Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recurring Theme

I've been learning a lot lately through the studies I'm doing. And because I seem to retain concepts longer if I write about them, occasionally I'll try to summarize some of them here.

Currently, I am working through Beth Moore's new study on Esther. This past week's session focused on "meanness." One of the points that Beth Moore made was that "meanness perceives a threat." In other words, when we feel anger rising up in us for no apparent reason, it's a good time to ask, "Why do I feel threatened in this situation?"

I wish I'd had that litmus test at my fingertips when I dealt with my computer issues a few months ago. I alluded in a prior blog to the fact that my dealings with the service people were not very glorifying to God. In hindsight, I think the threat I perceived was that I was being taken advantage of--that they had taken my money to provide a service (i.e., to fix my computer) and that they weren't delivering their end of the bargain (i.e., I picked up a broken computer after a two-week wait). I also felt like I had been led astray when they sent off my computer to Tennessee twice in the span of four weeks because their advertisements make it look like they would come to my house in their little cars and fix my computer if they couldn't fix it on site.

Along the same lines, our pastor preached a few weeks ago on community and the difficulties of living in community. One of the questions he challenged us to think about when we get frustrated with others is to ask, "What am I demanding of this person? To be like me? To think like me? To act like me?" In my computer situation, I wanted them to fix my computer quickly because I needed it for work. Instead, they had their corporate procedures to follow that left me feeling like a number. I couldn't get even one of their employees to apologize for the four-week delay, for their failure to communicate with me, or for the mistakes that they made. In other words, they didn't act the way that I thought they should have, and frustration abounded.

I don't expect knowing which questions to ask myself to shield me from frustration. But I hope that they will help me get to the root of my frustration and to recognize what's really going on in my heart during those times.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Let There Be Light

The properties of light boggle my mind. How its absence alters a photograph, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. And how its absence from my life is sometimes easily noticed and other times not.

Over the past few weeks, unfortunate events battled to steal the light in my life. But in many ways, their timing couldn't have been better. For now is the time when the darkness is shrinking. The once darkening 5:30 p.m. sky stays illuminated for almost an hour more. And soon, even the 9 p.m. sky will glimmer with the remainder of the summer days' light.

Until then, I look forward to watching the days be lengthened by the light and to finding the joy therein.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Admitted Need

As I stood on the curb waiting to cross the busy four-lane intersection, the stop lights flashed red in all directions. A scenario like this makes me apprehensive when I am behind the wheel because some drivers do not see that the lights are blinking and run them, while others do not know how to navigate the intersection as a four-way stop. Considering that I was on foot, this situation caused even more trepidation.

After watching the intersection, I noticed that most of the drivers saw that the lights were flashing red and that they checked to see if there was any traffic coming from the side street. But because the side street had almost no traffic, the drivers stopped only momentarily. And not one of them noticed that I was standing on the curb waiting to make my way across all four lanes.

I wondered if I would have to wait until the rush-hour traffic subsided before I could cross the street. As I considered going back in to work for a bit, I looked up and saw a uniformed officer approaching.

As the officer came closer, I asked if he would help me cross the street, and he obliged. The four lanes of traffic respected his authority and let us cross without incident.

It seemed absurd that I, at age thirty-four, needed to ask for help crossing the street. Yet it was so much easier, not to mention safer, to be guided across the intersection by a uniformed officer than if I had tried to do it on my own.

I wonder how many times has God wanted to help me and patiently waited for me to ask, only to see me try a task on my own because I won't put my pride aside. This little instance of admitting my need and watching it be so easily fulfilled has spoken volumes to me about how much more I need to depend on God instead of myself.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Test for Truth

I'm one of those crazy people who actually enjoyed summer school. I loved the fact that my fall and spring course loads were lighter because of the classes I took during the summer. And, for the most part, it seemed that the professors went a bit easier on students during the summer. With the exception of one particular professor.

During the summer of 1998, I signed up to take a class that I knew would have a fifty question true-false final exam. That scared me. I prefer short answer and essay exams because you can demonstrate that you know something and hopefully earn some credit even if the answer is not exactly on point. So, I went into the class knowing I was doomed. But little did I know exactly how much.

