Thursday, October 20, 2011

Harold at the Door

Harold came to my door again today. Stringy, dirty, hungry, his clothes disheveled as clothes tend to be when they’ve been lived in 24 hours a day, several days a week.

“I haven’t come in a while,” he said, apparently keeping track not to wear out his welcome with the “givers” on his handout route.He pointed to the large pile of boxes on the porch that needed to go to the recycling center. “I can throw this out for you,” he offered, as he looked around for a trash can.

I handed him a bit of money.“That’s okay; you can’t carry them all on your bike. Maybe the next time I’ll have some work for you.” 

The first time Harold showed up at my door, I sent him away. Fear, suspicion, and lack of compassion for a beggar ruled the decision. Harold wasn’t discouraged. A month later, he came again. I gave him some money. The next time he came, my husband talked with him about life, and God, and work. Things Harold said he once had and lost and couldn’t seem to get back.

Over the months my attitude toward Harold has been judgmental, self-righteous, and unsympathetic. But today, I am simply thankful my God is gracious, compassionate, and forgiving. He has shown me much mercy, whether my hard situations were by my own doings or not.

 Later I will go to the Goodwill and buy some warm clothes for the next time Harold comes. If my husband is home, I pray I will have the compassion and the courage to offer Harold a shower and a meal.

Because today I don’t want to reason and rationalize.

I just want the heart to respond to the beggar at my door.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.—2 Cor 1:3-4 (NAS)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's a Rambler without reverse?

Twice in my life, I owned Ramblers—a vehicle choice I’m sure determined more by economics than style. One, an old Nash Rambler, (immortalized by the Playmates’ song, “Beep Beep”), got me where I needed to go, much to the dismay of every fresh-air, environmentally conscious jogger on the winding hills outside San Francisco.

As long as it was going at a constant speed, it was fine, but when I stepped on the accelerator to climb up through the narrow Redwood canyons, it belched billows of black smoke. Whenever I saw a jogger ahead, I’d start apologizing, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” and duck my head as the black cloud closed in around him thicker than the morning fog.

But it was the other Rambler that demonstrated a point I would discover, forget, and cling to again and again—reverse is a necessary direction. Sometimes you have to go backward to go forward.

One day that Rambler lost its ability to back up. I was poor and single at the time and decided to live with just going forward as long as I could. It wasn’t impossible as long as I remembered to never park face-in at a curb. Some days I’d drive all around town trying to find a spot where I could park and drive straight out. But one morning, my mind distracted with thoughts of spring, I pulled into a space nose-to-nose with the parking meter and turned off the key. My reaction appropriately reflected my pre-Christ state.

A Rambler without reverse was a very limited one indeed.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that make us feel as though we’ve gone backward, but can’t go forward. Loss often triggers this perspective. Loss of job, loss of savings, loss of loved ones, loss of identity, and worst of all—loss of hope.

My husband and I are just now coming out from a two-year darkness brought on by a bad decision we made. It cost us a lot. And although we had been following the Lord for many years, there were many days in the pit of depression, when we thought the Lord had shelved us—that the glory of Lord had departed the temple as it so tragically did with the Israelites.

Now, we are slowly beginning to see some buds of fruit from that stripping. We are beginning to understand that the Lord couldn’t put new wine in old skins, and that sometimes you have to go backward in order to go forward.

Of course the ultimate example of this is Christ’s death. What looked like the end of everyone’s hope, three days later, proved to be the supreme triumph, as up from the grave He arose!

I pray if someone reading this is stuck in reverse, the Lord will give you a personal word of hope, a buoy to cling to until you have a reversal of fortune.

 As Paul exhorted the terrified sailors about to be shipwrecked:
“Keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn our exactly as I have been told”—Acts 27:25

Friday, October 7, 2011

From calligraphy to computers: the "good" in the "bad"

What I really feel like doing is stocking my quiver with poison-tipped, sure-to-knock- ‘em -dead arrows, strapping on my double-edged sword, and going to battle with all the freedom-hating, God-blind “religious” extremists, political leaders, and ignorant people in the news, who are bent on turning our world upside-down.

I want my moment to rant, and rave, and rattle my saber. That being said, I will set it aside for a while because the recent death of Steve Jobs reminded me of a more edifying perspective. So today and for a few more days, I’m going to focus on seeing through the apparent defeats, reversals, and impossibilities of situations (be they personal or global) to the ultimate triumphs.

Years ago, in an address to Stanford students, Steve Jobs related the importance of certain events in his life, which at the time, may have screamed, “Failure!”, but which led, many years later, to highly successful endeavors.

It would be hard to imagine, especially from a parental perspective, the good that could come from someone’s dropping out of college and replacing a curriculum of job qualifying courses with one in calligraphy.  But that’s what Jobs did, although he was pretty scared about it himself, especially since he couldn’t see “even a hope of any practical application.”

Not for ten long years. Not until he was designing the first Mac and the beauty of the calligraphy came flooding back to mind, consequently launching the Mac in a class of its own with its typefaces and fonts and Steve Jobs into a world of wealth and power.

Another catalytic event for him, he said, was when he was fired from the very company he founded. Talk about adding insult to injury. Again, Jobs admits that the insight wasn’t there at the time, but this negative, potentially devastating event freed him to see things in the fresh perspective of someone starting anew, and he went on to start another company, Pixar, no less.

The subsequent achievements of this man’s life attest not only to his brilliance, but to an attitude that looked for opportunity even in the face of adversity. Nevertheless, Steve Jobs is dead. And contrary to some blog posts, he was not God.  We can hope his ability to look at things differently led him to see the One who is.

Good and bad happen to all of us—the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Many of us will succeed because we have wealth, or genius, or optimistic temperaments, or steady grit and go that keep us marching on through apparent setbacks. Spiritual principles work even for the unspiritual. And sometimes it does “all work out,” as so many people resign themselves to say.

But for those of us who find ourselves in a hope- strapping situation, who don’t feel we have the money, the know-how, the wisdom to find our way out, there is a surety we can hang our confidence on—here and now. A certainty that neither deception, nor disease, nor darkness nor death was ever able, nor ever will be able to thwart.

 Regardless of how much of an impossible situation we seem to be in, how useless our present “calligraphy’ course may seem, we who trust in Jesus have a hope that looks forward because it is grounded in the One with whom all things are possible

Sometimes I have to remind myself He is the SAME God who opened a sea to let his people pass through, who remembered a young man imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit, who sent a whale to swallow a rebellious messenger, who pacified lions (!) so they wouldn’t rip his man to shreds and who opened barred and guarded prison doors, and who stood in a fiery furnace with three people—humans just like you and me.

Because sometimes I reverse my perspective and forget that this world isn’t the one to cling to, that one day it (the mortal) will be swallowed up by life.—2Cor 5:4 (How many of us get that backwards!)

I pray today, that If someone reading this is in a tough spot, you will know Jesus is able to make a “door of hope”(Hosea 2:14) right there in the midst of your Achor, your place of troubling.(Josh. 7:25).

May you receive the faith not to waver in unbelief, but give glory to God, knowing that what He promises, He is able to perform.—R om. 4:20—knowing in due time, He will lift you up.