What do you expect from God? Don’t gloss over this question. Don’t answer right away. Stop. Think. Think again. Then, say it out loud. Don’t answer with a pat answer. When you said it, did it sound natural? Did it sound sincere? Did it feel real to say it?
We all have expectations of every single person or in our lives. We have expectations of our lives. We expect our spouses to be faithful, supportive and helpful. We expect our kids to obey, eat their vegetables, clean their rooms and play the sport we did. We expect our friends to listen and agree with us. We expect our parents to be perfect and mighty. We expect our dreams to come true. We expect so much during our lives. We are expectation machines.
I was having a conversation today with my mom on my way to church. We were reflecting on yesterday. Yesterday was hard for me, I was feeling the weight of all the shit that had happened to me lately. I spent a lot of time yesterday in a bad place mentally. And some of that was because of my expectations of my life and of God. I expected my life to be very different at this point. This is a long-standing expectation, from way back in high school when I had to write one of those “where will you be in 10 years” type letters. At an early age people ask us what we expect to be when we grow up. The expectation that is put on us from that point is that we are going to become something. We have to accomplish something great. That’s a heavy burden on a kid. And I think it’s even heavier because it starts to define us. Our expectation for our lives and expectation of those people around us, those define us and how we think about the world and our place in it . Yesterday I felt that weight, both the expectations put on me and the expectations I put on me and others.
Back to my conversation with my mom...She was talking about how God is faithful and He will come through for me. Something clicked in my brain when she said “He will come through for me.” It dawned on me that I had an expectation for Jesus to step in and do something. Why? Why do I expect Jesus to bring me a job? Why am I expecting Him to do something right now in my life? Am I not grateful for what He has already done? Am I just consistently putting burdens on Him and not really experiencing what I have? A lot of things started running through my brain.
Now, please do not get me wrong. Jesus did promise that He would provide for all of our needs. I am not suggesting that Jesus is not going to bring me a job. My concern is that I’m putting a weight on our relationship that shouldn’t be there. I don’t need to be standing here waiting for Jesus to bring me a job. What happens if I don’t get one or it doesn’t work out the way I expected? Will I see Jesus as if He failed? Is our relationship about my expectations? Where is my focus in our relationship?
Back to my point earlier about people and expectations. I have a son. I had expectations of my son. I still have expectations of my son. I expected him to go to school, I expected him to follow the rules, I expected him to respect me. I expected too much. Our relationship is on very rocky ground. One of the things he said to me more than once was that I expected too much of him. I thought I was being reasonable, he didn’t. I put a weight on him to conform to me, to my standards. I don’t know if that was right or wrong, but I know it was one of the driving factors in our broken relationship. Expectations carry a great deal of weight. When he couldn’t fulfill my expectations he pushed me away and I got angry and our relationship broke apart. Instead of just living in the relationship and loving him, he and I could not fulfill each other’s expectations and so our relationship became all about our disappointment over those expectations.
I was reminded tonight of my expectations of God many years ago. My sister was sick, cancer. Ten months I put everything into a belief that God would heal her. But, it was my expectation, not my conversation. I put weight on our relationship instead of actually having a relationship. God needed to put up, that was it. Conform to my expectations, heal my sister, that was our relationship at the time. I didn’t take any other consideration as a possibility. When she died I was shattered and my relationship with God...shattered. I was so focused on what I wanted God to do, I completely missed what God had done, what God was doing.
More than 20 years later I find myself again in a painful situation where the things of this world are not doing what I want. My expectations are not being met. Yesterday, I faced that and that weight took me into a deep and dark place. Today, I realized I was doing it all wrong. It’s not about what I expect from God or myself or the world, it’s about what I have. It’s about what’s already happened. It’s about being present now. Truly, it’s about being.
Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people expected Jesus to rise up and tear down the government and become King. They didn’t like the oppression from the Roman empire and expected Jesus to do something about it. But that is not why He came. He did not come to fulfill their expectations. No, He was looking towards something much more eternal. He came to establish a personal relationship with us. And to do that, He had to die a painful and horrible death on the cross. Their expectations were shattered when He fulfilled His.
I’m not gonna lie, I still have expectations of people and things in my life and God. But, I have a new perspective about how to approach those things and not allow them to define my relationships and my life. My expectations are just guidelines or hopes, but they aren’t the relationships and they aren’t the experience. I want to remove the weight of expectation and live free. To truly live my life, I need to be present, I need to be in the moment. I want to think eternally, and I want to think moment to moment. I want to be fully here while embracing the eternity that God has for me. Whether the job comes or not, I will be where God wants me to be because I will be present with Him.
