Saturday, October 31, 2009

Proud Like Haman

I’d like to tell you a story about a girl I know…

She had a happy life. She was blessed with good health, a nice family, and a pleasing job. She wanted for nothing… her lifestyle wasn’t overly extravagant, but nice. She was very proud to have a 4 bedroom home in a nice neighborhood. She often told her friends about the pool and hot tub in her back yard. She mentioned the wall sized movie projector television in her living room whenever a discussion led her there. She was proud of her game room that housed a full sized pool table. Her biggest source of pride was that her husband had been so smart with their money that they had no debt other than their mortgage.

She had an attractive husband… and smart son. All in all, a good-looking family. It was actually a family she never dreamed she would have since in her mind, good-looking men were out of her league. And motherhood… that was just not something meant for her. But now that she had it all… she was bound and determined to be different… to do this every day married and mommy life in a special and more exciting way than others did it. She was going to rise above the norm and be exceptional.

She worked for a company that found her skills so appealing, they were willing to over-pay her by many thousands of dollars. They even made her a manager. It was the best job she had ever had and she loved going to work every day.

In her spare time, she did plenty of volunteer work. She saw herself as a person who did more for the world than most people. She relished the honors her extra work brought upon her and she shared them with those around her proudly. She saw herself as a person who loved and devoted herself to God more than most people. She thought her relationship with God gave her the right to judge others and she did that often, essentially making decisions for God about who was good and who was bad. With these thoughts, she elevated herself above average and when she looked in the mirror, she saw a person who was doing really great in life. A person who was BETTER than most.

With all of this going for her… she still wasn’t happy. She always wanted just a little bit more. She always felt like the world owed her just a little bit extra. She was racked with jealousy… and if she ever saw someone else getting new, expensive things… a family that was evolving beyond hers… a job or promotion that exceeded her own achievements… or even being publicly rewarded for a good deed, she would turn green with envy. Sadly, she had even plotted against others at times to hold them back even in the tiniest of ways. Some times it was as simple as an unkind “joke” to deflate confidence or maybe even as complicated and cruel as giving a poor score on a managerial review just to keep them from progressing. But even with all those things swirling in her mind and through her hands on a daily basis, she still regarded herself as a highly moral, good and decent Christian gal… better than most.

Well, if you haven’t figured it out already… that girl was me. Most of you reading this that know me, never really fully knew that part of me. It is embarrassing to admit these things, especially to people who mostly only know me as sober, God-loving Wendy. I have no doubt you see a glimmer of it here or there as it is innately (and unfortunately) who I was for many, many years. It is a fight to leave those behaviors behind after living that way for so long. The best word to describe that person is… proud. And yes, I find myself in that proud mindset more often than I’d like to admit. It is by far my biggest struggle, even beyond sobriety.

I found it interesting how closely "old me" resembled Haman, of the Old Testament. He is the villain in the story of Esther. He saw himself as being totally devoted to King Xerxes and made decisions on the King’s behalf, one of which was a plan to kill all the Jews. He boasted of his wealth, his family, the ways he had been honored by his job with the King, and how things he had done had elevated him above others in high standing. He perceived himself as “The Man,” and used trickery to keep himself on top. He ordered the death of a man who was responsible for saving the King’s life and had a special gallows built for his hanging. In the end, his plot was found out. You could say it was through a series of coincidences, but in my mind they were nothing short of God’s nudgings to have His plan unfold with victory for His chosen people. Haman was hanged on his own specially built gallows. To me, this spoke volumes. It is so common for me to dig a big ole’ hole and then fall right in it. The old perception I held of the person I used to be, a good and moral God fearing lady, was so misguided with pride. The truth was, I had never really read the Word of God, I rarely prayed and the only thing I was ever concerned with was myself. Psalm 7:14-16 says, “The wicked conceive evil; they are pregnant with trouble and give birth to lies. They dig a deep pit to trap others, then fall into it themselves. The trouble they make for others backfires on them. The violence they plan falls on their own heads.” I believe God considers this kind of pride a worse state of faith than to have no faith at all. 2 Peter 2:21 backs me up on that, in fact that whole chapter is a good one to read when feeling prideful and superior in my spiritual standing. Proverbs 16:5 says, “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”

