Just. Do. It.

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What to write… A novel? Devotions? Stick with a blog? I love to write. I believe God gifted me the ability to express some things, sometimes not so pretty, sometimes boring (to me, at least), but maybe occasionally useful to someone else. And I feel compelled to put it out there. God knows why, who needs it, how it will grow me. I trust Him, so I’ll follow His lead.

I’ve got dozens of ideas swirling around in my brain. But I can’t seem to pinpoint which idea I should focus on. I know that I should – settle on a direction and get going.  I believe single-minded dedication is good, necessary. And then a quiet voice says, “There are no rules. Just do it!” Just write.

Just do it. It’s a brilliant slogan. Nike is genius with their branding and those 3 little words really do mean something to a whole lot of people. Just do it. So simple, yet powerful. That’s the idea. But it’s not that easy, is it?

As I wrestle with some things, that million-dollar catchy phrase seems a bit elusive, somewhat trite. Just do it. It doesn’t sound too difficult. Three. Small. Words. I’m an intelligent adult, with plenty of pain, drama, and victories to work from. How can it be SO hard?

But it is.

Sure, I could pick up a pen or my iPad and let words flow. It would be jibberish. Gobbledygook. That would, in fact, literally be “writing”. But I believe God has more than that in mind (I sure pray so!) and quite frankly, that’s just not how I work. It’s not how I’m wired. I need to have a purpose in mind, sense of the big picture, a goal. I’ve never been much of a brainstormer. I don’t make lists. And I can’t seem to make myself go through the motions without a reason.

I need a task. Tell me what to do, what needs doing and I’ll do it. But to say that I should just start emptying the contents of this madness called my mind…well, that’s frightening. To me. And It probably would be to you too.

I don’t like wasting time on exercises that don’t produce results. I bet you don’t either. So “just do it” is a hard place to start. I suppose by beginning and maintaining this blog, I’ve done something to that effect. But you’d laugh if you could see into my world, the painstaking process of just one entry, one post, one…measly, little story. I beat myself up for not having done it sooner, more regularly.

You see, months ago I decided that “every Monday” would be it. Once a week. I could do that, right? And then the more I concentrate and determine to type out an eloquent symphony of words…nothing. Not even one word comes out. As if it’s bottled up inside standing proud, arms folded. Little faceless beings, too proud to obey and come out on demand. “I’ll be expressed on my own terms, in my own timing.” My words are stubborn.

So, to say, “just do it”…makes the wrestling match even more animated. I’ve searched the house for just the right notebook. Oh, I must have the perfect writing utensil! And don’t forget this one: the atmosphere must be just right to foster my creativity. No one home. Candlelight. No sounds. Warm feet. Coffee nearby. After lunch. Before schoolbus. And so it goes. Marching right into a neatly wrapped package.

Just do it. It will help hone your skill, they said. Have YOU tried that? You’ll enjoy it, some said. How did that work for you? Just do it, they said. So I did. Today. There you have it folks. THIS is what happens with that haphazard approach. Blame it on Shia. (And watch his video here) The struggle is real.

 

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Weakness for Words

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Someone once said to me,”Christianity is just a crutch for weak people.” I was hurt by that. And for the longest time those words, and others like them, kept me down.

Words can do that. The things people say to us, can become what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Just like many words that I’ve let into my heart, you’ve probably let some words affect you too. You’ve probably listened as someone either gave value to your thoughts and opinions, or….you’ve received their condemnation with resignation.

I have a nasty habit. Rather, I have many…but this one has had a power over me that has rendered me ineffective in many areas of my life. I have this way of receiving someone’s words about me, like an arrow shot from a bow. Only, the arrow doesn’t slice through me but it swirls around in my head for days, wreaking havoc on my self-image. I hate to even mention it, for fear of giving it more power. It’s been that potent, that lethal, that unreal.

But honestly, I’ve come to realize just how un-real it is.

Un-real. The power of words to make something true or not, is unrealistic, merely perceived. The words that people speak should come in at a distant last in comparison with what God says. He is the one I should be listening to, learning from, and becoming like. And my nasty habit? It can be broken by the power of His name, along with all the others! That’s true.

It’s true, we are weak. And God is our crutch. But He’s much more than that. Without Him we are weak. But He is strong. He’s our Counselor, our Prince of Peace, our Friend. He’s our Savior. His promises trump any words that man can utter.

Words can be hurtful, because we have emotions. God designed us with that capacity, to feel the sting or deliver it,  to speak life or death.  It’s another facet of being human that we must bring under submission. Much pain in the world is caused by careless tongues. But we shouldn’t give power to words, especially the negative ones meant to harm us. We certainly shouldn’t let the words of others change us in ways that only God has the power to. Mere men, all of whom will face God at their death, cannot possibly be given the rights to our own self-image. It is God who has given us our worth, our value, our titles and inheritance. It is God who has said that we are His children, His adopted heirs, His sons and daughters and made in His image. No one has words that can change that.

