Monthly Archives: May 2021

Seek the Second Thoughts


“For the record, I was wrong,” I told my teenage daughter Riley.  We were talking about one of her friends who’d done something that seemed arrogant and self-promoting to me.  But when I casually asked her friend about it in order to confirm my preconceived notions, he explained the sweet and sentimental reasons that motivated him, which were far from boastful.  In that moment, my view changed completely, and I realized I’d once again let my assumptions cloud my judgment.  

I wish this was the first time I’d ever been wrong about someone based on my initial assumptions, but that is simply not the case.  I had a friend that I met at a kids’ activity gym when my oldest children were little.  Based on our surface appearances, we were complete opposites. Her makeup was always flawless and her hair perfectly coiffed – a real life Barbie doll.  I just knew we would have nothing in common.  And I almost let that bias intimidate me and prevent me from getting to know her.  I don’t know how it happened exactly, but we started talking and laughing – a lot.  Every week, we would hang out while the kids played, and she and I had the best time.  We don’t see each other often now because our lives have moved in different directions, but when we run into each other in a store, we hug and catch up.  I think about what I would’ve missed if I’d let my misconceptions prevent me from getting to know her.  I wonder who and what I’ve missed because I didn’t dig deeper to verify the accuracy of my perceptions about others and their actions.

I’ve heard it said that we can’t control the first thoughts that run through our heads, but we are responsible for the thoughts after that.  Do we allow our first assumptions to stand unquestioned or are we open to challenging our original impulses?  Jesus certainly questioned the authorities in power, but he also confronted his friends about their beliefs or lack thereof.  Jesus and his disciples were on a boat when “suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’  He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”  Matt. 8:23-26.  

The disciples were terrified and had every right to be, but Jesus wouldn’t let them remain in their initial state of fear.  And isn’t fear why we often have the gut reactions that we do?  We may fear not being good enough.  Or we might fear people who seem different from us, and our automatic reaction often is to judge and find fault in order to feel better about ourselves.  But God wants us to challenge our assumptions about people so that we move out of our states of fear and judgment.  God expects us to grow and be open to learning more about others instead of staying stagnant and uninformed.  Think of all we will miss if we don’t.  Think of all of the beauty we may experience if we open our hearts and minds and share our lives with others.  Let us pray for God’s guidance in breaking free of our small mindedness in the way we initially react and finding deeper love instead.   

A Knotted Heart


I didn’t like the way the situation was working out.  I couldn’t control the actors or their actions, but I’d wished, hoped, and prayed – a lot – for a different outcome.  I felt as though the circumstances had created a knot in my heart.  I could physically feel the stress consume me because I kept longing for a particular result even in the face of reality.  I continued to pray and tried to say the words I thought were “right.”  But I finally admitted to God and myself that I wasn’t ready to let go.  I was still holding on to what I wanted to happen with white knuckle determination.  In my journal, which basically consists of my letters to God, I wrote about the grief I felt, and then prayed, “I want help.  At least, I want to want help.  Is that a first step forward?  Please let it be, Lord.”  

Sometimes, the bare minimum we can do is admit that we know we need to adapt, even if we aren’t quite ready to make a move.  God wants to help us better deal with the way life unfolds, but we may not be prepared to accept God’s grace and comfort.  So, we can do the next best thing: confess that we just don’t know what to do or how to pray.  

One of my favorite passages in the Bible says, “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.”  Romans 8:26-27 (The Message).  We may be worn out and unsure of how to pray, but God knows.  God takes our deepest sighs, our loudest groans, and our fountain of tears and translates them into the prayers we need.  God is not upset with us for being timid or reluctant or stubborn.  Instead, God knows we become tired while we wait and that we may feel angry or hurt by what the waiting produces.  God can open our hearts and minds so that someday we will see our way through the problems.  Someday, we will be ready to receive all of the transforming power only God can pour into us.  

That day will not necessarily arrive instantaneously.  God’s miracles often develop over time and may be difficult to see clearly until much later.  But we can trust that God is in the process of untangling the knots in our souls slowly but surely.  The pain in my heart did not lessen when I prayed that I wanted to want help.  In fact, the heartache and disappointment grew worse in the immediate days afterward.  But in my desperation, I began to lean on God’s promise that he understood me anyway when I couldn’t find the words or discern the direction I needed to go.  I threw my up hands and said, “you’ve got to do it, God.”  That was all I could do.  And that was enough.             


