Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Those powerful little things

I was in a bit of a blog fog, not able to settle my thoughts, when I noticed a slender sliver of a bug on the edge of my laptop. On legs thinner than a strand of hair, he marched along the perimeter with singular purpose. Suddenly, (I know writers aren't supposed to use this word, but that's the way it was) a tiny round bug appeared on the opposite edge of my screen, poised for a direct encounter.

In a flash, without breaking stride, skinny bug snatched up the round one. Startled by this unexpected entomological turn of events, I peered around the screen to see how skinny bug could possibly eat the chunky one, but they had disappeared.

It's amazing how powerful little things can be. I often think the big things are the most influential and desired, but it's the little things that influence a matter for better or for worse.

It's the little irritations that belie my grandiose thoughts of self-sacrifice--of course I'd lay down my life for you, just don't interrupt me when I'm busy.

And it's the little pleasures that refresh the soul. Stopping for a moment to watch the light filter through the leaves, or examine the intricacy of a tiny weed flower, or look into someone's eyes while she is speaking instead of fidgeting with my watch.

One Christmas my husband gave me diamond with all the right number of "C" qualities a diamond should have. My granddaughter gave me a pencil inscribed,"to the world's best grandmother." One gift as treasured as the other.

Today we may not all get a Big moment, but I'll bet we'll all have a chance at a little one to influence a life around us, or to bring our hearts to a place of delight in recognizing the handiwork of God in the little things.
If you do, I'd love to hear about it. 

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much--Luke 16:10

P.S. For those of you who say you can't post a comment--try the anonymous option.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Although I am sure the One who designed this complex universe is well aware that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, I delight in the ways He chooses to ignore the fact. He constantly amazes me at unexpected times and in unusual ways with reminders of how He knows and cares about the secrets of my heart. 

For several years I led mission trips to various countries in Latin America. On these trips I encountered many children who captured my heart, but only once did I seriously consider adopting one. 

Her name was Veronica. She was ten years old. She lived at the Home of Life in Costa Rica. For the week we were there, she followed me everywhere. We had brought painters caps as a craft for the kids to decorate. Veronica painted a heart, two tidy flowers, and her name on her cap. Then she gave it to me. Veronica broke my heart. But before my husband and I could decide what to do, someone else adopted her and took her to Spain.

I put her hat on a bookcase. For five years, I have prayed for a little girl in a land far across the ocean. I never expected to know how she was. Last I had heard, she hadn't been in contact with my friends who ran the orphanage in Costa Rica. 

My friends are now in the States on sabbatical. They visited us this past weekend. Their daughter, Maria, slept in the little bedroom upstairs, the bedroom with the bookshelf, the one where Veronica's cap was displayed. Not knowing my ties to Veronica, Maria came downstairs and told us that after a silence of several years, Veronica had recently sent her an email. 

She thanked Maria's family for showing her God's love during her time at the orphanage. She said she was well. Her adjustment to her new home had been hard, but now she was settled. And most of all, in spite of all that had happened in her brief fifteen years, she loved God.

An email from Spain to Costa Rica, a painted cap on a bookshelf, friends on sabbatical, God blesses me with an answer to a prayer only He knew was still in my heart. How wonderful are your ways, O Lord.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Billboard fantasy

Like carnival barkers, they line the highway and tempt travelers with a chance at the big prize, their multi-million dollar jackpot being far more enticing than a pink, stuffed elephant. The billboards of promise lure my thoughts from the monotony of the drive to fantasies of fortune.

Knowing that spending money on lottery tickets is wasteful foolishness, I think myself above such prodigal behavior--until about mile 50. At first, my thoughts are simple observations. $120 million. Wow, that's a lot of money!

The next billboard elicits a deeper consideration. I wonder what I'd do with $120 million. By the time I reach my destination, I know exactly what I'd do. With noble visions of a foundation for victims of human trafficking, I pitch my promise, "You can trust me, Lord. I'd be a good steward."                                                                                 

I stop to buy gas. As I enter the store, I see a rack of tickets. Remembering the slogan, "you can't win it if you're not in it," I'm convinced I need to give the Lord a chance to bless me. I deliberate over the choice of numbers. Should I use important dates? Should I let the computer pick? Should I leave it to the Lord and mark randomly? 

I darken some circles, erase, darken others. My card is so smudgy the machine can't verify it, and I have to start over. Finally, certain my fortune is about to change, I hand over my ticket.    

But as I walk to my car, my reverie takes an unexpected turn. I start to worry about what will happen when my win is announced. All kinds of people will be after me--friends, relatives, strangers, maybe even kidnappers. I'll have to disguise myself and get an unlisted number. We'll have to put the house for sale and move out immediately.

For the next several days I am preoccupied with all the demands of fame and fortune. By the time the day of the drawing arrives, I am fed up with spending so much time worrying about all my money. Still, I turn on the TV to witness my fate on the face of a little white ball. The numbers roll out. I am shocked. Not one matches mine.

I tear up my ticket. My disappointment blinks out, and my heart returns to the place of peace it knew before my foray into fantasy--a place anchored in the reality that my hope is not fixed on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 1Tim. 6:17 


Monday, June 14, 2010

Stomping on bubblewrap to summit Everest

When I mentioned my fascination with Mt. Everest in my first post, I forgot I had a picture of my flag being raised on the summit.

Now as impressive as this may be, I also told you I don't lie anymore, so truth be told, my feet have never trod upon one inch of Nepalese soil. I'll give the knee replacement industry a little more time to come up with an affordable, painlessly installed, super supple, mountain trekking version first.

