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Boredom to Brilliance

Today I heard on a Ted Talk that boredom leads to brilliance. According to this talk, letting thoughts wonder without interruption is a pathway for neural growth and stimulation. What a novel concept.

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I am so engaged in my phone, email, Facebook, and Netflix, I can—and often do—escape boredom. I often feel stagnant and unable to process information into creative outlets. Is it because I haven’t let boredom and quiet filter in? God’s voice is soft and not pushy. Do I allow enough time to be alone with my thoughts to hear his soft voice?

I go through seasons where I let him in and other times when I block him. I do not block him intentionally, but rather, as habit to avoid boredom. I quickly succumb to fear of the unknown and dislike of the uncomfortable next step. Fear and uncertainty – once again, prop its ugly head into my life. This path leads to destruction: not a fast explosion, but rather a slow deterioration. So slow, I don’t notice.

As a child growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, we didn’t have the technology of today. I had hours of time to figure out my thoughts. I can remember as a child creating stories and trying to play them out. I loved playing house and building lives of people that did not exist. Today I tune out boredom and search for the temporary high, or time-suck, that will numb me. It irritates me, but there is a comfort in the numbness that I’m drawn to.

To break free, I have to step back and acknowledge that this ‘numb’ isn’t God’s plan for my life. I have breath in my lungs, and a calling that God patiently is waiting for me to honor. God wants me to live in abundance; not in neutral.

Looking to the bible I am led to the following passage:

Ecclesiastes 2:25-26 (ESV)
“For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting…This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”

Although boredom can be thought of as slothful, in reality, slothful is ignoring the work at hand. Time-suck of busyness without purpose is slothful – right? It is a striving after the wind.

This morning, I run from idea to idea, combing my mind for the next step. I fear the writing and the work, because there is uncertainty. As such, the pull of distraction is so strong. But what if I let boredom and uncertainty swell inside? What if I put myself in the uncomfortable and press forward despite the uncertain? Discomfort is a step. Can I see it as a process of uncovering the gift?

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). This is a favorite passage of mine. It says so much to my spirit. It is like taking a deep breath and realizing, there is more to this life than busyness and all the demands I put on myself. God doesn’t require perfection. He desires my attention. Our creator formed us so that our neural pathways grow when we are quiet, and still enough, to let him in.

God blows my mind again and again! Boredom, the thing I desperately try to avoid, is a gift God uses to build my unique role in His kingdom.  Taking time to feel his presence is a necessary component to growing and fulfilling my purpose. This life and time here ends. Every moment counts. I need to lean into the boredom and see it as a natural step to abundance.

Even Me

Do you ever question, what’s my purpose? Why am I here? Boy, I sure do. I can sink into a depression pit so fast. I can wallow in self-pity like a trooper. But God is so good; he won’t allow it for long. He wants to use each of us; yes … even me.

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He urges and nudges me … Keep going. Push on. God will direct my steps. Compromise or settling for less-than is not on God’s timetable. God has a purpose. He can use me. Yes, even me.

Words and thoughts enter that say I’m not good enough. I don’t have her ease with conversation; I’m not as well liked as she is; how and why would I ever think I could do this? How foolish. So I pause and listen. Then my writing is stifled. I write, but I don’t post. I have interviews set up, but time conflicts barricade progress. I feel like giving up.

But God reminds me, through a bible story meant for the preschoolers at church, what he directs, he equips. I do not need to be as easily relatable as someone else. I don’t need to be as eloquent as I feel she is. Comparing me to someone else is ridiculous. God gifted me with my gifts, not hers. He knows me and he knows my ability. If he can use rocks to speak, he can use me too.

In Nehemiah’s story, he used all kinds of people to help build the wall. All of Nehemiah chapter three is dedicated to the people who helped build the wall. Most we don’t know: the sons of Hassenaah or the daughters of Shallum. We have no idea their names, how many, what they felt like or said or were in the process of doing. We don’t know these sons and daughters, but God does. He knows each of them intimately. He values each so much he placed them in His book for the world to hear about.

Could my name be among those he knows and calls? Do I need to be a big name such as Ruth or Esther? Or can I be a daughter – one of many that God intimately knows and has called for his purpose? A work that he wants completed and in my small part will complete one section of?

