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Archive for March, 2009

In January, my friend and fellow coach and I took four Bible quizzers to an invitational meet in Goshen, northwest of Fort Wayne.  I had never been to the host church.  My afternoon prior to departure had had a tight schedule and printing off a map was not on my to-do list, since I was not driving.  When Lynn’s time ran even shorter than mine, she asked if I would print off a map and directions.  I did the best I could at the last minute, but what we ended up traveling with was quite unclear and, consequently, we got lost.  (Maybe our second mistake was when we looked around the McDonald’s where we stopped for supper and assumed that the most mature-looking people we could find that did, indeed, live in Goshen, could give us the best directions from the restaurant to the church.)  The result of our late arrival at the meet was that our quizzers missed several rounds of quizzing–which may have cost them a chance of placing well in a particular quiz event.  (It was a humbling moment when the quizzer who had the most to lose willingly forgave without anger or tears.)

We traveled that night under faulty counsel…and we did not journey well.  A phrase, whose source I’m unsure of,  sifted to the top of the pile this morning on one of my “scraps” in the location where collected bits of wisdom have been accumulating lately:  “…counsel our hearts according to the truth.” 

Our quiz meet travel fiasco reminds me that part of journeying well depends on the map you use.  In the moment of pressure in my tight schedule, I had settled for a map that really wasn’t adequate to meet the traveling needs of the next few hours.  It didn’t have enough detail.  It didn’t take into account that we were strangers to the area and might not make the distinction between “County Road 17” and “OLD County Road 17” (or whatever the number was). 

In thinking about journeying well toward whatever is around the bend for our family relative to the next job (replace “job” with the decision of your choice), I am reminded that the map I follow will make a difference.  As we focus on the truth of God’s Word and let our hearts be counseled according to that, the wisdom we gain for the trip will be of the “vertical” variety–God’s wisdom to us.  Our pastor, teaching from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, has been reminding us that in the face of the uncertainties of this life, vertical wisdom is the only kind that will see us through. 

Stress or panic might tempt me to look to conventional wisdom alone as the GPS for this journey.  But “counsel our hearts according to the truth” is always-reliable map selection advice  if I want to journey well.

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Journey Well

I’m back at it…my habit of jotting things down on scattered scraps of paper instead of trying to gather them in one place. Maybe it’s a reflection of my life these days. As the “big day”–May 31st, the end of my husband’s employment in a place where he has worked for what will be just short of 24 years–draws nearer, I feel a bit fragmented. There is the now, which keeps coming at me, one day at a time as the minutes tick by and the calendar pages turn (actually, my calendar pages turn a month at a time, but just humor me here and picture one of those one-day-at-a-time calendars that so successfully mark the passage of time in the transition frames of the old movies). The now is made up of comfortable routines punctuated by the unexpected events and requests that keep life interesting and produce growth. There is even the occasional crisis thrown into the now, but the aforementioned growth seems to prepare me for each one to the degree that I can hang on hard enough to look Up for what is needed to deal with the balance.

Then, there is the future. It is, in a word, uncertain. I almost laugh to type that last statement, because, in reality, isn’t anything “future”, anything beyond this very second, uncertain? I could drop dead of a heart attack before I finish typing this sentence. (…you don’t need to hold your breath any longer; it didn’t happen.) You have thought of all the possibilities, too–I know you have–so I won’t go on and list the other curves that life could throw me–or you–at any second. But the uncertainty I’m talking about, the uncertainty that nags, is the one that has a huge element of that which is totally out of my control. I had no say in the fact that the governing board of my husband’s university workplace decided to close the campus. I can encourage, suggest, and offer my opinions but, ultimately, I am not the one who decides which jobs Michael applies for. And most certainly, I have no power when it comes to whose eyes will see and be attracted to his applications or resume. So, in all of that, there is uncertainty…and it pulls to the degree that that fragmentation of the smoothness of my linear life occurs. (I am a very linear operator–juggling disparate portions of life is something at which I am not very skillful.)

So, what does any of that baring of my soul have to do with jotting things on scattered scraps? There is a phrase that I keep writing down in different places and rolling around in my brain, because I don’t want to forget it: “…journey well.” That is what my friend Carol prayed when several faculty wives whose husbands are impacted by the campus closing got together to pray a couple of weeks ago. She asked God to help us “journey well.” I want to take time to explore that from some different angles in posts to come.

One thing that pushed right to the front of my brain this morning as I mulled the phrase over in my mind is this: “Thy Word is lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105) I may not have power to orchestrate what happens along the uncertain path of the future, but I can pick up the lamp and let it show me where to put my foot down for the next step. The journey is made of multiple such moves. “In Thy light, we see light,” said the Psalmist. That, for certain–having light enough so as not to stumble or trip, and, additionally, letting my eyes take in what is around me on the trip–is one part of journeying well. And that light is readily available, so I can walk with confidence, even though I don’t know what is around the bend.

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Seeing Straight

My glasses have been driving me crazy. If you wear corrective lenses, you will probably have at least a tiny bit of empathy.

I’ve worn glasses since I was in third grade. If it wasn’t for high index lenses which are thinner and lighter than previous versions, mine would be the “coke bottle” variety in terms of thickness. My glasses are the first thing I put on in the morning and the last I take off at night.

A few weeks ago, my glasses broke. When I went to retrieve them from the glasses case in which they reside when I am wearing my prescription sunglasses, I discovered them there, snapped in half right at the bridge which rests on my nose. Don’t know what happened–my guess is they were really, really cold and too much pressure on them as I rummaged in or added to the contents of my purse (the glasses case is a soft-sider) did them in. Thankfully, I always keep my old glasses when I get a new pair, so I had a backup till replacement frames could be procured.

