Tag: patience

What Do Formation and Escape Have to Do With You?

As I write this, I’m sitting in an airport lounge in Seoul, Korea.

We’ve been in the air over 17 hours and have 5 more to go in order to reach Hanoi, Vietnam, our destination.  I have something to drink, and a soft chair, and an internet connection, and I’m blessed to be heading to see the work of God in a new part of the world (to me). This is the best case scenario.

Still, travel represents one of the everyday experiences God can use for transformation. When we travel, so much is out of our control.

Think cancelled flights, lost luggage, crying babies, delays, and slow people who clog the TSA lines.

It doesn’t matter if it’s international travel, or going to Target with two toddlers in tow, our formation often comes in situations we want to escape from.

I think of another “traveler” – Moses – and his “toddlers”, the Israelites. If he had had his choice he probably would have gone it alone, and preferred straight line from Egypt to the Promised Land, bypassing the 40 years in the desert wandering thing.

When the Israelites are being difficult, Moses says, “What am I to do with these people?” Which is exactly the question you may be asking today.

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One (Boring) Word

Have you guys chosen One Word this year?  I know it’s halfway through January and I’m late to the party, but give me a break…It’s been, well…complicated.

First, I asked my family members what word they would choose for me. Big mistake. I asked so I needed to listen, but not only did I get a bit of variety, but they weren’t words like “joy” or “adventure” – you know, the kind I wanted to hear. Ahem.  My daughters gave me “perseverance”, and “patience”. REALLY?? That’s the last time I play THIS game!

Next, I prayed and reflected, but the word the Lord seemed to impress on me was also not one I was crazy about.

BO-RING! Right?

It made sense because I’ve been working hard on some different things and I need to not lose sight of the eternal purpose of each, but I thought (again), “REALLY? Blah.” So I tried to think of more exciting alternatives that wouldn’t violate the intent, but I came up empty.

And then the Lord did that thing where He kind of freaks me out. I could almost see Him rolling His eyes, saying “This daughter of mine is a little slow. I’d better connect the dots for her.”

Here are a few of the verses He put in front of me to stumble over…

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruitfruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:16

 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

Maybe part of the fruit He wants to produce in me is patience and perseverance?

But there’s more.

My husband, John,  (before I ever landed on “fruit”) said, “I’m not sure which one word it would be, but I want you to be able to celebrate the fruit God is already producing through you and enjoy it.”

Soooo maybe God uses a village? If you’ve chosen One Word for the year, what is it and what led you to choose it? If you’re commenting for the first time, don’t freak when it doesn’t show up immediately (it will, soon)

If you don’t have One Word yet, consider praying and asking your family.

P.S. This isn’t about working harder…not about doing more. It’s about paying attention and cooperating with the work God desires to do in your life to make you more like Him.

 

 

 

How to Untangle Christmas Lights Without Swearing

I’ve never heard either of my parents swear, but I have many memories of my mom, frustrated with a task, saying “I’m gonna swear.  I’m gonna swear! Close your ears kids!”                                                                                                                                                She never did, but she threatened to.  A lot.

There are some things that tempt a person to swear more than others. For me, the job of untangling Christmas lights brings out the worst in me.  I spent hours doing it this weekend, growling under my breath:

“I’m sure this must be a job people have to do in Hell.”

“If God really loved me I’d be rich enough to buy new lights every year.”

IMG_0597I was muttering, and resenting my husband who was off doing “spiritual” things, having “spiritual” conversations with colleagues, while I was relegated to “unspiritual” homey decorating chores.

As I glared and growled, and pulled and unknotted, and muttered some more I got to thinking about Mary (who had no lights to untangle btw) and how spiritual she felt during the 9 months that Jesus was being formed in her. Continue reading

6 Things I’m Learning About Handling Criticism

In our relationship John and I often say that the emotional trajectory of my typical day looks like this:roller-coaster-ftr

And John’s emotional trajectory looks like this:IMG_0532

So when a young woman I mentor asked if she could come over and talk to us about how John has navigated the crises and criticism of leadership with a “non-anxious presence” and how I have achieved the victory of not, you know…killing, any of those critics, we said, “of course!”

John’s temperament just naturally sets him up better for criticism, but he also has a lot of wisdom to share and I have a lot to learn.  Our conversation made me reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned  I am trying to learn about dealing with criticism.

Here are a few: Continue reading

What to do When You’re Stuck, part 2

Tuesday (yes, I’m a little off schedule with the holiday weekend) I wrote about the universal experience of feeling stuck from time to time.  For a week, or a month, or maybe you feel like you’re living a “stuck” life.

I shared some things I’ve been learning and trying to apply from Nehemiah who never acted without praying, and never prayed without acting.  Like peanut butter and jelly, prayer and action were inseparable in Nehemiah’s life as he got the Israelites unstuck and lead them in re-building the walls around Jerusalem.

But it turns out there was more.  Instead of pb & j, it was more like a BLT.  There was a third distinguishing characteristic in Nehemiah’s life – praise.