The story of Haman shows me how a proud beginning leads to a very bitter end. Fortunately, my end had not yet come when I was given the opportunity to accept God’s grace and forgiveness of my past life. Sobriety and working through the 12 step program is what awakened me to who I really had been. After seeing the type of person I had become… I was able to look to God and ask Him who I was really meant to be. Thankfully, He will never give up on me so with each day that passes I can step a little bit closer to that person He has in mind for me. I still (and always will) fight my intrinsic nature of pride and ego though. I’m so glad that God put real people in the Bible, people I can relate to both bad and good. They show me clearly what will happen to me if I choose poorly, they remind me of who I once was and they also give me unimaginable hope as I attempt to walk closer to God. Someone recently accused me in a very negative and condemning manner of having an inflated spiritual attitude… they said, “Wendy, stop trying to be like Jesus!!!!” But what was meant as an insult brought great joy to my heart. After all, isn’t that the point of being a Christian, to try and be more like Christ in all we do??? I know I’ll never achieve it. I know my pride and ego will rear their ugly heads and set me back now and then but at least I’m trying. In the meantime, I will continue to try and simplify things, not need so much, take more joy in quiet giving and humbly offer my experiences to those who ask.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dear Hasbro...

Dear Hasbro*,
My 4 year old loves transformers. I thought maybe he was too young to really appreciate them or be able to “transform them” but I was wrong. I bought him one of the level two transformer dudes and he did in 3 minutes what I couldn’t do in 20 after some cursing. There are several things I wanted to bring to your attention as a consumer who will inevitably be buying more of your products for years to come. And just in case you are wondering, I am also a consumer who realizes you probably don’t give a flying flip about what I’m about to say, thus there really is no point in writing this letter… except to post it on my blog for other consumers of your products to read and enthusiastically nod at before heading off to the store to buy more Hasbro products.

First, I found it quite strange that you have put transformers on the market that don’t actually transform. Had I not been really careful to read the very small print at a most inconvenient place on the packaging that said, “this product does not transform” I may have accidentally purchased a product that would have left my son HIGHLY disappointed. Is it strange for me to think it’s strange that you would sell transformers that DO NOT transform??? Strangely, I do not think it is strange for me to expect a product called a transformer to… transform.

But more to my point here… my son does love transformers… and even at 4 years old he can figure it out easily. He can play with them for hours without coming to me for help… or at least I’m fairly certain he would play with them for hours without needing my help IF ALL THE DANG PARTS (I.E. LEGS, ARMS, HEADS AND OTHER APPENDAGES) DIDN’T JUST FALL OFF AT THE SLIGHTEST TUG. Just in case you are wondering, I am SHOUTING AT YOU!!!!!

I would find it rather difficult to believe that no one there at Hasbro* has children. May I ask you to do something for me? Would you go find one of those employees that actually has a child and ask them a question? Ask them, “Do you enjoy the sound of your child whining about how their beloved toy’s arm or leg constantly breaks off?”

My husband played with transformers a child… and lucky for us he saved several of them. Last weekend we gave a box of his old 1980 transformers to our son and let him play with them. Would you believe that after constant toying, manipulating and rough housing… not one piece fell off??? NOT ONE!!!! Yet, just blink at the new version wrong and whoops… there goes an arm. It just goes to show, things are not made with the same care and durability as they used to be. What really ticks me off is that even considering inflation… things are so much more expensive these days. That’s right people… more expensive and more crappy!!!! Aren’t we lucky? How did we turn into a world that thinks this is okay?

I am a Pez collector… I have over 800 of them and you know what – there is even a difference in the making of a Pez dispenser. My old 70’s and 80’s dispensers NEVER lose their heads or get jammed. But these new ones, you take them out of the package and it’s a crap shoot… will it work? How long will it keep its head?? You just don’t know. So what if I only spent a dollar fifty on it… does that give it an excuse to SUCK??? Does buying the less expensive toaster give it the right to short circuit and burn my house down? No people… it doesn’t!!! I shouldn’t have to buy a $150 coffee maker to get one that doesn’t squirt hot water all over my counter!!!!! (By the way, Hasbro*, I realize you are not responsible for Pez… or toasters... or coffee makers.)

Here’s my point, if a company is going to take the time and energy to engineer, manufacture, market, package and sell a product, we as consumers should be able to rely on it period regardless of whether it is a cheaper or more expensive variety. Alas… that is not the world we live in. If it’s a $15 toaster, then we must expect to have burnt toast.

