How Did I Get Here?

highway hypnosisHave you ever driven somewhere and realised when you arrived that you had no recollection of the journey? Highway Hypnosis, “also known as ‘white line fever,’ is a mental state in which a person can drive a truck or other automobile great distances, responding to external events in the expected, safe and correct manner with no recollection of having consciously done so.”

In some ways, my life looks like highway hypnosis! I haven’t felt like I was asleep at the wheel. My eyes have been open, but I wonder, “Have I responded to some external events in the ‘expected, safe and correct manner with no recollection of having consciously done so?'”

We are all prone to “white line fever” and some of the tips used to avoid it for drivers are profoundly applicable to our everyday lives:

Get Enough Sleep

The word “rest” is mentioned in God’s word over 500 times. One of our 10 commandments is to ‘Honour the Sabbath.’ God made us with a daily need for sleep and yet our world tells us to do more, go faster, stretch the limits, run down our competition, outshine last year’s numbers. Resting can be perceived as weakness.

Consciously making decisions about the direction of our lives means resting with intentionality and not beginning each day exhausted and overwhelmed. Having a rested soul prohibits twists and turns from taking us into the gutter.

Start Early

The mind is more alert when we are fresh. We have the ability to respond to our surroundings with competency when we leave margin and operate with a long-term approach rather than urgency from running late or falling behind. There’s nothing worse than the panic we feel from racing around trying to meet expectations, knowing we didn’t slow down to absorb the details.

I used to have a quote on my office wall that said, “YOUR lack of planning does not constitute MY emergency.” How many times do we get a late start, find ourselves falling into bad habits, doing what’s convenient, most familiar or accessible, never even stopping to analyse whether it’s a good choice or the best avenue to our destination?

Open Your Windows

It’s hard to fall asleep at the wheel of a car with hair blowing across our faces. We can smell the outdoors and hear the sounds of traffic around us with the windows down. Tuning into our surroundings keeps us engaged in the authenticiy of life, negating autopilot. I battle anxiety and a technique I use when I feel the familiar knot in my stomach is walking outside, looking around and naming the tangible – that which I can see, feel, smell, and hear. My concrete surroundings take me out of my imagination where people play tricks on me, chauferring me down a dangerous road.

We must not shut out nature, our family, our hobbies. Coasting down the freeway of life, unconscious of our surroundings, means we miss out on cuddles with kids, secrets with spouses, laughter with friends. We can fly over seemingly insignificant moments in everyday life, but this triviality is what actually makes up a life.

I don’t want to live in an unconscious trance, drifting wherever the road takes me, unaware. I’m committed to sleeping well, creating margin, and breathing deeply the fresh air around me. Let’s do it together!

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God” (1 Peter 1:18a MSG).

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How Many Pages?

IMG_3213Every night, my 6 year old (who dislikes most things about school and sitting still), reads a book as part of his home reading program. He’s doing well, but every time he opens the book, he gets that disgruntled pout on his face in anticipation of how lengthy it will be. The inevitable moan comes with, “how many pages are in this book?”

Sometimes, there are only one or two sentences on a page, but there might be 40 pages total. This makes him VERY UPSET! So much so, that I can hardly persuade him to keep going. It wouldn’t matter if every word was easy to pronounce and the plot of the story was thrilling.

The mere thought that there are a lot of pages makes him cringe. If there are tons of words on each one but only 15 pages in total, Sam is happy to proceed… even if the words are challenging and he doesn’t quite understand the storyline.

He equates the length of the book with its difficulty level.

Confession: I’m the same in this chapter of my spiritual journey. If a goal seems like it’s a long way off, I tend to lose heart. I get discouraged and I find it arduous to concentrate on the day ahead, even if its pages are filled with fun! I worry more and find myself dreading what’s to come, rather than embracing the “now.”

However, if I must tackle something really difficult but I know it’s tomorrow or the next day, I’m ready to flip the page and bring it on. I don’t shy away. I’m ready for the fight.

Somehow, I, not unlike my 6yo, have fooled myself into thinking the future, that which is out of reach, is more difficult than the “now.” However, the future becomes the now in a few days time. We have to go through it either way.

There are spiritual principles at work as we navigate the stories of our lives, today and everyday. The pages of life keep turning and sometimes our issues stare back at us like the bad 1980s photography in some of Sam’s home readers. We don’t want to look at them!

I’m aiming to be at peace even when the words are unfamiliar.

Our most desperate times, the moments when our worlds are blurry and our endurance is tested, are no different than the more concise, easily simplified issues of today. If we believe God is with sometimes, then we must believe he is with us always.

Full Stop.

Finding rest and peace when our externals seem formidable can be challenging. Trusting a God who exists outside of linear time is hard too. But, if we pause, breathe, take life one page at a time, line by line, not rushing ahead or dreading the future, rather enjoying the present, we will make it to the end.

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:28-31 MSG)

“GO GET YOUR BALL!”

IMG_3029We have the most adorable King Charles Cavalier who has stolen my heart over the last year and a half. He is kind, loyal, cuddly, obedient (mostly), and always so happy to see me. Cavies aren’t known for being the smartest dogs on the planet, but he does few tricks we have taught him and he seems to know what’s going on at all times.