Over and over again he acknowledges dependence on God’s character – His power, His help, His care.  Nehemiah doesn’t lose sight of who’s God and who’s NOT.  He prays on behalf of the people “whom You redeemed by YOUR great strength and YOUR mighty hand.”

He reminds others “our God will fight for us” and says “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”  He tells others about “the gracious hand of God” repeatedly, and acknowledges the work is done “with the help of our God.”

So…PRAY, ACT, PRAISE, REPEAT.  But what if this “magic” formula doesn’t work in 52 days like it did for Nehemiah?

Sometimes I believe we stay stuck because God is at work “unsticking” other stuff in us that we’re not aware needs unsticking.  Character stuff that may not be our priority, but is His.  Like the stubborn leftover egg in a frying pan, He scrapes away.Unknown

What if our prayers in these seasons included, “Lord, help me not just to obsess on getting unstuck, but for as long as I’m here, show me what You want to form in me.  Help me to be present to You in each moment.”

Our friend, Steve Hayner, is “stuck” in a season of scary, debilitating cancer.  He is beautifully living out a life with similar character qualities to Nehemiah.  The other day he wrote this:

 In J.B. Phillips’ translation of the New Testament, he renders Romans 5:1-5 this way: 

1-2 Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through [Christ] we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.

3-5 This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.

 

These were great verses to wake up to this morning.  Life is lived in the grace of Jesus through and through–whether the grace is obvious in our immediate circumstances or not. With Jesus at work in our lives, God’s “good” is always being done and we always continue to grow and to be transformed.
Have you been in a situation of feeling “stuck” over a long season?  What do you feel like God was forming in you?

Waiting at Gate C6, C9, E10, H5…

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports this past week.  And this was not a happy thing.

It’s not like I was going someplace exotic like Bora Bora, or ran into Mumford and Sons on their way to the Grammys.

With the mega snowstorm that hit plus, normal mechanical stuff, It was just a matter of multiple delayed flights where each update means a gate change and a later departure.

And so it meant sitting.

And waiting.  Hours and hours of waiting.

Years ago John and I heard a motivational speaker who, in these situations used the refrain “You can cancel my flight, but you can’t cancel my day!” 

That sounds so…positive!  So cheery.  So empowering. 

But it’s just an annoying quote when your life is about being productive and on the go and you’re sitting in an airport, missing the event you’re scheduled for, or waiting to get home and your husband texts that line to you.  Are you with me?

When your plans are upended and you feel upended like Charlie Brown, once more having the football snatched away just as he was kicking, and you’re out of control, how do you control what you can – your attitude?

I’d like to be super spiritual and tell you all the Scripture that came to mind, but here’s how it went.

First I tried the practice of thanksgiving.  I was very thankful they aborted the first take off of one of my flights half-way down the runway, throwing on the brakes when an emergency light came on.  Safety is always good in my book.

And I was thankful for the cute little girl in the terminal with the Tinkerbell peeking out of her backpack.  And then I was pretty much done with thankfulness (with apologies to Anne Voskamp :)).  Still unproductive and waiting…

Next I tried praying while unclenching my hands, letting go of my need for power and control.  Very unproductive and still waiting (but it felt like the right thing to do)

Then, I tried to see Jesus.  To be present and aware of passengers around me who I might encourage. But every head was down, every eye seemed to be glued to Iphones while mine was dead (This was not on my “things I’m thankful for” list!).

Lastly I tried to smile.  I had just heard about a new study out that shows that smiling affects your attitude, reduces stress, and increases heart health.  Sounded good to me.

I tried, but I felt kind of like a Stepford Wife, plastic and robotic.  And I think people wondered if I was a little “off” shall we say.  I was unproductive, still waiting, and my mouth muscles hurt.

In the end I bought a Chik-fil-A sandwich and a People magazine.

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I remember hearing someone say once that God wants to give us a “snow day” every week with Sabbath Why do we resist?  Why do we seem so addicted to “doing”… to being recognized for what we accomplish?  Is it born out of a fear that being God’s beloved child isn’t enough?

Maybe, we need to relax and remember God’s ok with unproductive.  Having Chik-fil-A and a little Sabbath at Gate C6 was not a bad thing.

How do you handle interruptions to your plans and out-of-controledness?

How Costco is Soul-shaping

Sunday I went to Costco for hamburgers and came home with a vacuum cleaner.

I’d like to think it was my reward for surviving the Costco parking lot without committing murder or at least swearing, but maybe not so much.

My experiences at Costco have gotten me to thinking about this post from last December that I needed to remember in July…

I was maneuvering laboriously, with stops and starts, through the parking lot at Costco yesterday, thinking for the millionth time that the Costco parking lot is either an outer ring of hell or a brilliant opportunity for spiritual formation.  

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What are you Waiting For?

Last week I was down in the Chicago area because my mom was having surgery and I wanted to be there to help out and cheer her on.

Her last words as she was going in were “Isn’t he CUTE??” with a gleam in her eye as she pointed to her doctor.  Her first words out of surgery were “How does my hair look?”  Her doctor warned her not to sell her leftover Oxycodone on the street corner.

