Archives for posts with tag: Jesus

Suffering is a universal, shared, human experience. Everyone suffers at different times and to varying degrees – it’s something we can all relate to. Sometimes the pain is so overwhelming and sharp that it leaves us feeling like we can’t move forward with life. Suffering leaves us dazed, scared, weak, depressed, confused. A question that often gets asked in the middle of our trouble, more so when it’s especially poignant: Where is God in this suffering?

So where is He? Where is God in poverty and starvation? Where is He when a baby dies? Why does He seem silent while abuse takes place or addiction overruns and ruins families? Will He not lift a finger to relieve cancer and chronic illness that drags on for year after miserable year?

The evangelical in me wants to point a finger squarely at Satan; to say that God has nothing to do with suffering but to use it for good. And He does use it for good. But when I look at the way God works in the Bible, I see a God who not just allows suffering to happen, but proactively brings it to our lives to accomplish a certain goal. A King who does sometimes choose to inflict pain to bring about His will. So is God not good?

Jonah refuses God’s request and tries to sail away in hiding. God sends a massive storm. Intense fear is suffered by not only Jonah, but by the other people on the boat who had nothing to do with Jonah’s disobedience. Jonah is thrown overboard to save the ship and is swallowed by a whale. He suffers inside – in dank, dark, disgusting fish guts – for three days, praying for another chance. God grants him this prayer and the Ninevites hear Jonah’s message of God’s love and concern for them; hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

Joseph grew up being favored by both his father and by God. His brothers resent and hate him; they sell him into slavery. He is falsely accused, stripped of his rights and his freedom, thrown in jail and forgotten about for many years. He always believed he was destined for greatness and didn’t become bitter or outraged in his suffering. He maintains his hope and people notice. He gets released from prison and promoted to second in command of Egypt. He is reunited with his family. Hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

Jesus leaves heaven to come TO the suffering. Like a firefighter running in when everyone else is trying to get out. He didn’t pad himself with luxury or even basic comforts. He looks for people who are physically, emotionally and mentally sick and afflicted. He goes to them with the intent of taking on their burdens, makes them his own, is shamed and ridiculed by those same people – ignored or despised by everyone else. He is beaten, tortured and executed on a cross. Hearts are changed, lives are saved in an eternal way.

sufferingSuffering is everywhere and it’s a part of life. But not in a vague “everything happens for a reason” kind of way where we don’t seek to assume what is happening through the pain. Suffering is exactly the opposite. It is very purposeful, intentional, and anything but vague. God is in the suffering. Right there in the middle. He’s always working for our good, but that does not mean He’s always working for our comfort or relief.

When we are buried in grief and sadness – and let’s not dismiss how deep and dark our pain can be – we feel like what we’re going through is the worst suffering we could encounter. I think this is where we can misunderstand God and His love. What we believe is the worst suffering (death, cancer, affliction, poverty, crisis, etc) is actually not the worst suffering. Separation from God is the worst suffering. Eternal separation.Not whatever is happening here and now, no matter how dark. God can use our suffering here on earth to spare us eternal suffering. And, as we see in the examples above, sometimes our suffering is the medium through which God changes others’ hearts and saves lives.

Think about one of your dark times. When you came out the other end, you were not the same person. In the toughest times, we either bend and break to God’s will and develop an insight and maturity unmatched to that of our former self or we dig our heels in and put up walls. But we do not stay the same. We’ve seen too much; we’ve become aware of our limits and powerlessness in times of our greatest desperation. Hopefully it leads us to a knowledge of our need for a Savior.

If we believe that our earthly suffering, which is surely temporary even if it is long-lived, can bring about relief from eternal suffering, can we manage our pain better in our darkness? Can we glean some hope in knowing that the pain will not last forever? Will we allow our hearts to be necessarily broken and softened or will we become more proud and hardened? Are we willing to suffer for the sake of someone else’s life beyond this earth?

