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The Mighty Checklist

So, thanksgiving has come and gone. Mine was good; I hope yours was, too.

I've noticed, though, how quickly I jump ahead to the next event in my life. Well, let's see: of course, there's Christmas approaching all-too-rapidly, and a couple of services I'm putting together before that. Not to mention that Thanksgiving day was also my half birthday...meaning I have just under six months now before I turn the big 3-0.

"Well, geez, before I turn thirty, I really ought to ____!"

I thought it would be fun to create a list of 30 things to do before I turn 30, and 30 things to do once I turn 30, you know, to sort of take the sting out of it. But now I'm finding that it just feels like a lot of pressure. First I have to come up with thirty things. Than I have to do them! Along with everything else in my life, which already sort of feels like a giant checklist.

And how did that happen? I used to see life as a journey, an adventure. Now it's a list?!? That's no fun. And worse, it's not true. Life is about more than getting things done--and Christians should know that most of all.

Sometimes things don't happen on our own time. Some of the things I'd be tempted to put on my "before 30" list are things that...for some reason, God hasn't allowed to happen to me yet. And the weird thing is, most of the time, I'm okay with it! It's only when I think about how a new year is fast approaching that I get antsy. feel like I'm on a deadline, at least in the eyes of the world.

Don't get me wrong. There are some things I thought of that I do have some control over, that if I'm not careful, I'll wake up one day and be 80 and still saying, "I always wanted to ____." And what better time to do that then NOW? But if I'm not careful, I let it spill over into other areas of my life, which I don't ultimately control. And then I just end up feeling resentful that certain areas of my life are not where I thought I'd be at thirty. When most of the time, it doesn't bother me.

Life is not about a checklist. Checklists won't save me. Life IS a journey. It's about our relationships and the choices we make.

I recently picked up "Mere Christianity" by C. S. Lewis again--just randomly glanced though it. (I love that book, and I just love the way he writes. For me, it's like sitting down with a dear old friend who is sensible and comfortable and brilliant. And just listening. Over tea--or perhaps a pint.) He talks about how Christianity is not meant to just make us nicer people but that it is a transformation, not of our own doing, into Christ. And that our choices either bring us closer or take us farther away from that completion.

I would dearly love to hold onto this perspective shift, to stop looking at life as a giant checklist that needs to be conquered. O, Lord, help me hold on--help me remember that it is about so much more. Just as you've faithfully reminded me this time. Life is about living abundantly, abiding in Christ. And when I remember that, I don't worry so much bout deadlines.



I don't know how parents do it. I only watch kids for 2 and a half hours, and they were driving me crazy today. Don't get me wrong, my After School Program is not a bad job. Most of the time, I like it. But days like today...

The kids couldn't go outside during recess today because of the snow (yes, snow). And I didn't take them out, either (maybe I should have!). I've noticed that days like that, the kids just kind of go stir crazy. But the worst part was, they were so whiny.

I don't tell this story to rag on my kids. It just seemed like a good illustration of how I am most of the time. I don't know what it is about human nature that makes us each expect to get things our way. I've worked with kids for years, and I have had some real spoiled brats at times.

But what does it mean to be spoiled? Contextual definition seems to be someone who expects to always have his or her own way, an expectation generally reinforced by surroundings and upbringing. People who are spoiled can't stand any inconvenience or thwarting of his or her will. And they generally have no idea what it is like to be deprived of anything.

I know people say things like this a lot, especially in a shaming way, but Americans are spoiled.

I am spoiled.

I'm not even talking financially. I'm talking about religious freedom.

I've been doing some research lately for a 'party' I'm throwing (ask me about it!). It's been opening--re-opening, really--my eyes to just how much I take for granted. Last Sunday was the International Day of Prayer--a day that was created to give us in America a clearer picture of what our Brothers and Sisters around the world experience as a result of their faith.

I don't mean to sound all preachy and high-horsed about this. I'm just as guilty as anyone. But when I read something that says the Bible is illegal in 52 countries...that just gets to me. I just counted, and I have at least nine copies of the Bible right here in my apartment. Ten, if you count the digital one on my palm. Not to mention the oh-so-accessible Biblegateway.com. And I hardly take the time read any of them. But I am blessed--when I get frustrated or anxious, I can flip to the Psalms and find comfort. Unlike many of my Brothers and Sisters, some of whom share ONE with their entire church. At least they appreciate what they have!

