31 December 2009

Sentencing

I think too much about things of little importance and spend too little time meditating on things that matter. Like most folks in our culture, the end of the year turns my thoughts to past events, both good and bad, and wonder at what the next year may bring. I know that I have lived more years than I have left to live. I am 52 and cannot even claim middle-age. I have no intention of being 104 years old. In my current state of health, I will be lucky to reach 54, but then I don't believe in luck. It's providence that I believe in. God ordained events, meted out to me in perfect parcels, containing exactly what I need for my sanctification. I know that but it doesn't keep me from wanting to negotiate with God like He's Monty Hall and ask for what's behind door number two.

The road less traveled. The greener grass. The love that belongs to someone else. Those are the places my mind wanders when no one is looking. Opinions about the state of the economy, how to live in this world as a God fearing woman, how close this world is to the handbasket my grandmother warned me about, those are the places I start thinking but invariably my mind wanders to what it loves best. Me. Me and how I don't have what I want or what I expected to have by now.

What did I expect? To be one of those sage, scripture spouting spiritual woman who prayed for people 24 hours a day, rescued orphans, taught English to refugees, made dinner for shut-ins and traveled to assist various missionaries. I thought my contribution to the body of Christ was going to rival Amy Carmichael and Corrie ten Boom. I had no idea how faithless and undisciplined I really was and am. I had some pretty grandiose ideas about my worth. That part has changed. I do know who I am and what God has saved me from. What I don't understand is what is broken in me that those things do not motivate me to live accordingly.

I was watching a court drama on television and as the trial was coming to its climactic conclusion a recess was called. The bad guy in the drama knew he was going to be sentenced and had in fact admitted his guilt, but he was a free man awaiting his sentencing. The recess gave him one more day of freedom but there was nothing he could do to earn back the judgment that was coming, but he had one more day of 'freedom.' Free to be what he was, a guilty but unsentenced man.

Each day we're here we are working toward the day when we will be sentenced. If the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to you, there is nothing you did to deserve it or merit it. You can't cajole Him into giving it to you, it's yours because you are belong to Him. You are saved by grace through faith. The gavel comes down and you're pronounced "not guilty." None of us knows when the gavel will fall, when our final breath will be taken and court reconvenes.

As the New Year comes I have no idea what it will bring. I only know that I need to start living like court is in session for me and those I love.


Phil 3:13-14
13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of {it} yet; but one thing {I do} forgetting what {lies} behind and reaching forward to what {lies} ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(NAS)

28 December 2009

When the Cat Steals Your Joy



This year instead of my 7' Christmas tree, I had a this little Christmas Shrubbery. You see, I have a cat and being a cat she does all things cat-like. Well, almost all things. The next time she sits up and begs with my two little doggies, I hope to take a picture of it. No self-respecting cat begs and so having a picture of her sitting on her haunches looking for all the world like a doggie begging for food has got to carry some blackmailing power with it. Anyway, when you are a cat a 7' Christmas tree comes with the unbearable need to climb. Fragments of once shiny ornaments were scattered about my house like so much confetti at Times Square on New Year's Eve. So this year I foiled her with the shrubbery. Or so I thought.

Remember in Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail when the knights had the bright idea of making the giant rabbit and getting inside only they forgot to get inside? Well I had the bright idea a small shrubbery wouldn't be attractive to the cat. After all what is a mere 4' shrub compared to a 7' blue spruce? How was I to know a 4' shrub brings with it other irresistible temptations, especially when there are shiny pretty things on it that are much closer and seem far easier to dominate!

So when you wake up from your nap to the sound of things crashing and the Christmas Shrubbery that looked like the one above now looks like the one below.... and the "joy" ornament that was visible at the top of the first photo is now conspicuous by its absence... you just got to laugh and remember that it could be worse. Faith and Peace could be gone too. Oh I know, you can't see them in the picture....one was under the table and the other was in the doggies' bed. That's right, Mali has no scruples. She tried to frame the dogs.

