Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Putting on Skates

I have realized something, lately. The fear of failure is one of my biggest fears. It may be why I avoid doing. Not because I'm afraid of the actual task or project, but because I'm afraid that I won't be able to to it. That my efforts will be rejected or unappreciated or that what I've thought was right was completely wrong.

My girls are nine and eleven and just recently learned how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. As I watched them fall with frustration, count their bruises and continue going back for more, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Why hadn't we taught them sooner? Would they become adults who couldn't ride? Soon, they were riding without fear and even inspired their brother to do the same. 

Around that same time that they were learning to ride, my nine-year old was invited to a roller skating party for choir. Both girls wanted to go. They had never skated before and were eager - and anxious - to learn. I watched my oldest fall multiple times in her first attempt around the rink. That was all it took for her to quit. No more skating for her that night. However, E's story was different...because, she kept going. No matter how times she fell, it seemed as if she had something to prove. She was slow and mostly held onto the wall for support, but she persevered.

I am both of them. They are both me. There are some times when my fear of failure is so strong that it paralyzes me. Then, there are other times, when I count my bruises, grab onto the wall and risk failure because it makes the victory even more sweet.

Sometimes the fear of failure steals the beauty we were meant to create.
 If what we are called to do is in God's will for us, we truly can't fail...
we simply may not have the same meaning as God for the word "failure." 
To me, failure means it doesn't turn out the way I wanted it to. To God, it means I didn't pick up the brush.
-Angie Smith, What Women Fear

Several months ago, I felt God was calling me to pursue opportunities to write and speak outside my current sphere of influence and the boundaries I set had set for myself. I knew this idea was from God simply because it was risky and it was something I never would have thought of doing. Ever.

So, I sent an email to a local Christian camp, introducing myself and my calling. The first response was encouraging, but not exactly what I expected. I sent the required follow up documentation and then I waited. And, waited. Finally, at the beginning of July I sent a follow up email. Then, I waited some more. Yesterday, I received my answer. Thanks, but no thanks. That wasn't exactly what the email said - it was much more kind and eloquently written - but that's what I read. 

It is still fresh and I'm not exactly sure what I'm feeling. It was something I really didn't want to do, but felt God pushing me. Why? Was it because He wanted me to do it or because He just wanted to see if I was willing to try? Obviously, at this point I believe it was the latter. There is disappointment, but also relief. There is a sense of failure, but also of success.

Walking with God, following his lead, does not guarantee success. At least by the world's standards. There will be rejection. There will be failure. There may even be times when He asks you to put on your skates and then sit outside the rink, watching everyone else skate by. 

Your job, then is not to feel sorry for yourself, because you're not in the rink, but to support and cheer on your friends and fellow believers in their quest to make it around.

Because...that's right where God wants you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sometimes it's Good to be Crazy

I am afraid that if I don't write this post, my reflection on the book, 7, by Jen Hatmaker, I will forget all the wonderful insights into the spiritual discipline of fasting this book provided, and will also lose my motivation to participate in a life which removes the excess.

I tweeted this on Monday, "Reading @JenHatmaker makes me feel a little less crazy, yet leaves me wanting to be a little more crazy!"

Right now, I am extremely enthusiastic about some pretty crazy plans. Plans to start a garden - growing all of my own vegetables - pray at least seven times every day, reduce my food and media intake, give away many of my possessions, and spend less. I know I will not do all of these things. But, I do desire to live a more disciplined life. One that involves less stress, less consumerism and more time spent focusing on people and things that mean something, not just in this life, but for eternity, as well.

I have had 7 on my bookshelf for awhile. Honestly, I was avoiding it. I didn't want to feel convicted. I didn't want to want to make radical changes to my life. So, I waited. Until I had nothing else to read. Finally, the local library and my monthly budget conspired against me. None of the books I had requested from the library were available for check-out and I purchased two swimsuits this month, which left me no more spending money for books. A conspiracy, I tell you.

There 7 sat, waiting for me. I was afraid of it. Afraid of what I might do to my heart and afraid that it would cause me to make promises I couldn't keep. But, I couldn't just leave it there, unread.

