A popular notion is finding its way around Christian circles today. Perhaps you've heard it or even said it. It sounds good, so maybe you've put faith in it. It goes something like this: Everyone needs a Timothy, and everyone needs a Paul. If you know anything about these two men from the New Testament, this sounds good on the surface. But something about it has always bothered me. I didn't realize what it was until my daughter came home from her small group recently. They've been reading a book together, and this concept came up. In our discussion about it, I realized that she was troubled by the exact same part that bugs me. And that sent me into prayer and deeper study, wondering as always: Is this popular notion biblical?
Many years ago, I took a broad stroke writing course that briefly talked about the various forms of writing: fiction and nonfiction, newspaper articles, screenwriting, and more. As part of this class, I had to do a couple of lessons on children's books. Not my thing. Well, that's not exactly true. I love to read children's books. When my kids were little, we'd visit the library almost every week, and we frequently walked out with thirty or more books between the four of us. The stories we read were fun. Poignant. The characters were sweet. Daring. Hilarious. But to combine character development and plot lines into a story that was largely communicated through pictures and keep it under 1,000 words (shorter than many of my blog posts) — that was not my kind of writing. However, a seed was planted in those writing lessons that wouldn't let go.
Does God answer prayer? Most of us don't struggle with that question too much. Hmmm. Maybe we don't struggle with that question quite enough. Most of my life, I've heard well-meaning Christians spout that God answers prayers in one of three ways: Yes, no, or not yet. That sounds good. It even sounds logical. But, is it biblical? And how much should this really matter to us anyway?
Nine years, nine months, and five days. That’s how long my husband logged in as an active-duty airman before his medical retirement. Nine years, nine months, and five days of all the uncertainty and fluctuations that military life brings. And then a fresh uncertainty took hold: Medical Retirement. We could move wherever we wanted to move, but we would have to do it ourselves or pay someone to do it. We could pick whatever job we wanted to go after, at least as soon as our DD Form 214 was in hand. Military service and medical retirement gave my husband an advantage in the hiring process for federal jobs, but did we really want to stay tied to the Department of Defense? Health insurance. Survivor benefits. Life insurance. Commissary and exchange privileges. GI Bill benefits. We had so many new rules to learn. Job-search strategies. Resume writing. Interview protocols. Salary negotiation. My husband had so many new skills to gain. When retirement looms, where do you start?
I try to have lunch or coffee with two or three different friends every month. I love these quiet times together, catching up on each other's lives without the distractions of responsibility around us. At one of these lunches recently, I sat down with a friend and mentor. As we quietly talked, she told me the revelation God had shown her. It was one of those earth-shattering, mind-changing realizations that take your breath away for a moment as you see the pervasiveness of a tiny lie you'd grabbed hold of. And in that moment, I realized how I too had grabbed hold of this lie and let it invade my life. I suspect you might also find this lie hiding out in your heart and mind. When I asked, this friend graciously agreed to write it out so that I could share it with you. I wanted you to hear it in her words without any commentary I might add. I pray that all of us would cease hiding in the baggage.
Whether we like it or not, God made us for relationship: with Him and with each other. If you’ve been hurt by others or are introverted and shy, you probably don’t like that God expects us to broaden our friendships outside the front doors of our comfort zones. That’s okay. I didn’t much like it either when I started figuring it out. Most people these days tend toward self-sufficiency, and we like to reinforce that with pop psychology. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Put on your big-girl panties. God helps those who help themselves. Common mantras, but is that really what the Bible teaches?
The 4th of July. A day for picnics and fireworks. For spending time with family and friends. Hours to rest and relax. Right? Well, yes, of course. But it is much more than that. Did you just roll your eyes at me? Honestly, I know that you know that today represents more than hot dogs, sparklers, and a day off of work. I promise you that I will spend time today with family. We will eat, and we will relax. But at some point, I will also reflect on what today has cost us: as a family and as a nation. I can't help it. As a military wife and daughter, days like Independence Day, Veteran's Day, and Memorial Day bring with it a reminder of the cost that accompanies the joy, the sacrifice that is attached to the responsibility. I cannot see a flag without the mingling of pride and a heavy heart. I cannot hear the Star Spangled Banner without standing a little taller and fighting the lump that forms in my throat. The cost of freedom is great, and those who pay it want you to celebrate. But please do not forget the reason for the celebration and those who paid dearly so you can enjoy it.
A balanced life. It's a common mantra in our world today, with books, television shows and psychologists all proclaiming that we must find balance. Work-Life balance. Family time and personal time balance. Physical, spiritual, and emotional balance. And while I understand the precepts and the health that so many are trying to promote, I always struggled a bit within their spouted parameters. While what they say sounds good, is it truly what God wants for me? Is balance biblical?
If you could do anything, what would it be? Don't stop to think about money or time or health that might limit you. Just dream, and dream big! What would make your bucket list of long-term goals? Tour a famous city? Give large sums of money to causes you care about? Climb a mountain or bike a historical trail? Sleep in a tree house? Or an underwater hotel? Complete a marathon? Pet a penguin (yes, that really is a top bucket list choice!) What came to your mind as you considered the possibilities?
This month marks the two-year point. In June 2015, we moved from Virginia to our current home in North Carolina. Since I married my husband in 1996, we've moved a lot. Two and a half years in one house is about our limit before we're packing up and changing residences. I can't tell you how many times we started the school year by learning our address, or how many times I looked at whichever kid was in the ten-to-thirteen-year range and asking them if they knew our home phone number. Thank goodness for cell phones where your number doesn't change with every move! For the first time in my marriage, after two years in the same place, we are not facing the chore of packing up our entire house. No, instead we are facing the much bigger task of watching our oldest pack up everything she owns and moving across the country without us.