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Archive for July, 2009

Marginalizing

I threw that word out at a meeting I attended this evening.  Its use was rooted in my at-the-moment frustration about something of significance that seemed to be getting shoved to an edge.  (As it turned out, a wiser head than mine offered a creative suggestion that will likely result in restoring the thing to a significant place while effectively addressing the need that triggered the problem to begin with.)

As I think about marginilization, I wonder:  When God looks at my life, what things that He deems significant–for my good, for His glory–have I pushed out to the edge of my daily living?  Which of these would be on His list for me and would cause Him frustration (or, at least, grief)?

  • Time spent in His Word
  • Time spent in prayer
  • Focus on and concern for the needs of others
  • A worshipful heart
  • Good stewardship of all His blessings, including health and finances

I fear they’ve all made the list at one time or another–maybe they aren’t all there now, but all have been so somewhere along the line.

Jesus, be the Center. Everything else will radiate in its right place from that, and nothing will be shoved to the edge.

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Asaph was struggling–or at least he was remembering a time he had been.  People don’t say things like, “…I was in distress,” or “… my soul refused to be comforted,” or “I was too troubled to speak” (things would have to be really, really horrible for me to get to that last one!) unless they’re having a tough time of it.  It had gotten to the point where he was beginning to have doubts about the big things:  “Has God’s unfailing love vanished forever?…Has His promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?”

As all of this tumbled out of his heart to his mind and to his mouth, Asaph had an “Aha!” moment.  Bubbling up through all that rot was something on which he could get a grip and to which he could cling:  “the years of the right hand of the Most High.”  Figuratively, the right hand was the place from where good came.  It was a place of favor.  Asaph, in a flash of recall, didn’t lock on a single event, but instead flipped through the rolodex of time.  He began to “remember the deeds of the LORD… [His] miracles of long ago.”

Maybe he remembered the giant building project that God had set for a certain Noah and his sons–a boat bigger than anyone had ever seen or heard of, to save from a degree of destructiveness no one could fathom, brought about by the agency of an amount of water that was unthinkable.  God preserved that one little family and a boatful of animal pairs for the continuation of humanity and of His creation.   Maybe Asaph thought about the time, just as his forefather Abraham had been about to slit the throat of his son Isaac because God had told him to offer the boy as a sacrifice and it was Abraham’s habit to do what God said, that a loud bleat of a ram caught in a thicket nearby had been God’s way of being a Rescuer in a different way, providing a sacrifice that wasn’t a dearly loved son, just at the time when Abraham needed Him to come through, but not a moment sooner.

There had been miracles, too.  Water that did funny things like turn from bitter to sweet when a stick was thrown into it, or that came out of a rock when a man named Moses struck it, or, for goodness sake! that blew up into giant walls on both sides of a dry path made right through the middle of a sea!  Donkeys that talked, days made longer by the sun standing still, and a young boy given strength to kill a lion and a bear and, finally, a giant, with the unsophisticated weaponry that was a simple sling and a few rocks.

By the time Asaph has mentally visited a few of these “memorials” from his nation’s past or maybe some from a nearer, more personal time in his own or his immediate family’s life, his heart is singing a different tune:  “What God is so great as our God?…With your mighty arm You redeemed your people.”  He’s really on a roll now, enumerating nature’s response to this Almighty One: writhing, convulsing waters; resounding thunder; flashing lightning; quaking earth.  He recognizes the Unseenness of the One whose power can’t help but be seen if we are looking:  “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

For all that, the personal touch of this mighty God in whom Asaph’s confidence has been restored by considering what he’s seen is not lost on him:  “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”  In that simple declaration, God’s tender shepherd qualities and the fact that He often works His wonders and His will through human agency are acknowledged.

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These are the things that I pondered as I reflected on Psalm 77 this morning.  It made me think again of a song lyric that comes to my mind often–“We’ll praise Him for all that is past and trust Him for all that is to come.”  In those moments when life’s low times would grab at my feet and threaten to keep me under till I’m overwhelmed and drowning because of the weightiness of living in this place that sometimes lacks light and harmony and beauty, I must do what Asaph did.  I must consider what I’ve seen.  When I do, the low times let go and I rise to the surface to breathe in the beautiy of life in the sun, with a buoyancy that will let me get to a place of looking up, of rescue, of going on with hope and assurance.

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I decided to start a new blog.  Why not?

Actually, why?

