Tuesday, May 28, 2013

He Gleaned;She Gleaned: Morning Nuggets from the Word

My husband and I usually go to our respective corners, coffee in one hand, Bible in the other, for our morning devotions. We’ll pray together at some point in the day, but we both prefer to spend the early morning hours alone with the Lord.

We've tried various ways to do devos together, but he’s slow and meditative. I'm fast and global. He’s wakes slowly and needs to sit awhile; I hit the floor wide-eyed and ready. Still, we recognize that each of us is receiving wisdom and truths from the Lord which we are not sharing. Recently, instead of trying to read the same book of the Bible or do a joint study, we've decided to share a daily nugget that each has gleaned from their reading that morning. Thought you might enjoy what we shared with each other this morning.

Bob’s Tuesday Gleaning from Jeremiah 33: 

Just as surely as there is a fixed order to the universe which man cannot change, God’s promises will prevail regardless of what Israel, or Israel’s enemies  (or, on a personal level, we,)do. “If you can break my covenant for the day, and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken . . . ‘—Jer.33:20

Behold the days are coming . . .when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel. I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”—v. 14, 26

Bob: “How good to know God’s promises have nothing to do with us, because we screw up a lot.”                                                                                                                             (Not sliding over repentance/free will here—just enjoying the nugget that God will accomplish that which concerns his people.)

Marcia’s Tuesday Gleaning: A Metaphor Moment from 1 Samuel 25:29

Abigail to David—“And should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God, but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling.”

When we drove to Guatemala, each of us was allotted one trunk’s worth of special possessions to take. I chose some items for their usefulness, others for their beauty. In Israel’s early days, instead of a trunk, travellers would put their most precious possessions in a bundle, to be securely kept because of their special worth and useful service.

What a lovely image of security for us as God’s special possession—to be bundled in God’s care. “And they will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”—Mal.3:17
I pray that if you are heavy with a burden of striving, you will meditate on the surety of God’s delight in you as His precious possession. 

Blessings abundant this last week of May.

And if anyone cares to share how you and a spouse or special one pray/study together, I’d love to know!


Thursday, May 23, 2013

When the Thrill is Gone

The Green Door
The town I grew up in outdid itself in providing wholesome opportunities for its kids. Each summer the school bus made the rounds to the major intersections (all four of them) and gathered us up for a day at the town beach where we had Red Cross swimming lessons and afternoons of free swim.

At one spot along the route was a perfectly poised hump, which if hit at the right speed would lift your butt off the vinyl seat and flip your stomach into a thrilling free float.

As soon the lumbering bus rounded the corner far enough for the driver to see the coast was clear, we’d all start chanting, “Faster! Faster!” And since this was in the Time before Nanny, the bus driver heeded the charge, stepped on the gas, launching sixty or so whooping and hollering kids into the air.
Decades later, I still remember the anticipation of that “thank-you-ma’am” (that’s what we called those road bumps) in my stomach.

It’s hard to let go of thrills, whether of a great adventure or a close encounter with God. They rouse our dispassionate spirits and electrify our dulled expectations. Like two-years-olds we cry, “Do it again!”

We say “yes!” with Isaiah when he cries, Oh that you would come down. . . as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!

But in the daily, in the here and now, nothing-is-spectacular moments, the silence of the Presence, and even in the can-it-get-any-worse? situations, we act like a sails without a breeze. Dishes, and walking-the-dog, and making oatmeal hardly seem the stuff of great expectations.

In his short story “The Green Door,” O. Henry wrote, “The twin spirits Romance and Adventure are always abroad seeking worthy wooers.”*And I propose--so is the Spirit of God.

 In the story, Rudolf Steiner is handed a card which he supposes is for the dentistry down the street. But when he turns his card over he sees three words: The Green Door. When he inspects the cards that were discarded on the street, he sees they all have the dentist’s information.

To act upon his mystery adventure or pass it by? Rudolf makes his decision and seeks the green door. And then the O. Henry surprise.

Reminds me of God.  The unexpected. The guiding of our way. The joy set before the one who obeys. Even in the every day.

