You can build on the truth

Life is nuts. Or is it just me? Maybe I only spend time with super busy people, but it feels like everyones’ lives are spinning out of control in the chaos that is our world. We have less time to produce, less time to rest, less time for family, less time for friends, less time for everything in our lives, yet somehow, in spite of working harder and longer than any other civilization in history, we get less done.

The American Dream? Right. It’s a Ferris wheel, spinning around and around and going nowhere. That’s how life feels most days. I don’t mean to be a downer, but can anyone else identify with this feeling?

Chaos. Futility. Constant exhaustion and the overwhelming certainty that you’ll amount to nothing but failure at the end of your life, regardless of how hard you work.

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

When I find myself sinking into that mindset, it’s time for a walk. I need to get away from my computer, get out of my own head, and go somewhere else, a place where I can recognize what’s really true and what really isn’t. For me, that’s outside on our patio with a kitten in my lap. For you, it may look different (although you should never discount how soothing the interaction with an animal can be).

Regardless, you have to stop moving. You have to stop thinking. You have to be still. Only when you’re still can you truly let your brain process, otherwise it’ll keep running in the background.

Once I’m still, then I can think. Then, I have to go back to basics.

What do I know for sure?

So much of what I worry about and stress over are unknowns. They’re the things I can’t control, the outcomes I can’t manipulate, the opinions I can’t change. No, none of that is my responsibility, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. And once I start thinking about all those things, I wind myself up into a ball of nerves and frustration, and before I know it, I’m snapping at people and just feeling generally angry. Then, whatever productivity I might have had goes out the window.

If you can’t identify things you are sure of, there might be something else going on. But I’m willing to bet that everyone knows the grass is green. Everyone knows the sky looks blue. Everyone knows gravity is constant, or at least constant enough to keep us from being flung off this spinning dirtball into the void.

Basics.

The sun will set tonight. It will rise tomorrow. And you can’t do anything to stop it either way. In one minute, sixty seconds will have passed. You need to drink water, or you’ll end up dehydrated. You need to eat, or you’ll starve. And everyone needs hugs, even people who don’t think they do.

What are the basics you know?

ps46-1-3I also know that God is in control. I know God is good. I know He has never promised to leave me. He’s promised to work all the crap in my life out for good, to bring glory to His name and to provide a beautiful future for me. I know He has my best interests in mind and that He’s the only one big enough to weave all the disjointed strings of my life into a masterpiece.

Maybe you don’t know all that. And that’s okay. But I do. There’s no promise that God has made to me that He hasn’t kept. He’s always there. He always keeps me on track. And everything I do, I want to do for Him, because He’s the only one who can make everything work out.

Those are my basics. Those are my certainties. That’s bedrock, where I start building again. Life and the world and people and circumstances can knock down everything I’ve built (and they have), but nothing can touch that foundation. Lord willing, nothing will.

There are several times in the Bible where God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” He says it so many times, and I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget. But if we can just remember to be still—to stop moving and thinking and running ahead—and remind ourselves who God is and what He’s promised, life won’t feel so chaotic anymore.

Because once you know one truth, you can build on it. Because rock is solid, storms won’t move it. Because storms won’t move it, you can build on it. Because you can build on it, you can restore what you lost.

Because God is God, we can trust Him. Think about what you can build on that truth.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalm 46:1-3

Life is nuts, but God is good. And even if it doesn’t feel like it, He’s got it all under control. So stop chasing your tail. Take a minute. Remember who He is, and if you don’t know who He is, learn. Then, ask Him for help. He won’t turn you away, and He won’t ignore you, not if you truly come to Him for help. He may not give you the answer you want, but if you really trust Him, you’ll do what He says.

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Photo of SEA-TAC airport's security line (not mine), Seattle, WA

How God used TSA to remind me not to worry

I’ve been traveling for the past week, first to Seattle for an executive writing conference and then to Chicago for a regional meeting for my company. It’s been a crazy week of high stress, even though I’ve been doing my level best not to be stressed out. But travel is stressful, especially for a control freak, because there’s so much about airplane travel that you can’t control. The biggest stress factor is getting through security.

