To Finish—or Not to Finish…?

Start-Finish

TO FINISH—OR NOT TO FINISH…?

   Hailey was a writer. I say was because she wrote but she never quite finished anything she wrote. She’d begun three different books: two were novels and one was a non-fiction book on eating healthy (when you can’t afford “healthy” food). However, if you asked her, she didn’t quit—she just postponed finishing. She would finish when the time was more convenient.  

SOMEDAY…

   On the road to our destiny, the concept of “someday” is a pothole the size of Montana. Basically, it’s the excuse we give ourselves to procrastinate. And why do we do that? Fear. We’re afraid that either we can’t finish that book or business proposal or degree or—fill-in-the-blank—or we’re afraid that if we do, somehow our work will fail or be rejected. The concept of “just not good enough” haunts our dreams and shipwrecks our destinies. However, there are some things we can do to help us to get unstuck.

REMEMBER WHO IS CHOSEN.

   God has this sometimes disturbing habit of choosing those who feel least equipped to do the job. That right there can be a stumbling block to many of us because when we struggle to accomplish that assignment, we feel inadequate and unworthy. Then we convince ourselves that we can never succeed and so we “postpone”. But the truth is, we really quit. We would never admit that because we know that quitting is evil but we never quite get back to it. However, we’re forgetting one thing: God is with us.

   Remember Moses? We think of him as the greatest prophet in the Bible—and he was—but the truth is, but when the Lord called him, he was a murderer and a fugitive. But still, God chose him to be the deliverer of Israel. However, what was Moses’ response when God first had that little chat with him? “I can’t. No one would listen to me. And if they did listen, who would believe me? Besides, I can’t speak.” As the story goes, God refuted each of these arguments but Moses was still scared. Finally, he said to God, “’I’ll go if you go with me.’” The Lord’s response? “’I will go with you.’”

ASSIGNMENTS

   God will go with us, too. In fact, he never expects us to do our assignments alone. That’s why he often picks those least likely to succeed; it’s specifically because he wants to partner with us to do that thing he’s assigned to us.

And make no mistake: that’s exactly what it means when God calls us—it’s an “assignment”. It’s not a hobby, it’s not a pastime, it’s not a toy. It’s a destiny for a specific purpose—and that’s to change the world.

   DO NOT underestimate your calling, your assignment, your destiny. It’s crucial to the kingdom of God. And what’s more, it’s possible.

WILL IT BE HARD?

   Of course it will be hard. There’s always a learning curve and much of what God expects us to do initially after he calls us is to train. That’s right—after he calls us. He doesn’t expect us to perform perfectly from the start. And there’s an encouragement.

   When I first began writing fiction, I thought I knew how. Little did I know, I knew almost nothing. The last few years have been a combination of learning and crying. Just when I think I know enough to be good enough, I find out I have something else to learn. Eventually, I’ll know enough and have practiced enough that I’ll be “good enough,” but does that mean I won’t have anything else to learn? Absolutely not. And neither will you. If you’re not confident that you can succeed, educate yourself and practice until you can. But here’s the truth: “Hard” is not, not, NOT an indicator of whether you should be doing that thing. The only thing that is an indicator is whether or not God has called you to do it. Period. The end.

THE “S” WORD.

   Don’t be scared. Okay, be scared but don’t quit. As Joyce Meyer always says, “’Do it afraid.’” Fear is not a sign that you should quit because since when are emotions a reliable indicator? Nor is fear a good excuse to quit. What’s more, fear is not permission to procrastinate or to postpone your assignment. So the next time you’re tempted to lay down the assignment “for a while,” there might be one thing you’re forgetting.

   “Someday” never comes.

 

Advertisements

Life’s Little “Pop Quizzes”

Epic Fail

POP QUIZ

   Last week I had “a day”. And we all know what that means: a day full of annoyances, conflict, disappointment, headaches and things breaking down—and mental breakdowns are not unheard of. It’s a day where all kinds of fun things happen. For example, you’re running late—and the snail-on-wheels in front of you doesn’t quite seem to grasp that. And of course something has to break—and it has to be the coffeemaker. Or (my personal favorite) your kids decide your life isn’t exciting enough and needs a little drama—and they’re happy to fix that for you. They’re so helpful that way. Or you forget your lunch so you roll through the drive-through only to discover you don’t have your wallet. But no worries—you know where it is. It’s sitting on the kitchen counter—right next to your lunch and the broken coffee maker. And to top it all off, you get to work (late) and pull up the document you’d worked on for a week and saved—or thought you saved…

   All you can do at that point is to look up at the sky and inquire, “Is there a point here??”

Those Little Tests…

   Well, yes, actually there is. It’s one of life’s little “pop quizzes”, the let’s-see-how-much-you’ve-learned-character test that God loves to spring on us from time to time. And while I’d much prefer the paper and pencil version of that particular test (it’s easier), God seems to prefer the more “show, don’t tell” type of test. That’s the test that seems to go something like this:

   Did you flash a friendly smile at the guy in the snail-mobile or flash him something else?