So, I ask again, what do you expect from God?
I’ve been thinking today about talents. Why were we given talents? What purpose do they serve? I spent a good portion of my afternoon and evening using my talents to help my niece promote her talents. I myself am in the process of building a website that will feature a few of my talents, with the help of another niece and her talents. We’ve all been gifted with something, whether it’s artistry or personality or a great smile, we all have some gifts and talents. What I realized today is that our talents are necessary not just to improve our lives but for the benefit of others. I now theorize that utilizing our talents for others is the point of our gifts and life itself. “Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others,” stated Kallam Anji Reddy, who then went on to concur with my theory, “And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.” The ultimate goal of goals, the purpose, the point of it all, the reason for our being…
Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace.
For a very long time I locked myself away, everything about me kept far from the rest of the world. I was, in many respects, an island, disproving John Donne. Everything about me, all the things that make me special and all the things that make me normal and all the things that just make me, served no purpose whatsoever. I regret that. Looking back at all those years of solitude, pain and loneliness, I recognize how much of my life I let go by and how many opportunities were ignored. I have talents that I was born with, I have gifts that were written into my DNA, I have a calling on my life that Jesus has placed on my soul, and somehow I missed all of that. Well no more, I want to serve God and His people. I want to figure out what my gifts and talents are, beyond the ones in aware of, and figure out how God wants me to use them.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.
What talents do you have? What gifts have been bestowed upon you? How do you use those for the betterment of others? How do you use them for the betterment of yourself? Are you using them at all? Have you thought about what talents lie within you that you’ve yet to discover? We are deeply complex people. God created us to go deep with Him so that He may reveal to us through this journey who we are. We are only so far along, there are many steps ahead and a great deal more to learn. Just imagine for a moment the depths of God’s love for you. It is in the love that He gifted you and He is excited to see what you’ll do with it all. I encourage you to talk to God today about your talents and how they are meant to be utilized.
Something I came to realize over the last few months is that I don’t think I know my voice. I don’t mean my actual audible voice. I mean the inner part of me that is meant to speak out to the world. I have figured out the message for this time in my life, but my voice still eludes me. Neil Gaiman said, “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.“ So, I guess what I’m missing is me. Who is Melody now at this moment? Who do I want Melody to be?
As I begin this ecumenical journey, one of the things I want to seek out is a greater understanding of church and me. What does church mean to me? What is the true difference between church and the Church? What is my place in the Church Body? How am I meant to affect other Christ followers? And the world? Where is my voice in the chorus of believers? This journey is not just about understanding denominations; it’s also about understanding me. What is Christ telling me? Where does God want me? What do I need to know to be a better member of the Body? Honestly, the questions go on and on and on.
The truth of the matter is, like with everything, the way to understand the path to answers is getting deeper with God. There is no one who knows me better. God formed me, He knows every molecule of my body, every thought in my mind and every moment of my life. He knows me deeper than I know myself. To find my voice — to find me — I need to find God. I need to go deeper with Him and let Him reveal truth in my life.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart...”
Who are you? Who are you in God? Have you found your voice? Your message? Do you see the path before you? What answers are you seeking right now? Whatever it is you’re looking for, whatever it is you need to know, hand it over to God and let Him take you deeper so you may know your voice.
As a writer, the most difficult thing is the first sentence. There is something so intimidating about that initial spark of thought that must be put down into words. It is the beginning, it’s the attention grabber, it’s the moment that introduces the message, thoughts and feelings of the author to their audience.
This is true of everything. That first moment...it’s terrifying. Walking into class on the first day, stomach twisted. Getting ready for a first date, palms sweaty. Sitting behind the wheel of your first car, trembling. So many terrifying firsts.
I am at a first. I am terrified. My life has dramatically changed in the last 18 months. To go through the list of things that have been upended would take me a very long time, but through it all I have had a few stabilities, like having a job. Now, even that has changed. And as a result, another part of my life has also changed, my connection to my church home. So, not only am I facing several first moments, but I must also process my grief and sorrow for what is ending. Terror, pain, sorrow, anger, fear, excitement, joy, confusion, and so much more is just bubbling around inside of me. I’m on the precipice of so many firsts I do not know what to do. It’s like a tidal wave of emotion and change wanting to swallow me whole.
