Linda, Listen to Me!

I know many people, and I’ll bet you do too, perhaps even you, who can’t believe God has a plan for them. Over the years, I have encountered people who don’t believe me when I tell them my story. “Oh, really?! God told you to do that, huh? Right!”  To be honest, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if he hadn’t gradually brought me to a place where I could trust him, even if I was fearful and had no idea what he was up to. Which, frankly, is still most of the time.

God has always longed to grow me into the person he meant me to be. It was me resisting; me not being present to him; me missing the mystery and majesty that surrounded me because I was just too busy to notice, or more likely, too afraid. So instead, I skipped along, trying to drown out his voice, “Lalalalalalalala, I can’t hear you!”

For years, there were little promptings that, in hindsight, proved to me he was on the job (Romans 8:28). Then bigger ones that required more trust and offered way more grace than I deserved. God opened my heart in ways I could not have imagined. Though I still mess up – and often – I know God’s response is out of love for me; his admonitions tell me that he loves me too much to let me stay stuck in my messiness.

We are so used to being in a world that is loud and demanding of our attention. We busy ourselves filling in uncomfortably quiet places. That’s how we miss God’s “still small voice” or “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). Sure, he’s good at those show-stopper whirlwinds and earthquakes and fire. Even what I have called 2×4 moments but they didn’t leave marks like the ones my mother inflicted. Because of her, I was always on guard for those “laying down the law” whacks that I expected from God too, when I messed up. But, I believe he more often speaks through Spirit’s whispers of pure grace.

We can be so enmeshed in and blinded by the things of this world we miss out on our whole purpose for being here. So if you are going through life day after unremarkable day, schlepping through the same routine to ad nauseum – STOP IT! Your life has a purpose that God depends on you to fulfill. You matter that much!

We are all called to holiness, called to use the gifts and talents already given us for God’s kingdom work right here – right now. It just takes awareness on our part. (I would highly recommend Anthony DeMello’s book by the same name, “Awareness”).

Leo Tolstoy’s novel, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”,  considered a masterpiece, was written just after his own “profound spiritual awakening” and conversion experience. While lying on his deathbed, Ilyich ruminated about the reality that his entire life was superficial and self-serving, and he profoundly stated, “Maybe I didn’t live as I should have done?” In the end, he posited a question that Tolstoy must have pondered himself, “What if I really have been wrong in the way I’ve lived my whole life, my conscious life?” Oops, a little late, buddy!

It was too late for Ilyich, but not Tolstoy. He discovered his purpose and rejected his aristocratic life to follow Jesus’ teachings – particularly the Sermon on the Mount. Years later, his writings profoundly impacted Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless others.

Soooooo, what are you waiting for? You must still be breathing, or you wouldn’t be reading this. That’s a start. Incredibly, no matter how you lived your life to this point, it’s not too late to begin again. New beginnings are God’s specialty!

“To infinity and beyond!” God coined that phrase, you know. Don’t believe me? HUMPH! Check out Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” 

Alrighty then, you’re pumped and ready to go, right? You’ve packed your sandals, camel hair coat, and checked Google Maps – for what? A sign from God?

HTTP://ministry-to-childern, Carlos Bautista

Stop! Take a deep breath. Maybe start by sitting quietly with God and waiting.

Don’t look to anyone else to give you a formula or a checklist to send you on your way to your destiny. But I will tell you this: You cannot love and serve others (which is our greatest calling) until you can love yourself. And you can’t love yourself utilizing any of the myriads of self-help books on the market. You can only do that by growing in the knowledge that you are deeply and passionately loved first by the God who created you! And you can only do that by being in relationship with him, which requires your time and attention. You are his son/daughter with whom he is well-pleased (Matthew 17:5). Let that sink in. We are all deeply loved sinners. It’s high time we act like it, don’t you think?

Absolutely, go to church, take the time to read scripture, and pray, But mostly, LISTEN! Geeeezzzzz, we’re so bad at listening.

