Welcome to the New Year! We started our New Year on Easy Street. We took a road trip, rented some skis and bought lift tickets. That is where we found Easy Street on a small mountain. We went up and down snowy Easy Street over and over again.
There was one moment of pure insanity when we decided as a group that we were ready for something other than Easy Street. We found another way up the mountain on another, longer ski lift, and arrived at the top. Only one of us found the view exciting. The others were terrified. We started down. There were falls and tears. There were feelings of fear and defeat. After a while, pure exhaustion set in and prayers started going up, up, up.
Hours later, in the lodge we debriefed. While sipping on four (well earned) hot chocolates, we concluded that we were heading back to Easy Street. Back to safety, fun and relaxation. We confessed our sin of arrogance. We thought we knew all we needed to know to ski down the mountain. But we were still lacking many skills. We needed more practice and more lessons.
So often in life we believe we know everything and we humbly discover we really don’t. When we tell a friend we understand what they are going through and they politely tell us that we can’t truly understand. Or when we challenge someone by interrupting or arguing with them just so we can feel that we are right and not wrong. Or when we judge people from different backgrounds based on how they are portrayed in the news instead of how we have experienced them personally.
On Easy Street, we learned about turns, stops and skills. We discovered that our bodies know what to do naturally, if we just pay attention. We met others who were learning and we then learned from their experiences. They motivated us to keep going. We also learned that if we jump off Easy Street too soon, life gets dangerous, scary and stressful.
As we journey through a new year together, let’s take it easy. Let’s be open to learning new skills and being teachable. Let us allow our humble attitudes lead us and leave our arrogance behind. Let us learn to relax in the rhythm of life that gives us joy in learning, faith in others and a shared sense of purpose as we all make life more easy for everyone.
How can your tent model for others what it looks like to live life on Easy Street in the arms of Christ?
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
Around nine o’clock we drove to the pier, the one that the locals go to for night fishing. Men, women and children were busy fishing. Seeing that the pier was full, we parked the truck a little further down the seawall and unpacked our gear. It was dark and the stars were out. With flashlights in hand, we cast the crab nets over the wall and into the black water below. Immediately we spooked a sea snake and saw it slither away in the light beam from our flashlight.
As our “Master Angler” prepared our hooks with perfect bait, we shined our lights into the water to see what other sea creatures we could discover. Sea turtles were swimming near the edge of our light beams. Too much light seemed to scare them, we learned. Just a little light was an invitation to come to the surface. A dolphin playfully swam to the seawall and back out to sea. We checked the crab nets and caught a stone crab with an egg sack attached. We quickly and carefully put the new mother back into the water. The activity in the sea created excitement and anticipation in our little family. What would we see next?
It was time to cast our fishing lines deep into the water. The “Master Angler” handed over the rod and reels. We cast our hooks beyond the seawall and into the deep dark water. Then we waited. And waited. And waited.
Casting our hooks deep into the ocean is how we often live life. So many of us are willing to gather at the pier or along the sea wall. We seek to connect with the mystery that lives below the surface of life. The activity and the life is a part of the mystery that we know exists beneath the noise and routine of our daily lives. We know we cannot possibly see all that God wants to show us and so we go, in the cover of darkness, to cast our nets into the deep waters in hopes that God will drop something into our nets. Maybe even a personal gift. These moments inspire us to keep going. Keep living. Keep exploring.
An angler by the name of Fennel Hudson said, “There are a million-and-one ways to enjoy a day’s angling. Catching fish is but one of them.” On that summer night, we learned the truth of this statement. Instead of fish, we caught something else. Insight into life.
We Need A Master Angler
Each of us needs someone in our life who knows how to fish for deep spiritual meaning. Someone who knows how to prepare for the experience and teaches us how to fish. There is a lot of prep work that goes into fishing. Before you can cast your rod and reel into the ocean, you have to prepare. Bait, hooks, fishing line, poles, pliers, ice, chairs and snacks all need to be bought and packed in the truck. There is a lot of prep work that goes into our spiritual lives so that we are ready when we catch something on the end of our hook.
