An Uplifting Tale: Life isn’t what I make it

I’m going to tell you something that hit me upside the head today: Life is not what I make it.

WAIT WAIT HOLD ON. 93% of you just started to continue to scroll down your Insta feed thinking, “Psh Mac I don’t have time for this Eeyore mentality. There’s @liketoknowit outfits to screenshot and cozy sweaters to covet.”

I agree with you, 110%. There’s too much beauty in this world to be stuck in the quagmire of our own anxious thoughts.

That’s why I’m standing today by the statement, “Life is not what I make it.”

A couple of nights ago, I texted friend just before going to sleep with a message that said something like, “Every cell of my body feels stressed.”  Have you ever been there? Had those times when your mind has your heart in a vice grip and it feels impossible to feel the sweet release of relaxation? Nope, it’s just me? Ha, okay 😉

I hated that feeling so much that I decided to conduct an experiment the next day. Every time I felt stressed or anxious, took a quick mental note and asked myself a quick series of questions:

  1. “Beyond prayer, is there anything I am personally capable of doing to fix the situation?”

If no, then I lifted it up to God and shut the stressor down right there.

If yes, then I continued:

2. “What are the steps I need to take immediately to fix the problem?”

Think about how many of your daily anxieties can be fixed with one text, call, or Google search. Minimum: 73%. So, don’t put it off – do it right then. Then, be FREE (until you get a response – then start back at question 1).

I’m also the queen of spending hours wording the perfect text or email. But remember – perfect is often the friend of the procrastinator, and the enemy of productivity. Identify what’s required, say “Good enough.” and send it. You have my permission. You’re welcome.

If you need to take steps that you can’t take immediately – say, when you get off the airplane or wake up tomorrow – write them down. A to-do list tames the abstract beast of anxiety looming in your brain. Think–turning a tiger into a purring kitten. Write the step. Then leave the stress.

Continuing:

3. “Will my stress in and of itself—elevated heart rate, tension, etc.—fix the problem?”

That answer is always NO. Actually, it only makes everything worse because you’re thinking clearly. And, if it makes it worse, then that’s something else for you to stress about…END THE CYCLE.

With those three questions, the situation goes from mountain to molehill because THE THINGS WE CANNOT IMMEDIATELY FIX ARE NOT WORTH OUR IMMEDIATE WORRY. And, I gave myself the ability to do the following:

  • Realize and release what I can’t control.
  • Develop a game plan to attack what I can.
  • Diffuse my physical reaction to the stressful stimulus. 

 

Is there a lot happening in my life right now? Sure. But, I was allowing my stress to color my perception of reality and was becoming weight down with things that were / are beyond my control.

 

So I realized today that my life is not what I make it. Stress is like sunglasses – remove them to see the real colors around you. Life is usually better than stress makes it seem – and, you’re doing better than you think you are 🙂

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Staying strong in the struggle

“Walking around these walls, I thought by now they’d fall – but You have never failed me yet.”
I’ve heard it said that prayer is like chopping down a tree – one or two whacks won’t do it, it takes strength, commitment, and persistence. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise to you 🙂

 

And, we’ve seen that – haven’t we? When we are in the midst of the struggle and pray without ceasing for a month, or two, or twelve – and it takes what feels like an eternity – BUT! The answer does come, and it is indeed miraculous. What happens, though, when one year turns into three? Or five? In the spirit of complete honesty, there’s one thing that I’ve been praying for – passionately and persistently – for the past seven years. And, if anything, it feels like more of an impossibility today than it did seven years ago.

 

My heart feels like it’s been on the losing side of a fistfight and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t found myself crying on the bathroom floor a few times over recent years. So what happens when God feels distant, and we start to doubt His promises to us? Well, first – is He being distant, or are we? Have we grown skeptical, and started to pull away? Have we become so fixated on this one request that we’re blind to the blessings that He’s poured out in other areas of our lives? Do we doubt His power because He hasn’t yet answered one request, while we forget the hundreds of miracles and past prayers that He’s answered? The times He made a way when there was NO WAY? Do we doubt His goodness because we don’t see “the goods”? Do we doubt His timing and develop a preference for our limited understanding? Yes, it hurts when it feels like the cries of our hearts are unmet, and it’s desperately lonely in that place. It HURTS. And oh, dear heart, yes the loneliness hurts too. God doesn’t discount that – not for a minute.

 

But, He does ask us to trust. To bask in the overwhelming evidence that He IS good, and is always on our side. So tonight I make the resolution that how I feel won’t dictate how I follow. Will you join me?

 

“Your promise still stands, great is Your faithfulness. I’m still in your hands. This is my confidence – you’ve never failed me yet.”

