Saturday, August 25, 2012

For Julie - Inside the Gate

A good friend passed away this week after a heroic battle with cancer. Julie was one of the kindest, sweetest and most cheerful people I have had the privilege of knowing. Her life illustrated Maya Angelou's well known quote: "People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel." Julie made you feel good.

She wasn't  famous, wasn't rich according to earthly standards, and only influenced a small circle of friends and family, but she made a difference. I can personally recall numerous times she went out of her way to make things easier for others. I rarely heard her complain, and when I picture her, I visualize her laughing. I can't recall seeing her when she wasn't cheerful.

Over the years God has granted me small glimpses of heaven, tiny peeks into what is waiting for us on the other side of this veil of tears, and it is beyond my capability to explain, except to say this: I want it, and I want it enough to change my willful habits and follow Julie's example of a Christian life.

I don't expect a mansion, like the one I know Julie has. A small cottage may be too much to expect, and even a studio apartment might be more than I deserve, however, if I can just get inside the gate and be reunited with Julie, and all my friends and family already there, it would be enough.  I don't even care if I have to stand with my back against the wall for all eternity, as long as I am inside the gate.

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice. Cherokee proverb.

You did, Julie, and we mourn your passing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to the Future

I wrote this post all most two years ago not realizing at the time the words of comfort and hope would be exactly what I would need in the future, touching my heart more profoundly at the time they were actually meant to be read. Of course, I didn't look into a crystal ball and foresee my future. It was God who knew I would need these words at this exact moment in my life, and He used me as His intstrument months in advance. I find that amazing, even though I know it is so like Him to do just that. 

Disappointment. After a year of working in a temp to hire position the company wide hiring freeze is still in effect. There is no estimate as to when it will be lifted.

I asked, prayed, should I look for another job? In this economy, I am very lucky to have this one. I do have a steady paycheck, not much else, but it is income. Many don’t have even that. Instead of being selfish, I need to be thankful. But, it is hard to accept the fact I will be in a state of limbo with the company for an indefinite period of time.

Shortly after my meeting with my supervisor, I found a small piece of paper stuck in my note book. Although it was my handwriting, I don’t remember recording the message. Neither do I remember seeing the note until that afternoon. It said: Isaiah 43: 2. I looked up the verse the moment I got home.

When you shall pass through the waters, I will be with you, and the rivers shall not cover you: when thou shall walk in the fire, thou shall not be burnt, and the flames shall not burn you.

This alludes back to my vision. During my life, I would walk through an inferno, not as a result of my sin, but as a natural part of my life. I stepped into the flames expecting a horrific blast of heat. Instead, His hand reached through the fire and grasped mine. As long as I held onto Him, my faith, the flames would never burn me and He would be waiting on the other side.

In addition to this, another of my devotions had this: This will result in your being witness to them. Luke 21:13.

Although God has given me a reason why this is happening, I am still fighting feelings of disappointment. In His goodness He went a step further this morning - He offered me hope.

As I considered my options, looking for another position, or hanging in where I am currently employed, I even thought of leaving the state and going back closer to my home town. Needing comfort, and guidance, I opened one my favorite devotions, God’s Little Lessons on Life for Women. I went directly to the section on encouragement. Psalm 37: 3-4 was one of those listed.

Trust in the Lord instead. Be kind and good to others; then you will live safely here in the land and prosper, feeding in safety. Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.

Coincidently, my current state of residency was oddly mentioned in a novel I was reading the day before my job review. In the past odd coincidences have often preceded an important message. In this case the coincidence referred to land – a precise place I was questioning whether to stay or leave.

But it didn’t stop there. Another devotion suggested we often waste a lot of time and energy focusing on our own circumstances - how we wish they were different - rather than concentrating on our faith and discerning what is God's will for us. Jesus' birth occurred in less than perfect circumstances and still resulted in our salvation, why can't good come from our imperfect situations?

I have God’s answer to my question. Now His question is, do I trust Him enough to believe?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I See A Patch of Sun

Remember the old adage, "Which do you want first? The good news or the bad news?" It appears my family was given the bad news first. 

As I wrote in an earlier post, Troubled Water, my family received devastating news a few weeks ago. As shocking and hurtful as that was it psychologically set us up for deeper rejoicing. Nothing like being literally snatched from the brink of a horrifying abyss to intensify your jubilation.

