Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Finding Hidden Treasures (aka Arthritis in your Armpits!)

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” – Isaiah 45:3

A few years ago, while on a camping trip with my daughter, I learned a new game called geocaching. Similar to a scavenger hunt, you use a global positioning system (GPS) to find a hidden “cache” of treasure. The difference between the two games, however, is that with geocaching, you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. All you know is that it will be in a container of some kind, and that it will be located at certain coordinates on the GPS. The treasure itself is a surprise.

I have noticed, in my journey with God, that life can sometimes be like geocaching. We are looking for something – our purpose, a new direction, or perhaps a specific answer to prayer – but we aren’t sure exactly what we will find.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Confidence Crisis: Two-step or Trust?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

I stared at the article in front of me. The photo of a kayaker gliding across smooth open water towards the setting sun caught my eye. It wasn’t the beautiful picture holding my gaze, however. It was the words. The utterly…beautiful…words.

Every month, I look forward to the day Texas Highways magazine arrives in my mailbox. Unlike the numerous other magazines I subscribe to, which end up largely unread in stacks on my coffee table, this one almost always gets immediately devoured. I want every detail of its content…where to go, what to do, and how to get there. If the stories involve nature or food, even better. And if there is anything at all on kayaking, well, you know I’m going to read it!

Opening up the pages of my favorite travel magazine yesterday didn’t generate the usual excitement, though. In fact, reading it didn’t make me happy at all. Right there, in the middle of the page, was the most beautiful, poetic writing I had ever read. Its effect? A crisis of confidence. One as strong as the one I felt when I changed my college major, after comparing my high school art project to that of the art teacher’s protégé. If I have to compete with artists like that, I concluded, I will never make it!

If I look back at my career, I can see that every change I ever made began with a crisis of confidence. Can I manage to make these advertising deadlines, or should I become a teacher instead? Am I really inspiring these students, or should I go back into advertising? Can I make it in this job, or should I go out on my own? Can I make it on my own, or should I go back into the corporate world?

Two steps forward, one step back; back and forth, forth and back. Embarrassingly, this two-stepping pattern has been going on for decades.

Fortunately, most of the moves I have made over the past 15 years or so were ones that did indeed push me forward. But what about the moves that pushed me back? The ones in which I had dreams I cowered away from out of fear of failure? The ones in which I tiptoed into new territory, only to be frightened away by giants in the land who were bigger than me?

Even worse, how about the ones where I moved boldly in a new direction, staking my claim, announcing my new identity, only to be found floundering a few months or years into it… Then someone asks, “Hey, didn’t you say you were going to …?” Oh yeah, that. Um. Nevermind.

At church over the last few weeks, we have been studying the life of Abraham. What a man of faith. I wish I could say I was more like him. Unfortunately, I suspect I’m more like his wife.

“Ha ha ha, yeah, a baby at my age?? Mmm hmm … right,” she scoffed.

God didn’t like that too much.

I imagine he probably doesn’t like it too much when I scoff at His plans for me too.

“Ha ha ha, yeah, you want me to scale back my corporate writing to write more about You?  Mmm hmmm … right,” I scoff.

Just like Sarah had all of her facts lined up about why she didn’t need to get pregnant at age 80-something – uh, hello God, I already had a son through my maidservant, and in case you didn’t notice, I’m waaay past menopause and am not even sure me and Abe are up for “making it” happen! – I have all of my excuses ready for God too.

Um, hello God, don’t you see those other writers out there? Look at them! They are artists – I’m just a techie. They’re young, while I’m in the second half of life. And did you not notice my busy parenting schedule? Like I have all this extra time and energy to invest in a brand new career track…and did I mention needing income? C’mon, Lord, how is this going to work, anyway?

So often, we hear God calling, telling us how He wants to work through us. But just like Sarah must have felt when she was told she was really, finally going to bear a child, sometimes the prospect of God’s big dream-come-true plan is as scary as it is exciting. And so we scoff.

The longer I live, the more I pray to be less like Sarah and more like Abraham. He may have laughed when God told him he was going to have a son with Sarah – and no doubt, he was as shocked as she was – but he didn’t scoff. He had journeyed long enough with God to trust Him, and as a result, was able to laugh with delight at God’s promise.

It’s not as if Abraham had never had a crisis of confidence. Just as I zigzagged along in life, as a result of my own hesitations and lack of patience, Abraham too had moments where his faith waivered and he took matters into his own hands. And just like me, he found those decisions didn’t always end well. But God is good. He gives us second chances. This time, when God asked him to trust, Abraham decided to actually do it. If God wanted to use him, even with all of the limitations he and Sarah saw working against them, he would do what he was told and let God do the rest.

It comforts me to know the Bible is full of stories in which even the biggest heroes of the faith were used by God, despite their lack of confidence in themselves. They didn’t believe they could be used by God because they only saw themselves through human eyes. But God saw them through a much bigger lens.

God didn’t care that Sarah and Abraham were old, or that Moses had a speech impediment, or that Peter was just a fisherman. God used them all – ordinary people – for big, wonderful, God-glorifying things. A great nation. A freed people. The foundation of His church. All they had to do was trust His lead … and follow.

I heard someone once say that God doesn’t call us to the possible; He calls us to the impossible. Why? Because if it were easy, we could do it all by ourselves. God assignments are always bigger than we are.

Scoffing isn’t the answer. God is going to do what He is going to do, regardless of our attitude. It’s a matter of whether we’re going to go along with him kicking and screaming, like Jonah (we know how well THAT turned out) or if we’re going to go along like Abraham did, laughing with delight. We may have no clue as to how we are going to get to where God is taking us, but we might as well just get on board, buckle our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

I have a ways to go before my words look as beautiful on paper as the ones I read in Texas Highways. It may also take me awhile to reach all the people I’d like to share my God stories with. But that’s OK. It will happen. One day. And in between here and there, if I have a crisis of confidence, I’ll choose a different response than I have before. I may not fully believe in myself, but I can trust Him to believe in what He is doing in me. No more zigzagging down the journey of life. My two-stepping days are gone. Instead, I’ll just be trusting God to move me forward in this dance called life. He can lead. I will follow.

What are you trusting God for today? Do you believe in yourself? If not, can you trust in God to believe in you? What is holding you back from following where He is leading you?

Confidence Crisis: Two-step or Trust? originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday. This week, I am also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Dawn at Journeys in Grace, as well as with Lori Schumaker.

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