Unanticipated Risks

risk

Over the weekend, Ruby handed me a permission slip. Seems her school would be making a trip to the capitol in Olympia in March. Since Shelton lies in the shadow of Washington’s state capitol, all the kids get to go, at least once.

As I filled in the blanks about Ruby’s particulars – name, rank, serial number – the phrase “unanticipated risks” jumped out at me. The elementary school wanted to be sure that we wouldn’t hold them liable if anything should happen to my child.

Unanticipated risks encompasses a lot of territory. Frankly, just getting up in the morning entails a certain amount of risk. You could stub your toe getting out of bed. The eggs lurking in your fridge could provide a nasty case of food poisoning. Your best friend could decide they like someone else a little bit better than you, and drop you like a hot rock. You might get downsized at work or hit by a bus when you stepped off a curb during lunch break.

So many things could go wrong in the course of a day, and even more in the course of a lifetime. While I can appreciate the school’s concern, I want to focus on all that can go right. What if Ruby learns about government and has a great time doing it? What if I stumble upon a new and delicious way to cook eggs? What if my best friends and I grow a little bit closer, God willing and the creek don’t rise? What if I get a promotion and the bus that could have hit me stops and picks me up instead?

Ultimately, my best insurance policy is trusting in God’s goodness and faithfulness. After all:  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

 

Jam Day

I didn’t write much last week for a number of reasons.

Here’s one

Not for the squeamish.

Not for the squeamish.

And another is that the week got crazy. As in, “Lunch hour, where art thou?” Between meetings and anti-harassment training, I was licked. So many protected classes these days, and Washington state is the leader in protecting the picked-on.  I figure pretty soon we’ll only be able to use sign language because our words will be considered too offensive.  Then again, perhaps we should stick to everyone’s health and the weather.

You might be wondering why my knee got all bunged up.  Well, I’ll tell you.  I was running in the early a.m. under cover of night.  I cut through a parking lot in order to avoid construction area and I fell.  Scraped my shoulder and jammed two fingers on my left hand

As I got up, I thought about quitting.  But I had a great pace going.  And I want to do well in the half marathon next month.  Which means line upon line, day after day of faithfully increasing by increments. I looked at my right hand. Blood oozed from a small abrasion on the palm. My pants had a hole in them where my right knee hit the pavement. Nothing broken.

I went on. Turns out the motor still ran and I finished well.

I contemplated going to the doctor.  I called but no appointments were available.

“You can always go to our walk-in clinic.  It opens at 11:00,” said the helpful scheduler.

Sitting around and waiting.  Hmm.  No thanks.

“Your finger’s not broken,” my engineering co-worker scoffed.

“You know what I’d do?

He smiled.

“I’ve got some duct tape in the back. I’ll tape your fingers together.  That’ll fix it.”

Uh, no thanks, MacGyver.

Now, 5 days later, my finger’s a little stiff but not swollen.  It took some time and patience.

Because even when you fall down, you can get back up.  I love running, and I believe it’s something I was born to do. Even if I mess up or get hurt, the gifts and abilities given to me remain the same. As much as I’d like to be perfect all the time, it’s simply not possible. I get discouraged.  It’s alright.  God’s purpose and love for me haven’t changed.

I will say the same to you:  get out and do what you were born to do.  If you fall, get back up.  Your Father will help you. You won’t even need duct tape.

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. – Romans 11:29

Embracing the Storms

A couple of weeks back, a guest speaker visited our church.  He spoke about the storms of life and how to embrace them.

“Every one of us is either going into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or just coming out of a storm,” he told us.

I’d never thought about it that way.  Some storms happen to us and some we bring on ourselves. He told us storms change us.  They become pivot points that change our direction and destiny.  When you enter a storm, know it will bring change somehow.

