Why? So That…

I had an interesting experience this week.

I interviewed for a job.

Not to change jobs, but more to add something to my already rather full plate.  But even though my plate is already quite full, when an opportunity comes up that has been on my mind for quite some time, I would be foolish not to go for it.

As I applied, I put it all in God’s hands.  Truth be told, from the moment that this particular position came to mind, I have left it in God’s hands.  Because, even though this would be a really cool thing, I know that if it isn’t in God’s plan for my life, then it will not happen.  And I will be ok with that.

To be honest, knowing that I’m doing my part to be willing, and leaving the rest up to God has given me a sense of ease and peace throughout the entire process.

So here’s the deal:

I suck at interviews.

Seriously.

Historically, I just have not been capable of presenting myself in the best way possible.  I get nervous, and even more awkward than normal.  And it’s just a flop.

I walk away feeling dejected, because deep down, I know that I just blew it.

So, to say that a great deal of prayer happened before this interview is an understatement.

My prayers basically went something like this:

God, give me the words.

And guess what?

He did!

But that’s not even close to the best part.  Because, I walked away from the interview knowing that I wasn’t the best candidate.  Not that I wouldn’t be amazing.  But I know that I am not the best candidate that they are interviewing.  I’m far from the most qualified.  I don’t have the experience.

There is a 99.99% chance that I will not be getting this job.

But I walked out of that interview with a huge amount of satisfaction about my part of the interview.

And we’re finally closing in on why this was such an amazing experience…I promise.

The person who interviewed me is someone I have known nearly my entire life.  She was one of my teachers growing up.  And I have worked with her, and for her now for almost 3 years.  But even with such a long history, she didn’t know me all that well.

She laughed at the fact that she asks everyone the same questions, to keep the playing field even.  She asked me to tell her about myself.  And as soon as I started talking about myself, and some of the things that I did after high school, her jaw hit the floor.  So in asking the question that she felt foolish asking, she found out a lot more about me.  In a really good way.  She didn’t realize that I had moved half way across the country.  Or why I made the decision to move back home.

She definitely didn’t realize that one of my most memorable moments growing up came during one of her classes.

But here is the really cool thing…

We talked about my motivation for applying for this job.

Which led to my motivation for doing many of the things that I do.

And that specific motivation has been on my mind a lot lately.

Why do I do the things that I do?

What is the outcome that I hope to get from doing the thing that I do?

To the point where I have written the following on my desk calendar at school:

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I did this so every single time I look at this, my own personal motivations come to mind.

Why?

Well it certainly isn’t money.  As I stated in my interview, if money were my greatest motivation, I would go down the street and work at McDonald’s because I would make more money.

Would a larger salary be nice?  Yes, yes it would.  To add a little more cushion to bank account.  So I wouldn’t have to rely on my parents for some help and support.  Yes, that would be fantastic.

But I do love my job.

So what is my motivation?  Besides the fact that this is where God has placed me for right now.

The “why” that I bring to work every day, the “why” that I take with me to youth group every week, is that I want to be able to give the kiddos that I work with something that I didn’t have growing up.

Yes, I had amazing parents.  I had youth group.  I had people that care about me.

What I didn’t have was the self-confidence in myself.  Nor did I have a firm understanding of who God was.  Or who I was to God.

So that…

So what is my expected outcome?  What is my goal?  What purpose could I possibly have in doing the things that I do?

I want these kids to be able to stand firm in their faith.  I want them to turn to God when times get tough.  Not to turn their back on their faith when life gets real, and things get hard.

I made bad, really stupid mistakes growing up.  I made bad, really stupid mistakes as an adult, too.

I want better for the people around me.  So they don’t go through the same struggles that I went through.

Because I truly believe that even though used the free will that God gave me to not just turn my back on Him and run away.  I lashed out.  I swore up and down countless times that there couldn’t possibly be a God.

I was dumb.  I was selfish.

Even though I did a lot of things that God isn’t thrilled about, I believe that He can turn all of those mistakes around, and use all of them for something positive.

And it isn’t just that he can use all of those stupid mistakes.

He is using them.

 

I’m Not OK…

…but I will be.

This has basically been my theme for the past couple of days.

At the moment, I feel a great deal of stress, because there is just a lot on my plate right now.