The Empty Container on the Shelf


I reached into the refrigerator for the box that the small, individual sized hummus servings came in and found they were all gone.  Of course, this meant that someone in my household took the last hummus and then put the empty box back.  This phenomenon is a baffling part of parenthood.  All of the children put empty boxes, cartons, and containers back on the refrigerator and pantry shelves on a regular basis.  Why?  They could just as easily place the empties on the counter so that I know we are out and need replacements.  Instead, I am left to discover the need at some later point much to my frustration.  Or they could actually tell me that we are out of said snacks, and we could avoid the offending behavior all together.  

Sometimes, I think we resemble the empty containers, tapped out spiritually, emotionally, physically, or mentally.  We feel hollow and vacant.  We have nothing left to offer others or ourselves.  We may suffer from grief, depression, exhaustion, anxiety, or illness.  Whatever the cause, we are left an empty vessel.  

And what do we do with ourselves?  Often, we have a tough time admitting to ourselves that we are lacking or feeling less than.  We minimize our worries.  We decide that it would be selfish to address our own needs.  Or we just don’t feel capable of seeking help.  We ignore our problems and push ourselves to the back of the shelves where no will find us.  

But if we don’t tell anyone we are struggling, no one knows we are empty.  No one will understand that we need attention or care if we suffer in silence.  Even those who are in our closest circles cannot read our minds to know how we are feeling.  The pain will only get worse the longer we remain in isolation.  Our culture signals that feeling down means we are weak.  We often buy into those societal norms adding guilt onto our already fragile feelings.  We respond by withdrawing even more from those who would love to help us if they only knew.   

And while we tend to hide our feelings of despair from other people, we sometimes hide from God as well.  We may be reluctant to pray or seek God’s comfort when we feel hopeless.  But God does not want us to pull away from him ever, but especially when we feel sorrow or are so disconnected that we feel very little at all.  God does not want us to pull away from the people in our lives because we are ashamed.  

In the Bible, apostle Paul, and his assistants, Silas and Timothy, wrote a letter to the church of the Thessalonians in which they describe their relationship with the people of that church.  They said, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”  (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8).  God loves us and does not want us to feel alone.  God places people around us to demonstrate his love and care.  When we feel lost, we need to ask for people to care for us and come along side us so that we can pull out of the difficult circumstances.  And when we find out others are grappling with hard times, we too can share our lives to bring them out of the darkness.     

All of us go through times of trouble when we are stripped bare and feel detached from joy, but we need not remain cut off from others.  We are precious and important to God, and God wants us to seek him and reach out to others so that we can find restoration and replenishment.  

I Am Tired


My family loves the Marvel movies centered on the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  My favorite character is Groot, a tree who moves, fights, and talks.  At least he sort of talks because all he ever says is “I am Groot.”  But Groot uses different intonations when he says, “I am Groot” so that we understand he means different things at different times.  His friend Rocket the Raccoon is the only one who understands what he means in the first movie, and Rocket’s responses inform the audience what Groot actually said.  Rocket knows Groot so well that he knows Groot is communicating more than what his actual words, “I am Groot,” indicate.    

I’ve realized I have my own “I am Groot” phrase.  I find myself saying “I am tired” on a regular basis, either to myself or others.  But I don’t always mean that I am physically exhausted and need a nap.  Sometimes, “I’m tired” is based on my unending worry about a problem and my mind is anxiety ridden.  I might claim that “I’m tired” when I’m actually lonely or isolated.  I sigh, “I’m tired” when I feel weighed down by the turmoil in the news and discord in the world.  And when I say, “I’m tired of it,” I’ve reached my coping limit and things are probably going to get ugly quickly.  At other times, “I’m tired” means I am soul tired and feel distant from God. 

I said, “I am tired” so often that it became like my default slogan.  But I found that I didn’t take the time to dig deeper and find out what was actually underneath my professed tiredness. I didn’t ask myself the real reason I was tired at any given moment.  As such, I didn’t know how to respond to my tiredness.  When I realized what I’d been doing, I learned to pause after “I’m tired” came out of my mouth or ran through my mind.  Maybe I needed that nap after all, or maybe I needed to journal to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper.  Often, talking to my friends or gathering with my community was the key to restoration.  Sometimes, turning off the news and social media for a while was the road to rejuvenation. 

In all of the circumstances, I needed to pray and seek God’s help with whatever made me feel heavy and off balance.  The Bible says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:6-7.  God is with us in the midst of our tiredness, no matter what kind of tiredness it is.  When we seek God, he can lift us up, help us determine the source of our weariness, and guide us in discerning how to curb our fatigue.  All because he loves and cares for us.  

God knows what I really mean when I say, “I am tired” because he knows me so well.  God understands our deepest needs even better than we do.  God can help us better understand ourselves, what we really mean, and what we need to do when we are tired or scared or stressed or feeling any other negative emotion because God wants us to feel seen, known, and most importantly loved.