Living in the Now

 

Ever find yourself (or a friend) struggling with unresolved questions? I recently came across this intriguing quote:

“I beg you, have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them, and the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer…” – Rainer Marie Rilke

So now I’m thinking about what he proposes. The way I see it, he is saying to embrace the questions, they contain the answers. Give them time to incubate the answers… eventually the answers may in fact reveal themselves. That requires living in the Now.

Hmm… definitely going to meditate on this…

When the Emotional Tsunami Hits

The Japanese man clings to the rooftop of his home, adrift ten miles out to sea. The tsunami has swept his house and his wife away, and that bit of roof is what is keeping him alive. Miraculously, after two days tossed about by waves, he is rescued.

I have never had to overcome anything physically and materially as challenging as Hiromitsu Shinkawa faced. But I have had some very heavy blows in life. We’ve been talking about “how to deal” when life blindsides you and you are nearly destroyed by an emotional disaster. After the first key – Don’t Panic – the second key is this: Find the Rock.

God as a concept can seem overwhelming. It is difficult to think of Him in “manageable” terms – in a way our brains and hearts can understand. When someone tells you to “trust God” or “turn to God” in hard times – how do you know what he (God) is thinking? Do you cry out to him in desperation (as we have all done) saying, “Please God, please God, help me?”

And then what? Do you hear a reply? When your emotions are in turmoil, does he seem inaccessible? God’s Word, though, is always beautifully and easily accessible.

When life blindsides me, I cling as tenaciously to the words God speaks to us as Hiromitsu clung to that rooftop. Those words are my Rock, my stability. I read them, pray them, repeat them… and feel my spirit regain its strength.

Index cards have been a great tool for me. I carry them with me for easy access. When anxiety or fear starts to creep back in, I can pull out the verses, read them, resist the negative emotion and move on with my day.

Below are some samples… I highly recommend you make your own set of cards. Hold tight to the truths found in the Bible. They will keep you from drowning.

DON’T PANIC – When the storm hits

One of my all time favorite books is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a five-part trilogy. Douglas Adams wrote such a remarkable book(s) that to try and explain it here would twist my brain just a bit, and being that my brain is already slightly sprained, I’ll refrain. (Oops forgot to uncheck the Auto-rhyme feature in my medulla, however).

DON’T PANIC is a phrase that appears on the cover of the Guide. DON’T PANIC is the most vital advice for a perplexed, frequently-in-danger galaxy traveler.

It’s good advice for us too. A couple of posts ago we spoke about how to deal when life blindsides you. Staying calm is the first key. I will not pretend to be an expert at this, but I have had plenty of practice at being blindsided.

How to stay calm? These steps may seem simplistic, but they work for me:

  • Breathe – yes, literally, breathe. In and out, slowly. Breathing deeply has many beneficial effects. It also gives us time to slow down and not react immediately. Take in the news, however bad it may be. Consciously, as you breathe, reject that feeling of panic that is trying to rise up in your gut. If someone is speaking to you, pressing you for action and/or answers, calmly make them wait until you are ready. This may take some minutes or even some hours.
  • Think – yes, think. Your first reaction may or may not be correct, so move it to one side temporarily, and think through all the ramifications. Is the situation really as serious as it first appears? Can you call on some other people/perspectives to get the bigger picture? Who will be your support team as you navigate and overcome this situation? Always, as you think, avoid despair – you will overcome, and good will come out of it.
  • Remember – remember that you have probably survived other equally difficult challenges. Remember that even if you personally have not experienced such a hard situation before, surely other people you know have. Things do have a way of working out. Here it is so important to have already programmed your brain with memorable and helpful truths – and that is where the word of God is key. We will talk about this in another post.

I can promise you – based on what God says to us – that no matter how desperate or unthinkable a situation, you can survive it and eventually thrive as a stronger person, one who has even more to offer to the world. Here is a taste of what the Father wants us to know:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10)

Dear friend, DON’T PANIC.

[PS – Okay, I can’t resist. Here is the basic premise of the book:
One Thursday lunchtime the Earth is unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the galaxy is a very strange and startling place. Seconds before the Earth is demolished, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out of work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin their journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have” and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers. (from http://www.douglasadams.com)]

How to Deal

Ever get hit by something unexpected? A sudden setback, an abrupt souring of a  relationship, an illness that snuck up and pounced, a long held dream smothered without warning?