3 Ways to Worship

A week ago Saturday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a super fruit smoothie and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: It happens.

Sunday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a super fruit smoothie and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: …are you serious.

Monday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a coffee and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Sure thing, coming right up!”

Barista, 2 minutes later: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: It’s a conspiracy.

Now granted, this is a trivial example (SERIOUSLY though – who is taking all of my bagels?!) — but, do you ever have days when it feels like #thestruggle is all too real? Raise your hand if you can relate.

KIDDING this is a blog—of course I can’t see if your hand is raised. But I can imagine that most of yours would be.

Now, we all have daily annoyances— like when your favorite coffee shop is out of bagels or you have to drink Pink Apple kombucha instead of Ginger or whatever that may be for you, but I want to dig deeper here.

Do you ever have days when it feels like you’re experiencing opposition on all sides? When it feels like you’re swimming against the current, and the number of things going wrong seem to outweigh the things you feel are going right?

Yeah, I’m with ya. Oh boy, am I with ya.

Can I be completely, no-holding-back honest with you for a moment here? This week has been one of the most challenging of my life.

Two weeks ago, I was wrestling with God because it felt like something core to my being, that I’d been praying for over a span of 7 years and desperately needed was nowhere in sight.

Two weekends ago, my teenage cousin (who is more like my little sister) was in a freak accident and her finger was ripped from her hand. Her lifelong dream of being a surgeon—not to mention her applications to medical school—were in jeopardy. Doctors said that her injury was a worst-case scenario at every step. Just two days before, she had texted me—thrilled that she was able to share the Gospel with some friends, and claiming “Even If” by MercyMe as her life song. And now, she was being rushed into emergency surgery.

On my way to be with my cousin, I walked into the parking lot to discover that my car had been in a hit-and-run accident.

…and so on and so forth.

Now, I firmly believe that if you’re living a Christian life without any opposition, you need to check yourself. The very act of living a Christian life means that you’re in the battle. Shining Light means that you’re a problem for the Darkness. Experiencing opposition means that you’re a contender.

Just ask Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Nehemiah, Esther, Paul, John—even Jesus.

Got it. So, then, we turn to 1 Corinthians 10:13: “All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you through it.” That is truth right there.

Still, what happens when it feels like you have reached that limit and there doesn’t appear to be a break in the battle?

GOOD QUESTION.

Fast forward in my week. On Sunday at church, the congregation was singing Chris Tomlin’s new song “Good Good Father”.

Now, I once had a pastor tell me that, even when we don’t feel like praising—that’s when we most need to lift our hands in worship because assuming the physical posture of worship will transform the internal posture with which we approach the Throne. I’ve found that to be 100% true in my life.

So anyways, returning to Sunday—“Good Good Father” comes on the speakers, and I lift my hands. I remember that I couldn’t even sing. I just stood there with my hands lifted, surrendering my broken heart to God with tears streaming down my face. I was silently praying, “God, I want to be in the battle, I want to be your soldier and not let the enemy take ground. But right now, it’s feeling hard to stand.”

How many of you have been there, too?

For me, the key part in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is, “He will always be there to help you through it.” You see, His limits are not our limits. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His power is not our power (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We so often cling to the portion that says “He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit”. We translate “your” into “our”—as in, us alone. We miss the second half of that equation.

It’s not “our” limit.

It’s our limit when we realize that God has given us His power through the Holy Spirit.

Then, the “limit” becomes infinitely greater. Just look at what Jesus says in Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” We no longer have to be dependent on our strength—the Savior of the World offers us His.

The situation goes from impossible to possible. We are able to go from being overwhelmed by our current situations, to being victorious because “all things are possible with Christ, who gives me strength.”

If you’re like me, you hear that and say, “That’s all well and good, but I’m still in the midst of the battle—how do I start? That seems like a stretch for me right now.”

First, remember that “worship” and “praise” are two different things – worship is an internal posture, and praise is an external expression. We’re called to live a life of worship, even when we’re not always “praising”.

Secondly, do these three things to yield the weapon of worship in the midst of your problems.

  1. Thanking God for His presence – knowing He’s there even when we don’t “feel” it, and inviting the Holy Spirit into you & your situation.
  2. Channeling your worries into prayers. (I love to do this by praying the Psalms – they remind me to shift my mindset and find peace in who God is, not just what I want from Him).
  3. Understanding that you have a weapon called praise, and that your choice to praise in the midst of your problems presents a problem for the enemy.

 

Take this to heart this week, and let me know what happens! Remember, sometimes God needs to move the mountain within you before the mountain in front of you.

Grace and peace.

Red Sea Moments

“How can I pray for you today?”

