Monday, June 30, 2008
God told me last year that I had 10 years to make myself mobile. I knew that part of that meant that I was suppose to get rid of my stuff. And let me tell you, I have a lot of stuff! But, I'm certainly tired of it. As I've been wandering around the house putting some of that stuff in boxes, I find that I simply don't care about it. Oh, there are some things that have been gifts to me from family and close friends. Those things still mean something, but the rest of it? Not at all.
So, I need boxes - not to pack for moving, but to pack for Goodwill. This is going to be awesome. Though I've heard others talk about the glory of moving so that they can purge the excess from their lives, I knew that for me, I just might die before I was able to do that on a regular basis. I was wrong. I'm going to live through this.
I look forward to being able to exist without thinking about dusting and looking at the stupid things in my life. I've opened drawers and found things that I haven't seen in years. In years! If it has been that long in my life, why in the world am I keeping it. Oh, for heaven's sake, Carol and I have a storage unit where we store more stuff from our past. That's going to be an ugly day in my life when we have to go through that as well.
I'm even going to purge books. One of these days I'm getting the Kindle and I hope to store as many books electronically as possible. Max and I think it would be great if we could get our entire lives down to a couple of computers and clothes plus essentials. Is it possible? Oh, sure it is. Will it happen soon? Doubtful. But, in 10 years? Well, if God is pushing me to get busy right now to start shedding the stuff - I guess in 10 years He will find a way to get me to shed the rest of it.
So really ... anyone want a Department 56 Christmas village? Alright, alright - I'll put it up on Craig's list unless I hear from you.
Bye bye stuff!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
We were planning to go out last night about 9:00, so I felt that a quick nap wouldn't be a bad idea. I lay down on the couch about 4:00, turned on NCIS and fell asleep with the fan blowing and the television on. I watched a little bit, drowsed in and out for awhile and the next thing I was aware of was wild winds. I opened my eyes to look at the clock and saw nothing. I tried to concentrate and realized that I didn't have any power. We had the front window open and poor Ichabod was sitting on the ottoman in front of the window. He looked at me with panic in his eyes and came dashing over to land on top of me.
I was still trying to make sense of the situation when Max came down the stairs. He was a bit shook up and shut the window for me. The two of us sat in the living room listening to the wind roaring around the house. As he watched it, he brought up memories of Hurricane Hugo when he lived in Charlotte, NC.
A few minutes later, the worst of it was over and within a short period of time, the clouds were breaking up and sun was coming through. We began to see the devastation that had happened around the neighborhood.
After a while, we decided to head to Carol's apartment. I hadn't been able to reach her, so I thought I might check on her. I tried her cell phone one more time while we were on the road. She answered. Hmmmm... the nut had left it in her car. She was fine and had power. Off we went to spend the evening with electricity and some entertainment.
Carol and I drove around a bit while foraging for supper. I'd never seen anything like it. Not only were trees uprooted but traffic lights were spun around, signs were destroyed, debris was everywhere.
At 10:30, Max and I came home to sleep in our own beds. It was a strange sight looking over the city of Omaha and seeing only darkness. There were pockets of lights, but it all felt quite eerie. Streets were blocked off because of downed trees and I began to wonder if we were going to be able to get back to our home. We turned south on our street and as we drove, it began to feel as if we were in what I can only call a war zone. A few scattered homes had lights on, but there was debris all over, trees were down, street lights were off, traffic lights weren't working.
Once inside, we lit candles and turned on the radio. It was nice to have sounds from the outside world coming into our home. I fell asleep on the couch. Sounds began to happen at some point and woke me up. I had turned off a lot of the things downstairs, but didn't turn the power off to the cable box. I shook myself awake again and realized that the power was back on and by golly, the cable was on as well!
Max experienced a hurricane when in Charlotte. Three straight hours of those high winds. We saw it for just a few minutes. I have a new appreciation for the power of nature. We were without power for a short period of time, it could have been much worse. Thank you God for being with us through it all.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Movies that take my thoughts out of a life lived in central Omaha.
Given a chance, my mind loves to soar beyond the limitations that life places on me. I see communities on planets far away, I see excitement in the alley ways of cities I've never been to. I see villains and monsters, vampires and dragons, murder and thievery. But bec ause of the life that I lead, I always see hope.
I develop characters and scenes in my mind. Sometimes I get them written down - sometimes they just play there until I can process on how they might fit into a story.
Fiction is a joy. It allows the mind to think in bigger pictures than the commonness of every day life. It causes us to see big ideas in small chunks so that we can absorb them into our being. Science fiction has given ideas to inventors and scientists.
Today my mind is flying ... I wonder where I'll go!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
When my sister in law, Janet moved out here several years ago, she moved from Colorado. Their first summer here, she just got mad all the time when she would find glasses of ice water dripping on her furniture. She simply did not want to accept that summer in Omaha was different than summer in Colorado where there was no humidity. She bought a lot of coasters that summer and over the years has finally grown to accept it like the rest of us have. I don't like it much either, but it's what I have to live with.
