The garage at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living off balance will leave you with bloody knees

I like to think of myself as a coordinated person, even though that’s not actually the case. But, I mean, I’m not clumsy. Not usually, but something interesting happened last night as I was getting home. It had been a long day. I’d gotten done running the lyrics program for my church’s band rehearsal around 8pm, so that meant I was pulling into my driveway about 9pm. I hadn’t slept well the night before, and it had been a long day–a good day but long.

I got out of my car and grabbed my empty lunch bag, my coffee cup, and my backpack. I travel with a large backpack that has my life in it. All my tech. Everything. It’s pretty heavy, but I would rather haul one big bag around than to have to juggle three or four smaller ones. I went to shut the garage door and I looked up to see a wasp hovering directly over my head.

I don’t really worry about stinging insects, but they do tend to love getting stuck in my hair. So I twisted to push the garage door button as I stepped out onto the concrete pad in front of the garage (the only concrete on my whole five acres, really), and somehow my foot got crooked in my right shoe. They’re wedge looking clog things that you slide into. If it had been a flip-flop, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but twisting around when your dominant foot is wobbly will probably cause problems. And then factor in that I’ve got a coffee mug and a lunch bag in one hand, my keys in the other, and a fifteen-pound backpack. See where I’m going?

Yeah, I hit the ground. Hard. Landed square on both knees. Scraped up both of the tops of my feet, because the horrid shoes came off as I fell. But that was as far as it went. I got my coordination back fast enough to be able to sit up before I bashed my nose into the concrete. I had my more durable work trousers on, so they didn’t tear or anything, but I did bloody my knees up through the fabric. And one of the scrapes on my foot actually bled quite a bit. I was proud of myself. I don’t fall very often, but when I do, I want to do right!

But I got to thinking about the whole situation this morning. If I hadn’t been off balance, would I have fallen at all? I mean, I might have stumbled. But falling is a different level of being off balance. It meant there was something on me that got out of whack (the backpack) and when the wasp startled me I couldn’t compensate correctly because the off-balance weight threw me off. And I fell.

The garage at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The garage at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 1:5-8.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

This is one of the verses that came to mind when I thought about trying to live a balanced life. I’m sure that there are probably some better ones in Ecclesiastes, but (quite honestly) I didn’t have time this morning to go digging for them. And actually this wasn’t what I was planning to blog about. But if you read verse 8 in the Amplified Version, it comes off a little differently:

[For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides].

Can you identify with being “of two minds”? Like you just can’t decide? That’s easy in our world today, at least in America. We have so many choices. We have so many options. There are so many roads you can take, how can you choose exactly which one is the right one? And that thinking can easily translate into our walk with God. Because if there are so many options in our “real” lives, surely God would offer us as many choices in our spiritual lives, right?

Well, that’s not always the case. But that’s a topic for another blog. The point here is that you can’t straddle the fence. A lot of people try, but eventually your life will come down to a point where you fall off. You can’t live for Christ and live for the world at the same time. You just can’t. Again, you can try, but you’ll reach a point in life where you’ll stumble and you’ll be so off balance you won’t be able to catch yourself, and then you’ll have worse injuries to show for it than two bloody, scraped up knees.

Make up your mind. That’s what I always think when I read this verse. Be decisive. Choose a side. Because if you don’t choose a side, you’re going to be unstable. If you don’t choose a side, you’re going to be a liability to both–or you’ll be trapped in the middle where you’ll never be effective because no one will able to trust you. Follow God or don’t. But whatever you do, do something real.

Our world suffers from a lack of decisiveness in general, so it’s easy to stand out if you have a made-up mind. God isn’t is a God of indecision. He’s a God of clarity, of certainty, of stability, and if you’ve really made up your mind to follow Him, those traits will eventually show in your own life. Because even when you aren’t clear or certain or stable, God is.