Ok, and some of that stress is because I’m worrying about something that I just absolutely cannot do one thing to change the situation.  And though I am working to let go of the worry there, stuff is still happening.  A crisis point is coming.  And I know I will have to help pick up the pieces.

Do you ever get to the point when you just have a lot going on, and it seems like all of the stress and weight that you have been managing to carry, suddenly weighs twice as much?

I hit that point yesterday morning.

I feel like the burden that I’m carrying is all my own.  I have no one else to share this with.  Not really.

And with that stress, I went down the rabbit hole of feeling like I am terribly alone in the world.  I have wonderful parents.  And I have wonderful friends.

But then I also got to thinking about something else.  The last time I hugged someone was when I hugged my parents as I was leaving Florida.  On December 27.

Ok, I have students (one in particular) that want to hug me.  But, uh, no thank you.

I struggle, sometimes (often), with sharing some of these feelings with my friends.  Not that I’m ashamed of those feelings.  But I worry that their response will be one of pity.  That they would hug me, just because I’m feeling sorry for myself.  And not just, well, because.

Maybe the reason that happens shouldn’t matter.  But to me, it does.

Though, I don’t have any life altering insight at this point, I know one thing for certain.  No matter how difficult it is for me to wait, to experience the waiting, the impatience, the fear, the grief – all of it – no matter how difficult that is, I’m not giving up on God.

I may want to sometimes.

I may (definitely do) struggle with having a decent attitude while I’m waiting.

But I trust God to have a perfect plan for all of this.

I have hope that God will answer all of this in His own perfect timing.

And I have faith that all of this truly is for a purpose.

Until then, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I keep adding one more prayer on top of another.

It’s all I can do.

New Year, New Fret

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  I don’t because historically, most resolutions fail.

In an epic way.

So I don’t make them.

I also believe that if I am going to try to improve myself, I don’t need the turn of a calendar page to make that decision.

But as the end of 2019 approached, I had an overwhelming sense of unease.  And I couldn’t really quite put my finger on it for a long time.

Until I did.

And then I wish I hadn’t.

The fear, the trepidation, the unease was because I was worried that 2020 still will not be the year that things happen for the better.  That I still won’t find that perfect guy God has all picked out for me.  That I won’t make some huge breakthrough on what it is God wants me to do with my life.  That I won’t feel like a success, yet again.

The answer to all of this, that I am still finding it difficult to accept is that no matter what this year brings, God will get me through.

Deep down, I know that I will be just fine, and that even if all of those things do not end up happening this year, God’s perfect plan for my life will still be playing out.

I know that.  Of course I know that.

But the longing for all of those things is still there.

So, of course, God has to tap me on the shoulder as I’m reading my Bible this morning.

“Ahem, *cough, cough* this is for you, my dear.”

I was reading Psalms 37.  And in Psalms 37, David, yet again, perfectly describes the anguish that we, as humans, often feel.  And then he directly follows it up with what we, as Christians should do.

“Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.”
Psalms 37:34

Basically, there is a huge amount of wisdom in Psalms 37.  How we shouldn’t look at what evil people (people doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason) who end up succeeding, temporarily, with envy.  Not to look at them and wish that we had their successes.  Because in the end, their successes will be revealed to be ultimate failures, as they don’t get to share in the eternal prize of Heaven.

It’s difficult to do.

Because we know that their success is a result of evil things.  Evil intent.  Evil purpose.  And often, those people don’t care who they run over to accomplish their goals.  But the results of some of those evil things look oh so tempting.

I get it.

But we must keep our eye on the true prize.  The prize that gets us eternity in Heaven with our Father.

And until then, keep relying on His strength, guidance, mercy, grace.

And hope in the Lord, and keep His ways.

I’m a Big Ol’ 5

On a scale of 1 to 5 – 1 being the least, 5 being the most – how much do you trust God?

The “church answer” is obviously…

I’m a 5!

In reality, me personally, I am a 5…

But…

Let me explain.

When asking the logical and pragmatic side of my brain, I absolutely, wholeheartedly trust God with every single aspect of my life.  It has taken a really, really, REALLY long time to get there.  But it’s the truth.

I trust God.

With everything.

But…

I am human.  With human emotions.  With human reactions to what happens in my life.  So there are definitely times where my emotional, irrational side takes charge.  So I have an emotional and irrational reaction to whatever is happening in my life.

