The grass is actually stressed out and having panic attacks on the other side of the fence, too

You, right there. The woman in the car, reading this blog post on her mobile phone and wishing she had a new life.

You, the mother in the living room who has 1,342 children and only two arms.

You, the man who is married to the woman who has 1,342 children and even with your two arms involved, you’re feeling like your life is 1,338 arms short.

You.

Any person who is alive, I am speaking to you.

I’ve been carefully watching everyone lately and I’m seeing a recurring theme: everyone is stressed out. Everyone.

It looks like the person next to you has everything together and they’re dancing through life like a hippy in a field of flowers. Carefree, money in the bank, and having an excellent hair day.

Meanwhile, you feel like life has chewed you up and spit you back into that same field and the hippy is about to accidentally stomp on your face whilst she prances among the flowers. But you’re too exhausted to get out of her way, so you lie there and wait for the delicate sandal to the eye socket.

  
But here is the truth– all your friends probably feel the same way as you. Oh, sure– they might be having a good day. It’s possible. But in general, they’re probably worried about the same things. There are no perfect families, there is no perfect health, and there will never be enough money in the bank.

But we’re not fans of giant crybabies, so we all put on our Adult Panties and go about our business, pretending everything is fine. That’s why you think your friends are fine and dandy– they’re fakers.

I’m a faker. Maybe you’re a faker too.

What if we tried this instead:

  1. Stopped faking.
  2. Reached out to our friends and family and shared our real issues.
  3. Asked them how they are really doing. And then listened.
  4. Repeat forever.

We might eventually have a community where all the grass looked just about the same, and maybe we’d all be sitting on it having impromptu picnic lunches. Together.

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When your plans take a sharp left turn, right off a cliff

Somewhere in mid-December, Eric and I had the next five or so months all planned out.

Aren’t we just adorable? Isn’t it cute how we make plans and then assume these things will happen?

Of course it all hit the toilet. All our plans disintegrated into a pile of squashy glop. It all started when Eric couldn’t avoid a tire that was lurking on the entrance ramp to the freeway. He smashed into it, and what should have been a busted bumper and a week in the shop turned into a totaled car and five weeks until a check was issued.

So then we bought a car from a friend, but that took the money we’d set aside for braces, but then we learned we have more dental insurance to cover the braces than we thought, but then sickness overtook us and what was left of our financial plans was swallowed up with sick days, and I’m sure your eyes are glazed over now with these silly details.

Even my eyes are glazed over. Let me get to my point.

The Clemence family is gingerly sitting right in the middle of what we shall call “Waiting for God’s Plan, Since Our Plan Is In the Toilet.” We aren’t sure what’s next on the agenda. It’s like we’re at the bus stop, with literally nothing to do until the bus pulls up and takes us to our next destination.

And you know what? It’s not so bad. Operating without a plan isn’t nearly as upsetting as I thought it would be. Waiting patiently for God just takes a reminder or two or three hundred every day, where I point out to myself that I don’t make the world spin so maybe I should just calm down and sit on the bench and watch the world go by.

If your plans have also recently taken a dive off the cliff, I welcome you right here on this bus stop bench. We can sit together and keep each other company. There’s plenty of room and lots to talk about while we wait. God’s next bus is due any minute now…

 

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It’s possible she’s making up the truth as she goes along

I just finished an excellent book. Normally I’d tell you the name of it, but I have some concerns.

First of all, I’m about to seriously question the writer’s theology, faith, and ability to handle the Word of God. Since the sister has enough issues without me attacking her on the internet too (I’m not the first to have some concerns), I’ll keep mum on her name.

Second of all, even though the book is indeed excellently written, hysterically funny, and a total joy to behold, I don’t know that I’m comfortable recommending it to anyone who doesn’t have a firm grasp on the Bible.

The Bible does indeed come up in her book, many times. The writer loves Jesus and has some keen– but uncomfortable–insights on how his followers should be conducting themselves. For example, when Christ tells us to love one another and to care for our neighbor, are we actually doing that? Or are we gathering ourselves into pious little groups and carefully excluding anyone who might contaminate us?

You know, just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did? The ones he publicly challenged and called hypocrites and children of hell?

