Oceans Deep

Finding & Following Jesus in the Deep End of Life

Month: February 2016

God & Politics

I know what you’re probably thinking: why on earth is the term “politics” appearing on this blog?

That’s because if you know me at all, you know how deeply I disdain politics and everything it entails. My heart recoils at political rhetoric and argument, primarily due to the nastiness that comes with politics in our twisted social media era.

If we could have a reasoned, respectful debate, then so be it … but that seems a near impossibility these days. Instead, we moralize our preferences, demonize the other side, and claim the sky is falling at every turn.

Because of my extremely diverse group of Facebook friends—that’s what happens when you’re from the South, you live in California, and you’re a law school grad—I see the full gamut of articles in my newsfeed.

Articles praising Trump as the “savior” of America.

Articles detailing why Trump will be the end of the world as we know it.

Articles praising Clinton or Sanders.

Articles claiming Clinton and Sanders are the devil incarnate.

And on and on they go. It’s basically the same catalogue of articles, just substitute in a different candidate’s name. It’s kind of astonishing to sit back and watch the variance in these impassioned, heart-felt beliefs. Amazing, right, how two people can look at the same thing and come away with diametrically opposed opinions?

Which is why I felt compelled to write—this post is for anyone, but I write in particular to my fellow believers in Jesus.

Folks, no politician is going to save us.

Ted Cruz is not our savior nor our enemy.

Donald Trump is not our enemy nor our savior.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders will single-handedly lay waste to our country.

There is not a single person running for office who will save us in the way we so long to be saved.

Please don’t misunderstand me, elections are important. I hate politics, but I always vote, and I always do my best to stay on top of current issues (as much as I can while trying to keep two tiny humans alive). As followers of Christ, we must be informed and present in our culture—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

All I would like to say is this: relax. In our election year fervor, we cannot forget Who is ultimately in charge and Who is running this whole show. We serve a God who is in control—always and forever.

Yes, our leaders have power to make important, critical decisions and set our country on a certain course, but we must remain mindful that they can only do what God wills and allows!

I am reminded of Daniel’s beautiful prayer in Daniel chapter 2. Far from home, enmeshed in a pagan society, and under the rule of a godless king, Daniel never waivered in his belief that God Almighty was still in control:

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning (Daniel 2:20-21 NIV, emphasis added).

Daniel knew that, even though Nebuchadnezzar was his earthly king, God was ultimately the one in charge. Daniel did not fret or freak out, even when his political climate called for his death on account of his belief.

Similarly, the prophet Isaiah recognized the sovereignty of God when he wrote:

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing (Isaiah 40:22-23 NIV, emphasis added).

Dear reader, God is not hamstrung by whoever wins this year’s election. He will not rejoice if Ted Cruz wins. He will not wring His hands if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins. Our Heavenly Father is in charge, and with each election and each current event, He’s working out His ultimate plan for this earth.

And you know what? Even if your “worst case scenario” happens, God is still working. Throughout the Bible, God used even pagan rulers and leaders to accomplish His purposes. Just look at Pharaoh, King Xerxes, King Nebuchadnezzar, and Pontius Pilate to name a small handful. The Lord will accomplish His purposes, no matter who sits in the Oval Office. That doesn’t mean the future will be easy peasy or smooth sailing—but it does mean that we can rest in God’s plan and provision for His children, no matter what.

So pray. Pray for our country. Spend less time bemoaning our current state and more time looking for opportunities to let Christ’s love shine in the midst of an ever-growing darkness. We’ve got to stop acting as though these human, fallen people are going to save us or ruin us. Because here’s a hint: the world is already ruined by sin! Only God can and will restore this world one day.

My heart aches when I see our deep divisions, hatred, and bias preventing us from seeing each other face-to-face and eye-to-eye, as fellow human beings. And in our staunch political rhetoric, I believe we sometimes cause more harm to the gospel message. In His day, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with a political question regarding taxes—yet Jesus refused to take the bait. He looked them straight in the eye and said Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21 NIV).

So, my friends, don’t take the bait. Pray, vote, keep loving your neighbor as yourself—regardless of what political sign rests in his front yard—and above all, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, our one true God and King. Our world is broken, but one day He will make it all right, as only He can.

And may God bless America!

O Lord, God of our Fathers, are You not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in Your hands, and no one can withstand You … we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You (2 Chronicles 20:6, 12 NIV).