Time changes everything… right? I can’t expect things to stay the same… right? Well, there is one thing I can count on no matter what… God. He is the same today as He was yesterday. He will be the same tomorrow as He was today. He will never get chintzy or try to make an extra buck by selling me worthless or faulty goods. He won’t ever try to sell me a look alike triune God that doesn’t actually have an interchangeable Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His arm won’t fall off if I tug on Him a little too hard. His dispenser won’t ever get jammed and deprive me of what I need most in life… grace. He may allow me some pain or some whine time… but I recognize the bumps in my road are necessary (usually my own fault), and not a result of a lack of attentiveness or caring on His part. With all that said, why should I feel the need to complain about Hasbro*? Perhaps just for fun… to remember that I am just a human who is allowed to get frustrated and that frustration is sometimes the only thing that binds us humans together! Luckily for me, there is no commandment in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not be sarcastic” or I would be in loads and loads of trouble. I do think I need to just accept today’s commerce as the way it is and move on. I don’t have to like it…. but I must accept it. It’s like the old saying, “would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”

Hasbro*, thank you for allowing me to complain. I am thankful to live in a country that allows me that right. And please, do not send me any gift certificates to “make this right” as I don’t need any more toys that fall apart in my house.

Sincerely,
Wendy S. Oleston
just a girl recovering from alcoholism with the help of God one day at a time


P.S. How dare you Disney create a Cars die-cast car by the name of “Tow” that is an actual tow truck BUT doesn’t have the type of hook that will tow any thing. And lets just say some tenacious child who is smart enough to know that a tow truck named Tow SHOULD be able to tow other cars decides to try and force the issue… how dare you make it so cheap that the tow breaks right off. I'm just sayin'...

*and any other product production company in the world

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Ultimate Unfair Fight

If there is one dude who for certain doesn’t fight fair, it’s the devil. I’ll just be sitting around, minding my own business, thinking I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do and then realize… BAM… “the horned idiot got me!” Maybe he wriggled in with jealousy over a cherished friendship or perhaps I purposely missed an opportunity to serve my neighbor because of pride. Maybe selfishness interrupted the joy of what was meant to be a good deed… whatever it was… he got me, again. He sneaked right in there without me noticing. He used one of my many known weaknesses to drag me down to his level. And if I’m not really careful, he can keep me down there with him by making me think I need to beat myself up over and over and over instead of just giving it to God once and wiping my hands and heart clean of it. Yep, that devil sure doesn’t fight fair.

It makes me think of the story of poor Dinah. She went out to see some of her girlfriends one day and while out and about, struck the fancy of a man named Shechem. He decided he had to have her… and raped her. He was really nice to her after, but she was completely distraught over being defiled and disgraced in such a personal and private way. I’m sure she couldn’t help but to think how unfair it was to be taken like that against her will.

She told her family hoping for support and at first, they seemed to have her back. But it wasn’t long before she learned that Shechem, the man who had raped her, was requesting her hand in marriage. The worst of it was her father was actually considering giving her to him. How in the world could she marry a man who violated her so terribly? When Dinah heard her father had struck a deal with this awful man, I imagine she was beside herself. She felt lost and alone. She felt abandoned and afraid… and she couldn’t believe life could be so cruel… and unfair.

The deal was an unusual one for sure. Dinah’s father told Shechem’s father he would hand over his daughter in marriage, and share other daughters and land with him IF all the men of Shechem’s tribe would agree to take on the sign of the covenant with God. In short, all the dudes in Shechem’s tribe had to be circumcised. After talking it over, the deal sounded pretty good. They’d get to trade goods, daughters, land and such and all they had to do was undergo one little, teensy procedure. They all agreed it was worth it so they went for it… and all the men in the city were chop-chopped on the same day. Fair or not, off little Dinah went to her new home.

Well, as unfair as it may have seemed to her… the Shechemites were about to learn a little something about injustice. In an act of planned vengeance, Dinah’s brothers gathered all of the great warriors and able bodied men of their tribe together and went over to the Shechemite's city while they were all still in pain and recovering from their little “procedure”… and Dinah’s brothers opened up a big can of whoop-ass on them. Because of their weakened state (an unfair advantage), Dinah’s tribe was able to easily kill all the men and plundered the city. And they did it for her… they were her personal vigilantes!