I need encouragement to be pulled from the rut that turns in my mind. It pulls me down. God reminds me this morning, through the bible story of Nehemiah, he uses all for a purpose. Each of us has a role to play in God’s overall plan.

I do not know God’s plan. But I trust he will use me to help accomplish it. Yes, even me.

 

All Humanity

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love and his wonderful works for all humanity.” -Psalm 107:21

This passage is repeated four times in Psalm 107. The phrase, ‘All humanity’ is sticking with me this morning. Not some of humanity, or only democrats, or only Americans, or only if you agree with me … but rather, ALL Humanity. He creates wonderful works for ALL humanity: the Christian, the Muslim, the married couple and the single, the gay and the straight, the Mexican and the American … ALL! We were not made to be separate from people. We are all human and we all get to see the beauty of God’s handiwork. It’s in our daily duties: our drives, our walks, and our children … it’s all over. It’s stunning and yet, we so often walk right past and don’t notice.

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On Monday as I drove my daughters to dance, we marveled at the gorgeous sunset. The girls took out their phones and tried to snap a photo. There is no justice in the photo. It was orange and purple and wow! A painted picture in the sky for all to enjoy. I wonder how many others marveled at that beautiful painting on Monday evening in Texas.

All humanity is blessed with his wonderful works. What about all those people coming to Mexico from Honduras? My heart is stuck on their anguish. These are people – part of all humanity. The news makes it political. But God makes it human. We are each made in the image of God. Will these desperate people, fleeing for a better life, make it to America? I’m sure some will, but my guess is most won’t. Poverty has a way of shutting down aspirations.

Trudging a family by foot for over 1000 miles is not something easily accomplished. Add lack of resources and the problem intensifies. There is evil in this world and so many of those families will encounter that evil on their journey. It breaks my heart. Why God must they suffer? Why do we, the privileged, ignore the humanity of suffering? Why do I? Oh Lord, break my pride and push my humility. May I step into their suffering and provide aid – oh, but how?
Am I alone in these pleas? No, I believe most Americans, and most people, are good. We have empathy. We see pain and want to mend it. When we focus on our rights only, and neglect all humanity that God has blessed, where do we end up?

We need to do better. It starts with me and my hands and feet. Oh Lord, how? Will I have the courage to make a difference? If I touch one family, will it help? Lord God give me the courage to touch one family. May that family bless others and on down the line. Oh God show me how. What if we all prayed that? What if we all acted? Would our present become better? Would the sunset painted for all, be enjoyed by all?

Ugly Love

Has the word ‘Love’ ever bothered you? It has me. For many years, I held the word ‘love’ in a quasi-romantic type of way. Love was the word that expressed how I felt about people close to me, but I didn’t think of it in a meaty, ponder-evoking sort of manner. Does that make sense? It’s hard to describe in words. But I took the word ‘love’ for granted.

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Last week, while interviewing my friend Jill on my podcast, a thought she expressed intrigued me. She said something to the effect that love isn’t a whimsical feeling that only produces happy and joyous emotions. Rather, love can be hard and ugly sometimes. Sometimes, love is a difficult feeling we have to trudge through.

Love can be ugly and difficult, but we press on anyways. Why? Because love is the reason we exist. God made us because He loves us. Do we confuse that with everything will work out fine and all is going to be happily ever after? I think sometimes we do, and we are sorely disappointed.
We all know the phrase, ‘love hurts,’ but when we experience the hurt of love, do we believe it is love? Love is raw and touches the most vulnerable, tender places that we don’t expose to many people. Love stretches deeper than the surface; it is ‘the true you’ that when exposed bleeds sticky blood.
My friend took care of her sick father for two years. It was ugly and hard and wiped her out. He died and she felt finished too. She is in a funk, and the ‘love hurts thing’ isn’t over – even after he died. So is it worth it? Is it worth pouring yourself out, with no benefit to you, simply because of ‘love?’ The obvious answer is yes, but it doesn’t take away from the agony of the reality. There is a spiritual connection raw in the soul that flourishes when poked and prodded. Sticking the course and working on love – its hard and ugly at times, but it’s worth it.