I don’t understand why some of the things in my life are happening the way that they are.  Or why God isn’t following my plan for my life.  Or when I think I’m following the plan God has for my life, the rug suddenly gets yanked out from under my feet.  There are moments that I’m just not sure what God is thinking.

But…

Once my emotions have cooled off a little, my rational and logical side returns to control, and I trust God with whatever His plan is for my life.

If there is one thing you should know about me, it is this: my path to such complete trust and reliance on God has not been easy.  I have been stubborn, and a jerk, and quite unlovable.  I did (and still do) things that I know aren’t what I should be doing.

But…

No matter what, God has always been there for me.  God has never stopped loving me.  God has never stopped caring about me.

Never.

Period.

No matter what bad things I have done in my life.  No matter how much I have struggled against God, He is still there, loving me.

And no matter what, God will get me through.

So when I tell you that I really am a 5 on the trusting God scale, I honestly mean it.  And I am trying, though not always succeeding, to remind myself when I’m going through a struggle season, that God has a purpose for whatever it is I’m going through.  And that I will continue to love and follow God, because He deserves my love and devotion.

Period.

How Long Am I Supposed to Wait?

Persist: continue firmly or obstinately in an opinion or a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.

Persevere, continue, carry on, go on, keep at it, keep on, keep going, keep it up, not give up, be persistent, be determined, see/follow something through, show determination, press on/ahead, plod on, plow on, stay with something, not take no for an answer

The Israelite’s wandered in the desert for 40 years.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac to be born.

Lazarus was dead for 4 days before Jesus healed him.  

David waited over 20 years before he became king.

Job waited months to be restored.

Jonah was in the belly of a whale for 3 days.

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Waiting is hard.

I will be the first one to admit that to you.  I am kind of a patient person.  But then again, I’m really not.  I can wait.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated (to say the least) while I’m waiting.

I know that I should wait on God.  But that doesn’t mean I like waiting on God.

The Bible gives us many incredible examples of folks who waited, and waited, and waited for God to answer their prayers.  The above stories are just a few of the more popular or familiar stories.  There are many, many, MANY more examples.

In all of these stories, we know how the story ends.  We know the conclusion.  We know how God redeemed everyone in these stories.  How he fulfilled the prayers.  Yes, we know that they waited for what probably seemed like an eternity.  But we also know how they turned out.

What we do not always get a clear, full picture of is what it was like for everyone while they waited.  If there is an exception, I would say it was Job.  But nonetheless, I’m sticking by my statement that the waiting period, the anguish and heartache and fear that everyone experienced during the waiting really isn’t truly laid out.

We know that they struggled.  We know that in their impatience for God to answer their prayers that they did some stupid things.  Abraham and Sarah got impatient, and tried to answer their prayers in their own way, by Abraham having a child with Sarah’s servant.  And the Israelite folks worshiped other idols, and tried to make their own way in a lot of different areas.  Job remained faithful in his claim, despite his friends urging to do otherwise, that he hadn’t committed any great sin.

There are lessons to be learned here.

Huge, important lessons.

First of all, waiting is hard.  Yes, absolutely, part of the lessons that we learn from all of the stories about waiting in the Bible is that waiting is hard.  It is difficult.  It is challenging.  It is a struggle.  I often feel like we don’t accurately understand from the writing in the Bible just how difficult the waiting is for the folks in the Bible.  If everyone accurately described the day to day struggles during their waiting period, the Bible would easily be 17 times longer than it already is.

Because of that, the magnanimity of the time of waiting truly isn’t felt.

As a result, there will be times during our own waiting periods that we will struggle.  And we will feel like there is no end to whatever suffering or struggle or difficulty or challenge that we are facing.

And sometimes, just sometimes, knowing that eventually there will be a conclusion to our waiting period isn’t all that much of a comfort.  Because in our human-ness, we don’t want our suffering to end someday.  We want it to end RIGHT NOW!!!

Second of all, don’t do stupid things while you’re in your waiting period.  This one should be a pretty clear lesson from the Bible.  In our impatience, we want to solve our issues on our own, because we feel like God is just taking way too much time.  So we then compound the bad-ness of the situation by trying to do things our own way.

Yes, we make things worse.

Instead of being patient, and letting God’s plan play out how He intends it to be played out.  We screw things up, and try to force our own plans to happen, and we just make things worse.  So very, very much worse.

