Friday, April 29, 2011

Which is Bigger?

Then [Samuel] brought each family of the tribe of Benjamin before the LORD,
and the family of the Matrites was chosen.  And finally Saul son of Kish
was chosen from among them.  But when they had looked for him,
he had disappeared!  So they asked the LORD, “Where is he?”
And the LORD replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.”
~1 Samuel 10:21-22 (NLT)

Saul, who stood head and shoulders above everyone else (1 Sam. 9:2, 10:23), did not exactly have an auspicious official start to his kingship.  Hiding amongst the baggage?!  And this was after God had confirmed His call on Saul’s life through the fulfillment of the signs the prophet Samuel had outlined to Saul (1 Samuel 10:2-9). 

And how often we do the same.  Granted, I can’t speak for your situation, but I can say I have a pretty hefty pile of baggage I like to hide behind.  There are things I’d like to do, things I believe I’m meant to be doing and I know I’m meant to be doing, but oh, there are so many reasons for me not to be doing them.

Motherhood?  Yes, well, that sounds great but I’m approaching 40 and am getting a little old for such things, wouldn’t you say?  The medical profession certainly does a good job of wigging me out in part . . .  O_o

Writing full-time?  Yes, well, that would be lovely but maybe I’m to keep my day job (my tent making, if you will).  Plus I’m not terribly disciplined in how I use my free time and perhaps this is just meant to be a side project or a hobby.  That is, if I’m in God’s will and/or doing it with right motives in any way, shape or form.

Teaching kids?  Yes, I’m currently doing that, but again with the discipline thing.  And there are so many things I really can’t teach them about well because I’ve messed up so much myself. 

I could paraphrase Saul’s plea (for he does sound almost bewilderedly desperate) to Saul in 1 Samuel 9:2 to fit myself quite nicely:  “But I’m only the middle child from a prairie farm family, I am small, and the least important of them all!  Why are you talking like this to me?”


I think I can almost hear God chuckle (but with mercy and grace – He’s God, after all).  Here is why:  Because God doesn’t look at us and see us merely as we currently are.  He sees us, crouching behind all our excuses, as He has called us out to be. Think about Saul’s successor – David.  He didn’t focus on the fact he was the youngest and the smallest in his family.  He kept his focus on the bigness of his God.  And what about Saul?  Why was he so focused on doing his own thing, often under the guise of ‘it’s what the people want’?  The following verse is telling:

And Samuel told [Saul],” Although you may think little of yourself,
are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel?  The LORD has
anointed you king of Israel.”
~1 Samuel 15:17 (NLT)

I’m not trying to reduce Saul’s choices to a neat and tidy pop psychology analysis.  But his view of his self certainly did not help.  And his focus, it would seem, was not on the bigness of his God, but on pleasing the people and his own inadequacies. 

So you and I have a choice.  Do we focus on our own inadequacies or on the bigness of the God who has called us?  Do we kick down the piles of baggage, the excuses we’re hiding behind and step out into the wild, bold, amazing plans God has for our lives?  Or do we stay crouched down and hidden? 

I don’t know about you, but my legs are cramping.  And I’m tired of my current view.  So c’mon – lets go for it with God.  It’s going to be wild, it’s going to be great, and it’s going to be full of Him!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In Case the Cat Was Still in the Bag

Many of you who know me know I really enjoy the writings of Jon Acuff, author of Stuff Christians Like (the blog and the book) and the upcoming (and highly recommended) Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job.

So today I thought I'd share a recent post from Jon's blog where he compiled -- based on readers' votes -- the top 10 posts from Stuff Christians Like.  Feel free to click on the link and take an often funny (and sometimes serious) look at this journey we're all on.  I'm tickled to point out my two favourite posts made the top two spots!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Content (But Not Complacent)

In what was perhaps not the wisest of moves, I went to sleep last night struggling a bit with remembrances of missed opportunities and wonderings as to whether or not certain ships truly have sailed away for good.  I know, I know – I’ve been trying to put such things to rest for a while now, but my brain is not an Etch-a-Sketch.  I cannot give it a really good shake and have all those things disappear, never to be heard from again. And it feels a tad more difficult ‘to let bygones be bygones’ when I get caught up in thinking I’m surrounded by people whose lives are moving forward whereas I keep tripping over the same stones time and again.  But I’m not privy to all their struggles and questions and fights, so who am I to say I’m alone in these struggles?  I know, even though I lose sight of it sometimes, I am not alone.