First, the doctor's believe my dad's cancer is very slow growing. He will most likely die of old age before the cancer ever becomes an issue. Second, although his vision is diminished from macular degeneration, exhaustive tests show it is not likely to progress any further. Even better, his opthamologist did not feel required to revoke my dad's driver's license. His vision remains sharp enough to continue driving in daylight hours. Being restricted from night driving is a small inconvenience compared to not driving at all, or going totally blind. We are rejoicing. 

As for my mother, they are reasonably sure her issues are not related to cancer, but to Ciliac disease. According to the disorder's website the disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. Essentially, the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten. The end result, if not treated, the victim literally starves to death. Diet is the only, and most effective, treatment. 

Blood tests confirm the diagnosis, and we should know for certain by next week. I n the meantime, Mother has already started the diet. Thankfully local grocery stores now carry an abundance of gluten free foods. We are tentatively rejoicing over this bit of news.

My job situation is unchanged, but it pales in comparison to the other issues, and there I must trust God. Matthew 17:20 was listed in my readings this morning:

If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible to you. 

Streams in the Desert quotes from the book of Habakkuk 3:17-18: Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in  God my savior. 

Added to this is a poem by Eben Eugen Rexford. The last verse: When the storm cloud darkens, it's the TIME to sing. 

And so, I am singing, maybe a little off key, but God doesn't mind. He hears the music as it comes straight from my heart.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Party Line

One of my devotions, Good Morning, Lord, by Joseph T. Sullivan talked about prayer. Infrequent prayer is a chore, as difficult as trying to chat with a stranger. Frequent prayer promotes familiarity. We are of course encouraged to pray daily. Some of us have on going conversations lasting for hours, sometimes days.

Thinking about all these conversations occurring around the world, all at the exact same time, conjured up the mental image of the old party lines. Users had to take turns, or some would never have the opportunity to use the service, and the opportunity - temptation - to listen in on other's conversations was always there. All one had to do was pick up the phone.

The Prayer Party Line has only one recipient. It is amazing to think about the zillions of conversations, pleadings, and thank yous going on all at once. That is multi-tasking to the infinite power (pun intended), and for me it is hard to imagine such power. I don't doubt it. I just don't fully understand it.

Scientist have proven we can't multi-task efficiently. Our brains are only wired to focus on one, maybe two   things at a time. Too much stimuli is overwhelming  so our brains efficiently filter out what isn't absolutely necessary, particularly to our survival. Studies actually included physically testing.

An executive who claimed he could out multi-task anyone, was placed in a car on an obstacle course and asked to talk on his cell phone while negotiating the course. He managed to keep up his conversation, but his driving suffered immensely. (We commuters could have told them the results of that test before they ever started.) Although multi-tasking may not be feasible, rapidly switching from one task to another is.As long our attention is focused on one or two things at at the same time.

And so the Prayer Party Line is an amazing feat. Not only does God hold zillions of conversations, perform miracles, He keeps the universe moving, and responds to each and every one of us intimately and personally - all simultaneously. Wow. It is mind boggling. And let's not even mention the Three in One. Can't wrap my mind around all of that, but that's okay. I don't need to in order to believe in His existence, and understanding isn't essential to having faith. In fact, faith is belief in things unseen.

That brings me to this week. When I read this passage from Jeremiah I felt the prophet's words echoing in my heart.

Why is my sorrow become perpetual, and my wound desperate so as to refuse to be healed? It is become to me as the falsehood of deceitful waters that cannot be trusted. Chapter 15: 18.

God answered Jeremiah's lament with a covenant to protect, to save and to deliver him while he walked upon this earth in the service of God's will.

After a moment's contemplation of the scripture, I paged on to the Psalms, then the Gospels. Desiring to re-read the covenant God made with Jeremiah, I turned back. My bible fell open to Jeremiah 42:10- 12.

If you will be quiet and remain in this land, I will build you up, and not pull you down: I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for now I am appeased for the evil that I have done to you. Fear not because of the King of Babylon [insert any fear], of whom you are greatly afraid: fear him  not, said the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. And I will show mercies to you and will take pity on you, and will cause you to dwell in your own land.

This promise/covenant was given to me once before during other trying times. At a moment when it appeared we would lose everything. Now, in other trying times, God is renewing this covenant with me, turning my current sorrows into hope.

So, I join the Party Line, praying and rejoicing, chatting and conversing with a God mighty enough to do the impossible, loving enough to talk to each one of us personally and intimately - and not just talk, but with love, compassionate and all encompassing. And the best part? The price and availability. There is always a line open, and all it costs is faith.