Saturday, May 29, 2010

You Are Not Welcome Here

The problem with your friend Anxiety – you know the one who promises you control and power and “let me sit with you awhile and nurse your worries into full-grown monsters” --- that one, who never comes through for you, but leaves you stranded with fear, helplessness and no hope at all --- the problem with her is that she makes you blind to what could be and paralyzes you into a zombie state of indecision and inactivity.  She doesn’t have to even block your way.  She just simply ties up your feet with barbed wire and lets you stand there like a big target for her best friend Panic.


So why do we let Anxiety in the front door at all, sometimes greeting her at the welcome mat like an old friend and hug her tight?  Remember, she always arrives fully armed, fully aware of what she is doing, and deadly.  Her lips are smiling, and underneath are fangs that drain you of all strength.


Lately, when I have heard Anxiety walking up the front steps with her entire extended family, God reminds me of  what He says in His Word:   “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4. 6-7)  On many occasions, I have repeated these two verses, a promise from Scripture to ward off an approaching tsunami of fear.  God gives us the strength to carry what we face.  We have no business or strength to also carry around the vampire of anxiety on our backs.  Send Anxiety on her way.  Don’t even open the door.


Today, while I was running and repeating this promise from the Scripture, God reminded me of the late E. V. Hill whom I heard preach shortly before he died:  “Learn to read your Bible slowly.”  E. V. Hill then started through the 23rd Psalm which is often so familiar that it is recited as if people are in a verbal race.  “The Lord is my Shepherd,” he read  in his deep resonant voice.   He spent most of his sermon on those five words alone, one by one with a tremendous sense of significance attached to each.  I was mesmerized.  He could have preached all day, but like all really good preachers, he was conscious of his time.   (I wanted to stand up and say, “oh please don’t look at your watch;  keep speaking to us.”)  So today, when I was reciting Philippians 4. 6-7, God reminded me to go slowly, word by word.

Have (possess, hold onto, abide in, claim, commit yourself to, be an owner of)

No  (nothing, nada, “what part of the word NO do you not understand?”)

Anxiety (extreme worry, panic, paralysis, total fear, overwhelmedness)

About  (embracing, surrounding, encompassing, involved in, related to)

Anything (any thing, whatever is troubling you, your foes, your fears, your life, those around you, the world itself, big stuff and the tiniest details)

But (in exchange for, here is where the change happens, put in place of)

In (an active verb for being, the opposite of out, committed to, leading to)

Everything (every thing, all, the opposite of nothing, anything that you can think of, every item on your fear list)

With  (don’t do it alone, a walking partner side by side, put together)

Prayer (communicating with God, talking with God, listening to God, pouring out your heart to Him)

And (not single-dimensional, there is more, in addition to)

Supplication  (laying it all out before Him, ready to follow, ready to let go)

With (again there is more to it)

Thanksgiving  (giving thanks for the mess or situation or war zone, grateful for His Presence, ready to sacrifice even before the victory)

Let  (give it up, give it to Him, allow, enable, loosen it up, free it to go, sign the permission slip to leave)

Your (not your Aunt Roberta’s, not anyone else’s but your very own, that which you possess, that which you fear, the very deepest part of you)

Requests (concerns, fears, “I need help with this” list, tears in the night, desires)

Be (a state of being)

Made (package it up, let loose, prepare for)

Known (intimate information, the state of knowing, revealing it all in a personal relationship, not just know but knowing)

To (what direction are you headed, on what are you focusing on, Whom are you seeking)

God (Heavenly Father, Creator of the Universe, the King, Savior, the Mighty God, Redeemer, Protector, Jehovah Jireh – the One who provides)


Ok, so you get it.  Meditate on this verse – or any other – and think about the words you are reciting. SLOWLY.  Let His Word sink in and saturate.