God gave us the example. He loved us so much he sent his son to literally die a horrific death. He was willing to sacrifice Jesus so we can regain entry with him. Does this make sense? No. Was it easy? No! It was excruciating! But God did it, because we were worth it to him. Our ugly, selfish, sin-filled selves were worth it to him.

Can we even stop and consider the depths of that truth? We gloss over it like it’s no big deal. But it’s a BIG deal. Without that sacrifice we couldn’t earn our way to good. We don’t have it in us. Sure, there is a part of us that connects to that good. But how do we react when an injustice is placed on us? How do we respond when another stabs us in the back? Lately, we can’t even disagree politically without hate-filled trash fuming from our mouths. We are a mess. But God, knowing all of this, did it anyway. He gave anyway. He loved anyway.
Watching a parent die, sticking through the ugly, painful, emotionally wrought hell, is an act of love. True love. I made the comment that although brutal there is something beautiful about the process. Jill completely disagreed. She hasn’t seen the beauty. I’m seven years out, whereas she is only three months out. Raw scars still line her heart. She was in the trenches much deeper than I was. Her father lived with her family for over a year. She left her job to become his full-time caretaker. There is a difference.

During my time, I too lost my job because a job doesn’t care. They care for a while, but when that while extends longer than they will give … you’re out. Why? It isn’t love. Love sticks – no matter what. No Matter What!

When we leave this world, we take nothing with us. We either believe we will go to heaven, believe we are reborn, believe we become the earth and no longer exist in any way, or we believe something else. There isn’t any verifiable scientific evidence that proves we have a Heavenly Father. But we have Love. Love, in my heart, is the evidence.

Love isn’t flimsy – it is steel that refuses to break. Watching steel withstand the explosion of death, pain, suffering and defeat… that is raw and real beauty. That is the hope that carries me when I feel low. There is a comforter that doesn’t make my life easy and grant me all my wishes. But I believe He loves me in that raw strength that only a divine soul can.

Over the years, and especially after having children, my concept of love has evolved and I feel very different about the word than I used to. As people, we can be mean and angry and hard to love. But true connection doesn’t exist without love. It is selfless. Many times you don’t gain from it in comfort or ease. You don’t gain from it in feeling happy and content. Often the gain is the work. It’s the hard push and pull: The grit of sticking the course. The inner strength of knowing that person intimately, spiritually, deeply … it’s worth the ugly.

Anchors in Life

God Deposits the anchors you will need to ground you. This thought came to me during Sunday’s church service. I continue to ponder and reflect on it. How, in the midst of grief and pain, do we trust in God’s anchors? How do we know they will sustain us? I believe in God and his healing power. But when in the midst of real grief, is His power–the words on the pages of the Bible–enough to sustain?

white and black anchor with chain at daytime
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This thought burned in my soul today and God graced me with an answer. It came from an unlikely source: a woman I do not know. Today at bible study, this lady shared about her personal struggles. Bravely and vulnerably she shared to a group she hardly knows. In that moment, my soul whispered – listen. I asked her who she turns to when she feels like giving into temptation. She said that although she knows she should turn to God, she usually doesn’t. She will go to her husband or her friend for support. In that moment, I sensed a truth: Even when we don’t turn to God, He turns to us. I think God knows that at times, going to the invisible God seems out of reach. We need the hands and feet of Jesus to touch us and speak courage into our souls. God places people into our lives. Her husband and her friend are not lucky coincidences. They were hand-picked by God for her.

God anchors us, not by us choosing him, but by him choosing us. All we need to do is obey. Will obedience bring greatness into our lives? Will we win the lottery? Will all our financial needs, or our physical needs, or our problems immediately disappear because we obeyed God? No. God isn’t a magic genie in a bottle. But he does care and he does seek us out.

He asks more of us because he knows our makeup. He knows the story he is carving in our lives. When we share our stories and our vulnerabilities, we speak to souls in a supernatural way that God orchestrates. Often we have no idea how our words or story impact others. But I fully trust it does.