I have borne witness on several occasions to God’s people handling immense and extreme suffering with grace, truth and a light that spreads hope and points to the Lord. All suffering – all things in life – are meant to bring glory to God. When we seek and proclaim God’s glory through suffering or by the testimonies of those who suffer, we are doing what God wants us to with pain. Sometimes, our pain isn’t even about us. Can we still proclaim God’s goodness when intense sorrow enters our lives for the purpose of impacting someone else’s life?

One thing I am convinced of: We must not let each other suffer alone. Every time I see God glorified through life’s pains, I also see God’s people standing alongside those who are suffering. Through prayer and fasting, in bringing meals and incidentals, with time spent and relationships strengthened. And how God is glorified in those acts alone!

Suffering will happen in your life. What will you do with it? Will your question be, “Where is God in this suffering?” or will you have some degree of expectancy, “Whose heart and life will be changed through this pain?” Because God is certainly at work; we need eyes to see a bigger picture, humility to endure without getting lost in self, and devotion to a God who is always working for our good even with pain in the process.

There’s a line in the story of Jesus’ birth that, since becoming a mother, is always popping into my mind. It’s not one people really stop to pick apart or even contemplate why it’s there. A simple little verse that, written in a day LONG before social media, helps guide my online-sharing practices in this technology age.

mary joseph and the babe

Just in case anyone needed a visual, I give you Joseph, Mary, and a very excited baby Jesus.

A brief synopsis of the story, as well as a couple things we know about Mary: She didn’t come from a well-to-do family. Until of course giving birth to Jesus, she hadn’t done anything notable or newsworthy. She was a teenager, engaged and in love with Joseph, who stuck by her side even when she told him this doozy, “I’m pregnant with God’s baby.” Mary and Joseph travel to their hometown to be counted for a mandatory census. Mary is super pregnant and they must have gotten there kind of late because all the inns and extra rooms are already packed full of people. They finally find an innkeeper who allows them to sleep in his barn with the animals. Baby Jesus is born there and sleeps in a feed trough under the most humble of circumstances.
After he’s born, God sends a star to shine over the barn where his family is staying. Angels visit some nearby shepherds to alert them that their Savior is here. The shepherds start rejoicing and spreading the news, waste no time locating Jesus, and bow to worship him as soon as they arrive. Magi (important, well-known wise men) from afar see the star-beacon and follow it to Bethlehem knowing that it’s a big deal. When they make it to the barn, they shower Jesus with expensive, lavish gifts. There is an electricity in the air as the people of Bethlehem start catching on to what’s happening.
If this were me in present time, how would I have reacted to all the fuss? Especially as a teenager. 
The grown men/strangers bowing down to my infant? Document the ordeal in detail to post on Facebook.
The visits from three distinguished kings, offering gold and expensive oils? Uh, I’d for sure name drop. Snap a quick pic for Insta of my wee babe in the arms of my famous visitors (with the fancy gifts in view).
From being a “nobody” to widespread recognition.  Tweet it out and try and develop a following, leaning in to my new-found fame.
But what Mary did is the part that sticks with me: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Aware of just how special this child and these moments were, she didn’t rush to a news outlet. She pondered them in her heart. I imagine a little half smile on her face as she gets lost in her thoughts.
I know, I know. She didn’t have internet or a cell phone. What would be the olden day equivalent? “She told everyone she met along the road that her kid was kind of a big deal.” Not sure exactly what she would have done if Bethlehem had wifi, but it’s significant to me that this simple line was purposely recorded in the Bible.
I distinctly remember a moment with my firstborn when she was a couple months old where I realized this line would forever serve as a reminder for me. A reminder to save some things just for me. I was breastfeeding her, looking down at the hugest eyes I’d ever seen. It was early in the morning – just before dawn – and the dim light from outside was casting a blue glow throughout the room. She stared at me with her baby blues as she ate. It was serene and wonderful and powerful and a gift. I remember thinking, “Where’s my phone when I need it? The world needs to see how angelic she is. Can I film this without showing any of my…parts…?” followed immediately by a thought that was its exact opposite, “No way. How could I cheapen something so tender and special? What an honor that no one can see this but me. This is a sacred moment meant just for mother and child.”
 
