What Happens in the Normal Life, If You’re Lucky, Maybe…

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“I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on our behalf.” ―Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

Jim Cymbala captures the heart of every soul seeking something more, yearning for significance to rise from all of life’s heartache, desiring the God of the universe to show Himself strong. While living a normal life, you find yourself hard pressed on every side, cast down, even perplexed, and if you’re lucky, the glimmer of hope in the goodness of God will shine brighter than the burdens you bear. Maybe this is the trajectory most often traveled in bringing God absolute glory. Perhaps, our problems equally beckon us to either “slip by” relatively unscathed by the clamor of desire or to embrace the center of our suffering with a heart still anchored in hope, still searching for miraculous intervention in the middle of life’s searing storms.

How unfortunate it is to go through life untouched by tragedy. Not that you must intentionally familiarize yourself with trauma, but wholehearted living requires embracing both beautiful and bitter morsels of your journey. In the normal life, trouble will darken your doorstep, and how unlucky you’d be if sorrow never swept your way between stretches of deep satisfaction and great achievements. That’s right. Unlucky if you remain unchanged by the pain that daily surrounds you and implores you to purpose it. Unlucky if you haven’t a single problem or unmet need that keeps you ever seeking our Sovereign Savior, ever stretching to reach beyond your grasp.

What a terrible waste of unlimited potential to skate safely through the life experiences that change so many others at the core, to never be transformed by loss, or heartache, or practicing to delight in the minutiae of seemingly mundane events. In the normal life, distance from Eden’s untainted perfection will ravage your soul and scar you deeply. If you’re lucky, you won’t be too rushed to “keep calm and carry on” or too willing to hide your heart at the first pinprick of pain. If you’re lucky, your agony won’t be invisible. Others will see your broken places, and maybe catch a glimpse of God shining from the cracks you refuse to conceal.

In the normal life, you’ll chance upon conflict. If you’re lucky, you’ll engage in loving confrontations that bear lasting fruit of deepened friendships, and maybe you’ll grow from the thing you didn’t avoid. In the normal life, doubt will visit your toughest decisions. If you’re lucky, repentance will swiftly follow the heels of remorse, and maybe you’ll choose your regrets more wisely when chasing second chances with those you love. Cruelty and cynicism swirl all around us, mingled with joy and generosity, and if you remain unaffected by it, you’ll miss the beautiful ways you were meant to reveal God’s glory. So, this is an invitation to open your heart to the things you’d rather avoid, to embrace every part of your story, especially the seemingly nuisance interruptions, to acknowledge the pain wrought by living a few thousand years past paradise, a summons to live with your whole heart expecting to be awed by God in the intricate details of your story, a request to open your heart to both the tragic and transformative nature of a normal life.

Leaving God Margins in a Double-Spaced Life

Submit all work with 1” margins, double-spaced. As a professor, I hold fast to these two formatting rules so I have enough room to make corrections and provide substantive feedback. It made me wonder if we leave God enough room between the lines of our stories, if we leave enough space in the margins for God to bring our dreams in line with His divine plans. Are you slowing down enough to live the double-spaced life? He knows your story better than you. Are you leaving God margins so He can write it on your heart?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. {Jer. 29:11, NIV}

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. {Psa. 139:16, NLT}

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Gideon Bible Study Video (Week 2)

A  L I F E of fear was interrupted by God’s promise of peace. Gideon snuck under the cover of night because he was afraid to fulfill his purpose, but as fearful as he was, he was faithful and got a new name because of it! God wants to do more than disrupt some things; He wants to DESTROY those things that are threatening to destroy you! Week 2 of the #fearfulbutfaithful virtual bible study continues below.
BELOW is the audio playback info and info for the live call next Sunday at 7pm CST.
Dial in #: 319-527-9115
Access Code: 788309
Playback dial in: 319-527-9296

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The Rows Behind You

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

Last night I adapted the following activity (found online) with my students after a discussion on the psychological impact of the grand jury decisions (and precipitating events) in Ferguson and in NY for the officer who choked Eric Garner. Some didn’t see it impacting their particular clients or how they function professionally in our field. I had them write their names on a paper, ball it up, and try to throw it into a freshly lined trashcan at the front of the class, but they had to shoot from wherever they were already seated. We pretended that whoever made their shot would get an “A” regardless of how they were performing in the class.

Of course, those in the back complained it was unfair as others in the rows ahead of them practiced their shot. After everyone threw, I asked those in the front why they didn’t join the rows behind them in pointing out the unfairness. One student, privileged with front-row seating, said the others should have been sitting closer. Another nearer the front said she didn’t even hear them saying it was unfair (she was so focused on “making it” for herself). One student near the back made his shot and stopped mentioning it was unfair. His classmate slightly behind him rightfully called him an outlier. I told them that in reality, they have the privilege of front row seating in life, and part of their JOB is to advocate for the people in the rows behind them.

I told them to remember anomalies, represented by the guy who “made it” despite adverse circumstances (being near the back). Remember that our front-row privilege makes it easier to assume what others should have done differently (like sit closer despite being disallowed to move, or like how they should respond to oppression). Remember how easy it is to completely miss the cries of injustice from the rows behind us because we’re so focused on “making it” ourselves. And once you “make it,” remember to advocate for the rows behind you.