She’s scrappy and has a remarkable spirit and my dad is devoted and I wasn’t really needed, but it made me feel better to be there.

On the day of her surgery my dad and I spent pretty much all day in the waiting room.  I’m not a good wait-er.  At all.  As a wait-er

You’re not in control (When are you ever, really?  But it feels worse when you’re waiting).

It feels like you can’t DO anything constructive.

It feels like everyone else is going on with their life and you’re on hold.

Most of us are waiting for something.

I have friends who are waiting for a husband.  Or a wife.

Friends who are waiting for a prodigal to return.

For an acceptance letter.  Or a baby.

Waiting for a diagnosis.  Or a cure.

Waiting for a job.  Or someone to need them.  Or a place where they feel like they’d be missed if they were gone.

Recently, I heard Holly Furtick speak on waiting, and something she said has been rolling around in my brain ever since.

She said, “What seems like a pointless or painful waiting room can be God’s most productive workroom.”

I thought “Aha!!  I love being productive!  She’s going to talk about what we can DO to CHANGE things and get out of the waiting room!”  Not so much.

The work that we do while waiting is most often soul work.  Inside stuff that requires patience (Does anyone like that word?), obedience, discernment and cooperation with God.

In the waiting room of the hospital where Dad and I were they had this nifty flat screen and on it were listed all the patients in surgery for the day.  It tracked their progress, from pre-op, to surgery, to recovery room, to permanent room.  In addition, if the surgery was long, they’d send word out with a nurse as to how it was going.

When I’m waiting I could really use a spiritual progress monitor showing exactly how I’m doing and when it’s all gonna be over.

But instead of even enduring in the comfortable, clean lounge of a hospital, waiting often seems a lot more like we’re survivors of the Titanic, clinging to God among the wreckage in cold, dark water.  Disoriented and desperate to do something.

Every once in awhile we’ll flail our arms and try to swim to shore deluded into thinking we can swim the hundreds of miles on our own.  But we realize we can’t and we go back to clinging.

Clinging is the work of the waiting room.

We cling and we say “Lord, help me to see you. Somehow.  Today. Even for a second.  Help me to focus on Your purpose rather than my problem.”

And slowly, ever so slowly, the wait results in just a little bit more of the weight of His glory being formed in us.  Maybe the moment when we get the job or the baby or the whatever, isn’t the big deal, but rather the thousands of moments you choose courage and hope as you cling to the One who loves you.

One more thing…With my dad in the waiting room, it was easier because we had the company of each other.  So, today, if you’re waiting and you’re reading this, know that you’re not alone.

What’s your experience of waiting?

EGR People

We’ve been vacationing in Florida and I’ve come to a conclusion.  You’ve heard the the acronym, EGR?  Well, I’ve concluded that old people are EGR people.

Extra. Grace. Required.

They walk slowly.  And they walk slowly in the bike lane.  And they walk slowly in the bike lane going the wrong direction!  And the other day “they” were walking across a street in front of a line of cars trying to turn, and me on my bike waiting for them in the middle of an intersection and I smiled and said “Go ahead” cheerily as all of us waited and they tottered, oblivious to the traffic jam.

But here’s the thing… Even though I was all “no problem” smiley, I’m sure there must have been the tiniest edge to my voice because how I really felt was impatient and inconvenienced.  And, you know…”Out of the heart the mouth speaks…”  Ugh.  There, now you know what a truly horrible, small-minded person I am.

And then at different points during my day I thought, “Boy, kids require a lot of grace!”

And “Drivers require a lot of grace!”

And “John requires a lot of grace!”

And finally… “I require a lot of grace.”

I’m someone’s EGR person!

I wonder what tone of voice God has with all us EGR people?  What tone of voice does love have?  What tone does grace have?

How do I purify my heart so not only the words and actions are there, but the tone is the tone of Jesus’ voice too?  Lord have mercy.

I was doing a Bible study this week that reminded me “We love because He first loved us.”  And then we were asked to fill in the blank.  “I love __________  because God first loved me.”

I can be gracious only because God was first gracious to me.  When I made a wrong turn.  Or held up traffic.  Or cut someone off.  Or mowed someone down.  Or broke the law in a million ways.  When I turned to Him, He said, “Go ahead now” and the tone of His voice was pure love.

Today I’m trying to be patient and not mow down old people, thanking God for His infinite patience with me.

What’s your experience with the EGR people in your life?

Labor of Love?

I’ve never heard either of my parents swear, but I have many memories of my mom, frustrated with a task, saying “I’m gonna swear.  I’m gonna swear! Close your ears kids!”                                                                                                                                                She never did, but she threatened to.  A lot.

There are some things that tempt a person to swear more than others. For me, the job of untangling Christmas lights brings out the worst in me.  I spent hours doing it this weekend, growling under my breath:

1.  “I’m sure this must be a job people have to do in Hell.”

2.  “If God really loved me I’d be rich enough to buy new lights every year.”

I was muttering, and resenting my husband who was off doing “spiritual” things, having “spiritual” conversations with colleagues, while I was relegated to “unspiritual” homey decorating chores.

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