Praying with an open hand

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“Be careful what you pray for. You just might get it.”

Anyone in church circles has probably heard this admonition before. I came face to face with it last week as I struggled with my longings. I wanted to pray. I wanted to ask God to fulfill my desires. I wanted to entrust my hopes to Him with anticipation. And then I heard these words from the recesses of my mind. I began to worry over the rightness of my desire and felt a deep sorrow.

Thankfully, I dared to question this so called wisdom that I’ve taken at face value for so long. I won’t completely throw it out. After all, I do believe there is wisdom in these words. However, that wisdom can only be found in a right understanding of who God is. When I addressed my fears, I realized my expectation saw God’s “you might get it” answer as bordering malicious, as a punishment.

But that’s not the God I serve!

The truth is found in the reminder that God is love. At any point He chooses to give us our desire where it causes pain or hurt, His purpose behind doing so is one of Love. It is a gift to make us into better men and women, better children.

Armed with such a hope, I returned to my desires and began to pray freely. It reminded me of Christ in the Garden. His prayer in the Garden is raw and honest. He prayed freely before God and shared His desires without reserve. And when all was said, He submitted himself to the Father in complete trust – “not my will, but yours be done.”

For me, it can be summed up in these words. Pray with an open hand.

Ultimately, desire is desire. I want what I want. What I’ve come to believe is that I can bring all of me to God, and that includes all of what I want. Ultimately, he may say no. He may also say yes in order to teach me. Note here, not to punish me! And He may also say a simple and gracious yes. In all of this, I’ll never know if I don’t ask. And if I am truly in a relationship with Him, I will want to entrust it all to Him. He loves me and has my best at heart.

So, knowing all that I will pray what is raw and honest while trusting Him to answer as is best.

And I will pray with an open hand.

Getting there

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This morning’s commute set me right in the middle of rush hour traffic. To my considerable relief I found myself in the steady lane. No stops. No sudden bursts of speed. Only a slow but consistent spin of tires on pavement. It made for a stress free ride past lanes clogged on either side. With relief came recognition. There is benefit in constancy.

That acknowledgement makes perfect sense following Friday’s frustration. All day Friday I felt the frustration of being stuck. Much of my life right now is waiting. I’ve done all I can do, and now I am waiting on others so that the journey can continue.

Yet, I also remember the thrill of the rush of activity that brought me to this place. There is a profound joy in busyness and chaos. At least when it’s in my favor, and I had a good run before traffic ground to a halt.

In the end, every one of these circumstances take us to our destination, and I’m not sure one is any better than the others. I appreciate the consistency and low stress of a steady pace, but I also find value in the highs I only find in the company of troubled lows.

I’ll do well to remember. It’s all part of getting there.

A little inspiration at the end of a rope

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I am tired, and wondering if I’ve bit off more than I can chew again. But tonight as I sit here, I am also irritated. I want to be able to handle more. I feel weak.

Last night, I started running again. That single mile reminded me muscles ache and lungs burn. That single mile also begin purging my lungs. It hurt a little, but it also felt great. Furthermore, it reminded me that building stamina, strength, and wind is going to take time. It won’t happen overnight.

So I sit here tired, but I am writing this post. Thankful to have found a moment’s inspiration to share. I have to trust that, as I find my path, I will get stronger and then I will be able to handle more. I will feel a little less weak. I will get a little closer to living the life I want to live.

In the meantime, I know I need to give myself grace to figure it out. And honestly, I probably need to rest. Resting is something I’m not good at, but I’m fairly certain I’m experiencing weariness right now because I have been pushing myself too hard. I need to give the well time to recover.

My thoughts are many and scattered, but I’ll write a few of them here anyway. It’s a way of sharing some of what’s running about in my mind.

I am not sure whether daily haikus are a good idea or not. On the upside, they challenge me to regularly flex my creative muscles, but I hate it when I feel like I’m phoning it in for lack of inspiration or energy. I don’t want to cop out, but I don’t want to wear out either. And this week, I’ve done nothing. By the time I got home I have been drained emotionally, spiritually and physically. There has been nothing left to give. (I am also spending more time writing songs, which is what I set out to do with the haikus in the first place. That may be enough.)

Mornings are my most valuable time. I need to get them back. That means taking control of my nights again.

I love the people who have given me a place to stay while I am selling my house. They are dear and generous friends. At the same time, I am ready to be back in my own space again. Change can be good, but I certainly feel it as it’s wreaked havoc on my routines. Making new routines is exhausting. Necessary, but exhausting.