Maybe this is segmenting my life too much, but here’s the explanation:  My original xanga blog, “Ma’s Musings”, has ended up being my “for fun” place, for the most part.  (I started that blog when my email username was “mavan”, for Michael and Amy VanHuisen.  I don’t really think of myself as “Ma”, nor do any of my children call me that–and they’d better not start!–but it seemed good at the time.  Not so fond of it now, but…)  This blog, “Through Changing Eyes”, is where I think out loud about things that are a little more weighty.  Those are both generalities, though, because if you read in either place, you’ll be able to identify some crossover.

However, I’ve deliberately tried to not bring too much political or in-the-news discussion to this site, even though I’m very interested in those things.  I’ve wanted the blog you are reading to be a place of encouragement and day-brightening, and sometimes those other topics are somewhat lacking in that regard.

Thus, the new blog.  “What’s Out There?” is where I’ve decided I’ll talk about things political and in-the-news from time to time.  I hope you will read and comment, and maybe we can get some productive conversations going…or at least spur one another to think and act in a way that reflects good stewardship of our freedoms as citizens of this country.

Links to each blog are at the right in my blogroll.

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Because I Can

On the computer desk beside me is a “souvenir” Zach brought home from South Carolina.  It is a plastic bag/sleeve (reminds me of what you get in the help-yourself-floral departments at the grocery) printed with the words “For Your Convenience–Wet Umbrella Bag”.  I think he got it at a Wal-Mart.

Now, that store wouldn’t have to do that–provide something for you to put your dripping wet umbrella in.  You could just drip all over their floor or all over the contents of your shopping cart.  But they provide the bag anyway–because they can.

Thinking about that simple gesture made me think about things I might do, not because anyone is making me or even asking me to, but just because I can:

  • Polish Michael’s shoes
  • Offer a morning of babysitting to my daughter on one of her days off, so she can have some free time at home
  • Make one of my guys’ favorite dinners
  • Finish the shower curtain valance that will complete the bathroom re-decorate project begun last January
  • Take some cookies or something else to my new neighbors
  • Take some cookies or something else to my old neighbors
  • Send a note in my teenager’s suitcase next time he’s gone for a few days
  • Call my mom and dad instead of writing a letter
  • Write a note of thanks to someone in my church who faithfully appears in the same place doing the same job every week
  • Give a little bit bigger than normal tip next time I’m out to eat
  • Leave the quarter in the shopping cart at Aldi so the next person won’t have to spend theirs
  • Put the extra loose shopping cart into the cart corral at the store, even if I’m not the one who brought it out to the parking lot

My day is always brightened by the person who does the undemanded-but-much-appreciated thing just because he or she can:  the check-out lady who double bags my heavy juice bottles; the hostess who sets an extra pretty table; my husband who folds the basket of clothes that I’ve set on the bed to get to later; my son who takes his backpack up to his room on his first trip up there after getting home, instead of waiting for me to ask him to move it; a saint who listens to Jesus and sends an encouraging card at just the right time; the friend who pays for my lunch when I was perfectly okay with going Dutch; my mother-in-law, now deceased, who used to occasionally slip an extra $10 or $20 in her weekly letter–“have a treat on us”, she’d say; the college student who more than once said, “Merry Christmas!  This evening of babysitting is on me” as we were pulling out the cash to pay her; the dad of a friend who. hardly knowing my daughter, contributed generously to her missions trip a few years back; the stranger in the check-out line who says, “You go first–you only have a couple of things” when I would otherwise have had to stand behind and wait while she checked out a whole cart full of groceries.

What will I do tomorrow for someone else, just to make their day brighter or their life a little easier, not because they expect it, but because I can?  What will you do?

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Tender Mercies

A friend smiles…
And you know life won’t always feel as sad as this moment does.

Ancient Words are called to your attention…
And you know God was thinking of you at that moment in which they were breathed.

You pull into your driveway…
And know that close call a few blocks from home could just as well have ended otherwise.

The cutting words are on the tip of your tongue…
you are forced to swallow them when the hiccups take over.

You’ve labored for hours on that email that will really tell her off this time…
You hit delete when you fall asleep at the keyboard.

You waited to nag your teenager…
And he figured it out himself.

You pour out all the junk and the hurt and your pain and the tapes that play lies in your brain…
a friend hears your heart.

A longing goes unfulfilled until it has faded to a nearly imperceptible shadow…
And you are surprised by joy. (Thank you, C.S. Lewis.)

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