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Friday, July 29, 2016

Hurry Up and Wait!

This has been my theme for the summer and really the past few months. I blogged last spring about some physical challenges I was having, which have subsided almost completely, thanks be to God! But they required time, patience and no small amount of delays, as I trekked to doctors' offices and PT appointments, waiting for meds and therapies to get on board.

In exchange for some much needed hedge trimming, the Lord has seen fit to zap me with a not-as-bad-as-it-could-be case of poison ivy, for which I'm taking steroids and trying not to scratch. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I try to envision my face free of blotches and the angry, red rash - mentally rushing to the end of this annoying waiting game.

One step forward and two steps back. That's another piece of the phase I'm in. Towards the end of the school year, a clog in my bathroom sink turned into a leak in the dining room and basement, which turned into a protracted series of conversations with plumbers, vendors and insurance agents. After all has been said and done, I find myself with a beautiful new bathroom floor, under which is nestled an expensive new set of pipes which will hopefully prevent this sort of thing in the future. There's a sequel to this drama, though. Having made all the arrangements to paint so the floor will have pretty new walls to dance with, I find I need to completely strip off all the current paint first. After my sister scrubbed walls and my son dutifully took sand paper to the old stuff, instead of politely accepting the touch up, the remaining paint decided to peel and flake. Sure can't put on a new coat till that's seen to.

Hurry up and wait.

A dear friend, Angela Schans, whom I met at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, has been donating gobs of time to help me set up a YouTube channel so I can promote myself a little better. Specifically, I want to post the video of my public reading last May of my short story, "Phoenix," which was published in 50 Over Fifty: A Celebration of Established and Emerging Women Writers

Sounds simple, right? Not so much. A combination of my lack of expertise with technology and a generally uncooperative computer setup are making this seemingly small task difficult and time-consuming. Angela has brought new meaning to the words "patience" and "tenacity," and I am so fortunate to have her in my life.

Enough already! I'm waiting for the waiting to end!

As I deal with all this nonsense, I'm reminded of something important. Years ago - it seems like eons, really - before the terms "Netflix" and "binge-watching" had been coined, there was a certain delightful agony in awaiting the conclusion of a multi-part series. For instance, in the early '90's I traveled to Washington, D.C. with my husband and parents. We were all engrossed at the time in a multi-part television mystery, biting our respective nails as we waited for each weekly installment. I fondly recall the long car ride, and how we each presented our arguments as to who the killer might be.

It was such fun to wonder, even though it was torture to wait. 

These days, we live in the era of instant oatmeal and binge-watching (both of which I enjoy as much as the next guy). But I submit that when we curl up with our popcorn and clicker for marathon viewing, we take time to realize that we're giving up something precious: the gift of anticipation.

When my son was a preschooler, he stumbled onto a gift I had hidden for his birthday. It was a kid's tool set (little did I know then that he'd turn out to be my "hands on" guy and grow up to be a tradesman). Boy, he couldn't wait to get his hands on that thing! The easy thing would've been to give it to him then and pick up something else for his big day. Lord knows, he wheedled! But even as a young mom, I somehow knew he needed to learn the joyous pain of waiting. Somehow he survived till March 16, and I truly believe the hours of longing he endured made the toy that much more precious to him.

As I ponder my current circumstances, I have to admit there's an up side. The guys who beautified my bathroom (Dave McGoldrick and associate Dan and Philip Congialdi and associates John, Gary and Mick) were reliable, thorough, neat, and all-around good sports as they broke up cement flooring in 90 degree heat. My plumbers proved themselves once again to be crackerjack in their profession. They even threw in a freebie - a new shower head to replace my old one that was clinging to life. I ended up receiving discounts from both contractors, because that's the kind of men they areThey actually built potential costs into their proposals, so I got a nice surprise at the end when I owed less than was quoted. A great way to run a business, in my view.

I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I could uncover blessings hidden amidst my peeling paint and itchy forehead. For now, I'm going to content myself with letting God do what He does best: work behind the scenes, knowing I'll get the full picture when He thinks I'm ready for it.

"Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!"
Psalm 27:14

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Corrie ten Boom and Spaghetti Pie ...

... have nothing in common, I suspect you're thinking.

Oh, but you're wrong.

