Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The fixer-upper saga continues: The things we leave behind

I was hoping to find what the Bible refers to as “hidden treasures of darkness.” The property we bought included a run-down mobile home and a metal shed. Both very dark and both packed, I say packed (some boxes since 1999) with the left-behinds of what was once a family. Or maybe it was several families—siblings who used the place to store the mementos of a former life.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The fixer-upper saga: Seems you can’t just haul a trailer away

“I’m not mean,” he says. “We just think differently.”
“Nope. You’re mean.” I hold my ground, but after thirty-something years’ of marriage he can tell I don’t mean it. We had long ago concluded we thought differently about, well, just about everything.

This current discussion concerns a problem about a piece of property we’re supposed to close on in a few days. Seems that even though decrepit mobile homes in SC are as abundant as roadside boiled peanut stands, the situations concerning the removal and disposal of them are so complicated my attorney suggested we discuss our options off the record.

Friday, February 12, 2016

When the fixer-upper is beyond fixing

If dreams are any indication of what is occupying your subconscious, it wasn’t boding well for the situation my husband and I just gotten ourselves into. Zombies were chasing someone right up to my house—(the one we just bought in in real life.) I wasn’t particularly afraid of them but was holding the door open, hoping the person would make it in time.

Unfortunately I will never know because the scene switched to the basement of the dream place where we discovered a room that had been a gift shop. It was still full of stuff but someone told me that underneath the place were wind tunnels whose constant screeching drove people crazy. And I still wasn’t worried (?!)

Now the setup for this dream isn’t that far-fetched because the person whose real-time property we bought had just walked away. Family was concerned and came to get him. Left his beer can on the end table, bills piled high. Rusty Coleman stove on the kitchen counter and pictures on the wall. Said he didn’t want a thing.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fixated on a fixer-upper or—When that penchant for fixer-uppers gets you in a real fix

You know how amazed you get when you see the beauty some people, (like Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer-Upper) can make out of a wreck of a house? Just knock out this wall here and put in a stainless steel kitchen there. And ta-da! A new house is born right before your eyes.

It’s easy if you have the ability (and the money) to “see” the vision. I can see the end result when I have something to work with—we knocked out walls in confident abandon in my present home
—but I have no, absolutely none, conceptual ability to transpose a
flat scale drawing of a layout into an actual 3-dimensional space. And I can’t sleep or think on anything else until I get it.

So for the past three days I have been walking around my house measuring spaces, measuring couches and desks and doorways in an attempt to imagine what they would look like in a new little house that doesn’t yet exist. My left eye is bloodshot, my brains are beat and I’ve used up a whole pad of graph paper trying to “see” the house that will replace the one we bought after we tear it down.

Yep. That’s it above. I was afraid when our kids saw what we just purchased, they’d be putting us in a home all right but it wouldn’t be the one on the hill.

Monday, January 18, 2016

When God knows you need a pick-me-up

You know how you can’t sleep when you are in the midst of a big decision?

That’s how I was last Wednesday. Even with the help of a little melatonin, I tossed and turned and poked my husband (who wasn’t worrying at all). Finally I got up, put on the gas logs and knelt on the floor to talk to the Lord. Poured out all my concerns, spelled out all the details that posed problems and waited. Waited for him to say something. Waited for some remembrance of the perfect Bible passage that fit my situation and assured me all was well.

You know how God is notably quiet sometimes and the only passages you can recall are about walking by faith?

After a while, reluctantly, I shut off the logs and went to bed, believing “by faith” God heard my concerns, but wishing he had given a little acknowledgment. A few hours later I rushed to get to a writer’s group in the next town. If it hadn’t been for book review I was scheduled to present, I would have skipped going altogether.

Minutes before the meeting began, I slid into my seat and heaved a sigh that I’d made it in time. Alycia, the president of the group, who knew nothing about what I’ve been up to, leaned over and handed me some gift cards for coffee. We don’t have much relationship outside of the critique group so I was totally confused as to why.

“The Lord told me, ‘Marcia needs a little pick-me-up,’” she said. And then this, “He also said to tell you he is aware of the details.”

You know how when God seems to take the long way around and you wonder why?

That’s because his ways are perfect. If he had assured me directly that night, I might have been satisfied or I might have doubted whether or not I’d really heard from him. By giving the message to someone else to deliver, he left no room for me to doubt, he encouraged someone else that her act of obedience confirmed she had heard the Lord, and he gave the both of us a chance to share the testimony with others.

I hope this encourages you that God cares even if he doesn’t seem to be listening. You have no idea whom he may have intercede for you or how he’s working out the perfect plan. And for those whom he chooses as messengers—may you have the courage to go for it.

In the joy of the Lord,

Monday, January 11, 2016

Would you like to win a billion?

We’re walking the dog, the sun is shining on the frost, and all is well this morning in this corner of South Carolina. I’m thinking about one of the headlines occupying the newsfeeds. “Would you even want a billion dollars?” I ask my husband.

He looks at me. Wordless. Furrows his brows as though trying to decipher what foreign language had just come out of my mouth. There’s no doubt he would.

“I could see a few million, but can you imagine the horrors that would come with a billion?” I continue. “People would be chasing after us like dogs on a foxhunt. Sick people. Sad people. Villains. Kidnappers. We’d have to get bodyguards. Go incognito. Even disguise Laila.”

