Already Included #70 – Vision

By: Sarah Nyhan

Something just hit me.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

How many times did Jesus talk about those who have eyes to see?

A few years ago I thought I knew where life was going. Then EVERYTHING was ripped up, out, and away from me. Everything.

I thought I was then given a new vision. I hung on for awhile. But it’s been so many years. So even that new vision seems all but dead right now.

And so, like I encouraged a few days ago, I sat down today and poured my heart out to God. Actually, my anger more than anything. Brutally honest. Pretty much without apology. I didn’t even want a Response if it didn’t involve some real relief or action. Cried some tears afterward. But then got back to business. Because the alternative just doesn’t work well for me.

And so hours later I ran across a video of Tyson Fury talking about how he spiraled after his victory over Wladimir Klitschko. He went from being on top of the world with everything he could ever want down to seconds from the end. Lowest of the low.

Such a curious thing. You’d think the man would be happy. But no. He said it was his lowest time. Right after he achieved everything he had been working for his whole life. In so many words he basically said he had reached the pinnacle and didn’t know where to go next. Nothing satisfied him.

I think about it now and I wonder if maybe these fights in our life aren’t about anyone else? Tyson thought Wladimir was his biggest opponent. Maybe he was wrong; maybe the biggest fight of his life was with himself. Could it be the same for everyone else? Maybe we are constantly in training to be able to face ourselves?

In any event, Tyson seemed to describe feeling completely lost. He described trying everything without anything sticking. And that’s when I realized he was suffering because he was a man without vision. He could not see the purpose, the reason, the hope. He looked into the day before him and couldn’t find himself in the story, his real self. He didn’t know who he was or where he fit in anymore.

I think maybe now more than ever we also collectively seem to have lost our story, our vision, our direction. Not a commentary on behavior choices; if anything, I think those are just symptoms of a much bigger problem. Of blindness, really. We stumble around. Leading each other here and there. Sometimes seeming worse off than when we started. Yeah, that’s plenty painful to face. No wonder we run to our phones, substances, and anything else to keep us distracted.

Over these past few years I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the time when I am not settled it is because I am facing an impasse. That’s what happened today; feeling very frustrated that I know God can move in areas where I want Him to move – but then not seeing what I expect to see when I expect to see it.

So will I sit in the judgement seat against Christ? Will I push those thorns into His head? Will I mercilessly whip His flesh? Will I drive nails into His body and hang Him naked for all to despise?

That’s what my emotions wanted to do. And I let myself feel those feelings. I admitted them. Because God would already know them.

But my feelings weren’t being intellectually honest. That’s not their job; they are only indicators. Pointing me in the direction of my healing. Which I’d personally like to get through as quickly as possible.

I think I was so frustrated this time that I didn’t pray to be able to see. Instead I committed to nursing my indignation in solidarity with my feelings. But previously, especially recently, I have been trying to remember to ask for God to help me see as He sees. And everytime I do that, it seems to help. So maybe past prayers carried me through today’s challenge. Because Tyson Fury was just the start. Understanding started unfolding rapidly after that for some time.

And yet I laugh because in all the understanding of course there were no answers. Lol. Just like God, I suppose. I guess answers won’t help me get where I am going. I’d sure love some though.

But no, it was just comfort. The same kind that wrapped me up before. Peace that passes understanding. Lifted up on wings like eagles. As only Spirit can do. Reaching places in my heart that language isn’t even able to go.

I don’t know the end of the story, but so far all this unfolded for me:

My parents used to drive us around to look at houses when we were still under their roof. They both started multiple business ventures of their own. I was involved in some while still a kid.

As an older kid, my favorite part of the newspaper (remember those?) was the business section. Other kids were dating and partying. Not me; I’m 19 and reading business articles for fun. Pre-internet. Pre-retail investor hype.

Rick Ross’ anthem was my jam. On repeat. Been about that life. Just didn’t give myself permission to press the gas pedal.