Waiting Well

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty crummy when it comes to waiting. I despise long lines, long cooking times, and basically any type of long wait. Our “on demand” society hasn’t helped me out in this area, as I’m guessing it hasn’t helped you, either.

Unfortunately, waiting plays a starring role in the life of faith. Following Jesus could oftentimes be described as a “hurry up and wait” kind of walk. The process of refining hearts and capturing minds is a slow one, and one that is occurring essentially every day that we live and breathe on this planet.

It’s funny how God often works: so much of what I’ve been reading and studying lately deals with faith and how walking faithfully with God is a daily, hour by hour walk. Our path is lit just enough to see the next step. Jesus says follow me—but not to where or to what purpose. We rely on God for guidance in the day ahead, not worrying about tomorrow and borrowing trouble from future days (see Matthew 6:34).

When I’m reading and meditating, it all makes perfect, lovely sense. It spreads out before me like a mesmerizing dance of Jesus and follower, and my heart cheers out yes!

When the rubber hits the road? Not so much. I find this slow dance excruciating at times and sometimes downright maddening as I squint my eyes to see past the step in front of me … is there a sign in the darkness ahead? Can I figure out a way through the fog?

I’ve written a little before about our son’s speech disability and how each week we’re in 3 days of some type of therapy or focused work on his speech. We’ve been at it now for about 6 months, and as the weeks go by, it’s becoming clear to me how desperately I longed for this to be a quick, easy “fix.” Just a few months of therapy and **poof** the problem is gone!

That is, however, not the case. Isaiah has done tremendously well in therapy, making a great deal of progress for which we are so thankful … but it’s painfully clear that we still have a long road ahead of us. When I step back and take in the big picture, my heart sinks at how much farther we have to journey this road. What’s harder, I have no idea how long the journey will last. I sense the powerful grip of fear around my throat—which typically sends me to Googling and reading all kinds of articles (which, let’s be honest, usually turns out to be a bad idea). No therapist or article or even other mom’s experience can tell me what my child’s experience will look like.

Every fiber in my being wants to know the answer and the outcome. Every cell cries out for assurance that everything will be OK. The soft, small flame lighting just the step or two in front of our path seems woefully inadequate, and the mom in me wants to crawl out of my skin in search of something to make it all better.

In these moments, it feels as though the waiting threatens to break me apart. I am convinced that my here and now could not possibly be as good as my there—wherever “there” may be.

Yet the problem with this attitude is that it causes me to lose sight of all God is doing in my here. God is always, always working—in us, through us, around us, for us, and for the benefit of others. Learning to wait well is a crucial link in the walk of a Jesus follower, as it is only in the waiting that we will grow and stretch and learn and emerge from the refiner’s fire equipped and prepared to be a part of God’s work.

My friend, I’m afraid there is no way around the waiting: faith requires it of us. God teaches and blesses us through it—if we can only sit still, hold on, and endure the gnawing madness of our own desire to predict and control outcomes … outcomes which, truth be told, we could never predict or control anyway, despite our heartiest blue ribbon efforts.

What would it look like to wait well? To persevere through frustrating or painful circumstances while holding onto our assurance of things hoped for and standing firmly rooted in the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)?

In the fleshing out of all this waiting, I am reminded and drawn to a beautiful, familiar passage in Isaiah:

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV).

In the excruciating game of waiting, these verses hold the key: hope in the Lord. This hope—this choosing to hope—paves the path to the supernatural strength required to continue waiting, day and week and year after year, until the story is told. Until the answer comes—perhaps the one we desired, perhaps the one we didn’t.

The amazing truth is that, while all this waiting threatens to weigh us down and drag us into the depths, God provides a way in which we can soar. We can run, skip, and walk calmly while we wait and hope in Him, knowing that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV).

What are you waiting for today? A job? A spouse? A child? Physical healing? Relational healing? A better season of life overall? Let me challenge you, as I challenge myself, to wait with hope and assurance that God is faithful, even when we don’t have the answer. Even when there is no roadmap or plan of action. Even when all is pitch black beyond the one step in front of us.

We have no idea what hangs in the balance while we wait, what lessons must be learned, what character must be forged, what puzzle pieces God must move into place as only He can. There is so much good to be gleaned in the here, while we’re waiting to arrive there.

So practice waiting well, my friend—and enjoy the eagle’s view.

Embracing the Slow Burn

I recently read an article on motherhood about the concept of developing our “second bests.” It’s a fantastic article, and I highly recommend you read it!

