August 30, 2007

Trying to stand still

I used to think my life was a series of disjointed and disconnected events. Friends swirling about, boxes and cars packed moving me somewhere new, a different topic or idea as yet undiscovered being brought to the forefront of my mind, etc. I never really thought any one part was distinctly reliant or the result of any other. Every now and then, mostly in my college years, I would reflect on the most recent pieces, trying to make some sense of it all. There was, I suppose, an underlying desire for it all to have come together for a reason, a purpose. Everyone wants that, don't they? To look back on his/her life and say, 'Aha! That's what it was all about!"

But total clarity doesn't come easily to everyone. Or, to put it more accurately, one can recognize clarity for some of it, but usually not all. This is the great mystery of God's will acting upon one's life; is it all for a purpose? Is it all for the same purpose?

I ask myself these questions almost every day. Is that the same as worrying? You can be the judge if you like, I say no. I never worry about what God has in store for me because I know it's what He wants. If He wants it, it's for my own good. You could say I'm not concerned about the outcome, but the method. Specifically, which parts of my life are getting me to where He wants me to be and which ones are, for lack of a better term, arbitrary?

Here's an example
(purely fictional of course): Let's say I've been praying for the opportunity to witness to someone and simultaneously for a boost in the economic department. Now imagine that I suddenly am offered a well-paying job for a company whose employees are mostly lost. Seems like God agrees with my plea for these two things and has given them to me, right? I'm with it so far and I will witness accordingly.

But what if when I start the job I find out that, because of the nature of the job, I'll never work with the same people more than once a month and when I do, I'm forbidden to talk about 'religion' with anyone (by company policy)? Now what am I to assume by this turn of events? I could still witness (to the same person maybe twice overall) but would risk my job by doing so. Now, no one job is important to me- definitely not more important than the Gospel- except that without a job there's no money for rent or bills or bus fare to get to work and that dampers my spirit a generous amount. So should I quit the job because I can't witness? Or keep the job, knowing that all the time I will be there, I won't be able to be myself and could have been elsewhere sharing the Gospel freely? Or, is all of that trivial and I should just do the best work I can and ask for a second job or second opportunity to witness?

The real question is, if you receive what you asked for in prayer but no longer want it, are you obligated to accept it? Forgive me if I am too blunt (is that a trait the Lord will use for something??). I know what scripture says about worrying (not to) and questioning God's motives (not to). What I don't know is how to discern which circumstances I should be a part of, and which I shouldn't.

I don't think we are to trust our feelings because, especially as women, they are so easily changeable. Then again, what else do I have to go on? Most circumstances I am presented with now are new, or with new twists on old themes, and I simply don't know what to do.

We are supposed to stand still when we don't know what to do. We are supposed to let God move. What if God is moving around me all the time and I'm too scared to just stand there? If I keep moving to a different room, or house, or state, will He keep moving with me? How much can He take from me before He says, "Enough! I've given you so many opportunities and you still can't take a directive!"

He's right; He has given me everything I've asked for in prayer. The trouble is it hasn't always been the right time for that prayer to be answered (at least not according to me). I don't mean to give an excuse for myself. I just haven't known how to proceed. Sometimes I think He's given me too much and that's what makes it so difficult to choose.

August 22, 2007

A prayer for the newly deployed

As some of you may know, both of my brothers-in-law will be, by next week, deployed to Iraq. One is going for his first time, the other as a wounded veteran of the Iraq war.
These two men are among countless soldiers who will soon be deployed
for their first, second, third and fourth tours.
They are not all believers, so they will not all be praying for themselves and their units' safety; will you join me in a time of prayer for them this week?

Our Father,
we ask your protection over the soldiers and their families.
We ask Your Spirit to empower and comfort them,
we ask Your Son to redeem them as they engage in
spiritual battle the likes of which they have never known.

We know the enemy is lurking where they are going.
But we believe that You are the only Supreme Lord of us all
and, because of that, Your will shall be done
and Your glory will be seen.
You use wicked nations to teach us;
let the Iraq battle teach the troops and all of us to turn from wickedness.

We pray for the protection and presence
of Your Spirit and of Jesus Christ
in the daily lives of the soldiers' families back home.
We pray that they turn to You in their distress,
for You alone are what they need.
May they all look upon the Cross daily,
as we all should.
We pray this in Jesus' holy name,

August 16, 2007

Thursday's thought

“Perhaps the last time you heard ‘piety’ or ‘pious’ used… it was in relationship to this familiar, dismissive statement which refers to the pious person being so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly use at all. But the fact of the matter is, if we’re honest, the reverse of that is a far more pressing issue. I haven’t really come across anyone in the past few weeks…so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use. But I have looked at myself in the mirror and found myself to be so earthly minded that I am of no heavenly use.”