And lastly, my thoughts have brought me full circle to an earlier conversation. It’s the reason I won’t give up on all of this even as it wears me out and forces me to figure out this chaos. I don’t remember exactly what my friend and I were talking about, but it came back to the sheer numbers of our culture who are busy watching other people live their lives. I won’t say it’s all bad. It probably isn’t. You know, all things in moderation. But as I limit the shows I watch, the media I interact with, the social media I consume, I find I’m living a little more. It’s harder to live that way. Mostly because I’m having to learn new, more valuable things to fill my time. The vacuum created by giving something up is the greatest danger. It begs for that easy habit to step back in. And going back to the start of this post, new habits don’t come quickly or easily. But I guess, even as tired as I feel, I don’t want easy. Easy won’t get me where I want to go.

In the end, I want adventure and excitement. I just want to make sure it’s my own.

Sail on

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Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels
blessing the boats  (at St. Mary’s)
by Lucille Clifton
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

This morning I struggled to rise. While some days bring with them a dawning of boundless hope, others weigh heavily like leaden clouds on the horizon. Today began with darkness and the scent of ozone and rain. It would have been easy to roll over and seek escape, but I did not.

Recently, I heard another man share his own struggles. Days when, despite all his success and gifts, he must make a conscious decision to get up and do it all again. Today was my day. And I rose to face the day, to carry out today’s tasks no matter how small, to embrace the present, and to entrust my back to the wind. I will face my unknown waters, waters “waving forever”, and sail on.

Life lessons bound in leather

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This journal is one of my favorite Christmas gifts, and as of today I am 40% of the way through it. I felt a little sadness as the imminence of its passing crossed my mind. Soon I’ll trade it’s cloth-like paper for the smoother, modern sheets of my usual journal of choice, a Moleskine Cahier. The quote etched leather binding will give way to plain card stock, and the legal style horizontal binding transition to a more tradition vertical binding. And while that day is still a ways off, its passing is inevitable.

Today it marked a reminder that all good things must end. Yet even as I see that day approaching, I will continue to use my journal to the fullest. I will not shorten my time with it in hopes of making it last a little longer. I will not avoid it, and in using other journals keep it closer for just a bit longer. I will not put it on a shelf to admire from afar. I will not run from the inevitability of our parting.

Instead, I will continue to meet inspiration, joy, worry and sorrow within its pages. I will continue to take pleasure in the feel of the paper, the way it takes the lead of the pencil, and its unique aroma. I will enjoy it until they day comes that our time together has come to an end, and then I will, with fond memories, move on. Made better by my time with it and ready to embrace the new and the different.

Such is today’s life lesson. One found in blank pages and pencil lead. One bound in leather.

Dairy is Everywhere (and other things)

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This past week saw the beginning of a fast from dairy. A grand experiment in pursuing a healthier and more mucus free lifestyle. And, as of today I have a perfect record of failure.

While someone, somewhere is sitting in judgment, I am laughing and preparing for my next attempt. This has been an incredible learning experience. I had no idea dairy had such a prominent place in my life. When I’ve tried to relate it to others, I tell them dairy flies under the radar. Sometimes, like this morning, it is the bedfellow of habit. “With cheese” fell so smoothly from my lips that my conscious self only became aware once the creamy melt settled onto my tongue. Most times, I am simply unaware. Having never considered it before, I know nothing of its hideaways. Cereal and lattes are easy to avoid. Yogurt and cottage cheese only slightly more troublesome. But I never saw butter chicken curry coming, and only barely dodged Tira Misu. If any lesson is to be learned, it is this – dairy is everywhere!

Or maybe there is something more. It’s been refreshing to engage in battle with something I can laugh about, and I hope it will translate to other, more sensitive places in my life because failure is a great teacher.

So I guess what I’m saying is this. Go forth and fail. Laugh at yourself and learn all you can.

Oh, and dairy is everywhere!

the greatest treasure

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my shadowed places
your radiance illumines,
by your life I shine.

-kirk stevens

I feel very blessed to be surrounded by amazing people. Tonight, a friend’s heartfelt concern for another challenged me. It was nothing more than the comment of a moment, an expression of desire for someone we both care about to know Christ.

Some who read this may not agree with that desire and that’s okay. If it helps, think of something else that you deeply value for a dear one’s life. The point is, her presence reconnected me with something important. Rather than bring guilt or shame, it challenged me, and, in a way, invited me to join her in her care for another.

If you have people in your life that make you a better person simply by their presence. People who, in the simple act of living, encourage, challenge and inspire you. People whose light makes your light brighter. Hold them close. I’m not sure there is any greater treasure in this life.