God deposits knowledge, peace, strength, throughout each day as a store for us to pull from when in need. Experiences happen and we do not even regard it as anything. We pass it off and don’t even blink at the morsel being deposited into our souls. Yet God, the omnipotent, knows what our future holds. He gives us what we need. When tragedy strikes, God has prepared us for it. That does not neglect the reality of the pain, anger, or desperation we feel in the midst of the horror. But it does provide a hope we can hold onto: a truth that doesn’t fade when the tide of pain rises.

Looking back, we discount the multitude of times God has miraculously used our little to impact someone mightily. Just as God used the little boy’s lunch to feed the 5,000, God uses our stories to shed hope to someone in need. Sometimes, a word spoken and forgotten could be a word that sits in a soul and becomes an anchor in time of need. God is good and He deposits anchors in our lives even when we are looking the other way.

As Hebrews 6:18-19 declares, “These two things cannot change: God cannot lie when he makes a promise, and he cannot lie when he makes an oath. These things encourage us who came to God for safety. They give us strength to hold on to the hope we have been given.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong. It enters behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place in heaven…” (NCV). Behind the curtain paints the image of unseen. Our works are often unseen, but they are used by God. They are anchors for us and for others when our world is rocked. We can trust that God is good and is present — even when the storm rages.

Rainy Thoughts

I wrote this post on Saturday as the rain poured and my run was interrupted.

This morning, with rain flooding our street, I’m not able to go out for a run. My Saturday usually starts with a run. It is by far my favorite day of the week. During my runs, blood pumps and energy flows. Depression lifts and ideas generate. Running gives me the muscle, strength, and endorphins I need to push past negativity and depression that I easily succumb to. But alas, today has started differently.

In my time this morning I have fed my two animals, had two cups of coffee, watched the Beto O’Rourke/Ted Cruz debate and perused Facebook. On FB, I saw postings of my older brother Ron. Ron is nine years older than I am. I’m not really close with him as we haven’t really shared our adult life together. I was a pesky, bratty, younger sister who I’m sure annoyed him like nothing else. My limited time spent with him as an adult happened when my father was dying of lung cancer in 2011.

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During this time, I watched as my brother dutifully cared for my father in a deep and respectful manner. He pushed him in his wheelchair, spent long hours talking, reading, and caring for his personal needs. He showed genuine love and respect for our dad.

Ron and my dad had differences while he was growing up. I’m not privy to all the subtleties of their relationship, but I know they had their fair share of battles. Yet, they respected each other as men. That respect and love was evident as I watched them during my dad’s final days.

My dad called Ron, Ponce. I have no idea why. I asked him once, but I can’t remember the answer. I think it came from the word punk but can’t be sure. My dad had nicknames for several of us. My mom was referred to as punch. I always thought it was because she was his ‘honey-bunch.’ I came to find out he called her punch because when they dated, my mom jokingly punched him in the arm and broke her hand. He referred to her as ‘punch’ from then on. That was a weird quirk about my dad. Ponce has a similar story to it, but I can’t recall it entirely.

On this rainy morning, I miss my dad. He had his problems, but he was a wonderful human being. He was a fierce Democrat and as I watch the debate between O’Rourke and Cruz, I can hear my dad cheer and applaud during different rally’s. There are some days I miss him more than others. Today is one.

He had a great sense of humor. Dry, but intelligent. He was a fierce American. He valued freedom and hard work. He didn’t suffer fools gently. He had no time for fools. He was a family man thru and thru. He fought for his family and would do anything for us.

Soon, I will do a podcast about taking care of a parent who is ill. It is remarkably hard but also beautiful. You see your parent as a person; a fragile human being who isn’t that different from you. You understand them in a deeper more profound way. It is difficult to watch suffering. But it is lovely to see your parent in a new way. Or at least it was for me.

My dad died seven years ago. I still see him and feel him. He hasn’t left. I was close and not close to my dad. We had an odd relationship, mainly because I was afraid of his anger. I was afraid to disappoint him. Therefore, my true self was hidden. But he knew me more than I realized. He honored me and loved me despite my different opinions and beliefs. I didn’t realize this until he was dying. That is the saddest part to the story. I didn’t realize how much he loved me until he was departing this world. I wish I relished in his love while he was here. I simply didn’t believe he loved me like that. I was wrong.