Yesterday, I found myself reliving some of my own personal storms.  Anyone who ever says Christians don’t experience regret is lying to you.  I’ve got plenty for things I’ve said and done. I’ve been brought to the end of myself more times than I can count.  What God brought to mind is that His plan has never been to destroy me or anyone else.  Not ever.  Storms reroute our lives.  They move us into a new direction and sometimes a new destiny.

Storm will pass…you’ll be ready for the next one…

The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 shows this.  The younger son takes his inheritance and squanders it on wild living.  When he runs out of friends and money – right about the same time – he finds himself humbled.  He returns home to a father who jumps up and runs to him.  All is forgiven.  Now, the young man deserved some kind of consequences for his selfish behavior, right?  He brought that storm of hunger and deprivation on himself.

But that’s not God’s heart.  Even if we bring the pain onto ourselves, He will restore.  He will continue to bring good out of bad circumstances.  He wants to be connected to us, simply because He loves us. He understands our limitations and like a good father, lets consequences teach.

I would encourage you to embrace the storms in your life.  Don’t be afraid of change.  Let it come.  Learn from it.  Let consequences teach, if necessary. Today, I can say I’m grateful for the storms of life – unemployment, broken relationships, loneliness, physical pain – because the Lord brings good out of it all.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

All Day Delight

12026012-shepherd-with-his-sheep-on-pasture

Today’s pre-service prayer included thinking about Jesus standing right next to us.  My good friend, who led the prayer time, read from the 23rd psalm.  What a great picture of God’s care for us, providing grass, refreshing water to drink and a place to rest.  He anoints my head with oil; my cup runs over…

Even more than that, the Lord impressed upon me how much He delights in us.  He made us.  He designed each one of us.  Our hair color, our eyes shape and tint, our height (or lack thereof).  He influenced all of that.  Yes, He used our parents’ genetic makeup to get a blueprint.  But even that, friends, was His plan.  He loves our laugh.  He adores our smiles.  We are, in short, the apple of His eye.

But do we believe it?  I’ve spent most of my conscious life living under condemnation.  I’ve written before about my especial affinity for self-flagellation.  I should have gotten a merit badge for it by now.  It’s that impressive.

Yet what a waste of time.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.Romans 8:1-2

Why do we keep living like God is going to swoop down with a heavenly fly swatter and give us a thunderous smackdown?  “Take that, mangy human!” Jesus took all those for us, on the cross.  If we repent, God forgives us.  It takes very little – only surrender – to get back on track. At times, we may need to make restitution to those we’ve wronged, sure.

We, who are weak and sinful, know how to give our kids good gifts.  We got Zac a new phone a couple years back.  He was blown away.  We got Ruby a sewing machine for Christmas.  The kids felt blessed that we knew them enough to get them things they like and would put to use.  Isn’t God so much more intimately acquainted with our needs and desires?  Doesn’t it tickle Him to paint a technicolor sunrise each morning and send rain when its needed?  Doesn’t He surprise us with friends dropping by when we need a lift?  Or maybe a piece of really rich, dark chocolate to soothe our spirits?

If He is more than able to bless and load us with benefits on a daily basis, why don’t we trust His goodness?  Perhaps our earthly fathers were, shall we say, less than patient with us.  Maybe they yelled a lot.  Maybe they withheld approval when it could have done the most good for our spirits.

God isn’t like that.  He withholds no good thing.  He has our best in mind each day, all the time. Let’s trust He will continue His good and perfect will for our lives.

Heart Lesson

broken-heartI woke up early this morning and ran four miles. The dark, foggy morning held a couple of walkers on the path. Otherwise, it was just me and my thoughts. It felt good to get outside and knock out the run. Now, the day is sunny and warmish. I saw crocuses popping up while out walking yesterday. Weird season, this winter.

Brothers and sisters, in the course of human events, someone will say something to you that crushes your spirit.  If you’ve been alive any length of time, you’ve experienced this.  You recognize our shared fallen reality. You know people are fallible. Their limitations cause them to snap at you, through no fault of your own.  Yet it hurts keenly and always comes out of nowhere.