It’s hard to deal, isn’t it, when something blindsides us? I think it feels so wrong because these instances come with no warning, no margin for transition, no time to “get used to it.” They feel merciless, and they give us emotional whiplash.

So, how do you make it through without having your spirit broken, or losing the essence of who you are?

Here are a few touchstones I have found helpful in surviving these stealth attacks from life:

Don’t Panic
I always remember something Rudy Giuliani shared. He said that his father taught him:
“My father, when I was very young, used to say to me, ‘If you are ever in an emergency, if you are ever in a fire and everybody gets very excited, very emotional, then you become the calmest person in the room.'”

Find the Rock
In order to be calm, and – very importantly – stay calm, you have to know you are standing on a very solid rock. God is my Rock, and his words to me are beyond comforting. They literally give me physical, emotional and spiritual strength. There are key Bible verses that have made me strong.

Use Your Lifelines
You shouldn’t go through these shaky times alone! In a wise way, ask for help. I believe with every cell in my body that prayer works. There are people in our lives put there strategically by God. They have been gifted with the right words to pray for us!

In the next few posts we can talk more about these points… In the meantime, I wonder how others cope? How do you deal?

Tuning Forks and Tears

I appreciate tears! I smile as I wonder, why did God give us tears?

I’m not being morbid here. I’m in a great mood. But earlier today something made me think about how awesome tears are!

Tears are fascinating to me. In some cultures, tears flow freely, in happiness or in sorrow. In others, they are a sign of weakness. Some say men shouldn’t cry. Others say real men cry. Women in public leadership are not allowed to cry. Men in public leadership – well, it depends on the situation as to how the public interprets their tears. Some children cry loudly, some stifle their cries. Supposedly, a good cry cleanses your body from toxins (one of my personal favorite tear-facts!)… There are thousands of other tear-related truths. You are probably thinking of a few right now. (Do share!).

At times, tears are a sign that our heart is resonating with God’s, like a tuning fork. For that moment, we feel Him so closely and sense so strongly what He is saying, that the only response is a deeply emotional one. These resonating tears can make a far greater impact than the most eloquent sermon.

Today I saw an example of that. I saw a church leader so forcefully impressed by God’s love that he struggled to speak, and when he did, tears were the punctuation marks to his words. They were resonating tears. He just wanted us to get it – that ministry is all about people, not numbers, not statistics.

It was comforting, because I know that when we as leaders are aware of our failings, Christ shows up strongly to do His thing.

Which is why, folks, I really appreciate tears!

What’s So Bad About Racism?


Peter and I got married only one year after the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, in his native South Africa, was repealed. Had we married one year earlier, he could have been arrested, on arrival at the airport, for marrying me.
We have thousands of words stored within us when it comes to racism.
Eventually we’ll share more with you. For now, we’ll begin with my three word answer to the question of what is so bad about racism:

Racism misrepresents God.

How do you think it misrepresents God? Does that statement make sense to you?

How would you word your reply to the title question?

Training on Lake Nottely

God is wonderful in how he balances our training! Books and seminars are great…
Real flesh and blood humans that have survived overwhelming odds as leaders are even better!

We were not able to attend the second day of the Leadership Summit, as we had long ago scheduled a visit to friends in Georgia. A Ukrainian pastor and his family were also visiting… we spent rich time with them as our children splashed and explored on the lake.

Nic was a pastor of the underground church in the former Soviet Union. He has since founded several churches, including some in the States. He is replete with the Holy Spirit and immense joy. He has known immense suffering. He unfolded more of God’s character for us as he told us about his experiences walking with Jesus.

Stories of persecution under the KGB were not new to us – Peter in fact spent some time at a mission station in Finland, where our teams helped prepare packages of Bibles to smuggle into the Soviet Union.

Yet how intensely in the “now” we sensed the presence of the Lord as we soaked in His ways… sitting on a boat in a lake in Georgia (the very day another Georgia – across the globe – is engulfed in conflict), our children fellowshipping over muddy, glittery rocks!

He told us of miracle after miracle of healing and deliverance. Of having to ask God specifically at what hour to meet and where, so as to avoid arrest. Experiences of believers at diverse starting points, walking miles in the woods and asking God where to go, unexpectedly meeting up with other groups in the same remote area of the forest – miraculously brought together by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And more.

Stories new generations of believers need to know about. God has not changed.
Nic and Svetlana are simple humans, as are we all. And as humans, they reminded me that being massively overwhelmingly in love with God, and diving headfirst into His work, regardless of opposition, are the truly indispensable qualities of great leaders.