Friends, I know how difficult it is to wait on God’s timing.  But if one thing has been made clear to me lately is that we should never give up.

I truly believe that if God has put something on your heart, or put you in the middle of a challenging situation, He has planned a way out of it for you.  He already has all of the little details worked out.

We just need to trust in His plan, trust in the purpose for his plan.

We must persist.

Let’s unpack the passage from the notes in my Bible pictured above.

“To persist in prayer and not give up does not mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions.”

There are times in the Bible where we are commanded to “pray without ceasing.”  I get that.  And there are certainly times where a prayer vigil is called for.  But I also believe that while we are called to pray without ceasing, that doesn’t mean that we stop doing everything else in life.  “Painfully long prayer sessions” doesn’t sound like something that glorifies God.  At all.

“Always praying means keeping our requests constantly before God as we live for him day by day, believing he will answer.”

Keeping our requests constantly before God can be a method of praising God.  We trust in His plan.  We honor His plan.  We have faith in his plan for our lives.

“When we live by faith, we are not to give up.”

Dory-white.jpg Years ago, we were introduced to Dory.  The awesome, and hysterical, yet forgetful character in Finding Nemo, who always reminds us to “just keep swimming.”  Over and over again, we are to persist, just keep going, because we trust in His plan.  We will not give up on His plan.  Because we have faith.

 

“God may delay in answering, but his delays always have good reasons.”

Unfortunately, for us, God doesn’t answer our prayers by following our timeline.  Yes, we wish he would sometimes.  But there is absolutely no instance where our time frame would supersede God’s timeline.  There may be times of coincidence, and it just so happens that God’s plan for our life, and His plan for our life are the same thing.  But I promise you, it was God’s plan for it to happen that caused whatever it is to happen.

“As we persist in prayer we grow in character, faith and hope.”

When we choose to live in faith, and trust in God’s plan, trust in God’s timing (even if we don’t always like it) we grow stronger.  We grow more faithful.  We life in hope.  And we can find joy in the waiting.  In fact, we should choose to live joyfully during the waiting time.  Even though it’s difficult to do sometimes.  When we choose to live in the joy of waiting, we find more joy along the way.

Dear friend, I feel the pain you may be feeling during the waiting times God gives to us.  I feel the struggle, the impatience.  The desperation in wanting this to end.  I get it.

It can suck.

But persist.  Don’t give up.  Keep moving forward.  Keep trusting God.  Because there is not one instant that God’s plan for our life won’t turn out to be the absolute best thing for us.

I could promise you that fact.

But even better, God promises us that fact.

Dream vs. Reality

I have hugely wild, huge and ambitious dreams of what I want to accomplish in my life.  And some days, I feel as though I’m failing miserably.

But, am I really failing miserably?

Many of these dreams are things that I truly feel God has put in my heart to do.  And I pray every single day for God’s guidance in my life on what I’m supposed to do.  And day after day after day after day, here I am, just trudging along.

I feel as though I’m not making any progress on those dreams.  And in the things I am doing to work towards some of those dreams, well some of those things I feel aren’t making any progress.

Currently, I have a job that I don’t honestly feel reaches my full potential.  I am a Teacher’s Aide.  I’m the low man on the totem pole.  Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that my job is important.  And I do feel like I am making a difference in the lives of the students I work with.  I know that I do different, more complex things than many other people with my job title.  And I honestly do feel like this is where God has called me to be right now.  Yet there are times that I want more.  For a couple of reasons.

I am looked down upon by some of my colleagues.  Not that any of them would every blatantly say that.  But it’s in the little things that I experience that tells me they value my worth less than other certified teachers.  For example, yesterday, one of the other teachers went all the way around me to ask for a key to my room, so she could use my room when she needed.  She didn’t ask if that was ok with me.  She went all the way around me.  And then, when she did have the opportunity to discuss it with me, well, she didn’t.

But, beyond that, I feel like God has put things on my heart to want more out of life.  More than what I’m currently doing.

I’m just not so sure of what that is.

But…

Perhaps all of these things are preparing me for something else.

If I turn to the Bible, what does it tell me to do?  Be humble.  Be a servant.  Love God.  Love people.

Humble.

This one is tough.  Because I have always struggled with my self-worth.  But if I have low self-esteem, am I really just being humble?  Well…no.