I’d never heard this concept before, but it resonated greatly with me in this season of manic mothering. The topic came from G.K. Chesterton’s Emancipation of Domesticity, where he said that a woman who has made the home her domain “may develop all her second bests.”

At this statement, I both recoiled and nodded my head in agreement. The pre-motherhood me fights against this idea and wants to steamroll my way through life, doing everything I did before plus mother my children.

The me of today lets out a sigh of co-mingled frustration and relief as I think about all the times this week I’ve tried to sit down and write. All the times I opened my computer, only to hear the dryer buzz, or my son’s cries, or my daughter’s strong-willed insistent wail, decrying nap time.

And then there were the times when the house was fairly quiet and still, and yet all I had the energy to do was plop down on the couch and watch television.

Not the most productive use of time, I’d chide myself—yet that internal scolding didn’t stop me from pressing “next episode” every time the option presented itself. Thank you, Netflix!

Second Best or Second Rate?

I enjoyed the perspective in the above-mentioned article, but I couldn’t help but think about those times when even our “second bests” feel second rate at best or non-existent at worst.

Currently, I’d say I’m in a holding pattern characterized by this. What little modicum of free time I might have to devote to my second bests is, more often than not, hijacked by the demands of my first and most important calling. I know I’m not the only one, as all you mamas are sure to relate!

God has been keeping my feet to the fire lately on account of this issue and revealing just how selfish I truly am when it comes to my time. My toddlers like to stomp their feet and yowl when they don’t get to do what they want, when they want—and just when I’m nearly overcome with frustration at their behavior, I’m struck with the realization that this is exactly what my heart does when my own plans are interrupted.

I may not stomp around on the outside, but my insides are throwing themselves down and setting up for a little pity-party. It’s humbling to admit that, but it’s simply the truth.

Sacrificial Dance 

The recent frustration in pursuing my second bests has brought me back to a basic but challenging truth: my time is not my own. As a child of God, I am not the one ultimately calling the shots—time is in His Hands, and what time He has given me will only be productive and fruitful if given right back to Him.

Placed on the altar of self and burned up. Spread out before Him with palms open and relaxed.

This is an all-at-once scary and liberating place in which to arrive: giving up all of your minutes and hours to Him, allowing Him to use them for His glory—even when it jacks up your own ideas and to-do lists.

As His earthly ministry began to wind down, Jesus spoke the following words to His disciples:

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24-25 NIV).

Death. Sacrifice. Not exactly fun or cheery topics, but crucial to the life of faith—and to finding and fulfilling both our first and second bests.

The Slow Burn

In this stage of life, writing can, for me, only be a second best. And that is perfectly fine.

As mothers, our children are God’s greatest call and gift to us, and I think we’d all agree that in the heat of this refining fire, there’s no better use of our time than pouring ourselves into the molding, shaping, and loving of our babies.

And while on long weeks and even longer days it may not feel as though this is a phase, make no mistake—it most certainly is. Our frantic, consuming mothering will not continue in perpetuity. Our babies will grow and flourish and break away as they should (breaking our hearts in the process, I’m quite certain). And when that day comes, there will be time for that which there is no time now.

So in the meantime, I’m learning to embrace the slow burn of my second best of writing. All these ideas, all these characters, all these stories burning inside me are burning slowly, marinating on low on the back burner. Out of the way and quietly simmering, they fill up the spaces of my mind with delicious, intoxicating scents.

In the art of cooking, the process of simmering infuses rich, deep flavor, the type that cannot be captured through a quick, rough boil. So in this season, I think of my writing life as an old, Italian grandmother’s famous tomato sauce, burning ever so slowly on an old stove top until time has served its purpose by creating something delightful.

What about you? What hopes, dreams, and goals are simmering hotly on the back burner of your life? We were all women first, before we became mothers—individuals with God-given talents and desires. Perhaps in this season, those desires are relegated to the back of the line … but it’s important to remember and acknowledge their presence. They are a part of you, just as much as your children are a part of you.

Whatever your dream, don’t fear the slow burn. Don’t fear the relinquishing of your hours and will into the capable Hands of God. The magical mixture of time, trial, and perseverance—simmering and gradually thickening on the back burner—will one day result in a beautiful concoction that only a loving Creator God could craft.

And I’m quite certain it will be worth the wait.

 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

 

Unseen

Hello readers! Today’s topic applies to anyone, but this week, I’ve been particularly burdened for my fellow mamas—and I have to ask you a tough question:

Do you ever feel unseen?