Moms, there aren’t a lot of accolades or awards in our line of work. We don’t get glowing quarterly reviews or raises affirming us of a job well done. In fact, there are lots of daily complaints and criticisms from our little charges. What Mary teaches me is that the sweetest of these moments with my babies are my most valuable rewards. Meant to be treasured and pondered. I’m not suggesting we boycott social media; my parents who live 700 miles away would never go for that! I’m just encouraging you to keep some things just for yourselves, Moms. Your kids are so special and I know that’s why you want to put it out there, but it doesn’t all have to be broadcast. You deserve to keep something untouched, undiscovered, and sacred that you alone can treasure and ponder.
Ready to roll

Ready to roll

My prayers in anticipation of Harper starting Kindergarten have been both thorough and terribly incomplete. I’ve prayed for safety, for a smooth transition, for good friends, a patient teacher. I’ve prayed that she’ll be kind to the people around her and I’ve prayed that those people will return the favor. I’ve been anxious for several reasons: she’ll be exposed to certain words, attitudes, and behaviors that aren’t okay with us; she’ll be confronted with beliefs, ideas, and value systems that don’t align with what she’s been taught at home; she will at some point be left out, called out, or picked out in ways that make her uncomfortable or embarrassed. At some point last week, I noticed that when I was praying, I was praying from a place of fear and protectiveness, like I was on my heels or backed up against a wall. Fear is not from God and I didn’t want to remain in that place, nor did I want to pass that fear along to her. I started praying differently and it changed my attitude from mournful and leery to hopeful and eager.

I mean, doesn't she look hopeful and eager? ...uhhh

If that face doesn’t scream hopeful and eager, I don’t know what does…

I hadn’t been seeing this new chapter in Harper’s life for the opportunity that it is. In reality, this is where her Beautiful Journey starts. This is her ministry beginning. What a BIG, WONDERFUL DAY. She’s been safe in the shelter of our home, being nurtured, taught, fiercely loved, and, well, not confronted with serious conflict or challenges. Hers has been a good beginning. A solid foundation that will forever guide her path. We all have come to know Jesus personally in a countless number of ways. That relationship cannot be fabricated and it cannot be forced. If you took a survey of the people around you, I bet you’d find that most people really struggled in their personal journeys to understand and accept Jesus. Wouldn’t it be nice if we might all be able to surrender our lives and fall in love with a Savior without the motivators of tragedy, rock-bottoms, major frustration, helplessness and utter need? The truth is, most of us have to wade through the very worst of ourselves until we’re broken and finally honest in our failure. This slow, steady transition of starting grade school is where Harper steps in to her own faith. What a BIG, WONDERFUL DAY.

I wonder what Peter’s mother might have been praying or saying had she been in the boat during that storm. Surrounded by choppy water and swirling wind in the middle of the night – truly, a chilling scene. And then a ghostly-looking silhouette on the water. It’s our natural inclination as parents to try and shield our children from danger, hurt, and pain. What if she would have demanded or dissuaded Peter from stepping out into the violent storm? We would all say that reaction is entirely reasonable, intelligent even.  He might have stayed safe, but she would have let fear deny him of the moment when he locked eyes with Jesus himself. Pretend you’re Peter for a sec. Did time stop in those few seconds for him? Did he wonder if he was dreaming? Did the experience feel magical? Was it deafeningly loud or completely silent? Did it feel like immense failure when he started to sink? Was it immediate relief for both his body and his soul when Jesus gripped his arms, along with his heart, and he really knew: surely, this is the Son of God.