Low self-esteem basically means I feel I have absolutely no value in the world.  I am worthless.

Being humble means I recognize that I can do great things, but not because I am super awesome and amazing.  No, no.  I can do these great things because God has given me these gifts, talents, abilities, strengths, etc.  Knowing that someone far greater than I is in charge, and the one that really has those talents and abilities.  That is being humble.

Servant.

Jesus tells many parables about how the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  How we should strive to serve others.  To help others when we can.

Have you watched the show New Amsterdam?  If you haven’t, as soon as you’re finished reading this, go watch all of the episodes.  My DVR is full of TV shows and movies that I rarely have time to watch because I’m too busy doing other things in life.  But this show, this is one I love to watch.  The main character is the head of a public hospital in New York City, and his entire world is filled by one question.  “How can I help?”

Each show revolves around some new challenge that must be faced, and no matter what is going on in his own personal world, the offer to help others is always forefront in his life.

I know that the show is fiction (though based loosely in reality).  But even fiction can help us grow as humans.

How can I help?

This phrase changed my life.

When I go to school, my main role is to help others.  Other teachers.  Administration.  Students.  How can I help you?  What can I help you do to be successful?  Even on the farm, I take the same approach.

I get a little salty about some of the things I end up doing.  Because I do want to do more.  And sometimes I feel like I am not only being held back from doing greater things, I feel like I’m being pushed down.

One of my bucket list items is to help during harvest by running the combine all by myself.

I have barely been able to convince my dad to let me cut the last little strip of beans, while he watches over every single move I make.

But what my role typically ends up being is the gopher.  Meaning…I do all of the little jobs, that, though vitally important to the operation of the farm, really kind of stink in doing sometimes.  I take a wagon out to the field.  I make a trip looking for engine oil because there’s an oil leak.  I make parts runs.  I go put drops in my grandma’s ears because she has a Dr. appointment in a couple of days.

I get the minuscule tasks that really don’t seem all that important.  And it’s easier for my mom to be the one to run the combine because she’s been doing it for years and years and years.  Not that I can’t learn how to do it.  Not that I’m incapable of doing it.  I just don’t know how.

I do know that value is found in those small little tasks.  As I said, they are vitally important.  Because, if I hadn’t gone to retrieve the oil, we would have been shut down for hours.

So I get it.  Those tasks are important.

But I still want more.

But maybe putting in my time, learning the value in those smaller jobs, whether on the farm, or at school, maybe one of these days, they will all lead to bigger and better things.  Maybe these things are preparing me for something much bigger.

Or maybe I won’t get to experience all of those great things myself.  But my role in life as the servant doing these things is part of a much larger plan for something else.

Only God knows.

I know that no matter how salty I get about things, this is where I am supposed to be right now.

Love God.

This one shouldn’t be difficult.  And in the overall, big picture of my life, it isn’t.  But, like any relationship, we have our moments.

Some days, I really don’t understand why I am in the places that God has me in.

But I trust in God’s big plan for my life.

Love People.

Other people make this a challenge sometimes.  Sometimes, I may not be all that easy to love myself.  But the best marketing plan any Christian can do is to love other people.  No matter what.  No matter who they are.  No matter what they have done.  You love other people.

So…here I am.  Trudging along in another day.  I’m not where I want to be in so many areas of my life right now.  But I trust with my whole heart that I am where God needs me to be.

Just As Much As You Need Me

Teaching isn’t for the faint of heart.  This is absolutely a calling to be a teacher.  It certainly isn’t for the money, or the notoriety.  It isn’t something you do when you can’t be successful at something else.

Teaching is hard core.

Teaching will break your heart a million times.  And we’ll keep showing up.  Keep trying.  Keep pushing.  Trying new approaches.

All because we are absolutely called to do this.

There are days, the hard days, where I struggle to teach, because I just don’t see how I can possibly be a success.  And by a success, I mean…are my kids really getting it?  Are they going to walk out of my classroom and end up being a responsible human being?  Am I making a difference?

Because the world, TV, “parents”, video games, the news…it’s all telling our kids, teaching our kids the exact opposite of the values that we try to instill in our kids.

My heart is broken a million times.  Yet I keep pushing forward.

Because these kids need me.

And sometimes, often, the kids that break my heart at the ones that need me the most.