I love this story… do you know why? Because these are God’s people exacting revenge! Of course it’s the Old Testament (big shock) and if you don’t believe that it’s really in there… look it up at Genesis 34. Now, I’m not saying you should go open up a can of whoop-ass on everyone you feel has been unfair to you… what I am saying is this… God showed me today how “the unfair fight” goes both ways.

I really hate the way the devil plots and plans against me. He does horrible things to me then tries to trick me by saying he cares about me. I can become like Dinah and be completely distraught over being defiled and disgraced in such a personal and private way. I think how unfair it is to be taken like that against my will. He is mean and calculating and it’s really easy to look at him and cry, “no fair!!!!” But maybe when I feel that way, I’m thinking of it the wrong way. How unfair is it that the devil already knows he has been beaten??? How unfair is it that he knows he has absolutely NO POWER over God and God’s people? How unfair is it that no matter what he does, no matter what he says… he can not change the fact that Jesus has already overcome him. It’s a done deal. When I think of it that way, I start to feel a lot like Dinah must have felt as she watched her buff brothers mow down the man who had defiled her. I feel justified and proud. I feel invincible and indestructible. I taunt him with… “Ha-ha take that you idiot… you’re goin’ down sucka!!!”

Of course the devil needs to be sneaky and play unfair… I mean wouldn’t I if I knew there was absolutely no way I could win? Wouldn’t I be grasping at whatever straw I had to, to try and hang on to even the tiniest of victories or dignity? Of course I would… and that’s exactly what he does. That’s why it’s so important for me to remain vigilant in my servitude to God. The war has already been won but there are many battles ahead. Yes, the devil may come out ahead on a few of them… but in the end, my vigilance and my Father’s vigilante, Jesus, is going to come through for me!! I bet my eternal life on it! “That’s right devil… you’re goin’ down sucka!!!!!” And THAT, my friends, is the ultimate unfair fight! I sure am glad I’m on the winner’s side.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chat

I learned a valuable lesson last night, one that I hope I won’t soon forget. I had a “date” to chat with a friend of mine. I had been looking forward to it all day and was excited when it was time. Unfortunately, another circumstance arose and when it was time for us to get together, we didn’t. I was bummed. First I must say, I don’t deal with changes in plan very well to begin with, but add on some extra sensitivity and wow… I got some very silly hurt feelings. I felt let down and disappointed. I felt unimportant and silly… I felt sad. My heart kinda did this achy thing it hasn’t done in a long time and at that point I thought it was really strange for me to be so hurt over something so simple. I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep but couldn’t. I started talking to God and asked Him what my deal was… why was I so hurt over something so simple and ridiculous? And that was when He showed me something that made me understand Him just a little bit more.

I love my friend… but she owes me absolutely nothing. We are friends to the end… and I’d do anything for her. My friendship with her is based on nothing other than kindness and respect and love. Our plans to chat didn’t work out, for a reason I understood and support but it still hurt.

I love God… and I owe Him everything. He never leaves my side. He created me, He gave me everything I have, He has saved me from so many terrible things and I am sure there are more to come. He forgives me every time I ask. He holds a special place for me in His kingdom. He calls me daughter. He sends His Spirit to me often to guide me and tell me things. He gave me His only Son with no strings attached. My plans to chat with Him change all the time and usually for reasons that escape any understanding (messing around on Facebook or watching re-runs of Seinfeld).

So… how much more does it hurt God when my plans to chat with Him “don’t work out” because I decide to go watch television or take a nap. How much more than my little heartache does it pain God when I consciously choose something else instead of time with Him? After all, He created me… and I owe everything I am to Him.

Tears came to my eyes when I really thought about this. But not in a beat-myself-up-forever, I’m-such-a-terrible-awful-person, how-could-You-love-me kind of way. It was more of a thank-You-for-showing-me-that-I-need-to-do-better, thank-You-for-Your-grace kind of way. I am truly humbled today… and so very thankful to my friend for this lesson she helped me learn, even though she has no clue. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Footy Pajamas

Another rainy day. I have to admit, I do love the rain. For some reason I find it comforting. Nothing is better than curling up on the couch with a fuzzy, warm blanket on a quiet, rainy day with only a book to read or a few movies to watch. That just sounds like heaven. Of course, once you have children that heaven changes slightly. Suddenly, the fuzzy, warm blanket is sticky with last nights orange juice, the couch has been overrun with cracker crumbs, the quietness that afforded you a listen to the rain drops on the roof has been replaced with , “Mommy, will you play with me… Mommy, can I have a snack… Mommy, I need to poop,” and your new forced favorite movie has an annoying theme song you can’t get out of your head. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of joy in that too, but sometimes it sure would be nice to go back to simpler days.