His Word provides and protects.  His Word is a shield.  And as my friend Tona says, “Scripture is the glue that holds us together.”  Drink it in deeply.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sweetness All the Way Through

Last Thursday night, I was like a little kid, waking up every couple of hours,  “Can I get up yet?”  Two of my Memphis friends were visiting Chicago, and I was having coffee with them downtown on Friday morning.  I left the house a little bit early, walking to the train in the mist.  I caught an earlier train.  And it didn’t take me as long to walk to their hotel as I thought it would, arriving WAY too early like when I interviewed for my first real job.  I sat in a soft chair in the lobby, excitement bubbling out my ears.  I  am sure that the concierge thought I was up to no good.  I texted them of my arrival.


For the next two hours, we talked nonstop.  And it was sweet all the way through.  God used them to fill me up again.


Good friends are a blessing from God.  And even though there have been so many good-byes through the years, and our paths have spun off in dozens of different geographic directions, and we live hundreds of miles apart like little pins on a map of the world, we are still running side by side.  So close that I feel like I could reach out and hand you a Snickers.  And the conversation keeps going on and on.  Quick texts.  Phone calls slipped in between busy schedules. And the delight of a personal email, jammed amidst news alerts and daily Gap advertisements.  Those are the first things I read. Keep ‘em coming.  Online hugs.  Or a cry for prayer.  Or a shout of victory.  Or news of a well-needed encouragement.  Goodness and struggles.  We carry those heavy and bulky bundles for each other, you know, the ones we never expected, the ones too hard to carry alone.  And sometimes all we can do is listen and pray.  And rejoice in the blessings that knock at midnight on the back door, you know, the ones we have been praying for and the ones God surprises us with. 


Love you friends.  Sometimes it is years between visits, but I will always be there for you.  Count on it.  Can’t thank God enough for you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Little Metal Rivets

Take a look at the blue jeans in your closet -- or the ones that you have on. While blue jeans have evolved from apparel associated with hard labor (1930 -1940s) to counterculture (1950s - think James Dean, 1960s-70s - think hippies) to the cultural elite of today (you paid HOW MUCH for those jeans?), true blue jeans were designed as work pants by a man named Levi Strauss. He resolved to design and to produce work pants for men from a material that could withstand the rigors of daily manual labor. That problem was resolved with the development of denim. But then out in real life -- where it really counts -- the material held up but there was a problem of pockets tearing out under pressure. That initiated the hallmark of Levi jeans. Metal rivets were placed at the weak points to prevent the material from ripping. That procedure was patented in 1873.

Real life has a way of ripping out your seams and tearing out your pockets. It is under pressure that your fabric is tested -- that on which you rely, that which is really at your core.

What are your metal rivets? What reinforces you at your weak points? Prayer, reading your Bible, and fellowship with other believers. God uses them to transform your weaknesses into that which is strongest yet by pouring into you His strength. It is when we are weakest that His power is revealed most of all.

This God -- His way is perfect;
the promise of the LORD proves true;
He is a shield for all those
who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
--the God who girded me with strength,
and made my way safe.
Psalm 18.30-32

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Put the Stick Down, Andrew

Yesterday, Bill and I went to the University of Chicago campus to see our son-in-law Gary race his bike in a criterium. The course of the race revolved around the midway, a road that was designed around a park-like area. It was a great race to observe because you could see the entire race from any point in the middle of the park. There were cyclists of all shapes, sizes, and ages warming up, hanging out, and adults and children cheering on their favorite teams and riders.

There were a lot of kids of varying ages playing in the midway park area. There was no playground equipment or other prescribed activities, just grass to play on and I didn't see one kid look bored at all.

I did take notice of one mother, standing on the side. "Put the stick down, Andrew," she shouted from the sideline. I noticed a small boy of about five or six, hauling around a rather large branch, just playing and imagining. He dropped it, but soon was drawn back to its wonder. "Put the stick down, Andrew," she commanded again rather loudly, "or you will owe me money." He looked quizzically at his mom. "I don't have any money," he said. "Then you better not touch it again." There was no one around the small boy. He was not using it as an assault weapon against other children. It was so big, he could not have tried. He was playing, and off trekking in the wilderness of his imagination, a soldier, a pirate, the captain of a sea-going vessel.