Especially in the every day.  May we set our faces on Him so that whether experiences come or go we will not only endure but "know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled up to all the fullness of God."—E ph. 3:19

Hey! My friend Lisa Buffaloe happened to write about “Thank-you-ma’ams” in her blog this week also. What are the chances of that! Only she calls them Whee Bumps! Be encouraged and hop on over to her take on Whee Bumps.

Blessings abundant friends,

Monday, May 13, 2013

Finding home #4--Not The Zamboni Driver Dream

“The second journey begins when we know we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the morning program.” –Brennan Manning

                “I’d like to get a job driving the zamboni up at the hockey arena, or maybe the cute little sidewalk snowplow. Something mindless—just smooth scratches in ice or cut swaths through snow,” my friend announced after retiring from her long-held position as a first-grade teacher.
                Being a teacher myself, I imagined the supposed satisfaction from doing something physical—seeing an immediate result, a beginning and an end. So when I quit my job teaching in a small Christian school to move south, I wasn’t particularly worried about what we would do for work. We had a tidy nest egg which we thought was sufficient to tie us over while we settled in our new home town.
                But, like an unmannered pooch at a chicken-laden picnic table, the Renovation gulped its allocated funds and ate its way through our savings. One of us had to get a job soon.  Although we had been cavalier about our job prospects when we were back in Vermont, we now felt intimidated about the reality of the job search. Online applications were unheard of the last time we had looked for work. And lurking beneath our bravado was the realization that we were different now—too young to retire, but too old to include dates on resumes.
The Yellowbook Deliverer         
                Although I met the qualifications in the newspaper ad —no experience necessary, just a car—my anxieties competed with the rain for an excuse to turn around and go home. At exit 34 I gave myself a pep talk: You can do this. You have a master’s degree, a Bible degree, and years of teaching experience, to say nothing of all the traveling you’ve done. 
                For crying out loud, you can deliver Yellowbooks.
                At exit 33, I flicked the blinker, swallowed the knot in my chest, and turned toward the warehouse.
                The rain slowed to a grey spit. I pulled into the muddy yard of the warehouse and drove around to the rear of the building where several vans were backed up to the loading dock. Synchronized teams of Latino men relayed armfuls of telephone books, stuffing them into plastic sleeves before tossing them into the empty cavern of their vans. I parked my car and got out to find the person in charge.
                You would have thought I’d just kicked open the swinging doors of the OK Saloon,  all eyes turned toward me, the only female in the place—a white, obviously middle class female, wearing diamond earrings and a black leather jacket. Although as full of uncertainty and as self conscious as a gawky girl at her first dance, I squared my shoulders, selected a route from the wall map, and then backed my car up to the dock where the fork lift was waiting to drop my pallet of books.
                The sound of grating metal stopped me. Trying to look nonplussed about the dent I had just put in my Honda CRV, which I suspected was going to cost more money to repair than I would make in days of hanging directories on doorknobs, I stuffed my car with the yellow bundles and drove off in search of an empty parking lot where I could bag books and cry.
                Three days and a hundred dollars later, I decided to try something else.