Hard times, being broken – those are the moments when we let our hearts be truly gripped by Jesus. I can dedicate all my time, energy, and focus on shielding my girls from danger, but then it’s a real possibility that I’m also standing in their way. I refuse to succumb to fear and so deny my children a moment like Peter had, locking eyes with Jesus. Being gripped by him mind, body, and soul. What I have come to accept is that Harper has her own story in which I am a supporting role. Egocentric, yes, but I tend to forget at times that the world still turns when I’m not masterminding all the twists and turns. Jesus found me – he pursued, was relentless, was patient – and he found me. He’s going to do the same with her. He’s pursuing, relentless, patient, and he’ll find her.

Sister love

Sister love

Over the last five and a half years, we have done our best to instill in Harper the values that we hold true: there is one God, one Savior Jesus. She has a lot of story left and, if we’re being realistic, steps along her journey may embarrass us as parents – may shock us, may scare us, may disappoint us, may hurt us. She won’t choose all the things and ways we would have chosen for her. But we’re in it for the long haul with her, as is the Lord. As hard as it is to just let it happen and not try to meddle or mourn, I do realize that Jesus is there with her, writing her story. I trust that she will take the foundation of faith she’s received and I am one of the lucky ones to have a front row seat to her ministry. It’s exciting, beautiful, and I have great expectations of the big things Christ will do in her. A mighty little light who is piercing the darkness.

PS: It’s okay if you shed tears over the first day of school, whether you have a Kindergartener or a Senior in college, because it’s okay to cry over beautiful things. And today was something beautiful.

Sass

Oh, the sass!

 

One of the worst things you can be in America 2015 is someone who judges the actions or decisions or lifestyles of your fellow man. I am a person with conservative beliefs. But I go online and read some articles or blogs, what have you, and second guess myself because our culture hates intolerance more than murder or adultery. In our New Age era where we’re supposed to follow our hearts and accept everything, I am afraid to even own up to my dissenting opinions. And yet, I have this thing inside of me that pushes back and I realize: I have been grossly neglecting and underutilizing my most powerful spiritual weapon: the Holy Spirit living in me. I read comments by LOTR actor John Rhys-Davies yesterday about how we’ve lost our moral compass and what it means for Christianity. I had the bulk of this blog post sitting in my drafts folder, but that interview inspired me to finish collecting my thoughts on the necessity of judging.

In reality, not only do I pass a steady stream of judgments throughout my day, good judgment is essential to my health and safety. I stop at red lights. I look before crossing the street. I don’t eat roadkill squirrels in the gutter. I decide to wear clothes. And beyond myself, I actively instruct our children to make all these same judgments. To consciously weigh the benefits and consequences of the actions, thoughts, and words that fill their days. Of course, whether or not I walk into oncoming traffic is a matter of life and death – not a moral judgment. But if I saw a person walk into oncoming traffic, I would surely say that he is either blind, mentally ill, confused, or suicidal. Can’t the same logic translate over to our spiritual lives? I think it can and should. All around me, people are walking into oncoming traffic in their moral and spiritual lives, not believing – some not knowing – that they have put themselves at serious risk. They may be blind, sick, confused or depraved, but they’re there. In the middle of the road. Consequences manifest themselves physically and emotionally, of course, but the spiritual self is the part of the person most at risk…especially when those who DO know better are not warning about the oncoming traffic.  I get it, though. It’s hard to speak out when you know that your words could cost you. It can cost real money. See: the privately owned businesses who were court ordered to fork over thousands and thousands of dollars after refusing business to gay couples. It can cost real relationships. It can cost real comfort. From Jesus: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” John 15.18. Sometimes when the world hates you, you’re on to something.

There’s a big flipside, though. Scripture is also clear about the dangers of judging each other. Matthew 7: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ “…and Luke 6: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Then there’s this really interesting little verse in John 7 (v24): “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”  I really like the NLT version: “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” So, apparently there is a right way to judge, but also a wrong way. Instead of rejecting the popular notion that judging is wrong altogether, maybe we need to simply examine the way we use judgment. Are we doing it the correct way or the way that gets us into spiritual trouble?

