Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What is this doing in my life?

In many occasions in my life, situations or things or people have appeared which I have not sought. And it is like when we moved and pulled something from a box and asked ourselves, "what do I do with this?"

At other times, God has placed situations or things or people in my life, and it is definitely not what I envisioned. It doesn't look how I had planned it in my head.

"Thanks, but no thanks," we want to tell God. This is hard, or inconvenient, or terribly uncomfortable, or awkward, or downright scary.

Once when I was traveling as a college student at a rather crude campground in Czechoslovakia, the bathroom was enough to make you gag. I won't go into details, but when I pulled out my toothbrush, it fell on the putrid floor. I didn't even want to pick it up, let alone use it. I stood there a moment, and one of the girls on our trip chuckled and said, "Oh, that's why." What are you talking about? When she had packed for the trip, her mother was helping and put into her bag a new toothbrush which my friend didn't need because she had packed her own. So for all these many weeks, she had wondered why she was carrying around an extra toothbrush. As it turned out, it wasn't for her after all.

I thought of that experience when on Palm Sunday, the pastor was talking about Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
"...He sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If any one asks you 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this, 'The LORD has need of it." (Luke 19. 29-31)

What has God placed before you, who has God put on your path, what extra toothbrush has He given you? It may not be for you at all. "The LORD has need of it." It may not be on your radar, but what He designed all along.

And how many times do we totally miss what He is trying to do through us because our eyes are on ourselves instead of Him?

Quadriplegic Joni Eareckson said that the difference happened in her life when she stopped asking God, "Why?" and started asking Him, "What?"

What unused, unnecessary, even unwanted "colt" has God placed in your life? "The LORD has need of it."

Press on, friends.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March Madness

One of the many things that I learned from my mom was how to rebound. No, she was not a basketball player (although she did love the Chicago Bulls in their hey-day in the 1980s). But, boy, she could rebound through the adversities of life. She could not control the shots against her, but she could control how she responded to them. She was ready in position and in attitude. One rebound at a time.

One of her platitudes was "if life gives you lemons, make a lemonade." There are few who were as creative as she was in turning a situation inside out.

Bill and I went to an economics conference last night, and I thought of her. One of the speakers said that in the Chinese language, the symbol for crisis is the same as that for opportunity. It is all how you look at it. And if you are ready.

Many a basketball game has been won or lost by rebounds, turning the opponent's shots into an opportunity to change the direction of the ball. Rebounds don't just happen. The players are ready. They have practiced. They keep their eye on the ball and seek to grab it out of thin air, even when it is not theirs to take. And the victory is achieved one rebound at a time.

My prayer list right now is filled with dear friends who are struggling in life where it appears they are faced against an entire team of 7 foot 2 inch giants. But their strength doesn't come in stature, nor in "natural" ability. Their strength and readiness come from their walk with the LORD. Storms and droughts and times in the wilderness will face us all. The significant difference is a relationship with the LORD God, Creator of the universe.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17. 7-8

Press on, friends.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A random collection of some interesting reads I've come across recently:

1. How a commitment to reading brought a father and daughter together.

2. One way in which technology has influenced worship.  (HT: Tim Challies)

3. A possible connection between deep conversations and happiness.

4. Tona discusses viewing trials as invitations.  (Please be praying for Dax!)

5. The trendy romanticism of poverty.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting Ahead

I wandered as a little girl, not in deliberate disobedience, not belligerently, not out of defiance, but mostly from focusing on other things. Two occasions stand solidly in my memory. One was shopping with my mom in a department store. I was fascinated by the escalator, watching people coming and going, appearing and disappearing into another dimension. I watched for a while, I moved closer, I felt the handrail move under my hand, I held out my foot to feel the step magically emerge from the floor, and suddenly, I was moving very rapidly up to the next floor, my mother disppearing far too quickly. I tried my best to run backwards down the moving staircase, but the faster I went, I did not get any closer to the bottom. Finally, a woman took my hand, led me to the top and then back again down to where I had started. (I am not sure that my mom was even aware of what happened!)

On another occasion, my family was in New York City to see the Easter parade. We parked the car and then walked over to Fifth Avenue to find a viewing spot. As we walked, I noticed the window displays, decorated for the holiday (ok, I know that really ages me). Mechanical rabbits were dancing around a meadow, carefully crafted in the department store window. When I turned around, my family was gone. I didn't know where I was, but I did remember how to backtrack to the car where I waited for them to frantically return.

On both occasions, I moved ahead of those who were guiding me and I veered off-track. I had another agenda. And it didn't seem at the time that 1) they were moving fast enough for me, 2) it wouldn't matter if I checked something else out, and 3) I knew where I wanted to go.

