about the worst that could happen

You have all these thoughts about what’s the worst that could happen. These thoughts, they’re meant to comfort you. Calm you. Reassure you that life is as it should be.

You volunteer with a youth group. You love these kids as your own. You give them rides, you give them counsel, you give them love, you give them a huge part of yourself. You worry about them some, sure, but you remind yourself that life is as it should be. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe one of these kids could die, that would be the worst thing. Or maybe he could die right in front of your eyes. Maybe you could try to save him. Maybe you could fail. That would be the worst of the worst.

But life is as it should be, and it’s one of those passing thoughts, something so awful you don’t entertain because it’s so far away from normalcy. Those things don’t happen.

And then it happens. The worst of the worst of the worst that could happen actually happens, and all those other things you thought could never happen become a possibility. You walk around in a daze, expecting at any moment people all around you to just drop dead.

You can’t focus on work because you’re convinced at any moment your boss and coworkers and friends are going to call out and need help and you, unable to help one small child, will be unable to help them. You will fail again.

You can’t go to the grocery store, because the kids left unattended on aisle nine are dangerously close to death at any given moment. Their parents are three aisles over and if any of these children suddenly has an attack of something fatal or slips and falls, you’re the only one around to help, and you know you can’t do it because you couldn’t do it before. You’re filled with rage, because these parents should know better than to leave their children unattended with only a stranger nearby. These parents should know that stranger can’t protect their kids. These parents should know what’s the worst that could happen.

You deal with it for years. You get counseling. You progress and regress. You get married. You live in a constant state of fear that every time your husband walks out the door, he won’t make it back. You have to text him one last time, to let him know you love him. You worry your text message will be the thing to distract him, make him wreck, kill him.

You have a stepson. You fight a constant tendency to overprotection. You casually eye everything in his room in case there’s anything that could fall and hurt him or topple over in the night. Every time he coughs, you ask yourself if it’s a normal, productive cough or something insidiously more.

You are dictated, start to finish, by irrational fears and inconsolable rage that have all been confirmed since one of those worst things that could happen actually happened.

You get a book that shakes you up. It asks, what’s the worst that could happen? These things snowball as you remember, angrily, the worst that could happen. The book says, now see it through. What happens next?

You’re furious about that one. What happens next is you get severely, suicidally depressed. What happens next is you argue with God, fight with God, yell at God and accuse him of withholding his mercy and grace and love and miracles and healing and power. What happens next is you live life in constant fear of what happens next.

But then you keep going. What happens next is God tells you following him isn’t easy and definitely doesn’t feel perfect. He reminds you that even though you can’t save anyone, he can. God tells you if he wasn’t in the business of saving people, he wouldn’t have saved you. You feel a slight tinge of freedom in knowing that this isn’t dependent on you, that you are not responsible for saving people.

What happens next is God tells you he’s sorry you’re hurting, he’s so very sorry because this isn’t how he created the world but the world is this way all the same. He tells you this is his good plan, a good plan for redemption not only for you and for what you’ve been through, but a redemption plan for all the people, and you get to be a part of it.

What happens next is God doesn’t give up on you and you don’t give up on him. You grow closer to God than ever before. You grow wiser to his ways. You grow more grateful for his grace. You find each day slightly easier to surrender to his control. And even though, years later on the anniversary of that date, you still sit weeping at the memory of the sorrow and pain, God is still using that one worst that could happen to make the most beautiful things happen in you.

What happens next is you build an altar to God in honor of that time in your life, that worst that could happen. You anoint it with your tears and offer a sacrifice of your fears upon it as you tell God, “I trust you.”

And you know, you really finally know, there’s only one God who can take the worst that can happen yesterday and turn it into the best that can happen for you today.

about pray•o•dexes

Early this year in 2011 I wrote a post about Pray•O•Dexes, a specific type of prayer box I made for myself and many friends. Some boxes I sold, some I gave away, and some have been sitting in a cabinet for the past nine months.

I know some of the boxes have been useful and some have merely collected dust (and that’s okay). I’ve used mine consistently since last April, and I’ll tell you–it’s made a huge difference in my prayer life. It reminds me to pray over specific people and situations, helps me organize my prayers so I don’t feel overwhelmed with praying over every need all at once (or “forgetting” someone), and keeps me focused during my quiet time.

For some reason, the boxes have been on my mind the past few days. Then I received an email from a lady interested in the process I used to make the boxes. So, rather than keeping it to myself/ourselves, I’m posting it all here.

Note: I always get big craft ideas but am somehow missing the craft DNA to execute them properly. Certainly craftier people than me would have made them more efficiently, but I love my box, so that’s okay. Just keep in mind you want to make something you’re not going to get tired of seeing every day. So anything too outlandish or too plain might get a little “old” after a while.

