One Day at a Time

It’s those days when you didn’t sleep well and wake up realizing that you have 5 meetings before noon and 3 afterwards. And then those meetings turn into beatings and you want to go hide in a cave.

It’s those days when you end up with more work to do when you finish than when you started.

It’s those days when you finally get the baby down and sit down to catch a breath, only to find 2 other children needing your attention because you’ve practically ignored them all week.

It’s those days when you can’t hardly see straight.

2010_04Apr_3021 It’s those days when you realize that in only a few short years you’ll be teaching one son to drive and taking another to pre-school. And then you realize that only a few short years later there will be 2 out of the house and you’ll have an only child.  Should we go for one more? Oh, I don’t know if I can do this again.

How will I survive? I don’t think I can make it!

One day at a time.

I don’t think that it was an accident that Jesus said:

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

– Matt. 6:34

I can say a hearty “Amen” to that last statement. 

And in the same passage, Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  God gives us the strength to make it through this day, not the next week or month. 

Taking a day at a time seems to come fast enough without trying to handle the upcoming years.  And I can’t do anything about those right now anyway.

So I’ll keep praying for the strength to make it through the day and take it one day at a time.

The In-Between Life

If I flip back through the photos that I’ve taken this year, there are only a few highlights:

  • Photos from my wife’s birthday
  • Photos from The Big Snow
  • (Less)  Photos from The (Next) Big Snow

Not much in between or after that. But there have been have been a lot of days in between.  81 days to be exact.2009_11Nov_2510

Frustrating days, happy days, weary days, and just blah grey days that seemed to last forever. I don’t have photos from any of those days.  Just from the highlights.

A lot of times, I live for the highlights, even if it is just a lazy Saturday after an incredibly busy and frustrating week.  I look forward to those times and endure the in-between days to get to the “next big thing” that comes along in my life. Big decisions, big events.  Things that need to be remembered.

It has occurred to me that God is using my In-Between Life to prepare me for my next day as well as the Next Big Thing that comes along.  Little decisions that I face on a daily basis can either form my character and chip away little pieces of “Self” or can cause me to fall back and fail again.

It is these in-between times that I question scripture the most. It is where my truest self (good or bad) comes out. It is where life seems hard and grey and God seems far away.

Somehow, I think that God is even more interested in the process that we go through (the in-between life) to get where were going, than He is with us actually getting there.  He’ll take us the long way around, because it is in the process that we learn to Trust Him.

Turning 40

2009_11Nov_2402 A few weeks ago, I turned 40.  I got the normal “getting old, over-the-hill” kind of jokes from my sisters. I was called “Old geezer” more times in one day than I ever have in my old life.  I do feel a bit older, a bit wiser, and a bit more tired and weary than I have before.

My back has been acting up again and had been limiting and inhibiting me from lifting and carrying stuff.

Among the cards and the old age jokes were a couple of letters that I received from my folks. They contain birthday wishes, among other things. They remembered the past and anticipated the future.  But one phrase has stuck in my mind:

“We become jaded without even trying…”

It’s true.  There is this strong “been there, done that” mentality that I have slowly been succumbing to. A wearied, hardening crust has been gripping my soul. I’ve felt it more as the Christmas holidays are upon us and they drag out all the trite and sentimental sayings, carols, and symbols of the season.  And I cannot bear it. 

Meanwhile, my boys are bouncing off walls, enraptured in anticipation and joy.  I used to be like that…

Even today in our worship service as they started singing about the majesty and power of Jesus.  I tried to sing those words, but they fell short in my mouth. Just words.  And I couldn’t sing.  I was tired of the same ol’ same ol’ and just stood there, my heart crusting over again.  And I thought of that phrase again:

“We become jaded without even trying…”

Disappointment.  Frustration. Weariness. Unmet expectations.  Here I am 40 years old and what have I done with my life? It’s easy to become jaded because I try to lower our expectations so I don’t become disappointed.

God, I don’t want to be jaded.  I want to see life through new eyes. I want my heart softened again, tender toward You, tender towards my wife and my boys and another new life joining our family. I need Your perspective.

I can’t do it myself.  There is no magic pill to take and snap me out of my mentality. I’ve lost my rose colored glasses.  But I do know the One who gives sight to the blind and can correct the vision of a weary, jaded soul.

Which brings me to another phrase from one of those letters .  Advice to a wide-eyed 40 year old from one who has been around the block a few more times and still has a twinkle in his eyes:

“Don’t grow weary. Keep praying. Love well.”

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

(Aside: If you were curious where the phrase originated from, you might find the answer interesting.)

Dark looming clouds This phrase seems to describe the uneasiness that I struggle with every once in a while.  It’s like every thing is going great at home, at work, in my family. It is almost like things are going too well, and I am waiting for that other shoe to drop and let The Unfortunate Event make its entrance in our lives.

Sometimes its a small thing, sometimes big, but always unexpected and unwelcome.

A flooded basement, a broken down car, the unexpected phone call with bad news.  And then there are those things that you don’t even want to mention out loud, for fear they might happen.