Every semester I’d look longingly at the real estate courses, but I didn’t know anyone in real estate and was discouraged by others so I didn’t enroll.

But God.

I’d keep circling back around to the idea after I graduated with my IT degree. Stress relief at work? Read business articles and look at real estate listings. I even registered for some self-paced learning materials. But again, didn’t give myself permission to pull the trigger.

Long story short, my attempts to be “sensible” ended in disaster. Job after job. Different industries. The job held for the longest length of time was driving a taxi – where I learned a lot about people, business, and almost every inch of the city.

During all those explorations, I decided to volunteer to sort clothes for a ministry event. I spent hours at a warehouse space generously donated to the church by the owner. I didn’t know who he was until I was there sorting one day and he introduced himself. We ended up talking about business and he told me how he started and grew his real estate holdings. Including that storage/warehouse complex. I would go back over the years to chat with him about real estate as he sat in his “office” on the property, i.e. his pickup truck. 🙂 More seeds being sown.

One day it finally hit me: the only thing I wanted to do at work all day was to look at real estate. I could spend hours on it. For years I had dismissed it as a silly distraction since I didn’t have the money to invest. But the blessing of rock bottom is that I decided to finally do what I had always wanted to do (real estate) and to hell with the consequences because at that point it was six of one, half a dozen of the other. It was either going to be Jesus or nothing.

And, boy! Rolled out! Like a red carpet!

I qualified for all of my tuition paid for at college. Gifts also from others toward college expenses. No student loans during the entire duration of pursuing my real estate degree.

In addition, the perfect job initially so I could go to school during the day and work at night since there were day classes I needed to attend. For a company in the industry no less.

Then the very first day of classes, the director of the program offered to mentor me. Forty years in the business. A professor for decades. An author and a speaker. He gave me a ton of invaluable advice. Many opportunities.

One of which involved speaking on a panel to the attendees at a Texas Real Estate Teachers Association conference. Where after the presentation, the first audience question was directed to me: “When is your book coming out, Sarah? Because I want a copy.”

Another being nominating me for the Distinguished Graduate designation for the department the year I finished. Which led to me being chosen as the student speaker for the Distinguished Graduates ceremony at San Antonio College. A standing ovation.

So many other things I could mention.

He spoke of God. And also another of my professors spoke of God. She is now the program coordinator after my mentor retired. Super successful in her own right. Also an author and a speaker. She encouraged me to go into commercial real estate – which was never even on my radar until she mentioned it.

Which led me to enroll in a Real Estate Investments class that wasn’t even on my degree plan. Ended up being one of the best classes I took. Learned about risk and asset types. Learned how to evaluate potential investments. How to calculate cap rates. Lots of lingo for the commercial side of things. My final project was to put together a marketing package for a self-storage property.

I applied for a million residential real estate positions while in school. Nothing worked out. I couldn’t even get a job as a receptionist. But then I decided to look for a job in the commercial real estate industry. I intially felt so hesitant because I had no experience.

But what does God have for me? A commercial real estate field researcher position. They told me they didn’t usually hire people without all the qualifications they normally required, but I seemed to be well on my way to getting where I needed to be. It probably also helped that I already knew almost the whole city from being a taxi driver. So they considered me and offered me the position. One of only six similar positions in the entire State of Texas. The only position of its kind in San Antonio. The others being in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Flown out to Missouri for training.

It was such a blessing! I was able to work remotely from home. Set my own schedule so I could work around my classes. Had a company car, gas card, laptop, camera, and printer. Drove around all day every day taking pictures of only commercial real estate.

Went to quarterly broker meetings with all the big shots in town. People who do multi-million dollar deals. Even $100m+ deals. I’m sitting right next to them at the meetings. Learning TONS of game!

Researched over 6,000 properties… Until they went out of business unexpectedly THE DAY after I graduated!?!?!?!

That was the final exclamation point on a series of things that had been happening where I was so certain God had me going a specific direction and then everything seemed to absolutely fall apart. Leaving me stuck wondering why. Much more on the whole story hopefully someday.