The main school of thought I’ve heard is “don’t let it get to you.” But usually by the time I remember this gem, the incident has already penetrated my armor. The shaft is in deep. It stings. I pull on it, trying to yank it out, but it won’t budge. How to come back from this?

I find myself looking to forgive, because I have committed the same crime. I must give up the right to be offended and set the offender free. I pray and ask for more grace. Jesus loves to answer those prayers. We can’t ever get enough. Then I look to spread kindness. Usually, I won’t bring it up to the person, as that would only make it worse. But perhaps a hug, friendship permitting, or a little chocolate wouldn’t be amiss. I don’t want to live out of fellowship with anyone, if I’m able to mend fences.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18

Suddenly Bunny

While out for a walk this afternoon, I spied this rabbit.  No ordinary lapin, this one was all white with a ring around its right eye.  It grazed, unchecked, under the chilly afternoon sun.  No human save me watched its progress.  It didn’t dart away upon sensing me.  It simply kept on eating.

Bemused, I snapped a few photos.  I had heard a neighbor of ours kept a rabbit.  I just didn’t know they allowed it off-leash.  Of course, my bleepity phone wouldn’t upload said pictures.  But it looked a little something like this.

Photo by shutterstock...alas!

Photo by shutterstock…alas!

Every once in a while, something happens that you don’t expect.  It could be really good, like bonus checks in the mail or a visit from the chocolate fairy.  It could be bad.  Like a dent in your fender from an unknown assailant or a horrible breakdown in communication.

Obviously, if something wonderful happens, we rejoice.  It’s kind of a no-brainer.  We celebrate and get excited.  We might even break into a spontaneous interpretative dance. The bad things, however, often leave us flummoxed.  We didn’t see it coming.  We don’t know how to react now that it’s on our doorstep.  Should we run away, throw up or punch someone?  Choices, choices.

When bad things occur – and they happen to all of us – I try to remember a few things.  First, God is in control.  I don’t have to make all the decisions right now.  I can pray and hear His voice of direction and comfort.  Second, people and situations are rarely all black or all white.  We each have the potential to act in a cruel manner.  Conversely, we each have the ability to treat others with kindness and dignity.  We don’t write people off, only recognize their brokenness revealed in the set of circumstances. Third, I remember Romans 8:28:  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  I can’t change what happened, somehow undo the damage. It may take time for good things to arise out of pain.  But I know God is able to do it.

 

 

Seagull Session

The day dawned foggy but quickly became clear and bright.  The ocean, dreaming in the August sun, turned a deep blue.  We could see all the way to the horizon line, a navy border against a faraway backdrop of clouds. The blues faded from gray to purple.  Enchanted, I had to stop and drink in the indigo potion for awhile.

ocean 1ocean 2

We drove back from the beach yesterday afternoon.  Up for an adventure, we followed 101 back to Aberdeen and then home. The ocean flashed by on the left, twinkling with thousands of sunlight-stars on its breast.  As we drove over the bridge in Astoria, I happened to notice seagulls doing this. At first, they looked like white specks against the bright blue sea, bits of flotsam held in the ocean’s palm.  Then I figured out what they were.

Photo courtesy of crystalgraphics.com

Photo courtesy of crystalgraphics.com

Several of the sea birds just bobbed in the water.  They didn’t do anything.  They basked in the sunshine and rode the swells.  They didn’t fight to swim or to float.  They didn’t need to do anything. They simply…were. They rested on the sea’s great strength, letting it support them. It looked an awful lot like trust and peace. They knew their place of safety and their place in the world.

It reminded me of how we are more than conquerors in Christ.  We sometimes feel overwhelmed by life’s waves and storms.  We flail and strive and stress. But if we can learn to use them to our advantage to advance our faith and trust, we might get somewhere new. We can harness the power of the tempest and gain stronger faith.

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. – Romans 8:37
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