Failure Will Not Have the Last Word

Funny word, “failure”. We tend to judge everything that misses the mark according to our expectations: Anything that does not invoke praise and accolades from others is deemed a failure. The times I have whined to God in deep sorrow for my failings have grown beyond my ability to number them.

“Lord, I know this was from you – I did it – I failed at it – I am a despicable wretch! For example: remember way back in 2001, when you said, “Write a book”, and I did? I am yet to see it on the New York Times best-seller list. Your book would have been #1 on that list – forever!”

The Bible comes to mind. “No disrespect, but why didn’t you just write it yourself? I mean, really.” Countless people have written and rewritten it until the essence of your message is often blurred and confusing.

God: “Are you finished, Linda?”

“Oops (a Job moment), “Yes, sorry.”

God: “I’m not interested in how the world views your work. I am ONLY interested in how you trust and obey me. I thought your story of surrendering to me was beautiful. Okay, there were a few typos. But, that part about ‘giving birth’? I’m still laughing at that one. So, will you please quit your whining!?”

When we are obsessed with success and failure, trusting in God’s plan can become obscured by fear. Often, I read these magnificent words from Thomas Merton to remind myself of God’s call for me to trust him:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I have learned countless lessons about trusting God. Many of my attempts were wrought with uncertainty and assumptions of failure throughout eleven years of my book-writing adventure. But I knew without a doubt it was God speaking to my heart from the beginning. His words, “Write a book”, were not cloaked in ambiguity. They were clear and undeniable.

The book’s first edition (yes, there have been two) was an unbelievably daunting challenge. God made it sound simple enough. But, here’s where I began to falter: I made some very costly errors in judgment, and the book was published with several editing issues. I was angry with the publisher and myself and proceeded to complain to God.

Through tears of disappointment and self-doubt, I wanted to know why he had directed me to write a book when I understood nothing about the process that would ensue. I felt I had failed him because everything seemed to go wrong. So, here’s God, ears covered, “Blah, blah, blah, I can’t hear you. Get it published.” Fine. I attempted many times to offer it to publishers, becoming the recipient of more rejections than Charles Manson when he tried to find a date for the prom! So, I self-published. 

After the fact, I read a book about self-publishing. Wanna know what it said? “NEVER, write a book FIRST! Get your name out there with published articles, establish a following, and then write your book.” Apparently, God failed to read that book.

Anyway, I was confused about how to proceed. Did I mention that I had 2500 books delivered to my doorstep and knew nothing about marketing? Did I mention that?! Then, to my utter amazement, people actually bought the book; people not even related to me!

The next surprise? The publication, and subsequent sales, of my very imperfect book, led to speaking engagements – a notion that I found incomprehensible since I had never felt the slightest longing to stand in front of an audience and reveal my true self. All my attention-grabbing stunts during my childhood had been designed to hide the real me! The very idea of speaking to a group of people horrified the adult me. I wanted to slap myself silly for saying “yes” without consulting my more reluctant self. What a long list of grumblers I follow: Moses (Exodus 4:10-17) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4-9), just to name two we know well.

Did I mention that the book is now in its second edition (edited more professionally)? I’m still not sure why. Still no call from the New York Times. But – and here is where God has wanted me all along – it doesn’t matter if I sell even one. I am happy to give them away. God said, “Write”, – so I wrote. Everything else is fodder for Satan.

I, like Job, learned the hard way to accept being on a need-to-know basis when I feel God calling me, like Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), to get on my camel and ride. No GPS, no roadmap, no crystal ball. I now find myself enjoying the adventure, even with blindfolds on!

So the next time you find yourself making room on the shelf for your next trophy, only to stare at the empty space it should have been placed in, try sitting quietly with the lesson. It’s there. Pray and wait for it. Like when you are passed over for the job rightfully yours, stop to consider the lesson. When your plans to join a mission team in Haiti are dashed because you could not raise the funds – you got it – stop and listen to God. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

I can never give up trusting that God’s plan for me is PERFECT, even when everyone else tells me I am a pathetic loser!