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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Outward Ripples

I'm sure this isn't original (in fact I know it isn't), but thought I'd pass it on anyway. I'm always trying to keep up with prayer requests and remember everyone and everything on my mental prayer list. It's a losing battle.

Today I heard someone with wisdom say, if you're inclined to pray and don't know how to begin, why not just say something like, "Lord, You know what's in my heart. Please accept it."

That "recipe" works in a pinch, but I think the following idea covers more territory: pray first for your own family and friends (and self, of course); then expand outward to include your church family and leadership (past, present and future), and those of your friends; then go national, asking God to handle everything on the domestic front and those who run the show in the government; finally, ask Him to embrace the international community, including persecuted believers and anyone in harm's way.

I did this today and it made so much sense and took so little time. The Lord knows our minds have limitations (some of us more than others!), and He's already working on the items we forget or that have gotten lost in the cobwebs of our tired brains. Moreover, He's awake 24/7. I once heard a weary traveler comment, "Knowing He's awake allows me to go to sleep; at least Somebody's doing something!"

He really is an awesome God.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Complete the Work!

"And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have." 
2 Corinthians 8:10-12

I came across this passage recently as I was preparing for an upcoming writers' conference. Paul's words spoke to me when I first read them, and they're speaking to me now. I've made a lot of progress in getting ready for the event and could even say I'm at a stopping point, if I want to be. However, since I still have over a week, why not use the time to the maximum so as to have the widest net to cast, so to speak? 

There was a time in my life when I was governed by procrastination and fear. Those time-wasting devils haven't left my life completely (as evidenced by the video-fest I allowed myself last night when I could've been doing x number of more important things), but by the grace of God, they are far less prominent than they once were. I've learned that tomorrow is a nebulous, unpromised concept that may or may not a) happen or b) be available for things I ought to have done today. So now I to try to hit the ground running as soon as the final bell rings for school "vacations" and the like. I put that word in quotes because for years my definition of vacation was simply the absence of schedule and structure - in short, an excuse to fritter away time and God-given talent. 



There is certainly a need to turn off one's mind and leave off responsibilities occasionally. My problem was (and might be again, unless I take care), every bit of down time became the occasion. I'm reminded of a funny story my father once told. Upon voicing concern to his only living brother about his continuing to smoke despite serious health concerns, my uncle replied that he only smoked occasionally. Dad retorted that he smoked every time they were together, to which Uncle Irv quipped, "That's the occasion!"

My prayer continues to be that God would show me the schedule and priorities for each day, regardless of whether every moment is predetermined by outside forces, or if long stretches of time present themselves. I desire to not only begin projects He guides me to, but also to work diligently and steadfastly unto completion.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Falling in Love with the Salesman

Readers: I'm adding an addendum to this piece, which was first posted July 7, 2014: It occurs to me that, in addition to refraining from grumbling among ourselves about unworthy "salesmen," it is wise and right to steep their families in prayer. The former activity may tear down already suffering innocents who are having enough trouble as it is.

"I can't afford to fall in love with the salesman."

That's what my former husband used to say when we were negotiating over cars. I must admit, we had a pretty good system going. He knew all the facts and Blue Book values of the vehicles we were interested in; I knew our bottom line. At times we would resort to good cop, bad cop, and that helped as well. We didn't always wind up with a car, but we didn't get shaken down, either.



Yesterday I happened upon an old news item about some believers who had inspired and influenced me in my teen years. There were allegations on both sides of falling from grace, and questions as to whether grace had ever been part of the picture to begin with. This one was taking that one to court, or thinking about it. Suggestions of infidelity were rampant. The more I read, the more sickened and depressed I became. I felt like a tube of toothpaste must feel when being squeezed at both ends; nowhere to go, and muck spilling out every which way. 

I was mercifully interrupted from my self-appointed "research" (if I had been craning my neck at the scene of an accident, it would've been called gaper delay; was this maybe "gapeism" of a different sort?). Realizing my interest was becoming unhealthy, I chose to lay the matter aside and let God sort it out.