Even as I write this, I can feel that pit in my stomach, that nervous anxiety that comes when waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wonder how I will handle it.  Will it be big or small this time? Will it involve my wife or kids? How can I bear it?  The anxiety grows…and blooms into fear.

There is a word for this type of thinking: Unbelief.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers…against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

–Eph. 6:12

There is Someone out to get me, to destroy me and take my family down.  He puts me on this anxious path to fear, dragging my thoughts to the worst possible conclusion.

I fear because I don’t believe that God will be there, that He won’t come through.  I’m afraid that He’ll let me down and leave me to my own devices to handle those Unfortunate Situations. But those fears are not based in Truth.

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

–Rom. 8:32

And so the battle begins:  Will I let my fears control me? Or will I trust that what God says is true?

Today, our pastor spoke on Unbelief out of Mark 9.  The father of the son with the demon cried out to Jesus, “…If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”  You can hear his desperation.  He was at the end of his rope and desperate. 

Jesus’ response: “ ’If you can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”  A promise. A rope thrown to a drowning man.  A life line.

And the man responds grabbing the rope: “I believe, help my unbelief.”

That is my prayer today. Lord, I trust you in this situation.  I give you my anxiety and fears. I trust that even if the other shoe drops, You will be there.  You will throw the rope. You will be my strength.

Help my unbelief.

His Kind Intention

open hands Recently at work I’ve been involved in resolving a very serious customer issue involving millions of dollars of equipment.  I’ve had to go to daily status meetings  where the environment has been tense and confrontational and where I have to daily answer for how I (and others) are making progress on the issues.  Unpleasant at first, these daily meetings (beatings, I’ve called them) have become wearisome and dreaded after a few weeks. I’ve found myself defensive and guarded, trying to say as little as possible.

My quiet times have grown sparse and infrequent—the avoidance of yet another “duty” that has been placed on me—to submit to another master, face another expectation.  I’ve projected the stern, confrontational disciplinarian image on God, and I can’t face facing Him.

But doesn’t it seem that way sometimes? You find yourself in a life situation that comes out of the blue.  You get blindsided by something that you never saw coming. And you ask, “What did I do to deserve this?” “How did I get into this mess?” And you wonder how you’ll survive.

I know I’ve questioned why God has allowed certain things in my life.

This morning, I saw the words in Eph. 1:9: “…His kind intention…” The whole verse is:

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in [Jesus]…

It reminded me of the safe loving arms that we find in our Heavenly Father.  He may allow certain things in our lives, but it is always in Love.  I may question why He allows the situation, but am reminded that no matter the circumstances, His intention toward us is kind.

Instead of conflict, there is a shelter. Instead of an adversary, there is a place of rest and hope.  I can lay down my defenses and be safe in His presence.

I don’t know how to get through it, or what the outcome will be, but I can trust that God will be with me in it, and that He loves me and intends to show His kindness to me.

For Our Struggle…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Eph. 6:12

I caught this verse on the way out the door this morning and noticed the words, “For our struggle…” The thought occurs to me that our struggling is a given, a foregone conclusion: If you’re alive, then you will struggle.

Paul does not say, “If you struggle, then it will be not be against flesh and blood, but against the rulers…”

Somehow this thought heartens me, because sometimes life seems hard, but the struggle isn’t unexpected.  It is supposed to be a struggle—don’t be surprised that it is.

Just a thought.

Ten M&Ms

10 M&MsI woke up and walked into the dining room and saw them there. 10 M&M’s…unbelievable!

The M&M’s were last night’s dessert from dinner and each person got a small handful to “eat before bedtime”.  My wife said this because ~D~ is the slowest candy eater you ever saw. Instead of crunching the M&Ms, he lets them melt in his mouth, to savor the chocolate and make it last as long as possible.

But this can make a simple handful of M&M’s last for hours.

And so, when ~D~ came up to me to kiss me good night, there were still 10 colorful candies left uneaten.

“I guess you and mom will have to share them,” he said.  “I couldn’t eat them in time.”

It was astounding to me.  I’m a sugar addict and would never leave a single piece uneaten.

But even after ~D~ went to bed, I left the candy where it was.  Somehow I felt that I was stealing from him a pleasure that wasn’t mine, and so I left them there.

And so as I got up this morning, rushing around and getting ready for work.  I had squandered my quiet time (again) reading blog posts. I saw the 10 M&M’s again, and marveled that my son could walk away from the treat, wondering why he had left them. Wondering why I hadn’t had the heart to eat them.

And then my Heavenly Father whispered in my ear and I wept.

The M&M’s were a parable to me for all the times that I have an invitation to dig out the delights of His Word, the secrets that He desires to show me in the quiet stillness of the morning.  He wants me to savor the morsels of Truth and Life.  He wants me to enjoy…Him.

And yet I walk away and head for work, barely acknowledging Him.  I get distracted from His savory treats and the sweetness of His presence…And I wonder about my son?  I do the very same thing.  How foolish I am!

And yet, in His Grace He offers again, waiting for me, not wanting me to miss Him.