But for now, to get back to the vision theme, after the company went out of business I started applying for jobs in the commercial real estate industry. But all of my contacts from the old company fell through and every door seemed closed.

Then I saw an ad on Craigslist. Working as an admin for a broker who specializes in self-storage. Doing property research, creating marketing materials, and putting together proformas where I was responsible for calculating cap rates. Full circle!

My broker again wasn’t initially on my radar in terms of where I thought I was going. But I asked God to help me see. And I felt like He showed me that my broker lets me do EVERYTHING! He threw me into the fire in terms of being responsible for handling his transactions. He always seems to have full confidence in me. Much more than even I have in myself. And he is never stingy about sharing his people or clients with me. He even passes leads onto me. Doesn’t even charge me any of the typical office fees many brokers demand in order to sponsor agents.

Whereas had I been hired at one of these huge commercial real estate companies, I would have probably been lost in the shuffle. Probably would have had to fight for my life to get promoted and even have a remote chance of getting anywhere near touching the actual transactions.

So that was the comfort I was given today. A big reminder that I can trust God. Because none of the opportunities that clearly opened up and were given to me were EVER on my radar. All were WAY above what I had dared to ask of imagine. I understood nothing about what they were teaching me for the future while I was in the moment. Only hindsight has been 20/20.

Again, no answers to my specific questions. Just tons of peace. That something is coming together. And it will probably be better than I hoped for. Even if I only understand it after the fact.

So I don’t really know what the future holds as much as I try to figure it out. But I’m learning to hold my dreams loosely. Gotta lay my ideas down, talk to God about my desires, and give Trinity all my questions. And I feel free to be brutally honest with Spirit about all my fears and feelings. It’s embracing those challenging moments that seems to catapult me to the next stage of healing.

Someone told me that when you’re a baby, God gives you a BIG vision so you can kinda get your feet under you in terms of getting comfortable enough to move forward. But as you go along, the amount of vision you’re given gradually gets smaller and smaller. To the point where sometimes you feel like all you see is the next step.

I don’t want to speak with authority on that, but it seems to accurately echo my experience. And again without claiming I’ve got the market cornered on truth, I wonder if we’re only given the next step because intellectual knowing keeps us in our heads and apart from our hearts. As the healing progresses, only Spirit satisfies. So we need to be close. But we’re not used to having Someone like that to run to. Given the option, we turn to ourselves, or our work, or others. Our phones, substances, experiences. Anything else, anyone else but God.

Until we experience Trinity for ourselves. That God really is real. And really does love us. Really does see us. Really is concerned about what matters to us.

As much as I try to communicate it, even the most beautiful words won’t substitute for real relationship. But I hope by sharing my experiences and my comfort, that it will encourage at least someone to risk asking for their own. To ask to see themselves and others as God sees them. To ask to get their vision refreshed.

I think it will help us so much. Individually and collectively. I think plenty will change for the better once we experience and know how much we are Loved!

Already Included #67 – Too Small

By: Sarah Nyhan

I think we’re probably all guilty of trying to dumb down God; trying to make God smaller than He is. Forcing Him in a box that is the size of our choosing.

I don’t think we can imagine a box that is big enough for God. I think that’s the point.

When I don’t understand, what do I do? Do I rush to defend God? When I’m disappointed? When something tragic happens? When it seems like too much time has passed?

Do I sit quietly and wait for Spirit to give me what I need? (Do I even really know what I need?) Or do I go to my mind and my heart to construct an explanation?

I spend so much time trying to carry these burdens on my own. When I actually bring them to God in the moment, it feels like almost instantly I’m given what I need to move to the next step.

The Israelites come to mind. How they wandered in the desert of their own strength for so long. Many other stories. The same theme.

It’s not natural for me to give up; I’m so used to using my mind to work things out. Now learning more and more to be ok with saying “I don’t know” and turning to God for help. Like a child. Welcomed!