I was looking through my Bible today for a passage about service. One of the passages that I came across was from Matthew 10. Ok, that one's beside the point, too. As I was reading through the entire passage, though, I came to the end of it ... Matthew 10:42. "And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
When Jesus met with the woman from Samaria, he asked her for a cool drink of water. It was right there in the well, waiting to be drawn and offered to him. It was a gift she could give freely.
I love water. Years ago, I dated a young man who was doing a fellowship at Stanford while studying hydrodynamics. We talked a lot about water. I began to consider the power of water. It really is incredible. We've seen its destruction in the midwest as enormous amounts of water moved with power that isn't often seen.
There used to be a saw mill in the Boone River not far from our cabin. The movement of the water turned the mill wheel. Powerful.
Water dilutes, water is a solvent, water hydrates. All life requires water. Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization because humanity congregated near water - near the Tigris and Euphrates.
When I turn on the water flow in the kitchen, I've been known to stare at it and simply thank God for this gift. It washes the grime from my hands, yet the same water quenches my thirst. It cleans the dishes and I use it to boil noodles.
I take water for granted sometimes, but Jesus didn't. He knew that cool water would nourish thirsty travelers who had been walking dusty roads. At the end of all of it, though, he offered living water. That would quench a thirst that we might not even recognize.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I'm training my cat, Ichabod. When I lie down on the couch, he generally lies on my chest and gets close to my face. If I don't pay attention to him, he'll take one paw and gently brush my cheek. It's kind of cute. So, I've decided that since I like it when he does that, I'm not going to touch him until he puts his paw on my face. He touches me, I pet him. He pulls his paw back, I stop. He is learning to leave his paw there so that I will love him and stroke him. It's adorable.
My animals do a pretty good job of explaining our relationship with God. When I'm afraid I leap into God's arms. I have no idea what all of the crashing and banging is about, but I know that it frightens me. I need to be comforted by something bigger than me, someone who understands what the big picture is and isn't afraid of it. I know that a thunderstorm isn't going to hurt us, it's just a lot of loud noise that will pass in a short time. God knows that the things I am afraid of won't hurt me in the long run. It's generally just a lot of loud noise that will pass in a short time. So, He can comfort me and assure me when I'm shivering in fear.
Psalm 27 is awesome:
The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? (vs. 1)
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek,
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple.
For in the days of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock. (vs. 4-5)
As for Ichabod? I like thinking about God playing games with me. Waiting for me to reach out and touch Him so that He can caress me. He doesn't hold back for any reason other than to engage in the game with me. We're having fun, we're enjoying each other. We laugh for awhile at the game and then when it's over ... I can rest in His arms ... where I'm safe.
It's a great place to be. I like the peace and safety.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I love technology. But I find that I begin to rely on it and when it fails, I'm frustrated. I wasn't frustrated before I had it ... so, why do I get frustrated now?
I will never know enough to satiate my desire for knowledge. I certainly don't mind the hunt for knowledge, but when I realize that there are areas of learning that I didn't even realize I was missing out on, it traumatizes me!
Mysticism and superstitions are fascinating, but sometimes I'm too grounded in the real to allow those things to bubble up in my thoughts.
Truth should be unyielding, but it seems to be different things to different people.
I've been hearing and reading too much about how busyness has the effects of a drug. We are addicted to it and can't learn to slow ourselves down. That makes me feel better about my decision to stop the insanity. Now, if I can just translate that into reality.
I spend time thinking about how I can do 'thus and so' when I have completed 'this and that.' It's time to just figure out how to do what I want really want to do - without waiting for things to fall into place.
I could never be a dog. Though Leica loves her life - sleeping in the sun, crawling under covers, chasing rabbits, snuggling with us - I couldn't be like that. I want to fill my mind with all sorts of nonsense.
I didn't realize how much of a hermit I really am. The fact that I don't mind having my husband upstairs on video chat with me downstairs tells me something about that.
The television has been off for several days and it's been pretty cool. A lot more music, a lot more words on paper.
George Carlin died yesterday. Memory: My first boyfriend ... whoops, second boyfriend. 1972. Settee in my living room. He brought the raunchy comedic records. We sat on that settee holding hands while he introduced me to Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words," Cheech and Chong and a little Bill Cosby. I was pretty sheltered from that stuff.
Those are the things that stand out in my mind from today's thought processes. I don't need to share everything - there are some things you just don't need to know. Trust me.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I started reading fiction again. I'm in the middle of "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova. It's been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years. I've had no time to read this. The book is messing with my dreams. It deals with the history of Dracula. Vlad the Impaler. Whether or not you believe he is a vampire, that man was quite evil. Just thinking about the various ways he murdered thousands of people is enough to disturb anyone's dreams. I have a very vivid imagination and I've had to stop myself from visualizing some of the descriptions she offers. However, it doesn't stop my subconscious from retelling the story in my dreams. Wow. Good book.
I've been so far away from bookstores lately, that I've completely missed a reading phenomenom. The series "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer seems to be taking the world by storm and I've missed it. You know I hate to miss anything! Looks like that will be next on my reading list.
