No Worries! L4L.01

Blue and white clothes shop Guadeloupe 2010-03-27

Image via WikipediaThe WORD

The WORD

“So I tell you, don’t worry about the food or drink you need to live, or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes…

And why do you worry about clothes? Look at how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers. God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today but tomorrow is thrown into the fire. So you can be even more sure that God will clothe you. Don’t have so little faith!

Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well.” Matthew 6:25;28-33 (New Century Version)

I know, I know… You’ve heard this text before. MANY times, perhaps. Maybe so many times that you’ve become desensitized to what Jesus is really trying to say, to you.

Most of the texts we will read during our Literal 4 Lent (L4L) experiment are going to be familiar. In order to give the Spirit of God every opportunity to dwell richly in us through these often-heard words, I’m going to ask that you develop the habit of reading each text at least two times before considering my commentary and The APP (application) for the day. So, go back. Re-read today’s text. Ask God to reveal through these words of Jesus His living, active, teaching Spirit. Ask Him for a receptive heart.

Worry is as natural to me as breathing, so this text has always stirred in me a range of emotions, including plenty of guilt. Lately, though, I’ve come to the long-awaited conclusion that guilt is not the way of Jesus. I see nothing in scripture that leads me to believe that Jesus teaches us by laying on the guilt. So, to hear this passage afresh today, I have to let go of my feelings of guilt (about how I’ve failed to live this Word of Jesus) and let God take me to a brand new understanding of what ‘No Worries!’ looks like to this aspiring follower of the Way of Christ.

Which leads me to admit that I’ve never really ‘worried’ about having clothes to wear. I have LOTS of clothes! Many of which were Goodwill finds, but the point is that my step-in closet is loaded with shirts and jeans and jackets and dresses, probably to the point of excess by anyone’s standards.

Having never been in need, then, for clothing to put on, this part of the text has often escaped my notice. I’ve honestly always felt that this text didn’t apply to me, because I have more than enough in the way of clothes. I was wrong.

While I may not suffer for lack of clothing, I’m pretty sure I do suffer from anxiety about what to wear – because of all of the choices I have. Just last week I found myself running late (more than once) because of my self-consciousness and inability to make up my mind about what to wear.

TOO MANY CHOICES can lead to worry, too – not just lack.

This revelation changes everything for me, in light of Jesus’ words. I’m seriously moved to do something about it today – on Day One of Literal 4 Lent.

The APP

How are we to take Jesus’ ‘No Worries!’ text and put it into practice in real life? I am compelled strongly to respond in a big way today… but you may not like it very much.

I spent a week traveling last Spring, living out of a carry-on with a limited number of clothing choices for each day, and it was WONDERFUL! Getting ready in the morning was painless and quick, leaving both time and energy for whatever might come my way.

What would it look like for me to limit my choices every day during Lent? Instead of choosing from hundreds of shirts and dozens of pants in the morning, what if I chose to live out of a suitcase for 40 days?

The body is more than clothes, right? And Jesus does say “don’t worry and say… ‘what will we wear?’”

What if He meant what He said? What if Jesus really does want us to stop thinking about our clothes, long enough at least to start thinking about His Kingdom and what matters to HIM?

I have no idea what will happen, but today I choose to be Literal for Lent, adopting a ‘No Worries!’ mantra for the next 40 days. My personal APP is to choose 7 tops and 7 bottoms to be worn for the 40 days of Lent – not quite living out of a suitcase, but you get the idea. It took more than a few minutes to make my choices, but I’m eager to see what happens each day as a result of my abbreviated options! [Be grace-full, please, if you bump into me more than once during Lent and notice my counter-cultural lack of clothing variety!]

Will you do this with me? Or something like it?

Chances are that you’re like me, wasting precious time while lost in the throes of decision-making as a result not of lack, but of excess.

Pay attention to what you seek first today, and if it isn’t God, well… it’s time to do something about that. Literally.

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

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The Trouble with Happiness (a PINK Tuesday Post)

‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!’

‘Shiny, happy people holding hands.’

‘Don’t worry, be happy.’

Sound familiar? A quick Google search brings up more than 100 songs with the word ‘happy’ in the title, but I have to wonder how many of us would use the word to describe the day we just had. Or the month. Or the decade.