I don't know what I'd do if I were being slandered. Would I remain silent and let the allegations go unchallenged so as not to stir the pot, or feel compelled to pronounce my guiltlessness to whomever would listen? It's an interesting question. Sometimes facts can be produced to corroborate one's story, and other times it's just our word against someone else's. There was some of both in this scandal. As so often happens in such situations, though, after a while the water became so murky there was no telling who had slung what mud - but sure enough, everyone looked pretty filthy.

The whole rancid affair brought me back to that dictum Mike coined about not falling in love with the salesman. What he meant, of course, was that he was interested in the product and not a sly sales pitch. It struck me that the reason I was so upset by this mess was because I had previously put so much stock in these believers and the faith they claimed to espouse (which is not to pronounce judgment on the players in this case because, as I said, I'm not going to delve any further into this quicksand of mistruths and misperceptions). If I've learned anything from 40 plus years as a Christian, it ought to be that Christ alone is infallible. His children are just that - children. Despite the fact that we're called to seek maturity in the Christian walk, we all know children screw up, lie, behave selfishly, and err in judgment. The bottom line, though, is no matter how breathtakingly a representative may package the gospel, the message alone, not the presenter, is entitled to our confidence.

Seems like Mike nailed that a long time ago. 

Furthermore, even if one of "God's own" opts to defect, I DON'T HAVE TO. Principles very often turn out to be bigger and purer than the bearer of them.

Unless, of course, the bearer happens to prove Himself incontrovertible by doing something like, oh, say, rising from the dead.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: Digging Deep

Paradox

I'm a speck in the face of eternity, and at the same time, I hold infinite value.

I'm having loads of trouble preparing for a writers' conference at the end of this month. This is the first such venue I've joined, and it has me biting my nails. 

Like most things in my life, I'm trying to give it my best. In school, I always went for the A. At work, I strive for exemplary evaluations. In this case, I'm literally driving myself crazy trying to create the perfect book proposal. My anxiety is compounded by the fact that there are scads of information on the conference website as to how to "do it right" and the web at large is crawling with paths to literary success. 

Aaaaahhhhh!!!!!!


I sip from my Louisa May Alcott mug (purchased for me by my son and sister at the author's home in Concord, Massachusetts) to give me inspiration. She was the first writer whose work spoke to me, and I've read countless biographies detailing her impoverished roots and slow rise to fame. I don't think I'm looking for fame, I tell myself, but I do have an important message and an able pen, both gifts from God, and both needing an audience. I compare my "resume" with the conference coordinator's sample, and laugh at the vastness of difference between our accomplishments. She's written six books and contributed to over 100 periodicals; I've had exactly three articles published, and that's counting one for an Al Anon newsletter. Not exactly a publisher's dream.


So I turn my attention to Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom, both unlikely authors whose works were born out of bitter experience. The former didn't live to see her diary in print, and surely never imagined millions would read and relate to her adolescent scribblings. She did, however, have the temerity to assert that she wanted to go on living even after her death. The latter appealed to a postwar generation looking for redemptive value in an arguably Godless period of human history. Can my story find its market, as theirs did, despite the madness of modern day publishing?

I cringe at the word "marketing." It sounds like just what it is: commercialism. Publishing is an industry, and industries live or die based on sales. Like J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee (dare I place myself in such distinguished company?), I prefer a low profile, but privacy doesn't bring in revenue. So I reluctantly promise to shamelessly promote my books, even to the extent of turning cartwheels in Times Square. Will my other responsibilities allow me to keep such a commitment, assuming I muster the nerve to follow through?

Which brings me to my original point. This is not about me, any more than it was about Frank or ten Boom. This is about a message, a dispatch. Neither of the books I'm peddling (there's that concept again) came out of my head; I'm just not that clever. Both arrived unbidden, in the midst of my daily grind, and more or less constipated my brain till they were - ahem - released. Am I brazen enough to suppose the God of the universe desires to use my voice to convey one or two of His thoughts? 


Why not? He used Moses' staff and Peter's boat . Why not my keyboard? I may be made of dust, but the One who made me is formed from the stuff of eternity. If, as the Bible attests, the Holy Spirit resides in this flawed body of mine, doesn't that impart to said body a derived pricelessness?

So, like I said, I may be a speck, but this speck has an essential purpose. What foolishness to allow comparisons and obstacles to overshadow the work the Almighty has called me to do.

I think He can handle a little thing like a writers' conference.