The difference reminds me of a concept I learned while taking a parenting class called “Growing Kids God’s Way”. The lesson was about kids tattling/telling on each other. Bottom line: where is the heart of the tattler? Is he tattling on his sister because he wants to see her get into trouble? Because he wants to elevate himself as the better child? Because he thinks tattling will earn him some sort of reward? Because he wants her to feel guilty and ashamed? All of those are, of course, wrong reasons and our kids get punished for tattling. The class taught that the only good reason a child would “tell” to his parents was because he feared for the health and safety of his sibling. Example: he saw his sister about to walk into oncoming traffic and ran to his father for help. That’s the good kind of “telling” and comes from a heart of love and genuine concern.

Adult application. Bottom line: where is your heart when you judge? Do you judge someone because you’d like to see them “get what they deserve”? Because you feel better about yourself when you can look down on someone else? Because you think judging will earn you some sort of reward or points? Or maybe because you want someone else to feel guilty and ashamed? All of those are, of course, wrong reasons. Is gossip involved? Is slander involved? If so, wrong kind of judging. Is prayer involved? Is getting to know someone intimately (“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly”) part of it? Do you feel compassion for your brother or sister? Then proceed with caution.

God gave me the Holy Spirit, who is my judgment-helper, to get me through life. All facets of life. Good judgment stops me from licking doorknobs. Good judgment keeps me from over-investing in relationships that drain me. Good judgment grounds me from throwing the towel in on parenting in the middle of super hard days. And if you’re someone who knows the truth and hears the Spirit prodding you, you need to speak up in private, heartfelt conversations with the people who you have love and concern for – the ones who are standing in the middle of the road, somehow thinking it’s safe there.

My kids were being pretty annoying in the car last week. Cortland has figured out Harper’s annoyance triggers, not that Harper hides them super well, but, in no time at all, Cort has become an expert in exploiting her sister’s weaknesses. Here is how it went: We were driving home from gymnastics and Cortland started saying, “I’m five! I’m five!”. Harper, who actually is five, became quickly agitated and started yelling, “You’re not five! You’re TWO! YOU’RE TWO!!” As any other parent can attest, Harper’s tantrum reaction only served to encourage Cortland’s insistence of being five. “MOM! Are you listening to her? She’s saying she’s five! She’s NOT five! She’s NOT! She’s two! She’s saying she’s FIVE!” Tears. Balled up fists. Screaming. Kicking my seat in frustration.

That's right. These angels.   Photo by Brighten Photography

That’s right. These angels.
Photo by Brighten Photography

I could not believe how ridiculous the scene had become. I talked Harper down eventually and somehow was able to reason with her. We talked about how I am the final authority on how old Cortland is. I was there when she started being a person. She wouldn’t be here without me. Just because Cortland says she’s five doesn’t make her five. She is completely, totally, and helplessly obligated to the same system of time and counting and aging that we are all tied to. She doesn’t get to skip ahead or fall behind. Maybe she wants to be five, but she is two. Maybe she says she is five, but she is two. Maybe she even really believes she is five. Know what? She’s still two. I am the final authority on this topic. I know the real truth, despite what anybody says. So, Harper, trust that what is truth will continue to be.

The whole conversation stuck in my thoughts later for quite some time. I noted that her behavior is not far from lots of adults I know, at times even me. We throw (super annoying) adult sized tantrums (typically on social media) when our feathers get ruffled over something another mere man says or decides. We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. He knows the truth. He was there when this all started and we wouldn’t be here without him. A man saying he’s a woman does not make him a woman. Legislation going into effect governs the law of the land; it does not govern the law written on our hearts. We look ridiculous with balled up fists, screaming, red-faced, kicking the back of God’s seat, “Did you hear that?! Do you hear what they’re saying?? It’s not true! It’s NOT TRUE!”