It seems like everyone is striving for this thing called ‘happiness.’ Problem is, no one really knows exactly what it is or how to go about getting some for ourselves. We have an idea – that this thing, or this person, or this situation will make us ‘happy’ – but apparently our expectations are unrealistic and, ultimately, unrealized. I say it’s apparent, because statistics tell us that 1 in 10 Americans are currently taking an antidepressant.

If 10% of people in our country find happiness so elusive that they rely on medication in order to cope, I’ve got questions. Questions like:

What would make us happy – really? Are we mistaking happiness for the thrill of something new, only to find that once the rush of adrenaline is gone, we’re miserable and needy all over again?

Is happiness a reasonable goal? Are we somehow entitled to reaching this elusive state? Are some of us more able to reach a state of ‘happy,’ or more deserving of happiness than others?

What if our idea of happiness doesn’t even EXIST? Have we dreamed the impossible dream, only to find smoke and mirrors and a little pill that just might take the edge off of our inevitable disappointment?

I’m not really a conspiracy theorist, but I believe we’ve been set up. We’ve been set up to fail, because the world’s version of happiness is a lie. We are lied to every time we turn the television on. We are lied to every time we open up a magazine. We are lied to when we take that drink or buy that house or lease that car, because none of these things is able to make us happy.

The world says, ‘happiness is being thin.’ Tell that to the mother whose child is being treated for anorexia.

The world says, ‘happiness is being rich.’ Tell that to the millionaires whose kids would rather be anywhere, with anyone other than them.

The world says, ‘happiness is being in love.’ Tell that to a young mother when her child’s father doesn’t come home tonight – again.

I have a feeling that the trouble with happiness is that we think we know what happiness is – and we are wrong.

Jesus talks about happiness in Matthew chapter 5. You may not have heard these words spoken quite this way before:

“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them! Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised! Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully! Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them! Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God! Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children! Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven.” Matthew 5:3-12 (The Good News Translation)

I don’t know how we got our modern-day ideas about where happiness comes from! According to Jesus, the keys to happiness are to:

  • Be willing to admit we don’t have it all together
  • Be transparent and let our grief out of the bag
  • Be realistic about who we are and what we can (and cannot) do
  • Be passionate about the things that GOD is passionate about
  • Be loving and kind, innocent and earnest
  • Be an advocate for others – ALL others
  • Be put in places among people who don’t like what we stand for and aren’t afraid to let us know it.

Wow! And we thought that if we drove a new car and wore the $60 jeans and bought the newest iPhone that we’d be happy!

When I look through my contact list, it’s pretty obvious that the people in my life have every reason (by Jesus’ definition) to be HAPPY. We have messy lives. We make terrible mistakes, even though we try so hard to get it right. We are close enough to tears on most days that we keep tissue in our purses. The list of what we can’t seem to get done is almost always longer than the list of what we can do. We’re passionate, all right, but not necessarily about God. We get mad, we act badly. We value our street smarts more with each heart-wrenching edition of the evening news. We’re afraid of those who aren’t like us, so it’s easy to hole up in safe places and keep a low profile. We want everyone to like us.

And it is no amazing wonder that WE AREN’T HAPPY.

What if we chose today to look at happiness from Jesus’ perspective?

What if we really believed that His way is the BEST WAY for us to live?

What if we allowed the light of Truth to shine into our darkness, exposing the lies we’ve bought into for all of these long, painful years?

Psalm 34 paints a beautiful picture of these what-ifs in our world…

“If things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out. God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears.” Psalm 34:2b-4 (The Message)

God met me.

MORE THAN halfway.

And He set me free!

From my anxiety and fear.

How can we hear this testimony and NOT be happy?!

On this PINK Tuesday, JOIN ME in spreading the news! TOGETHER, as sisters in Christ and daughters of the King, we CAN get the Word out!

Glory!

Welcome to my Mid-Life CRISIS! (a PINK Tuesday post)

You think I’m kidding, but I’ve never been more serious.

I WELCOME YOU to my MID-LIFE CRISIS because I’ve learned that ‘the more, the merrier’ is as practical as good counsel gets, and the one thing that my mid-life crisis has failed to produce is ‘merry’ of any kind.

‘Merry Christmas,’ we say.

‘Eat, drink and be merry,’ we say.

No one ever says, ‘You’re FORTY?! Well, Merry Mid-Life Crisis!’