Max and I set up a new communication source this weekend. I can video chat with my family! You can too. oovoo.com has a fabulous video chat client. It's free if you only want to chat with two others, and it looks to be pretty inexpensive to add up to 5 others to the chat. So, I stayed up late last night chatting with Matthew and this morning he set my sister up as well. I was able to talk to her a couple of times today. Heck we'd normally talk on the phone, but this way we can see each other and show each other things we're working on. No, it's not as hands free as a cell phone, but as long as we're working at the computer - it's cool. And of course we can still hear each other if we're out of eye-shot. Pretty awesome.
As for vegging. I haven't actually watched much television. It's been the book and me on the couch unless I'm online typing the deep and the trite.
A friend had told me I needed to write a vampire novel from the perspective of a Christian. I have absolutely no idea how that is possible. Contemporary literature treats vampires as misunderstood or incredibly evil. How do you give the undead a soul? I've been processing on this for a few weeks and I have no answer yet. It would make a great novel if I could figure it out. I'm not giving up, though. It makes for terrific mind-wandering exploration.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
A friend asked what my plans were for the day. Well, let's see. I've got music playing - lots of 70s/80s rock: Journey, Foreigner, Foghat, YES, Styx, Queen, B52s, Supertramp, ELO, Three Dog Night, Doobie Brothers, Moody Blues, Traffic, Phil Collins, Toto, Stray Cats, Heart, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Boston. That's the playlist for the day - on random. And it's loud!
I have some books I want to read, I'll start cleaning and puttering around the house, I'll make dinner tonight, and I just want to 'not concentrate' on anything so my brain can randomly start pulling thoughts together. I'll need to keep a notepad handy for that process.
BTW, anyone want my Department 56 Christmas Village collection? It needs a good home. (hehe - no, I'm not kidding).
Friday, June 20, 2008
Jim laughed at me. The idea of working until 3 am is not appealing to him. He likes to wake up at 5 am and get to work. You know, it's so weird. When we were growing up, Jim was always in bed early. Mom never really had to argue with him to get him to bed by 8 pm. When we go over to his house for holidays, by 10:00, Jim has turned into a pumpkin. He quits talking and pretty soon, doesn't even say goodnight, but goes to bed.
If I'm foolish enough to sleep on their couch, I am awakened at 6:00 or so when he can stand it no longer and heads to the kitchen to start working on breakfast. Most mornings, though, he's polite enough to head to his office and work on stuff until 7:30. At that point, we're all fair game.
The first Christmas in their new house - maybe 6 or 7 years ago, Max and I showed up really late on Christmas eve after doing services at church. Matthew was still pretty young and was quite excited. He had stayed up waiting for us to pull in and we did - about 1:30 in the morning. We unloaded the gifts and Max headed downstairs to find a bed to crash on. Matthew and I hung out in a couple of recliners they had upstairs. We tried and tried and tried to go to sleep. But, no such luck. He was so excited, he couldn't shut up! It had been a lot of years since I'd pulled an all-nighter and I was very thankful that Christmas came early that year. I definitely had a nap.
I am not a morning person. In one of my first jobs, I had to be at work at 8:30. I was pretty young and was working as a Christian Ed and Music Director at Spencer Grace UMC in Iowa. The rest of the staff finally figured it out that I was useless until 9:00. So, I took my mail (this was long before email) and a soda into the my office and no one bothered me.
Mom used to argue with me about it. She told me that if I was awake, I needed to be pleasant. I informed her that it wasn't my choice to be awake. That didn't go over well. I learned to be much more pleasant. At least on the outside.
For the last 6 months I've had to be at work by 7:00 am - Max and I are at one vehicle and he needed to be at work by 7:30. The only good thing about that was the amount of work I could get done before anyone else got to the office and the fact that I had at least an hour by myself so I had an hour to get nice before I had to talk to anyone.
Tomorrow morning? I'm not getting up. And I'm not getting up early any day this next week. I have a lot to do around the house, but I'm going to do it in my own time. This is going to be awesome!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I've been thinking a lot this evening about trust, honesty, chivalry, integrity, honor ... things like that. While I recognize that these things are missing in most relationships that we have these days, they are virtues that we yearn for - in our leadership, in close relationships, in ourselves.
There have been a lot of articles, blogs, stories, etc. regarding Christian leaders and their lack of moral fortitude and in the last few months I think this has overwhelmed me. It's not even the obvious things like pornography, sexual misconduct, embezzlement. It's things like gossip and lying, political plays and sweet words that don't mean a thing because there is nothing to back them up.
I have been having a lot of difficulty in figuring out who to trust. I grew up with a father whose word was his bond. What dad said was his reality. He had a backbone that was straight and strong. I trusted him. Especially as the leader of the churches that he pastored. He engendered trust immediately with the people around him and he never failed them. And that makes me a little emotional because that is the last pastor I've ever felt that I could believe in.