Alistair Begg

August 14, 2007

The Secret Garden

At small group a few weeks ago, we were discussing Corinthians 13 and the different ways we know God loves and cares for us. God has, of course, many ways He shows His love, many of which we either don't notice or disregard because they are the 'wrong kind,' meaning, not what we thought we needed. Sure enough, He knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves. How do I know this? Because He has never given me what I thought I deserved, but always what He knew I sincerely longed for.

I always wanted a garden like my Mom's. It wraps all around my childhood home, blossoms early in the spring and is transformed by hard work and God's hand into something new every year. Ok, I never wanted anything that extravagant. Maybe just a little plot of land where I could grow flowers and some vegetables. And have a tiny birdbath. And a couple of bleeding heart trees, but that's all! Like I said, nothing big. Just something I can grow into. I never thought I was entitled to have one, but I secretly hoped someday, when I was a 'grown up,' I'd find that perfect spot of free soil.

As a 'grown up,' I've moved around a lot. In fact, I haven't lived in the same apartment or house for more than a year since my parents' house. Every year since high school graduation has taken me to a new city, state, dorm room, apartment, house, condo and, unfortunately, not a plot of land big enough for a garden.

The winds seemed to shift when my roommate found our current place. It has a huge backyard (by Chicago standards of course!) and after a approving nod from the landlords I was ready to get my plant on. But when we moved in it was already October, and there was no time for sowing any seeds. I'd have to wait until spring.

Winter seemed to last forever this year. I can't imagine how you senior gardeners can stand waiting for that thaw. I was going crazy in the apartment, practically clawing to get outside. Finally the ground was soft and the sun returned. I ventured outside with my spoon and fork (yup, no real tools) to dig up and dig in. I looked around the property. Then circled again. Didn't I remember there being some soil? Somewhere?

A small patch in the front flower box, some in the back around the pear tree and that's all she wrote. Not known for giving up easily on a seemingly hopeless situation, I worked the crud out of that soil, weeded like a madwoman and planted about twenty different kinds of seeds in my ten feet (not consecutive) of garden. Carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, snap peas, wildflowers, squash, alyssum, gypsophilia. I toiled every spare moment I had and tended it all very carefully and lovingly. I even prayed that God would be kind and let my plants grow. Two months later I had...

Nothing! Not one sprig of a stem of a leaf. Not one tuft of a tassel of a tuber. You get the idea. Feeling finally beaten out of patience, I said to heck with the stupid thing! I'm not going to water, weed or even look at these dumb spots of soil! You're dirt to me now, I tell you. Dirt!

I felt discouraged and drained, wishing my backyard was not just well-kept but filled with beautiful blossoms and ripe veggies. The only thing I didn't stop doing was pray. Maybe that seems silly, to pray for growth... but if it can work for me personally, it can work for my garden. "God," I prayed, "Please let something grow. Even if it's just one sprout, I'll take it and nurture it and praise you for it."

One week later I came back out to my garden. Everywhere I looked there were sprouts, new little flowers opening up at different times of the day and vegetables bleating for the sunshine. The most surprising thing was the morning glories; I never even planted the things, they just grew and grew and spread to every nook and fence link they could find. I transplanted about ten of them to an old, dead shrub and they multiplied and climbed up those gnarled branches like nobody's business! To further my plant project was an upstairs neighbor, a self-proclaimed plant-killer, who brought me all her dying flora and I nursed them all back to health. Then, she let me keep them!

Still I wonder, why didn't the plants grow? Maybe because I'm a new gardener I miscalculated how much to plant, when to water. Maybe I sowed the seeds too early and the soil wasn't ready to be worked yet. Or perhaps it was because I started to feel like I had earned my garden because I worked so hard for it, maybe that's why nothing grew right away.

Reflecting on my impatience, I understand a little better now that God does not have a seed of it in Him.

Below are the fruits of His labor.

Purple colias, hand-me-down from the girl upstairs.

When I got this it was one tiny stem in a bowl of water.

Our pear tree, which I had no hand in whatsoever!

Carrot patch.

Tomatoes in the only sunny spot.

The tiny tomato harvest.

The now infamous morning glories.

A second fence full of them.

Climbing up the trellis.

Does anyone recognize these rocks?


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