I’m about to start what I’m calling an ecumenical journey. I have many questions rolling around in my head. I grew up attending several different churches, but I never really had the opportunity to get to know anything about the churches. For one, I was very young and I was mostly interested in learning about God and I wasn’t thinking about denominational issues. Secondly, my parents had no interest in connecting with any singular church and so moving from one church to another was a way of giving me church while maintaining the distance from church that they needed for their peace of mind. Now I have this chance to go and really explore church life. I get to try and understand why if we are one body under one God, how we can we be so dramatically divided. What makes a Lutheran Lutheran? Why do Anglicans like their liturgy? What’s the difference between a Methodist and a United Methodist? Can God be found in all of these denominations or have we put too many human rules and dogma into our churches? These questions and so many more await me. The answers, I have a feeling, will beget more questions. There’s something truly remarkable about that, and something truly terrifying. The unknown. The unwritten. It’s the first sentence of the next chapter in my life. What will God and I write together?
Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.
At one time you yourselves used to live according to such desires, when your life was dominated by them. But now you must get rid of all these things...
I have a consistent message. Have you noticed? It’s something I’ve been noticing more and more. If you do a quick perusal of these writings two words keep popping up: joy and focus. It makes sense since the goal has always been to remind my readers to spend time with God, the source of our joy. But, even when the topic of the day is a totally different message, somehow it still always veers back to focusing on God and letting Him transform us so we may live joyful.
I was telling my friend Trina this week about this consistent message in my writing and she just smiled at me. We got to talking about how we all have a message within us, a message that God wants to bring to the world and no matter how many ways we say it, the message always seems to be the same. If you listen to Chip Johnson’s sermons (ctknampa.org), Chip is relatively consistent about speaking on our need for community and oneness in the body of Christ. Rick Snodgrass’ consistent message is grace and the need to understand its intricacies. Apparently I’ve found my message. CS Lewis said, “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.” The reason I write these messages over and over again is because the thing I want most for you in this world is “joy, power, peace, [and] eternal life” and the way to get those is to spend time focusing on God. Turn your eyes to Jesus and you will be able to “get rid of all [those] things” that keep you chained to this world. You will truly be free and truly live a joyful and fulfilled life.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these…
I know it’s been a while since I wrote one of these message. It’s been even longer since I focused on Colossians. Tonight felt like a good night to dive back in. This scripture speaks to me. Last time I wrote about this particular scripture I wrote about my past, but I think it’s time to look at my present and how my past is encroaching on my present.
Writing these messages started out as a favor for a friend, but overtime it has become something much more. I came to realize that God had a plan in this, a plan for me and my life. I have learned so much this year writing about Him. The research. The prayer. The time spent just thinking about the writing and the message. It’s been great! On top of that I have had the opportunity to share my heart and give glimpses into the inner workings of Melody. I’ve also been able to share the greatest message of all: GOD LOVES YOU!!
So what happened. Why for the past month or so have I stopped writing. There are a few answers to that question, but the one to look at tonight is revealed by the scripture: old bad habits. For the past month or so I have found myself slowly by surely walling myself away. My hermit like nature sprung up and took over and I let it. I don’t fully understand all the reasons why, but I do know that fear played a part in it. Like I said, this writing has opened me up in ways I wasn’t expecting and when I started to see it I got scared. I’m back to living “the life [I] once lived.” Not good! I don’t want to shy away from my future. I don’t want to shy away from God’s plans for me. I don’t want to shy away from the people in my life. I don’t want to shy away from myself. So, as the scripture says, I must rid myself “of all such things as these.” For me, that’s my fear and isolation. It’s my worry about the future. It’s my walls that need to be obliterated. This is not easy. Change is never easy.
Hallelujah, I have Jesus! He knows the plans He has for me. He knows what is inside of me. I just have to let Him do His thing. I have to stop fighting. There is a plan for this. I’m going to start reading my study books again. I’ve signed up for a class being taught by a friend. I’m also going to sign up for a class at NNU that I think will be good as well that will be a week long in mid-January. These are not my plans. These are God’s plans and He has been showing me very clearly that I need to get focused on Him again. I write about it enough, right! Heck, it’s pretty much the message I write to you every time I write one of these…focus on God…give Him time…turn to Jesus! Okay, it’s about time I took my own advice.
What have you been struggling with lately? Are there things in your life that you need to be rid of, things that cause you to sin, cause distance in your relationships, especially with God? Talk to Him about it. Know that you can’t change without Him. Know that He wants to help you be the best you. Know that He loves you immensely. I’m always here if you want to message me, but make sure to give time over to God. Talk to Him and let Him fill you with His presence and let Him inspire and change and bring about amazing growth within you.