And tonight I was thinking about how God could heal the whole planet with a Word. Maybe He already has outside of our experience of time and space. But even if not, He could make it all clear and fix everything right away. We see this in the stories of Jesus. Healings. Even with the time of His surrender in the garden; all the soldiers fell down with a Word.

So this God of ours does not need us to defend Him. He is more than capable. He does not need us to explain Him. We can point the people with questions to The Source. Maybe we don’t because we don’t practice what we preach in that respect. Maybe deep down some or even most of us don’t really, really trust this God we sing about… because we don’t go to Him enough to remember. We have a mountain-top experience and then we try to live on yesterday’s manna today; it’s not for us. His mercies are new and fresh every morning. Even every moment. What happened to the manna that was hoarded in fear?

What happens to us when we turn back to our own strength?

Do we not think our Creator is powerful enough to write in the sky so all could see? Or speak so that all could hear? Even those that say they don’t want to or they don’t believe?

Do we really believe God is so impotent?!

I’d be remiss to give you my peace right now. Because it was for me. And you need your heart spoken to. God is that personal. That invested in you. So I encourage you. Whatever it is today. Whatever it is in this moment. Even in unbelief, ask.

Already Included #60 – Bad People

Maybe it’s not right theology that changes people as much as right love. Maybe we make it too complicated. Maybe we overthink things. Maybe the reason Jesus lets us fumble around in our denominations is party because that isn’t the main point. That perfect knowledge is not an end unto itself. That perfect knowledge is maybe only really as useful if it contributes to more perfect love. And as such, maybe for the more intellectual among us, the undoing of “knowledge” would maybe be more helpful than gorging ourselves on even more information.

Am I too heavenly minded to be any earthly good?

There is an avoidance of vulnerability when I live in my mind. Safely tucked away in the sanitized security of control and certainty. Very much alone. Nobody measures up. Nobody challenges me. As I hold people hostage to my expectations.

And then something outside of yourself wrecks your little castle. It’s on fire. Maybe you lose everything. And you feel very ashamed. Now you need others. And where are they? You have run them all off.

But what about what they did to me? True. But maybe there is something between the do-all and the do-nothing? Maybe there is a middle ground. Maybe the only person I have control over is myself. Maybe good people, people that love us, fumble up and mess things up and hurt us sometimes.

Maybe we hurt people also. Maybe we mess up. Maybe most others don’t know what we’re going through. Maybe we can give them the same grace that we need. I’m not saying excuse actions. I’m talking about how all of us need healing.

I think when you have lived in a paradigm that dismissed you as a person and your feelings for so long then once you wake up everything is sensitive and everything hurts. It’s like the brightest light was turned on and pierced the deepest wounds in your mind and heart. Maybe even in your spirit. Like you lived your whole life in the sewers of the slums and then one day were taken to the richest King’s castle and you look at yourself and your life and suddenly all this filth and poverty you previously settled for just overwhelms you. You suddenly see all the scars, all the dirt. And now that you are able you just want to scrub and scrub until you are clean. You want to stay far away from all that previous pain.

And maybe that time is needed. To heal, to recover our strength, to clear and rebuild our minds.

But to what end? To then forever sit in judgement on all who are behind? I think I am learning that is not at all Jesus’ heart. I think He proved it as He associated with all the broken during His time on earth. Not to judge them. Not to push them away. Not to sanitize Himself from their mess. No. He was all about healing.

Maybe there will be an expansion of our hearts. Maybe that’s the only way out of this. To see ourselves altogether as one. Maybe your healing is also my healing. Maybe I am only as whole as your brokenness?

The phrase that keeps haunting me is “forgiveness leads to repentance”. Not the other way around.

Before I used to do things with an agenda. I called it love, but I don’t think it was true love. It may have been sometimes “nice” or “friendly” at the most. But love is a whole other ballgame. Love is not safe. Love is not sanitized. Love doesn’t have a formula. Love doesn’t work when we keep score.