I didn’t notice till I got home from picking up the new frames from my eye doctor’s optical service that they didn’t really sit straight on my face. (I have discovered over the years that my face is a little lopsided; my eyes are not level.) I went back a few days later for an adjustment to the fit and I thought they were okay. But, they are still not right. I have fiddled with them–always a big mistake–and now they are worse. At this point, the bifocal lenses don’t hit my eye in the right place and, simply put, I don’t see straight. Kudos to Wal-Mart optical for almost always getting it right–I’ll be stopping there tomorrow when I take Zach to work, and I am pretty sure I will be helped.

This not seeing straight has set me thinking. If you read this blog or know me otherwise, you know that my husband’s current job will end May 31, due the closing of the university campus where he is a faculty member. At this point, another job is no where in sight. While I have no doubt that God’s faithful provision in our lives will not suddenly end on May 31 (He is unchanging God and His interaction with us up till now has been as, among many other things, Faithful Provider.), sometimes it is easy to wonder what God is doing when the “how” is not evident. From that wondering, it is one short jump to living in a perpetual state of “gray”.

It occurred to me today that, just as my out-of-whack glasses keep me from seeing straight, so it is with my faith outlook. The Wal-mart optical department equivalent for my spiritual sight, I believe, is gratitude. It’s looking at the half-full glass, instead of the space in the empty part. It’s praising Him for all that is past, and trusting Him for all that is to come (paraphrase of song lyrics). It’s focusing on a God who is good…all the time. It is through that lens of gratefulness that I will see straight.

“Seek the LORD and His strength…remember His wonders which He has done.” (Psalm 105:4-5)

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205I met my great niece today. With a full head of dark hair and shiny bright eyes, Annaleigh Faith was born Wednesday morning after a harried and hurried trip to the hospital–she arrived about a minute after her mama got there (and with that, I believe the story of our own daughter’s birth twenty-three years ago is trumped in the family annals, in terms of high drama! The only detail for which we may still hold the storytelling edge is that we fled for the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, leaving our door wide open and our sleeping 19-month-old alone, not having time to wait for the neighbor who was on her way across our apartment complex to come and care for him!)

Great-Gramma (my mom) held this precious little bundle for the first time and the cameras were clicking. While Mom was holding Annaleigh, the baby’s daddy spoke from across the room and the most amazing thing happened. That little person, only four-days-launched into the big world outside the womb, turned her head in the direction of that voice. A little later I saw her do the same thing when her mama began speaking from a different location in the room. At this very tender age, that little one, who has been hearing those voices for the past nine months, sorts them out from the cacophony of other voices (we do tend to all talk at once in my extended family!) and lets her eyes be led in those directions.

That is such a clear picture of how I think God would have His own dear children be. Jesus referred to us as sheep and said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Have I been listening so closely all along that I can distinguish that loving voice from all others? Do I turn loving, expectant eyes in the direction of that voice when I do hear it?

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1. The good people who make America work ARE the economy. If there is an 8% unemployment rate, 92% are still on the job everyday. They are producing; they are improving and saving lives. They are buying groceries and cars. they are creating families. They are going on vacations. (This is not an original idea–I heard it on the radio this morning, and it makes sense to me.)
2. “THEY” are not, ultimately, in control, even though “THEIR” decisions may make my life challenging in ways I’ve never experienced. (You can decide who comprises THEY, from your perspective.)
3. This invitation from God is out there for us: “…Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:15) I had to teach this Bible memory verse to a group of kids the other day. “Truth in advertising” forced me to grapple with the word “deliver”. Experience and truth tell us that the promise is not to take all the trouble away–or even take us out of all the trouble. But that word deliver carries the idea of freedom from bondage. As I call on God in the day of trouble, the promise is to deliver me from fear and worry and anger and whatever else renders me immobile and helpless in the trouble. As I see Him lovingly, wisely, and powerfully at work in my behalf, I will indeed have a reason to honor Him and I will see a thousand reasons for thankfulness. That verse is not a Pollyanna cheer; it is a call to plant my feet on the Rock.

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Another blog friend’s reflections about her wedding day 15 years ago compared with her anniversary day yesterday made me think about change in my own life. When I chose the name for this blog, I had in mind that what I write here would reflect growth and change. I hope I don’t view life through the same set of lenses today as I did a year ago or as I will a year from now.

There is one thing, though, about that, that nags: sameness is comfortable. It’s the comfort of the perfectly broken-in pair of shoes. It’s the reason we notice a stain on an otherwise plain white shirt. It’s why a lot of us thrive on routine and feel ill-at-ease when it is interrupted. Symmetry’s appeal is based in the settledness we feel from sameness.

On the other hand: Flower arrangers know that the odd number of blooms has eye appeal. Photographers follow the rule of thirds. We praise as a page-turner the book whose every chapter leaves us in limbo. Anticipation gives us goosebumps because of the unknown and uncertainty that lies ahead (I don’t know if that is the physiological reason, but…).

I guess it is the human condition, this tension between desiring the settledness of sameness but not wanting things to stay the same. We are made to grow and change. Grow or die, use it or lose it, get better or get bitter. We’ve compressed the notion into compact phrases.

I want the results but I don’t always want the discomfort. One thing that has changed as I have changed is my understanding of what–actually Who–never changes. The writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament of the Bible states without apology or even much explanation the plain truth: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today,and forever.” That has become very real to me as I am whirled and tossed by the ever-changingness of life. It is like being in the permanent eye of the hurricane–no dread necessary if I know it will not end. “The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid, but God is round about me, and can I be dismayed?” (from “In Heavenly Love Abiding” by Anna L. Waring)

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