Getting through security in Wichita, Kansas, isn’t difficult. Maybe it takes 10 minutes. Maybe 15 on a bad day. But people in Wichita think 15 people is a line, sort of like we think we have traffic. If you’ve never tried to get through security in a major international airport, you won’t understand. But if you’ve travelled at all, you can identify with the photo I put up for today’s blog. I didn’t take it, and it actually doesn’t even demonstrate how busy the Seattle airport was on the day I was there. But you get the idea.

I came around the corner and saw the line in front of me and thought: “There’s no way on Earth I’m going to get through this in less than two hours.” And that’s how much time I had before my flight started boarding. Immediately, I knew I was going to miss my flight. It was going to be a nightmare. And I told myself that I should have been more demanding of the shuttle driver that he stop dawdling and get us to the airport when he’d told me he would, instead of stopping to pick up random passengers and then not dropping me off at my gate until the very last. But no, I had to be nice and sit in my seat and just take it. And what did I get for it? I was going to be late.

I was so irritated at myself. And then, I heard this little nagging voice at the back of my head. It said, “Stop being silly and pray about it.” Ever had one of those moments? When you know you should pray about something but you hesitate because you feel like a moron that you hadn’t thought of it sooner? Yeah. That was me. Moron. So I prayed (quite ashamed of myself) that God would help me somehow–miraculously–make it to my flight on time. I even texted my mom.

Then, something miraculous happened.

Just after I asked Mom to pray, I got to the little kiosk where the security dude was checking IDs. He checked mine and then inexplicably waved me to a different line than anyone else. At first, I thought something was wrong. I thought I was in trouble or I had done something I shouldn’t have. And then I saw the signs that read TSA Pre-Check. It’s a new initiative that they’re starting up apparently, and in this expedited line I didn’t have to take off my shoes, my belt, my jacket, or my hat. I didn’t have to pull out my laptop, my tablet, my phone, or any other electronics. And I didn’t have to pull out my little bag of cosmetics. I just got to throw everything on the belt and walk through the scanner, and I was done.

I texted my mom at 3:14 p.m. and asked her to pray and guess what? In a mere 12 minutes, I was through. Completely through security with no problems, no hangups, no delays, and no trouble. By all rights, I should have been in that security line for the next hour and a half easy. But somehow my boarding pass had been marked as approved for TSA Pre-Check, something the airline did without my knowledge (and only on that flight and none of the others).

I made my flight with time to spare. And I sat at my gate sipping a coffee and kicking myself, today’s verse circling my brain.

Photo of SEA-TAC airport's security line (not mine), Seattle, WA
Photo of SEA-TAC airport’s security line (not mine), Seattle, WA

Today’s verse Philippians 4:6.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

I’ve posted on this verse before, and I took up a lot of time with the story in the introduction. So I’m not going to belabor a point. I just needed to remember this. I need to remember this every day. Shoot, I need to remember it every hour.

There are so many things in my life that I want to worry about. There are so many things in my life that I want to be in control of. There are so many things in my life that I think I need to fix. The plain and simple truth is that I’m powerless to really do anything at all, and I need to fully rely on God for every step I take, every breath I breathe.

My first reaction at the length of that security line was to worry. Tell me, exactly what good did worrying about the length of that line do? Nothing. It stressed me out. It upset me. It frustrated me. I had no control over it and no way to take control. My only option would be to push through the line and ask people to move out of the way so I could get through, as if my flight was more important than theirs. Yeah, not the best witness ever.

I guess what I’m trying to get at this morning is that God already had it sorted out. I just didn’t know it. And it took TSA to help me remember that when I’m facing a challenge that I can’t control, sometimes you just need to keep moving forward and trust that it will work for the best. I was in the right place. I had done everything I could (while keeping my testimony intact) to get there on time. I just had to let God take care of the rest. And He did.

So, next time you need something, ask God for it. Don’t worry about it. Tell God about it and let Him handle it. It’s easier to say it than to do it, but whenever He works something out, it’s a lot better than when we try to go our own way.

Wheat head close up at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Humility and control

I am a control freak. I like to know what’s coming. I like to plan out my steps before I take them. There are times when I don’t mind spontaneity, but generally speaking I like to have a plan. But there’s only so much a plan can do for me when I’m not in control.

