Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Forest for the Trees

There comes a time in life where you expect to have finally arrived.  What that arrival looks like for you is wholly dependent upon the thing(s) that drive you.  Me, I wanted to have a career I cared about and a feeling of self-worth.  Before you click off and chose something else to read, hear me out on this.  I have long maintained my favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes; it still is.  I love that book for a myriad of reasons, but most of all because the author got it.  He just did.  Solomon was a great guy.  He had more wisdom than anyone else in all of history and yet still had issues.  I love the story of how he became the wisest person to ever be.  When he came into power, so-to-speak, the Lord asked him to name whatever it was that he wanted.  He could have the cattle on 1000 hills, he could be stronger than any man alive, he could, well, be anyone and anything.  Instead, he, in all his humbleness, simply asked for wisdom.  And it was in this request, he gained all other things.

But the problem with 'the things' is that they never filled him up.  They never quite got him to the place where he was completely and totally filled to the brim with happiness, contentment, and peace in life.  In fact, he quite vehemently stated all of it was "meaningless".  That all the toil and work and striving brought about nothing but more pain and strife and emptiness.  That each and every situation, desire, temptation, struggle, success in life was nothing new - it has all been seen and done and experienced before.  Sadly, the only thing new about any of it was the time frame in which it was occurring and the peoples in which it was happening to.  In some regard I find comfort in that, in others, I want to yell all the more loudly.

Where does all this fit into the "arriving"?  This morning while reading my Bible and doing my devotionals it dawned on me where I am in the timeline of my life.  I have had the opportunity in the recent past to work with some kids who have just entered the next phase of their lives.  These are kids who will be entering their first year of college in the fall and have their whole lives ahead of them.  These kids are equally cloaked in promise and ignorance. It has been a joy to listen to them share (when asked) what their dreams are and what they want to study.  It has been an even greater joy to listen to them express, with all their youthful wonder, what they want to be when they grow up and what impact they want to have on the world. I remember being that kid once.

As I have listened I have also encouraged them to stay strong and to not give up on school even when the temptation to work more or study less comes along.  I've tried to encourage them to stay focused on their goal, rather than the smaller wins that come in between because to lose sight of what they want is like missing the forest for the trees.  (They didn't understand that analogy, but it was apropos.)  While each of us starts life out with different driving forces and different factors that imprint our lives, we all have an opportunity to arrive.  Sometimes, it takes many years.  Sometimes, it happens straight away.  And sometimes, it doesn't happen on this side of eternity.

In any case, I am most certain, the meaning of it all is directly related to the perspective you give it. I didn't have the opportunity to begin college straight out of high school.  But I did have the opportunity to put myself through school and in doing so gained a greater appreciation for the education I paid for.  After receiving my Associates, I continued on for my Bachelors, and then most recently my Masters.  All of these taking a span of 12 years or so to complete.  While not the best timing in many cases, I think the life lessons gained along with the formal education were perfectly timed. I have hopes of returning for another degree, I don't know what degree or what subject matter just yet, but I have a great passion for learning.  I have an even greater passion for teaching.

So how does all of this fit?  Simply that life, while meaningless in bits (trees), has an ample opportunity to give you something magnificent to look at (forest) as a whole.  Isn't God so good?

-M



Sunday, July 23, 2017

My Dog

This morning while I was out on my run I got to talking with the Lord.  Let me start there. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows how much I love to run, for those who are new to this, it's kind of another thing I do.  Any how, since my injury...self-medicating...stubbornness...final relenting to go to doctors...and surgery later...phew that is a mouthful, I'm back at it.  Slowly, of course.  Ever so painstakingly slow.  You may be wondering how any of this has to do with my dog.  No, she is not a runner.  LOL.

Anyhow, during that time of talk, I started thinking of Miss Clarabelle.  Look at her face.  Just look!  Isn't she beyond precious?  She is the most loving, loyal, fluffy, funny, energetic, and adorable dog in all the world.  (Yes, this is tinted with a slight hue of bias.)

During this talk, it was brought to light the similarities between pet ownership/relationship and that of a person's walk with the Lord.  No, really.

In the beginning, this precious little fluff ball, who fit into my hands, was simply too much.  By that, I couldn't put her down.  I wanted to hold her and cuddle her and make sure she had everything she needed.  I think that is the way when we first get to know the Lord.  We are so gung-ho.  I know I was.  I couldn't read enough, get to church enough, study enough, fellowship enough - you get the picture.  It was simply too much (in a good way, of course).

Then as Miss Clarabelle started to grow a little more, and I didn't have to worry so much about her being safe, I spent a little less time doting on her and more time going about life. Now, I never ignored her.  First of all, one doesn't simply have a Maltese and NOT pamper, spoil, dote...it is somewhat part and parcel. However, the consistency and intensity of the doting was simply not necessary.  Work with me here when I say, in our walk with the Lord, there are times when we think the consistency and intensity aren't necessary. However, we couldn't be more wrong.  In fact, when we get to that point, it is when it is all the more important.

