Saturday, March 26, 2011

So just when your kids become responsible, you relax

Back when I was teaching school and looking for ways to dazzle my students, I accumulated an assortment of magnets. I keep them in a plastic lunch box. Short, fat, round, square, wandish. . . . One is really powerful. It will draw a nail right out of the wall (Well, sort of.) My students always delighted in finding ways to play tricks with their magnetic powers—like hiding the most powerful one under their desk and moving items on top of it as some unsuspecting classmate happened by.

When we moved to the South, I put my magnet lunchbox in a trunk of “grandkid” supplies, and forgot about it—for a few years apparently. Recently my six-year-old granddaughter was poking through the trunk. She came downstairs and asked her father to help her separate the mass of magnetized objects she had found.

“Mom! What are you letting your grandkids play with?” he hollered.
“Oh, that’s my magnet collection,” I said.
“Yeah, with rusty nails and staples sticking out all over the place,” he said, holding up a tangle of tetanus producing possibilities.

I had to admit. It looked more like a weapon of destruction than a science experiment for a grandchild. My grand parenting skills apparently need fine tuning. But what I was more impressed about was my son’s reaction.

This is the same person who as a child lived in a tepee on a Vermont mountaintop and as an adult included a position in SWAT on his resume. I was surprised he had such a strong reaction to his daughter’s choice of playthings.

Amazing. We work so hard to make our children see things responsibly, and just when they do, we want to tell them—“relax.”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

No divine trick up His sleeve

Recently, a group of us in a writers’ workshop were brainstorming ideas about Jesus’ childhood. Our enthusiastic instructor, Ginger Kolbaba, asked us to imagine Mary’s reaction when her little boy Jesus ran to show her what he could do. Demonstrating the scene, Ginger extended her arms, twisted her fingers as though fiddling with an object, and then exclaimed, “Look. Ma!” as she opened her empty hand.

Can’t you see it? No clumsy shuffling of shekels here. No feigned smile of surprise on the face of Mom. This was the real deal—the doves fluttered and flew, the coin vanished.

Were they both surprised? Mary knew He was special; still, did she chide him to not show off in front of his friends? When did Jesus know who He was and what He could do?

Imagine. The Son of God in short pants and sandals. He grew in wisdom and stature to become Glory in a brown tunic. Both God and man. As God, He could not sin. As man, He was tempted yet did not. Not because He was able to pull a divine trick out of His sleeve, but because He would show us how we could live under the control of His life in us.

Lord, may we know today, in all that befalls us that with You is the fountain of life. In your light, we wish to see light.—Psalm 36:9

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Following God through the intersections

  Just follow God. Seems like an easy enough idea, especially if you have  a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night leading you. But all I saw when I looked out my back door this morning was the neighbor's cat slinking up on my bird feeder and the prismatic glints of early light on the thin crystals of dew.

So what does following God look like? If the number of How-to books lining the Christian bookstore shelves are any indication, lots of us are wanting to know. Funny, how we are supposed to be the people with the answer.

Actually, I think Nike is onto something with their slogan: Just Do It. Pastor Cho says it another way: "I pray, and I obey."

Being a type A, doer, controller, I struggle with whether I've done enough on my part and whether I believe God will really do His. I'm beginning to see (Thank you, Lord, may I live long enough to grasp this) that my worries are all wrapped up in me: whether I made the right decisions, whether I planned well enough, whether I am good enough, smart enough, attractive enough . . .But it's not about me--I am the messenger.

It's beginning to sink in--He really has given me (and you) a message, and He really will orchestrate its fulfillment.

Recently, I attended a writers conference. For those attendees with books to sell and futures to plot, this can be an intense experience. You are allowed to sign up for short appointments with agents and editors, but if you can't get an appointment, you can sit with them at their assigned dining table and hope for your moment of attention. Of course, everyone is doing the same thing., trying to get the same ear.

The first morning, my friend and I entered the dining hall prepped like conquerors ready to stalk  and bag our first interviews. Our plan was immediately thwarted. There weren't any names assigned to the tables.

"So what are we going to do?" my friend said. "How are we going to know who to sit with?"

A novel thought came out of my mouth. "I guess we're going to have to leave it up to God."

 And with that, right at the intersection of the salad bar aisle and the coffee pot, I ran smack into the first person I wanted to see.

"Where are you sitting?" he asked.

Three times during the course of the conference, the Lord orchestrated intersections of my life with others whom I had no intention, plan or plot to see. One offered free counsel I didn't even know I needed. Another played a part in continuing the saga (in a previous post) of how I prayed for the jungle captives in Columbia. (A story for another day.) And a third gave me a solid connection I needed.

So what does following God look like to me today now that I'm back with all my "what if's?"

When worry, anxiety, and fear of all the whatevers threaten to make off with my peace, I am going to choose to believe that 1. He is God 2. He knows me. 3. He created me for a purpose. 4. He will accomplish that which concerns me.

I'm going to practice what Jesus summed up so simply, ". . . that you believe in Him whom He has sent."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On the road with the other woman

My husband has another woman in his life. He listens to her. He does what she tells him to. Some days he spends more time with her than with me. Her name is Laurie.

When they are driving together, Laurie warns him of turns ahead. If she tells him to turn left here, he does. But sometimes, I, being all about physical maps, override GPS Laurie and tell my husband to go a different way. At first she gently corrects me, “When you can, turn around and go left.” If we ignore her, she gets insistent, “Turn around. Turn around now.”

Recently I took Laurie with me on a road trip although I had already mapped out my route and didn’t expect to need her. The last forty miles involved several turns on lonely stretches of country roads. It was dark, and I had lost my sense of direction. I decided to see what Laurie had to say about the situation.

When she told me to turn onto roads that weren’t named on my directions, I had to decide whether to follow her or continue to search for my original roads. I decided to trust Laurie. At one point when I had missed a turn, Laurie became adamant, “Turn around, turn around.” It was so dark, I hadn’t noticed that the road ended at a boat landing, and I was about to go down the ramp and into the lake.

Laurie not only succeeded in directing me safely to the writers conference I was going to, but made me rethink my plan about which editors, agents, and workshops I had in my sights. Like many of the eager attendees, I had gone with my plan to conquer, kill, and bag a deal.

Yes, I had prayed and asked the Lord for direction, but Laurie made me think about whether I really intended to listen to and follow Him, or continue full speed ahead on my own.

On Friday, I will let you know what happened at the intersections when I took my cue from Laurie and let go and followed God.