   Did you sit your kid down and patiently explain why it’s rude to use “that” language—or did you ground them until they’re 45? Not that there’s anything wrong with a good, long grounding—as long as you smile sweetly and keep the decree under ten decibels.

   Did you thank the nice lady at the drive through and politely explain that the wallet is on the counter next to the lunch and the broken coffee maker? Or did you yell at the nice lady that they took too long with your order so you don’t want it now and then roar off, squealing your tires?

It Gets Personal

   For me, as a teacher, my tests often involve high school students who never got the memo that there are just certain things guaranteed to spoil your classroom experience. Like pitching a full-fledged fit when the teacher has the gall to tell you that naptime is over and to get your head up off the desk or to turn around and stop talking to your neighbor or to stop throwing pencils or to stop texting in class—and forget telling me it’s your mother. True story. Last week. All in one 42-minute period. Did I pass the test? Probably not. Which is why later I was near tears when, out of the blue, my sister called.

   “What’s wrong??”

   “Nothing.”

   “You’re lying.”

   “Okay.”

   “What happened?”

   So I told her what happened. What happened was I failed the test. I sort of let the little cherubs know I was not happy. Loudly. And I knew that it didn’t matter what they had done; I’d failed. Know what my sister said?

   “‘To whom much is given, much is required.’”

   Great. I would’ve preferred, “This too shall pass.”

   The thing about these little pop quizzes is that God tailor-makes them all. For some it’s the patience test; for some it’s the “love the least of these” test; for some it’s the giving-money test; for some it’s the scrub-the-toilet-servant test; for some it’s the gossip test—et cetera. And guess what else? God doesn’t do social promotions. It doesn’t matter to God how long it takes us to pass our ICE’s (Individualized Character Tests) —God has all eternity.

Rule #1

   So—first thing: if you fail the test, admit it. We all have to do that. Or we get to take the truthfulness test again. And once we pass that test and admit what we’ve done, then we get to start all over with the original character test that we wouldn’t admit we’d failed. Ever hear of “life-long learning”? Well, now you have.

   Point?

Don’t get discouraged when you get a failing grade on your pop character quiz. It means God’s working.

   Honestly? That was the one thing that made me feel better—the idea that the difficult circumstances were for a purpose. I know I learned something—for me it wasn’t about what I said because it wasn’t unreasonable. The point is how I said it. I learned that there’s a wrong way to say the right thing.  

   Will I have to take this little quiz again? I hope not—but, yes. Then I can move onto the next grade. More lessons, more quizzes. Do I like that? Not really. But then I consider the alternative: no more lessons—and no more transformation. And never again being entrusted with more. Of course, God is a gentleman; He won’t teach us anything without our permission. So what’s our answer?

   If we want to be entrusted with the bigger things that lead to fulfilling our destinies, then there can only be one answer.

   What was your pop quiz?

 

 

To Forge A Heart

Heart Ruby

TO FORGE A HEART

   “Who could refrain that had a heart to love and in that heart, courage to make love known?” (Shakespeare)

   Hearts. This  week has been all about them: red hearts, pink hearts, gold and silver hearts, candy hearts, balloon hearts, card hearts, flower hearts, chocolate cake hearts. Hearts as far as the eye can see.

   But what makes a heart?

   Is it the red paper, the white lace, the scissors and glue? Is it the once-a-year words written with ink that fades as the months go by? Is it the glitter, the sparkle, the shine?

   Or—is it more?

   Is it the heart leap you feel the day he says, “Will you?” or the day she says, “Yes!”? Is it the chest-racking sobs the night your door slams shut for the last time and taillights disappear down the road and fade to black?

   Is it the single tear trickling down your cheek when you stand helplessly by as the quiet beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor withers to silence? Is it the choking loss for words that comes when the doctor looks you in the eye and says, “benign”?

   Is it the moment you meet your newborn, ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, a vulnerable heartbeat ticking against your pounding chest? Is it the swelling in your throat as you walk your baby down the aisle and place her hand into the hand of her future happiness?

   Is it the squish of wet sand between your toes on a solitary beach or the giggling swish of arms and legs in the fresh, cold white at the birth of a snow angel? Is it the deep crimson roses delivered to your door on your birthday, your anniversary? Or not delivered…?

Is it the day you collapse hard onto your knees with no words, slow tears pleading for someone to hear your heart splintering? Or is it the slow, red dawn that speaks that the bleak winter of your wandering has finally come to an end?

  What makes a heart?

   Is it the day you cut the bright ribbon and open the doors of your dream? Is it a piece of paper saying “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Class of 2019” or “I was thinking of you.”?

   Is it the pink rage on your cheeks the day your child gets off the bus, head bowed low, and whispers a word you prayed he’d never have to hear? Is it the green haze that clouds your eyes and pollutes your soul when she walks by, owning his hand instead of you?

   Is it the smile you give to a stranger, the last dollars in your pocket  you give to a penniless man, or the time you give to read that same storybook, out loud, over and over,  for the forty-third time?

