Archive for the ‘Freedom’ Tag

Choked by Our Own Expectations   Leave a comment

We are often warned not to get stuck in the past, but it is just as common a problem to get stuck in the future. Both viewpoints can pull us away from living fully in the present. But unlike our past, our future is a mystery, which could drastically change in an instant. Since we have no control over our past, we feel our only security is in controlling our future, but those expectations can be miscalculated in a hundred ways and so can hijack our present. In this sense we can lose control of our present by the demands of our planned future, so that, ironically, in thinking to gain more control over our lives, we lose control.

The answer is not in control of our past (by trying to ignore its impact) or control of our future (by careful planning and decision making), but in learning to live in the present by faith. Good plans and decisions are worthwhile, but our security lies rather in the hands of God. As the Good Book says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

–some words I shared on Facebook yesterday


Posted May 18, 2015 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Why Is Grace So Hard to Grasp?   5 comments

My constant refrain this year past, muttered or sighed or groaned: “I am SO tired!”  Many times every day and out loud to myself–in the kitchen, on walks, at work, and even in my mind as I spot tasks that stare grumpily at me, like the window air-conditioner sitting on our coffee table that I brought up from the basement two days back.  I’ve barely managed to keep up with life: washing clothes and then leaving them in the laundry basket to fish out for work, while I dump dirty clothes on the floor next to it; watering plants just before they die, or not; cooking raw meat just before it rots.  I’ve dropped other things after dragging them around mentally like a ball and chain, such as the $8 rebate from Ace Hardware that expired… well I actually didn’t give up on that, it just ran out before I mailed it in.  Unfortunately, I never give up on things.  I just accumulate them like sandburrs on bare feet.

I could sit here on the living room sofa and write a discouraging list of tasks that I can literally see from here: A dvd player to take to Goodwill–it’s been sitting accusingly at the end of the loveseat for two weeks; an old external hard drive to process, walnuts in a coffee container that need shelling, now practically buried behind accumulating paperwork, books, and other stuff that needs to be sorted and resolved; a briefcase full of files and lists neglected for many months; a dime-sized food stain on the sofa arm under my wrist that needs cleaning–it has been there for two months; and the latest addition–insulation that arrived yesterday, now propped against the wall, that needs to be hung in the attic.  I’m not even mentioning the things that are in the room but just out of sight–I am fully aware of them–out of sight out of mind is a laughable proverb for those with a mind like my own.  I haven’t even touched on the cars, yard, basement, shed, office–a thousand obligations wrap like Lilliputian threads around me.  I could cut off the least important hundred tasks and make no difference to the overall affect.

Mind you, I go to work every day, pay my bills and mortgage on time, walk the dogs, take out the trash, shop and cook enough to keep us fed adequately, mow the lawn, exercise, wash my clothes.  In other words, I am a normally functioning human, which seems enough for most folks.  I’m amazed at the ability others have to simply ignore their overflowing in-boxes.  Something needs to change in my outlook on life, somehow to live under the flow of grace in a way that releases me from this constant weight of obligation.  For all the work I have put into grasping this principle over many years, one would think I would have found freedom by now.  Even learning grace seems to be such an arduous, long-term effort–my thoughts, my habits, my feelings slide so easily back into my old ways.  That sounds so wrong-headed even in saying it… shouldn’t grace be easy by definition?  Law is so deeply engrained in my soul.  It stains every thought to the roots.  Well, let me celebrate each baby step and not add insult to injury by condemning my lack of growth in grace.  It will come, it will take time, and this post is one more reminder to myself to re-orient my soul in line with God’s unconditional acceptance.

Posted May 7, 2015 by janathangrace in Personal

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Saving Trust   1 comment

My achievement demon was finally beaten (as I posted), but it was a double-team effort, not a solo act.  Berly deserves special praise for her unusual trust and courage to stand with me in this battle as she lived out our fundamental commitment to support one another’s personal struggles.  It is a long story, a good story, one well worth telling, but too big for a blog.  The only way for me to escape my work-driven value system was to resist its demands, which meant choosing a job which was good for my soul but bad for my pocket.  I have been employed part-time and seasonally for 40 months as our savings slowly dwindled.  I have looked for other employment, but not aggressively, taking it at the pace my spirit has needed.  

Imagine how much trust and courage this has required of Kimberly and how badly I needed this trust when struggling with my own self doubt.  She has said many times, “we may lose our home, but we must not lose our souls,” and so we have continued to make the hard choice of trusting God to keep us afloat financially while we take the steps we have both needed to make room for our weary hearts.  Think how much Kimberly must trust me not to be selfish, not to take the easy way, not to use my struggle as an excuse to slack off, and to instead accept that I am doing all that I can within the sphere of my emotional strength, making the best choices I know how in harmony with my spirit.  We have built this mutual trust by sharing honestly, often, about our deepest heart issues.  We trust one another not to use our neediness to get an advantage over the other.

My win over this perverse accomplishment-based value system is not full or final.  I cannot suddenly begin to live as though I’m now free of its influence. as though this lifelong weight can no longer distort my self perception.  Don’t look for miracles here or you will be disappointed.  I am in recovery mode, and it will be a long, slow rehabilitation.  It will take whatever time it takes, and trying to hurry it would undermine the process.  But you can be sure that Kimberly and I will stay faithful to the path before us.

Posted January 22, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal

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New Year’s Welcome   Leave a comment

appleNew Year’s resolutions feel more like chains than wings to me.  I want freedom to become rather than strictures to conform.  I would follow my heart’s inclinations rather than set a behavioral agenda, unsaddle my soul from demands and expectations and deadlines.  I hope to be open and welcoming of each day, to receive what it brings, rather than insist that it yield rewards for my labors.  May I rather grow like a tree: when the rain falls, suck it up; when the spring pushes up sap, sprout leaves; when obstacles crowd me, shape myself around them.  Our backyard black walnut has no limb-growing, root-digging schedule, but it blossoms out well into its true self.

intertwinedI think we have less control over our journey, our growth process, than we realize, and if relationship is foundational to our development, then growth is necessarily interactive and intertwined and cannot be a simple matter of my own choosing and acting.  An organic, inter-relational spirituality looks more like a tree than a construction project: much more vulnerable to change, but also much more adaptive; much less structured and predictable, but much more expansive and potent.  Both methods of development have set principles, but a plant has far more freedom of expression in living out those principles.

So I welcome 2014 and whatever it might bring, not because ours is a safe and good world, but because I have a loving and gentle God who promises to be with me in all the coming uncertainty.

kid with dad

Posted January 8, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal

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