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On Ash Wednesday: Because Ann was right

Because plain and simple Ann, as she describes herself, without the fanciful “e” was right.

When life is smooth sailing and the wind is at our back, focusing on our own understanding, our own logic and self-reliance seems like a reasonable, reliable strategy. But when the wind is howling in our face, our flawed human understanding is not enough. We need more.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. ~ Proverbs 3:5

We need more when our secular truth is revealed to be inadequate to explain the unexplainable.
We need more when our popular culture sells us a good-looking bill of goods, but disappears upon fulfillment of said goods.
We need more when the great waves that threaten to take us under encroach in the distance. When disease, divorce and unemployment deal their blows.

We need more because our own understanding is a fragile, breakable truth, relying on our experiences, influencers and circumstance. But God’s truth is unbreakable.

Our breakable truth is where worry and anxiety chew away at our happiness.
Our breakable truth is where our own understanding is no longer reliable or recognizable.
God’s unbreakable truth is where prayer and thanksgiving are the reminders that calm our tumultuous hearts.

Yes, we can lie in bed and worry and wonder, or we can get up and veer in His direction.
We can worry about money or health, our kids, or we can do what God created us capable of. We can replace worry with gratitude. We can count gifts of the known instead of anxieties of the unknown.

Because Ann reminds us that tallies of solace involve acknowledgement, thanks and praise. Archives of angst involve uneasiness, worry and fear.
Accounts of stagnation involve what-ifs, and I’m not good enoughs and I’m screwing this all up.

Because finding joy means counting joys and sharing beauty means looking for beauty.
Because demons in the night have nothing on the angels in your day.
Because an “empty” fridge full of condiments and leftovers is still a fridge that overflows in most parts of our world.
Because another pile of laundry is still a mark of bounty instead of a mountain of chore.
Because mocking the glass half-full as Pollyanna and delusional feels self-righteous and smart, but holding the glass half-empty is heavy and hard.

Because I only know Ann’s way to give anxiety a hike and it involves lists of gifts, not to boast, but to breathe.
It involves lists of thanks, not to go through the motions, but to move out of worry’s grasp.
Her way is His way and it involves saying thanks and refocusing our energy.

Praise and thanks over worry and uncertainty.
Lists of joy over lists of fear.
Lists of what is already, instead of misgivings of what may never lie ahead.
Verses from His understanding, over internal refrains of my own.

Worry never captures the joy we seek, it only steals it away. So, let’s give it away. Let’s give the worry to God and seek joy in the things that honor him and an abundant life.

It’s easy to clip along when life is good, but what about when it is not? It’s easy to rely on our own understanding when nothing impossible has happened to us yet. When everyone we love is alive, when everyone we know is safe, full and happy. The challenge comes when we ask how could this happen? Why would God do this? What if I’m failing at the most meaningful work He sent me to do?

Our own understanding is a flimsy truth because it leans on a house of cards. We can’t fathom the light shining in the dark meant for us without Him. We can’t fathom the intentions of a God defined as the Word (the very essence of what is), the way, the truth and the life. We can’t fathom a God who chose the most unpredictable sinners in the bible and gave them grace in new lives forgiven.

Maybe that’s why when we’re blessed, we find it more difficult to see God – because his gifts blind us into believing we accomplish all of our achievements on our own. The strength of our determination, the depth of our intellect, the bravery of our independence make us courageous servants to the world, but falsely build our pride to become wholly self-reliant, not needful of a higher power. God extols his gifts to us not in the disillusioned manner of those who crow, “you didn’t build that,” but in the illuminated manner of those who recognize his contributions with humble affection and stewardship.

Because he was full of grace and truth, from him we all received one gift after another. ~ John 1:16

Because hard work is honorable, but can’t extinguish suffering, beat death or bring us a truer understanding.
Because government can build roads and protect us from harm, but cannot take credit for His design or ours.
Because fancy degrees are admirable, but can’t explain away miracles, tragedies, or God’s plan any better than the best-selling book of all time. It was already written. It is already known. We just have to read it, believe it.

So, I think about Ann’s book when I lie awake in the middle of the night because worry has crept into my sacred places of peace and sleep.
And, I think about Ann’s words because unspeakable acts are stealing the lives of innocent Christians for being people of the cross.
It seems a simple sacrifice to give something up for Lent to faithfully engage as a follower of the cross.
It seems a simple thing to live by saying grace instead of grumbling ingratitude when the aggregate of martyrs is growing deadly fast.

They have done the impossible. They are heavenly people of the cross. I submit to you, I do not understand, but I do trust in Lord with all my heart.

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