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Monday, June 3, 2013

Peace


Do you ever have trouble being content in all circumstances?  It is our human nature to grumble, to complain.  I see it daily in the retail setting.  There are always people complaining.  And then there are the people who have to find something to complain about out of nothing.  I live in the Fraser Valley.  I moved here partially because of the more temperate winters compared to the prairies.  However, in lieu of the bitter winter there is rain.  Day after day of drizzly weather and when the rain lets up the clouds often remain, continuing to blot out our beautiful mountain skyline.  I get it, the gray can be depressing.  What I don’t get is the response to breaks of sunny days in winter.  The complaints simply turn from sob stories of the incessant rain to frigid complaints of the cold which accompanies the sunny winter days.  And then on top of this all, the response of us who work with these complaining customers is to grumble amongst ourselves about Mr so and so who was completely unreasonable, and Mrs. so and so who just doesn’t get it, etc. etc. 

I remember when I first entered my field of work and I was astonished by the private remarks about customers.  Then slowly, unnoticeably, it became part of the job, simply part of the retail culture.  Indeed, there are some people who are completely irrational.  Indeed, some people unjustifiably make my work place a huge headache.  But, it was upon returning from maternity leave that I was really struck by the extent of complaints to counter complaints.  And while I consciously try now to fight against it; it is a fight.

Content when people make my job hard? Not easily.  Content when life feels exhausting? Please tell me how.  Content when everything goes awry? That’s ridiculous.

Or is it?

I have been struggling since I’ve gone back to work with exhaustion.  Life is hard.  Sure I chose to go back to work, but to be honest, the alternative of continuing to stay home with my daughter full-time did not thrill me.  I began to feel like I was left with a lose-lose situation.  Stay at home full time and pull my hair out.  Go back to work and deal with feeling wiped.  I felt that what I used to hold as such an incredible blessing (the opportunity to have 2 university degrees and an incredible career) turned to a curse.  If I were my mother living in her generation’s time I would simply put my career on hold for a decade and then consider returning to work.  If I were my grandmother living in her generation I would have been lucky to have received my Grade 8 and there would be no question that my work was to be within my home.  But for me, for my generation, women with careers return to them.  Working mom is normal.  And as I mentioned I wanted to return to work, and in the wake of life’s subsequent busyness my head started to spin.  I finally came to terms with the concept that life is hard.

Can I be content in that difficulty?  I simply wanted to surmise that life should be easy for the wise and so maybe I simply wasn’t making the best decisions.  My generation thinks that life should be easy.  I found myself thinking that in fact, my Christian walk should be accommodating too.  What I mean, is that I felt God should create spaces amongst the craziness for me to spend with Him.  I’ve been trying to create those times in the morning, but as my daughter rises early there is only so much earlier that I can get up.  So I asked, what do I do on those days?  I had a taunting tone to God.  What am I supposed to do then God?  If I choose to get up an hour before my daughter gets up, but that day she wakes an hour early and its go, go, go with her until I leave for work and then return home exhausted at my bedtime.  What then God, huh?  It’s like I felt in moments like that God should make my daughter sleep longer. This came up in our small group one evening when I was sharing.  Someone mentioned, what about those in Nazi concentration camps?  They were literally worked to the bone with no concessions.  How were they to spend time with God?  And so I saw it again: I expect life to be easy.  It is not; but God remains present in every moment I invite Him to be there.  How exactly does this work?

Last week work was absolutely chaotic.  My boss was on holidays and his fill-ins were simply sub-par.  Work was a disaster zone with the goal being to minimize confusion and not to make a mistake.  In one of my morning times I took a few moments for silent prayer.  In those moments God spoke.  He said ‘peace’.  Boy, I needed that.  That week was anything but peaceful.  My God always gives peace.  Guiding me to peace, I was reminded of the verse in Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything: instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”


Peace.  And you know what follows in Philippians 4?  “I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation…For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” (vs 11-13) 

Paul’s contentment in every situation is preceded by the very formula required for it.  It’s laid out plain.  I don’t need an easy life or need to think that I need an easy life.  I need Christ Jesus’ peace.  How do I get this peace?  I pray, asking God for what I need and thanking Him for what He’s given. 

Isn’t that simple? 
Wouldn’t that be simply revolutionary in the moments of everyday life?
Ask. Thank. Receive peace from the very Creator of our universe. 

Passion


The question is what drives me?  What are my passions?  What gets me revved and riled up?  What is important to me?  Like so ultimately important that I will sacrifice for it.  Sacrifice personal time, sacrifice my resources, sacrifice my own person ambitions for the benefit of this person, cause or situation? 

This comes out of this unnerving feeling that has been welling in me that there is more.  There is more to this life than doing well at the average day in, day out.  Matthew West’s song “Motions” used to play as my ring tone because I loved the lyrics “I don’t want to go through the motions, I don’t want to live one more day without your all-consuming passion inside of me.” Further, Jesus says he will give us “more and better life than we ever dreamed of” (John 10:10, Message).  My life right now is full of incredible blessings; yet, they are all blessings I could have dreamed on my own.  Jesus wants to give more life than just that.  It’s disturbing.  It’s upsetting every quiet moment of reflection that I have.  I want to suppress it.  I don’t want to talk about it.  Because then, indeed, I will become accountable to step out in action.