Get Some Help When You Are Stuck
We kept our “Master Angler” busy all night. Our hooks kept getting caught on some sea rocks. Each time the line got stuck, the “Master Angler” took over and got the hook unstuck. Often the line would break. As amateur anglers, we learned when we need help, asked for it. In life, when we are stuck it is because we are working like everything depends on us and nothing depends on God. Maybe we need to ask for help from God more and often.
Enough for One Day
As the night went on, the giggles got louder. And louder. Exhaustion was setting into our adventure. Even though the stars were beautiful and we were having fun together, we knew that we had experienced enough for one day. Rest is an important part of life. There is only so much that we can do in one day. We need time away to refresh our bodies and souls. So many people comment these days that they are working too much. And they probably are. Finding a balance between rest and work is life giving. Sometimes we have had enough adventure for one day.
We caught some more memories and insights to take back to our tent that night. We didn’t catch a fish, but that’s why it is called fishing and not catching, right?
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.”So they did,and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. John 21:6
From Our Happy Tent to Yours,
How many times a day do you shake a jar of pickles in your fridge. Around our house, it is a new activity. It began by receiving a jar of pickles from a friend who instructed us to shake the jar at least twice a day for a week to help season the pickles. (The jar contains a secret seasoning…or at least that is what he said.) We know how to follow directions so we have been shaking the pickles, daily.
No matter what is going on in our house, we shake the pickles. During homework, we shake the pickles. While cooking dinner, we shake the pickles. In the morning while drinking coffee, we shake the pickles. We have embraced the process and we are looking forward to eating the pickles at the end of the week.
God invites us to do a lot of things in life. We are called to hang out with God in prayer during the day. We are called to play God-spy by keeping our eyes open for God at work around us. We are called to “be” more and “do” less so that our religion makes more sense. But above all, we are encouraged to embrace the experiences around us. If we are too focused on the past, we miss it. If we are too worried about the future, we miss it. Only when we can embrace the moment (and shake the pickles) do we really catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said, “I have come so that you may life to it’s fullest.”
Our pickles keep us present in the moment and they make us laugh. Every time someone opens the fridge door and shake the pickles, we all laugh. This silly exercise creates a moment where we forget our stress, phones, chores and challenges and we just shake the pickles. When they are placed back in the fridge and the door is closed, all our problems do not seem as challenging.
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
P.S. Delicious pickle recipe: Buy a large jar of sliced pickles (ours are Hamburger Dill Chips made with sea salt from HEB). Add one package of powder Ranch dip. Shake your pickles for a week. Store in the fridge.
P.S.S. The season of Lent begins next week. If you need a devotional guide, order your copy of Have Mercy on Me. All proceeds will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.
“Has anyone seen my glasses?” This is a question that I remember hearing as a child over and over again. It seems like my mother would ask this question just as we were trying to get to school on time. We knew we weren’t going anywhere until they were found. We also knew we had to help her because she could not see well enough without them to find her own glasses.
Guess what? I am now asking the same question, “Has anyone seen my glasses?” I am simply amazed at how dependent I have become on my glasses to see. When did that happen?
Glasses and assumptions go together. When we cannot see things clearly we make assumptions. While doing homework with my daughter recently, she held up a picture she had drawn and asked me if I liked it. I was a few feet away cooking dinner. I said I did like it. She asked me what it was about. (I wasn’t going to fool her…she knows me too well.) I had to confess that I didn’t know simply because I could not see it. I made the humble walk over to the table and asked to see the picture again. I was then able to give her an honest answer and apologize. Then I asked her, “Have you seen my glasses?”
We make assumptions all the time. We assume that our spouse can read our mind and know what we need. We assume that the man that lives down the street by himself has friends. We assume that other people think the way we do and see the world like we do. We assume our ideas are correct. But how often do we question our assumptions? How often do we invite God to help us see things around us more clearly?
My glasses help me to see details clearly. Details are necessary to get the whole picture. Without my glasses I am in trouble. Without questioning my assumptions I am also in trouble. Assumptions without clarity simply mean trouble.
