What's new?

Yeah, I know. I never visit you anymore.

But I haven't forgotten about those of you who met with me here. I've just been focusing on some other things. I'd love to reconnect, though. I have a new website — PrayingUpsideDown.com — which is related to a book I'm writing. Details about publication aren't yet finalized, but will be posted on the site once they are.

By March 1, I hope to have a new blog as part of that site. If you're curious, you may subscribe by email so you'll be notified once it's ready to go. Please stop and say hi. Tell your friends. And I hope you like to look at God and prayer and life in new, crazy ways — maybe even upside down. I know I do.

God's navigation

I'd never had a navigation system before, but I wasn't all that excited. I didn't trust it, for one. And it is difficult to program. So when I left for Chicago, I didn't use it, just asked my daughter to read me the step-by-step directions printed out from Mapquest. It worked just fine, even though we had a few tense moments as I yelled at her to clarify, quick, whether I needed exit 259A or B. But on the way home, I thought I'd try it and see how it worked.

And I loved it. The warnings ("prepare to bear left in a quarter mile"). The clarifications ("turn left on the second road"). And the patient, patient voice, the anonymous woman who calmly directed me through traffic. I loved that the navigation system was integrated with the car, so not only was there an ever-changing map in the center of the console, but there was a handy little screen in the center of my dash that told me the next step. The arrow points straight or angles right or left. A little progress bar shows how much of this segment of road I've traveled. And type at the bottom of the screen tells me the name of the road I am on, as well as which direction I'm headed. The main screen even calculates for me miles traveled, miles to go, and arrival time at my destination, with a little speed limit sign in the corner (how did they know I'd always be going too fast?).

But, one time, I didn't want to go the way she told me to go, so I decided to take a different, closer exit. I was curious to see what would happen. If it had been me inside that system, responding to a last-minute, unexpected change, there would have been panic. I don't do well under pressure. I say words that I would say in no other circumstances. I freeze. If there are two options, I choose wrong. Always wrong.

But she remained calm, unflustered. Within seconds, a new route had been calculated, the directions corrected. She didn't snap at me. She didn't barely conceal her annoyance. She didn't even pout to express her resentment. She just adjusted, based on my actions, and found another way to get me there.

I've heard a million analogies about God being our compass. I know he directs us, points us in the right direction, and gave us his word as a guidebook. But my navigation system reminded me of another truth: he adapts. He gives us free will to make decisions, and if we choose a different path than the one he initially put before us, it's OK. He then prepares another. And when we stray, if we refuse to "please attempt a legal u-turn in the next 1,000 feet," he doesn't condemn. He doesn't mutter, he doesn't resent, he doesn't demand we change direction. He patiently adapts, trying to lead us down the next best route. And the next, and the next. The roads we choose are our own. The speed we travel is up to us. And how directly we proceed to the next point is a decision we're allowed to make. But no matter how convoluted our path, he never, ever stops correcting us. He never, ever stops finding another way to get us where we need to go. We may not always choose the simplest route, but he will never abandon us. And as long as he's there to "recalculate," we'll certainly find our way. 

Narrow is the gate

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.

~ MATTHEW 7:14 NIV

     I used to think this sounded very elitist. Only the special, only the chosen, only the few get to come to God. I’ve read that what it means is that few will choose it, even though it’s open to all. But I think there’s a whole lot more to learn in this verse.
     Think about it. Why don’t people want to enter the gate? It’s not dark and scary, overgrown with weeds and vines that choke out the light, like a haunted house. Then again, I don’t think the gate is wide and sparkly and light, eternally propped open, with colorful flags, a vast open space and a castle beyond it, like DisneyWorld. No, it’s sized just right. For one person. One life, one soul, one decision at a time. Sometimes people call themselves Christians because they go to church, or they own more than one Bible, or they try to do the right things, or they’re not atheists so they must be Christians by default. In some circles, it’s become the popular thing to do. Wear a t-shirt, hang an inspirational plaque on your wall, and people will identify you as “one of them.” Some feel like they must be Christians because their parents went to church, or they go to hang out with their friends. But here’s the thing: God calls us as individuals. It doesn’t matter what our families do. It doesn’t matter if we had preachers in our lineage in generations past. It doesn’t matter if we come from a line of Buddhists and Muslims and atheists. God calls us, one by one. He speaks to us, one at a time. Individually. Personally. He woos you — yes, you. He made you, just the way you are. He gave you talents and opinions and experiences that are unlike anyone else’s. And He will not call you like He called someone else. But if you listen, He will call. He waits, just on the other side of that gate. He stands, arms open wide, confident and expectant. He doesn’t want you to walk through just because your spouse or friend does. That’s why the gate is not wide. It’s wide enough, though, wide enough for you. Sized so that you can freely walk through, as soon as you are ready. It’s not scary, and there’s no fanfare. It’s private, just you and He. You and the Lord. Don’t wait. Don’t think you don’t belong or you’re not welcome. Don’t be afraid. He loves you, and He’s there on the other side, waiting for you to say Yes, Lord. I want you, too. All you have to do is walk towards Him. Enter that gate. You’ll be amazed by what waits on the other side.

God enters by a private door into every individual.
~ RALPH WALDO EMERSON

I write in my books

This essay was published as a devotion through Internet Cafe Devotions. Click here to read it :-).