One More Light: A reflection

 

Chester Bennington is dead.

Those words hit me like a slap across the face followed by a weight sinking in my heart when I heard the news Linkin Park’s lead singer took his life one summer night in July.

It would seem the pain and weight he was carrying was finally too much to bare.

Of course, I, like everyone else can only imagine what he might have been feeling in those final moments, yet songs like “Leave Out All The Rest,” and more recently, “Heavy,” have predicted this reality. Still I couldn’t believe it was true.

Ironically I had just been listening to his music that very day. I had been on an out-of-nowhere Linkin Park kick about two weeks prior to his death, taking in my favorite songs and remembering the messages Chester and band co-founder Mike Shinoda had written to an entire generation: mine.

Continue reading “One More Light: A reflection”

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God Alignment

 

Freer Field

This morning was weird.

Okay, so back up.

Do you ever have those moments when you’re in prayer asking God for something and he answers in a totally different way than you expected, or “worse,” changes the subject? That was me this morning.

Lately I’ve been feeling kind of out of place in life. Wondering about the career path I’m on. Trying to make sense of all the relationships in my life. Why am I still single? Should I get more involved in my community? What hobbies and passions should I devote myself to? Etc.

And taking my problems to God, I ask for a sense of direction as I mull over the same subjects that I know he’s either given me an answer to that I don’t want to hear or that he’s ignored because that’s not where he wants me to focus on right now. And after spinning in circles with my questions I feel God getting somewhat impatient with me. Then he eventually tells me what he wants me to do today is go out and witness to people.

Um…what?

Go to the park and tell people about me.

“Okay, God. This isn’t helping. This conversation is about me and my problems. What I need is some advice, not an assignment.”

But he made it pretty clear he wouldn’t be happy with me just going off and doing my own thing today. I’m not the world’s greatest witness-er, but I guess I’ll give it a shot. So I, begrudgingly, went over a few lines in my head while tying my shoes, and went out the door.

I hadn’t known what to expect when I got to the park and set on the walking path. I said a quick prayer to soften my heart and place people in my path if that’s what God wanted.

So I walked down the path, giving people big smiles, and cheerful hellos. I passed a woman pushing a baby in a stroller, a man jogging, another guy walking his dog. A mother walked her dog with two kids and a woman was power walking while on the phone.

It was strange being on mission, looking and searching for whoever God might send my way. It made me realize something.

It’s not about me.

Life is not about my life, my thoughts, my desires, my hopes, my dreams. I had been going around thinking about my day and how I wanted to do things my way. I was unhappy with my life and wanted God to change it, and according to my preferences.

Just think if Jesus had lived like that?

“No, sorry, Dad, I think I’ll just sit this one out. The disciples and I are just going to hang out on the lake today. I don’t feel like talking to those ignorant people or pointing them to you.”

No, Jesus lived a life of servitude. Yes, he rested. Yes, he spent alone time with God. But he never lost his focus and he never made his life or circumstances his focal point.

Those familiar thoughts poured through me as I made my path around the winding path.

The Christian life is not about us. It’s about dying to self. It’s about picking up your cross and following him.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” –Matthew 10:39

Spoiler alert: no one got saved today, but the walk gave me some perspective.

Walking along the park’s path is a lot like life. You can either choose to see who God might place in your path (for whatever reason), or you can ignore those around you because your day is about you, right? It’s all about perspective. I’m thankful God chose to shift my perspective today.

One thing I’ve noticed with God is his seemingly unorthodox way of doing things.

He takes things that seem to be the issue and says no, that is not the issue: this is.

For me, I needed a reminder that life is not all about me, that God doesn’t live to cater to my every will, want and desire. He provides for our needs, yes, but sometimes we want things that he might not have planned or want for us at the moment. Matthew 6:33 keeps coming to mind.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

So at the end of the day my problems weren’t solved. I didn’t get great advice from God or any answers. But maybe part of my problem was thinking life is all about me when it’s really not. So I’m thankful for this God alignment.

Seek first the kingdom of God?

Well, this is a start.