Welcome back to Pink Shoes Ministries’ PINK Tuesday forum! Our topic for today is about as clear as crystal AND as clear as mud, which I’m sure you’ll relate to as you take a few minutes out of your busy day to read on.

My hope is that you’ll join me on the other end of this discussion, chiming in by way of comment, either here at wordpress OR on our facebook discussion board (see blogroll to the right).

Let’s get this party started by exposing one seriously foundational and ridiculous misunderstanding:

CHRISTIAN WOMEN DON’T FREAK OUT.

I totally disagree. Whoever decided that Christian women are somehow exempt from such delightful rites of passage as mid-life was never a forty-something wife / mother / daughter / daughter-in-law / employee / sister / friend. Your own particular brand of crisis is bound to vary from mine, but there are common mileposts along our journey’s path. How much we’re each affected by them probably depends on how fast we are traveling when that milepost flies by.

Crisis Milepost 1: PANIC

That’s right – we panic. Exact age at time of panic attack may vary, but most of us will at some point begin to panic upon the realization that we’re running out of TIME. The pressure we put on ourselves to make something of ourselves can create a fresh urgency to perform in ways we haven’t been compelled to act before.

I find myself asking the question: Have I been type-cast? Like an actor who always plays the same character type – only the location and situation seem to change – am I really stuck with who I’ve made myself to be? Is this all there is and ever will be for me, in my work? At home? In my relationships? Will my contributions to the world never exceed what I’ve given to the world thus far? What’s a forty-something girl to DO?

Get a tattoo?

On our twentieth wedding anniversary, I not-so-jokingly suggested to my husband that we ought to get matching tattoos. That, or join the Navy. He was much more open to the tattoo idea, but fortunately I never had to test him on that (some of you, my good friends, talked me out of it). Still, every time we drive past a tattoo parlor, he asks me if I’m ready yet and we share a good laugh. (Truth be told, though, honey – we’re not out of the woods yet!)

Panic. The Apostle Paul knew about people and panic. He talked with them about it in 2 Corinthians chapter 7, beginning with verse 9:

“Now I’m glad – not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

What we do with our mid-life panic attacks paves the way for the second half of life, to follow God’s clearly marked path OR to ease on down the wide road in the opposite direction. If we will invite God Himself into our worry over the gap between our life-expectations and our present reality, He will move us into the way of salvation. It may require a sharp turn here and there, but God is faithful to use our distress to draw us closer to Him. Paul is so sure of this that he concludes his thoughts in 2 Cor. 7 with these words:

“And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart.”

May our personal PANIC produce PURITY like that!

Crisis Milepost 2: STUCK

Remember the game ‘Statues’ that we played when we were kids? Someone would swing us by the arm in circles until we were terrifically dizzy, then they would let go and we were to ‘fall’ into a pose and hold it – like a statue. I recall holding the pose for painfully long periods of time, waiting for my playmates to guess what kind of statue I was.

Some of us are asking: Is this ALL there IS? This ‘pose’ I’m stuck in? And the weird thing about being stuck in mid-life is that even when life is GOOD, there’s this bleak gloom hanging overhead that tells us this is as good as it will ever get. I’ve known this party-pooper to present itself as depression or disappointment, grieving a future that for some reason we believe is gone. Because we’re knee-deep in the muck and we don’t see any way out. Because that’s exactly where the enemy wants us to be.

God, on the other hand, knows that we tend to buy into the lie that OUR goals and agendas are the only ones worth living and dying for. When our life’s mission is all about achieving our purposes, chances are we’re going to be disappointed. The goals we set for ourselves, independent of God, are very unlikely to be reached.

When we’re attuned to the work of the Spirit in our lives, however, the goals and agendas that we find ourselves attending to are tailor-made to fit the Kingdom-subjects we are becoming!

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

Stuck sounds like the opposite of abounding to me. God is ABLE, even when I am not. No matter how I feel about it. That’s GOOD NEWS!

Next week we’ll dive deeper into the depths of my own mid-life crisis (you’ll need scuba gear next week, I’m afraid). In the meantime…

How do YOU deal with the panic and stress that mid-life creates? What good counsel can you give – or have you received – that helps you make your way through life in spite of depression and disappointment?

Please SHARE your wisdom and questions with me! You are, after all, WELCOME here – in my mid-life crisis!