But sometimes, I need them too.

Because, amidst the heartbreak and the struggle…there’s that one kid…

One of the kids that I need the most, needs me the most.  The kid that struggles to learn, but wants to learn.

But that isn’t just why I need him.  Because this same kid that I sit with every single day, that kid is the one that goes out of his way to put a smile on my face.

Every.  Single.  Day.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of my kids make me smile and laugh.

But this one kid…this kid is special.

 

Here I am, Lord…

…Send me.

So the conversation went like this…

Me: Ok, God, I’m willing to go.  I’m surrendering to your will, and your plan.  But I have a couple of questions.

God: You’re human.  And I’m familiar with you.  Proceed.

Me: How much is this going to hurt?

God: A lot.  But I don’t want you to focus on that.  My strength will get you through.

Me: Well ok then.

I’m on this journey, a journey where I’m focusing on my relationship with God.  And I am feeling it, all the way down to my soul.

A couple of days ago, I was reading my Bible, in the book of Acts.  Oh, you know what, you need, no you really NEED to read these verses.

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

-Acts 20: 22-24

I read that…and my reaction was…

Imma need a minute.

Paul’s conviction to follow what the Holy Spirit was telling him to do is so great, nothing could stop him!  Even his friends that were traveling with him tried to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem, because they knew what lay ahead for Paul.  But nothing, nothing could stop Paul from what God had called him to do.

I feel insignificant compared to Paul.

But at the same time, Paul was specifically called to this task.  Not me.

I am called to a different task.  One that I am still discovering every day.   I know that God has a plan for my life. To utilize me in a way that he has specifically designed me to accomplish.  Me alone. In fact, we are all put here for a purpose, a specific purpose. Each of us has our own, unique, and sometimes challenging plans from God.  We may work together for a time on some of these plans. Sometimes we will be heading down the path all alone. And the absolute terror of what lay ahead might seem overwhelming.

But there is a comfort.  Though there may be no human companionship along this path, God is always by our side.  

So yes, our path, our purpose, our calling from God may be terrifying.  It may be painful at times. But the challenges, the hardships, the pain, the sorrow, the negativity should never be our focus.  Because, as a Christian, those things are inevitable.  As Christians we are, unfortunately, not promised an easy life.  

That just sucks, sometimes.  

But that’s just how it is.  

So we are called to walk forth boldly, and with confidence and conviction.

I don’t know what the future holds for me.  But I have finally let go of my hold on the future, and the plans that I have made to let God fully lead me in what He wants me to do.  And I know that there will be pain and struggle ahead. But instead of being terrified, so completely terrified that I can’t take a step forward, I walk forward, boldly, with God’s strength holding me up.  Because there will be pain. But God will get me through.

Here I am Lord.  Send me.

The Angels are Bowling

I am not fan of storms.  Never have been. Especially at night, when I’m trying to get to sleep.  I cannot count the number of times that my parents sat up with me, trying to calm my nerves as a child.  So I would just go to sleep.

They tried everything.

Singing.  And praying.  And talking. So much talking.

They finally came up with the reason there was so much thunder.  It’s that all of these angels in heaven were bowling. And someone just got a strike.

Ok, I get that heaven is this super fun and awesome place to hang out.  But do you seriously need to be bowling when a little kid is trying to get to sleep?  

I.  Do.  Not. Think.  So.

It isn’t the rain that I have an issue with.  It’s the violence of the storms. The massive lightning and thunder.  When I get woken up by thunder, that is entirely too loud and ridiculous.  

But still, storms happen.  

For me, one of the more recognizable parables of Jesus is when he and the disciples were on a fishing boat, heading across the Sea of Galilee, when a storm blows in.  All of the disciples start freaking out because they were in danger from the storm. And there is Jesus, fast asleep. Finally, the disciples wake him, and Jesus immediately jumps into action.  He commands the storm to chill out. And voila, the storm complies.

Do you truly understand some of the great things about this parable?  First of all, Jesus and the disciples were heading to the other side of the Sea of Galilee for a little rest and recreation.  They were on this fishing boat, on their way for some peace and quiet. And instead of getting some peace and quiet, they end up in the midst of this major rager of a storm.  Second, the disciples, many of whom were fishermen by trade, were not unused to storms. And despite that experience, or perhaps, because of their experience, they were freaking out.  I don’t blame them. I would be freaking out too. Luke describes the disciples as being in “great danger.” Matthew and Mark both described the storm as “furious.” So this was not some teeny, tiny little storm.  Realistically, they all could have died.