He’s not convinced. He thinks it’s simple—save out a few million, take care of the kids, and start a foundation to support ministries with the rest. That’s part of the dynamic of our relationship—I bring up all the complications of a situation, Bob initially dismisses them as overreactions. Eventually he comes around to my way of thinking, (smile) so I continue.

“Imagine if one of the kids decided they liked having enough money to be independent and got divorced? Or a relative thinks the hundred thousand we gave them was stingy, or my brother suddenly realizes that collection of Hardy Boys books I snitched from him was actually very special and caused him trauma? To say nothing of all the people we’ve probably offended over the years. Someone’s sure to find reason for a lawsuit.” I think back to grade school when I said poor Alice had lice and her mother marched up to our front door and made me look through Alice’s hair.

 I understand Bob’s genuine intent to set up a foundation (although I suspect lots of people negotiate with God about how generous they would be, as if he didn’t really know), but I don’t underestimate the deceits of the human heart. Especially my own.

A man in the convenience store the other day noticed me eyeing the fistful of little winning tickets he was cashing in. “Stand next to me and maybe it will rub off,” he offered. 

The lure of the lottery. Regardless of the impossibility, we love to dream we might be The One out of the whole 300,000,000 people in the US to win. We’d be the wise ones and invest carefully. We’d be the generous ones, the humble ones. But we wouldn’t put our trust in our wealth, no, we’d be aware that “in a blink of an eye wealth could sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.”—Prov. 23:5

Maybe so, but I think a good place to test that opinion of ourselves is to look at just how wise, generous, and humble we are with what we have right now.

Years ago we helped a plant Abundant Life church on Long Island. The six-foot tall pastor and his family lived upstairs in rooms so small they could stand in the bedroom doorway and fall into bed. After exhausting every inch of space in that building, they bought another, again utilizing every square foot to grow a ministry. To me they exemplified what it means to “be faithful in little and you will be faithful in much.”

Although I certainly wouldn’t mind having a healthier bank account (or a quaint island home in the Caribbean for that matter), today I have a warm house, a cupboard of food, a car that runs well, a body that’s holding up far better than might be with this mileage. This morning I witnessed a stunning sunrise. For all of this I am thankful. How about you?

And please stop by the lovely Fragrant Ink site today. My friend Cathy Baker has generously invited me to share about how I spend time with the Lord. 

In the joy of the Lord,

Monday, January 4, 2016

When Hope Comes Disguised in a Dream

I overheard actor Robert Redford tell someone that I might “be the one” in my dream last night. 

(For those of you who weren’t even a gleam in your parents’ eyes back then—watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and see if those two bank robbers don’t have you swooning and sighing even as they meet their well-deserved demise.) 

Now these days I don’t at all care for Redford or his politics, but in my dream I was delighted to be “special,” “recognized,” “chosen” to be his girl.

Later I moved into another dream where another man, I think he was an editor who resembled—go figure!—Donald Sutherland, liked my work. Recognized its worth.

These two dreams, back to back with the same theme, gave me a good feeling. An important person saw something in me that others missed. I woke with an inner rearrangement of expectation and energy.

That’s what HOPE is—a “pleasurable and confident expectation.” It’s what Emily Dickinson calls “a thing with feathers that perches in the soul/ And sings the tune without the words/ And never stops at all.”  She’s not writing about the finger-crossing wish that things would change, but about an expectation so sure that its song carries even in the “Gale.”

That kind of hope is certainly not dependent upon the fickle, fragile things of man. The hope that conveys a pleasurable confidence and expectation can only be anchored in Someone who has the power and possibility to fulfill a promise. It is so confident in this person that it holds even when trouble seems to go on Forever.

It’s the hope I fear our world is quickly losing. A law enforcement officer told me that the most common cause of calls he responded to on New Year’s Eve was suicide threats. Really? Not weaving the wrong way on a one-way street? Not serenading your neighbors with a sloppy song at 3 a.m.? But stabbing yourself? Shooting yourself? Not seeing any reason to be?

Hopelessness and despair are running rampant. It makes me mad, this deception of death that’s cloaking our culture. I know there is a God of Hope whose words have power. But I also don’t want to be like a noisy gong in the early morning by scattering words of scripture around when someone isn’t ready to receive them. (I wonder if they’re not received sometimes because they are not so evidenced in my own life—that was a sudden personal musing, do with it as you may.)

So this for today: May those of us who know the Lord, grow in the Delight of Him. He’s not just a memorized verse that we’ve pledged to think about or distant director who never smiles. I don’t know if Olympic runner Eric Liddell actually said the words the movie script credits him, but they’re good words to think about. He said, “When I run I feel his pleasure.”

To feel God’s pleasure.

May those of us who know the God of Hope press in to know his pleasure so much that it radiates from us and shines into the lives of those we encounter who have lost it, or never found it to begin with. May we pick up the battle of prayer because regardless of the lies and deception that are settling so softly over us—God’s word is true and powerful and we are the bearers of his hope.

And whether the Holy Spirit inspires you in the form of someone like Chris Hemsworth or Donald Sutherland, (speaking to women here!) I pray your dreams be sweet and you awake in hope!

In the joy of the Lord,