Free from Worry

If you’ve followed Enjoying the Surface for any amount of time, you’ve read enough of the posts here to see that there are strong themes on worry, anxiety, fear and the like.  These are struggles familiar to me, as well as those that I find are familiar to my fellow man.  To be human requires struggling with issues of control, or the lack of it, and that is sure to bring upon a healthy dose of worry.  To be human also requires recognizing that our worries can only be met in Jesus as we abide in Him (John 15).

Leave it to Pastor Jon at Restoration Church to pack a 1-2 punch on worry from this Sunday’s sermon, where He urges us to push into Jesus as worries come our way.

Good Odds Going On?

citycouncilIt’s warm today.  And dry.  In February.  And the next week of weather forecast appears to bring more of the same.  So it came as no big surprise—a little, for sure—to find seagulls flying overhead this morning, even though I live about an hour from the Pacific Ocean.

Yes, friends, the drought that has hit me and my southern California neighbors is taking its toll.  For once, we’re thinking of ways to not use as much water as we usually do.  Do we mellow if it’s yellow (yes, I said it)?  Perhaps not wash down our driveways everyday?  A whole new sense of responsibility is hitting us (do sense my sarcasm here).

Seriously, though, the oddness of the weather is just one factor in my own life of the oddities of life.  And as I look at these places within me, I notice that there is a strong drive to make things easy.  To make them right.  To make them…controllable.  The activities of my life must have some aspect of control, lest I get jumpy, anxious, grumpy, out of sorts.

You’ll remember in the movie Horton Hears a Who that Mr. Mayor’s city council was quite determined to the same thing.  When the mayor announced that he had noticed tremors, clouds swirling in the sky, and that sort of thing—“odd goings on”—the council was determined to make sure that they were indeed good odd goings on, all for the sake of maintaining a face of calm and control even when the evidences showed otherwise.

So, whether seagulls fly over your Omaha skies or clouds swirling in the skies show up outside your window, may each of us be willing not to hide ourselves from the truth that is at the end of our noses.

Lessons From Moving: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

ImageAs I posted some months ago, this year has been a year of transition for my family and I.  We’ve recently moved from being in the center of suburbia to the edge of it.  And while my proximity to the woods and mountains of southern California is a definite plus (why, yes, that is an AWESOME view out of my bedroom window–thanks for noticing), I don’t think I completely realized all that a move entailed.  Sure, there was the reservation for our U-Haul, collecting boxes to start packing, getting rid of old stuff in our old place, change of address forms with the Postal Service and then getting amazing friends to help us move on the big day (you know who you are and how rockstarish you really are!).   

But the settling in afterwards has been a bit more of a surprise.  Boxes are all gone now.  The new routine is basically set.  But what I’m realizing is how much to a town one learns over time.  In our previous home, we’d lived in the area for about fourteen years.  The nuances of our town and the surrounding towns—known.  The time it takes to go from home to a certain place—known (more or less given southern California traffic).  In this new place, all of these things—and others—are still being learned, and will continue to be so.  And my Type A is showing in that now that we have been here for six weeks, I should have it altogether and figured out, and tied nicely with a bow.  No, friends, the reality of it is that I’m still learning, and even though the surroundings in the previous home were more known, I was in that state of learning even there.

It’s been a reminder to me that all of us are on a journey—one that provides things to see and learn and adapt to along the way.  God’s desire for us is to press into these places of learning, not cower in fear, utilizing all He gives us to our fullest potential. 

The Apostle Paul put it this way to Timothy: “God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible” (2 Timothy 1:7, The Message).  Boldness that helps us push forward with bravery into the unknown, love that brings patience and margin, and sensibility that gives us reason in making the right decisions. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  It took eons, reliance on one’s fellow man and courage.  And moves don’t have to be either.  Wherever your journey has you in transition as of late, take heart, be malleable in your learning and rely on all God provides in the process.  

Look, Dad! The plane! The plane!

The year was 1978. The location was a mysterious island in the Pacific where visitors came to live out all sorts of fantasies at a sort of hotel. The proprietor of this hotel was a Mr. Roarke, whose assistant, Tattoo, would shout, “The plane! The plane!” upon the arrival of these guests by air. And it was here that the episode began. Visitors began to live out things they had only dreamed of—reconnecting with lost friendships, finding large hidden treasures, discovering new parts of themselves they had never realized, and the like.