But they didn’t.

The disciples had ran around, doing the things that they knew to do to protect themselves.  They took down the sails. And were doing whatever else it is that you do on a sailboat in the middle of a storm.  I’m no sailor, so I have no idea. The point is, they did know. And they were doing it. And nothing they were doing was working.  

So finally, what do they do?  

They wake Jesus up, and are all like, “hey dude, we have this little storm raging around us.  You think you could help us out a little?”

And Jesus was like “yeah, bro.  I got this.”

Instantly, the storm calmed down, just because Jesus commanded it to do so.  And the disciples jaw hit the floor. Because even though they had been with him, they did not think that he was powerful enough to calm the storm.  

Let that sink in for a second.

The disciples.  The guys that had been following Jesus around, seeing the miracles he had been performing.  They didn’t think he was powerful enough to take care of them, and keep them safe through the storm.  

But.  He. Was.

Inevitably, we are going to experience our very own major rager of a storm.  It isn’t possible to get through this human life without experiencing some kind of trial or struggle or challenge.  What that specific storm is will look different for each and every one of us. But we will all experience that storm.  

Now, our logical and pragmatic human brains are going to look at this storm, and have a very human, very logical and pragmatic response to such a storm.  

It’s even possible for us to think that God has abandoned us during this storm.  Or even worse, that our storm is far too powerful for God to handle. He has just lost all control, and he’s left you behind to deal with this storm all on your own.  

It isn’t true.

There is nothing that is too powerful or too strong or too awful that God can’t handle.  

NOTHING.

But let me just throw this out there…

God is not always going to stop the storm in our life instantly.  In fact, that will rarely be the case. We may wish for, and hope for, and pray for God to calm our storm instantly.  And it can be really tough when we turn to God for comfort and peace. And he just doesn’t handle the situation how we want him to handle it.

I mean, I can’t possibly be alone in this.  

Right?

But just because God doesn’t resolve and calm our storm how we want him to calm it, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a plan.  Just because he has the power to do something, doesn’t mean that calming our storm is in his plan for our life.  Ultimately, there is a purpose and a plan for everything that happens.

We may not understand or see what that purpose is immediately.  Sometimes, we may never fully understand why we experienced that storm.

But then there will be other times that 8 years down the road, we have that lightbulb moment of realization.  And everything starts to make sense.

No matter what, we need to rest in God’s peace in the midst of our storms and that no matter what, God has our back, and he will get us through.  

One of my current favorite songs is Sleep in the Storm by Unspoken.  The first time I heard this song, it hit home.  Hard. At first, just because sleeping through a storm is something I find challenging.  I mean, praying to be able to learn to sleep in the storm. How preposterous. Especially because of the chorus.  

Let the thunder be my comfort
Let the lightning be my guide
Let the waves that rise around me
Hold me gently through the night

How ridiculous of an idea is this?  Thunder comforting me? Being guided by lightning?  All of it just seems like a ridiculous notion.

But then I started thinking, and listening.  

Ok, God.  What is it you’re trying to tell me here?  

Well, let’s continue with some of the lyrics…

For the winds that seem against me
Push me right into Your arms
Teach me how to sleep in the storm
How to sleep in the storm

See that right there?  Did you read that line?  Did you hear that line? Did you understand that line?

The winds that seem against me, push me right into Your arms.

So when those storms are raging around us, and we feel like we’re being battered and beaten, and like we are all alone in this world, with no safety net to save us.  Those are the moments that we are being pushed directly into God’s arms.

Like the parable we talked about earlier.  When the storms in our lives are raging around us, and we are having a very human, and very logical, and very pragmatic response.  Those are the moments that God has our back, and always has the ability to carry us through the storm.

Now, I understand the struggle of storms in life.  Every single day there is something that I struggle with.  

And every single day, I rely on God to get me through those struggles.  

Some days, it seems like I can manage them easily.  Other days, I feel so broken and alone, and near rock bottom that I don’t see how I can possibly move forward.  To be completely honest, those days suck. I know that God has a purpose for those days. Whether it is a test of my faith.  Or a blatant attack by Satan (that guy is a jerk, and juts needs to go away). Whatever it is, those days hurt. And I feel exhausted by yet one more test of my faith.  