26 December 2009

Mid-Strife Crisis Averted by Random Acts of Kindness


The best way to have to deal with something in your life is to tell people who love you, I mean really love you what that secret something you're dealing with might be. If you blog about being afraid to trust God and if you tell your pastor you're in a bit of a snit over the circumstances in your life, you can pretty much be guaranteed that you will have to face things that you would rather not and do it a whole lot sooner than you figured you were going to have to anyway. Confession is a catalyst for stuff to happen, good stuff and the not so good stuff.

One of the first thing that happened was my heat went out. Did I face that problem by remembering God's goodness and provision? Sigh. No. I added it to the lengthening list of things that I am unhappy about. Neck injury, poor health, no job, no money being paid by the disability insurance, car needs maintenance, can't afford Christmas and now with the temperature is dropping my central heat is making sounds that resemble a dentist's drill. It happened to go out on a Sunday morning at about 5:00. There was nothing I knew how to do so I turned the system off and went to church.

I have never been a homeowner before and while it has its perks it also has its problems. When something breaks you cannot pick up the phone and call the landlord. You have to deal with it. When the heat goes out and it's 15 degrees out, you cannot ignore it. I had to ask some folks at church what one does on a Sunday with such a problem. I not only got some sage advice but I got my heat fixed for free because the people I fellowship with put their faith into action.

You would think I would remember all the times that God has provided for me even while I was being petulant and my faith was puny. I have had a very strange and amazing life and at each turn of the road my God has taken care of me. His timing is perfect and his resources are infinite. So why must I always have a mid-strife crisis of faith? Because I focus on the bad stuff that happens to the exclusion of the good? Probably. So let me focus on another good that has happened to me.

I have been trying to be brave about the holiday season. I miss my kids, I miss the old family traditions (the good ones) and I wish I could see my grandson. I have been trying to be positive and I was losing the fight. It is so much easier to feel sorry for yourself than to count your blessings and be grateful. Ever notice that?

A couple of days ago I was in the chat channel that belongs to my friend, teacher and the meanest Calvinist on the planet, James White. I have known James for over a decade now and he's seen me at my best and worst. When I was a 'Reluctant Calvinist' James was a willing and patient teacher. Over the years he has taught me, laughed with and at me, commiserated with me when my life was crazy and encouraged me to fight the good fight. On this particular day he was shopping for an iPod and getting totally geeked out like most technically savvy gadget gurus do and I mentioned I did not have an iPod.
As you can see from the picture, I have one now. Of course I have no idea in the world how to use it, but the man who is so busy running an apologetics ministry; learning Arabic; writing books; making videos; debating scholars and teaching has promised to teach me how to use it. Like he doesn't have enough to do.

11 December 2009

Uh-Oh....I am Afraid to Depend on God

Things are piling up on me. Bad things. Things that want to make me miserable. What sort of things? Well here's a look at some.

I lost my job. I didn't lose it because the company downsized or because my performance was substandard. In fact, the company I worked for did everything thing they could to accommodate me. They offered an extension of sick leave and I couldn't in good conscience accept. I knew I couldn't be back to work in the time they could give me and their busy season is coming. There are lots of able bodied folks who need jobs and it was patently unfair of me to ask them to hold my position when I knew I couldn't come back. You see, I lost my job because I have injured myself and cannot physically perform the duties required. In August I tripped, fell, tried not to land on my adorable doggies and did a number on my back. I also aggravated an existing injury to my neck. The lower back is a bit better but the neck... well... it's not so good. The neurologist says when it hurts enough I will beg him for surgery. I am not to the begging stage...not yet. I am terrified of having surgery on my neck.

I asked my physical therapist what sort of work she thought I could do based on the type of injuries I have. She responded by saying, "Well, certainly nothing that required prolonged sitting or standing, no lifting, no repetitive movements with your arms, nothing that required you to hold your head in a particular position for any length of time..." We discussed my limitations and neither of us could think of work that could be modified enough to make me employable. I am still working on it though. I don't anticipate I will find an answer, but I am not ready to give up.

I am having a difficult time keeping my chin up through this. I have bills to pay and though I have been blessed to have short term and long term disability insurance, the short term ended in November and the long term folks are reviewing my paperwork to see if my injury qualifies for long term disability payments. Of course this being the holidays it's not a great time to have a cash flow problem. It wasn't the best time for me to go out and buy a bed either, but I did.