You can use any size box/card you want, but this is what I envisioned, so this is what I did: Continue reading “about pray•o•dexes”

about the lord’s prayer, part iii

[You can read Part 1 here.]
[You can read Part 2 here.]

and forgive us our trespasses – As much as I may joke and other people may contradict this statement, I do not think I’m perfect. That said, I do occasionally start getting a little too big for my britches (well, literally and figuratively). And without fail, God uses each of those big-britches opportunities to show me how very small I really am. It’s called humility, and it’s a recognition of ourselves through God’s eyes.

When I first started walking closely with God some four-and-a-half years ago, he didn’t convict me of everything all at once. The major, glaring acts of disobedience were acknowledged right up front. But then he gradually revealing other things to me, like music and software piracy, speeding, or gossiping. I guess somewhere along the way I thought, “Okay, now he’s brought all these sins to light and I’ve changed my ways and that’s it.” Not that I thought I didn’t still sin, but I thought I was aware of all my sins. That I may still gossip, but I know it’s wrong and genuinely repent and seek strength in turning completely from the sin.

Ha, how often I mislead myself!

God still convicts me of sins I never noticed or recognized as sins. They may or may not be “new” sins, but they’re sins I never recognized as any form of disobedience.

What’s more, in addition to revealing more sins to me, God is teaching me to have joy in my conviction of those sins. One day, after a particularly hardcore lesson about my behavioral and attitudinal response to, well, every single thing God tells me, I was filled with the most extreme joy. God hasn’t left me down here to try to figure it all out on my own. He loves me enough to mold me, to teach me, to discipline me. He hasn’t, nor will he ever, written me off or given up on me. My sins are many, and I stand next to Paul, who called himself the greatest sinner of all. I think he too said it joyfully, not in a celebration of our disobedience but in a celebration of God’s desire to free us from our disobedience.

as we forgive those who trespass against us – Now the other side of the coin.

Just as much as it’s going to happen that we’re going to sin, it’s going to happen that people are going to sin against us. I’m not talking about someone casually saying something that hurts your ultra-sensitive feelings or someone exposing your insecurity simply by doing what they always do. I’m talking about people who actually act very un-Christlike toward you. Perhaps anti-Christlike would be a better choice.

Because of my current circles of relationships, the amount of people who fall into that category are few and far between. Yet at the beginning of 2011 I found myself in a situation where only about two people were left standing beside me. What God taught me through that was how I must rely on him only. That anyone and everyone else will, at one time or another, fail me. And that’s okay. Because he won’t.

So, keeping him in perspective, he gave me opportunities to love people who have hurt me deeply, and each opportunity looked a little different from the other. The overarching lesson was, “Never stop loving.” Regardless of actions, regardless of emotions, regardless even of whether the person is a believer or not, we can never stop loving. And true, if you consider that often our hurt and anger at people is due as a result of, and not in spite of, our love for them.

There’s a reason Jesus says we should pray for forgiveness of our own sins first and then aid in forgiving others. Because if we can recognize God’s grace in forgiving our multitude of sins, we’re more capable to show grace to others. And grace doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what anyone has done to us, because our sins against God are invariably worse. We can forgive because we were forgiven.

and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil – Interestingly, so often our temptation to despair or give the Devil a foothold begins with a thought. It snowballs, gains momentum, and quickly one negative, defeating thought turns even the strongest believer into a disaster. But if we can catch it and recognize it, we can stop it.

In years past I learned the power of speaking the Word aloud, especially when my thoughts attempted to overtake me. I had a couple go-to verses memorized and ready to recite at a moment’s notice. Did I forget this lesson? Perhaps.

A couple weeks ago I was sitting with a dear lady, an amazing woman of God. I told her about my struggles this year with fear and defeat and insecurity. She told me to close my eyes and silently count backward from ten. I began, and she asked, “What is your name?” I paused, said, “Rebecca,” and realized my thoughts had been interrupted. I know I stopped at the number seven, but was it right before seven or right after seven? I have no clue. The point: speaking out loud can interrupt even the most deliberate of thoughts.

God has already equipped us with everything we need to combat temptation and deliver us from evil. Sure, he’ll keep pulling us through, but we can use what we already know, what he’s given us, to stop our thoughts in their tracks.

That said, living a Christian life is fighting a constant battle. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have verses about putting on the armor of God. You don’t need armor to go play in a happy little meadow. You need armor when you’re going to war.

So we equip ourselves with the Word he’s given us, we prepare for battle by wearing the armor he’s given us, we learn to recognize it and stop it within the ability he’s given us, and we let him do the rest.

Amen. – And now it’s a new year. I have a thought that twentytwelve (because I like the ascetics of writing it like that) is going to be the best year for us yet. My prayer for this year is to retain these lessons he’s spent almost thirty years teaching me and at least one year really driving home. Because life is like the cumulative exam–you build off previous lessons to understand the next lessons.

Thank you to those of you who have shared 2011 with me in one way or another. Here’s to the lessons of 2011 and the lessons in store for us this year.