Dad preached against alcohol use and never drank. He preached against immorality and was faithful to my mom and after she died, to his second wife. He preached about financial responsibility and brought churches from near decimation to a healthy budget. He preached about giving and had over 20 different charities that he supported as well as tithing (not just giving) to his local church. He preached about service and went out of his way to help people around him, whether they went to his church or not. Dad was willing to live up to the standards that he set before his congregation and his family. He never gossiped about people within the community - except maybe with mom, but it was always out of earshot of us kids. We had no idea. He didn't allow a critical person to run another into the ground, he stood up for what he believed was right, with little regard to his reputation.
This man made it very difficult for me to become part of other churches and other ministries. He made me believe in the role of the pastor. And he made me believe that this role was so very important that only a very honorable man should be doing it. He didn't think it should be easy and he didn't think that any person could do it.
It has been painful to watch Christian leaders around the country fall apart morally. We question who to trust.
One of the first pastors I worked under after Dad moved away shocked me the first week I sat in the front of the congregation with him. He began pointing people out and telling me terrible things about them. He probably thought that it would flatter me - being taken into his confidence. He didn't know me well enough to do that and it shook me up. I knew that I couldn't trust him.
Then there was the pastor that left our congregation and within a few months of being in a higher position began having an affair. Rather than admitting his problem, he became belligerent and left his family. How could I trust him.
A pastor decided to personally attack me - a volunteer within his congregation - and tried to destroy me. The wounds from that took a long time to heal. I'll never trust him.
A pastor that followed Dad was so weak-willed that the church ran him around until he and his wife were forced to leave. I stayed for the first year of his ministry there and had to leave - it was too painful to watch.
A pastor in a large church here in Omaha that I had a lot of respect for has allowed his ego to overtake his ministry and has split his church.
So in my frustration I find myself wondering where God is going to place me. I'm not in any hurry, but I really don't know who to trust anymore for spiritual leadership. Who has the strength to stand up for everything they know is right - no matter the repercussions? Is there someone that places God before everything else? Will I ever see honor, integrity and honesty again? Will I recognize it when I see it?
Monday, June 16, 2008
When I was very young, my mom taught me our telephone number and I can still remember that thing! (868-7817).
Yet I find it impossible to memorize scripture.
I have more telephone numbers in my memory than any one woman should. With the advent of cell phones with memory, I have fewer and fewer contemporary numbers, but old ones? Still got 'em. Credit card numbers from my past? Still there.
Yet I find it impossible to memorize scripture.
When I was in high school and had to participate in piano contests, I had to memorize my music. I would get it memorized and then be able to play the piece while reading a novel at the piano.
Yet I find it impossible to memorize scripture.
So what's the deal? I spend more time in the Bible than I do any other book. I have been working on memorizing scripture most of my life and yet ... I fail.
I have tried so many different types of Bible memorization. You have no idea.
This really frustrates me.
So, I just threw the string in the trash can. It was annoying me. Kind of taunting me that I can remember the simple things and yet the one thing that I desire to remember more than anything ... not happening.
I have weird things in my brain. I can't make them go away. I don't think I've achieved the limitations of memory storage in my brain.
Alright ... back at it: "In the beginning was the Word ..."
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I still have commitments that make me get up in the morning - at least for another week, so I refused to give my brain permission to connect with the fingers (typing at a keyboard or writing on a pad). Silly me. I thought I could win! Alas, the brain won and I just didn't sleep.
I find myself regressing to a younger age when I had the freedom and the energy to stay up late. This actually makes me happy. I love it! The house is quiet. I get no phone calls and no one bothers me. The dog and the husband are snuggled under blankets, the only sound is my fingers clicking away on a keyboard, the only light is from my monitor.
When you are up at those odd hours ... check Facebook. I might have it open and we can chat.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
With this quiet time, I began to get emotional about the losses I am facing. Daily interaction with friends, singing with the praise band, impacting a specific place in a positive way (my church).
You have to understand how much I rely on God to speak to me and guide me. I don't do much without assurances that He is guiding me. I know that for many people this makes complete sense and for others, it's much easier to question me about this than accept it. I'm fine with that either way. But, here it is. Peace comes when I trust God.
This morning as I was thinking through all of these losses, I began to understand what He has been saying to me more and more: "What you have experienced is nothing in comparison to what you will experience."
So often we try to replicate the good things of the past, to remind ourselves of the feelings and sensations surrounding those good things. We spend so much time with that we miss the excitement of new experiences.
This morning Max purchased a new mouse and mousepad for me. My mouse was working ok, but he knew that I was dealing with 'slowness of mouse' and that if I made a change I would be much happier. Oh my! I can't believe it. I didn't realize that I was crawling along with a muddy feeling mouse. I'm gliding around now ... what a joy!
As a Methodist pastor's daughter, I learned about change at an early age. Every 4-6 years we moved. We moved away from friends, from schools, from all that we were comfortable with. We would weep and grieve for the things that we were leaving behind, but I learned to look ahead with excitement. I would meet more people, make new friends, have chances available to me that weren't there in the past, yet have the foundation of all that I had learned in my past.
