Friday, May 15, 2009

Getting My Way

Rob and I have had the privilege of raising three very independent people. From a young age, though vastly different in personal temperaments, each was known to utter loud proclamations of, “I do it myself!” Like most toddlers and preschoolers, they wanted to get their way, when they wanted it and how they wanted it.

One such incident from Libby’s childhood comes to memory. Libby and Rob had come to meet me at the airport. When I spotted them in sight, I also heard a fairly dramatic tantrum coming out of my very young daughter. Thinking I would be clever, I approached Rob as if he were a total stranger. Speaking loud enough that those around could hear me I announced, “I am so sorry sir. It must be difficult having such an ill-behaved child.” Being quick witted, my husband looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes, unfortunately she is exactly like her mother.” Ouch.

Sadly, Rob’s quick witted response was far too accurate. I do want to get my own way. And I often find myself the ill-behaved child when I do not get it. Fortunately, my choices have matured through the years. I no longer have a fit because I cannot have a treat when I want it (at least most of the time). My desires of today lend themselves to a more serious nature.

I find myself wanting to get my way concerning those that I love and care about. I want their lives to be free of pain. When the report comes from the doctor, I want the news to be good. When the results come back from the job interview, I want to see them hired. Let the mechanic say the automobile will be just fine; it only needs a small, inexpensive adjustment. I want the teacher to say the child is succeeding marvelously in school, not struggling and failing. If the phone must ring at three a.m., let it be to herald good news. How about the military saying, “All is safe, everyone go home.”?

In spite of my wants and desires, this is not the world I encounter each day. The doctor’s news is not always good. People end up without work. Phones ring late in the night and not for happy tidings. Cars die, children struggle and our military is not resting safely at home. Where is God when all these things come to pass? If my aims have matured, why can’t I get my way? How do I deal with these disappointments? Am I doomed to become the ill behaved child?

The subject of why God allows pain has been written about by much more knowledgeable sources than I. These two simple truths from the Bible help me when that question arises in my mind.

The Lord has established His throne in heaven and
His kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 103:19 (NIV)

For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
Lamentations 3:33 (NIV)

The truths that God is both in control and about my good bring me peace when the world around me seems to be falling apart. Mature aims or not, I do not need to get my way. Memo to my slow learning brain – I am not in control because I do not need to be. My control equals disaster for all concerned.

In order to deal with disappointments without becoming the ill behaved child, I need more truth. I need to know there is some greater purpose to the pain I see all around.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, know that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approve faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.
Romans 5: 3-4 (AMP)

I love the description of this endurance in "The Message" translation of the Bible – passionate patience. Not being one given to waiting quietly, this description gives room to the idea that I can wait on God expectantly, busy with hope, even when things around me are not going my way. These trials, which range from inconvenient to devastating, are roadways to habits I want to see developed in my life and the lives of those I love. Would I choose these things? No. Can God work good out of them? Absolutely.

How do I know? I have seen Him do it. Not once. Not twice. Actually, more times than I can count. God has evidenced to me over and over again in my life and the lives of others that He is the Master at weaving beauty out of enormous pain and ugliness. Are you not getting your way today? Keep your eyes peeled and look for the beauty God is weaving amidst your pain.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?

Becoming lost and confused over what the time of day is at any given moment or season is one of my particular gifts. When my loved ones are away and in different time zones, I often confuse whether they are an hour or two behind or ahead, tripping up not just over the math, but the entire concept. Consequently, Daylight Savings time presents a similar quandary for me each year. Is it time to spring forward or fall back? When we get up in the morning, the clock will say 5:30 a.m. Does that mean my body will think it is 4:30 a.m. or 6:30 a.m.? On the questions roll through my mind making me doubt my abilities with basic math functions. This year was no exception.

Spring forward weekend found me enjoying a truly awesome time with two other girlfriends at a women’s retreat. Kay Arthur was the speaker and she came each session with a challenging message from the truth of God’s word. On Saturday night, the conference organizers informed us that the clocks in our hotel rooms would automatically reset themselves for daylight savings time. When we went to bed, I set the alarm on my cell phone. The next morning when my alarm went off, I noticed there was a discrepancy between my cell phone time and the time on the room clock. I was perplexed as to why my phone had not caught up like the hotel clock, but decided to move on with the morning ignoring the time on my phone. I explained what had happened to my roommates before I headed off for a few quiet minutes by the lake before breakfast. I promised to get us spots at a table so we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast before checking out of the hotel and attending the final conference session. When I made my way to the breakfast area, I congratulated my often time challenged self on actually arriving ten minutes before breakfast was to begin. Imagine my surprise when I found the ballroom already crowded with women. When I finally asked someone why everyone had arrived so early, a lady responded, “Early? They are closing the breakfast buffet in ten minutes.” Suddenly, the light broke through to me. My cell phone had been correct all along. Due to an error in our room clock and my confirming misinformation, my roommates and I were all one hour behind.

You can imagine the scene of flying suitcases and slight panic when we realized we were totally unprepared for the morning, all now finding ourselves running one hour behind. I felt like a total dolt having told my girlfriends that our room clock was correct when in fact it was wrong. We thought we were on track, but in truth, we had no idea what time it really was.

The similarity between our time confused situation and what Kay taught us from God’s word during the weekend was striking. Kay started the weekend with a verse from 1 Chronicles:

men of Issachar, who understood the times and
knew what Israel should do.
I Chronicles 12:32a (NIV)

Kay continued to teach throughout the weekend about our responsibility to know God’s word so that we can understand the times in which we are living and know what to do. Kay is not the only one sounding the alarm that we may be walking in the last days. It is easy sometimes for us to think, “Well, I have never really understood the book of Revelation anyway, so I will just leave all of that end times stuff to people more knowledgeable than I. “ However, Jesus said:

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree; As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.
Matthew 24:32-33 (NIV)

Basically, if we can tell the difference between winter and spring, we can observe the signs that Jesus’ coming is near.

So how do I know what to do once I read God’s word and know the times? What difference does that make in my daily life? For me, it means I need to be more focused on what the Father has for me to do each day than my own agenda. I have to take the time to stop and hear His voice. I need to be focused on His priorities, rather than distracted by my own. No, I do not plan to give up doing laundry to go stand on a street corner in D.C. with a sign saying, “The End is Near.” However, can I forget about finishing my “to do” list today to be available to someone who needs to hear that Jesus cares about them? Can I be bold in sharing with those I meet that there is a God who loves them and sent His Son to redeem them? When conversations begin drifting towards fear concerning the economy, the swine flu, or any other number of current issue panics, will I share the hope that I have for my future because it is safe with Jesus Christ?

As I learned during “spring forward” weekend, not knowing what time it really is can cause problems for me and those around me. Today, I want to be conscious of the correct time and act accordingly. Father, please show us all how to live by your watch . . . . . the one that always knows what time it really is.