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The importance of focus in balance

No, you’re not imagining it. The photo I picked today is blurry. But I was clinging to the back of a horse with no saddle, and it was difficult enough to get my camera out of my pack and hold it straight forward without losing my grip, let alone try to get it out of manual mode and into automatic. So … the image is blurry.

But this is the “road” to Esfuerzo II, one of the Kekchi villages I visited on my last trip to Guatemala. You can kind of see one of the buildings at the top of the hill.

On the road to Esfuerzo II - Peten, Guatemala

On the road to Esfuerzo II – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Proverbs 15:13.

A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.

I’m talking about perspective again this morning. I know I talked about it yesterday, but yesterday was more about focusing on the solution instead of the problem.

This morning, I got to wondering about how exactly you’re supposed to find the solution to think about in the first place. How can you be cheerful when nothing is going the way you think it ought to be?

Well, much like choosing the settings on your camera before you take a picture, you have to choose what parts of your life you’re going to focus on before you make a decision to be grumpy or glad.

I had an exciting experience yesterday that taught me a lot about focus. I woke up at my usual time 5:45 a.m. and rolled out of bed, but as I rolled over and sat up, the room kept rolling. It was truly the most disorienting sensation I’ve ever experienced. The room just kept spinning and spinning. Finally I got into a position where it stopped, but I still felt light-headed and weird. So I made it downstairs and sat down, but the moment I leaned back in a chair, it flared up again. So I leaned forward instead, and that made it worse! I was pretty sure I was going to throw up.

So I did what any self-respecting, independent woman with a high-profile corporate job would do. I called my mom. =)

So mom came out and got me, and she took me to the doctor. And it turns out I managed to catch a virus that attacks the fluid levels in my inner ear, which is what controls my balance. So I got a great big steroid shot (yay) and some motion sickness meds, and I feel much better today.

But while the world was spinning, there was only one thing I could do to get it to stop. I had to focus on a point straight ahead of me and keep my head level. That was it. Nothing else would stop it. No other movement or position would allow me to walk straight. I just had to focus on one point and not move from it.

I’m sure you probably see where this is going.

Our world is spinning out of control. No politician or political party can stop it. No congressional initiative can stop it. No educational grants or school loans can stop it. We’re all walking around in a culture that’s circling the drain, and we lose a little more of our future every day. And it’s no wonder we’re all grumpy and sad and bitter. Because we keep focusing on things that change.

When I was in the middle of these dizzy spells, if I tried to focus on something that was moving, it just made the dizziness worse. When I was clinging to the back of that Guatemalan-sized horse, if I tried to focus on the destination, I wouldn’t have been ready for the road under the horse’s feet, which was rocky and uneven and threatened to dump me off if I weren’t paying attention.

You have to focus on what you know isn’t going to change. You have to focus on the person who is going to figure it out.

In these instances, I had to focus on the butt-ugly wallpaper in my living room. And in Guatemala, I had to focus on the horse, when he gathered his muscles, when he relaxed, when he climbed, when he descended.

It’s the same way in our lives.

When everything is falling apart, focus on what the Bible says about God. That’s He’s good. That He has good plans for us. That He knows what He’s doing, that He never makes mistakes, and that He always keeps His promises. He doesn’t change, and He will be the one to figure it all out.

That’s what you focus on. And when you can focus on that, the gladness will soon follow. You’ll be glad because you don’t have to worry about taking care of everything. You won’t have to worry about things you can’t control anyway, and that’s a tremendous weight off your shoulders. And when you’re glad in your spirit, it won’t be long before the rest of you is glad too.

God’s strength gives us grace

We get a lot of deer out where I live, not so many at this time of year, but around November is when they really start popping out of everywhere. That’s when you really have to start watching the road because they tend to jump out in front of you without any notice. They’re incredibly graceful creatures, though. They have amazing balance, and they can jump over fences with ease. And if they’re incredible in the Plains, they’re even more incredible in the mountains.

Deer have a lot of confidence while jumping from rock to rock. They are coordinated and strong and balanced and graceful and swift.

