On Saturdays, I’d like to focus on singles in this blog, since many who are single feel they are leading “workaround” lives. (I was a single parent for 18 years; I get that.) I’ll be sharing content here from SingleMatters, a blog I write with Marie Shepherd, and also sharing insights from other relevant sources and writers. A variation of the post that follows originally appeared on SingleMatters last April.
Have you ever participated in a “Fun Run”? Maybe it was only a few miles, to raise money for a worthy cause. There was no real pressure and you really didn’t give a moment’s thought to actually winning your age bracket.
Confession time. Lately I’ve realized there are a number of things in my life that really aren’t up to me. I may have a role to play in them or I may wish I had more influence over them, but the end result is actually out of my hands. Frankly, if I’m to be truthful, this is kind of a relief.
Here are ten, in no particular order.
It’s not my job:
1.To bring others around to my way of thinking – I am entitled to my opinion and have a responsibility to form these opinions based on truth and prayerful consideration. But ultimately it’s not up to me to decide for someone else or attempt to convince them of a different point of view, however well-intentioned I may think I am. Continue reading Ten Things That Aren’t My Job→
Last Sunday I came home from church and Smudge, our 15 ½ year old Jack Russell terrier, was SO glad to see me it was, well, ridiculous. Dancing around, doing spins, leaping in the air, yipping like a puppy.
I was kind of pleased at first – I mean, who doesn’t want to get that kind of crazy-happy welcome? (I am pretty awesome.) But then she just wouldn’t calm down. She IS a Jack Russell. I wanted the mayhem to stop so I reprimanded her firmly.
Then, you know what I realized? SHE DIDN’T HAVE ANY WATER.
She was glad to see me because she knew I was the answer to her problem: She was thirsty, I was the source of water, and that made her happy! She trusted that now that I was home and she had my attention, she was going to get what she needed.
That didn’t initially occur to me because it wasn’t the kind of reaction I might have had if I were dependent on someone else to meet my basic needs. I would have probably been all whiny and dramatic, maybe trying to elicit guilt or pity to get what I needed.
But not Smudge.
I started thinking about whether that would be a better approach for me as a human. What if when I am confused or fearful, instead of praying about it in a whining, begging kind of way, I truly believed that prayer would reveal the answer to me and I got excited? Seriously, that’s not my default response.
And yet, isn’t God the source of all that I need? Maybe not always what I want in the moment, but truly what I need? What if I really came to grips with that and with the fact that when I pray, I have God’s attention, and He is far more faithful to give me what’s best for me than I am to give Smudge what’s best for her?
I’m going to try that. I’m going to pray and focus on the fact that God knows and wants what’s best for me and I’m going to choose to be excited for that. I may not dance around and spin. I certainly won’t yip like a puppy (how undignified), but I’m going to trust that He’s the Giver of all good gifts and He wants to give His best to me.
It worked for Smudge. She got a full bowl of clean, cool water and lapped it up appreciatively.
How do you approach God – exuberant and expectant like Smudge, knowing you’re going to get what you need? Or tentative and apologetic, like me? Have you ever learned a lesson about God from your pet(s)? Please share in the comments!
Dreams are weird; I think we can all agree on that. They rarely make sense and they can be disturbing, especially if there’s spicy food involved. Sometimes, though, a dream can be thought-provoking, even thrilling, and you don’t want it to end. Have you ever had one of those?
Not long ago, I dreamed I was running on a flat, rock-strewn desert trail. I was all alone and I don’t know why I was there. It was hot and unappealing and I was struggling to keep going.
As I slogged along, a man appeared seemingly out of nowhere up ahead of me who was gliding along effortlessly. It was mesmerizing to watch him. It was obvious he was enjoying himself and rather than becoming fatigued, he seemed energized by the effort he was expending.
I decided to imitate him. I began to measure my stride so that it matched up with his. I swung my arms the same way he did and bounced in unison with his steps.
He began to deviate from the path so I did the same and found myself below a huge canopy of trees, still only a few yards behind him. It was cool and refreshing even though we were increasing our pace and the trees were melting into a blur around us.
Then he adopted a strange skip-like step that made it look like he was floating between footfalls. Again, I did the same, springing along with the same rhythm and almost immediately, I was looking down on the trees while willing myself upward with my mind. When I touched the ground, I would catapult back up, higher and higher with each stride. I kept my eyes on this unusual apparition of a man and did everything he did. I had the clear sense I could go on forever just by imitating him. It was invigorating and effortless – I squealed with delight.
And woke myself up.
