Saturday, November 21, 2009
No matter how advanced our GPS systems, how adequately we have timed our travel, how little luggage we have to clear through the airport security lines, or how short a distance we may have to travel to share time with loved ones during the holidays, all of us are probably going to encounter traffic. Road construction, snaking lines at the airport, even just the checkout lines at the local discount store or grocery (do they ever think to go on and open all those lanes?) can quickly change our mood of holiday joy to a character that would even spook Ebenezer. So if we all know that traffic is probably in our future during the next few weeks, what can we do to keep ourselves from being miserable in the midst of it?
“Step out of the traffic!
Take a long loving look at me, your High God,
Above politics, above everything.”
Psalm 46:10 (The Message)
What a concept. Step out of the traffic. But how do we realistically do that as women who need to get places, feed others, wrap gifts, do some laundry, decorate our homes, write some cards, stuff a turkey and buy some groceries? No matter how delightful our spouses or children, we most likely cannot expect to go soak in some bubbles and come out finding all our chores accomplished. To get on the interstate in late November or December and expect to glide away with no brake lights appearing in front of us as everything narrows to one lane is probably not going to happen either. Nor are we going to show up at the airport and be asked to walk straight through security without waiting our turn. And let’s face it ladies – Walmart is never going to open all those checkout lanes, not even on Black Friday or Christmas Eve.
I think the key to stepping out of the traffic is found in the second part of this verse where it tells us to “take a long, loving look at me, your High God.” But how am I supposed to do that in a season when I can never seem to get everything done? Believe it or not, this is something we can do, even in the November/December crazies.
Taking a long, loving look at God can be as simple as focusing on the Christmas carols playing in Walmart while we wait in line. “Glory to the newborn king – God and sinners reconciled.” That is us! Reconciled to God no matter how much we have screwed up our lives or continue to make mistakes each day. We are reconciled to the sovereign God of the universe. Focusing on a life changing truth like that can definitely make the lines easier to tolerate, even turning what seemed to be an unnecessary delay into moments of peace.
Taking a long, loving look at God can be as simple as choosing to rehearse everything He has done for us while we are stuck in traffic. Instead of glancing repeatedly at the clock the next time I am stuck in a jam, how might my attitude change if I choose to use that time to start listing all the things God has done for me and my family this past year? I may arrive later than I wanted to at my destination, but won’t I be more pleasant when I get there?
Taking a long, loving look at God can be as simple as standing in the airport security line and smiling at all the agents who have been on their feet all day, remembering how much God loves them too. Do they know how much God loves them? He tells me He came to reconcile them too. I may not get to share this truth with them, but could I make a difference in their day by just being nice and sharing a smile or asking them about their day? If nothing else, it will certainly change my focus from my agenda, to what God might have for someone else today.
So where is God calling you to “step out of the traffic and take a long, loving look at me” today? He is “above politics, above everything.” Above the traffic I find myself in today. Let’s step out together and look at Him.
Monday, November 2, 2009
As I drove down the interstate heading back home to Orlando at the beginning of that November, it was looking to be a long month. In fact, it was looking to be a long several months. I had just said goodbye to my husband as he deployed to Bosnia where he was scheduled to stay until summer of the next year. While my ten year old daughter alternated between entertaining herself and sleeping in the back seat, I listened to a book on CD to try and keep myself alert and focused on the task at hand.
Jan Karon’s Mitford novels have always been favorites of mine. This was not my first exposure to this particular tale of Father Tim (In This Mountain, Jan Karon, 2002), but I felt the repetition of the story would be comforting and not distracting as I drove. As is often the case with rehearing a familiar story though, something struck me differently this time. Father Tim was learning a lesson in being thankful during the difficult seasons of life from 1 Thessalonians.
In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)
As I heard Father Tim learn the lesson of “in everything give thanks,” I realized that God was speaking to me. Yes, the months ahead were not looking particularly appealing. My heart was hurting and I was quite frankly afraid. Would I trust God enough to give thanks “in everything”? That seemed to be the challenge the Father was laying before me.
Upon my return home, I was greeted with the normal small catastrophes that greet many military spouses as quickly as the door closes behind the deploying service member. The funniest (now, it’s funny – it certainly wasn’t then) memory was sitting at the dinner table while wasps began to come in through the kitchen chandelier as we ate our meal. This was followed by a fore ray into the attic with one of the boys trying to balance across attic beams to hunt down and spray the offending wasp nest. Give thanks – really?? The only thing I knew how to do was just begin by simply obeying what I felt I had been told. “Thank you God for the wasps.” It felt really stupid, but obedience is often awkward, especially in the baby steps.
My circumstances by no means were changed. Rob was still very, very gone. I was still trying to balance what life looked like as a single parent with two boys in the house, homeschooling a daughter, and another son away at college. But something in my heart began slowly to change. Life did not seem as heavy. As I began to give thanks, my mind seemed to turn more frequently to the many positive things going on in my life and the lives of those around me. I was a little less grumpy and probably easier for the kids to live with, certainly more pleasant for my husband to hear from each day. The main difference was the peace that was seeping deeper and deeper into my soul as I focused on what I had, not what I lacked, trusting God to be good in all things that were coming our way during that season.
Who knew that six years later I would find myself in another November with my husband deployed a world away. So the challenge is once again renewed in my heart. Will I choose to obey God in His word and “in everything give thanks”? This month, I am issuing myself a challenge. I want to spend the next 30 days with an attitude of “thanksliving.” Every day, I will find at least one thing to be thankful for and write it down. Some days, it may be the obvious things like my great husband or awesome children. Some days, there may be wasps coming out of the ceiling. Whatever my day looks like, I want to choose an attitude of thanks.
Would you be willing to join me? What difference could it make in your life if you took God seriously and “in everything gave thanks”? I would like to challenge you. Grab a dollar store journal, a composition notebook or even a gum wrapper out of your purse and write down one thing each day for which you are giving thanks. Let’s see what God will do in our lives and hearts when we take Him at His word by “thanksliving.”