Maybe you’re not a tantrum thrower (and thank you), but you feel anxiety mounting when you hear unsettling news, whether it’s national news or a disagreeable set of views from someone close to you. Don’t stop after the first verse of John 14, but that’s what I’ll include right here. From Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” I have to include verses 16 and 17 because they’re so interesting: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” My takeaway here? If I’m getting all up in arms or letting worry nag at me and trouble my heart, I’m showing a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a fundamental distrust that Jesus is who he says he is.

Once more: We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. Not the President. Not the Courts. Not strangers, not friends, not family, not even our emotions with all their twists and turns. If you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, ask the One who is Truth to reveal it to you. You will waste a lot of time finding out the Truth if you’re sifting through talk shows and blogs and articles and newsfeeds. Just go straight to the source. God knows the real truth, despite what anybody else says. So, friends, trust that what has always been truth, is yet truth, and will continue to be.

We all have something, right? A fatal flaw that we can’t seem to shake? I’m telling you mine.

We’ll just rip it off like a bandaid and expose this thing for what it is: my ongoing sin of pride. Pride is so hard to overcome; in fact, it will likely be the battle I fight my whole life rather than something I can rid myself of once and for all. I understand how dangerous and filthy pride is, and I fight it in me. For anyone who passes pride off as “not that bad” a sin, read this short excerpt and, when you have some time, go ahead and read this whole blog by Fabienne Harford:

Pride will kill you. Forever. Pride is the sin most likely to keep you from crying out for a Savior. Those who think they are well will not look for a doctor.

We are all in need of a Savior. There’s no heavenly ranking system for sin. If you’re not crying out for a Savior, then you might be struggling with pride. If you are quick to notice all the other people who are in need of a Savior more than you, then you are definitely struggling with pride.

Anyway, it’s crazy, with as dangerous and blinding a problem as the sin of pride is, I can post this confession and be not at all nervous about the repercussions because America isn’t too bothered by pride – celebrates it even. But what if my Great Sin was something else? What if I asked for help kicking my crack habit? What if I confessed an affair? What if I needed to let my loved ones know I was gay? No way on earth would I freely reveal those things for fear that I would lose friends or at least be treated differently. This double standard is not a God problem. It’s not a Bible problem. It’s a problem we have as people. We’re the ones who have come up with the ranking system. Sidenote: In my heart and in my gut, I’m certainly more disgusted by a child molester than by a Wall Street guy who’s cheating someone out of money. I do think that instinct IS God-given, but meant more for us to protect those who are the most helpless and vulnerable rather than to incite riot against the person committing the crime.

It’s not just believers who adhere to the sin ranking system. I have a non-religious friend who has lived a very difficult life – chronic drug use and relapses, isolation from his now teenaged daughter, a brother who committed suicide. The future feels bleak for him and he was telling me one day how much “better” I am than he is. “What have you ever done?” he asked. “Pride. Pride. Pride. And I have a temper. I yell at my kids when they irritate me.” He rolled his eyes, passing my stuff off as small potatoes. And, I confess, I’d rather have my current set of problems than his. By the standard of the world, I am good. Just fine. My family may even be more functional than average. But as my minister Chris Seidman said recently, “It’s a level playing field at the foot of the cross.” My friend and I are equally in need of the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus offers.

There’s a lot going on right now socially in America. We’ve got tense race issues, gay marriage, gun rights, and illegal immigration. No need to delve into debates over any of those issues, but they’re the reddest, hottest, hot-button discussions people are having. I have my own opinions on these topics, but no ruling or legislation or law has ever disheartened me more than observing the total lack of compassion that spews from the mouths of those (on both side of the issues) who are angrily picking fights in the aftermath. These reactions expose the pride that we are all drowning in.

If we truly understood the gravity of our sin, how could we spend so much emotion and energy pointing fingers at each other?

If we could get a grip on how quickly we’re sinking in our own pits of quicksand, where do we get off berating someone else for the mess they’re in?