Ouch.

These sorts of insights were so true and right I gasped out loud a few times as I read. She has a firm grasp on God’s love and what it requires as we relate to one another.

But then things got sticky, because I believe God’s love must be balanced with God’s truth. Sin is a terrible thing– it keeps us from God. A holy God cannot tolerate sin, and a holy God gets to determine what is sin and what is not.

Not us.

 We don’t get to adore or ignore clear Scripture based on how comfortable or uncomfortable it is to us personally. Yes, there are cultural issues and historical events we might not apply on a daily basis (see also: women being silent in church and/or building an ark and waiting for animals to show up).

But the clear parts– the parts about loving God, repenting of sin, and loving others– the parts no one can refute because they are so simple even children understand them, those we don’t get to rearrange to our comfort. As God’s people, we submit to his truth. We don’t bend it to fit our circumstances.

Here’s my point. We must be reading the Bible. We must have it open in front of our faces as much as possible, because otherwise it is terribly easy for a gregarious and charming person to lead us close to nice ideas, but actually far from God.

A lot of readers who enjoyed the book probably don’t read the Bible very often. They are blindly following the interpretations and whims of a woman who has neglected some key portions of the Word. And they are being tragically led astray.

Let’s not be those readers. Let’s immerse ourselves first in the Bible, so we will have the knowledge we need to discern the truth from the opinions.

Thoughts?

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

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They don’t make greeting cards for these hellish sorts of days

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Yes, I’m sorry too. So is the carpet.

If, by some miracle, someone mailed me the perfect greeting card today it would read:

I’m sorry you were up until midnight scrubbing vomit out of the carpet.
I’m also sorry the bathroom still smells pukey and you can’t figure out why.
And further, I’m also sorry that your husband’s sinus infection blew a hole in his eardrum last night (while you were scrubbing the vomit), causing everyone in the house to be quite, quite miserable. 

They don’t make greeting cards for these sorts of days. And really, how could they? This is our own personal problem; I don’t expect Target to foresee our issues and prepare a card in advance.

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For my young mother friends, who are always having nursing issues.

But I think maybe I’ll start a company and address everything possible. My line will address needs such as:

  • It’s too bad your baby won’t nurse and your left breast is the size of a grapefruit and feels hot to the touch. 
  • I apologize for shouting at you when you wouldn’t take the Advil last night, but you’re a full grown man and you should be able to take care of yourself when you’re sick.
  • Honey, the budget is destroyed. But look at this cute stuff I bought at Target. Please stop yelling. 

And so forth. Please feel free to comment below with any additional Hellish Days issues I could address. I will attempt to meet all needs.

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Really, the yelling doesn’t help.

Maybe you’re having your own Hellish Day right now! Maybe you are stuck in your own personal misery and feeling worse as the day progresses. I’m with you, my friend. We can handle this mess together. It’s just a few more hours until bedtime, and tomorrow is a whole new day.

Tomorrow is a whole new day. Let’s hold to that hope and make it through.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

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The Lord’s cat is peeing on the Lord’s carpet

You should see my basement right now. It looks like a deranged person has neatly placed random things all around the edges of the room. Laundry baskets, the sewing machine, buildings from the kids’ old train set– it’s all tucked up right next to the baseboards.

We’re trying to keep the cat from spraying on the walls. He got all sorts of mad at us for something a few weeks ago, and I found him peeing and spraying all over the edges of the room. Ever since we started blocking his favorite areas with stuff, he’s knocked it off.

(I know some of you cat lovers are worried about Captain Kitty’s urinary health. Let me assure you there’s nothing wrong with him physically; he just has scrambled eggs for brains.)

I took to yelling in my kids’ general direction, “Your cat is peeing on my carpet!” It was all very upsetting.

But our small group is doing a financial study from Crown Financial Ministries, and our first lesson was on God’s ownership of all things. All things. Even the cat. Even the carpet.


So now I wander around the house saying calmly, “The Lord’s cat is peeing on the Lord’s carpet.” It’s helping. If nothing else, it makes me laugh.

