Saturday, February 25, 2012

Something of Value

Mark 9:33- 33:  And they came to Capharnaum. And when they were in the house, he asked them: What did you discuss on the way? But they they remained silent, for they had disputed amoung themselves, which of them should be the greatest.

The quote cut deep, revealing the source of most of my anxiety - my value. Like the Apostles, I am constantly comparing my value against others. Am I as good or better than he/she/them? If I am not, how can I make myself more valuable? The right answer is to be kind, considerate, and give a full, honest day's work regardless of what others do. The wrong answer, which is often much easier, is to criticise and put down;  boast, gloat, insult, or become defenisve. The other choice, one I am particularly prone to, is to withdraw and pull away, nuturing feelings of inadequacy and unworth. All unproductive and destructive.

Rather, I need to fall back on my Christian faith. Scripture teaches us we are all valued, not because of our appearance, our behavoir or our talents - because we are a Child of God, hand picked, invited to spend our entire lives and eternity with an all powerful God who chooses to be called, Father. Over and over He tells us how much he loves us, how much He values us. Even the hairs of our head are numbered.

This lesson wasn't enough. God went one step further. Streams in the Desert:  And then came a lion.  1 Samuel 17: 34. Yep, a lion, once again, the third instance lions were mentioned to me this week. After my last experience with lions (see Lions (Why I Write), I chose to pay attention, immediately.

In 1 Samuel 17:34,  David encounters a lion while herding his father's sheep. Rather than viewing the charging lion as an excuse to run and hide, David sees it as an opportunity to build his faith and trust in God, building his confidence to later face Goliath and eventually become king. The rude woman I encountered last week was my charging lion, challenging me to stand or run. This time I chose to stand with confidence and faith. I didn't really understand why at the time, but I do now.

God calls many of His most valued workers from the unknown multitude.  Streams in the Desert. We are valued even if we are not called to royalty like David, but work behind the scenes where no one but God notices. Only God witnessed my brave encounter with the rude woman, and only God notices my small, and I often believe, inconsequential contributions to the world, yet they are of value, and so am I - something of value.  Just as you are, just as the rude woman is. Neither has more, or less, value than the other.

I pray I can carry this knowledge out into the world and actually practice it in my work place, with my friends and family, and with the rude people I encounter. How about you? Do you feel valued?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Power of Silence

As a young girl I was independent, fiery, opinionated. I would argue with anyone, gleefully taking the opposite side just for the sake of argument. I did it my way or not at all, and life was pretty tough and lonely. Then, a light came on and I realized I needed to adjust my attitude. From this point in time I can't say what instigated this change, it wasn't one light filled moment as with St. Paul's conversion. It was more likley a series of small things.

This change, however, did not dampen my outspoken nature. I still held forth on certain topics, but in a more socially accepted manner, tempered with concerns for others' feelings and needs. Then I married my first husband, and keeping my tongue in check had a whole other meaning.

After seven years of abuse I kept silent not from a standpoint of strength, but from fear. Gradually the suppressed anger, resentment, and hurt built up like steam in a sealed pressure cooker, and when this pressure reached critical mass, the explosion took out the cooker and every one and every thing standing close by. This was followed by bouts of insomnia, panic attacks and nightmares. My physician recommended counseling.

My saint of a counslor pointed out the terrible price I paid for swallowing my anger and gave me several tools for dealing with it in a positive way. The biggest key to defusing my anger was forgiveness, forgiving my enemy rather than harboring the hurt and anger, dreaming of retribution. 

It was hard work to change this behavior. I struggled with balancing my need to deal with my anger and yet remain Christian in my attitude: being kind, patient and loving toward my enemies. This week God taught me a powerful lesson on this subject.

I encountered a woman professing to be Christian and yet she spoke with a viper's tongue.  I was tempted to make retorts to each one of her judgemental and hurtful comments, but something held my tongue in check. Instead, I answered her ugly comments with silence, not the silence of fear, but the silence of self-confidence, of being in the right and not needing validation. My response denied her the reaction she desired, and she walked away. 

There is a wise adage about how to discern when to speak and when to be silent.  It asks,  "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" The last question is the most helpful to me, giving me a guidline as to when to speak  (against injustices), and when to remain silent (in response to insults).

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Amen. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Will I Ever Learn?

The young mother stood beside her cart in the breezeway, texting. Her five year old son stared off into space, his resignation to his mother's addiction obvious.

I nudged Bill. "Isn't that shameful?"

My sweet husband said nothing. Believing he hadn't heard, I shrugged and followed him into the store.

The next morning my devotions included the story of Solomon's idolatry in the last years of his kingship. Listening to the pleas of his pagan wives, he built altars to their gods, and worshiped them. I shook my head. After all God had done for him, how could he do that?

I glanced at the clock. Yikes. I only had a half hour before I needed to shower and leave for work, and  I had 't yet checked my e-mails, logged into Facebook or Twitter, or posted on any of my favorite sites. I'd have just enough time if I hurried a little through the last two readings and skipped my morning coffee with Bill.

As I lifted my Bible to put it away, it fell open to Daniel 14: 42: Then the King said: Let all the inhabitants of the whole earth fear the God of Daniel: for He is the savior, working signs and wonders on earth: who delivered Daniel from the lions' den. 

I swallowed. The scripture cut deep. I had turned my back on the One who has worked signs and wonders in my life, the One who has saved me from the mouths of lions - more than once.  I had replaced Him with other idols, just like Solomon. They might not be made of gold, but I had placed them on an altar and spent most of my time kneeling before them.

It was in the excess I had erred. As with all things, there needed to be a balance, and the scales needed to be tipped toward God and my husband. A little organization and some will power would bring my life back into balance - time limits for the computer,  not for my devotions or my husband.  Oddly, I seem to have lost that sense of urgency I felt upon waking and carried with me all day. In its place is a deep sense of peace and contentment, a joy not rooted in my circumstances or To Do List. Imagaine that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wishing My Life Away

When I was still in school, I would start whining about mid-March, loudly wishing it were June and summer vacation. After one of my more long winded sessions, my dad put down his paper and looked at me.

"Marie, life passes quickly enough, don't wish it away."

I didn't understand what he meant at the time, but as I am now past my middle years and stepping into my senior ones, I can, and do, appreciate his wisdom. Yet, I still seem to always be wishing for something: the weekend, vacation, or the golden years of retirement. I believe I will be happier when those moments finally arrive, but will that be true?

I've had hard weekends that made work look easy, vacations from hell, and retirement has a whole slew of other challenges. Is right now so bad I need to wish it away? Better I fill up on today, this moment, this hour. It is a gift, this Present.

Thank You, Lord for this inspiration as I am already wishing the day to be half over, the surprise overtime done and over with, and my short weekend already beginning.  Only with Your strength can I live now - in this moment - looking for ways to serve You rather than feed my self-indulgences. It is true, those who serve find more happiness and contentment than those who only take. Lord, I ask you this day to give me a serving heart, to seek Your will over mine. Amen.