Life as a headless chicken

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]M[/su_dropcap]y solid old farmhouse is more than 100 years old. That may not mean much to folks in the northeastern United States or my dear friends in England, but in Kansas, it’s a big deal. It’s the perfect sanctuary for writing. I turn on my music and hammer out words by the tens of thousands and feel good about myself. The trouble comes when somebody needs me.

My office is on the second floor at the south of the house. The only stairwell is on the north. There are several solid wood doors between us, and if it’s summer time, I also have a window air conditioner running. There’s so much noise, I can’t hear when anybody shouts up at me. I can’t even hear my cell phone ring. So if anyone wants to get my attention, they have to walk up the stairs, throw my office door open, and throw things at my head.

It’s a chore to get my attention sometimes. But that’s true even when I’m sitting in a quiet environment.

One of my favorite television shows, Longmire (based on the brilliant book series by Craig Johnson), has an episode called “An Unquiet Mind” where we get a peek inside the main character’s tumultuous thoughts. His mind is never quiet. He’s always thinking about something, and that’s how I feel most times.

Do you ever feel like that? Like your brain is so noisy that you can’t get a word in edgewise?

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Here in America, we’re expected to live busy, crowded, noisy lives. That’s what it means to be American, isn’t it?[/su_pullquote]

My mind is never silent. It’s not chaotic. Not usually. But it sure is loud in there most of the time. I’m thinking about what I have to do today, what I have to do tomorrow, what I have to do next week, next month, next quarter. I’m worrying about friends and family. I’m fretting about the dwindling decimals in my bank account. I’m thinking about bills that need paying, chores that need doing, meetings that need scheduling, manuscripts that need editing, blog posts that need writing, etc.

We weren’t meant to live like that. That’s not how God designed us to function, in spite of what those around us might say. Here in America, we’re expected to live busy, crowded, noisy lives. That’s what it means to be American, isn’t it?

But is that how we were meant to live?

We’re not supposed to be lazy. We’re not supposed to sit back on our blessed assurance and live a life only reacting to trauma and disaster. But we’re certainly not supposed to live life like headless chickens either.

So how do you prevent being dragged into the chaos of life and still manage to get things done? I’m not sure there’s an easy answer.

peachy-divider

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] underestimate the value of silence. Silence isn’t something I’ve ever truly appreciated until recently. Silence always meant that something was wrong or someone was waiting on me. And I hate it when people are waiting on me. But it’s difficult to find an instance in the Bible where silence is considered negative.

Sure, there’s all sorts of Psalms begging God not to be silent, but most of the time, silence is a good thing. Proverbs says over and over again that even fools are called wise when they shut up (Proverbs 17:28). Fast forward to the New Testament and James encourages people to make listening the priority rather than speaking (James 1:19).

Silence is hard to find, both externally and internally. But it’s something we should strive for, because—like it or not—Someone is trying to get our attention.

God talks to us every day. He makes Himself known every moment. The whole world has no excuse for ignoring God. But for those of us who know the Bible, we who’ve been raised in it from cradle to pew, how can we possible explain ourselves? Burying our lives in chaos? Drowning ourselves in anxiety and noise?

God’s calling us. He’s shouting at us, waving His arms in desperation, trying to catch our eyes.

Pay attention! Listen to what I’m saying! I’m here, and I’ve always been here, and I’m not leaving you. Not ever. I’ve done everything to prove Myself to you. Why aren’t you listening?

[su_pullquote]God’s calling us. He’s shouting at us, waving His arms in desperation, trying to catch our eyes.[/su_pullquote]

We don’t have to succumb to the tidal waves of stress and exhaustion the world (and even the church) sends in our direction. We don’t have to fear what’s coming tomorrow or in November or in ten years. God’s in control. He knows what He’s doing. He never makes mistakes. He always keeps His promises. And all we have to do is trust Him.

Yes, easier said than done, but nothing worth having was ever easy to achieve.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20

rev3-20Is your life so noisy you can’t hear Him? Is your life so busy you can’t see Him? Then something should change. Maybe it’s the way you live. Maybe it’s the way you think. But something’s got to give, because you weren’t made for this.

Don’t let yourself get so mired in noise and the craziness of life that you can’t hear Jesus calling you. It’s easy to get there. Believe me. But you don’t have to stay there. Climb out if you can. Ask for help if you can’t. Just get out. Open your ears. Open your heart. Listen.

Jesus is knocking. Can you hear him?

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Being authentic is about how you listen

When I was a kid, keeping up appearances was pretty normal. Not that you were expected to lie about having a bad day or any of the tough stuff that was going on in life. Not at all. It was just better if you didn’t burden other people with it. That was sort of the general environment of most churches I attended as a younger person. I mean, if you were really having a bad time, you could talk to a pastor or a deacon, but just regular old church-goers didn’t really have the time or the resources to help. That’s just the way it was.

But church in today’s world is a little different. I’m sure there are plenty of people who won’t talk about the difficult things in their lives, but it’s expected now that everyone will be transparent. You walk into a church or a school or a business, and you are who you are. And to a certain extent, that’s somewhat liberating. You don’t have to hide. You don’t have to put on a brave face. You can just be yourself.

But what does “being yourself” actually look like? What does it mean? Can you really be 100% transparent with other people, or do you need to draw the line somewhere?

New baby lamb, only a few days old, at the Sedgwick County Zoo

New baby lamb, only a few days old, at the Sedgwick County Zoo

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Being who you are is more than how you dress or how you speak or how you walk. You are more than the clothes you wear or the food you eat or the places you’ve been or the number of letters after your name or the complexity of your job description. That’s not who you are.

I used to be all about me and what I wanted. And even after I chose to follow Jesus, I still wanted my own way most of the time (sometimes I still do!). But over the years, God’s really taught me that I need to be about Him instead of me. The new life He gave me isn’t focused on what I want or what I need or how I can get the most out of life. No, my New Life is about what God wants me to do and how He wants me to do it.

But does having New Life and being a New Creation mean I shouldn’t talk about my problems? Not at all. One of the reasons why Christ-followers are encouraged (commanded, really) to gather together is to pray for each other, to encourage each other, to help each other. And nobody can help you if they don’t know what’s wrong.

But it does mean that you’re humble. You see your troubles from a new perspective. You see them as lessons that God is allowing you to experience so that you can learn something. And you recognize that God has every right to do whatever He wants with your life, without your permission.

That’s what it means to have faith. Authentic faith.

If you are a Christ-follower, you are new. Period. You aren’t the same person you were yesterday, or you shouldn’t be. God is changing you every day, the longer you follow Him, teaching your heart, teaching your soul, how to live the kind of life He wants. And you’re either listening to Him or ignoring Him.

Authenticity isn’t complaining. It’s not pointing fingers. It’s not getting up in arms about everything you think is unfair in your life. I mean, if that’s where you are right now, that’s fine, and you need to talk about it. And you should be honest about the way you feel. But if you want to be an authentic Christ-follower, be honest about what God is teaching you right now. Maybe it’s a good lesson. Maybe it’s a hard lesson. But you know it’s a lesson, and you know you need to learn it.

If you’re authentic, you’ll accept that you’ve still got a long way to go before you become the person God wants you to be. And you’ll be thankful for how far God has brought you, because you know you’re not the person you used to be. And if you’re struggling to understand why God is allowing you to go through these difficult times, bring it up. Ask someone. Please, please ask someone. Don’t hesitate to find another Christ-follower and tell them about where you are in your life and how you’re struggling. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but also be willing to listen to a godly answer.

It’s one thing to talk. It’s something else to listen and do something about it.