However, this photo brought to mind the issue of reaching goals (to say nothing about the ethics of photoshop journalism). I want to share with you the one question that has helped me clarify my mental muddle more than anything else: What is the important?

For people like me who want to learn everything, do everything, and go everywhere, the answer, of course, is EVERYTHING is important. All I have to do is go without sleep for another hundred years. But I don't have another hundred years, and everything is not equally important. The day I realized the value of understanding this, I changed the way I approached my goals.

Previously I was like a kid with a twenty-foot roll of bubblewrap. The satisfaction of each little explosion turned into a furious foot-stomping race to conquer and kill every puffy little pocket in sight. I knew a little about a lot of things, was seldom satisfied, and made decisions based on crisis rather than control.

I couldn't discern the difference in importance, nor accept the fact that I would never keep a clean house, renovate a house, read twenty books a week, write words of wisdom, see the kids, grandkids and friends (if there was any time for any), travel the world, and do something to earn enough money to do everything else!

Now, I get myself right with a cup of coffee and the Lord and ask What is the important for both my daily and my long-range goals. And I keep in mind the conclusion Solomon reached.

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person.--Ecclesiastes 12:13


Friday, June 11, 2010

Government acknowledges afterlife

I received a wonderful offer in the mail informing me the government had approved a stimulus package where people 62 and older could receive money today and pay it back "after they are gone."

Although a bit distracted by the label "senior," and the warning that this might be my last "bite at the apple" to get money out of my house, I was impressed by the acknowledgment that I would still be doing things "after I was gone." And I admit, the enclosed sample check for $108,590 and the opportunity to "enjoy my golden years with financial independence were enticing.

Play now, pay later. Yes, the letter went on to say, my stimulus would have to be repaid, but not to worry. After I croaked, the already 100-year-old house would be sold, taxes, fees, and interest paid, and remainder (?) passed on to my heirs.

Not being savvy on the wisdom of reverse mortgages, I was surprised  to see I agreed with several points in this solicitation:

Yes, there is an afterlife, and I expect to still be doing things "after I am gone."
And yes, there are consequences for what we do now, and a day payment is due.
And yes, others are affected by our choices.
But no, I do not want to leave my children the wreckage from a life lived carelessly.

Hoping not to stretch the analogy too far, I propose that Jesus has given me a kind of reverse mortgage on my life. He has paid my debt in full by canceling out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against me. (Col. 2:14) No longer do I have to live under the burden of never being able to repay my debt. 

And no longer do I have to leave my children the ashes of a life lived carelessly. By God's grace, I can leave a legacy of works of faith, labors of love, and steadfastness in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Thess.1:3)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Done with lying

I used to lie a lot. I try not to do that anymore. For one, although I had little trouble opening my mouth and letting a lie fall out, I had a great deal of trouble maintaining it. My mother reminds me of the time I scribbled all over the wall with a crayon but adamantly denied doing so.

When she changed her accusatory tactic and asked, "Marcia, what did you do with the crayon you marked the wall with?" I promptly told her I had put it back in the box.

The other reason I don't lie now is that the Lord doesn't think too highly of it. He's all about truth. Since I want to please Him, I am on the lookout for lies.

Before you dismiss this as a simple fact that anyone who has taken Christianity 101 knows, let me ask, "Are you influenced by lies? Are any of your actions based on premises that really aren't true? Do you really believe what God says about Himself and about you, or do you simply know it?"

I am sadly surprised to see how much of my thinking is still tainted by ungodly ideas I've collected along my journey. But, I am encouraged because He who began a good work in me promises to complete it. Meanwhile, I'll do my part by not living lies.

Today I received news that a decision I am awaiting will be made soon. I want the answer to go one way--my way. If it doesn't, I will feel bad. And if it does, I will rejoice and say how good God is.

But those responses would be based on a lie.

So now, even before I know the outcome, I will purpose to fix the truth in my heart. Either way, God is good. Either way, His plans are perfect.

Either way, I will glory in His name, and seek His face, and remember the wonderful works He has done.--1Chronicles 16:10-12

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lessons from a filament-flinging spider

By definition my daily doggie walk around the neighboring track is not really a journey; nonetheless, a teacher at heart, I am often on the lookout for a life lesson to be had.

Today for example, as I was completing the loop, I noticed a line-up of spider webs clinging to the spaces in the chain link fence. The first three webs were specimens of artisan perfection, perfectly patterned strands strategically placed for optimum efficiency. With confident expectation the occupant of each waited patiently at the center of its ethereal trap.

The fourth web, however, clung in defiant contrast to its tidy neighbors. Instead of a shimmering flat surface, the center of this lady's web was a tangled ball, a wadded cluster of spherical silk. It was as though, frustrated by her lack of precise programming, she had let loose in a filament-flinging frenzy.

There she sat in the center of her wadded world. I imagined her casting a furtive glance at her fastidious friends, as she waited for that moment of triumph when some inattentive gnat, perhaps confused by the unexpected aberration, stumbled into her outer strands.

I thought about how times I look at others who seem to have their lives more perfectly organized than my own. How come they seem to have a hotline to God, and I struggle to know His will? How come they seem so happy and peaceful, and I beat down bad thoughts and stick my foot in my mouth daily?

How can I be like them when I seem so different?

The truth is I can't. Nor was I meant to be, and the sooner I stop measuring myself against my neighbors, the sooner I can enjoy being who I was created to be--me.

What would happen if today, like my filament-flinging spider, we all gave ourselves permission to sit down in our not-so-perfect wadded worlds and enjoy being the person we were uniquely created to be?

I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well.--Psalm 139:14