That was what I thought about when I read today’s verse, Habakkuk 3:19.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
      He makes me as surefooted as a deer,[a]
      able to tread upon the heights.

People don’t read Habakkuk like they should, I don’t think. It’s one of my favorite books in the Bible, and it’s a lot of fun to say over and over again (kind of like Humperdink).

It’s kind of funny if you think about what this verse is saying. To me, it says that God’s strength gives us grace. And that is very true. God is strong enough to forgive us, to give us things we don’t deserve. That’s the very definition of grace.

One of the reasons I love the Bible. Double meanings. The same fact means two different things.

God’s strength gives us grace in that it provides us with the balance we need to survive the trials of life without falling. To really grasp what it’s saying, let me include the same verse out of the Amplified Bible.

19The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

Deer are graceful creatures, able to leap from rock to rock without difficulty. What this verse is saying is that by putting our confidence in God, He will give us the same ability to work through our troubles.

When we are confronted by life’s many problems, it’s really easy just to stop. The easiest thing to do is to stand still and stop trying, especially because it feels like everything you do just makes it worse. And while it is definitely a good idea to be still on occasion, it’s never a good idea to give up. And if you think about it from a deer’s perspective, if they stand still long enough, they’re going to get shot. And besides, watching a deer stand still is no fun; I like to watch a deer move. Because then I can marvel at God’s creativity in making such an amazing creature.

It’s the same with us. When we face troubles without giving up, it gives others a chance to see the grace and balance and strength of God through us.

So even though they’re a pain, I will try to welcome troubles when they come my way. Because the more opportunities I have to trust God, the closer I’ll get to Him. And the more troubles I go through, the better other people can see Him through me.

 

Inadequacy

What do you struggle with? What is your weakness? I’ve mentioned before that Satan is a student of us, knows us inside and out, sees our weaknesses and exploits them like any capable enemy would. So I’ve always thought it was a good idea to recognize my weaknesses so that I can better respond to his attacks.  It makes it easier to see when he’s coming after you (easier . . . not easy). It gives you a foundation to start defending yourself using truth from God’s Word to point out to Satan that he’s a liar.

I have to say from experience that it’s a lot easier said than done. Because some “weaknesses” can become so ingrained in a person that they become an extension of your personality–or at least, you can perceive them yourself as part of who you are. We are so good at lying to ourselves. And once we lie to ourselves enough, we start to believe it–and that opens the door for Satan to attack full force with his own lies.

I have always struggled with feeling inadequate. I don’t know why. I’m sure there are a lot of theories as to why, but none of them explain my stubborn inability to recognize it as a lie other than my obvious acceptance of it. I think I’ve told myself for so long that I am totally inadequate that I have begun to believe it. So it’s no great accomplishment for Satan to get through to me, telling me that I’m worthless and useless and insufficient when I believe him already.

I’m inadequate at work. I’m inadequate in ministry. I’m inadequate as a friend. I’m inadequate as a daughter and a sister. I’m inadequate as a mentor. I’m inadequate. I’m insufficient. I’m not enough and I never will be enough because I don’t know what else I can do to make up for everything I lack. Maybe that’s being human. And maybe it’s okay for other people to be human but it’s not okay–and has never been okay–for me to be anything less than perfect. . . . . . because what reason would anyone have to care about me otherwise?

Yes. That’s a lie. I know it. I recognize it. But I still feel it. And I don’t want sympathy, though prayers would be nice, because I know it’s untrue. And I know it’s one of Satan’s manipulations. And I know–I know–I know all that. I do. But it’s hard to draw the line between what you know and what you feel. And I’m really tempted to not even post this because I don’t want people to get the wrong idea . . . . but what God gave me last night has so changed my entire perspective I may just let people think what they want to.

I was hanging out at home, getting ready for today and trying to think of ways to be obediant. At church, we’ve been learning about blessings. The whole message series has been so awesome . . . . I haven’t gotten this much out of a message series since Life Ink. I didn’t think it was possible to top that one, but Bless U has . . . completely.