"If today were your last, would you do what you’re doing? Or would you love more, give more, forgive more? Then do so! Forgive and give as if it were your last opportunity. Love like there’s no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again."
I’ve been angry for awhile now. I’m really struggling—and I mean really struggling. Most of my anger has been directed towards my family, but not all of it. I find myself getting angry at a whole lot of things and a whole lotta people and it just keeps building. When I’m this angry I’m blinded and overly focused on the source(s) of my anger. That’s why the above quote stands out to me today, it stands as a reminder of the person I want to be, the person that God has made me to be…a person of compassion, hope, joy, love and forgiveness. Whatever wrongs I feel that others have done against me, my anger and my frustration hurts me more than others. Forgiveness is healing and right now I know I need a lot of personal healing.
There is a lot to take from the quote above. I want you to take a moment and close your eyes and breathe in deep.
Do it again.
One more time.
Now read the quote above out-loud to yourself twice. What word or grouping of words in that quote stood out to you? Take your time and really reflect on what resonated or shimmered for you in that quote. Now, take those words to God. Ask Him help you learn from those words. Maybe you need to work on forgiveness or simply be reminded that love is the most important thing. Remember, life is fleeting and needs to be lived fully. Most importantly, find time to talk to God and let His message teach you today.
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death...
And if your right hand leads you into sin, cut it off and throw it away—for better you lose one part of your body than march your entire body through the gates of sin and into hell.
Just to clarify right away, this is not actually talking about mutilating your body. I think it’s self-explanatory, but I just wanna make sure we’re on the same page. We are talking about removing the things in our life that are bad for us that cause us to sin and die a little each day.
What originally inspired me to look at the book of Colossians for these texts was the scripture we are about to go through. Back at the end of August I was reading some random scriptures and I came across this particular scripture and it seem like such a good thing to talk about. It jumped off the page at me. What’s interesting is that I don’t know why. The moment I read that scripture I could see exactly the best way to tackle it in a discussion, and it just was laid out in my front of me. And here we go…
Death is not a bad thing! In this case, death to our baser side is a very good thing. In order to grow, the things that halt our relationship and the things that keep us distracted from God must be shorn away. This is all about cutting out the things that come between us and God. It could be perfectly good things, but when we make those things more important than God then we have a problem. It’s about dying to ourselves. That’s how we live. I know it’s completely bonkers, but it is completely true. The more you drive the bus of your life, the more times you are going to crash that sucker and send everybody around you screaming because they’re on fire. We screwup, we hurt one another, we succumb to our darkest nature and deepest temptations. But, we have God and when He is our focus and when the Holy Spirit is guiding us and when Jesus is our all, then those things of earth that want to squeeze the life out of us fade away. We all have things that distract us. In reality, we are deep rivers of brokenness that have built up over a lifetime and we use our distractions to hide from that brokenness. But, God knows it all. He knows how to heal those scars and pains, and He knows how to love you through your mistakes. God loves you. He loves you so much that He sent His only son to die for you so that all those things that want to drain the life from your soul, mind and heart are defeated so that you may live in Christ. We die to ourselves so that we can live in God’s glory and grace.
Talk to God about the things that you know are distracting you; the big and the little and everything in between. What have you set between you and God? Ask Him to reveal these truths about your life, and while you are at it, ask Him to help you heal from what is weighing you down now so that you may die to self and live anew.