I'm really going to miss leading worship on Sunday mornings, being a part of a fellowship that was growing with the praise band. I'm going to miss hanging out with my friends every day. I'm going to miss the small groups that I was a part of. I'll probably get emotional about it every once in awhile.
I don't want to sit still when God says 'go.' I don't want to move when He says 'stop.' What I want to do is be sensitive to Him guiding me ... moment by moment.
I want to experience the fullness of a life well-lived in His will. Which means I don't try to return to the things of the past ... but look forward with excitement to where we go next.
I just read those words on Israel Houghton's Twitter. They stopped me.
The images in my mind were of me on a mad dash through my day - flames coming out of my heels as I ran through all I had to do. Goodness and mercy ... and all of the other blessings that God tries to rain down on me were barely keeping up. I would duck and cover, darting here and there. Always avoiding the touch of God because I was intent on doing things my way. I can't slow down enough to fully embrace all that He is offering me.
Until about 5 years ago, I had never heard of the Desert Fathers, monastics that lived in the desert of Egypt beginning in the 3rd Century. That's weird for me, because I search out information regarding spirituality, church history, etc. How did I miss this? But, since the first time I heard a passing reference to this group of people it has become increasingly important for me to learn about them - their teachings and experiences.
I don't want the ascetic lifestyle. I don't believe that God is calling me to that. And if He is, He needs to speak a lot louder than He is right now. But, I'm not at all surprised that He might be calling me to the life of a hermit. For heaven's sake, my family has long believed that is what I want to be. But, my lifestyle and choice of activities has forbade it. I fill up every evening with activities, I am on the go during the week from 7 am - 10 pm. Thank goodness I never had children. I wouldn't have had time to raise them.
If I weren't married to Max and if I didn't need to support our family, I'm afraid that I could easily become a true hermit. I'd give anything to move to our cabin at Bell's Dell, surround myself with my books and animals and just allow God to fill me moment by moment.
So, I've quit my job. Within a few days I will spend time in my home alone during the day. I am finally able to cease activities that draw me into the busyness of life. I find that I have to quit nearly everything. Even as I quit my job, people wanted me to continue the activities at church. I know myself well enough - once I get involved in one activity, it leads to another and another and before I know it I'm doing as much as I have in the past.
STOP Diane! It's time to let goodness and mercy catch up.
Friday, June 13, 2008
And I find that I'm stunned to silence as I look at photographs of downtown Cedar Rapids. Coe College is evacuated. I graduated from there in 1981. Carol graduated from there in 1984. Many of my college friend still live there. That was the one city in Iowa that I would love to return to and live.
Iowa City. I talked to an aunt who lives in Coralville. She's fine. The city isn't. My grandfather lived there for several years in the 1970s. In fact, though we lived in small communities around there, Iowa City was where we did everything. Carol and I would drive back there from Omaha and we could sense the excitement of the city as we gassed up in Coralville. It just has a completely different feel to it than Omaha does. The river isn't expected to crest for several more days. Students are pulling books to higher levels in the library, businesses are closed, people are leaving.
Rivers are at 30 feet, when flood level is 12 feet. I can hardly even imagine that much water flowing. I look at the photographs online and wonder 'how can this be'?
Isn't it interesting to consider that nature is a more powerful force than man. We try to tame the earth and force it to bend to our will, yet the unpredictability of it overwhelms and stuns us.
I am thankful that more lives haven't been lost and hurt for those that have. I am so sorry that possessions and things have been lost to people that have no idea how they will continue. I pray for my friends and family and for the many workers that are trying to keep people safe and will bring the infrastructure back after it has been devastated.
Today, all I can do is pray. Tomorrow ... we'll see.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Have you ever ironed out a piece of foil? I remember doing it with gum wrappers when I was younger. Just keep rubbing across it until it is completely smooth. I tend to do the same thing to my Dove wrappers and several weeks ago, I watched my brother do it as well. Hmmm ... it must be another addicting habit.
Tonight, one of the messages in a piece of chocolate was "Find your passion." What is your passion? The second was "Make a list of your dreams."
I thought about those two things for awhile. I'm in the midst of changes in my life. While these changes may seem that they are being directed by outside forces, in reality, my passion and dreams are driving me.
My list of dreams?
1. Spend innumerable hours with God.
2. Learn all I can about His Word.
3. Write down and translate what I can about His Word for others.
4. Discover ways that I can tell the world about my passion for God's Word.
I know that these may seem unreal, but I find that I am more and more passionate about making God's Word easily accessible and understandable to people who have never spent time reading it.
We have been given words from the Creator of the Universe! And yet, we ignore them. We are too busy and then, we find that we are too ignorant of the power that can be found within Scripture.
I've spent many years discovering my passion and dreams. I am finally confident that I am beginning to move within them.
What about you? Have you ever made a list of your dreams? Not your dreams for your children or friends, but dreams for you ... what is your passion? Thank heavens God has given us all different passions and dreams ... this will make for an amazing and exciting world!