I thought about the whole concept of getting ahead this morning when I read the verse in Mark 14.28, when Jesus promised His disciples, "... I will go before you..." And yesterday in Numbers 10.33, "...and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them." Are we following God's leading...or are we pulling God behind us? I don't want to get ahead of God. There is too much at stake. And there is too much I don't want to miss. God's design is deeper than we can ever comprehend. And even when we don't understand, there is eternal purpose. One of the side effects of the Fall is claiming to know more than God. "You don't know what You are doing," we mumble under our breath. (Really, do we even THINK that??) I am not the Creator of the Universe. And as I read on a website recently, "We are always looking for a chance to say to God, "I can take it from here." (JM Njoroge, Slice of Infinity, 11/26/2009)

And so I have learned most intently this past year and continue learning not to get ahead of God in my day. Not to lay my day before Him, but to let Him lay His day before me. It amazes me what He does. That does not imply laziness on our part, but readiness to follow Him into it... and not get ahead of Him. Biblical worldview tells us that if God is at the core of who we are, then the reality of who God is will affect, infect, and infiltrate every aspect of our lives. It is not keeping God in our rearview mirror to make sure we don't get too far ahead, (I don't see the headlights anymore!), but keep our eyes on Him.

"We don't know what to do, but our eyes are upon You." 2 Chronicles 20.12

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What Every Parent Should Know and Every Kid Remembers

I read this poem this morning in Garrison Keillor's Writers' Almanac on-line.

The world would be a different place if we realized the ministry of small things, right down to the shared Milk Duds. I loved this piece.

Un Bel Di

by Gerald Locklin

Because my daughter's eighth-grade teachers
Are having what is called an "in-service day,"
Which means, in fact, an out-of-service day,

She is spending this Friday home with me,
So I get up in time to take us,
On this summery day in March,
For a light lunch at a legendary café

Near the Yacht Marina.

Then we feed some ducks before catching
The cheap early-bird showing of
My Cousin Vinny, at which we share a
Dessert of a box of Milk Duds large
Enough to last us the entire show.

Afterwards we drive to a shoe-store to
Get her the Birkenstocks she's been coveting,

But they're out of her size in green; we leave
An order and stop for dinner at Norm Calvin's
Texas-style hole-in-the-wall barbeque rib factory.

When we get home I am smart enough
To downplay to my wife what a good day
We have had on our own. Later, saying
Goodnight to my little girl,

Already much taller than her mother,
I say, "days like today are the favorite
Days of my life," and she knows

It is true.

"Un Bel Di" by Gerald Locklin, from Gerald Locklin: New and Selected Poems. © World Parade Books, 2008 . Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Skim Your Stocks

OK, for all of you financially-minded people out there, this posting is not about a new way to go to jail. It comes from living in the cold tundra of Chicago where soup-making is a winter sport. In the past couple of months, the girls and I have been experimenting with new recipes for soup, often making enough for endless nights of leftovers. We have scoured cookbooks, shared recipes via the internet, and made the most of the library for new ideas.

Making soup is in my genetic makeup. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my grandmother boiled the leftover turkey carcass and made turkey soup. I still cringe whenever I throw out turkey bones, expecting Mammy to come zipping around the corner of the kitchen to chastise me. (And she died almost forty years ago)! Nothing went to waste in her kitchen.

The basis of any soup is its stock. Stock can be made of any kind of meat, vegetables or both. (Or purchased in liter containers at Trader Joe's market). Stock is the foundation from which the rest of the soup is built.

I never paid a whole lot of attention to making stock. Boil the meaty bones and strain the liquid before adding the rest of the ingredients. But then I discovered what I was doing wrong. One cookbook said that the most important part of laying this foundation was to skim the stock -- to continually be removing the impurities as they rise to the surface. If you wait, they will be recirculated into the liquid, impossible then to remove, and the stock will be cloudy. It will not be as it should. The look, aroma, flavor and texture will all be affected. And in turn it will impact the rest of the ingredients. Consequently, I always seem to be tweaking the soup right before serving. "Something is missing." It just doesn't taste the way it should. And it never seems to look as good as the color-enhanced picture in the book. I add other seasonings to mask what is not right.

And so I find in life. I need to take notice of the little impurities as they rise to the surface and remove them immediately. We see them rise, no mistake about that. It bothers us for a bit, but then we seem to be ok with it. The soup just gets a little cloudier. And we wonder why.

We want major surgery to extract the negative stuff in our lives, when all God is asking is to "skim the stock" in our everyday goings. It will make all the difference.

Press on, friends.