I was talking to my mom today about how weird I am. I have no problems at all being weird, I am proud of it. I told her that I embrace my weird and that she needed to embrace her weird. You see I’m bold, I have no problem when the occasion calls for it to be loud and crazy and weird. For example, last week I was playing my mom the song "Joy" by For King and Country and as I was playing it I just couldn’t stop myself from dancing in my seat. We were at a public place and we were outside in the gazebo and I was just moving and rockin’ out to that song. With a slight grin on her face, she just stared at me. I kept encouraging her to get into it and be free. She continued to just stare at me. Today she did the same thing. I wasn’t being overly weird, but my usual, and she just kept staring at me. I told her that I embrace my weird. She felt the need to point out that I’m proud of my weird. Maybe sitting silently and staring at me weird is her weird, except I know better. I know her as well as anybody knows her and my mom has a weird streak inside of her that she hides. So, I kept thinking about it and I came to realize that embracing the weird isn’t enough, we also need to express our weird. That’s part of exploring who we are as people, it’s part of experiencing the reveal that God has promised in introducing us to the true us. Yep, I brought this back to Colossians 3:4 if you can possibly believe that I’m still talking about that. "When Christ who is our life shows himself, then shall you also appear with him in glory." (NMB)
Getting to know every part of us, even the strange and weird and crazy and silly parts of ourselves, that is all God given. I read a book called Divine Obsession (actually I have quoted it a few times in these messages), in it there’s a chapter on Peter. Actually, to be more precise it’s about the relationship between Peter and Jesus. One of the things that this particular chapter posits is that the relationship between Jesus and Peter was that of best friends, the kind who can laugh and giggle and poke fun at one another. It describes a scene of the two of them staying back from the rest of the disciples as they’re traveling because they are moving slowly due to fact that they are skipping rocks and telling jokes. Imagine, Jesus telling jokes. I guarantee Jesus told jokes, why, because it’s fun and it’s laughter and it’s living and it’s life. To bring that to other people is an act of love. Jesus was weird. He not only embraced His weird, but He expressed it fully. There’s a scene in The Passion that is unquestionably my favorite, and that’s where He and Mary are playing and joking with one another. It’s such a light moment in a dark movie, and it brings a rounded aspect to this Man who we have put on a pedestal, but He was a man, a great man, a real man. He was a fully realized human being with a desire to laugh and enjoy the life that His father created. Jesus was weird. Correction: Jesus is weird. We all have something about us that is odd or different or just weird, and it was by design. God designed us to be fully realized human beings, with a soul tied to Him and informed and inspired by Him. We were made in the image of God, that means God has a big sense of humor. Embrace your weird and express it. It may take time and it may be something you need to pray about, figuring out how to let down your guard, but it'll be worth it. Vulnerable is scary. Especially being vulnerable to ourselves because there’s no harsher critic than our own insecurities.
You’re a weirdo and I like it. Have you explored how that weird part of you is actually a gift from God? Have you asked Him to reveal why you’re weird? Have you tried asking Him about the weird parts of you that not even you know about? These are just a couple of suggestions about things you could be talking to your Lord and Savior and favorite Weirdo about. Embrace your weird, a true gift from God.
I have people in my life that I strongly disagree with, people I love and respect. I hope that those same people love and respect me even though we may be at odds on a great many things. To many in my family I’m the outsider. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I am a goody two shoes who goes to church. That has kept me at arms length with a great deal of my family. I don’t get invited to parties or poker nights or just to go hang out. I’m ignored most the time and probably not thought about a lot. But, as distant from my family as I am—I love them. There’s much about their lives that I disagree with but—I love them. There’s a great many things that have made me angry regarding my family members but—I love them.
On the other spectrum, I have a nephew who is about as opposite of me as is possible. Politically he is a communist and I am anti-all parties. He is agnostic (or atheist as he still trying to figure that out) while I am excitedly Christian. He wears all black all the time where as I love bright colors. He is a pothead and loves to drink while I hate everything to do with drugs and alcohol. There have been times where these differences and many others have caused tension between us, but we never lost the love and the respect for one another. I can sit down and have a conversation with him about our differing political views and I can hear him out and I know he hears me out. We don’t go into these conversations trying to change one another we just talk and listen and accept that we are different and love each other regardless. And when tensions arise the love is still there. And yes, there is often tension and frustration.
I was watching the new show God Friended Me and it got me to thinking about how often we let those things that are different about one another keep us from truly engaging. In the show the main character is an atheist and his father is a reverend and they don’t talk. They can go for months without saying a word to one another and when they do come together they fight. There is no respect and there’s a little love in those conversations. It’s all about staking their claim and bolstering their point instead of listening, understanding and loving. Frankly, this is common place in our world today and as mentioned above, in my life. It’s important to really examine how we treat one another. The people that you keep at arms link, why is that? Sometimes there are legitimate reasons and sometimes our own stubbornness gets in the way.
Besides the fact that I was just watching the show so it is fresh in my mind, I bring this up because were moving into a part of Colossians 3 that talks about vices and virtues. We all succumb to temptation, we all screw up, we all have our own opinions, we all have problems and we all have things that keep us apart. But, we have one very important thing that does bring us all together and that is Jesus. Even for the non-believer, Jesus still brings us all together because He gave us believers a very important piece of instruction in the Bible: love one another. Christ was the greatest example of unconditional love, we must be that example to the world and break down the walls that wanna keep us all apart. We are supposed to love one another, we’re supposed to love all and that includes ourselves. As you take time to examine yourself or take time to examine others, don’t lose sight of Jesus and His message. Where can forgiveness reign, where can hope spring up or where can walls be torn down because of love in your life?