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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Got This

My husband travels for work.  Not only does he travel, he also works in another state, so his time at home is sporadic. 

We’ve fallen into a pattern, gotten used to our roles and the time spent apart.  Technology allows us to check in at any time, and even say hello in person.  We’ve made it work, and while it’s not ideal to be away from your family for any time period, and it’s not always convenient because having children and managing their needs and activities and not always having a partner there to see and touch and talk to in person is hard, and it’s a cruel joke that he calls at only the most inconvenient times every day – hello, world? 4-7 pm?  Just… NO. – it’s okay.  We can each say, about our own schedules and work requirements – I got this.  I can deal with this.  I’ve got a handle on this.

The biggest problem with him being away so much is that he does come home sometimes.  And when he comes home, he messes up the flow of things.  He comes from a place where he is in control of details and outcomes and enters a place where the details and outcomes are already being controlled by a rather fierce person who likes to have things her way. 

And he tries to exercise his control with varying results.

Problems occur because each of us is used to being in charge.  When we are home together, compromises are hard to come by.  He is a stubborn hard-nosed bossy decisive person who likes to be in charge everywhere he goes, and can be domineering.  At home, I push back with equal force.  After all, home is my workplace – I need it to run like I planned or everything falls apart.

Hands off.  I got this.  Move along, please.  I got this.  Leave me alone.  I got this.

Like I said: varying results.

How many times do we say “I got this” to God?  Do we say it outright, or do we just attempt to juggle all the balls until they fall to the ground?  How much do we forget that God is in charge in our daily lives, of every outcome, of the entire universe?  How many times do we have to fail at being in charge before we get it?

God is so in charge.

No matter what we accomplish, what we have planned, what we think we have or want or are working for – God has his hand in it.   If you’re a control freak this is alarming.  Not knowing what is coming is unnerving.  If we are anxious about the unknown we may try to line up our lives so that all the pieces appear to be in place, as if our order is above what God wants for us.  We say: It’s okay, God.  I got this.

The trouble is that we overlook that God wants what is best for us.  We don’t see outside our own constructs to understand God’s goodness and mighty hand in our lives.  We forget about his grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  We ignore his truth and try to organize everything so it’s at our arm’s length instead of handing it over to him.  We miss opportunities to grow closer to him and learn to live like Jesus and be blessed beyond anything we can build for ourselves, beyond anything we can imagine.

His creation, plan, and all the details are made for perfection.  No matter what we may think or ordain, if it’s not aligned with what God wants, our plans will fall apart.  Our results do not vary.  We fail.  Every time.

When we put our trust in God, we can be sure that it is in good hands.  He won’t fail us.

He’s got this.

*******


 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
    he puts the deep into storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him.

For he spoke, and it came to be;
    he commanded, and it stood firm.

The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
    he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
    the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people he chose for his inheritance.

From heaven the Lord looks down
    and sees all mankind;

from his dwelling place he watches
    all who live on earth—

he who forms the hearts of all,
    who considers everything they do.

Psalm 33:6-15 (NIV)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Everyday Prayers

We didn’t give things up for Lent when I was a kid; I don't remember being taught that in church.  Giving up pizza or candy or soda for forty days would have been way too hard, anyway. I never really got this practice.

Five years ago during Lent my Bible study group talked about giving something up versus adding something good to our “daily diet” that would bring us closer to God.  I found the idea of adding something good much more pleasing, with the understanding that if it was good for forty days, it should be good forever.  I decided that I would add something to my life that pleased the Lord.   So I started reading a daily devotional, and spending some early morning time with God.

Because I learn best by writing, I added a one-page reflection of what I read each day, concluding with a short prayer about what the devotional stirred in me, what I need God to help me with, and sometimes just a praise of who God is and what he’s done in this world.  There is always gratitude, always an Amen at the end.

Today I have several notebooks filled.

For the most part, these journal entries are where the ideas for writing this blog come from.  If a topic touches me deeply, I scrawl “blogpost” at the top of the page, and if I use it for a post, I write the date beside it, indicating that I used this idea already.

The trouble with blogging is the chance that you might write the same blog post twice, and that is embarrassing.  I’m not even sure if this system works; I don’t often go back and re-read my own blog posts.  I’m not that narcissistic.

I definitely repeat prayers.  After all, this happens in the early, early morning; it’s the first thing I do, sometimes before coffee.  I don’t think that God minds if my prayers repeat themselves.