Sunday, June 08, 2008
The entire Bible is filled with promises of hope. And it is filled with stories of hope fulfilled.
Hope enabled Abraham to become the father of many nations.
Romans 4:18 says “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Hope enabled Noah to wait for the dove to return with a sprig of a tree.
Hope enabled Moses to lead his people from Egyptian captivity to a promised land filled with milk and honey.
Hope enabled Job to endure great suffering – more than any of us could imagine.
Hope enabled Hannah to leave her son, Samuel with Eli.
Hope enabled the Psalmists to write words of praise and voice their fears and despair.
Hope enabled the Israelites to trust in the prophets during their Babylonian captivity.
The hope of eternal life calls us beyond our day to day existence into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Our hope is based on trust in the God of Creation.
"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”
"Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word."
Hope comes from a place deep within us. It isn’t born of prosperity or success. We simply don’t need hope when those things rule our lives.
“…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Keep listening to Paul’s words from Romans,
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly (by the way, that’s you and me). Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
Our hope is based on trust in the God of Creation. A God who sent His Son to die for us, to redeem our lives, to cleanse us so that we will be allowed into the very throne room of the Creator.
One more thought from Paul to the Romans
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation, for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18-20)
You see, God’s will is that we are liberated from bondage to decay. Our bodies are decaying, we are bound to that while we still live on this earth. We can’t escape it while we are here. Paul tells us that this life is nothing in comparison to the glorious freedom that God offers us beyond what we know right now.
Hope takes us from day to day. But even more so, hope draws us across the boundaries of life to take us from our present sufferings to the glory that will be revealed in us when we stand in the throne room.
The most profound memory of that hospital stay for me was of my parents kneeling at my bed praying. They alternated in my room, but that first night, both of them were on their knees praying beside me as the nurses came and went and as I tried to sleep.
They never despaired, they simply prayed. I didn’t die and as the doctors monitored my heart, they came back to my parents simply astounded. My heart was normal. After only 4 days, I was sent home with a prescription for digitalis and methods to bring the heart back to normal when it began beating too rapidly. Mom unintentionally scared the living daylights out of my teachers by telling them that if it were to happen in class, I needed to be taken to a quiet space so that I could calm myself and bring my heartbeat down. Every time I raised my hand to go to the bathroom, I was quickly escorted out of the room. It’s a good thing I was such a responsible child (no, I’m not being facetious). It never occurred to me to abuse the privileges I was given. Those were some terrified teachers!
The doctors told us that I would eventually grow out of the worst of it, but that it would be something I needed to watch for the rest of my life. By 6th grade, I was taken off digitalis and though I still deal with it once in awhile during times of great stress or intense exhaustion, it is no longer a threat to me.
The hope that my parents placed in God for my healing was answered in a glorious manner for them and for me. It’s one of the stories that we tell over and over as a celebration of God’s grace in my life.
There is no way to tell you that life is going to be perfect. If you continue to read through the Psalms, you see David dealing with things that aren’t specified, but are obviously painful to him. While things may not be handled according to our desires, as long as we trust in a God who gives us hope, we find that we get from one day to the next.
It is hard to accept that this life we know so intimately is just a flicker in the eternal life for which we are meant to live. We want everything to be perfect, or at least a bit easier for us while we live on this earth. We want our families and friends to be healthy and live good lives. We don’t want to see people in hardship and we certainly don’t want to face any of that ourselves. When we do, we allow despair to take over and we question God regarding His love for us.
We see only minutiae. Just a speck of the large picture. In our selfish minds, we expect God to make everything perfect for us – because it is all about us. If God doesn’t make it perfect, then we try to ensure our version of perfect.
If Job had never faced despair, he would never have known hope. If David had never sinned against the Lord, he never would have been known as a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ If Daniel hadn’t been captured by Nebuchadnezzar, he would never have been able to give his people visions of hope for the future. If Jeremiah had not been called to minister to a people in captivity, he would never have given us these words,
“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.’” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
I love the order of events in that passage. Listen to it again – just this part.
“I know the plans I have for you – plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God plans to give us hope and a future. And then, he says.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you and will bring you back from captivity.”
See, God gives us hope first. When we’re at our lowest point and we call out to him, we’re doing so because we have hope. We hope that He will take us from the point of despair to a place where we see our future again.
For most of us, we have to be at that point of despair before we shut our eyes and ears to the chaotic noises of success.
When my heart was beating rapidly, I had to get to a quiet, dark place so that I could concentrate on bringing my heartbeat back to normal. I had to shut out the noises of the world and take away visual stimulus.
When I despair and see no way possible for me to fix what is happening in my life, I have to get to a quiet place. Away from everything and then I hear from God. He promises me that he has my future well in hand. His plans for me don’t include harm.
God doesn’t give us hope after we call on Him. He gives us hope so that we can call on Him.
Nietzsche interpreted the story this way: Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man's torment.