Love is what we’re supposed to be doing – letting our understanding of where our own sin has left us lead us to compassion for the people around us who are as wretched, messed up, and pathetic as we are. But that means we first need to GET it. Not many of us feel desperately ashamed and broken over our sin. While we acknowledge that there is a sin rank system in our world and, admittedly, the natural consequences of different sins vary greatly, there is no sin rank system in heaven. We all need Jesus equally and if that’s hard for you to swallow, then you may struggle with pride.

All this to say, it’s this attitude we have about “worse” sins that is keeping people from our churches. I am committed to changing my thinking. To learning to love people who sometimes scare me because of the places they’ve been. To letting the knowledge of my own brokenness lead me to compassion and to serving others who are also struggling with something, be it my same sin tendencies or something very different.

We’re all in this together. We really are. So let’s help each other succeed. And one other thing since this post is kind of a bummer: God takes our jagged, ugly brokenness, carefully and lovingly puts together the pieces with the restoring power of Jesus’ blood, and invites us into his presence to eat with him at his table. He doesn’t look back and he doesn’t keep record of our wrongs. Neither should we once we have received the freedom and joy we have been offered through salvation in Jesus Christ. No matter where we’ve been, we all have been given the same shot at happy endings to our life stories.

New Year's baby Cortland and Aunt Shelly.

New Year’s baby Cortland and Aunt Shelly.

I am a mediocre resolution-maker, but hear this: Not because I’m a bum. One of the things I’m actually quite good at is setting a goal and achieving it. It’s an obsessive quality I have, so it’s not always helpful or healthy. Anyway, the point is that setting a New Year’s resolution doesn’t really make me any more or less inclined to reach a goal. I got 99 problems, but following through ain’t one.

Always appearing on my goals list are the following: Know God more, live more like Christ, read my Bible more, lose weight. So generic, I know. I got to thinking about the lose weight one because, for the first time in forever, it’s not appearing on my list. I started thinking about how I got here – at a place where I don’t want to weigh any less. It happened when I wasn’t obsessing about losing weight. I wasn’t counting calories or working out twice a day. I wasn’t adhering to any fad diet, but my eating habits over the last 3 months looks waaaay different than ever before in my life. Thanks to the wonky thyroid thing I’ve mentioned briefly on here, my definition of healthy eating has only a little to do with calories (to bring you up to speed, I’m trying to use diet changes to naturally stabilize my hypothyroidism and hopefully avoid medication). In short, after doing lots of reading and research, I surmised my best bets were to eliminate soy and wheat (and, thus, every snack, dessert, and good thing); and to add lots more fish and coconut oil.

I’m not here to talk about diet. I want to talk about the God goals. They’re always on my list and, until I’m in glory, they always will be. But I want to go about these goals unlike I have before – do things drastically different. Kind of like with my former “lose weight” goal; it wasn’t until I redefined healthy eating that I got to where I wanted to be. Of course I need to be in the Word. Of course I need to be in communion with Christ. Of course I need to be obedient to my Father. And what does that look like for me? Well, it involves more specificity and action than my generically stated goals allow for.

Know God more: How about, “Seek out people who are very unlike myself in upbringing, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, race, etc.. Develop real friendships with them. Talk about things that matter. Let our differences challenge me. Be firm, and still tender, and be patient.” Now that’s a goal that will inevitably show me more about God, His creativity, His pursuit of us, and lessons I will never have seen coming.

Live more like Christ: How about, “Resolve the tension you know you have in some of your relationships. Think outside of yourself more so that you can be a better friend. Ask for help when you need it and become a person that people seek out to ask for prayer.”

Read my Bible more: How about, “Day and night, the Word should always be on your lips. Teach it to your children. May Scripture be woven through the thoughts that circle in my mind and may my tongue speak it often in conversation.”

So, new game plan. Know God, live Christ, and read your Bible are all great goals – don’t think your list is lame if you have those. I just need a little more narrative to get me going. I hope you reach your goals for 2014 and, if you need prayer, I’m your girl!