I know I sure do, and I’ve especially struggled with this lately. Life has turned into a busy and predictable fixed routine. With speech therapy three days a week and all the other weekly necessaries that must get done, our days are pretty well planned out. And it’s the same thing every week.

As moms, we certainly know what that’s like—all day, every day, it’s a never-ending list of wash, rinse, and repeat.

I suppose you can say the same for most any job, yet many of the tasks of a mom aren’t inherently exciting: fixing meals, cleaning up meals, doing laundry, putting said laundry away (most of the time), doing it again before you turn around, picking up toys, breaking up fights, kissing boo boos, etc. etc. etc.

The steady hum of this routine has lulled me into a bit of staleness, and the enemy has used it to worm his way into my heart with his same old tired lies. None of these lies are new, so it’s been quite the reminder that we must be ever-vigilant when it comes to dwelling on the truth of who God is and who we are in Him. The Christian walk isn’t a “one and done” thing, unfortunately!

Uncovering the Lies

This week, I began a new bible study—Experiencing God—and in just one short lesson, God has shaken me up and gotten my attention (Praise Him!). With gentle conviction, He revealed how I’d unwittingly fallen yet again into the trap of thinking that, because what I do is quiet, routine, and sometimes monotonous, it therefore isn’t important.

That these quiet days can’t be exciting days.

That they can’t be used by God in big ways.

That they are unseen and thus somehow less important.

The enemy loves to whisper his version of sweet nothings into my ear: If only you were going to work at a hospital like Aaron, then your days would be important and meaningful. Then you could have an impact.

Isn’t it amazing how we can believe such things while not even consciously aware of the fact? Yet our beliefs determine our actions and our attitudes. So it wasn’t any wonder that I felt tired, flat, and distanced from God in recent weeks.

Instead of beginning each day with fresh expectancy of what God had planned, I viewed my scheduled days with fatigue. And rather than opening up my palms and saying, Lord, what is Your will for me this day? I simply assumed I knew everything there was to know about the day ahead.

I didn’t see God working in big and exciting ways because I wasn’t giving Him room to work. God longs to dazzle us, yet we must bring the full force of faith in order to be dazzled.

You Are Seen

Dear friends, if you—like me—are in need of a reminder, then let me shout it out to you in love: you are seen! You are loved. Your daily, monotonous tasks on behalf of your children, family, and loved ones are seen and recorded by your Heavenly Father. Absolutely nothing escapes His vision!

And all that hard, hamster wheel-like work that you do on a daily basis?

It matters!! It matters in the here and now, and it matters in eternity. Motherhood is often referred to as a “high and holy calling,” and it most certainly is—high, holy, and hard as the dickens some days.

Genesis 16 tells us the story of another mother who once felt unseen—unseen, unloved, unappreciated, and downright oppressed. As Hagar fled from her circumstances, verse 7 says that The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert (NIV).

God called Hagar to return to her difficult circumstances, but not before He blessed her and the child in her womb. In verse 13, she gives us one of my favorite names of God:

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13 NIV).

The same is true today for you and for me.

The same God who saw and blessed Hagar sees us and stands ready to bless us as well—provided we walk in His truth and His will for us, no matter how challenging or repetitive or stressful or quiet it may be in a given season.

Moving Forward in Joy

Sweet, fellow mamas, the entire point of this post is to encourage you to keep going and to ask God to reveal the lies you’ve been believing about your own motherhood journey. I pray that He will give you fresh, new eyes to see the importance and depth and weight of your calling.

If you’re feeling tired and run down and underappreciated and overworked—know that we serve a God who sees us and loves us. Even if your days are fixed and play out like a scene from Benji (e.g. the same scene of the same dog running in the same way), don’t ever forget that He has a will and a plan for each day of your life, and your work matters a tremendous amount.

Our biggest call as Christians is to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19 NIV)—and our children are our foremost, important future disciples! The progress is so slow … but like water cutting a path through rock, one day our eyes will behold the results.

So stay strong, mamas! Keep the faith, persevere through the mundane and the highs of parenting, and cherish those precious little ones entrusted to your care for a time. And because we’re all in this together, let’s not forget to encourage one another along the way by being generous with our words and support.

As you embrace the wonder of loving and shepherding your children, may the Holy Spirit breathe fresh inspiration, joy, and pep into your step!

 

 

 

 

 

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