Expectations, Disappointments, and Doubts.

This life can really suck sometimes.  Just when you thought that you’d been through the worst of it, something new happens, a phone call, test results, a tire screech and suddenly you’re in it.  It.  The timeless abyss of suck; A parallel universe where most things are the same except for the empty, aching, bottomless pit in your chest.

When I get down about life, when I feel crushed, stomped on, cursed, I think of this story. Yes, it’s from the Bible, but get over it.

It’s a story of two cousins united by destiny, Jesus and John the Baptist.  John’s aunt was Jesus’ mother and so they grew up with each other.  John was the one who prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry.  He was the first one to publicly proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.  John launched Jesus’ career, gave him his start, and promoted him heavily.  And it was working!  Crowds appeared in droves to receive a new life.

If I were John, I would be excited- imagine all the good things they could do together, all the people they could help, a dynamic family duo on the cover of Time magazine.  So right when Jesus’ popularity is skyrocketing, John gets thrown in prison.  No big deal, the Messiah is his cousin and He can do miracles.  It’s not a question of if John gets out of prison, it’s the exciting idea of how.  Will Jesus call down angel armies to break down the walls and liberate him?  Will He enable him to walk through the prison bars untouched? No worries here.

But days go by… weeks… months… and John sits… and waits.  Was he wrong?  Is Jesus not the Messiah?  When John baptized Jesus he saw heaven open up and heard a voice from above cry out, “This is my Son!” He can’t explain away that.  But then why is he still sitting in a horrible prison when his own blood has the power to help him?  My conclusions would be either Jesus is not powerful enough to help or He is mad at John. Here’s the text from Matthew 11:2-6:

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him,

“Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.  “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

“Okay, sooooo… when are you helping me?”  I would be thinking if I were John.  Jesus’ cryptic response is a quote from the prophet Isaiah, whose writings (found in the Dead Sea scrolls) were describing the Messiah.  The point?   Yes, He is the Messiah and we’d do well to not get offended at how He runs things.  I imagine John thinking, “Okay.  So this is a lesson, there’s some reason for all of this, okay, God works in mysterious ways, I get it.  Be patient and trust.  I can do that.  Wow, I can’t wait to see what He does next!“

So what happens?  A dramatic rescue?  Cold.  A change of heart in the guy who imprisoned him?  Colder.  You ready for this?  John gets his head cut off and served on a platter. Literally.  The end.  Feeling better?

As depressing as that story is, this is what I take from it.

1.  When bad sh*t happens, it doesn’t mean God is mad at us.  If Jesus will allow His own cousin and forerunner to befall that kind of fate then it doesn’t mean that cancer, etc. is a sign of His disapproval.  The hardest kind of pain to bear is when it’s personal.  I can bear trials easier when I know I’m not being punished or hated on.

2.  When bad things happen we can ask bold, audacious questions.  Many times I am afraid to challenge God because I don’t want to piss Him off.  But Jesus welcomes this audacious and challenging question from John and answers him.

3.  We are not the main characters in the story of our lives.  God is.  Once our pride gets over that, it’s extremely relieving knowing that we don’t have to live like we’re the center of this universe and we can enjoy (or at least accept) the roles we do have.

“Jesus said there are times when God cannot lift the darkness from you, but you should trust Him.  At times God will appear like an unkind friend, but He is not; He will appear like an unnatural father, but He is not; He will appear like an unjust judge, but He is not.  Keep the thought that the mind of God is behind all things strong and growing.  Not even the smallest detail of life happens unless God’s will is behind it.  Therefore, you can rest in perfect confidence in Him.” Oswald Chambers.

“We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not.  The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.” Oswald Chambers

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I had dinner with a friend tonight who does exceptional work.  She works with people who have “terminal” health conditions.  She has seen an astounding number of health reversals or “miracles.” But not everybody gets well.  She said that the number one difference in every situation between someone getting better or getting worse was this:

The ones who got better believed they were worthy of getting better.

Worthiness.  It struck me across the soul.   My mind instantly raced into dozens of scenarios where I had given up on fighting for change because I didn’t feel worthy to receive a new situation.   I thought of all the areas in my life where I had resigned myself to the status quo.  I think of my Mom on her deathbed.  She had battled cancer off and on for 14 years and we had seen some amazing turn arounds in her health- what I call miracles.  But now a mood had set in there in the ICU where I felt like we had used up all our wishes.  That we had received so many more years than most in her situation so we should just be thankful for that and give up.  Let someone else have the miracle now.  What a horrific lie!   As if there is a limit to “miracles” in this world!

I don’t know if I could have changed anything in that hospital room but I do know that I am sick of feeling unworthy in this life.  I’m not sure where it comes from.  The guilt of being born in the 1st world, in the richest nation on earth.  The guilt of having certain things turn out favorable in my life while others suffer.  Maybe it arises from falling short of my high expectations of myself.

I sat quietly for 20 seconds.  I took notice any unworthy thoughts arising.   I asked myself why I feel unworthy.  The first thing that came up was “I haven’t done enough to help people in the world.”  Then a flood of negative thoughts rushed in like a lake through a ruptured damn.  “I’m lazy. I’m selfish.  I eat too much. I make too many mistakes.  I’m not courageous enough…”   Whoa.  Tell me how you really feel, Mr. Mind.

Sometimes I spend my entire day trying to justify my existence.  Like there is some judge asking me, “What are you doing here and what do you have to offer?”

So how do I convince myself of my worth?