The Airport Security Screener
                  The Sunday paper was our lifeline to the world beyond the Renovation. We’d come back from our morning outing to whatever church we had targeted for that day, open containers of Chinese take-out from the nearby Dragon’s Den, and search the job ads.
                “Wow, here’s a job I wouldn’t mind,” I said. “It’s for a security screener at the little airport only ten minutes from here.”  I pictured myself scanning luggage in my blue shirt and trousers, a lanyard with my picture strung around my neck. How hard could it be? Hoping to beat the competition, I quickly scheduled an appointment for the test.
                The attendant ushered me and the one other applicant into a room lined with computers. We each chose our spot. “This is a timed test,” she said. “There are two parts, you may begin.”
                 English may not be this country’s official language but government employees still need to know it. With a smugness born out of years of teaching grammar, I clicked off one answer after another, finishing Part One with plenty of time to spare. Confident this was one of my finer moments of test-taking, I began Part Two. For a woman who could never find the baby in a sonogram, identifying dangerous items buried in x-rayed images of luggage was as incomprehensible as interpreting a painting designed by the trunk splashings of an elephant.
                 Screens flashed by. I felt as though I was in the scene from I Love Lucy where, unable to keep up with the rapidly moving candy conveyer belt, Lucy crams her mouth with the uninspected candies. I rapidly clicked, and guessed, and hoped something in the tangle of carry-on items was a knife.
                The test results almost beat me home. All I can say is that the country is probably a far safer place because I failed.
Chip Chick and other assorted job titles   
                Over the next few years, we stuffed vending machines, worked in bookstores, Home Depot, and numerous other minimum-wage paying jobs trying to refashion a life overturned from a chaotic economy and a backfired dream.  It wasn’t at all as romantic as the zamboni fantasy.
             You would think living by faith gets easier the older you get. It’s true you have a heftier pocketful of memory stones—cool hard reminders of places and times where He met you. But each new confrontation with financial frailty, health threats, and relationship insecurities demands its own test of trust.  And sometimes, regardless of how many years you’ve walked with the Lord, your faith, like a victim of Alzheimer’s, freezes in mid air and forgets how to proceed.

            So much of our identity and sense of purpose was wrapped up in what we did, now, apart from a means of survival, so meaningless. This was especially difficult for Bob. What was a pastor without a pulpit? 

            Like the Renovation, it would take time before we would appreciate the reconstruction going on in our own hearts and the wisdom this sojourn into an unfamiliar land would produce. And at the end of the day be able to agree with Manning in saying, “None of [our] failures in faithfulness have proved terminal. Again and again, radical grace has gripped [us.]

Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him and He will do it.—Psalm 37:4-5

Blessings friends--especially in prayer for any of you in life-change and job hunting.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wild Cat Mom Reflections

Wild Mama cat's nest-she didn't oblige for the photo shoot

 Citron-colored eyes shadowed the striped face peering from under the mound of branches and leaves of summers past.

We stared at each other, this wild mom cat and I, across the thin wire fence that defined the border of feral and domestic.

Two mini-mama faces joined hers, curious, unafraid, but staying close.
A moment suspended—shared with the female feline huddled there. Survivalist. Protector. Nurturer.       
A Mother.

I wasn't going to write about mothers today, but the feral(?) kitty I found near our yard tugged on my heart (besides making me crazy with what to do for her and babes) and started me thinking mom thoughts.

My Mom

She was always Mom to me. Sometimes Ma if I wanted to tease, or, My Mother if I was talking about her. But never Mama. I never had a mama.
The only bit of advice I remember her giving was, “Marcia what you’re looking for is in your own backyard.”

But she taught me
How to build an igloo (well, I don’t think I mastered this, but she sure did.)
How to find the elusive jack-in-the-pulpit.
How to delight in violets and May flowers and fish flashing in thin streams.
How to transverse worlds and times and cultures in the pages of the Books of Knowledge and Journeys Through Bookland.
How to persevere through times of bill collectors at the door and sugar on white bread sandwiches.
How to remain loyal when loyalty wasn’t deserved.
And how stay head bowed before your God knowing He heard when no one else listened.

How about you? What bit of advice has stayed with you from your mother? What did she teach you that stays dear to your heart? I'd love to hear.

 Others' Moms--A Prayer
Whenever I think of the endurance of Motherhood, I think of women I never met—women who have suffered and sacrificed that their children might live. I think of moms who wonder how they will have the energy to finish their days because of heavy hearts from a child’s death or disappearance.
I don’t know why I always think of these nameless (to me) women who parade across my heart. But I am grateful to be able to offer a prayer to the One who does know their names. 

I ask today, Lord, to lift the face of some struggling mom and let your light and unexpected grace fall upon her, in wisdom, in survival, in peace that passes understanding.

And for you, friends, whether or not you have a mom to enjoy the day with, or whether or not you are a mom yourself, may the heart of God who loves close and the security of the shadow of his wings be rich and real in your life, especially this Mother’s Day.
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.—Psalm 135:5