This started as I mentioned, with a feeling of there being a grander purpose in and for my life.  The working of the Holy Spirit in me, I believe.  And then it morphed.  I started to question.  Questions that rock my whole foundation of what I believe, of my entire spiritual upbringing that started the day of my birth.  I felt compelled to ask ‘Do I believe this bible that I read?’  ‘Yikes!’ I think ‘what would my family and extended family think of me asking this question?’ But I have to and the answer starts to reaffirm something in me.

I start formulating my answer by getting to the basics.  Do I believe in God?  In fact I say ‘speak God if You’re there.’  And faithfully God speaks. ‘Look at your daughter.”  And I think, ‘oh how I cherish that girl!”  She is a beautiful blessing.  Could I ever not believe in God when I hold that girl on my lap and look into her eyes?  When I think of the incredible genetics in every single cell of her body? No!  God is magnificently marvelous.  Yes, I believe in God!

 Well this is a start; but truly it is just the start.  Even demons believe in God.  The bible tells us this.  So I have to ask ‘I believe in God, but does it matter?’ And here I know the answer immediately because I so certainly believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, speaking into my life.  I believe that the human condition is bettered by a belief in the Father God that I’ve learned about my entire life.  I believe that I could live no other way than to believe in the certain Hope that Christianity has to offer.  I am connected to my Creator through the death of Jesus and through the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and without that I think life is pretty grim.

But then there’s more.  I believe in God.  I believe it matters that I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer and choose to follow Him as my life guide.  I believe that God is here to fill the emptiness.  But then, do I believe in prayer?  Like do I really believe that God answers prayer?  And this boils down to do I believe my bible.  And I know the answer.  Because I cannot accept God and Christ and the Holy Spirit without accepting that the bible is truth.  And so, Yes! I believe the bible!

And yet this bothers me.  Because the bible is radical.  It expects that Christ-followers will be entirely reformed by their faith and certainly if I truly, like deep in my gut truly, believed that which I claim I do as a Christian, wouldn’t I be reformed?  This unsettles me because if I were reformed I don’t think I would be considering purchasing that excessively luxurious house just down the block.  And I realize that the status quo, even the status quo of an upper-middle class person such as myself, will always just be that: status quo.  Normal.  And the more I think about the verse I have loved so much for so long, that I’ve already quoted once in this short expose, I realize I’ll never reach that better life that Jesus wants for me if I just keeping living life like everyone else in my neck of the woods.  Boy oh boy!

So I picked up this book sitting under my coffee table that I started but wasn’t really that into.  It’s called Weird, Because normal isn’t working.  And even still the beginning really wasn’t anything special.  But the last chapter and the conclusion of this book were worth much more than the $9.99 I paid for it.  This guy starts talking about asking for God to bless you with a burden.  A “divine burden” that God places on your heart specific to your loves, gifts, talents, passions, positions, etc.  A divine burden that you just can’t ignore, that you have to act on, that revs you up.  A divine burden that will pull you out of living the status quo into living life bent on justice, love, and sacrifice.  A divine burden that will draw you into the more and better life Jesus offers.  And inside (because I’m an introvert, otherwise I think perhaps I may have opened up the windows and shouted it out there too) I scream “I want that!” 

And so I hope my world gets turned up side down.  I feel like I’ve turned my faith inside out and come out with more than I started with.  And I feel like if I let God shake me up some more it will loosen up more of the unimportant stuff I’ve greedily shoved into my pockets.  And maybe I’ll start to realize that I don’t even need pockets at all.  I admit, it’s scary to write about because I see it: my life does not reflect a person who 100% believes in the power of God.  And I also see it: the need and desire to live different than the norm.  Not for the sake of living differently than others, but rather because inside I am transformed and I am different.  I think there’s no other way.  Either choose the world of normal, of godlessness, or choose the world of radical freedom that requires me to be all in with the promise of life, abundantly. 



(And I want to mention this underlying feeling I’ve got inside while I’m exploring this.  You see, I feel so incredibly blessed with my life traipsing along at a normal course: incredible husband, privilege of education followed by great career I love, beautiful daughter, great extended family and friends.  That’s picture perfect.  But not everyone around me lives so picture perfect.  Our dear friends struggle and it’s heart wrenching.  I’m sure some of your friends, if not yourself, struggle too.  Is it the spouse they can’t seem to meet or the marriage that just fell apart, the school they can’t get into, the job they lost or are unfulfilled in, the child they long for in barrenness, the brokenness or unhealthiness of their extended relationships which are supposed to people of support.  So I have to explore the extended importance of belief that God matters, that God saves.  Because it has to be asked, people are asking it all the time.  Where is God in these situations?  In the Emptiness, where is God?  And the reply forms another question: Is that just it? I am certainly no theologian, but is it that this world has so much emptiness that that’s why we need God – to fill all those cracks and canyons? )