 

On sin…and how not to fall into it

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You know those times you’re reading the Bible and get smacked upside the head? More times than I can count I find myself convicted when reading or listening to the Bible.

Lately I’ve been listening to the Daily Audio Bible, a pretty neat podcast that get’s through the Bible in a year, plus is read fresh daily with praises and prayer requests from listeners at the end which gives it a dynamic, community feel.

This week when I put April 6th’s podcast on I hadn’t been much in the mood to listen. I was distracted with the idea of having fun. It was my day off and I was looking forward to catching up on some t.v. shows, wasting time on YouTube, and whatever else came to mind. Plus I was getting sick so didn’t I deserve a little me time? But I decided to get through this tedious routine anyway.

I tapped “play” and started listening to the first passage of the day: Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20.

This is one of many passages in the later section of the Torah in which Moses is reminding the Israelites once again of the stark contrast between following God versus following your own fleshly desires. The people of Israel have been in the dessert for 40 years after disobeying God’s command to take the land across the Jordan. They’ve been in this back and forth dance between obedience and disobedience, trust and distrust, contentment and complaint.

And now Moses is reminding them for the umpteenth time the consequences of their actions. This can be best summarized in the latter part of this passage:

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” —Deuteronomy 30:15-20

As I was listening through the beginning of this passage where Moses is reminding them of all the wonders they have seen the LORD do, my mind wandered to things that seemed more interesting than quieting my heart and truly soaking in the scriptures.

Until I hit verses 18 and 19, the passage right after Moses’ mention of the detestable idols of the foreign nations:

“Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike.” —Deuteronomy 29:18-19

That got to me—especially the part about feeling safe while walking in stubbornness of heart.

Now you might be wondering where I’m going with this since having the desire to watch a t.v. show over reading the Bible isn’t exactly the world’s biggest sin.

But here’s the thing. I know when I’m slipping away from God. I know when my eyes begin to wander. I know when the spark starts to die out.

And the worst part is it usually triggers my tendency to fall into sin and darkness, and self-induced separation from God.

I, like so many, can relate to the Israelites. When things are good, when things are comfortable, I tend to forget God and all that he’s done for me. I focus on myself and my accomplishments, subconsciously congratulating myself for a job well done. And with that self-centered mindset I become selfish, desiring what is unholy, not caring how it hurts God or myself.

It starts with the subtle lack of interest in spending time with God, of prioritizing fun or anything else over him, which turns into a day without aligning myself to him. That day turns into days and soon the tendencies of my human heart start to show themselves, and the desires of my human nature win over whatever the Bible says I shouldn’t think or do. At least until I hit my personal rock bottom and find myself crying out to God once more, “I just wanted a little break from you; I didn’t mean for it to go this far.”

Christians like myself who have been rescued from the dark valleys, only to fall back into sin, and then be redeemed again, understand Moses’ warning oh too well. Or at least we should.

And here I am, in a somewhat comfortable season of my life, about to fall into the same trap for the umpteenth time.

Now I’m not saying entertainment or family or your career (fill in the blank) are necessarily wrong but when they start to take the place of the one who died for you, saved you, and loves you more than humanly possible, it becomes a problem. For me this is what triggers my defenses, what draws me away and now I’m taking the stand to say no more. I’m not perfect and I will mess up from time to time but hopefully I won’t continue to make the same mistakes, but learn from them. I hope you, too, can break free from whatever may keep you distant from him.

Once thing’s for certain: staying in prayer and in the Word keeps us where we need to be and reminds us where we need to be going even when we don’t feel like it.

Unplugged for a day

Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (7 of 10)
photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo

I accidentally left my phone home from work today. After searching for it on my desk I felt my pants pocket: no cell phone. At first I was alarmed but quickly remembered where I had left it. (You know the feeling that you forgot something but just can’t remember what and decide it must not have been anything important? Yeah, that was me this morning.) And then I felt a sense of loss, a strange absence in my life.

Now I’m not normally one of those people who grabs her phone every single second of the day or walks or (heaven forbid) drives while looking down at her phone. I use it for work and so I just like to have it close.