On this rainy day, thoughts stir, and feelings rise. I wish I could run to release the mounting feelings that bubble. But maybe I’m to sit and ponder and feel the feelings. I know that feeling them will hurt, but it will also heal. I believe we are constantly healing from our own distorted version of events. Thank God, one day we will be released from the tyranny of this negativity.

Until then, I will text my brother Ron again and let him know I’m thinking of him and I love him. He hasn’t responded, and I haven’t talked to him in several years. But I’m so glad I see him on FB – posts from a friend/girlfriend. It looks like he has made a trip to England. Perhaps he will see the roots to our Thompson name sake. I wonder if he is thinking of our dad as he walks the streets of England. I miss him, and I love him. I hope he knows it.

Courageous Choices

This morning I held my tongue. I wanted to engage in the argument because I knew I was right. But a quiet nudging urged humility. Let the beast of pride shut down and acknowledge the peace of humility. I didn’t necessarily feel courageous, but I made a decision and with it came peace. Literal peace. Had I engaged, this morning could have exploded. In past times it did.

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God still amazes me. Always, I am astounded. Last night a long-held prayer, one shared with many, was answered. I know God answers prayer, but each time, I stand in awe. It’s like the invisible creator of the Universe has come and touched me on the shoulder and whispered, ‘I heard you.” Difficult to express the soul knowledge and chill that is real when prayer is answered. You realize it was answered for you because he heard you and loves you. Awe! Nothing else.

After many years of refusing to go to church, hear about God, accept the love of Jesus into his life, last night my son answered an altar call. But I had to step out of the way. This was God’s work, not mine.

For many years, I pushed and felt the weight of responsibility on me to have my son see God and His love for him. I know my son was, and is, hurting deep inside with emotional pain stemming from adoption, siblings, mental anguish,  and bullying. I so desperately love him, and I so desperately wanted him to know that we love him; I tried to force the issue. You can’t force love.

All the while God knew my heart. He knew the love that propelled the decisions. He knew the love that went all over the place seeking answers. But it wasn’t until this past year, when I went to the one source who really had the answers. He is the answer and He knows my son from his innermost being. He is aware of all my son’s feelings, desires, aspirations, future … all of it. He made him. He needed me to step back.

I will say this has been a test for me. A real test. Not forcing him to go to church with us. Not punishing him for speaking filth, but letting him know it is unacceptable in our home. Fights … wanting it my way now, erupted more times than I care to think about. But… God’s faithfulness stood firm. He was there. Solid. Always.

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I was gently reminded in my soul a while ago, God has him. God will keep a hold of him. I don’t have to. My job is to love him and guide him towards maturity. I can’t force it. I can structure our life, so he sees us living out truth and engaging in God’s work. I can remind him through my actions–kindness when harshness is called for–that God is real. His love is real. I can ask for prayers to have God touch him in the way only the Holy Spirit can. Then I need to let go and let God.

I know my son and his anger and hurt will not disappear over a simple altar call. However, I also know God has his heart and God is powerful to alter anyone. I’ve seen it. I’ve been it. It is supernatural. His spirit fires up and the things you liked in the past aren’t so wonderful anymore. The thoughts you have start to change. Questions pop up, Christians follow you and pop up everywhere. It’s eerie- yet you are unaware until you look back. God takes control.

The assurance that God quietly whispered to me all those nights ago, that he will hold James and that He’s got him, is true and real. My son is God’s gift to us and He is a gift to God. God’s hands are all over his life. His life won’t be perfect. I know curse words and frustration and anger will still surge and spring out at various times, but God’s promise will ring true always. He will stand with James — his hand reaching out and grabbing hold of his. He won’t run away because of sin. He will draw close and lovingly guide him to acknowledgment and genuine repentance.

Courageous choices are not just the ones for super heroes. They are often the quiet, soft-spoken, unnoticed choices that place God above the circumstance. The choice that trusts God to follow thru – even when it isn’t immediate. Sometimes it is long–years long. But God’s timing isn’t our timing. All things are used and worked according to His plan. On his timetable. Let go and let God – that is the most courageous choice I can ever make.