a person is looking for a better Kingdom, it won’t be found here on planet earth.  The good news is that there is a transcendent realm where none of the worries and anxieties of this present age have any effect. (1 Peter 1)

I speak of the Kingdom of Heaven where Jesus reigns.  I speak of the One who, while living in the Middle East in a far more corrupt government than we can every imagine and through an unjust trial was sentenced to death, said about paying taxes, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17)  That simple statement models for all of us the extent to which we should be riled up about fairness of political matters. Let’s worry about Caesar when we’ve given God his full due. 

What does that look like?  It’s different for everyone.  For me, I’m asking hard questions of myself on how I can be salt and light to people desperate for more than entitlements and lead those within the community of faith to do the same.  I’m asking God to rekindle the flame of those gifts He’s called me to exercise so that I can give Him the first fruit of my thought life, time, and energy.  Part of that includes reclaiming responsibility and ownership of the memories I hold dear, the pictures that say all the words I don’t know how to express, the sporadic devotional writings, and other communications with family and friends outside of the Facebook platform by posting them here on my personal site instead.  One doesn’t realize how deeply they are entangled in social media until they try to plan an exit.  If you don’t believe me, try it.

So, as a result, I will share links to this site on my Facebook page and MeWe for those who would like to stay engaged.  I will use Facebook to keep up with my family and pictures of all the adorable babies that COVID has prevented me from meeting yet. I will also use it to continue encouraging ministry wives on The Preacher’s Wife private group.  I’m not trying to break up with people I care deeply about but it feels right to separate my own content into a space that is mine alone.  I also pray it will be a motivator to fill it with writings that have Kingdom value.

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Make It Matter

Any woman who takes her faith seriously at some point asks herself, “Do the things I do matter? Is my parenting, my career, my service, my companionship, my presence on planet Earth really going to have lasting impact? Or maybe if we are honest, the question we keep closer to the vest is, “Do I matter?”

The question resonates with me because I’ve asked it of myself more than once and not so long ago. Frustrations were at an all time high and I decided the reason for the angst was because my pursuits – primarily career related – were in the secular realm and therefore, the emotional energy and mental focus I devoted were nothing but a waste of precious time that should be spent doing work that mattered.

“Spend the better part of my time doing what matters.” I wrote that blurb in my journal and penciled ideas on what that might look like including but not limited to finding a ministry-related position that would make me feel like the hours I spent away from homemaking and ministry wife-ing directly benefited humanity in some tangible way.

My disgruntlement multiplied the more I convinced myself that the “things that mattered” were somewhere beyond my here-and-now. Non-coincidentally, Psalm 42 and a simple yet profound quote made their way before my eyes and consequentially into my head and heart. Hear this Elisabeth Elliott wisdom:

Here’s what I have come to know…

The statement, “Spend the better part of my time doing what matters” is immature and incomplete. What it should have said is, “Spend my time doing all things in such a way so that they matter.”

See the shift?

The problem wasn’t that I was doing things that didn’t matter, it’s that I wasn’t doing them in such a way so that they did. The answer wasn’t in a different set of circumstances, it was a different me in the same environment.

Stripped down, the base motive for our pursuits should be the ability to offer the thing back up to God. What if every workplace believer’s concern was climbing the corporate ladder instead of infiltrating her office with love and light? What if every “unhappy” wife gave up on her marriage? What if every mother decided to let the kids sleep in on Sunday morning and trust their spiritual formation to Veggie Tales? What if believing women separate the faith they profess from the morality of their choices? If the result of our actions – whether relational or productive- can not be laid proudly at the feet of Jesus then no matter how much we invested – the thing doesn’t matter. It’s wood, hay, and stubble and will be set on fire.

No matter how we’ve blown it, the go-forward is that we can redeem the exact same situations by allowing our faith to inform our failures and do the same thing differently this time. Instead of searching for “what matters” outside our current circumstance, make it all matter right here, right now.

How?

Fix our minds on things that matter.

Prioritize things that matter.

Be affected only by things that matter.

Listen to people who matter.

Let the dreams we chase be centered on Kingdom matters.

Invest creativity in things that matter.

Carry ourselves and treat others as though they matter.

(And so many more. )

We can’t always undo what’s behind but there’s nothing stopping a single one from allowing God to shift our thinking from always chasing the elusive to making our current situation the one we dreamed of all along.

So starting now……

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