This morning I decided to take a short walk outside to begin my day. I am usually content to sit and sit and sit all day, so it felt good to get my body moving first thing in the morning.
I walked along a path close to my house, looking for God in nature, listening to the birds, breathing deeply… but, my eyes kept being drawn to the beer cans, McDonald’s cups, plastic bags, and candy bar wrappers. It annoyed me deeply. I laid blame on the high school kids who frequent the path – “Inconsiderate, spoiled rascals. Don’t they see how their actions affect others??”, I grumbled.
I stomped back home, found a large garbage bag and work gloves. As I fished the trash out from the limbs, thorns, and weeds, I continued to grumble. “God, may these kids regret how they treated Your creation! May they feel deep remorse and guilt! Harrumph!” It felt good to pick up the trash in all my righteous indignation!
As I picked up more and more trash and my bag got really heavy, I felt my heart soften for whoever tossed aside the trash. Empty energy drink cans, wrappers, Starbucks cups, straws, paper… “Kids or adults, they are all loved by You, God. These bits of trash are bits of their lives and we are connected in this community. May I love the people around me well. May others come see how beautiful Your creation is, God, and respect it with awe. May they see You in this little patch of nature.” My work suddenly shifted to honoring God and His creation – less about wanting to show those littering rascals a thing or two. I was partnering with God, clearing away the clutter so other path walkers could see the trees, not the trash. To God be the glory.
The other day, I sat with the question, “Who is God to me?” That’s a big, big question. Where do you begin?
One of the rabbit trails I went down had to do with trusting God’s kindness. Do I trust that God is kind and gives good gifts? I know what Scripture says, but do I believe it? Do I live it?
At the risk of sounding like the privileged, American Gen-xer that I am, I’m going to be honest – I’ve realized that many of my experiences of giving and receiving gifts have been laden with disappointments. Yes, I appreciate being thought of when I receive a gift, but often it feels like, “Oh. They don’t know me after all.” Or, when I give a gift that I’ve labored over, I feel like, “Oh. After all of that, they don’t really like it as much as I’d hoped.”
While praying the other day, I realized that I’ve placed those disappointing experiences on God. I’m afraid that God will give me something and I’ll realize, “Oh. God doesn’t really like me or know me. This isn’t at all what I wanted.” Or, if I give my efforts to God, I’m afraid that God will think, “Meh. It’s not really what I wanted. Try again.”
Understanding that I’m placing my flawed human experiences on God is a helpful realization – it helps me to understand where some of my fears come from.
I can say to my heart with confidence that God is the perfect expression of love. God personally loves me and cares for me. God knows me better than I know myself. God knows what I need and want. God is trustworthy.
Our prayer today: Breath Prayer (When I’m afraid)
Our prayer today: Smiles and Glances
One of my pastors invited me out to breakfast recently, just to check in with me. Delighted, I accepted her invitation immediately. She’s one of my favorite people – wise, funny, grounded, creative… and a fantastic listener.
At breakfast, she asked me how I was doing. I found that so many surprising (to me!) thoughts tumbled out of my mouth as she asked great questions and listened well.
I told her that I know my life is cake, really. Compared to displaced people, those in abusive situations, those dealing with painful medical treatments, those who don’t know when they’ll eat next… My pain is feeling lost in my own life and feeling purposeless. My pastor affirmed that it’s important to hold both realities – my pain matters, but it’s important to keep it in perspective, of course. I have found that it’s helping me to have a part-time job that gets me out of myself and my thoughts. To encounter others with their own stresses, issues, frustrations has been helpful.
Yes, I have a home, a family, enough to eat. I am loved and liked by some really good people. I’m grateful. And yet. It’s still painful living in my skin right now. I *have* to deal with that and not just shove it aside because I feel it’s indulgent. I believe that God is doing good refining work in my life through this process. If I shove it aside and refuse to acknowledge it, I believe I’m also shoving aside God’s work in my life.
The Guest House
Every morning a new arrival.A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.