   Is it the extra job you work at night so you’ll see those shining eyes on Christmas morning, or so you’ll finally climb high into the clouds of that mountain you’ve dreamed of conquering since you were ten, or so you’ll watch that one walk across the stage who could never have walked there alone?

   What makes a heart?

   Not shiny black cars or shimmering diamonds or crisp hundred dollar bills but loud laughter and quiet tears, hidden sorrows and public joys, endless mornings of hope-filled prayers and as many nights of sleepless fears. It’s gratitude too deep ever to repay and forever friendship—pinky sworn; it’s empty caverns of the soul carved by loss, and it’s mama-bear love.

   Life makes a heart. And life breaks a heart.

   But without all of life, there can never truly be a heart.

 

 

We Have Standards?

Woman Crying II

WE HAVE STANDARDS?

   Toni Morrison once said, “People will forget what you say and do, but they will always remember the way you made them feel.” No doubt that statement is true, but what’s the deal behind it? Is it to remind people to be kind—even when expressing a hard truth? Or is it to say that we should avoid any mention of life’s hard truths because they might make someone feel badly? Knowing Morrison’s work, I believe her intent is to remind us to be kind because in her writing, she takes on some hard truths. I seriously doubt she was telling us to avoid them.

   Nevertheless, this sentiment that feelings are now the new standard by which we judge truth has become the mantra of a generation:

If the message makes me feel good, it must be truth and the people speaking it are moral. If it makes me feel bad, then it must be lies, and the people speaking it are evil.

   Am I exaggerating? I wish.

   The problem with that kind of thinking is that it puts countless numbers of people and concepts into the “evil” category because what they say or symbolize can make us feel, well, “bad”. The fact is that sometimes the truth can hurt—which is what motivates us to change. So what would happen if we did away with conventional standards of truth and went with the “feel-good” variety? And what if this thinking were to become the new standard of behavior and morality instead of, say, the Ten Commandments or the Constitution? How would our thinking shift? Let’s explore a few pages in the (entirely theoretical) New Standards Handbook, shall we?

Conscience.

   My conscience must be evil because it makes me feel bad about myself on a regular basis. Every dang time I try to do something I like, I get this little ping in my head which means, “Don’t do that. It’s bad.” I don’t like that ping. I should just ignore it. That way I would never feel sad about anything ever again. In fact, I think we should all just ignore our consciences. They’re outdated anyway—we’ve evolved enough as human beings that we don’t even need them anymore. And I’m sure God would agree. Oh, and about God…

God.

   God is good and all—don’t get me wrong. But he can make you feel pretty horrible sometimes. All of that “Thou shalt not” stuff—it’s not fun. And that “hell” thing? Why does he have to bring that up? It’s scary. And it makes me want to cry. Not that I would ever go there, mind you, but what about all of those evil people who say all those things that just make you feel so rotten? They could end up there and it makes me feel horrible just thinking about it. So let’s not think about it—or talk about it, either. In fact, we should forbid people to talk about it. That way no one will ever have to feel bad. Ever.

Parents.

   They tell me I had great parents but now I’m not so certain. After all, they made me feel bad lots of times. Lots of times. And it wasn’t always just my feelings that got hurt—sometimes other body parts ended up hurting, too. That’s evil. It must be. Sure, I grew up, went to college—even graduated. And granted, I’ve been able to get a good job and keep it—and I haven’t ever committed a felony or anything or even been to jail (other than to visit a relative whose parents weren’t as mean). But still, when dad told me after college that I couldn’t be in a band and that I had to get a real job—do you have any idea how that made me feel?? And when I told my father what I thought of his totally unsupportive attitude, my mother called me disrespectful! That’s name-calling. That is so rude!

The Constitution.

   The only thing I have to say about that over-rated document is that the things in it only apply to citizens. That is so wrong. How do you think un-citizens feel? They can’t even plead the 5th!  Again—just wrong. And you know what else?  Somewhere in there it says that “free speech” means you can say anything about anyone—even if it’s mean!  That’s also wrong. What we really need is an amendment to end that—people should not be allowed to say mean things. In fact, there should be a list of things people shouldn’t be allowed to say. Or do…

Everything Else.

   People should not be allowed to do things that can make people feel bad. Like employment evaluations or grades: Did you know that every day in America hundreds of thousands of people cry because they’ve received a mean evaluation from a boss or teacher?? That is simply evil. Speeding tickets can also make you feel bad. Oh, and having to show ID should be banned because if you have an ugly picture, well, you just shouldn’t have to show it. That would be mean. The same with doing foul shots in gym class—you shouldn’t have to because what if you can’t? Then you’d feel bad. And also…

The End.

   Of course, none of the above is real. I can’t even imagine how terrified I would feel if any of it were true—it would be like a page from The Dying Days of the Roman Empire. Thankfully, there’s no correlation. At all. I made it all up.

   Still, there are two things that are true, and it would do us well to remember them. First thing: our feelings are not the standard for truth. Second thing: while it’s true that people may attach some emotion to the thought of you, no one can “make” you feel anything. Your feelings are a choice you make.

   Or maybe that’s the first thing.