“I’m praying for a Red Sea moment.”

 

In yesterday’s “Be still” post, I talked about God’s immediate response to parting the Red Sea when the Israelites were in dire need of rescue.

 

Specifically, Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm, and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

 

And, immediately following, the Lord reached out to Moses and—through Moses’ faith and obedience—parted the Red Sea. He gave the Israelites the breakthrough they had been desperate for.

 

He parted the Red Sea.

 

If we fully grasped the reality of who God is, I don’t think we’d be so calm.

 

Challenge yourself.

 

Get a glass of water. Set it in front of you.

 

Now using only your mind and hands, split the water into two vertical parts, leaving a completely dry strip across the diameter of the glass.

 

Spoiler alert: You can’t.

 

God did.

 

Except instead of something as small as a glass, He sent wind to split the Red Sea into two parts with a dry strip from end to end for the Israelites to cross.

 

Let’s put this in perspective.

 

The Red Sea is 221 miles wide and ~1,610 feet deep.

 

Nobody knows exactly where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and some experts try to speculate that it was a nearby lake, etc. that they crossed and not the sea itself.

 

However, given what historical evidence we have, the smallest likely crossing would have been the Gulf of Aqaba. It’s a large gulf at the northern tip of the Red Sea. Even this smallest possible crossing point is 15 miles wide and 6,070 feet (over a mile!) deep.

 

You couldn’t create a dry strip in a glass a couple inches wide and deep.

 

God immediately created a dry strip of land in the midst of a sea that was 15 miles wide and over a mile deep.

 

Think about it.

 

Since this miraculous element of God is hard to grasp, we as Christians often fall into two traps:

 

1) A god who can’t make it happen.

 

In this first scenario, we often try to bring God down to our level, instead of acknowledging that He operates at a level and in ways far beyond our understanding. We start to intuitively and perhaps even unknowingly ascribe to Him human attributes, like the ability to be in only one place at one time.

 

C.S. Lewis addresses this tendency in the Screwtape Letters: “I have known cases where the patient called his ‘God’ was actually located to the left and at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or only inside his own head.” (Screwtape, speaking to Wormwood)

 

We stop seeing him as the almighty and start to see Him as “limited”. This directly affects our ability to trust in Him. If we limit our perspective of who God is to just what we can understand, we start to put Him in a box of our own manufacturing.

 

We start to think logically. We perhaps still pray about big things, but also start to work on our own contingency plans. Maybe even praying to Him about these things becomes an afterthought instead of the main approach.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, this scenario could cause us to limit Him to the god of stoplights and subways and small things don’t really matter. It may be, “Oh God, please help this stoplight to change…now!” or some such thing.

 

Now, don’t misunderstand me – praying about stoplights and subways is perfectly great. In fact, God wants us to go to Him with everything. But falling into a flippant mentality because we have put Him in a box, or don’t wield prayer as the weapon it should be in our lives—that’s when we’ve got trouble.

 

 

2) A god who can’t relate

 

The other scenario is that we don’t understand how God could be so mighty and mysterious, and yet really care about us. Really care about you and me. There are 7 billion people on this planet. We can think of Him as the divine, almighty ruler of the macro level, but don’t trust Him to control the micro.

 

We mistake our inability to comprehend all that He is as a sign that He doesn’t care about all that we are as individuals.

 

We adopt a sense of reverence without the balance of relationship.

 

We start following the steps of a religion, without falling into the step of a walk with Him.

 

And this perceived inability to relate or disinterest of God in our lives manifests itself as a seed of distrust. You can’t trust someone you don’t know, and feel doesn’t know you.

 

 

Both of these traps limit His ability to work, and our ability to realize the full love, depth, and mystery of the Savior towards us.

 

 

The fix? Change your thinking.

I want to tell you a secret: God laughs.

 

Not this pious, deep, frowning “huh.” That’s not even a real laugh.

 

I’m talking about the kind of laugh that starts as a grin, then spreads across the entire face, lights up the eyes, and emerges in this loud, hearty expression of amusement. The kind where He puts one hand on the wall and one on His belly to steady Himself after laughing so hard. The kind where He wipes away the tears from the corners of his eyes and then says, “Okay kid, that was pretty good.”

 

I think He enjoys making us laugh. He enjoys bringing us happiness (Job 8:21), He has miraculous plans for our lives, and for our place in the Kingdom (Jeremiah 29:11), AND He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

He is a God beyond our understanding. He is a God that makes all else tremble. He is a God who is capable of anything.

 

He is on our side. He loves us. He is for us.

 

And, we can trust Him completely with all of our plans, and all of our being.

 

We serve a God of “Red Sea moments”.