For the last four years I have been sleeping on a mattress and box spring on a rolling metal bed frame. My bedroom floor has laminate flooring and I am a restless sleeper. Every night I toss and turn and manage to open a gap between the pillows and wall between 6-18 inches. I tried using door stops, furniture cups, plastic stoppers and a wool rug to keep the bed in place. During the night I would lose my pillows as the bed started its migration to the other side of the room. Once I woke up with my body halfway on and off the bed...headed to the floor where the pillows were waiting for me. The nightly ritual had become more and more annoying to me and more and more detrimental to my back and neck. So much so, I determined to buy a bed but couldn't find the perfect bed I was looking for without having to purchase the entire bedroom suit. I only needed a bed. In desperation, I found a bed that was on sale, whipped out my credit card and purchased it. It was delivered today.

My beautiful and amazing young niece came and helped me prepare for the delivery. It was good to have her share the moment. I love her. She's fun and bright and witty. I absolutely hate that I had to ask for help. I am too young to be so disabled. I put off calling her to ask her for help because I wanted to think of ways I could do it myself. I couldn't and it made me both mad and sad. Instead of feeling sorry for myself I decided to be grateful I had Lauren to help me and to remember that having a bed with a headboard and footboard is going to solve a huge problem for me. The bed is here and I am doing the happy, happy, joy, joy dance! It is wonderful! The bed firms up the mattress for me too which is going to feel great on my back. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles! However my joy lasted about 30 minutes. As I walked Lauren out to her car, I picked up the mail. The mail contained an invoice dated in 2007 for a bill I didn't know I had and had a hand scrawled note that said, "THIS BILL IS TOO OLD! IT NEEDS TO BE PAID!" It was signed by the guy who used to cut my lawn. The guy who hadn't bothered to bill me nor show up to mow my lawn on a regular basis. With that the happy dance morphed into the war dance. I had 8 or 9 curt and terse responses rough drafted in my brain in less than 30 seconds. I was a woman wild with anger and then it hit me.... the oh face moment where I got to see my character flaw. I hate it when that happens.

I don't know what it is about where I live but getting a lawn service to actually come and cut your lawn on a regular basis is like pulling teeth. It's not something that is particular to me, it's a problem for most folks who don't have their own riding lawn mowers. I came here from CA and had no need for a riding mower for my apartment. If you have ever wondered why nearly everyone in KY owns a riding lawnmower, it's because the lawns grow at an astounding rate and our yards are bigger and unfenced. If you don't have one or the means to buy a good one, you hire someone to mow for you. For the last 5 years I have been totally dependent on someone else to help me get the lawn mowed. It's been a fight with each of the three different companies I have hired and now my young neighbor does it for me. I digress a bit.. the important thing for me was to realize was that I just don't like having to depend on anyone to get something done. The bill the lawn service sent me over the edge because they hadn't billed me before and hadn't showed up to do the job they said they would! I had to hire someone else... making me feel more and more vulnerable and more and more dependent....and then the note they wrote...that was the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak. All the bubbling fear, anxiety and frustration came to the surface and my faithless heart was revealed.

I am back to dancing the happy dance now. I know I have to trust God and be dependent on Him to pay my bills, help me find a useful occupation for my time whether paid or unpaid, and help me decide if I should have neck surgery. Heck, He will be the one keeping me from running amok on the lawn service guy too for that matter. Here's the important part of this rambling post: The reason I am buffeted by life is that I am afraid to depend on God. Not trusting God is a serious and sinful condition to be in, one that requires repentance and remediation.


Galatians 6:9 And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Hebrews 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end;


Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;



Hebrews 10:35-36
35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.
36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

1 Timothy 6:6-7
6 But godliness {actually} is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.
7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
(NAS)


Perhaps my next post will be on what that remediation looks like.

09 December 2009

Buffeted

There is a fierce wind blowing outside today and it reminded me to read Ecclesiastes. This caught my eye:

Eccl 1:17-18
17 And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.
18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge {results in} increasing pain.

Today my emotions are as tumbled as the leaves flying past my window and like the wind they howl at me, twisting one way and then another in a confused carousel. Sometimes I long to be the young Christian I used to be- was it really better to have faith without understanding or does it just seem that way?