Or so I thought.

On this particular day there was no reason I needed my phone. I usually use it to take calls, record interviews, and take notes when away from the office. But today I was at my desk all day, so I had no real use for it.

Still I wanted it close.

I sometimes pride myself in needing, rather than wanting my phone, but as I worked throughout the day 2000s style (not 90s—seriously—I hate when people lump two decades into one) with my laptop, office phone, and the good old-fashioned internet as my primary tools, I realized my cell phone was not actually necessary.

I could call someone from my desk with the office phone. I could write my articles on my laptop. If I needed to talk to a co-worker I could just get out of my seat and talk to him or her without having to text (though, to be honest, I’d be doing that without my cell anyway).

But even so, it was weird not to have it near. And that’s when it hit me (again): I take my phone everywhere. Literally. Everywhere.

I’ve only had a smart phone for about a year so I can remember the early months when I would leave my phone in another room, but now I can’t remember the last time it hasn’t been in my pocket, purse, or on the table next to me.

Somehow the thought of having it close gives a sense of comfort, a sense of connectedness. And with that word “connectedness” I can think of about a million hipster articles I’ve read and talks I’ve heard on the importance of being present in the present and unplugging from the ever-constant  stream of data, so if I’m adding to the noise…(turn off this song—okay, I’m done)

Not having a phone next to me made me realize how many times I absentmindedly pick it up. Or turn my head whenever I hear it buzz (even though it’s usually to let me know I have another trash-worthy email from Menards—sorry, Dad).

The thought of not having it near made me think of what if someone sends me a text and I’m not there to see it, or I get an important call? Even though that probably wouldn’t have happened, the idea of not having it near made me think of all the “what ifs.” Even now as I write this my phone sits directly to my right within plain sight “just in case.”

This is such a strange concept if you think about it. I mean, 30 years ago no one would have fretted if he had checked the mail an hour late. If there was a letter from a friend it would still be there when he opened the mailbox. If someone missed a phone call, well, that’s what answering machines are for.

People wanted quick and instantaneous back then too but nowadays it’s like we can’t wait for just one second before picking up our phones to send a text when the thought arrives, or click on our favorite app when we see a notification. I mean, just now as I’m writing this I got side tracked at the first thought that popped into my head and found myself on my phone sending a text to a friend.

And it was about the rain outside.

I mean, seriously, how does that fact that it’s raining outside trump writing a blog post? I could fill in the blanks with that sentence for the many times I pull out my phone.

But back to this riveting story.

Ironically enough a few hours into my day I remembered where my phone actually was: with my coat on the coat rack. I pulled it out of my coat’s pocket, and guess what I saw when I turned the screen on? Nothing. No texts, no missed calls, nothing. (I had some ads from Menards in my inbox but since I never marked them as spam that can’t be helped.)

So I guess that brings me to the point I’m slowly trying to make. Why was it such a big deal to have it close? What was I really missing out on? And do I really need that pocket-sized piece of plastic (and other materials) with its light up buzzing screen at my side at all times? Could I survive if it was, say, put in a drawer or left in my purse out of sight? Or even if I dared to leave it at home for a day?

I’m not saying I’ll actually do any of these things but it is a thought to ponder.

How many times do you think you pick up your phone throughout the day? Have you ever tried leaving your phone home or putting it away for a while? Leave a comment below.

The Experiment

It took me a long time to decide to blog.

It took me an even longer time to make this blog.

And an even longerer (can that be a word for today?) time for me to start blogging.

Well, here I am world (and supportive friends and family). I’ve decided to blog and I’m here to stay (I hope).

Blogging is something I’ve felt God suggesting I do for some time now, and with the growing number of food for thought ideas swirling around in my head, it’s about time I start.

This is the “real deal” and also an experiment at the same time. I’m not sure how far this blog will take me, what will become of this, or even the exact topics I’ll be blogging on, but I’m excited to start and welcome you to follow along.

So welcome to mine and God’s “real deal” of an experiment.