Tag Archives: Moses

What kind of neighbor are you?

Do you know your neighbor? Do you? Do you know what’s going on in his world? Do you know the difficulties she faces? If they were in an emergency situation, could they come to you and ask you to watch their daughter for a couple of hours?

wilson_fencePerhaps you say hello when you walk your dogs in the morning.

Perhaps, when you meet across the mailboxes in the afternoon, you chat casually.

But do you know your neighbor?

I can’t say that I really do. As I get ready to leave this home I have lived in for three and a half years, I find myself convicted. I don’t know my neighbors–not really. We’re friendly. We say “hi” and “how are you,” but with the exception of one (and I’m so glad we became friends, Tianna!), the truth is, I’d be hard pressed to tell you their names.

Shame on me!

My whole life I have dreaded living what I have coined the “treadmill existence.” To me, this is the daily grind. We wake, we go to work, we come home, we sleep, we wake, we go to work . . . over and over again.

To avoid this, I thought I needed to do something exciting. I needed to live overseas and be a missionary. Or I needed to be a best selling author. Or I needed to find something other than this ordinary, soccer mom (or in my case football/gymnastics mom) existence.

Ironically, God seemed to determined to keep me in that soccer mom sort of existence–and if so, either he was okay with the treadmill existence–or (much more likely) I was missing something!

No, huge surprise here, but I now realize, I had it all wrong.

themostinterestingmanintheworld_1426The treadmill existence is not about the job we do or where we live. It’s not about a great list of accomplishments or a wall full of awards.  You don’t need to be the Dos Equis’ most interesting man alive to get off the treadmill.

It is about our mindset. It is about seeing the opportunity for the divine, for change, for influence in every moment.

Perhaps it’s a little easier for me to see this than most. Being a psychology professor, I see how the impact of what I teach has the possibility to change lives, and it transforms the way I look at those moments in the classroom. They are loaded with possibility, potential. What I say today has the potential of altering the course of a life (in a positive way, or possibly, even in a negative way–very humbling thought!)

But the truth is, every moment of our lives is filled with that same potential.

7089479-business-woman-rushingThe other day, I was cleaning up after my work out at the gym. I was in a hurry. I was running late for a conference call, and I needed to get ready to meet one of my friends for a night out. Just as with my neighbors, though I’m friendly with several people at the gym, I don’t really know anyone by name or well, so nothing should have gotten in the way of my mad dash for the door.

But there was this woman, a woman I had never seen before. And she sighed. Not just the “I’m tired” sigh. Not the, “this has been a really long week sigh.” No, this sigh was something different, and I couldn’t resist commenting on the weight of her sigh.

She responded that her workout had knocked her on her butt.

I made some comment about that being the sign of a good workout.

despairTo which she responded, “No, you don’t understand. It literally knocked my on my ass. I have MS. This is my therapy, and I can’t even do it.” And she sat down and started to cry.

I didn’t know this woman. If not for my inane comment about her sigh, I would have walked right on past, and never known the despair that was eating her up inside. I would have made my conference call, hung out with my friend, and this woman would have left with her burden of despair still firmly on her shoulders. Instead, I found myself with an opportunity of helping a fellow human being. It was time to get off the treadmill.

I didn’t know this woman, but I knew her pain. And I knew that I needed to stay and listen, and offer what comfort I could, conference call be damned!

That moment was one of possibility. It was an opportunity to be God’s hands’ extended. And I could easily have missed it.

How many times have I missed those moments, caught up in the hustle and bustle of the treadmill life, the relentless daily grind? How often, with my eyes focused at the task at hand, have I missed the divine, the chance to get off the treadmill, and to make a real difference in someone’s life?

Too often I fear.

Which of my neighbors has cried out to God for help? And I could have been part of the answer. Who has needed to know that they aren’t alone, but I’ve been too wrapped up in my own world to see?

I despised the treadmill existence, and yet I have had opportunity to get off that treadmill,  time and time again, but I have been too blind to see the opportunity.

In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg put it this way:

sonrise-burning-bushAnd Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” Everything turned on Moses’ being willing to turn aside–interrupt his daily routine to pay attention to the presence of God. He didn’t have to. He could have looked the other way, as many of us would. He would have just missed the exodus, the people of Israel, his calling, the reason for his existence. He would have missed knowing God. But he didn’t miss it. He stopped. He “turned aside.”

I don’t want to miss the reason for my existence. I don’t want to miss my calling because I can’t see what’s right in front of me.

I need to live my life in this way. I need to have my eyes open so that I see the burning bush moments, the moments when I get to be the arms, and the voice, of God.

I need to get off the treadmill.

And it starts with seeing.

Seeing our neighbors and their pain. Seeing our coworkers and their struggles. Seeing the needs of our community and stepping out of our daily grind enough to be the one to meet those needs.

Our society, according to a recent gallup poll, is one third Christian. Nine out of ten Americans say they pray everyday. And yet, we are notoriously bad about living with our heads in the sand, being too consumed with our own lives to see the struggles of those around us.

handsThis is what Jesus means by reaching the lost–and most of us are failing.

