Tag Archives: #provision

Ruthless Trust

“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of the pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.”
Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God

I shared in my last post about the gift of being in this unemployed place of uncertainty and vulnerability.  There is certainly a lot to learn and enjoy in it.  But I’m not going to sugar-coat that it’s always what my perspective or attitude is.  Other times it can just be really hard and unsettling.  I’m not unlike you, I want to be in control of my surroundings, my future and my options.  But I am in a season presently in life where all of what I used to rely upon as security is no longer secure.  My wife and I are holding tight to simple and core truths about who we are, who our God is and that the future is secure in him and his provision over us.  We are challenged and cross-pressured to believe in things we can’t see and not lose hope. We are not the first people to find ourselves here, it’s just our story today.

I lost some faith this week, I got discouraged.  Met with our accountant last week to do our 2016 taxes for us personally and the businesses we are trying to get off the ground.  I had the figures stare back at me on paper like a bully on the playground.  How little income I had in 2016 and how much of our personal investment I put in the coffee business that is 100% loss at the moment (of course most businesses lose $ in their first couple years).  All my identity of being a provider for my family for 23 years was being challenged.  The accusing voices started of what a failure I must be, how much I’ve let everyone down and the helplessness of not being able to correct the ship immediately.   Defeated, discouraged, disappointed . . . what do we with these emotions?  Where do we take these lies that bounce around in our head and seek to intimidate us into total surrender?

Today I went for a walk in the woods to listen.  I spent several hours walking and sitting.  I listened, I listened to the babbling brook, I listened to the waving branches of the trees over me, I listened to the cracking of broken sticks under my boots, I listened to the hawks overhead and I listened for the voice of the One who made me and marks my days.  I started out somewhat lost, feeling disconnected and anxious.  And then He spoke and it was hard to compose myself.  He said:  “stop trusting in bank statements and financial tables, learn to ruthlessly trust me.”  The voice went on, told me to look around, look at the eco-systems of life and complexities all around me.  They don’t worry, they don’t fret, they are taken care of.  How much more will I be taken care of.

I was reminded that we are at the dawn of the Lenten season of the Church, where we are to be stripped away of all our preoccupations and distractions to find ourselves in Him.  We can locate ourselves in his suffering and thus share with him our deepest longings and shortcomings.  We don’t have to wear our fears like a cloak, we can put it on him and hide ourselves in him.  In his creation, in his ever presence, in the Spirit that broods over the earth and bubbles up in the brooks and streams.  If we ruthlessly trust him, we can find our confidence in him.  This is a place of surrender, vulnerability and exposed nakedness.  But we came into this life naked, and naked sometimes we still find ourselves.  We ruthlessly trust not because we are masochists, but because we believe foundational aspects of his nature:  goodness, faithfulness, sustenance, mercy and eternal love.

We are being asked to ruthlessly trust . . . we are ALL being asked to ruthlessly trust.  What’s on the other side of that door?  Let’s open it and find out, but it starts with trust. #Gulp

Showing Up

“80% of success is just showing up.” -Woody Allen

So I was re-reading a popular narrative in the New Testament this morning from John 6 and it was the ‘Bread and Fish for All’ as The Message puts it.  Traditionally we understand this to be the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.  There are a lot of faith-stretching learnings in this story.  It was like Jesus was click-baiting his disciples by making them go out and find some paltry replenishments so that they knew in the end, that what would be done would not have come from them and their accomplishments.  I could write a whole other book on the futility of self-sufficiency, I’ve lived that dead-end over and over.

8-9 One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”

Here is what struck me this morning; sure the 5 loaves and 2 fish were not nearly enough for 5,000 men (not including women and children), BUT it seems an OBSCENE amount of food for a small boy, no?  

Do we ever ask the question why the boy has SO much food just for himself?  I’m just speculating, but it occurred to me that maybe the boy just had some extra that morning, maybe sometimes he doesn’t, but that day, that week, that season his family had more than needed.  Maybe they made a habit of ‘showing up’ when they had extra with a heart to give and be generous in case the opportunity presents itself.  ‘Showing up’ is a decision of the heart and mind to carry out values and commitments whether anyone knows about it or not.  Most of ‘Showing up’ is done in anonymity, no spotlight, no miracle recorded, just you and your commitment to who you are and what you want to do in this world.

Everyone wants the miracle, everyone wants the ecstatic experience of the victory, everyone wants the big win, everyone wants the glory of the finish line, everyone wants the accolade of the award . . . but who wants to ‘show up’ when no one is watching?  Who wants to give away their extra today because it’s in their heart to do, not because it will be recorded in a Holy Scripture?

I’m in a place in life where I have a lot of great and valuable work, but very little income.  I know it is likely just a season, but I don’t know how long the season will last.  My mind wants to jump to the end, where Jesus multiplies the little and shows off in the kind of power he has.  But in taking the example of this young boy today, I recognize that the challenge is to ‘show up’ today in the value of the work before me without the need for physical reinforcement of income.   ‘Showing up’ comes from a deeper set of values, an imbedded set of deep commitments planted in you to fulfill your identity and calling in this world.  Collecting a paycheck is not a big enough idea, you were destined to count in ways you never imagined.  Today, it’s about ‘showing up’ in our work and letting value be its own reward.