The thing that bothers me is I think that if I tell myself I’m worthy of all the good in my life, I’ll stop being grateful and start becoming more selfish and hoarding things and pursue pleasing only myself.  Plus when I have told myself that I am worthy of all the good in my life…  there is an air of falseness to it,  like I’m a child telling myself I’m an astronaut.

What’s interesting is that when Jesus would heal someone, nearly every time He would tell them that their sins were forgiven first.  As if that was some sort of set up to make room for a miracle.  As if being totally and completely forgiven and accepted catalyzed a chain reaction within their body, mind, spirit and effectively made them feel worthy of a miracle for the first time in their life.

I think there’s something there.  The sense of worth must originate from some external authority, a ‘worthy’ authority.  If it originates from somewhere internally, worth based on merit, on achievement, on accomplishment, then the sense of worth will be conditional.  A sense of worth based on performance will at best, spoil a soul with pride and at worst, leave one feeling worthless.  But if the sense of worth comes from the outside, from a source that unlike some friends, family, and the crowd of this world, doesn’t rate based on how well you do, how you look, nor what you do, then maybe that is something to base our worth on.

“Your faith has made you well.” Jesus said many times while performing a miracle.  It’s as if we have some part to play in miracles.  What if that faith is to believe that our worth does not come from us doing ‘bad’ or ‘good’ things, or success, but from the Living God? Who created us in His image.  Who calls us His sons and daughters and Who loved us completely before we were even a thought.  Unconditional, Permanent Approval.

How would my life change if I saw my true worth each day?  What would I stop chasing?  What would I stop trying to prove to everyone and myself?  What kind of person would I be?

and for you…

Imagine now.


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U2 Live

A U2 concert is a tsunami of power exploding like a bomb blast knocking me back but then slowly dragging me out into a sea of electricity,  a body of water-like matter where I’m not sure where I end and everything else begins.  With alacrity I awaken to a hyper-reality beyond visibility.  The suffering and joy of the world are no longer external but experiential, inside me- my own.  All separations and divisions vanish into a wholeness, a oneness, never before known, melting into one invigorating call to rise. Suddenly I am a part of something bigger than myself and I discover it’s where and who I always wanted to be and the only thing that has changed is me.   The U2 concert?  yeah, it was okay.

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A New Day:

Something significant happens when we let go. I’ve been driving with my foot on the brake, afraid of making mistakes, but now I take my foot off the pedal and settle into excitement and adventure. “You are lost, the minute you know what the result will be.” Juan Gris. Surprises are priceless. When we control our life we diminish its joy. So that is why today is a new day. A time to say, “I resign from calling this life, mine,” and let go. So for those of us who are sick of waiting for the water to boil, who have minimized risk, declined adventure out of fear and called it prudence, who thought that playing by the rules themselves would save you, who thought that this life is about the grades and the votes we get, who refuse to exhale until they know there’s enough oxygen in the room, who have been trying to fit into a “category” unsuccessfully since middle school, if you feel lost, and without direction, then this blog is for you.  And if you expect me to stick to this path of enlightenment consistently, then this blog is not for you.  I am going to bump and bob along the way toward this new life and I am going to be wrong and make mistakes, and I’m going to love myself anyway.   I’m starting to see that if I base my value on how I perform each day, I will be the most miserable person alive.  So let’s start by forgiving ourself and committing to be gentle, kind, and loving toward ourself.


1.  Tell yourself, “I love you.”  Out loud.

2.  Go for a walk with no destination.

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Freedom and Responsibility

A CEO left his job for a one year sabbatical.  He left his business in the hands of his three vice presidents, each responsible for a certain sector of the business to run.  “The business in yours while I am gone,” he said.  A year passed and the CEO returned to his position and assessed the state of the company.  The first VP reported, “I expanded our operations and doubled my sector’s profits.”  “Wonderful,” the CEO said, “You just doubled your salary.”  The second VP came and said, “I developed a new investment strategy that boosted our assets by 50%.” “Fantastic!”, the CEO said, “you just increased your personal earnings by that much.”   The third VP said, “All this success is wonderful,  but it involved a lot of risk.  There was too much at stake.  So while I didn’t increase our profits nor expand our assets,  I’m happy to report that I didn’t decrease them either!  I hated the idea of disappointing you so I did the safe thing and avoided risking what was yours to begin with.  But now, here it is, just like you left it.”   The CEO paused for a minute.  “You didn’t increase in any way?… why, you could have put your funds in a bank and at least seen some increase!” he exclaimed, “clear out your office, I’m dividing your job between the people who will do something with it.”

“Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of.  Play it safe and you’ll end up holding the bag.” E. Peterson- The Message

Yes, let’s not be greedy like the one’s who caused our economic crisis, but let’s not live with such a fear of losing, of making mistakes.

I have been waiting my whole life to be told what to do with it and now I am realizing that I wasn’t being wise and prudent but scared and avoiding the responsibility of making my own choice.  This freedom terrifies me but excites as well.    I now realize that when we are bored with life, with our friends, our spouse, or even our job, that what we are really bored with, is ourself.   Today, more opportunity exists than ever in the history of our world, and we have the freedom to plant or to tear down,  to love or to talk about how we were wronged, the freedom to flourish or fail gloriously, to jump- we may not make it, but it feels so good knowing that we tried.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that
you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

Today: Exhale fully, then take a deep breath.  Do you feel a pain about not doing something you know you were born to do?  Quickly, without thinking, do one small thing about it.

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