It’s Not What You Do; It’s Why

There is that old saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over thinking the results will be different. I know that feeling, that vain hope that if I am just a bit more convincing, if I find exactly the right words to say, if I just try a little bit harder, I will get what I’m hoping for.

It’s like hitting “Replay Deal” on the solitaire app, because I tell myself that if I play this card instead of that one, I might win the game this time.

Am I the only person that does that?

Eventually I hit the wall. I get to the point where I am tired of trying; where I have to acknowledge that everything I’ve been trying to do hasn’t worked, and I start looking for a way out—for an escape route—and my prayers start to sound like, “God, get me out of here!” Get me that new job; get me out of this relationship; fix this situation because I am going insane. I’m done, I can’t do this anymore, I’ve tried as hard as I can, I’ve done everything I know how to do, and it’s not working.

Don’t tell me you’ve never been there. more “It’s Not What You Do; It’s Why”

What’s Wrong with Saturday?

It’s Saturday. For those of us who have Monday through Friday jobs, Saturday represents time off, freedom, the chance to do things with family and friends, catch up on the laundry, mow the lawn, wash the car… It is a day relax from the demands of jobs and careers and focus on nurturing ourselves.

But there was that other Saturday, two thousand years ago, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the in-between day that is hardly even mentioned in Scripture. Nobody was looking forward to that Saturday.

People had followed Jesus for some or all of the past three years. They had seen the miracles—healing, deliverance, people raised from the dead—they had listened to the teachings, and they come to believe that He was the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God who would rescue Israel and establish God’s Kingdom.

And then there was Good Friday, and then there was Saturday. What the hell just happened? Did they really kill Jesus? What about the miracles, the healings? What about Lazarus walking out of the tomb? What about the Kingdom?

My Saturday also came just before Easter. All mom said was, “Daddy died last night.” She couldn’t bring herself to tell us that he had purchased a gun at a pawn shop and tried to shoot her before putting the gun to his own head.

Had I been a few years older, I probably would have asked, What the hell just happened? But I was ten.

Memory is funny. I remember my aunt taking us to Leask’s in downtown Santa Cruz to buy something we could wear at the funeral and on Easter Sunday. I remember standing in a dingy section in the back of the store while my aunt and my mother rifled through the racks of little girl clothes. I remember the pale gray suit with the round white collar. My mother told me once that I cried so hard at the funeral the front of the jacket was soaking wet. I don’t remember that.

I lived in that Saturday for decades. I wanted daddy back; I wanted to be with daddy again; I wanted to wake up from the nightmare and get back to the way things were.

I think I know how the disciples felt on that Saturday. God, where were you? How could you let this happen? Where was my miracle? Now what?

You may be living in your own Saturday. For whatever reason, life did not go the way you planned. Things fell apart. The relationship disintegrated, the divorce is final. You were “downsized,” laid off, fired. The phone call came in the middle of the night. The diagnosis confirmed your worst fears. The pain you have been living with for so long has you so worn down that you wonder what’s left of you. You can’t imagine going on like this much longer.

It does not matter what your situation is, or how bad it is, or whether it is “worse than” or “not as bad as” anyone else’s. Saturday is Saturday, and it can seem like there is nothing we can do about it.

But Jesus’ story did not end on Saturday. Sunday came. Jesus walked out of His own tomb. He hung out with the disciples, ate dinner, worked a few more miracles, and then left again.

Do you believe that? Did that really happen? Is that even possible? Isn’t that just a story someone made up years later?

Easter Sunday forces us to make an outrageous, ridiculous, unbelievable, life-changing choice. We can choose to believe that there is a God Who raises the dead—dead hopes, dead relationships, dead futures, dead feelings—regardless of how illogical and impossible that seems. We can choose to believe that He has answers and resources and plans beyond anything we can ask or imagine, and that He is dying to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We can choose to believe that Sunday is coming, or we can choose to continue living on Saturday.

I can’t make that choice for you. I can’t tell you what difference it will make in your life. I don’t know what God will do for you. Did he bring my daddy back? Of course not. Will He give you the answer you’ve been insisting on? Maybe. Will He surprise you? Probably. Does He want what’s best for you, in spite of all the things that go wrong in this broken, crazy, wicked world? Absolutely. Are you willing to trust Him?

Here is what I know. After trying so hard to scrape together the shattered remnants of my broken heart by myself, I gave my pathetically few pieces to the One who promises to bind up the brokenhearted and invited Him to do what He does best. At some point in that process, I began to realize something about that area of my life.