Hope is ours to combat despair. Paul tells us in Hebrews 6:18-19 that “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Hope is an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
For many of us, hopelessness and despair were epitomized on April 20, 1999 when two young men began shooting their classmates at Columbine High School. As information came out about their lives and the torment that was happening inside their minds, it became clear that they knew nothing of hope.
The story could have ended at that point. But, this is where something amazing happens. That last little evil that Pandora released from her box shows up, even after the trauma and tragedy of that day. We began to hear stories of people like Rachel Green and Cassie Bernall, who believed in the hope of everlasting life. Families of other children have come forward throughout the years telling stories of hope through the tragedy.
While Job is in the middle of all his trauma, he offers these words, “Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may. Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands? Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this might turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him.” (Job 13:13-16)
Listen to the words of the Psalmist.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption, He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”
The words of the Psalms are filled with despair and hope. At the moment that David gets to the bottom-most point, he remembers the God who created him and is flooded with hope.
The first image that came to my mind when I read those words, “a living hope,” was of one of my favorite places on the earth. If I take you to our cabin in central Iowa, you will see life all around. Birds, deer, gorgeous trees, deep green grasses, tall, yellow-green field grasses, bugs flying everywhere, a river flowing and teeming with fish. The wildlife on that property is too numerous to count. We’ve seen raccoons and even wildcats. Wild turkey roams the area. The land is alive! Creation continues to explode there. We’ve tamed a small portion of the land so that we can have a living space, but the rest is wildly alive!
I want to read you a poem that my mother wrote in 1969 about this land. We purchased those 17 acres in 1964 and called it Bell’s Dell after the family that settled that area and whose name is the original name on the deed to the land. Right across the road is Bell’s Mill Park where there used to be a mill on the river. This is called “Benediction.”
Long years I thought of it and now
I have bought my garden;
I saw it, desired it, asked for it,
And gave the man some money for it.
It is my garden now, isn't it?
My mind answers yes, my soul, no!
I cannot own what is universal;
I cannot lay claim to ageless change;
I cannot buy the memories of other footsteps
Treading the same winding paths.
My garden is a meadow, a hill,
A river, trees, gooseberries, thistles,
The spring-popped morel, the dainty columbine,
The delicate warm breeze of summer
Laughing gently at my folly.
It is bugs, myriad swarms of clinging,
Flying, buzzing insects, sticking to my
Sweaty skin as I labor to trim,
Control, govern the lush new growth
Of a wanton spring.
But I cannot own these things.
Does one entrap the wind, command
It to gently soothe a hot, dusty face?
Does one really own free-flying birds
And deer who call my garden home?
I may live here, too, at peace with
The wild things whose roots stretch far
Deeper into this black dirt than mine. I am
Merely a guest, content to
Borrow the beauty of my garden.
The trees will grow here long after
I die. They will watch others till
My garden. The over-arching boughs of
The leaning walnut on the hillside gives
Its benediction to my garden.
Bell’s Dell is alive. Everything about it is alive. When I think of a ‘living hope,’ these are the images that flood my mind.
Max and I have a hilarious story of hope … or not. My stepmother is one of those people that annoys me terribly. We’ll start with that. A few Christmases ago, we just waited to see what she was going to give Max as a gift. In years past, he has seen things like an ‘angry bluebird’ suncatcher, or one year it was an Ansel Adams photography book that she received as a bonus for personally subscribing to the National Wildlife Federation.
He opened the package that she gave to him. I saw a strange smile come across his face and he held up a little devotional book that said, “Hope.” I looked at him and did my best not to giggle. It just became more and more obvious that she didn’t know who he was at all. He definitely doesn’t spend time reading small devotional books. But, there it was. We moved on through the morning with the family.
A bit later on, I was packing up the gifts and tossing out wrapping paper when I came upon the book. I opened it up and glanced through it. It wasn’t a yearly devotional book, but only had 260 entries. I giggled at Max. “You didn’t even get a full year of Hope!” We laughed out loud.
We got home that night and as I unpacked the gifts, I pulled the book out. I opened to the flyleaf and it was inscribed from her to both of us! I howled with laughter. “Max, you have to split your hope with me! Now you only get 130 days of hope!” More laughter.
Earlier this spring, I was purging my bookshelves and tossed the book out. Max watched me do it and said to me, “Now we have no more hope.”
No more hope.
Have you ever felt like that? You have done all that you could and now it’s over. There is no more hope.
I can’t tell you the number of times that despair – which is the opposite of hope – controlled me. When I owned Insty-Prints, there were days that I couldn’t imagine how I would ever have a life beyond what I was dealing with day in and day out. Trying to pay bills when I couldn’t get my clients to pay me. Getting work out on a tight deadline and the hours just seemed to continue to tick away. Fighting with employees that wanted to be paid, but not to work.
I would sit at my desk some days and imagine that suicide would certainly be a better option than what I was dealing with. But I never went any further than that in my imagination. Because down deep inside, I knew that there was hope. My soul is filled with it. Even in the darkest moments, I have confidence that I am not alone and that the One who walks with me is stronger than anything on earth.