Now you try it. If the Lord owns all things,

  • The Lord’s minivan smells like the Lord’s children’s smelly feet.
  • The Lord’s checking account needs a fresh influx of the Lord’s money.
  • The Lord’s children just spilled Coke down the Lord’s couch.

And so on. Any time you feel stressed about money or things, just apply our little formula here. Does anyone have an example handy? I’d love to hear them.

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Maybe my minivan is a tiny, mobile mission field

A lot of horrible things happen in my minivan.

 

This is the sort of random stuff that accumulates on the console (otherwise known as large crap holder).

It smells like damp boots and a lost french fry.

The radio blasts music that makes my ears bleed.

There’s often a lot of whining, begging for McDonald’s, and arguments, and sometimes it’s even the children who are doing those things.

(Mostly it’s me.)

The heater isn’t sufficient for our 1 degree Michigan winter mornings and it’s possible I have a hobo living in the backseat, if the stuff back there is any indication.

 

Apparently our hobo keeps his lunchbox back here and shops at Target. But he appears to be literate, so it’s not all bad.

But also, it’s a prayer closet as my kids flop out the door and head into the middle school.

It’s a counselor’s couch as our family talks about school and work and friends.

It’s a transport device that helps us care for the ones we love the most– bringing food and friendship and sometimes loads from IKEA.

It’s a quiet space where silence can reign and God can speak (once everyone gets out and leaves me in peace). Days can be rearranged according to a plan that isn’t mine.

It’s entirely possible my minivan is a tiny, mobile mission field.


Albeit one with a musty smell and a possible hobo.

What goes on in your vehicle?

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Permission to Trust God (Even If It Doesn’t Make Sense)

[Today I’m super excited to introduce you all to Andrew Gilmore, a fellow writer and Bible lover. I hope you love this guest post he wrote, and I hope you check out his website and other writing. His link’s at the bottom of the post!]

If God told you to jump off of a cliff would you do it?

Okay, not a fair question. But I ask it only to make this next one seem not so ridiculous: If you had leprosy and God told you to go skinny dipping in a muddy river, would you do it? Don’t answer just yet. Ponder it while I tell you this story:

There’s a lake not too far from my house. That sounds luxurious, I know, but believe me. It’s not. Even its name—Lake Thunderbird—evokes a sense of legitimacy. Despite pretense, Thunderbird’s not all that nice. The lake is a manmade reservoir and supplies drinking water for us Normanites and surrounding central Oklahoma communities. That it could be used as a “lake” for recreation almost seems like it was an afterthought.

But these aren’t the only reasons Thunderbird is lacking. You see the lake, for want of a rock bottom, is murky. And if you know anything about Oklahoma, you know our dirt isn’t brown; it’s red. That causes the lake to be exceptionally cloudy and give off that cesspool kind of a vibe. (Did I mention we drink that?) As a result the lake has rightly earned the nickname Dirtybird.

I bring up Lake Dirtybird because that’s the image I get when I read the story of Naaman. You remember him, right? The big bad Syrian who happened to have incurable leprosy. But when his wife’s servant girl mentioned there was a prophet in Samaria who could heal Naaman, the quest was on. What did he have to lose?

When Naaman came to Elijah for help, here’s what the prophet said: Go wash in the muddy nasty Jordan seven times and you will be healed. (That’s me paraphrasing.) How did Naaman respond? Angrily. “Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’” (2 Kings 5:11). Hear that? He was so pompous, he referred to himself in the third person!


Naaman wanted to be healed, but he wanted to be healed his way. He had a preconceived notion of how things should go down, how God should do His job. What makes dipping in the Jordan seven times any more ridiculous than Elijah waving his hand like a crazy man?

Truth is, I act like Naaman all the time. I ask God for things, but then I get upset when they don’t come the way I expected, or when I have to do uncomfortable things to get them. God, please don’t ask me to swim in that lake. Naaman is a great reminder that God knows exactly what He’s doing, and we would do well to trust him (even if it means getting a little muddy).

 

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Andrew Gilmore

Andew Gilmore writes for people who crave a deeper relationship with God, but might not know where to begin. He provides the tools and inspiration they need to connect with their Creator on a more intimate level. Learn more at bit.ly/about-andrew.