But the good news is that love is bigger than our failures. And love is always available for us to choose. Love heals. Love restores. Love is an irresistible force. Love gets in even as they fight or rage against it.

I’m obviously not the expert here. But I know Who is. And Holy Spirit’s wrath for our total healing will never waver.

Maybe my hell is driving me towards my redemption. Maybe I’ve been fighting the very things that will be my salvation. And not only mine, but the salvation of all those that I have driven off along the way.

Lord help us, we need a Savior. Who came to earth as a baby. Not a soldier.

Already Included #19 – Biggest

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By: Sarah Nyhan

I’ve noticed a phenomena in myself and many others where we choose to align ourselves with whoever is “biggest” versus best. We tell ourselves that biggest equals best, but that is more a lazy convenient argument than actual truth.

I’m sure many of us have gone to a new city and chosen to eat fast food instead of exploring the local fare. The best restaurant we’ve never tried could be located around the corner, but instead we’ll choose the bigger fast food chain rather than do a little investigative work. We tell ourselves we’re making the right decision because the fast food chain is bigger and “safer”, even though in more familiar surroundings it would be our last choice. All to avoid venturing into the unknown.

The great majority of us who are U.S. citizens exclaim that America is the greatest country on earth without having travelled enough outside of our bubble to say that as an experiential truth. We’re one of the biggest countries, but does that automatically make us the best? How different are we than the homeless person who chooses to sleep on the streets of an over-priced city with few realistic prospects rather than venture out to a more affordable smaller city only miles down or up the road?

We do this with employers, universities, and even churches. Yet bigger doesn’t always mean better. As a mentor told me, more isn’t better – better is better.

Yet it’s not easy to do the work of finding out what is actually best. Maybe more to the point for some, it’s also not easy to do the very difficult work of facing the disappointment and mourning of having invested so much into something we hoped would turn out differently. To the extreme, people have literally lost loved ones to wars fought by this big country – the ultimate sacrifice. How can they even start to consider that loss might have been in vain or unnecessary? (I’m not saying this is true in all cases; only that thinking it could be even in one case is close to unbearable.)

It can even be difficult to accept that we’ve invested more time than was warranted with a big church or a big employer. We end up playing on tilt; hoping one day our investment will pay off if we keep pouring all we have into it. Especially insidious when those in command misapply good spiritual principles to guilt those looking up to them to not hold them accountable.

Then there is the hard work of facing the rejection of others. Less of an issue when you try to buck the system with your friends in a new town. If they all reject your attempts to try a new local restaurant instead of a bigger fast food chain then you’ll probably choose not to die on that hill. What’s a few less-than-optimal meals?

But if we’re talking about leaving a big country or even an big employer, there will be a measure of pretty fierce rejection by many of our comrades. My personal experience has been that leaving a big church or a big theological way of thinking is not much different.

I never initially considered that even jealousy could be a reason for rejection versus outright disagreement with my new viewpoints. Sometimes there are people who don’t even feel free enough to even admit to themselves that they long for something different and better. When someone else speaks their truth or has the audacity to act on it and then experience undeniable freedom and joy – that threatens their entire house of cards. Your courage can be offensive in that sense. And their reaction might be anger towards you. It’s too much for them to face – until the pain of staying the same becomes unbearable.

Just because a theological belief system is the biggest, doesn’t mean it is completely true. Over and over we have proof of this not only in general history, but also in our own Bibles. People have paid with their lives and livelihoods in order to leave these systems and speak and live out truth as was revealed to and embraced by them.

What motivated David, Daniel, and Esther to stand against the great big human powers of their time? They knew how much bigger and better their God is compared to the greatest displays of human power.

“…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Even Jesus showed us that all of man’s worst is not to be feared. Being with God is the true majority no matter if all of Creation turns against you. As I’ve said before, I’d rather be in the desert with Jesus than in a “promised land” without Him.