As I grow closer to God, and become more confident and convinced of His character, those arrows, people’s words, lose their power. Yes, Christianity is for weak people. And I am weak. Not because someone said so….because God said.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (ESV)

 

 

 

The Lesson of Death for a New Year

 

 

Funeral with coffin

I’ve settled into some serious after-Christmas sluggishness. The carols and packages, decorations and goodies are all gone. Not even one last piece of Mom’s pumpkin log can be found. All that’s left is a few extra pounds (insert sad face) and stray glitter on our dining room table.

But wait, that’s not all. I learned some things this past year. And the most poignant lessons came just as 2015 was coming to an end.

In the midst of unseasonably warm weather, Christmas 2015 found me feeling a little left out in the cold. My tree never got fully dressed and my intentions remained just that. I even spent more time focusing on “the reason for the season.” Normally, I love the holidays and all the festive activities with family and friends. But, since Thanksgiving, I’ve been fighting the doldrums.

And then something tragic happened.

In early December, a woman I barely knew went to be with Jesus. She was the mother of a friend of my son. It happened on a Thursday, sometime during midday. Her 10-year old daughter came home from school and found her. And then a church, a school, a community was drawn into the story of her life and the life of her family.

I took my son to the viewing at the church, to join his friends in support of their classmate. And what I saw there changed me. It hit me hard. To see a 16-year old boy, young man, dressed in suit and tie, greeting the guests who came to pay their respect to his mother…went deep. I thought of my own sons. This man-boy, looked so composed and mature beyond his years, comforting the elderly and the young as they passed by single file near the casket. I was nervous, shaken, not sure what to say to a son who just lost his mother. The words seemed so inadequate for such a great loss.

It was my first funeral for someone other than family. My experience was limited to the years when I was too young to pay attention to the etiquette. Now I found myself feeling a little embarrassed, a little awkward.

I was simply there to escort my son, convey my “sorry for your loss” and let the family know that we had been praying for them. Yet, it was this father, son, daughter…who seemed to comfort us. With a look, a wink, a  heartfelt embrace, they faced family and friends with a strength beyond what the ordinary man could possibly muster on his own. God shined through them, to each of us.

I think that sorrow is magnified when it’s Christmas. There is absolutely no time that is easy to lose a loved one. But when the season of joy has begun and there is an anticipated climax with Christmas Day, it seems all the more difficult when a life so abruptly ends. And though I wasn’t close to this family, it changed my Christmas.

Christmas is a time of drawing near and spending time with those we love, of enjoying warmth and special rituals like no other time of the year. All the more, being Christmas made it seem so out of place for a funeral. And while we sang Silent Night, in honor of a special family memory with the deceased woman, I couldn’t help but think how differently I will always feel when I hear that chorus.

I learned some things in 2015. I learned that squash in my garden needs planted on mounds, that I could never live on a boat, that I can run more than half a mile and my lungs won’t really explode. I learned that time does not heal any wound but only God can, if we let Him.

Most importantly, I was reminded that we do not know when our last moment might be with someone we love and care for. How many times have I left a relationship in a state of tension or strife, to go about my day as if there was a promise of a thousand tomorrows? Or let too much time go by between phone calls to dear ones far away?

Just as this family scattered in different directions that morning in December, each one of them not knowing that later that day their lives would be forever altered – you and I go about our days in much the same way. We take for granted that we’ll come home to everything and everyone being just the same as we left them. We bicker and roll our eyes, complain about dirty laundry and crumbs on the counter, throw  our hands up in the air when we aren’t understood, slam a door when our pride is bruised. Too often, we fail to let our goodbyes be laced with love.

But watching a 16 year old boy help carry his momma’s casket in the cemetery while his friends looked on, his baby sister sitting under the tent in her pretty dress next to a grieving father, a husband alone…hearing the preacher speak those bittersweet words meant to bring comfort while saying one last goodbye…those things change you.

Sometimes it’s only temporary, but this experience of seeing another family’s loss should spark more than just a moment of gratitude. Time, our time here on earth, is so unpredictable, like gambling. There really is no way to know just how long, or short, our life here will be, but without a doubt we all will die. With odds like that, I want to make sure that the people dear to me know that I love them and want the best for them. Better yet, I want each of them to know Jesus….for their time here and for eternity.

I learned a lot about life in 2015. But what I learned about death will be the lesson I can use most in this new year.