I’m emotional today although I’m not 100% sure why. Perhaps it’s because I’m saying farewell to some things God has told me to release. Perhaps it’s because I’m embarking on some new, scary journeys God has led me to embrace. Both are very uncomfortable for me. And I don’t deal with change very well. If you don’t believe me all you have to do is ask my husband. He will tell you… a change in plans, however slight can really throw me for a loop. I’m stepping out in faith right now. I’m doing my best to follow Him with obedience. I don’t really “like” it, but He is changing my heart slowly but surely with every step I take toward Him.

I stopped at the super-store to get some milk just a little while ago. As I made my way through the store I walked passed the pajama department. My eyes fell upon a rack I just had to go take a closer look at: adult size footy pajamas. Oh man, I was excited!!! I looked through them and thought about how ridiculous I would look in a pair of these bad-boys… but I also thought about how comfortable they would be. I remembered that a friend of mine had bought a pair last year, and a matching pair for her daughter. I looked at the price… $24.99. I thought it was a bit much for such a silly thing I didn’t really need. Instead of buying them, I picked up my cell phone and called my friend to tell her I had thought of her and her footy pajamas. It made her laugh. Oh how it was good to hear her laugh. I think she was having a rough morning… and we just spoke briefly but profoundly… something about not knowing the answers to the questions we don’t yet know. And… how we put too much pressure on ourselves to know answers to questions we don’t yet know. We both completely understood in that moment, although I’m not sure what the heck we were actually talking about now. We said goodbye and promised to talk again soon.

As I grabbed my milk and headed to the checkout counter I realized the reason I had considered getting the footy pajamas was really simple. I was longing to feel like a child again. I was longing to feel warm, cozy, and curled up safely on my couch. I was longing for the weight of adulthood, responsibility and decisions to be lifted from my shoulders even if only for awhile. I stopped in my tracks and thought about getting those footy pajamas again. $24.99 wasn’t such a bad deal if I could re-claim my comfy-cozy infancy for a moment or two, right?

Then I heard a whisper in my head and realized, I didn’t need to buy a pair of footy pajamas to feel like a cozy, comfy, protected child. All I had to do is ask God if I could nestle in with Him for a little while. I felt Him wrap His loving arms around me and there I stood, the child I longed to be. I felt warm and comforted. The weight of not knowing the answers to questions I didn't yet know lifted in an instant. To further my comfort, God told me I will never be a grown up in His eyes. And He is the type of Father that will always make time for me no matter when or where, no matter what He is doing. Always. Period.

Right now, the house is very quiet… I can actually hear the ticking of the clock in the hallway. It’s nice. I need to go pick my son up from pre-school in 5 minutes. After that, the quietness will be gone but giggles and endless questions will fill the void. As mommy, it is my job to make sure my son feels comfy, cozy and protected. In addition, it is my hope that when he is all grown up, he will recall his mommy teaching him that God can bring him back to his “footy pajama” days... anytime... every time he needs a break.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"What in the TAR-nation?"

Someone once told me the Bible was the cheapest book you can ever buy because every time you read it, it’s a new story. And it’s true, I learn something new every single time I sit down with it.

This Sunday, my husband and I attended a new adult faith class at the church we have been attending. It was our first time going to Sunday school in YEARS… and it was our son’s very first time ever. I’m happy to say, little Brett had a great time and learned about being nice to everyone. Hopefully that will stick! As for Ryan and I, we took a wild tricycle ride (literally, we watched crazy Pastor Rossow ride a tricycle down the center of the room) through 4 major stories in Genesis. First, we discussed Adam, the sneaky-lying-satan-serpent and Eve. Second, I realized how quickly after creation we humans screwed the world up by discussing Cain and Abel. Next was God’s painful decision to wipe “all evil, all the time” away with the Flood. We talked about the rainbow; God’s covenant promise to never ever do that again. He allowed us to start over… and promised that we needn’t be afraid. He told us to be fruitful and multiply and spread out all over the land. We were lucky, right? To have a chance to start over… to have a promise from the Big Guy that He would never flood us again. A sigh of relieve went through the land as we respectfully, graciously, glad-to-be-alive, quickly, obediently went about following God’s direct orders to a tee. Right???