Which leads me to the next thought.  After the painstaking toilet training process, Miss Clarabelle is still a subtle tell. We never got to the bell on the door trick, the bark at the door command, or any other audible notices.  No, this precious little girl will come up to you, sit, look, get up, walk in a circle, and sit.  It is all so cute.  In fact, if you are new to knowing her you will think all she wants is picked up and held, petted, talked too, played with, etc.  However, that is not the case.  Sadly it took, and ashamedly still takes, the trained art of listening/watching intently.

I think this is the same with the Lord.  He doesn't always sound a gong, yell out a command, or provide any other audible notice. No, he uses the still small voice.  And if we aren't in tune with that voice we are going to step into a little piddle or poo.  Sometimes it is fresh and sometimes it is a little older (meaning it catches up to us).

I know there have been times when Miss Clarabelle has been telling me she needs let out and I have been so caught up in what I am doing I have missed it or even flat out ignored it (naively thinking if she can only wait a few more minutes...).  Later, after I find it (shes not so good at hiding her duty) and she is punished I often wonder who is to blame.  After all, I was the busy one. Then I thought about all of the times I've stepped into some really big life messes, some while fresh, and some not so fresh, all because I was so wrapped up in doing it my way I missed hearing (or even worse flat out ignored) the voice of the Lord telling me the way to prevent it.

Such a simple analogy this morning. It amazes me the ways the Lord uses the non-complex things in life to teach me things. I guess there is a reason why DOG can be and has been used as an acronym for - Depend On God.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sometimes You Have to Swim Into the Seaweed

You know, I really have to admire a guy like Job.  I mean here was a man who lost everything...EVERYTHING and still didn't blame it on the Lord and still maintained his strength of faith and rebuked those who told him to admonish the Lord. No, I'm not reading in Job right now, I'm in Numbers. So, why am I going down this path of thought?   Well, here's the thing.  Sometimes being an adult isn't all it is cracked up to be.  In fact, there are days when it is the worst thing.  Honestly to be able to go back to having someone else take care of everything would be super awesome.  BUT....

That isn't the way of life.  In fact, life is all about moving forward even in the face of adversity and Job-like moments.  I've been MIA lately due to some things that have occurred in our life that have resulted in the Mr. and I having to buck up and become the responsible parties for someone elses' poor decisions and life skills.  Let me tell you, I enjoy this about as much as I enjoy getting a a bone reset.  It is painful and cumbesome and time dependent.  However, despite the physical aspect of the thing we are taking care of, there is the emotional and spiritual aspect that has had me in the most turmoil.

Emotoinally I have been a wreck.  This thing has felt like a weight I cannot get out from under.  When I was about 8 or 9 we lived on a lake.  I remember my brother and friends and some adults on one of those large square foam rafts - I think this one was blue.  I had been playing too and we were all taking turns jumping off of it and climbing back on.  This particular day the wind and waves were a little stronger than normal and once I had jumped off the raft drifted over top of me.  Every time I tried to swim out from under it, it was still on top of me. What seemed like an eternity, may have only been 20 or 30 seconds but it was enough to freak me out.  I thought I was going to drown.  Then I prayed and it dawned on me that I would be safe if I swam toward the seaweed, so I did.  Even though I had to swim into the slime and gook, I got to safety and promptly pulled myself up on the dock and walked to shore.  (To this day I do not care much for swimming, lakes, bodies of water, anything.)

I shared that to say this - this thing we have to take care of - I feel like I am drowning.  I feel like I can see the top of the water, I can see the fresh air I so desperately need, but I am trapped under the raft. Remembering the fear and the anxiety being trapped under the raft caused me, is the same fear and anxiety I feel now because of this thing.  I know we are doing the right thing.  I know we have done what the Lord would ask us to do, and I know through this procecess he is building character and teaching us something.  Sadly, I am not dealing well with this.  I want to yell and scream and fight.  I want to FIGHT!  I want to stand face-to-face with the cause of this and give it my two cents on how I feel completely violated by its complete lack of responsibility and care for others.

Instead, what I have done is yell and scream and fight with those who have no baring on this issue. Those, who like us, are a victim of the circumstance yet they have no clue they are.  Because, as an adult, it is best to keep some things from those who are incapable of making a difference.  So, there are these people, who I love, who have had to see the fear and anxiety from this "raft" that is weighing me down.  Why?  Because unlike Job who looked to the Lord always and maintained a lasting and loving relationship with not only himself and others through all it all - I have succumbed to the anger I have towards this thing.  I have let it boil over and become the elephant in our home.

I can tell, even though I still read my Bible and do my devotionals, that this thing is prohibiting the work of the Lord in my life at this time.  Instead of swimming towards him I am leaning on my own strength.  I am letting the raft stay on top of me.  I am preventing Him from leading me to safety and freah air. I know that this too shall pass.  That we are taking the right steps to correct this wrong.  In fact, we have a timeline for this and in the grand scheme of life it isn't even that long of a fix.  One could say it is only like 20 or 30 seconds on the timeline of life.  And God will protect us and keep us safe as we look to him while he sees us through.

I just need to trust Him.