When the exam day arrived, I went in as prepared as I could be and walked out thinking that the test was not as bad as I had expected. Unfortunately, I should have prepared myself for the worst because my grade in that class was the lowest grade I ever made.

After the shock wore off, I went to talk to the professor about the exam. I noticed that many of the questions that I had missed I had marked as false. I thought through the questions and could not understand why that was not the correct answer. So I read one question to my professor and listed several scenarios that showed why I thought the correct answer should have been false. His reply, "Well, it's still mostly true." I never was able to pin him down on how many scenarios I would have to come up with to make a statement false. I had always been under the impression that just one would do the trick.

Much to this essay girl's chagrin, life seems full of true-false tests, many of which we aren't blatantly aware of. But thankfully, the test for truth is much easier than the exam I suffered through in summer school. By using the gift of God's Word to test everything that we read and hear, there's no need to count how many scenarios make something false; it either aligns with the Truth of God's Word or it doesn't. So it's as if we have the answer key at our disposal 24/7.

That's one simple test I'm willing to apply. How about you?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Simple Sweet Day


That sums up how I feel. Each day this week, sweet cards from my friends came in the mail, and packages arrived from my family. And then one dear friend braved her way to my work where she delivered a box of chocolates and this special card from her son:

Today overflowed with simple reminders of His love. I hope you felt it too!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bold Pursuit

Some people will do anything for money. Some people will do anything for love. It's an interesting correlation, no?

So what happens when you somehow blend the two together with the backdrop of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire set in India? You get the unforgettable story told in the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

I knew the movie had been nominated for numerous awards within the Hollywood realm. That alone didn't persuade me to see the movie because my tastes don't usually agree with the critics' tastes. But after hearing friends' rave reviews, I gave in.

But they failed to warn me that the story is hard. It's more than hard; it's brutal. There were times when I wanted to leave the theater because I didn't want to have to watch the main character relive parts of his life. I wasn't emotionally prepared for the physical, mental, and emotional trauma that he went through. And yet I hung on.

The writing compelled me to. And though I'm sure it sounds a bit awkward to mention "writing" when talking about a movie, that's exactly what it was. The beginning and end are tied together seamlessly, and the flashbacks throughout are flawless.

And the great thing about a story that is filled with such darkness is that when the light shows through--and without giving anything away, it eventually does--it shines brighter than if the whole story had been filled with it.

I highly recommend seeing Slumdog Millionaire, and before it's over, you'll see what is being boldly pursued.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Telling Our Stories

Last week during the big winter storm, I left my house an hour before we were required to be at work. I navigated the ice encrusted streets, driving about 20 mph the whole way. I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles and concentrated on the road conditions and the drivers around me to see when they might swerve. I made it to the parking lot and thought the worst was over.

That thought passed quickly when I stepped out of the car and lost my footing, despite wearing my man-like water boots. I stumbled and slid my way across the lot to a fence, gripping it like the banister around a roller rink. I treated passersby to free entertainment as I skated across the street with a look of fear emblazoned on my face.

Once inside the building, I couldn't stop talking and neither could anyone else. Everyone shared their stories about the daring drive in to work and the "almost" catastrophes of trying to walk on the ice.

Contrast these conversations with conversations on a non-winter-storm day. The scary and embarrassing parts of our lives remain hidden. We're not so quick to talk about what is really going on in our lives.

But I was reminded through our sermon today that living life in community is messy. It's dirty and painful to get involved in other people's lives. To listen to their hurts and struggles and to share your own. To trust others with your story.

But the truth is "our" stories aren't really ours to begin with. Yes, we are often the main actor/actress in our stories. But that doesn't make the story ours to keep. Our stories were meant to be shared. If you've gone through a difficult time and made it to the other side but shared the details with no one, how can others in a similar situation be encouraged? Similarly, if you've had something wonderful happen in your life but kept it a secret, how can others help you celebrate?

It's not easy because we don't practice this much. But the next time you are quick to share a story about something routine, think about another story that you might be willing to share. One that might have a positive, life-changing effect on someone. Be bold and share the latter.