The scripture I chose to use for this message is from I Peter 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.”
When I made the choice to follow Jesus Christ and accept Him as my Lord and Savior, He gave me new birth into a living hope. A living hope.
What was I thinking? My family wanted to spend time with me. Was I nuts? They're more important than anything else. Ok ... no writing occurred.
Last weekend I was alone. Max went to Kansas City with his buddy to hang out watching baseball games. I'm going to get this sermon done. Well, I spent all day Saturday starting a study that I've been wanting to write for awhile. Sunday was busy with church and other stuff and Max came home early. I got nothing done on it.
My week fell apart - more about that another day. No writing occurred.
Friday should have been a quiet day at work, but it wasn't. No writing occurred.
Friday night I got home and when I should have been writing, I was playing a stupid computer game called "Insaniquarium." I'll be honest with you. My brain couldn't have written a single word at that point. What I did have by this point was the title and the scripture passage that I was going to use. Whew! That really is the biggest thing for me.
I went to sleep at midnight Friday. This might seem early for me, except for one thing. I had to get up at 4:30 am to take my sister, Alison, Lynne and another friend to the airport for their mission trip to Belize. I shocked awake at 4:39 am, they were there at 4:42. I was out the door at 4:45. Back home by 5:30 and I was wide awake until 7:30. Working on the sermon? Ummm ... nope.
I slept until 10:15 when Max finally made me get up. I now have 6 1/2 hours to write and practice this sermon. Yes, I work better when I am under pressure. Max brought me breakfast, I swore to not allow myself to play the computer game until I was done and I opened my Bible and began to pray (not urgently yet, just for understanding and God's Word to open up to me).
Honestly, I was done with the sermon by 2:00 pm. I practiced it several times, Max went to Office Depot to buy some ink for the printer so that I could actually have a hard copy to work from and I headed to church. It was a good evening. I'm thankful that I am able to spend time with God as I process on things in His Word. Those are probably my best times of my days.
I was telling Max today that I really love God's Word. I deeply love it. I love teaching from it, I love studying it, I love understanding it and those moments when I see how He connects things from the Old to New Testament just put me on my knees! I could live without a lot of things, but I pray I never have to find out how to exist without my Bible.
I'm going to split my sermon up across the next few posts. God is so good to us. Hope is a gift from Him so that we can continue to live through the evils of this world.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
The only problem with that is as I read back through my blog entries, I discovered that all of the 'stuff' that has been in my head has not been made public at all. So, when I make life-changing decisions, I tend to startle all of the people around me and it seems as if I am making decisions with very short notice.
This is one of the hazards of being in my brain. I do tend to babble on and on about my life. There is very little in my life that is private. I will tell my friends and associates nearly everything. I complain, whine and make a lot of noise when I don't like the way things are going. I skip, jump and sing out loud when I'm happy. But, I process my internal life-stress alone. Sometimes I don't even let Max in on it. I've learned over the years that no one wants to really know that stuff about me, so I don't share too much.
I know that I handle things well. I can deal with most everything. One of the major reasons for that is that I know life is cyclical and within a short period of time the stress will be gone and life will have moved on.
So, as I process and I think, as I plot and I plan for my life ... sometimes I forget to bring people into the loop until the plans are underway and things are beginning to move. By the time I get to a point of movement, I am ready to quickly make decisions and changes.
Breathe easy ... I'm not making any big changes today. But, don't be surprised when they come. I won't be!
Monday, June 02, 2008
The thing I find most interesting is people's reactions to this rumbling. Those with a vested interest in me staying put question my motives and even the stirring. Those who have nothing to gain either way encourage me to explore outside the box.
Am I defined by my position? Am I more or less because of the job that I do? If I allow God to truly guide my life and it looks weird to the world, should I care? What if I disappoint my family and friends? Because things have always been the way that they are, does that mean that is the only way to do things?
And then the obvious questions: am I too old to make big changes? Can I afford to take less money so that I can have the freedom to pursue God?
The final question: what am I waiting for?
Sunday, June 01, 2008
I woke up late and did a lot of writing yesterday. It was a good day. But, this morning I got up to go to church and everything was 'off.' I didn't have donuts for the praise team - Max gets those, he wasn't there in the front pew enjoying praise and worship. I was just 'off.'
I don't know how couples handle one of the spouses traveling on a regular basis. I pretty much melt down! I suppose for some - it's good that they aren't together all the time, but for me - not so good. I texted him a few times during the morning - tried to call (his phone was turned off, argh) and decided to sleep the afternoon away.
I finally called Leonard's phone at 6:30 to tell Max to turn on his phone and he told me they were right here and I heard the car horn honk. They came home early! I was so excited I could hardly stand it! 1 1/2 hours later, Max was in bed - completely exhausted. He had a sunburn and had had some gastro-intestinal issues due to bad food, so he needed sleep. I'm ok with him not being in the same room with me ... he's in the house with me.
When he is gone, I do feel like part of me is missing. That 'off' feeling that I have is because one of the favorite parts of my life is not here. It's all better now. He's back.