In your tent, office, church and relationships, try putting on some “God-glasses.” Pray that your “God-glasses” help you to see what God wants you to see. Look for details and truth to help you overcome assuming that you know what you don’t know. When we are working for God, we need the truth to do our job well. Making assumptions of God and for God will only make us look foolish.
If you have lost your “God-glasses,” you know what to do. “God, have you seen my glasses? I need to find them again.”
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:12
We have one happy, happy camper in our tent this week. The candy rule is gone and the “candy queen” is so happy. There is candy all over our house. Some of it is in the obvious places and some of it is tucked away in little corners, under blankets, and in drawers. It is everywhere and our happy camper has taken inventory and knows the location of every piece. Candy is available 24/7 in our home and life is good for a little girl.
Because we are kind, loving parents, we let the “candy queen” enjoy a few days of bliss. She even enjoyed some for breakfast a few mornings along with her protein plate. But then the time came to reintroduce the rules. “Okay, now that you have enjoyed lots of candy, we are going to go back to three pieces a day.” We expected shock, surprise or rebellion. Instead we simply got an “Okay.” Well that was easy!
There is a gift hidden in rules. They make us feel safe, secure, cared for and balanced. When we have rules that guide our choices and lives, we are able to relax within their boundaries. The big decisions have already be taken care of so we can just enjoy life within the boundaries.
There once was a psychological study of children playing on a playground by a school that I learned about recently. One group of children were encouraged to go and play on a playground without a fence. Instead of playing and exploring, this group chose to just play by the entrance into school. They didn’t feel safe enough to play on the playground. Another group of children were given the same instructions and same choice. The difference was that a fence had been installed around the play equipment. The second group played on the monkey bars and slid down the slide. The take away was that the children felt more safe with the fence and were able to relax and play together.
Our creator gives us fences (or rules) to live within simply because we are loved. They are not intended to restrict us, punish us or frustrate us. They are intended to remind us that we are safe, secure, and loved. Rules for life help us draw closer to God by making space in our lives for God. They offer us balance in the pressures of life and light in darkness. We may go through times in life where we are like the “candy queen”…we have more than we could ever need and life feels blissful. But then, we may feel that we have lost direction or purpose in life. We know then that it is time to go back to “three-pieces-a-day”. And when God calls us back to our center, we experience God’s grace. Another day and another chance to live life through God’s eyes instead of our own.
Explore your rules this week or create some. What is your rule of life? Share them with someone close to you. You might find that you will enjoy God’s playground even more with a fence around it.
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17
From our Happy Tent to yours,
P.S. If you want to explore a rule of life more, check out Crafting a Rule of Life.
There are some things that have the ability to rob us of life. One of those things is the “what ifs” that live in our minds. They take up free space and cause us to loose sleep. Sometimes our “what if” thoughts sound like this, “What if I say the wrong thing?” “What if I loose my job?” “What if my loved one doesn’t come home?” And the list goes on and on. These thoughts keep us from living in the present by keeping us in the past or the future. We think of the mistakes and missed chances of the past or we think of future scenarios that we have no control over. Once the “what ifs” calm down in our minds, they leave us a gift…anxiety. They don’t ever really just go away, they just calm down for a while and then come back. Until, we do something really different.
In my early 30’s, I made a change. I decided that I was no longer going to wear uncomfortable shoes. I went to my closet and purged my shoes. I only kept the ones that felt good. Many of my high heals went in the donation box. Many of my old tennis shoes went as well. I got rid of the ones that I might wear some day and the ones that I used to wear. I only kept the ones that felt good. At the end of my purge, I had a lot less clutter in my closet and my feet were happy.
One little Bible verse tucked inside the New Testament says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). I don’t know about you, but this verse tells me to trade in my “what if” thoughts through prayer in return for peace. God’s peace! That sounds like a pretty good deal.
Doing something really different means that we have to create new practices to help us keep our “what if” thoughts in check. When they attempt to take over the joy in our days or the sleep in our nights (God is always awake!), we have the option to trade them in for peace through prayer. This is not a new idea, but it may be a new practice. And a new practice takes practice. One step at a time.
P.S. Join me in reading (or rereading) Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow over the next few weeks. I would love to hear about your experience with this helpful book.