Lighten up, 2016

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In 2016, I had a major job transition.  As of July 1, I had no guaranteed income, no health insurance for my family and no real idea what provision would look like moving forward.  Now, to know me, is to know I’m a bit of a controller and a planner.  Perhaps more than ‘a bit’.  I’m most of the time too intense for most others in my drive to push ahead and plan strategically.  I’m a doer and a planner, a starter, a leader, a ‘make things happen’ kinda guy.  I was left with all the big questions of a Father of 3, husband to 1 and the responsibility of the majority of our income for 23 years of marriage.

I was faced with all the familiar voices to listen to:  fear, anxiety, depression, anger, heaviness, despair, control, urgency, scarcity, shame, guilt etc.

Then in my raw and honest moments of genuine prayer, I began to hear a different voice.  It was gentle, at peace, sure, confident, full, light, generous, gracious, hopeful, fun, creative, joyful, bold and . . . sustainable.  It was a mindset I could grow to live into and let it sustain me regardless of my circumstances.  I could choose to ‘lighten up’ and have zero changes to my circumstances and yet experientially live them differently.  As I chose to listen to that voice and give it my attention, energy and opportunity started sparking up all around me.  Even though I still do not have a traditional ‘job’ per se, my family’s needs have been completely taken care of.  I’m working hard at freelancing and provision has come in a myriad of ways.

I have no ‘job’, no guaranteed income and yet I’ve never been more excited about the future.  Creativity is a constant companion.  Every day has been full of new opportunity and potentials are in every conversation.  Instead of a heavy slave-master of having to control it all myself, I’m trusting in a Provider who has never left me without.  I’m learning to ‘lighten up’ and enjoy the ride, no matter the circumstances.  Even in difficult scenarios, I’m more present, more alive in the situation, fear hasn’t sucked the life out of my presence.

By no longer trying to strong-arm my life; I became truly powerful.  Confidence is rising and expectations for goodness are the norm.  In this mindset, my freedom and my creativity are more dangerous.  I’m choosing what I want to pick a fight with and I’m enjoying every punch I get to throw along the way at life’s bullies.  When darkness and doubt come to my doorstep, I War with words of thankfulness and gratefulness.  In this discipline, I ‘lighten up’ and the clouds begin to dissipate and the sun rises again on my hope.

Forever the cynic, I’ve become a bit of Mr. Positivity and it’s incredibly more healthy for me.  I am eager to see where it all takes me in 2017.  But I’m thankful for the lesson in 2016 to ‘lighten up’.

“Do not be an accuser of my Provision” -God

accuserrHad a great opportunity last week as a part of a course I’m facilitating for Masters of Ministry students to spend a day outside at a contemplative retreat center.  We had two 3 hour blocks of time for rest, silence and solitude.  Even though I’m an extreme extrovert, I enjoy times to get away and just listen, think and pray.  I found a great spot by myself next to the water in the shade (pictured above) to do some thinking.

It seems that I had quite an agenda, instead of listening, I did a lot of talking.  I was anxious, nervous, unsettled and a bit scared.  Last week was the first week in my 25 years of ministry life and 23 years of marriage that I did not bring home a paycheck.  Severance is done and unemployment has not kicked in yet and so all provision was outside my control.  I’m wired as a leader, doer, starter and ‘make things happen’ kind of guy.  As far I as I knew, nothing was happening in the way I understood it.  So I let God know I was anxious and worried . . .

When you get away and get quiet, sometimes God says things really clearly and this is exactly what I heard:

Do Not Be An Accuser of My Provision!”

God directed to me to my iPhone app. for our coffee store that we just launched that shows our daily, weekly and monthly sales.  (Does God speak through iPhone apps??  That’s another blog idea) He said, ‘count it up’.   So I did . . . the results were that it appeared the total of our ‘random’ coffee sales for the week came to the total of my previous paycheck.  Gross mind you, not even Net, God didn’t take any taxes out.  “Chris, do not be an accuser of my provision!” Translation:  Chris, trust me.

At that point I slowed down my thinking more, started listening more and looked around me.  I started noticing things I hadn’t before:  ants carrying dinner and supplies to their home, turtles sunning on the river rocks, trees waving in the wind protecting me from the sun, a snake skin shed and left near my feet, fish bubbling at the surface of the water and birds flying overhead.  I was sitting in an entire ecosystem of provision and design.  Everyday, day in and day out, for millions of years, the Creation receives it’s provision from it’s Creator.  Who am I to be anxious?

Our culture tells us and shouts to us our entitlements.  Tells us what we deserve, what we have coming to us, what we should demand, what we should control, what we should store up, what we should  hoard so that we won’t be vulnerable.  We get to choose a mentality of abundance or scarcity.  Is the provision of God’s created world for me scarce and I should fight for resources, or is it abundant and I should trust Him at His feasting table?  Do I trust Him and His provision for me and my family?  The issue is of course trust.

You get to choose the voices you listen to and trust.  You get to choose the source of your wisdom.  The culture says the resources of our world are scarce.  The Creator says his Creation is abundant and it can be trusted.  I’m going with the original source.  No longer an accuser, I’m grateful today.  I’m learning to trust.

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  – Mathew 6:30-34 (The Message)