Essentially, this book is about fasting. It's about making room for God by removing and simplifying. It is not a prescription for life, it is an example of discipline and humanness, daily renewal and success for eternity.

"I approach this project in the spirit of a fast:  an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God's movement in my life. A fast creates margin for God to move...A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves." (p.4)

As evidenced by previous posts related to fasting from food and/or drink and from blogging for a period of time, I have a growing love and appreciation for fasting. 7 was the perfect way for me to learn more. To get another woman's perspective. A woman who is also nearly forty, who is married and raising children. A woman who, for 30-days, only wore seven items of clothing. Now, that's discipline. In fact, when I told my 11-year old, she was shocked. "You mean, seven outfits?" she said. Nope, seven items of clothing, which included two pairs of shoes!

What will I do? How will I offer myself more completely to God? I'm not sure yet.

Currently, I have set seven alarms on my phone, so that I may attempt to observe the Seven Sacred Pauses, remembering to pray specifically for the oppressed, for a daily resurrection of my soul, for peace, and in gratitude and praise.

I would also really love to grow my own fruit and vegetables, in a garden. But, seeing that I cannot keep any plant alive, no matter how much I try, I don't know how realistic this is.

The success or failure of any of this is dependent on what God wants for me. I expect that more will be revealed to me as time passes. 

What I know now, is that I'm interested in mastering the art of less stress, less spending, less waste, which will make room for more of Him.

What about you? What's keeping you from hearing the voice of God?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Super Power

"If you could be any super hero, who would you be?" said the 11-year old. 

"I would be Wonder Woman...because she has an invisible jet," answered the six-year old. 

This was the beginning of a conversation I overheard yesterday, between my kids. I was surprised. First, that my son chose Wonder Woman as his super hero. 

Second, I wondered about the reason for his choice. You see, my children don't have the exposure to Wonder Woman that I had as a kid. They are not aware of her ability to jump over buses and onto buildings or about her extra-large, gold bangle bracelets that have the ability to deflect bullets. Their knowledge is limited to what they have recently seen in The Lego Movie. In that movie she has an invisible jet.

Why wouldn't he want to fly like Superman or have super-cool gadgets like Batman? 

This got me thinking...Does being invisible offer an advantage? Does the fact that it can't be seen give it more power? What kind of super power would I want? 

Maybe, I already have one.

Lately, many of my spiritual thoughts have been about the Holy Spirit. Honestly, for me, the Holy Spirit used to be something scary, yet unreachable. On one hand, I thought that if I listened to the Holy Spirit, it would mean that God would send me far away, to a foreign country. I also wondered if only super-spiritual or perfect Christians were allowed communion with the Holy Spirit. It was elusive and mysterious and it occurred to me that only a few chosen, special people got to feel or experience it's power. 

What I have been learning recently, however, is something very different. As I have been studying the books of John and Acts, God has been revealing to me many things about the Holy Spirit that I never knew before. About its purpose. About what God intended for the Holy Spirit to be in our lives.

What has been the most exciting to me is the discovery that the Holy Spirit is a gift for all believers. The gift of a teacher, helper, guide, and of power, truth, encouragement and peace. Knowing that the Holy Spirit is at work in my life, in all these areas, has made me more confident and willing to search for the greater works that Jesus described in John 14:12...

Even more impressive is the fact that the writer of Acts uses the term "poured out" to describe how the Holy Spirit is given to us. This literally means to bestow or distribute largely. This doesn't mean that I have a little bit of help or a small amount of power. It means that I have an abundance of it. And because of this abundance, this filling of the spirit, I am empowered to go, do and speak boldly in the name of Christ.
"The Spirit helps us, affirms we are God's, teaches us, even prays for us, 
leads us in what to do, and equips us with what we need to do it." 
- Jennie Allen, Anything

I serve an invisible God who has gifted me with the power of his Holy Spirit. That is good news. 

With it, I am equipped to start a Bible study, write a book, speak in front of a large group, invite my neighbor to church or pray with a friend in need. All because I have the power of Christ in me. 

It's the best super power.