It is time for us to embrace our purpose. To see that each moment is heavy with possibility. To get our heads out of the sand, and to see.

Will you join me?

We don’t want to miss our burning bush–because that is what it’s all about.

 

Father knows Best–and it’s time we start believing it

My son is 12. (any of the parents of difficult tweens out there, you felt the sympathetic wince that statement elicits)

angry-teen-boy-350Yep, he’s twelve–and it’s been baptism by fire.

You see, he’s our first, and our most difficult. And this year has been hard.

I was a teacher, now am a professor, and I have a graduate degree in Psychology, so I should have been ready for everything this year and this stage were going to unload on me–right?

Sadly, no.

I have been pushed to the limit of my parenting skills and my psychology skills. It’s just been plain hard.

You see, my son is hard-headed (that’s the understatement of the century!) He might only be twelve, but he thinks he knows better than everybody else. And the kid has always known what he’s wanted and has had the stubbornness and tenacity to go after it. The combination of these two traits has been a nightmare.

That was unacceptable behaviour, young man

In one of our most recent battle of the wills, we tried another tact. Instead of addressing Gavin’s behavior (which was mean, spiteful, and disrespectful), we addressed it’s effectiveness.

We pointed out that his approach was not meeting and gaining his objective. In other words,

“You’re not getting what you want when you act this way! So why not change your behavior, and see if that gives you the pay out you’re looking for?!!”

I wish that my son would choose to do the right thing, because it is the right thing. That’s what I want, but sadly, he’s not there–yet.

But when we pointed out that what he considers his shortcut, is not only not a shortcut, but is preventing him from the desired end all together, he finally started paying a little bit of attention.

As I explained to him that my desire is not to hurt him, but to ensure his well being and his happiness…when I explained that we correct his behavior because we see and know more, and that he just needs to trust us, even if he doesn’t see how it makes sense or why it should work that way…I couldn’t help but see the correlation to my own relationship with God.

We know where we want to go. We see what we want.

And we see the quick route–the direct route–to our destination.

But most of the time, that’s not the route we find ourselves on. We find ourselves on what appears to be a circuitous route, one that sometimes seems to go backwards, wanders to rabbit trails, and even sometimes seems to end in dead-ends. Much of my life I have felt like Moses wandering around in the desert, knowing where I need to be, but unable to get there. Or like David, the anointed King of Israel who, instead of ruling as was his right, finds himself moldering in a cave for years.

long-winding-road-p92b_saint_gothard_pass_switzerlandWhen there is a disconnect between the life that is, and the life that we feel like we should be living, we become confused, disgruntled,  angry, and often bitter.

“Why, God? Why?” we rail.

He gives us the dream, He sets our path, but instead of the path leading to our expected destination, we find ourselves in the desert, or hidden in a cave, forgotten, moldering away into anonymity.

I’ve had lots of these moments in my life. Moments when it seems like God stopped listening, stopped caring, and certainly stopped guiding.

But as I talked with Gavin, I was convicted.

That was the child’s response, and I am not a child. It is time to put away childish things.

Just as I am asking Gavin to trust that my way is better, I need to trust that God’s way is better.

Just as I tell my son that I am looking at the big picture that he cannot know, I need to trust that God is seeing the big picture that I cannot see.

This place, where I’m at, this isn’t what I wanted. Or at least, this was not the way I wanted it to be.

I thought I’d be much farther by now.

Next year I turn 40. By 40, I thought I would be established.

I’m not.

I have a fledgling writing career.

I am an associate professor, not a tenured one.

I’m not in the ministry.

My goal to change the world and help people in some large way, has translated into a much smaller sphere of influence than I anticipated.

And it’s taken me almost 40 years to get here.

But, I think I’ve been missing the point.

I’m a writer and a professor, and that’s what I always wanted to be.

And occasionally, God has used me to touch a few, not as a missionary, not in some defined role, but as I rub shoulders with people in my daily life.

waysThe road was not the road I would have chosen, but, I have to believe, it was the road I was meant to take–the road I needed to take. God sees the big picture, the destination and the necessary journey.

It’s time I started giving God the trust He deserves. I need to have faith in a Father who loves me and who knows more, sees more, than I do.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Today is not filler–so why do we treat it as if it is?

I have spent a lot of time lately reflecting the course of my life.

dreamerWhether it is the fact that 40 is quickly approaching (like a Mack truck ready to hit me head on) or whether it is listening to the dreams and aspirations of my students as they neared the end of their high school journey or perhaps it is the reality of my own children who are leaving childhood behind one by one to enter this new world of tween-ness and adolescence–whichever of these is the catalyst, I have found myself reflecting in depth my early dreams, where I thought I would go, and where I instead am, and where it is I want to go from here.

outlineI had a plan, and that plan is most certainly not where I am. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, had a lot of unique experiences. I’ve traveled the world, mothered orphans, taught basic hygiene in remote villages. I’ve had a daughter of my own, loved her unconditionally, and a year later buried her in the cold, hard earth. I have counseled the mentally ill, talked the suicidal down from the ledge, and tried to help the abused piece their lives back together. I’ve taught little children, and big children–and changed a few of them forever. I have done lots of things, but none of these is what I planned to do.