Anyway. I'm still mulling a lot of this over...what it means for me, and how I'm going to let it change me. Especially my attitude. It's Thanksgiving time, and I want to have a thankful heart for the good things that I DO have, and not be whiny about the things I don't.

Let me shout God's name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
(Psalm 69: 30, The Message)


I can finally breathe...

I was challenged this week by a spiritual "mentor" of mine (via podcast) about how sometimes in the pursuit of honesty and authenticity and our struggles, we often neglect to talk about times when God comes through for us.
After all, he said, "Intimacy with God is The Point. It's meant to be normal."
He also talked about how often the church turns a blind eye to spiritual warfare, and it's really crippling us. I have to agree with him there. We act like toddlers who cover their eyes and think that by so doing, make everything disappear. I've talked a little about spiritual warfare in the past on here. And the thing is, even though I know it's real, I don't always like dealing with it, either.

But I got hammered at the end of the week. Spiritually speaking. Yesterday I was completely overcome with the frustration I've been describing lately. I just keep asking God to show me where He wants me, what He wants me to be doing. Because I don't think the place I am is the place I'm meant to be anymore. So I keep waiting and listening.

And it occurred to me that maybe the silence is because of a spiritual attack I'm under. One author who talks a lot about warfare says to look at the fruit of the situation. He uses John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. So Jesus says very clearly that there IS a thief, and he is on a mission. Jesus came to bring us vibrant, abundant life; our enemy comes to steal that life away from us and instead bring death and destruction. I don't know about you, but to me that makes a lot of sense of what I see going on in the world today.

Yet despite my own acknowledgment, I'm often afraid to deal with the warfare in my life.

My friend E lent me a copy of the new Anberlin CD...there's a song on it with a line that goes:
"How can you expect to win this war, if you're too afraid to fight?" (Soft Skeletons)

I was listening to it in the car, and the line stuck out to me, and I thought, that's a really good question. As it happened, today I was giving her a ride home and we ended up talking about kinds of things. It started out being about warfare, and ended up being about just navigating this Christian life in general.

It was exactly what I needed. As I'm constantly, humblingly reminded, I'm simply unable to stumble through this life on my own strength. (Sara reminded me of the U2 song, "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own," which is so true.) I need to hear stories of other people's struggles and triumphs and hopes and passions. And I love it when I post something here on this blog and friends and strangers respond, and I know I'm not alone. I want to continue to be honest about life's ups and downs, how it's often a struggle.

But I also want to be faithful. I know God's doing something in my life, even if I can't see it yet. If nothing else, today's conversation was a reminder that He does still care about me. And I'm not alone in my searching and my passions. I still have no idea what my next step is. But I have to believe that whatever it is, He'll show me eventually! In the meantime, I'm trying to find a measure of contentment right where I am.

This is surrender
To a war-torn life I've lived.
Scars and stripes forever
In need of change I can't resist...

This long of a struggle
Finally opened up my eyes.
Revolution's not easy
With a Civil War on the inside.

No need to hide anything anymore.
Can't return to who I was before.

I can finally breathe.
Suddenly alive.
I can finally move.
The world feels revived.
(Anberlin, Breathe)

Oh, and, one more thing. God, in His infinte sense of humor, and knowing my penchant for good stories (TV is a current fave source), just got my attention thorugh an episode of Samantha Who?. I just watched the second ep of the season, and she starts out saying,

I didn't remember ever seeing a rocket launch, so I tuned in the other night. But it was delayed.
There it was, all this power and potential, just waiting for a sign, and instruction.
And I shouted, "I understand, rocket! I understand!" (Woke my neighbor up.)

After an episode filled with her usual misadventures of her old nature clashing with her new life & desires for change (a rather apt parable at times!) she concludes by saying:

Okay, so my dentist has this ' fun facts' poster in his office. And did you know, a rocket has to go 25,ooo miles an hour to get into orbit?....25,ooo miles an hour. That's a lot of force keeping us right where we are. ...I'm like those rockets, those early rockets, who tried, you know, and sometimes they failed, but there was progress!

Well put. I guess God can use anything to speak to us.