Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What Wasps Could Do

I was at Lake Lanier the other day in my spot. It’s a fantastic little spot with a picnic table on the lake’s edge. I’m not sure how many people know about it because it isn’t marked or overly easy to find. But I love it. I got there to journal or have breakfast and just talk to God. He and I meet there with some regularity.

Every time I go I feel like I come away with something new. And of course since I’m surrounded by trees on the edge of a giant lake, He’s gonna give me something to do with nature.

My squad (A squad) knows all too well that I tend to take messages, ideas, and themes from nature. Like all the time. They’ve made fun of me for it at length. But that’s ok, because I really do love getting things from the Lord in nature. The constant flow of water, the way the moon reappears from behind some clouds, the force of hurricane, or even the curious nature of a duck.

He talks to me all the time in this way. I’ve learned to pay attention.

So it should come as no surprise that as I was sitting at this picnic table, my journal open, my 1500 liter Nalgene half drank, and my mind wandering that I noticed something.

That something was a giant wasp.

But not like any wasp I’d seen. This wasn’t your generic angry red. It was all black with a deep blue color on its wings. Then another showed up, this one orange like the progression of fire. Finally another that was more typical, but had black edges to it. A kind of crimson with black patterning.

All three of these wasps (and numerous others) were visiting all the weed-like flowers near where I was sitting. They would land on a flower, inspect it, and then fly to the next. Doing their wasp thing.

I begin to think about them. Really consider them.

I realized quickly that this isn’t a normal reaction to a wasp. Maybe for some kind of entomologist or bug collector, but not for a regular person. If I could call myself regular, that is. 

I can say with some confidence that the normal reaction is fight or flight. You kill that wasp immediately or you get away as fast as you can. It’s usually kinda funny to watch. People trying against all odds to run from a fast, flying little critter. Terror all over their face, nothing else matters, just get outta there.

I began to think why this is. Why are we so afraid of wasps? The answer is pretty obvious. It’s because of what they could do. They could hurt us. They could sting us. They could chase us.

Makes sense, right?

I’m not as sure.

Because as I sat there with some 15-20 wasps in the vicinity, I wasn’t afraid of what they could do. I was aware of it, and I respected it. I certainly wasn’t making a stand or anything. I minded my business and they minded theirs. In fact, they were actually fairly beautiful. Once I was able to look past the negative connotations I saw them for more than just their stingers. It was an interesting thing to consider them in a new way. 

I then began to wonder what this had to do with anything. Wasp sting bad, no wasp sting good didn’t really seem like a revelation from the Lord.
But then He started talking to me about fear.

I’ve got a personal vendetta against fear going right now. Especially what it’s doing to us as a culture, as a people.

Fear can be defined as: “The anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur.”

That’s super vague and contingent on a lot of factors. We’re afraid of the possibility that a wasp might come near us, then might land on us, and then might sting us.

And because of this anticipation, we decide that wasp needs to die. It has to be killed because of what it could do.

We live our lives this way. Regularly.

Look at foreign policy. People from the Middle East? Could be terrorist, better keep em out. African American men? Could have a gun, better take care of it. People from the opposite political party? Will probably change or ruin our lives, better keep em out of office. I could go on, but I think you understand.

We decide for people what they’re going to do to us because we’re afraid of the possibility that something will occur.

Not only is it backwards. Not only is it a terribly anxious and stressful way to live. It’s not what Christ called us to. Love is the direct opposition to fear. He called us to love. Not to discriminate and not to judge. He certainly never says we should live in fear of our fellow man.

So why do we? Experience maybe. The news, perhaps. Groupthink, social media, tradition. Anything. Some of them valid, I’d wager. Most of them not.

So here we are. A nation gripped in fear so tightly that half of it wants to elect a man hell-bent on wrapping us in armor for our own “protection.” Because we are so afraid of what someone else could do to us.

Philippians 1:21 “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

It gets better, not worse. Find your courage. Find your strength. It isn’t in paranoia, and it isn’t in some form of personal protection. It’s in Christ.