I’ve never been one for lots of clutter with kids toys and I’m the same when it comes to Nolan, our dog. He typically only has one toy at a time and it gets replaced when he chews it up. The first toy he ever had was a rope with a ball attached to it and we trained him to “GO GET YOUR BALL!” whenever it was time to play. When we bought a new toy, it didn’t have a ball attached to it, but we kept on saying, “GO GET YOUR BALL!” and he knew exactly what we were talking about.

Now, after about a dozen toys from stuffed chickens to a snorting pig, to various types of ropes, Nolan knows what we mean when we lie to him and tell him, “GO GET YOUR BALL!” He is now destined to look stupid in front of all his dog friends as well as ours when he mistakenly goes and gets his toy even though it rarely includes a ball. The only way this will change is if we take the time and energy to re-teach him, to work with him to show him the truth. We have no plans to do so; therefore, Nolan will live with this lie for the rest of his little doggie life.

How many of us are living with a lie each and every day? We walk around oblivious to its deception and sometimes even other people see us buying into its power. The Bible says that the enemy is a liar and that he is constantly prowling around trying to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). You may not be chasing a silly rope around the house, but you’re chasing the approval of a parent or a boss because you believe their opinion matters more than it does (a lie). You aren’t looking in the laundry room for a squeaky toy, but you’re looking in the mirror believing you’re not beautiful or that you need some work to be more valuable (a lie).

Oh, you’re not a silly dog looking for a ball that’s really a stuffed animal under the sofa, but you’re reflecting on past mistakes believing you’ve missed your opportunity for success or that you’ll never amount to anything. You’re probably not wasting time running in circles and panting but you might be going around the same mountains in your failed relationships based on false pretenses.

I’m not interested in enlightening my fluffy dog, but I AM interested in encouraging YOU today:

You don’t have to chase after a lie.

No matter what anyone has told you in the past or what you’ve even told yourself, you are made in God’s image and you are worth everything. You’re unique and lovely and have as much potential as anyone who has changed the world before you. You can chase after Jesus and find truth at every turn. You can run into hurdles, get locked out of opportunities or even make the wrong call with everyone watching.

Your owner is Jesus, who bought you with a high price, his very own life and blood. And, he finds you worthy enough to give you a clear path of second chances and unlocked doors. And that’s no lie.

“If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (John 8:32 MSG)

Day 21: “Keep Going.”

come-like-rainTo paraphrase the Apostle Paul in Philippians, “[You’ve] got your eye on the goal, where God is beckoning [you] onward – to Jesus. [You’re] off and running, not turning back.” The 21 Day fast is coming to an end, but you will continue to benefit from a vibrant relationship with God.

This relationship is two ways, however. It’s often said that God is a gentleman, never pushing his way in or demanding anything from you. James promises that God will come close to you when you come close to him.

You must acknowledge him and shift your thoughts towards him daily in order to experience his refreshing. Faith brings full assurance when you draw near to God with a sincere heart (Hebrews 10:22). In other words, you can count on your faithful God; but, it’s difficult to trust someone you don’t talk to or spend time with.

“So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it”(Philippians 3:15-16 MSG).

“Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

Day 20: “Abide in Him.”

vine-and-branchesYou are setting yourself up for a rewarding 2017 as you have given this first part of your year to God through prayer and fasting. You have experienced a form of pruning as you have denied yourself something over the last three weeks. Now, you will see a prolific harvest in your spiritual life as your fruitfulness multiplies.

You must abide in the vine in order to experience the fulness of what God has in store for you. His beautiful reminder in John 15 is that you must remain in Christ to bear fruit. As you rest in Christ’s love and stay connected to him and his word, nothing is impossible.

Attach yourself to him like a child attached to a mother’s breast. Hook up to his word as if your life depends on it. Let your church family be the fertiliser that enriches the soil of your life so that every area yields a by-product of Jesus.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.” (John 15:4 MSG)

Day 19: “Be the light.”

be-the-lightAs you mature in your faith and continue to pursue God, your life reflects his glory. God is on your lips, in everyday conversations. This time of prayer and fasting has created new habits for you and you have received revelation of who God is in your life.

Do people around you know that you are a Christ follower? Have you stepped out to encourage someone by sharing what Jesus means to you? You may be surprised at how open others actually are towards him when you make known the goodness of your God.

Remember, no one can take away your personal testimony of how Jesus has touched you. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar or have all the answers in order to shine the light of Christ.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 MSG)

Day 18: “Children are God’s Best Gift.”

fearfully-madeToday’s children are bombarded with more information than any previous generation. Just go to a shopping mall you’ll see iPads strapped to prams and realise even two year olds are filtering messages coming at them at breakneck speeds. The pace doesn’t slow as they get older.

The most important data young people need is God’s word which tells them they are precious in his sight. An urgent affirmation of the Lord’s plan for them is due.  Timely reminders that they aren’t in your way nor too naive to make a difference.

Today, focus on praying for the children and youth in your life. Maybe they live with you… Look them in the eyes and say, “God loves and cherishes you. You are SO SPECIAL and worthy of love, perfectly made in his image and fully equipped to change the world.”

If you have grandchildren, nieces and nephews, kids at church over whom you have influence, don’t take your position for granted. The world will tell them everything they aren’t and will reinforce what they lack. As Christian leaders, parents, grandparents, you have a responsibility to speak and pray into the lives of the precious ones in your life.

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
    the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
    are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
    with your quivers full of children!
 (Psalm 127:3-4 MSG)