10 Lessons of Hope

I have accumulated some great nuggets of knowledge over the past year and I want to share them! Not because I know it all, or even half of it all, but because I know different things than you do, and sharing our lessons is a good way to practice loving each other and living wise.

Here we go…

  • Wherever you are, be there. Community is built by people who invest in the lives of those around them rather than spend time searching for the group to be in. I realized this last summer when I noticed that the “favorites” list on my phone was over a page long, and full of people I did not talk to on a weekly basis. I had accumulated a list of the people I thought I needed to be with, and that had only served to damage the community God had placed me in. I trimmed the list down to seven people: it is far more user-friendly now, and I do not so often feel stretched out and stressed by the demands myriads of friends used to place on me.

“There isn’t anything on earth like relationships to make you holy.” ~Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 146

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” ~Acts 9:11, ESV

  • Be refreshed by the things you like to do. If you tend to overwork yourself (like me), you may find no space in your life for activities you enjoy. Change that. You need to do frequent, inexpensive things that you find refreshing. God gives us these pleasures as blessings; they help us through the ache of everyday life. For me it is yoga, and writing in my journal. Other people go on walks, cook, or build bonfires outdoors. (**Beware of idolatry: don’t turn these blessings into curses by giving them the heart that only belongs to God.**)

“But a heart alive is a heart that is awake and curious and pressing in to more.” ~ Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 115

  • Be (extra) kind to minorities. Not because they are any more desperate or less important than the ethnic majority, but because, odds are, things in their family tree haven’t gone so smoothly. Why else would they be far from their biological roots? Just subtly offer to pay for dinner when you’re out with a friend who is a minority member, or get plugged in to a mentoring program for at-risk youth. America has a situation on her hands. What are you gonna do about it?

“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 7:12, ESV

  • Own what you’re good at. I’ve wasted too many compliments, shrugging them away, saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, I’m not that good.” Take the compliment! Don’t be puffed up with unrighteous pride, but don’t apologize for being good at something either. I struggle with math and science but I’ve wowed some college instructors with essays and short stories. God has made me this way so I can serve HIS amazing purposes!

“God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.”  ~Ephesians 2:10, CEV

  • Learn to say “no” to demands people place on you. Practice it if you have to; I did. This is especially difficult and of key importance if you have an enabling personality. Ask God, not men, what he would have you do with your time.

“Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job and what isn’t. Workers who continually take on duties that aren’t theirs will eventually burn out.” ~Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, 27

  • Be OKAY with not knowing. No one knows it all. Don’t drive yourself mad searching for the answer to every question that flies through your head in a day. *You don’t have to win the arguments.* Doing research, learning, and seeking council is good, but no amount of historical data or advice or analysis can set your heart to rest. Only God offers real rest. Trust him as you spend a lifetime learning the truth.

God, show me the truth and show me the lies.

      “We are not uncertain about God, but uncertain of what He will do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.” ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 120

  • Beware of people who do know. Again, no one knows it all. The president, scientists, your parents, your mentors, your pastor, your therapist, they may have pieces of truth that cultivate discernment within you but they do not know it all. Our not-knowing is what makes us human, and spurs us forward to humble reliance on God. His ways are **not** our ways. Look out for people who have the answers to all your questions. Imagine a librarian who, when asked for books about World War II, starts reciting her personal knowledge of the war. You’d probably walk away slowly and Google it later. Surround yourself with people who don’t have all the answers, but are quick to point you in the right direction.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”~1 John 4:1, ESV

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” ~Hebrews 5:14, ESV

  • Grieve. It’s OKAY to cry when you leave a job you have only had for two years. It is OKAY to spend an entire afternoon writing down memories of a loved one who passed away. If you need to weep, weep. If you need to take time thinking and wading through your emotions, set aside that time. You can experience the pain now or let it snowball for the rest of your life. God wants to bring healing to the pain in your heart, it’s part of your restoration.

“There is hope for your future, declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 30:17, ESV

“Jesus wept.” ~John 11:35, ESV

“Smooth sailing does not make a good sailor.” ~Louis Zamperini, Devil at My Heels

((for more on grief check out Prayer as a Place, by Charles Bello))

  • Ask God what his special love language is for you. Heather Nelson (http://sunshinedreams2u.blogspot.com/) told me this at a retreat a few weeks ago, and little did I know, God would reveal our special language to me less than an hour later. I stood next to a window and the sun slowly peeked around a thick tree. The white rays pierced glass and kissed my forehead. Sunlight. Sunshine. That is one of the way God speaks to me, letting me know he is near. Today I basked in that same glow, feeling alive and rejuvenated by this tangible taste of everlasting love. Perhaps he speaks to you in dreams, or via shapes or sounds. Just ask!

“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” ~Ephesians 2:17&18, ESV, emphasis mine

  • If you are not a slave to God, you are a slave to death. In a way, slavery is our only option. But the slavery of God leads to fruit, to life! With God as our master, we find true freedom and the ability to rest in his grace and do good things. The other option is default mode: remaining in bondage to our own fickle, wounded hearts. None of our decisions are for good when we live by the flesh, but though the war rages on when we live by the Spirit, we are able to surrender to God’s excellent plan for the redemption of our souls and this planet.