Fast forward twenty-two years. The year was 2000 and I was in southern California studying at a private Christian university. My summer plans involved a mission trip to Romania and our team of eleven needed our last bit to purchase plane tickets, yet another chunk to cover our costs in-country. As a college student, I’d seen God’s provision before—tuition payments were a regular opportunity for Him to show that He was truly the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. But this trip was important (didn’t He know that?) and an airfare purchase to Europe for roughly a dozen of us was a bit larger of a purchase than this kid had seen, or made, before. Our travel agent had found us a great deal, lower than we had budgeted for, on KLM, that wonderful Dutch airline with its Smurf-blue planes. Tickets were purchased. Sure enough, that daily Smurf-blue flight was easily spotted from the skies of my school, which happened to be right under the LAX landing path. As we prepared for our trip, the appearance of KLM Flight 601 into Los Angeles was a regular reminder of God’s provision, the fact that I was under His care and that worry was not needed as I lived in His plan.

Fast forward to 2012. This week actually. Living in the same area still, that Smurf-blue flight still makes itself known on a daily basis. And I happen to see it just when I need it most—at a time when I begin to once more doubt God’s goodness, His presence in my life, His protection over me and my family. Then, out of the blue (pun unintended), there it comes. And it’s a reminder just the same as it was before—that God is present, that He is with me, and that He is calling me to things I’ve never dreamed of. For many of the last few years, the appearance of that flight comes just when it’s needed. So, as I wondered this week about what lay ahead for my family as we approach the holidays, property tax bills, a fiscal cliff and the like, I hear my baby girl say to me, “A plane!” as we’re by the window. Could it be? Sure enough, I look up and it’s my Smurf-blue reminder of the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God, from His care for His children and from the knowledge that I am His.

Now, the fun begins in translating this to my little one, of God’s provision for us, and how He reminds us of it in the most inconspicuous of ways.

Don’t Be A Marlin

I am, more oftentimes than not, a Marlin.

No, this is not my post about my being drafted by Miami (the Angels would pick me first anyway).  And I am not referring to the giggling one in Cabo.

The Marlin I’m referring to is that of Nemo’s dad, played by Al Brooks, in Pixar’s Finding Nemo.  In that wonderful film (which to my surprise is nearly 10 years old!), Marlin is a worry wart, a Debbie-downer, and one who is constantly relying on himself and not able to see anything beyond his own two fins.  My own proclivity to Marlinism goes back many years and as I see more and more the ways that I Marlinize, I’m learning that it doesn’t get me anywhere.

In fact, one’s own Marlinishness can only lead to more fretting and less trusting.  The Apostle Paul told the church at Phillipi similar words when he encouraged them not to “worry about anything, but in every situation with prayer and petition, and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Why?  Because then, “the peace of God, which is above all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The benefit of not falling into Marlinism is peace.  God’s peace, and protection in Jesus.

That’s more than anyone could ask for.

Flavor of the Month

Back in the day, Baskin Robbins used to have a flavor of the month.  Remember that?  And it would be something pretty special.  A unique combination that you’d want to be sure to try because you knew you would like it.  Well, fast forward some years later, and a part of me has taken a liking to the idea of problem of the month.  It’s gotta be something pretty special and doesn’t everyone want to know about it because you know that they’ll want to worry about it with you.

 

In recent months, it’s occurred to me that my flavor-of-the-month syndrome doesn’t really help me much.  Because as soon as one perceived problem is solved another one pops up to replace it.

The truth of it is that so much of my worry is learned.  I’ve learned over time that it’s normal to worry, that something in my life must bring me to a place of fear and dread.  And yet in the back of my mind another part of me knows that problem-of-the-month just doesn’t cut it.  It’s the part that wants to believe Jesus words in Matthew 6 when He told His followers:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25-34).

Live for today.  Remember that Jesus’ Father knows what we need—that is, what we truly need.  And in our seeking first God’s kingdom, it will all work out.  That’s been the journey as of late.  And it’s been fun to see how God has showed up “more” than He has previously.

Try it with me this week.  And as you do, remember that we’re in good company!  The Apostle Peter encouraged those to whom he wrote his first letter to cast their anxieties on God.  King David asked God to search him and know his heart in Psalm 139.  May we follow their examples, be brave and rest in the fact that God is right next to us in our own lives.  And may you remember that as we seek His kingdom, all else falls into place.