And yet that isn’t the end of the story. Human nature says stick your tongue out at the other side and clob them over the head when you get the chance. For all your troubles and to give them something to think about. But is that the example of our Saviour? He certainly didn’t subject Himself without purpose or in all cases, but His attitude and being was humble service versus ego.

In that regard, when rejected we can fully trust Holy Spirit with our comrades and loved ones. We are free to go live our lives without having to devalue them or anything positive we obtained through our time with them. To every thing there is a season. Just because it is time to go different directions doesn’t mean there was never anything good.

And likewise, just because I love you doesn’t mean I can never disagree with you or that you are never wrong. This is the beautifully big business of navigating relationship in the context of God’s perfect and complete love.

Although I cannot turn back and join you just because you won’t leave, and although I will not stop seeking the destruction of every lie that destroys us or destroys the connection between us, my growth doesn’t have to mean your annihilation. And vice versa.

Wish each other well.

Already Included #15: A Spiritual Evolution – Justice

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By: Sarah Nyhan

Whew! I’ve been meaning to write on John MacMurray’s new book “A Spiritual Evolution” as I am reading it. However, life has been so busy that I haven’t been able to do more than read it. However, I had to take time out tonight to comment on Chapter 7. The theme of the chapter is justice. Without spoiling how John masterfully articulates the old view with the new-to-us view, I’ll share a few thoughts.

There is so much to take away from Chapter 7, however the biggest practical application for me was considering whether I truly want restoration or vengeance towards those who have harmed me? I think back and I realize more often than not I want others to hurt as badly as they’ve hurt me.

Understandable some might say. But I have dressed up my desire for them to hurt by cloaking it in the illusion of religious piety. I’ve made God out to be their punisher instead of me.

That’s helped me move on in the face of such great pain and suffering. That has helped me put one foot in front of the other. And should we tell the victim fresh out of tragedy that they should desire the offender’s restoration? I wouldn’t dare! Even God says be angry. And do not sin.

This is the messy, messy business of real life and relationship versus religion.

Maybe this is the reason the theme of forgiveness keeps coming up in my life. I’ve run the gamut from repeatedly exposing myself to people who have hurt me because I incorrectly thought God wanted me to do that. All the way through to allowing myself to be angry, then learning how to protect myself, and now this. Now this. Like a ton of bricks.

Maybe forgiveness doesn’t just mean we only choose not to punish them. Maybe forgiveness also means at some point, organically through the Love of the Trinity being poured into us and the power of Holy Spirit, eventually we can actually want the offender to be restored in the sense of regaining their health. Not in the sense of necessarily letting them back into our lives.

I hope John continues to explore this in his book. This is not a book to rush through if you can relate to John’s journey. The implications of what he is saying are many and warrant time spent in contemplation. And action.

How many relationships has this desire for vengeance impacted in my life?! Moving on requires substantial efforts in letting go of ego. But then also dealing with past hurts. These modern day frustrations do not often warrant the responses I give them. There is still that sting of being wronged years ago that is so easily hit upon as I am still waiting for my version of justice to be served all this time later. I am still waiting for the news that they feel some level of pain that makes them understand what they have done and feel sorry enough to humble themselves and make amends.

And probably the latter part of that is necessary to restore relationship. But do I actually want to see them recover from their fall and be happy and successful? How “fair” do I feel it is for me to be imprisoned by this pain for so many years and then see them successful and doing well without going through at least the same amount of pain? I do not want this on my own. And yet I do not want to face my own version of justice for my own failures. Aye, the quandary!

Thank God that He is faithful to complete the work He starts in us. Easier said on paper than put into practice. But He doesn’t leave us for one second. We are not abandoned. We are not punching bags. We are not doormats. Somehow all this works out on a supernatural level.

For now we ask Holy Spirit for comfort, direction, understanding, and strength. One step at a time. Trinity has always been and always will be for us more than we are for ourselves. And to that we can rest and say “amen”.