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” ~Romans 6:16-18, NIV

“Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God.” ~AnnVoskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 197 (http://www.aholyexperience.com/)

Have a new year filled with hope, friends. Happy 2015!

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Put Together the Moments

I rang in the new year below the border. My 2014 was greeted with pops of confetti, 12 grapes, and music all in Spanish.
January 2nd: I’m grateful to the point of tears for this moment. For Your peace. I look out of the window and I see rolling hills, arid ground clothed in dusty shrubs. Baja, Mexico. I look inside myself and I see darkness being rolled away, even as old habits fight to stay. I see You making Your home in me. My story is such a great one. Lord, I am unworthy to have you near me.

We will this year gather celestial fruits on earthly ground, where faith and hope have made the desert like the garden of the Lord~Charles Spurgeon

January 3rd:
Thank You for challenging me
Hold my feet to the fire
Put the right heart in me
Search the depths of my soul and know me
As no man ever could
Reveal my sin-the immensity of my depraved nature-
And comfort me with knowledge of Yourself
When I search the Scriptures
Seeking to find You
Let my heart be open and raw
Give me sight to see and understand the whole message
Answer me out of Your loving kindness
Or my whole life will be in vain.

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you~Hosea 12:6

(Still January 3rd:) The weight of what God is calling me to do starts to sink in…My understanding of the cross-cultural life starts to be fleshed out. How immense the bridges to be crossed are. How alone I shall feel in a culture 100% different from my own. I ask God to strengthen me for the coming challenges and support me as my heart is heavy for the unreached, and for what I have to do. I ask Him not to let me turn tail and run, as is my first instinct.

The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down~Psalm 145:14

January 4th: The world is too big. People are too blind, corrupt, selfish. And I am one of them.

January 6th: I want to move into another culture. I want to make my (small, concrete, dirt) home there. I want to marry the culture and have its children. I want to surmount the difficulties of living in another culture by time and trial. I want to die there. None of this because that culture is better, or because I grew tired of the U.S. I will be there because that is where God wants me. I will sew seeds of the Gospel where none have sown before. It will be the most difficult initiative of my life but God will guide me through all the tears, discouragement, and frustration. I will love people as my own family, and they will become my own.

Highlights

A menagerie of memories from the 365 days that we labeled, “2012:”

Teaching kids to read.

“God created us because He wanted to love us.”

Finishing the Radical Experiement!

Seeing my favorite band (Page CXVI) in concert.

Highschool graduation!

MEXICO!

“I wonder what homeless people talk about….”

“He does not try to pass the time but sits down and lives.”-Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”-Dumbledore

Anything this side of Hell is pure grace.

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”-Lamentations 3:27

“We could get into trouble,” Isabel.  “That’s how you know it’s an adventure!” Hugo (Hugo, the movie.)

“Quiet your mind, hear what the land has to say,”-Zac Brown

Don’t cry “peace” in the good times only to yell for war when something doesn’t suit you.

It’s not that I am crying,  it’s just that hot tears are falling from my eyes because it hurts so bad.

“…an aesthetic voyager struggling to destroy the beast within,” Chris MccCandless.

NOMADS.

“The compassion we feel when we see the bad things going on in the world is not humanism, it is God’s spirit,” Jamie Zumwalt.

A glowing jellyfish-larva fight on the beach late in the evening.

Bloodshed follows bloodshed.

We cannot take back the way we treat others.

“You are waiting. I am smoking.”-Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows.

I feel the sun. It soaks into my bones. My toes curl with gravel between them. The thoughts in my head are as transparent as the cloudless sky. Wind whips hair sharply around my face. Literal truth: I am on the floor in my bedroom. Soul truth: I am on a great red peak in the midst of a canyon wonderland. Ah, imagination power.

We cannot apply the distraction of politics to our faith.

Watching old friends struggle through ancient issues, and holding them while they cry.

“Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other too…”-George Atkins, “Brethren We Have Met to Worship.”

“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”-J.D. Salinger

“You’ve got such an old soul to you.”

My prayer is for the people who have decided that death is preferable to life.

“The Christian, when he dies, catches hold of Christ’s garment, and Christ bears him into Heaven,” Charles Spurgeon.

“Sad parting promises fresh adventure.”

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller.

“No Heaven will be so sweet as a Heaven preceded by torments and pains,” Charles Spurgeon.

“All the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearest neighbours was, that if scrubbed with lye soap, in very hot water, his skin was white,” To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

She who loves life can do anything.

I care about you more than I coud ever care about me.

“…that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 2 Kings 19:19b

“They don’t recognize you asl the adult that you are, but you probably just need to submit right now,” KimT.

“This too shall pass,” the Sadler.

The nearly-tangible blanket of peace that God wrapped around me as I left the children whom I loved with my entire heart to the care of their Jamaican school-teachers and caretakers.

Buying my truck.

“And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” John 6:51b

That’s my life; my year. Thanks for reading all the way down! I am being shaped for something big. Odds are you too are being shaped!

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