Which brings us to the 4th story... I’m literally rolling on the floor laughing…. Ha ha ha!!! God told us to be fruitful and multiply and spread ourselves through-out the lands. So what did we do? We decided to build the Tower of Babel. That’s right… we decided to build a huge tower so we could all stay together… so we could all fit in one nice, neat, little area. The tower would reach higher and higher and higher… so we could keep an eye on God (wink wink). Yep… spreading throughout the land was overrated. We had a way better plan than God had and we needed to stick together. We needed to stay the same… no change for us! No discomfort needed… same old, same old was just perfect! So there went our respectful, obedience immediately.

As if our defiance weren’t enough, we lobed a big loogie at God as we built this tower of insubordination. What was that loogie? I’m so glad you asked… tar. Yep that’s right, tar. We built the danged tower with tar. Now why would that be a loogie to God??? I’m glad you asked… well, tar was one of the only things we had back in those days that was… waterproof. And why would we want a tower that was waterproof? Glad you asked… could it be… perhaps… we didn't TRUST God’s promise not to flood us again???? Could it be we DOUBTED God’s covenant???? Oh man. How does He put up with us??? (Grace)

As always, God gets us to do what He wants us to do no matter how much we kick and scream. With the snap of His fingers, the tower was gone (tar and all) and we were spread out over the lands with different languages to boot. I had never realized the significance of the tar until yesterday and it got me thinking. How many times in my own life do I try to “waterproof” my tower of disobedience?

The Lord tells me He loves me… and I need not worry (Matthew 6:25-34) yet everyday I find something to worry about. Today I’m sitting here worrying about why some of the women in one of my classes don’t seem to like me very much. It’s like I think my worry will make them like me or will help me change the situation. The truth is, God made me and not everyone is going to like me. God knows who I’m supposed to be close to. So why don't I trust Him?

The Lord says, do not judge (Luke 6:37-42) because He is the one and only judge. Yet there I stand, watching life take place around me as women I see continue affairs, men I am acquainted with sneak peeks at porn and others over-consume alcohol in an effort to try to “get away.” I’m not gonna lie… I judge, even when I don’t mean to. Do I really want to be judged by the measure with which I judge others???

The Lord tells me of the importance of reserving a special time of day to listen and be devoted to Him (Psalm 46:10)… yet it is so easy to choose to do something else instead like… watch Judge Judy or fool around on Facebook for hours looking at pictures of people I don’t even know. I know it's so rewarding to spend that time with Him, so why am I so easily distracted?

And what of this really difficult one… the Lord tells us we should share our troubles and sins with others so that we can be healed (James 5:16). Why is it that we think we have to pretend to be perfect for others? Why do we think we have to have it all together to be in a better position to help others? I was really surprised to hear that my openness about my alcoholism (and other issues) may lead others in need to think that I am not qualified to be a helping hand because I don’t “have it all together.” I only have one thing to say about that… we are all unqualified in some way. If you are in need and you finally find that person who says they have it all together so they can help you… you’ll be working with a liar. Jesus is the only exception. Interestingly enough, Jesus is also the only answer.

Yep, I use tar to build my tower just incase God isn’t gonna get it right. I always seem to have a backup plan, which is usually me attempting to take control of things and resting on my own powers instead of trusting God. Maybe one day I’ll remember that I don’t need a backup plan because God’s covenant is real and true. God doesn’t tell lies… God doesn’t play games. He just keeps giving us chance after chance after chance. He loves us unconditionally. He forgives us with no strings attached. He forgets the past and lets us start fresh. He is true to His word always. Although I’m pretty sure He is up there with a grin on His face as He shakes His head saying “What in the TAR-nation are you crazy people doing now?”

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Out of Propane... Again!

I made a dumb, dumb, dumb mistake the other night… I left the gas tank valve on the grill open after I was done cooking. Not only could we have had a big explosion and burned our house down (thank goodness neither of us smoke) but when I went to cook our steaks last night… there was no fuel. Dumb, dumb, dumb!! I know a few of you can probably relate to that feeling… “Darn it (or other expletives)! I’m ready to grill and I don’t have any propane!!!!” The only thing worse than not being able to start the grill due to no propane is running out right in the middle of cooking your main course. We bought two propane tanks in an effort to avoid this unfortunate occurrence but due to pure laziness, they both usually end up empty at the same time. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Anyhow… I had the whole meal ready, except the steaks (bacon wrapped filets… yum) and Ryan became the savior of dinner by running out to get the refill tank as soon as he got home from work. In no time we were back in business… or so we thought.