It’s not Saturday anymore.

four words that change everything

I cling to a common illusion: I am an independent and self-sufficient woman. And then reality intervenes and reminds me I’m only independent and self-sufficient as long as nothing goes wrong—as long as my car doesn’t start making “that” noise, or until I need my husband’s paycheck as well as mine to cover the mortgage and the bills.

Does that sound familiar?

more “four words that change everything”

it’s like breathing

We were finishing dinner when the conversation took an unexpected turn. “I never would have imagined that you would be sitting here talking about church and God.”

Me neither, at least not back when we first met, all those decades (decades?) ago. Oh my goodness, how do I explain that?

I was never a true atheist. In college, I kind of subscribed to my own theology. I knew there was a God somewhere, and that he had set this whole thing in motion. I was sure he had a sense of humor, otherwise, he would have given up on the human race long ago; at the same time, I was convinced he was no more interested in me than I would be in any individual ant in my kids’ ant farms.

From God the Giant Ant Farmer to evangelical Christian. How do I explain the journey from there to here? I might just as easily explain why I continue breathing: I never think about it; I just do it.

I have always believed in God. Someone had to light the fuse on the Big Bang. I never understood how scientists who base their lives and their careers on evidence and experimentation could simply decide all of this just popped into existence from nowhere. That defies all logic. And it is only human hubris that insists there must be an answer—other than a Creator—that we, in our infinite wisdom, will uncover any day now. (Yes, I am being more than a bit sarcastic here.)

more “it’s like breathing”

God’s bonsai

One of my favorite short stories ever, “Slow Sculpture” looks, on the surface, like so many typical science fiction stories: beautiful young woman with incurable disease meets eccentric mad scientist who cures her, they fall in love and live happily ever after. But hear the metaphor author Theodore Sturgeon weaves through the story. The mad scientist has a hobby: he raises bonsai trees.

gods-bonsai

As he explains, caring for a bonsai tree is an ongoing conversation. The gardener looks at the tree, sees the potential and decides to encourage more growth here, less there. The methods are gentle at first: cover the roots, change the direction the light is coming from. If the tree responds, the conversation continues. If not, sterner measures might be necessary: using wire to bend a branch just so or as a last resort, pruning a wayward shoot.

more “God’s bonsai”

fighting back with joy

fight-back-with-joyI just finished reading Margaret Feinberg’s latest book, Fight Back with Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears.

It’s not an easy read. Margaret writes in raw, painful, moving detail about her cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation treatments – and her decision to fight back with joy.

I’m humbled. I cannot imagine enduring what Margaret endured, let alone choosing joy in the midst of all of that. And I’m inspired. When Margaret says it is possible to choose joy, even when every nerve ending is on fire and she is too weak to walk across the room, I have to listen.

more “fighting back with joy”

why not you?

Life is not fair. How’s that for stating the obvious? I had this epiphany a few weeks ago. I had been whining to a dear and trusted friend about some of the ways in which I was on the short end of that stick: not only was life not fair, but it was not being fair to me. My friend gave me the standard Christian advice: look to Jesus. He can fill those holes that mere human beings leave gaping. Which is all true, and never what I want to hear.

So on the way home, I started praying – which frequently looks a lot like yelling at my windshield. When I finally stopped to listen, the Lord simply said, “You’re right. Life is not fair.” And then He reminded me of a whole lot of other people I know whose lives are not fair. Is it fair that this one has been ill for twenty years? Or that the newlyweds found out the bride had advanced Lyme disease right before the wedding and may never have a “normal” married life? Is it fair that this one has already been a widow longer than she was married—especially after she waited so many years to get married in the first place?

I knew what He was trying to tell me: My life is no more unfair than anyone else’s—and maybe less so.

more “why not you?”

the introvert speaks

I have always wanted to be a writer. And I knew what I wanted to write: self-help non-fiction. My first book (written entirely in my head, never on paper) was going to be titled A Pack of Lies, with the subtitle: “If you are going to tell yourself a pack of lies about yourself, make it a good one.” So when I became a Christian, I read dozens, if not hundreds, of Christian books – mostly “spiritual growth” (i.e. Christian self-help non-fiction) and apologetics.

I’ve come to realize that mine is a very intellectual faith. I’m not passionately in love with Jesus; I don’t think I’ve ever been passionately in love with anyone. Ever. Not even my husband of thirty-some years (sorry, honey!). It’s just not my style. My mother told me once, “You’re too smart to be happy.” I don’t know if that is true; I do know I live my life mostly in my head.

So when it comes to matters of faith, I don’t get it. And it bothers me that I don’t get it. And I want to get it, and be able to explain it in an elegant and intellectually satisfying way, and that has been the story of my walk with Jesus.

more “the introvert speaks”