Have you ever been in that situation? Where you do everything right and the world still goes wrong? Where you have been obedient and done what you were supposed to do and even then, the circumstances only get worse instead of better? Have you ever been there? I have. And it’s frustrating. Because all throughout the Bible, God says to do what He says and that He’ll take care of us. But then when we do, sometimes it feels like He doesn’t hold up His end of the bargain.

Wheat head close up at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat head close up at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 2 Chronicles 6:38-39.

If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their captivity and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name—then hear their prayers and their petitions from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. Forgive your people who have sinned against you.

I usually hear this verse around election time. There is something encouraging about the thought of the believers of America uniting under a common cause and turning back to God. But it’s a dream. I haven’t ever seen it in my lifetime. As far as I can see,typical  American Christians are just as self-centered as the rest of the world, so getting them to agree on anything is practically impossible. But as I read this verse today, something else occurred to me that I hadn’t ever really thought of before.

If we want God to work in our lives, if we want Him to show up, we have to change our attitude. Or, rather, we have to be willing to let Him change our attitudes. Real change is something only He can do, but our attitude is up to us. Attitude is a choice that we make every morning when we roll out of bed.

As I stated before, and in many previous blog posts, I am a control freak. I don’t know why or how I got to be this way. I just like to be in charge of what’s happening around me because I feel like I can keep track of the details better than anybody else can. But there are parts of my life (major parts) that are too big for me. And I need to admit that, not only to God but also to myself. I need to stop trying to control everything, because some situations are above my pay grade. And it’s those situations and circumstances that I need to be humble about and ask God for help with.

So it all comes down to attitude. I need to be humble about my life and realize that I’m not in control. God is going to do what He wants with my life. He made it, just like He made everything else, so He has the right to do what He wants with it. But it’s my choice how I respond to it; I can either go willingly or kicking and screaming. God will have His way no matter how I choose to respond.

I get frustrated when I do everything I’m supposed to do and life still doesn’t work out, but when it comes right down to it, God is in control of my life. And if He needs to allow more difficulty into my life to remind me that He’s the one who calls the shots, so be it. In the end, He’s going to have His way no matter what, and His way is going to be good. His way is better than my way ever can be. And He’s proven that to me over and over and over again.

If we turn our hearts to God, if we change our attitudes about God and recognize that He is the one who’s in charge, and if we ask Him for help and realize that we can’t make it through life without Him, He’ll hear us. He sees us and moves in our lives anyway, whether we ask Him to or not. But when we change our attitudes, we start looking for Him. And then we can see Him.

So check your attitude this morning. Are you trying to control your life? Are you trying to be the one in charge? You can try it, but the more you try to control your life, the more of your life will slip through your fingers. Change your attitude; be willing to let God change your heart. It will make all the difference in the world.

Stone steps at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

How getting stuck in the Cincinnati airport is kind of like life

Well … I anticipated that I would be posting from Newark, New Jersey, this morning. But those plans didn’t exactly pan out. Due to some mechanical troubles, we are still in Cincinnati, stuck in the airport trying to find a flight out. The battery in my laptop is limited, so I have to be brief.

Stone steps at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Stone steps at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Psalm 37:23.

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.

This is the only verse that came to mind this morning. It’s good to remember that God is in control, especially in circumstances that are too big for us to understand. But it can be frustrating at times because we really think we need (and want) to know every step of the journey at the very beginning. But if we honestly knew everything that God planned for us to experience in our lives up front, I think we might die of fright.

God knows the paths that we’re going to take. And He knows what all those roads look like and He knows what we will need to go through to learn what He wants to teach us.

Our eventual destination today is Miami. The only flight that was available for us had to go through New Jersey. New Jersey! What the heck? But to get to Miami, that was the only way we could go. Now … well, who knows how we’re going to get down there. But I’m sure United knows best.

It’s the same with God. He may take us down some roads that don’t make sense to us. He may lead us in a direction that seems completely opposite to what we thought He wanted us to accomplish with our lives. But we have to trust Him. And if we do, He’ll work everything out. And not only will we arrive at our destination safely, we’ll get there with more than we had when we left.

Unlike United. Which will probably lose our baggage en route.