One theme is thanking God for what he’s done for me:

Dear God, thank you so much for my life and the clarity you have given me.  I pray that you can stay in my heart always and that I can continue to learn from you.  Thank, you, Amen.

Dear Lord, thank you for teaching me what I always need to hear.  I pray for your guidance all of my days.  Thank you, Amen.

Dear Lord, thank you for your most wonderful plan.  I pray that I can see my part in it, can be mindful of your hand in my life, and keep your glory first in my mind.  Thank you, Amen.

Another is asking for help:

Dear Lord, help me to be disciplined in my life more.  Thank you for all the things you have taught me.  Thank you, Amen.

Dear Lord, thank you for being my provider, my teacher, my peace and my contentment.  I pray for your provision in this situation that worries me; I pray for peace in my decisions.  Thank you, Amen.

Dear Lord, please help me to be a cheerful giver this Christmas, and not hold back or be stressed about giving.  Thank you, Amen.

Some prayers focus on forgiveness:

Dear Lord, I ask for forgiveness for my sins today.  Help me to life with integrity and honesty, to be open and transparent with my life.  Thank you, Amen.

Dear God, thank you for being my strong tower and place of refuge, sometimes from my own wrongdoing.  Please forgive me for my wrongs, my hurtful words, my careless decisions.  Help me to do better.  Thank you, Amen.

Dear God, thank you for your promises that keep me going in your direction.  Please forgive me for my sins; they are many.  Remove this negativity from me; shore my soul so it no longer caves in.  Thank you, Amen.

And others are simple:

Dear God, please help me to be patient today.  Thank you, Amen.

Thank you, Lord, for your love.  I give it all back to you.  Thank you, Amen.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me your son.  Amen.

I am thankful for God’s provision of time and solitude for me to continue this practice every day.  The upsides are many.  The first one is that I’ve always got Lent covered.  I’m only half-joking.

The best one is that whatever the prayers are, I know that God is listening. 


*******


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Who's That?

I have terrible facial recognition.

Like most college students, my first year of college was spent getting to know every single person who lived with and around me.  I went far enough away to school to know no one when I got there.  Eventually I belonged to a group of people, friends and acquaintances who spent free time together, greeted each other on campus, and went to parties together.  Some lived in the apartment building I did; others were friends of friends.

There was this one guy, the roommate of a friend’s friend, who was in the group with us.  One day, as I stuck out my hand at a party to introduce myself, he looked me straight in the eye and said, exasperated, “Why do you keep introducing yourself to me?  We’ve met three times already.  Stop it.”  Then he waved me away and I never talked to him again.   I felt like such a jerk for making him feel unimportant, indistinct. 

It’s embarrassing, not recognizing someone you’ve already met.  I sneak peeks at people’s faces, wondering if I know them.  If a person looks familiar, the chances that I’ve met them are about the same as if I haven’t met them.  I’m better with names. 

Facebook is great for recalling people from our pasts, but would I recognize someone who I knew twenty years ago if I met them today?  Only if they look like the picture of them I have in my mind.  Thank goodness high school reunions only come up every ten years.  Woe to the person whom I’ve seen pictures of but not met in real life. 

The Bible mentions hundreds of people by name, some many times, some only once or twice.  It’s easy to overlook a person who is mentioned in the Bible’s pages, never having heard their ancient names before.  For most of them, we don’t have the luxury of portraits, all artists’ renderings, to identify them.  For me, that’s not a problem.

It’s not a problem for God, either.  He knows each of us intimately – each detail of our faces is known to him.  Even if we are unrecognizable, or constantly overshadowed, or overlooked in the world, we matter to God.  Each of us has been created and placed exactly where we are for a particular purpose.

In the Bible, we read about how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.   Moses parted a sea to rescue a whole nation.  Peter walked on water to show his faith.  Jesus died and rose again to save us all.

Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t a good example of an ordinary human being.  But to Jesus’ family and community, he was.  He was a son, a brother, a kid in the neighborhood.  He was a teacher.  But he was all-important to God.

Just like each of us is, the faceless and nameless that makes up the masses.  Just like each one who came before us.  Just like that guy in college who I don’t remember.  Each of our faces is recognized by God.  Each of us is an important piece of his plan.  Our lives, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, fit perfectly.  The plan isn’t complete without every single one of us.  When we see ourselves or others as being unworthy of mention or attention, God reminds us that he loves each of us the same, that each person is as important to him as our own loved ones are to us. 

God reminds me that even if I don’t know a face, he does.  And he knows mine, too.  We are all equally known, equally important to him. 



*******
  
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.  Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT)