Saturday, February 28, 2009

What You Need to Know

There's something to be said for keeping some information close to your chest. I say that not referring to being overly private or snobbish but because I just watched the newer BBC version of Jane Austen's Persuasion, for the second time, and I noticed something for the first time.

Between sipping my vanilla ice cream and banana milkshake that my daughter made for us, and being wedged in between my husband and daughter and Harry, who was lying on my feet, I suddenly saw this issue in the movie- this sub theme having to do with what we know and what we don't know.

People, back then, had a certain decorum when it came to releasing information or news. There was a certain timing to when you shared things and how you released the news, and this was seen as a good thing. You didn't just announce to the world at large certain updates in your life. No, there was a certain timing for when you'd share with a larger audience what was going on in your life, what was going on in your heart, even.

This did cause certain problems though. In the case of Captain Wentworth and his undying love for Anne Elliot, because he was misinformed, "utterly misinformed" about his conclusion that she was going to marry her cousin, his hope for declaring his love to her (for the second time) was dashed to smithereens- for a brief moment. He was wrong about what he thought was going to happen because while nobody had announced Anne's engagement to her cousin, society had seen the signs of a pending union and had intimated that it was to take place.

Dashed hopes occur when you think you have no chance of something you long for. But you just might be misinformed about the situation. It seems to me that while God is not particularly known as as having a style of 19th century behavior, He does tend to keep certain information close to His chest, close to His heart. He doesn't just share any old thing with you, whenever you want to know it, for whatever reason you think you need to know it.

God discloses certain needed information to you at just the right time. The thing is, the Right Time is His time, and its not tied in with common societal expectations, social customs, or anything like that. For the most part, we have no idea about what motivates Him to share important information with us. We've heard He is motivated out of love to guide and help us and answer our prayers. But God is also a God of wisdom. Wisdom has to do with timing, strategy, insight, knowledge, perception, discretion...shall I go on?

How much insight and knowledge can we actually handle? Apparently we can handle little of it. We'd like to be worthy of God bending down and sharing secrets with us, but we may not be ready for God to share too many things with us. It could cause problems for us because we're not ready to know what God knows about us and what God knows about our future.

So I sipped my frothy banana shake last night and contemplated how God might just love me so much that He is telling me little. And when He does disclose certain needed information to me, He loves me that much too.

He always knows just what I can handle.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's in His Will

I'm not sure where I first heard the saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way" but I imagine it was something I heard from my parents or an older friend of the family. It's a true saying, I think. But it's a bit misleading.

Now that I have a son in college, and a teenage daughter, I have had plenty of practise dealing with wills. I have a strong will, myself- or at least my husband tells me that. For the most part, when you talk about someone's will, we tend to look at it in a negative light. I think Dobson had a book dealing with strong-willed children, and I think it sold a ton of copies.

Lately as I'm driving along doing errands and talking to God at the same time, I have not been aware of my will, that much, and yet I'm not pleading and begging, as much, for God to show me His will. I've had a bit of an epiphany in these last couple months. Finding God's will (which seems to me to be a strong will) is not all that hard. I've had so many No's and Closed Doors in the last year that it was clear what God's will wasn't. And so I started to conclude that while I didn't know exactly why he was closing certain doors, at least I knew that by not trying to push my way through those closed doors that I was in His will. It became less important to know what His exact, perfect will was and more important that I get it through my thick head what wasn't His will.

Here's my new outlook as Spring approaches: God has a way for me to go, it isn't all that hard to figure out what isn't the right way, and if I cooperate with God- through patience and an optimistic attitude toward the No's- I'll soon have and see all the Yes's I can handle. Because "... all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God by us" (2 Cor 1:20).
And that word "promise" refers to a divine assurance of good, a pledge.

The only reason why I would struggle with God's pledge to me- to treat me with grace and give me a hope and a future- is if I struggle with the underlying will of those promises. Is it God's will to give me open doors and grace and goodness? Is He quick to want good for me- or is He a God bent on hard times and hard knocks so that we will not get too hopeful for our own good?!

Oswald Chambers comments on this problem of understanding someone's will: "And beware of exhibiting religious deceit by saying, 'Oh, I have no misgivings about Jesus, only misgivings about myself.' If we are honest we will admit that we never have misigivings and doubts about ourselves, because we know exactly what we are capable or incapable of doing. But we do have misgivings about Jesus."

The misgiving we have has to do with: will He or won't He? We know He is capable of holding the world in His hands, but will He hold our own personal world upright and steady when it seems to be crumbling about us? Will He come to the rescue just in time or will He wait as long as He desires to let us stew in our mess or sink in our hole or languish in misery or freeze up in fear?

To believe in God's Almighty Power is to also believe in His power and will to give. He desires to help us. He wants to intervene. He's ready to assist. He has a strong healthy will- and that means that His will is linked to grace, and motivated by love, and fixed on restoration and redemption and release from bondage.

It's a good will. All the time. And that's what I love about Him. And that's what I'm thinking about today.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Just a Thought on a Cold Winter Day

This has been one heck of a winter: brutally cold, icy, stormy, windy, gray. Nobody I'm talking to is living it up in the winter time. What we're doing is surviving, making it through the winter. And I suppose that's okay. Sometimes its good to make it through a season of life and not necessarily love and enjoy the season you're in.

What I do love about right now is that Spring time is just ahead. Buy some yellow flowers at the store and plunk them on your counter and stare at them. Remember the color of Spring. Remember the feel of warm breezes. Or if you're living in a tropical environment, as you're reading this- send us some warm thoughts and lift up some heated prayers on our behalf!


Monday, February 16, 2009

Tough Times and Tenacious People

Yesterday at church there was a lady behind me warbling sweetly as we sang an old hymn that made me think of my Nana. My Nana could really sing. I remember her belting out that hymn through rosy lipsticked lips- the lower lip bearing a black mark from biting down on it all the time in worry.

She worried a lot. And she had her reasons. She had her challenges because of life with a man who had his particular challenges with alcohol. But by the time I was hanging around their house, as a child, my Papa wasn't drinking anymore. But the black mark on Nanas lip was still there.

I thought of all this while we were worshipping. Well, I was trying to worship. But my mind was wondering. I got thinking about the lineage I come from. Women with strong character, big problems, and plenty to deal with. My Mom battles depression. I have battled Fear and Anxiety. And when I say battle, I do mean battle.

Becoming lion-hearted while at the same time becoming a gentle lamb who can be led by God is no easy thing. We have to do our battling while we are staying tender hearted, and I haven't figured out how to do that perfectly yet.

But I have to say that I do feel fit for these times we are in. I think God has made us ready for whatever we face. It's a done deal, in a way- and yet we also ask Him to make us fit for battle, make us stout hearted and unafraid. And He does both. He already made a way for us, and He continues to make a way, blazing through tough uncharted territory- in our eyes- and planting vineyards in the middle of deserts.

Today I'm coloring my hair (it's long overdue) and I'm putting on some bright lipstick. At the same time, I've got my battle gear on. I'm all set for the wonder and the wild time that each day is.

It's good to be alive.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What I Know

Between painting the master bedroom and putting in new carpet (which is what my husband wanted to do when we first got ready to move into this house when we bought it over 3 years ago, and I, unwisely, wanted to rush to move in and told him "we can do it later"), our main floor of this house looks like a disaster.

I was thinking of taking photos and posting them here and then decided, why humiliate myself?! It's an absolute mess: dressers in the living room, the mattress and box spring standing up near the kitchen and who knows where my sock drawer is?! (My feet are cold).

The good news, though, is that I have this short time period where everything is a mess because it is soon going to be beautiful. So I'm not upset about the mess or really bothered by things. I know things have to be this way, for a very short bit, and then I know that things will be the opposite of this dismal chaotic mess I see. Things will be beautiful, shortly.

I wish we had these kind of clear timetables when it comes to God's will, the timing of things we hope for, the state of our prayers (unanswered? heard? in limbo?). What we all want to know is
Is everything going to be all right? And how soon before we get this (temporary) Everything is All Right feeling that lets us know we're okay, God's in control, the mess is in front of us- but it will all be well, shortly- even if our feet are, right now, very cold.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Decisions, Decisions.

Bill and I have some major decisions to make within the next couple months as well as some minor ones (such as: should I rejoin the Library's Friends, for a small fee, which gets me into the bi-annual book sales an hour early before the book dealers come in and ravage the place? And should I paint our bedroom a bright cheerful yellow - which I like the idea of - or go with a neutral boring cream color that settles you into a new day with a soothing nudge out of bed?)

President Obama is making some very big (very, very big) decisions, as well as some little ones, as well- although I think the little decisions have nothing to do with books and bedroom colors. Everyone I know has some kind of decision to make in the next twenty four hours- even if its just what they will eat or drink.

We're trying to get Harry to decide to drink water, again- from his bowl. He is refusing. And he can afford to refuse to drink the water from his bowl because there is still snow outside. That's what he is eating- and therefore drinking. Because we're on well water, his perceptive little snoot can detect any natural earthy tastes to the water, even though we treat the well water with a water treatment system. But that's not enough for Harry. He prefers snow to tepid, well water in his dog bowl. So that's what he'll have- but only for a couple more months. Then it will be back to well water in a bowl for him- like it or not.

There seems to be a time frame for most decisions we have to make. And I've lately been wondering if God has a type of time frame for some of the decisions He makes. I think a lot of His decisions dove tail with our decisions. That's not to say that God waits on us hand and foot to see what we'll decide. But there is a verse that talks about how the Lord longs to be gracious to us and that He even waits for us.

Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. (Is 30:18)

I wonder what God is waiting for? It says He is waiting on high to have compassion on us, but what is He waiting for? That word in Hebrew literally does mean to wait, to tarry. Could it be that we have a type of time frame for the decision we need to make regarding what God wants to give us? Decisions, decisions. But this decision is rather plain to figure out: will I receive what God wants to bestow on me?

This is like asking Harry if he would like a nice mouthful of fluffy white snow- or would he rather have that yucky well water. It's a clear decision for Harry. What refreshes us and what quenches our thirst is also well within our reach. God is reaching out to us. He's waiting.

We have a decision to make.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

What Would You Do Next?

I actually think I am getting younger. At least I feel like I am getting younger. This must be what it's like to let years of junk roll off you as you slip into a new skin that is fresh, soft- yet not so soft that it is tragically hurt all the time. There's a certain resiliency you need along with tenderness and compassion.

I've been watching the American Idol tryouts on television. Aside from the TV producer's need to focus in on strangely untalented people, there are times when they highlight someone with a real voice, with a real story of having to overcome to get where they are. These fresh new voices stir me. Their story stirs me. I tear up. Abby pokes me and says, "Mom, you're not crying, are you?" I am. I am often tearing up at someone who is stepping into the light and singing and shining. I feel excited for their future.

Call me sentimental. Or call me youthful. Cause that's what young people often feel: optimistic and hopeful and alive. I think us "old folk" can also feel this too- but we have to let the spring breezes of God flow into our lives for that to happen.

So if springtime were to come early this year- real early- and you were feeling full of hope and alive and young, what would you do next? Because it may be that while winter rages on and the ice has not melted, there are aspects of Spring that are touching us. God is Someone who is big on New Life. It's surging within us. And the bold and the crazy and the tender hearted children who know their heavenly Father are ready to frolic.