So I’ve been fighting a little bit of the blues this morning.  But as I’ve seen my husband off to work and taken care of a few non-writing things, I have (however slowly and repeatedly) cast my cares on the One who cares for me.  The Message expresses it beautifully:

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs.
God’s strong hand is on you;
he’ll promote you at the right time.
Live carefree before God;
he is most careful with you.
~1 Peter 5:6-7

And as I give my head a shake, take a deep breath, and make the conscious decision (and effort) to keep moving forward, I rejoice in the One who made it all possible for me to have another fresh day with another fresh start. 

Oh, and a little ‘banjo music’ (my husband grows tired of it . . .) courtesy of “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons doesn’t hurt either. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Empty Tomb, Thankful Heart

This is how much God loved the world:
He gave his Son, his one and only Son.
 And this is why:
so that no one need be destroyed;
by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.
God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son
 merely to point an accusing finger,
telling the world how bad it was.
He came to help, to put the world right again.

~John 3: 16-17 (The Message)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Bit of Whimsy

“For everything there is a season,
A time for every activity under heaven.”
~Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Awhile ago a friend and I were sharing what music we were currently listening to and I, in all innocence, asked her if she had heard the song Fireflies by Owl City as I had (and still do) enjoy it.  To put it mildly, she had heard it a few too many times thanks to The Disney Channel repeatedly playing an ad using that very tune.  (She either wanted to punch someone in the teeth or the throat should she hear the song again.  O_o)

I was listening to the song again on my way home today after a busy day at work and thinking about how life can get so busy and hectic.  We’re running here and there, trying to sort through a million different things and figure out what’s a priority and what isn’t while wondering if we’re doing what really matters, what really counts in the light of eternity.  It can be easy to get bogged down with weighty issues and thoughts.  And I’m not saying any of that is bad.  No, it’s a good thing for me to make sure my priorities are in order, that I’m not being distracted from those things which do matter the most in the long run by what is ultimately frivolous fluff. 

But as my husband can attest to, sometimes I do need a bit of whimsy, something fun and fluffy to keep me from becoming too serious, too worried about this, that and the other. And I agree.  Everything has its season – work, rest, contemplation . . . and even some whimsical songs.  

Do Not Adjust Your Sets

Blog entry in progress . . . check back this evening . . .

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bits of the Picture

The clock is ticking, the cursor is blinking in my Word document, and I’m sorting through a few things (or trying to) as I sip at a cup of herbal tea.  So far, nothing has gelled into a cohesive entry.  And I don’t blame the lack of caffeine, as I normally don’t have my first cup until I start my office job after lunch.

No, it’s something simpler.

Today I decided for the first time in about a week and a half (not including weekends) to not get up early to write.  I didn’t prime the pump, as it were, and I’m sort of regretting it.  I don’t 100% regret it, mind you, as having a good night’s sleep was great (I’m still working on the getting to bed earlier bit) and I got a good number of things done this morning.  Brought the car in for an oil change, got some groceries, started some laundry, that sort of thing. 

But I do regret my later rising a bit.  Did I choose ‘happiness now’ over ‘happiness later’?  I would say so, yes.  At the same time, I’m sorting through some things I have been learning the past little while in church.  Things such as not pursuing happiness over pursuing truth, rekindling a hunger and desire for God and godly things, ways in which others and myself are intelligent (‘It’s not how intelligent are you,’ my notes read, ‘but how are you intelligent?’).  As such, I’m wondering for perhaps for the bazillionith time if I’m in God’s will or if I’m merely trying to get Him to bless my will.  But, thankfully, even with such questions bouncing around I’m not doing what I would normally do, which would be nothing or close to nothing while waiting for a TBD sign from the heavens as to what to do next.

Because I do know some things which I should never quit doing, thanks to the pastors and teachers I get to learn from on a regular basis – things such as seeking God, worshipping Him and talking to Him, reading my Bible, serving others.

And as Steven Furtick wrote in his April 14/11 blog entry, it’s often in the midst of doing those things we find the other answers we are looking for.  After all, Jesus called His disciples while they were busy in their ‘everyday’ tasks.  God came to talk to Gideon while he was threshing wheat, Elisha was plowing a field when Elijah found and began to disciple him. 

So who knows when God will reveal the next step to you and to me?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Further Musing or Two of an Uncaffeinated Mind

 If you don’t create change,
change will create you.

It’s interesting how when you start hearing about an idea or concept, you’re suddenly hearing about it everywhere and thinking about it a lot more.  Or how you can hear about something for probably years when suddenly it’s expressed in such a way that it clicks inside of you and you have your ‘Now I get it!” moment.  Or maybe you finally hear what’s being said properly, clearly and it’s like someone threw the switch in a previously dark room. 

