Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Outrageously Happy

A New Year.

And we are still enduring this transition - of changing jobs and embarking on study-adventures.

Transition always brings hope.

But transition is also hard - like turning a ship or pushing a car back up a hill.

And honestly, the hard bits have got me down... way down - even in the freshness of the New Year. That way-down feeling made me forget a few things.

So I'm reminding myself today as I cover another hope-filled nugget from Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts

"But if we don't intentionally commit to the hard practice of seeing, don't we die in a barren wilderness? Anger, frustration, emptiness?"

"I either take this 'what is it?' manna with thanks, eat the mystery of the moment with trust, and am nourished another day - or refuse it...and die."

There really is no choice, when it comes down to it, but to simply live in gratitude and look for good in life every day.

What do we really want out of life? Yes, we want a better life. Sure, we want more money, achievement, a holiday, whatever...

But I know that what you truly want is joy - true joy, joy that stays.

Even Linus, when asked by Charlie Brown what he wants to be when he grows up, turns and says, very seriously: "Outrageously happy!"

Don't we all want this? And doesn't God want is for us even more than we do?

I believe this is possible.

But I find it easy to fall into negativity, focusing on all the struggles and "splatters of disappointment" in my life. It's easy to refuse to be grateful for anything, when I'm overwhelmed by trouble and lack. I have gotten to points where I even refuse consolation from others, because I am so fixated on the negative aspects of life - all the ugliness. But where has this landed me? There's nothing constructive in constant complaining or only ever looking at the problems and the pain. The result of this way of thinking is simply just more problems and pain - "Anger, frustration, emptiness". A vicious cycle really. A black, bottomless, aching hole.

But when I look at my life and accept that there are not always answers for the bad stuff "eat the mystery", thanking God anyway - for the good things, and continue to do this, I re-calibrate my mind. I learn to trust God again - with my whole heart. Honestly now, this finds me filled with a sense of peace and joy - an "outrageous happy". I feel like I can see above the storm clouds (and yes, they are always there) to a place of light and warmth and hope.

And I want that - everyday. I choose to want it. I choose "the hard practice of seeing" - seeing the good - even the ugly-beautiful. And I am filled. "nourished".

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

thanking God for the ugly parts...

"That which we refuse to thank Christ for - we refuse to believe Christ can redeem"
- Ann Voskamp - One Thousand Gifts

This was a hard one to swallow. It meant that God wanted me to thank him for even the bad things when they, in my mind, seem far from redemption.

Five months ago, my husband and I came under immense judgment for a decision we made in obedience to God. Relationships that we thought could be trusted were severed in one devastating instant. As we embarked on a new and exciting journey, we also moved forward, aching and reeling and trying to make sense of what was lost.

During this time, I fought and hated and cried and stung and questioned.

And one day, I decided to gather some of those heart-words from Ann Voskamp and paste them up on my kitchen walls and cupboards - along with the carved lettering my mother sent me for my birthday: Grace; Eucharisteo; Thanksgiving; Joy.

So I could be reminded, and so those words would sink in and somehow become a reality in the desert that I was in.

"That which we refuse to thank Christ for - we refuse to believe Christ can redeem" - these words hang strategically right above the sink.

Many days, I did the dishes and read these words and wondered at them, that "God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose." This was not my reality.

Probably, just short of two weeks ago, I decided to take that risk and thank God for the ugly - for the way we were prejudged and written off, for painful, heartbreaking, condemning words from one whom we trusted.

I had forgiven by this time, but had never thanked God for what happened.

And so, that morning, hands deep in soapy water, I thanked him for the devastating and acknowledged his power to redeem anything and everything no matter how bad it is.

Today, I am overwhelmed by reconciliation, a softening of hearts, by an embrace in arms that once pointed fingers, genuine, loving words from a mouth that once held piercing arrows, by a welcome instead of a judgment.

I am overwhelmed by redemption.

I will keep thanking for everything and in everything.

But today, I thank God...

for the ugly-beautiful - that which he has redeemed and is redeeming.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Complaint or Christ?

“Does my life testify to my belief in the power of complaint or the power of Christ?” 

(so this took me a while but here's my first reflections on the book)

It’s so easy to complain. Sometimes complaint gets things done – like perhaps in customer service – but even then, there are no guarantees.  People fail.

By complaining about my life and circumstances I am either placing confidence in myself  – my own ability to make something of my life - which then implies that I’ve failed at that already. Or I’m placing my confidence  in people or “the system” or society which will always be flawed. And where will that complaint get me ultimately?

Nowhere, really.

Because it is all fallible, this world, its people, their futile efforts to make it all a better place.

And then, when I get nowhere, I complain into the air… and ultimately about or to God.

He has failed me. Why are things not happening the way I planned, the way I prayed? Why does disappointment settle so heavily in my heart and mind? Why?

And where does complaining to God get me?

Again. Nowhere.

Don’t get me wrong, he wants to hear our prayers and he listens and has compassion when we are confused and upset and even when we question things.

But beyond that, where is my confidence going to find a solid place to stand if complaint is all I ever fall back on? Where will that leave me, really?

There is more to what I experience to be disappointment in my life.
Question – has God ever really failed you? Has God ever failed me?

I do feel that sometimes.

I don’t understand him, so I dismiss him and his way of doing things.

But if he understands me, then isn’t that enough?

If he has miraculously proved Himself faithful to me in the past, then isn’t that enough, to hope for good things to come? Because he is the same, yesterday, today and forever?

Maybe it’s about time I start trying something new.
Complaint has gotten me nowhere.

Christ. I have nothing to lose, except myself – in his kindness and faithfulness and redemptive power.

“Jesus' blood never failed me yet”

That is enough.

Christ is enough.

He will see me through. Always has. Always will.