When the races were over and people were packing up, I heard the mother again, this time boasting, "Well, Andrew owes me a dollar." She had won. She was in control of her son, after all. He indeed had put the stick down, the large limb of a fallen tree. I guess he found something more acceptable to do in the eyes of his mother. And a little bit of the wonder of his childhood had vanished. Perish the thought that he would have gotten his shoes dirty.

There is a field of imagination to the side of our house where the developer has not built yet. I am hoping that it will be a long, long time before anyone wants to build there. This afternoon, there was a couple of kids trying to catch butterflies with what looked like a pool strainer. I have seen throughout the winter a teenage girl playing with her dog, dancing in the snow. I heard laughter in the middle of a harsh winter afternoon when three boys sledded on the hill for hours.

If I have perfectly obedient children, but they have not fun, then I am only a tyrant. (paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13.1) Let them play, let them get dirty, let them imagine. They will be adults all too soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

On This Day

Most mornings,I read an online essay called The Writers Almanac, produced by NPR and Garrison Keillor. It tells about authors and books and amazing stories that have happened throughout history.

Each of the entries start with "on this day..." in 1607 or 1834 or 1967, etc. It occurred to me today that those people had no idea what was going to happen that day or the impact it would have a few years down the road or hundreds of years down the road.

Choose carefully then, that on this day May 14, 2010, God will use you for His glory for generations to come.

Follow Him into it. He will reveal it to you in ways amazing and in ways we cannot possibly comprehend. The smallest action can impact and bless generations to come. We have only to be faithful.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Focus and Fear

Running early this morning, I was very conscious of my shadow, either preceding me or traveling behind where I could not see it. And it made me think that if I focus on the sun, the shadows will always be at my back. We all have shadows and fears to deal with. But they are a lot easier to deal with if they are not staring you in the face. I know that God is there to help me, but there are some big shadows out there. To vanquish them does not mean to put God in your pocket, or stick Him in front of you, or squeeze Him in your schedule, but focus on Him through prayer and His Word. It is not that you won't ever go through scary places, but you won't go through them alone.
And the LORD said to him, "But I will be with you." Judges 6. 15-16. Keep your eyes on that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What the next generation doesn't know

Lately, I have been having some amazing conversations with my almost-89 year old father. He lives in Florida, and so, most of our conversations are over the phone. When I was growing up, he didn't talk much, well, not at all. He was a research chemist. And now, as my husband Bill says, he has been saving up his words for a long time. We have discovered recently that he knew Dwight Eisenhower when Eisenhower was president of Columbia University and contemplating running for President of the United States. And yesterday, when I asked him, yes, he also had met Einstein. What?!?!

Makes me wonder what else I don't know about him...and what kind of trail we are leaving behind for those in the next generation.

I also recently read an article about Richard Daley, mayor of Chicago -- whose infamous father was also mayor when I was growing up. Daley was speaking to a group of students at an inner city school. One of the students asked him, "How do you become the guy?" she asked. "I mean, how did you get to where you're at now?" For a moment, Daley looked stumped. "Well," he said,"my dad was the mayor from 1955 to 1976." Jaws dropped, the kids gasped, and for an instant Mayor Daley savored the fact that nobody around him had ever heard of anyone else named Mayor Daley.

What does the next generation know? Make no assumptions. They won't know if we don't tell them. About this world, about ourselves, but most importantly about God Himself.

"Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD."
Psalm 102.18

Monday, May 3, 2010

Just an Old Man

A friend of mine recently moved from her house into an apartment, quite a daunting task. She rented an apartment to give herself a year to research a new place and new job before she committed herself to a mortgage. The very first afternoon as she was unpacking her car, she was greeted by several elderly individuals in the building, including an old woman who immediately hugged her and said, "I am so glad that you are here." As my friend told me about her new neighbors, I think I was most moved by an old man in her building, who greeted her and asked her about herself. On the exterior, he was just an old man. But as she asked him about himself, he revealed that he was a holocaust survivor, and indeed survived because his name was on a list carried by a man named Schindler.

Everyone has a story. We just don't bother to listen below the surface. I think that we would be amazed by whom we are surrounded. And how God has strategically placed us in their lives....and placed them in ours.