Such things have been happening to me recently in regards to living life on purpose vs. simply letting life happen to me, as it were.  And some times my focus is where it ought to be, too, so I don’t become self-serving, where the temporary weights and struggles of self-discipline are borne with grace.  Other times I choose ‘happiness now’ over ‘happiness later’ only to later struggle beneath the much-heavier weight of regret. 

There are many things to weigh and consider and ponder, times of prayer and reflection and meditation and honesty that are required to take initiative and to live life in such a way that (as clichéd Gandhi’s words may be) we are the change we want to see in the world. It takes work and effort, it means getting back up and dusting ourselves off no matter how many times we fall.  But I do believe, in the end, we will find it to have been worth it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Not Stupid

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself – some Christian fiction drives me crazy.  I have read many stories about people who as soon as they decide to become Christians never make another wrong decision or do another stupid thing in their lives.  They are completely selfless, respond correctly in every situation, never complain, and are never frustrated about anything or anyone.  They never become distracted by the things in this world or snap at their spouse or children, bosses or coworkers.  They are martyrs and saints walking among us mere mortals, awing us all with their wisdom and grace.   


Now I don’t mean to belittle these authors or the characters they have created and the stories they have told.  Honestly, it’s good to have ideals and goals and a picture of how great things can be if we would all really do what the Bible says.  And for the most part, I have enjoyed reading these stories, even if I have felt inadequate in a few or several areas of my life when I’m done reading.  Because there are times, too, where I have honestly been spurred on to do better in my own life by the time I’ve reached the last page.

But I don’t think I’m wired to write such stories . . . or not very many of them at any rate.

And that has got me to thinking the story ideas I have bouncing around in my head, in my heart, aren’t all necessarily stupid, pointless bits of fluff.  That I can use them to encourage others and maybe make them laugh or go “Hey, I do that too!” Maybe I can make them think about something new or help them to see the part of God I was made to reflect.  And maybe even give them some time away from some hard (or simply ‘not great’) circumstances in their own lives via some silly fluff.  (I like to think of it as hot chocolate with whipped cream for the soul.)

We’re all wired in unique ways, with a combination of gifts, talents, abilities and interests no other person has in the exact same measure.  So rather than look at how we’re not measuring up to what someone else is doing, we (and I!) need to keep our focus on God, to go where He would lead us and to let Him use us – rough edges and all.  After all, Jesus didn’t pick twelve perfect men to be his followers.  One was a bit of a loudmouth, another was a thief and His betrayer, and two others were more concerned with getting good seats by Jesus in heaven. 

And this pattern is seen time and again in the Bible – Samson had a weakness for pretty ladies; David took another man’s wife; Moses insisted he could not do what God was asking him to do; Jonah literally tried to run away from the call of God; the apostle Paul, while he was still Saul, was very zealous for God but was missing the mark.  All imperfect people, all with dreams, and all used by God.

It’s like my pastor says – God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.  But here’s a footnote – He does use the uniqueness of each person to fulfill that calling as well.  David’s time as a shepherd gave him a unique perspective as a king.  Saul-then-Paul’s zealousness was a force to be reckoned with when he properly directed it.  And God can use our uniqueness, too.  He put it all in there, after all.  It’s not silly nor is it stupid.  The key, I think, is to not waste it or use it selfishly. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Priming the Pump

"You have to kind of prime the pump sometimes." -Bob Day

Yesterday I heard how in springtime (with its warmth and brightness and freshness) the temptation is to sit back and enjoy it, to go fishing or walking or biking, to simply do things that are fun.  But springtime is also a time where work needs to be done, where seeds need to be sown so there is a harvest in the fall.  So all play and no work at this time of year would be a most unwise route to take (as enticing as it may be after a grey, wet winter).

Too often I swing into the ‘play first, work later’ mentality that I was warned about.  I want all the easy stuff to come right now (or yesterday), to have the fruit of my labours without any labour.  And it’s not like I was raised that way; it is a bad habit I have gotten into and am working on getting out of. 

Part of the problem, I think, is too often we (because I can’t be the only one) look at work like this:  

We would prefer for it to look like this: 

I fell into the ‘American Gothic’ vision of work last week while longing for a ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ party when I got up early one morning to put in some work on a writing project or two.  Not much was accomplished.  As I wrote on a message board I’m a member of “. . . my brain was so confused by this action . . . [but] it was only the first day I’ve done this . . .”  Wah, wah, cue sad trumpet sound (even with the moment of clarity at the end).  Then a friend posted a response that I’ve been chewing on ever since:

You’ll get in a writing groove . . .  You’ll have to work that pump for awhile before the water will gush out.