I’m over it.

I don’t want those days.

Ever.

But God knows that sometimes I need those days.  Because clearly, there is a lesson for me to be learned.  Maybe that it’s simply that I need to rely on, and turn everything over to God.  Maybe it’s a consequence for something that I have done wrong. The cause, the trigger, whatever you want to call it, can be different every time.  

But one thing remains true.

God has my back.

There is one final line in the Sleep in the Storm that just hit so hard.  

How will I grow, if I never get rained on

Now, I’m a good farm kid.  

You know what farm kids know?  

Farm kids know that rain is vital and important to the growth and development of crops.  Crops will not grow if there is no rain.

Humans are the same way.  We grow, and become strong and healthy, because of the rain in our lives.  We grow as Christians. We grow as friends. As partners. We grow with the rain.  We may not always agree with the timing of all of those storms in our lives. But as my mom (because my mom is a very wise woman, and no matter how old you get, you always need your mommy) continues to tell me: God’s timing is perfect.

Are you currently experiencing a storm in your life?  You are not alone. You are loved. And you are blessed.  And you are understood. It will be difficult to get through some days.  But know that no matter what, God will be there to wrap His arms around you, and comfort you, and give you strength.  

You can sleep through the storm.

I Pity the Fool

Compassion: Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortune of others.

Feel compassion, because you never know what the other person is going through.

This is a line that has been said to me many times in my life.  Many. And I would like to think that I try to be a compassionate person.  I realize and understand that the behavior that other people have towards me is not my fault, and that it is merely a reaction to their own life circumstances.

I get it.

That doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy it.

Because I don’t.

I struggle.

There, I said it.  I don’t like to admit it.  But I do. A lot. People suck sometimes.  And I work in a building full of teenagers, who often suck every ounce of compassion, kindness and patience that I have.  So when an adult exhibits behavior worse than that of those teenagers, I am frustrated. Frustrated because they should know better.  Frustrated because they shouldn’t be so selfish. Frustrated because before my day can even begin, they have sucked the compassion and kindness and patience right out of me.

So I have had a rough(ish) week dealing with an adult who tested my limits.

This woman, a co-worker, has tested my patience daily since I started working here.  A know-it-all, who, given the opportunity, will take the information I give her, repeat it back to me as if she just had this profound, life-altering moment of clarity, and will repeat what I just said.  Except this time, of course, she came up with this all on her own.

Those people frustrate me.

A lot.

Please don’t be that person.

Well a week ago, we had a minor confrontation.  I politely stood up for myself. I did not yell.  I did not belittle. But I stood firm. And that might have made her mad.  So mad that she began muttering under her breath, and then refused to acknowledge my existence.

One week later, and my presence has still not been acknowledged.

I honestly do not know what has happened in her life to make her such an unhappy person.  Because before the incident last week, I was already on her bad side. And not because I’m a horrible person that treated her badly.

I am nice, and friendly, and outgoing.  And the students I work with talk to me.  About their life. About their day. About anything.

I don’t treat people badly. At least I try not to.

I’m also happy, and upbeat, and friendly.

Unfortunately, that seems to irritate people that are already unhappy with their life.  So I am not surprised, even though I still don’t understand it.

I don’t understand, because I am not the person that I am because I have an easy and fabulous life, where I have never had one ounce of hardship.

No, no, no.

I am the person that I am, in spite of the struggles and hardships I have been through.  In spite of the struggles and hardships I still go through.

So while I am capable and willing to feel compassion for others, I often struggle because I do not feel the same level of compassion from other people.

But that’s ok.

No, really.  It is.

Because, Mr. T. reference aside, I do not want your pity.  I actually don’t even like the word pity. Especially not in reference to myself.  I don’t want your pity, nor do I need it. And while we should always be compassionate towards others, I really don’t even need that from you.

Why?

Well, let’s take a look at Isaiah 30:18…

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

He will show me compassion!  Whoohoo!

So if you are like me, and struggle with those people in your life who don’t show you any compassion, don’t stoop to their level.  Rise above! Do what the Bible instructs us to do, which is to love other people.

Be the light when there is darkness and negativity all around you.  Shine the light brightly!

Don’t just choose joy, be the joy!

It.  Will.  Spread.