The dream probably lasted less than a minute in real time but I awoke feeling, of all things, hopeful. Now isn’t than an unusual thing, to wake up feeling hopeful after a dream that had me floating over rough terrain and bouncing above trees at blinding speed? I should have been exhausted.
But I think the key in that short dream sequence had been the presence of that man ahead of me and recognizing that if I carefully mirrored his actions and did what he did, I could go far beyond my own natural capabilities.
I’m not saying my dreams always make sense or that I glean any kind of lesson from most of them. In fact, if I remember them at all, sometimes they just make me sad. But this one seemed to have a message for me:
How often do I spend my waking hours with my eyes glued in defeat to the craggy trail ahead of me? How often have I let other people influence my opinion of myself and tell me what I’m capable of? How many times have I missed seeing “Someone” right in front of me who would show me my real potential, if I just followed the example He set?
My hopefulness came from recognizing that God, through his Holy Spirit, is on this life journey with me. He wants to lead me and has made it possible for me to hear from Him through prayer and His word. He has put others on this same desert path with me who have received wisdom from Him that they will gladly share. I know by letting Him show the way and set the pace, I can bring glory to Him in ways I could never even imagine on my own.
And I was encouraged.
I think the next night I dreamed about a wild-eyed guy at the Secretary of State’s office who had 7-foot dreadlocks and told me his name was Verdunk Isthmus. I don’t know WHAT that was about.
Let’s be honest. If I wanted to hide, I wouldn’t stick a hundred hedge clippers in the ground and crouch behind them, I’d find a cave or a big rock and hunker down. If I wanted to protect my skull from fracture, I wouldn’t duct tape a bunch of putty knives to my scalp, I’d get a helmet.
Just like it makes no sense to use hedge clippers as a wall or putty knives as a hat, it makes no sense to reduce my prayers to a defensive tactic – a flurry of words to ward off doom – when they are intended to be a powerful connection with an Almighty God.
Sadly, I do this regularly.
Here’s an example: My daughter was having surgery one day last week and I asked everyone I could think of to pray for her. Neither her life nor her long term health was in danger, but you wouldn’t have known it by the way I was storming the gates of Heaven with my petitions. I was cowering before God, asking Him to protect her, calm her, make her recovery swift and complete. And I guess I was hoping that if enough people joined in and echoed my concerns, the numbers might impress Him and He might decide to act. Have you ever done that?
After the surgery, she was in pain for days and the only time I felt I could relax and not worry about her was NOT when I was praying – which would have been the good Christian approach – but when the doctor was with her and reassuring me she was healing just fine. I had faith that she was safe in the hands of the doctor but apparently I didn’t rest in the knowledge that she was even safer in the arms of the Great Physician.
I pray and pray about things, fearing that if I stop, things will get worse. It’s as if deep down, I don’t think I’m really going to get a positive answer from God; I’m just trying to hold disaster at bay. Do I think my volley of words-words-words can do that?
I frantically keep it up, repeating the same requests over and over. If I were of another faith tradition, I might be lighting candles, chanting mantras, or flailing myself with a stick. And I would be no more successful in personally controlling the outcome than if I said or did nothing.
My lack of faith astounds me. And even worse is the way my actions insult God by implying He isn’t good; that He can’t be trusted.
We use the term “prayer warrior”, because our prayers are an offensive weapon – against evil, apathy, and pain. Our prayers can DO something, not just KEEP something from happening.
I want to be humble in my prayers, accepting that the outcome of all I pray for is ultimately in God’s hands and that He is good. But I don’t want to be shrinking and sobbing, fearing the worst. I devalue my own prayers when I do that; I want to be confident that God is trustworthy.
I don’t think I’m alone in this dilemma, am I?
Every Friday I have a standing phone “date” with my Dad, always my go-to spiritual resource and mentor. I asked him what he thought about this . . . this apparent lack of faith, this weakness of mine. You know what he told me?
“Honey, the Devil can’t take away your eternal salvation- that is assured – but he can mess with your witness and make you miserable. He can make you doubt and worry and take your focus off God. That’s when you run into problems like this. Just keep your eyes on God. He’s always glad to hear from you, even when you’re wringing your hands. I’m sure He just wishes you wouldn’t worry about things He already has under control.”
That’s the key. Stop letting the Enemy get me in a ditch with his foot on my neck. Keep my focus on God, not on myself or my need to control things. Remember that my prayers are a strong connection to the One who has already won the battle and longs to comfort me, not a desperate deflecting tactic from a position of weakness. I have no reason to be fatalistic when I have all of Heaven on my side.
Can you relate to this? Feel free to weigh in with your comments below.