In other words, I’m going to have to keep working at developing better work habits.  I’m going to have to see the opportunities, dressed as they are in overalls and looking like work (to loosely quote Thomas Edison), and, well, work to take advantage of them, even when it’s not all fun times full of happy tunes.  I have to not only sow seeds, but also tend to them so they can grow and produce a harvest.  In other words, I need to keep getting up early to work on writing projects so I can also clean my house before going to my job and spending time working on growing solid relationships with God, my husband, family and friends. 

Time to go work a pump or two (or three) some more. 

Friday, April 8, 2011


There's nothing like a good 'bazinga' (or three -- it's getting late and I have to hustle!) to get the morning going.  ;-)  Enjoy your Friday and the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Musing of an Uncaffeinated Mind

It’s 6:11 a.m. as I begin to type this, and I point it out for no great reason, other than to illustrate it really is on the early side and I really have not yet had any time for a cup of coffee.  I need to be at work in less than two hours, I still need to get ready for said work, and it would really be swell to eat a proper breakfast before tackling another day.

So why up so early when I can barely string a coherent sentence together and I had to look up how to spell ‘uncaffeinated’?

Because in order for me to get what I want, where I want, I need to become someone other than a snooze-button pusher who barely leaves myself the necessary time some mornings to get out the door in good time.

I need to learn the secret to being selfish . 

5:30 a.m., may we meet for real tomorrow (with some coffee).  

Monday, April 4, 2011

La-la-la! I Can't Hear You!

I know a man who once was told God wanted to heal him of his hurts.  “The Holy Spirit,” said the prophet visiting our church that day, “says you are a candidate for healing.”  And I remember being very excited for that man when I heard those words spoken to him.  But I later learned that is not what that man heard.  What he heard was this:

“You are bad.”  As in ‘stuff is wrong with you and it needs to be fixed, you bad person, you’. 

One person heard words of hope and help.  The other heard words of guilt and condemnation. 

Funny, eh?

Now before anyone (myself included) is tempted to run off and say how silly that is and possibly sad and how they would never do anything like that, I would caution you (and me) to plant the feet and zip the lips.  Then take an honest inventory of any time when you know the words you heard and the words that were actually said or truly implied by those words did not match up.

I was struggling with such words recently.  I heard good, honest words about how it’s better to read the Bible than fictional novels not as ‘God’s Word is life and health and good for you, so read it often!’ but as ‘you wanting to write fiction is stupid and a waste of time.’

Then, oh-so-self-centeredly, I heard words meant to encourage another as a discouragement to me.  “You’re not really smart,” I heard, “you only think you are, you show-off.”  (A bit of time and a chat with my husband helped me see I was really just being silly with that one.  And oh yeah – it’s not all about me, either.  Whew!)

The thing is it’s easy to say something to a room full of people and have each one hear something different.  As I’m learning and seeing, our respective circumstances, our experiences, our baggage, colours how we see and hear things.  It’s like the kid who had an ‘okay’ or a terrible or absolutely no relationship with his or her dad trying to understand exactly what God looks like as a good Father.  He or she may keep trying to approach God as the Father whose love they have to earn, not as the Father who stands, watching and waiting day after day for His wayward child to return home so He can hug him and kiss him and forgive him before having an amazing party (Luke 15:11-32).

We’re all thinking different things in our hearts (Proverbs 23:7, NKJ).  That we’re winners who are capable of much . . . or that we’re losers who will never amount to much.  Or maybe we think about how we’re loved by an amazing God . . . or we think we’ve disappointed Him too many times.   It could be we’re thinking our dreams are good and right and doable . . . or that they’re selfish and wrong and not worth much of anything. 

Come again, Chief?
And people can say all the best things, the most encouraging and right and true things, but we’re not hearing them.  Not really.  There’s too much static coming over the line.  But (thankfully, mercifully) God is patient, His Word is sure and true and He does not lie. I keep coming back to Jeremiah 29:11-15a, and with each reading it is etched deeper into my heart and gains more volume over the static of the noise that would try to convince me otherwise:

I know what I’m doing.  I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for
When you call on Me, when you come and pray to Me, I’ll listen.
When you come looking for Me, you’ll find Me.
Yes, when you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”  GOD’s Decree.
I’ll turn things around for you.
~ The Message (emphasis added)

Amen and amen.