A friend and I are having a friendly difference of opinion. We spoke recently about the relevance and applicability of the Scriptures to everyday life. My friend has been finding it difficult to apply what she hears in church on Sunday mornings to what goes on with her the rest of the week. I hold the position that God and His word are the height of practicality, and suggested she consider checking out other places of worship is hers isn't giving her tools to apply to her day to day life.

Jesus walked the earth for 30 plus years, experiencing all that humans go through. We know He came as a baby, so He probably got slapped into His first breath (I doubt the ancient world realized that flicking the feet will arouse infant lungs without such a rude awakening). He learned the carpentry trade from His stepfather, Joseph, so He undoubtedly encountered more than a few splinters. If I were a betting woman, I'd lay odds He bumped up against diaper rash, constipation, and everything in between.

You can't get much more practical than that.

I've shared ad nauseam about how God has met me in my ditches and dark nights of the soul. He's been husband and dad to my family when we had a shortage of both. He's gone into meetings with me that I never thought I'd emerge from alive, and shored me up to fight another day. He's provided prayer partners to walk me through barren places and brushes with danger that I'd rather forget. 

When my father was taken ill once in the middle of the night, my mother thought it was the end. After we left him in the hospital, she cried out to me, "Where do I go to accept this?" We quickly realized the same truth that the apostle Peter arrived at two millennia ago:

"Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.'”
John 6:68

Peter was affirming that no one else could give him what Jesus could, so why would he ever seek help elsewhere? 

If I'm going to commit to assembling weekly and bi-weekly with believers, which cuts drastically into my beloved spare time, I most certainly expect to glean takeaways when I depart the building. As Dickens put it in A Christmas Carol, "I don't mind going, but I must be fed."

Which brings me to the most compelling reason I see the Lord as the pinnacle of practicality.I recently experienced a tragedy involving my gastrointestinal tract (anything involving my gullet gets my immediate attention). A nearly unforgivable event sent me into a short-lived but vivid tailspin when my leftovers from a weekend getaway were inadvertently left in my sister's refrigerator an hour from home. My sister - a vegetarian - could not be counted on to consume half a tuna hoagie and a delectable piece of chicken spaghetti pie that must have been created with me in mind. The idea of these treasures going to waste or being scarfed down by my niece - who's a delightful carnivore, but still, these were MINE - was well nigh unbearable.

A nasty thought crossed my mind. My other sister, who had been charged with bringing home these dainties, had been the victim of a similar mishap the week before. Two soups had been brought home in doggy bags. I offered mine to my 19-year-old son, but failed to mention that the other was earmarked for his aunt. Alas, he ate the wrong one, and poor Jane was out of luck. 

"Paybacks!"I stewed bitterly, ascribing all kinds of vengeful motives to my honest, guileless sister.

I was full of something, but it sure wasn't spaghetti pie.

Corrie ten Boom came to the rescue. I recalled her encountering one of the Nazi guards who had been particularly brutal to her family. To make matters worse, he had just attended Corrie's lecture on God's forgiveness, and was thanking her for proving he was absolved of all his sins.

Corrie froze when he reached out to shake her hand. She had no tools within herself to receive a gesture of friendship from this avowed enemy. She found herself in the untenable position of being between a rock and a hard place. She couldn't forgive this man, but she couldn't NOT forgive him if everything she had just said about God was true.

She did the only thing possible: she prayed for God to help her forgive her wretched captor. In short order, He enabled her to extend her hand and the grace to overcome the loathing she felt for this man and his wicked deeds.

In the moments after my spaghetti pie debacle, I realized that if Corrie could forgive the Nazis for contributing to the deaths of her closest family members, perhaps I had it within me to forgive my beloved sister for depriving my hips of a few extra pounds. It sounds dramatic, but I know I died a little bit to self that night, and grew a tiny bit in Christ.

Lest my reader should think I'm trivializing a momentous event in the life of one of the world's true heroines, let me assure you I'm simply striving to reinforce the concept of God's day to day applicability. In no way can a few missing calories stack up against years of abuse, but the principle is the same. Rage and even misplaced anger can be dealt with by Scriptural principles. That's all I'm trying to say.

I have yet to come across a situation that is not made better by applying Biblical truth, or worse by failing to do so.