By my own measuring stick of success, I should have been living internationally for a couple of decades by now. Whether Saipan (as we first intended) or China (plan number 2) or somewhere else entirely, I should not have been stateside, living in suburbia. So, despite all I have done, all I have not done weighs heavily on me. The road I was to have taken has not been taken, and with that comes a measure of failure, a sense failed opportunity that begs me to ask, why? Why has my life gotten so off course? Why do I find myself here, when I was supposed to be there? Why does my life today not look how I pictured it oh so many years ago?

I think we all go through these moments and these struggles, and though I am far from having all the answers, I am slowly, over the decades, piecing together an answer with help from many others.

angryThere is a disparity between where I am now, and where I feel I should be. It makes me by turns angry, frustrated, or depressed. Sometimes God Himself takes the brunt of these emotions–why has He allowed this? Why does He not do something? At other times I turn them on myself–what is wrong with me? Am I weak and undisciplined? Can I not hear the voice of God? Or sometimes they turn on fate itself–why is the world against me? Fate has conspired to keep me from my path! Regardless of who I focus this angst on, the reality is that the angst is there, it is real, and at times it is palpable.

I don’t like being angst ridden, and I don’t like not having answers (though I have consigned myself to sometimes not getting them) so I have spent a long time wrestling with the whys, and I think I’m beginning to piece together part of the why.

Patience. It is something that I have always lacked. Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today? (That’s not to say that I don’t have a procrastinating streak a mile wide for the things I don’t want to do)

looking-outI have always struggled with being content in the now. I am a mountain top person. I am always looking ahead for the next mountain to climb. As soon as I get to the top of my current mountain, I am ready to tackle the next one. I am always looking ahead–restless.

It so happens that my son is the same way, and in watching him, I have understood myself better. No matter how good the moment, Gavin is always thinking ahead to the next moment. He seems to lack the capacity to take each moment and get the most out of each of them, because he is not focused in the now, but in the tomorrow. And how much he misses because of it!

As I have watched my son, I have begun to understand what it is I’m doing. I look at my now too often as a filler, something to get through so I can get to the next big moment. And the twenty years since my dreams were derailed, have often been just that to me in a lot of ways–filler.

There is a little book called “Anonymous” by Alicia Britt Chole that I have read and re-read many times over the last few years. I have found myself drawn back to this book in my recent reflections, and I found myself hit anew by several of the things she says:

What grows in that underestimated gap between God’s calling and others’ perceptions, between our true capabilities and our current realities? Most of us struggle if our dreams are delayed one year, let alone twenty! We find God’s pauses perplexing. They seem to be a waste of our potential. When those pauses extend beyond what we can comprehend or explain (say, for instance, three days), we often spiral into self-doubt or second-guessing…Father God is neither care-less nor cause-less with how he spends our lives. When he calls a soul simultaneously to greatness and obscurity, the fruit–if we wait for it–can change the world.

This is a truth that I’m trying to wrap my mind around. The journey in getting somewhere is at least as important as getting there. The journey is what changes me, and makes me into an individual who is capable of doing what I’m supposed to do, and the journey is full of friends and moments that are worth having, that can be life altering.

shepherd-sheepI think of Moses. He had a destiny–to free the Israelites from slavery. He knew his objective, so, one day, he sees an Egyptian beating a slave and he thinks to himself, “This is my opportunity!” and he kills the Egyptian, and in so doing he thinks he will begin the revolution that will free his people–only it didn’t. In fact, instead, he had to flee (what to his mind probably felt like abandoning his people all together–not to mention his destiny) and live in virtual obscurity for the vast majority of his life. He was living in the gap–in the place of disparity between what is, and what he thinks should be.

Were all those years wasted years? They probably often felt that way to Moses. Was Moses wrong about his calling? Absolutely not. But he was wrong about the timing.

There are moments in our lives when we feel like Moses. When we feel as if we have failed our dreams, we have lost our destiny. There are moments in our lives when we look at our now and see nothing but filler–but we’re looking at it the wrong way. There is no such thing as filler–not where God is involved.

Alicia Britt Chole puts it this way:

We have a tendency to think that “main” is out there, not right here. Main is on hold. waiting to appear until after…we finish our education or get married or find that dream job or start a family or resolve that conflict or complete that task or get out of debt or retire or slow down…[but] I hear a gentle whisper from God in my soul: Child, I am the God who waste’s no man’s time. To me, every course in your life is main. 

That rings as true to me. No moment in our lives, no season, is filler. It all has purpose. If we are too busy looking past this moment to the next one, we’re going to miss what it is
we’re supposed to do, see, become…

beautiful-live-moment-wallpaper-favim-com-5205741Embrace your today for what it is–life.

Today, how will you become more than you were yesterday? Today, how will you give back? Today, what is it you need to learn? Today, who needs your help?

As for myself, I’m going to stop looking so much at what I’m not doing, and start looking more at what I can do, right now, right here, in this season of my life.