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The Pain to Push

godly suffering

Don’t exchange Godly suffering for earthly comfort.

I’m not a fan of pain. It’s not even that I’m unable to manage the pain, so much as I’ve nurtured a fear of experiencing pain more than I’ve nurtured the fact that I’ve overcome pain. In a brief lapse of judgment, I attempted to birth my oldest son without pain medications. Please note this is not at all to divide those who opt for pain meds and those who do not, but considering my fear of experiencing  such intense pain, it wasn’t wise for me. In fact, for our next child, I asked when the epidural would arrive, and I wasn’t even in labor yet! I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.

The most refreshing aspect for me was that I could actually fall asleep and not have to worry about contractions or, you guessed it, pain. The nurses asked me not to push, and I gladly took a nap until the doctor arrived. On the other hand, I’ve heard many women share their “natural” birth stories, and once the baby is in position and that pain to push hits, there IS no holding back! You see, while I was numb, while the pain had been taken away, I could make the choice not to give birth to the child I’d dreamed about holding in my arms. Oh, but when there’s pain there’s a persistent pressure to give birth to your dreams! Thank God for the pain!

As pictured above, the devil will always try to talk you out of Godly suffering in exchange for earthly convenience. Don’t fall for it! Make a commitment to stop looking for the easy way out, stop looking for the smooth, easy road where you can be lulled to sleep instead of birthing your dream. Your path will be filled with pain, but once you’re in position, the pain will get you to push! The pain will actually lead to your deliverance, it’ll lead to you birthing the dream! As the enemy sends fire your way, let it cause your purpose to burn within you even more. Below, I’ll share a relevant vlog on exactly that. Also, visit and follow the uplifting new blog of my friend ((You Can Shout Now)) who inspired this post by reminding me that some things are so pressing you just have to get it out!

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Choosing Regrets

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Image credit to MyRon Edmonds

  “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”                                                        ~Ecclesiastes 11:4 (TLB)

The 2-minute video below addresses the difference between day-to-day regrets and life regrets. In summary, people tend to regret ACTIONS in their day-to-day experiences, like maybe traveling for a vacation when they may have wanted the money used for something else, but when reflecting over their lives, the biggest regrets tend to be INACTION. In fact, the number one life regret is not traveling more. Hopefully you enjoy the brief video; you can click subscribe for more. You won’t know every possible outcome, but you really can choose your regrets. Take the leap, go all in, your future self will thank you!

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The Two Halves of Life

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I’m greatly enjoying a book by Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, which holds the premise that life’s “necessary suffering” is not an obstacle to be surmounted, but a pathway to be journeyed, a pathway to the second half of life. In the first half of life, we are driven by our ego, our need to achieve, to build something for ourselves, to discover and be discovered. I would summarize, however, that in the second half, we are more propelled by empathy because we have tasted defeat, by a deep desire to join others in their joys and sufferings, a desire to see justice, but only through a lens of grace. As I absorb the many delineations of first vs. second-half-of-life relating, I see my old self as having operated out of many of the first-half-of-life issues, such as searching for and finding my identity. It’s with some apprehension that I proclaim I’m now fully embracing the second half of life, only because I know my ego would love nothing more than to convince me I’m better than “those people,” those still journeying through the first half of life. But, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the first half of life. In fact, we need the first half of life if the second half will ever be sustainable. We need the roots of our tree; we need motivation, achievements, suffering, winning, and especially failing. So, I haven’t become too entangled in the notion that I’m not right where I believe I am and right where I believe I should be. The second half of life has also come with a firm sense of acceptance, both of self and others, of our individual and collective experiences, a sense of belief in that thing called intuition, which the first half of life threatened to consume. I see second-half-of-life indicators in my life and the lives of some around me. I see it when a friend questions why she’s okay with the fact that human beings will sleep outside tonight, or when I question why I allowed the slightest bit of my initial outrage to wane after seeing impoverished children eating dirt cookies for sustenance. I see the second half of life emerging when a friend said that for her, getting older has meant accepting the parts of her that have been beneficial to others but detrimental to her and acknowledging that without being bitter about it. I see it in my life when I realize I still have anger for some of my first-half-of-life experiences, for the loss, for what was willfully destroyed and stolen, but that my anger isn’t vindictive; it’s redemptive. I see second-half-of-life living in a friend who recently prayed to become like a child, not for the purpose of shirking adult responsibilities, but for the purpose of loving with reckless abandon, for the purpose of wholeheartedly living out the beliefs we’ve collected throughout the first half of life.

I believe that in this second half of life, we begin to feel a righteous indignation for societal wrongs that we know we may never completely correct or even address in our lifetime, but we find it worth our tears, our anger, our voice, anyhow. In this half of life, I’d rather regret standing up at the wrong time than regret not standing up at all. I think it’s an impossible ideal to live life without regrets, but I’m rather determined to pursue life with such purpose that I prefer my regrets. All of these issues are merely foundational, though, merely questioning whether one is living from the first or second half of life. The book further discusses the unintentional, upward fall into the second half, and I look forward to the other directions it will carry my mind.
falling upward

The Two Halves of Life

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