Remember who you are. You’re a child of the King. And then remember who you aren’t. You aren’t a worthless, powerless, thing.

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Love is the answer to all of this mess we're in. It isn't fear. Try something for me. Fear travels faster than fire, but love is much stronger. Try loving someone you would normally not, or even someone you would fear. Try shifting your perspective. Try any number of things, but for the love of all... 

Don't be afraid. 


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Crumpled Dixie Cup

I’ll begin with a confession. Not particularly big one, or one that’s all that shocking. But still a confession.

I don’t rest well.

I don’t power down easily.

I tend to do things abruptly. I think in a “black and white” sort of way, so that’s the way I naturally live. As in, I’ll be going 100 miles per hour and suddenly I’ll crash. Basically “rest” comes for me once I’ve crashed.

Like I said, not very explosive.

But I guess in that sense, I’m a good American. We go as hard as we can until we can’t go anymore and that’s just life. There are no breaks, no stopping, time is money. Or time is whatever you find to be most important.

Time is relationships. Time is business. Time is family. Time is fun. Could really be anything, I guess.

Regardless I’ve begun to revisit a revelation I had a while back. And that is that the way I tend to emulate a high speed car crash… Isn’t that healthy.

And it’s hurting me.

Today I found the words behind a suspicion I’ve always had. I think I stress myself out so much I get headaches. Apparently these are called “tension headaches” and are super common, which isn’t surprising. Quite frankly, they’re terrible. I don’t think they come close to migraines, but that doesn’t mean I like them. But, like that good American, I press on. Medicating with some form of ibuprofen or aspirin, I trudge forward because that’s all I’m supposed to do. Keep moving.


Well, from what I’ve determined the answer is more like…. Nah.

Not looking too hot
The image I get is a crumpled up Dixie cup. Already been filled and drained several times. Now starting to fall apart. Could probably still do its job, but no one really wants that from the Dixie cup.

Sometimes I find myself a crumpled up Dixie cup. Utterly spent and nearly useless, but still trying. I think we often would call this trait admirable or enduring. Going until you can't anymore, laying it all out, leaving it all on the field. We tend to call this strength in our culture. 

I think we shouldn't be praising those who all but kill themselves in the name of some job or hobby. Instead I think we need to call it what it is, absolutely ridiculous.  

It’s as if I suddenly look up and realize that I’m a train wreck. My intentions are great, my motives pure. But I’m just doing it wrong.

Rest is (unfortunately for those of us who never want to stop moving) biblical. As in, it’s ok to rest. Seriously. Take a deep breath.

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve found myself feeling guilty about the idea of rest before. What else could I be doing? Who could I be impacting? What could I be changing?

In a classic example of doing what I say and not as I do, I’ve often given people advice about this. I usually say something to the effect of: “Take care of yourself, you’re no use to people or the kingdom if you’ve run yourself into the ground.” I personally think this is great advice. I’m less jazzed about it when I’m on the receiving end.

Why on Earth am I talking about this? Because I’ve been sprinting for a while and now my legs need to take a break. Because I’ve just about reached the point where my car is about to crash. Because I’m one more sip away from being a crumpled Dixie cup.

And I need to rest.

And I’m not the only one.

Lay down your stresses. Lay down your worries. Lay down your cares. Lay down your desires, drives, and goals.

Once you’ve done that, I think it’s time you lay yourself down… and rest.

Your Father wants to take care of you, provide for you, and restore you. But He can’t if you won’t let Him. If I won’t let Him.

So let’s do it together. Find something, any one thing that gives you true rest. Not Netflix-binge rest. Not food rest. Not unhealthy rest. But true rest. 

Much better
For me, it’s driving to the mountains and playing around in the woods. Something that I’m realizing is more necessary for me to live than I thought. I think we trivialize rest because we don’t think any good can come from anything so seemingly counterproductive. To which I would challenge your perspective. Because like I said, a spent or crumpled Dixie cup doesn’t seem too productive.

What’ll it be for you? Go find it. And see what it’s like to live with a full tank rather than constantly living on empty.