The Bible says that God will bless you in the area you surrender to Him. I get that. So I had already decided to release those parts of my life that I’ve been holding onto.

What we learned this past weekend that God will bless you in the areas where you are obediant to Him. I totally get that too. Financially speaking? Holy cow. I can’t even tell you how true that is. Working for the State, I barely scraped by. There were weeks I didn’t know where my groceries were going to come from. There were some days the only thing I could do was just pray over my bank account because I didn’t know how I was going to survive. But the one thing I never faltered on was my tithe. It never even occurred to me to stop tithing. I fully believed (and still do) that the only reason I made it was because I never stopped giving my ten percent back to God. And now? Without going into details, let’s just say that finances aren’t an issue anymore. God was faithful to bless me in the areas where I was obediant to Him.

Now, there are still a few areas in my life where I would like to be blessed. So I was thinking last night how to be obediant in those areas. I’m a generally obediant person, I think. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I usually don’t have a problem obeying. I give what God tells me to give. I go where He tells me to go. I do what He tells me to do. Period. No arguing. No challenging. No whining. I’ve seen Him work in so many ways in my life and in others’ lives that I know better than to second guess Him. It’s always better to do what He asks and be patient waiting for what He has in store.

But what came to me last night really, honestly took my breath away. And it’s going to sound so ridiculous because it’s something I already knew–but there is such a massive difference between believing something and truly, deeply, honestly knowing it.

All my life I have known that God is sufficient for me. Of course, He is. He’s God. He can do anything, be anything I need, be anywhere I need Him to be. He is enough for me. More than enough for me.  But what I realized last night is that I am sufficient for Him.

Isn’t that obvious, though? What can I do that will make Him love me more or love me less? What can I do to be perfect? Nothing. I mean, I can please Him with faith. But even if I don’t, He still loves me. Even when I fail, He’ll still accept me. Even when I screw up and forget everything He’s ever taught me, He’ll still welcome me home with open arms and tell me that He loves me unconditionally–which means no matter what. No matter what.

And then the only thing I could think about was that David Crowder Band song, “How He Loves.” There’s a line in there:

“He is our portion and we are His prize.”

He is sufficient for us. We are sufficient for Him.

We don’t don’t have to change. Or be perfect. Or achieve great and incredible things. Or do things for Him. Or be someone we’re not for Him. We can just be who we are and He loves us just the way we are. Granted, we’ll receive more blessings if we do seek to accomplish awesome things for Him . . . . but it doesn’t mean He loves us less if (when) we fail.

See why this is a ridiculous revelation? It’s something I’ve known all my life. Something I’ve sung about–written about–talked about all my life. But it’s so much easier to tell other people than it is to believe about yourself. I know all my flaws and failures and shortcomings . . . but so does He. And He loves me anyway. Beyond that, there’s nothing I can do (or fail to do) that will make Him love me less.

And that made me wonder if I’m not being obediant in the way I view myself. I’m not saying that’s it. I’m just saying I’m wondering. If God really does love me unconditionally–and if He really loves me because He wants to–and if there’s nothing I can do to change His mind about seeing me that way, why do I insist on viewing myself as inadequate? Why do I see failure every time I look at myself? Why do I believe the obvious lies Satan tells me?

Yes, we’re supposed to be humble. Yes, we’re not supposed to think more of ourselves than we ought to. Yes, we’re supposed to prefer our brothers and sisters above ourselves. But there has to be a balance between humility and understanding that God gave what was most precious to Him to save me.

So. This is Amy’s new leaf. Whenever I feel inadequate (which is just about every hour of every day on a good day), I’m going to tell Satan to go butt a stump and I’m going to remember that God loves me and that I am the person He made me and that He really honestly does have a plan for me that’s His plan and not mine.

And isn’t it so much better to have His plan instead of your own? Because as long as it’s His plan, nobody can screw it up–especially me.