The nozzle on the new tank was broken so no gas would come out. Argh… really??? I was quite perturbed… mostly with myself truth be told. It was my fault this whole thing had come about but in the moment all I could feel was agitation and it didn’t really matter what the root was. I grabbed the tank, slammed the door and went to the store myself to re-exchange the exchange.

As I parked at the Wal-mart market, God gave me a little reminder in my head… “You’re wearing one of my shirts child… be gracious, set a good example.” I heard Him clearly and took a peek at myself… I was wearing my statement of faith shirt. Check… set a good example… got it.

The market was BUSY! I went to the first cashier I saw and explained that I just need to exchange the tank really quickly. She told me I needed to go wait in line at the customer service desk. Okay, fine… until I saw how long the line was! Setting a good example left me in that moment. I went and took my place in line completely and utterly annoyed. Apparently everyone on the planet needed to cash a check, get a money order or buy cigarettes (people still buy them at $7 a pack – again, I’m was very glad neither of us smoke). I took several deep breaths and I heard God’s voice again in my head, “You’ve got the shirt on… don’t be a moron!” Okay, maybe He didn’t say moron, but He could have and I would have totally deserved it. I decided to “pretend” I was just fine for the sake of the shirt. Typing that makes me laugh a little.

I closed my eyes and tried to just silence myself. As I stood there trying to gather my inner thoughts and purify them slightly, my attention was drawn to the woman behind me who was talking on her cell phone. I didn’t turn and look at her, I just listened. The exact words out of her mouth were, “I am overwhelmed! I can’t handle this. I don’t know what I am going to do. I am so alone.” From listening, I gathered that she was going through a nasty divorce. Her husband was being very jealous, greedy and was slandering her to her friends, family and co-workers. Of course, the truth in situations can never be found by hearing just one side… but this was obviously her perception and it was obviously taking a huge toll on her. Near tears she repeated, “I am completely overwhelmed.” I decided to use my time in line to pray for her. Specifically, I asked for God to comfort her and to try and give her some moments of peace. I asked Him to hold her under his wing of protection. As I prayed, the image of God’s peace felt as though it were flowing out of me and into her… sort of like something you’d see in a sci-fi movie. It was like an invisible mist that transferred from my body over into hers… and it went on and on for as long as I prayed for her. I didn’t speak to her, although maybe I should have. It was almost my turn in line… and the girl in front of me grabbed my attention. She was buying a money order for $32.00 to pay her cable bill. She was also buying some milk, eggs and cheese with food stamps (it’s a credit card these days but the same idea none-the-less.) I haven’t been too far from being in her shoes in my life… unable to pay bills, unable to buy food free and clear of assistance. I remembered my homeless days. And there I stood pretending not to be mad about running out of propane on my second tank (cause I’m lazy) for my grill (which I don’t even need cause I have a kitchen) to make bacon wrapped filet mignon (a special meal we have quite often) for my happy, healthy family (whom I slammed the door on when I left the house). Wow… perspective hit me like a ton of bricks!!!! How ungrateful of me! I said a quick prayer for this young lady too. And when it was my turn, a real smile came to my face as I kindly explained my need for an exchange.

After getting the exchange taken care off, I went to my car ready to head back home. For some reason I was filled with anxiety though. It was strange… as if out of nowhere. I sat for a moment and realized I had passed all of my peace off to the lady behind me, maybe that was why I felt so anxious. As I started my car my eyes noticed a license plate across the parking lot. It said, “JOS.1.9” Hmmm… a Bible verse perhaps??? I just so happened to have my Bible on the car seat so I grabbed it and looked up Joshua 1:9. Here is what it said:

“Have I not told you? Be strong and have strength of heart! Do not be afraid or lose faith. For the Lord your God is with you anywhere you go.”

Wowwy… I had to laugh… and had to shout to the Lord in gladness! He is so there for me!!! He is so there for us at all times in so many ways. I am amazed and comforted!!!

I went home and finished cooking. I have to say I was sort of beating myself up for not speaking to the lady behind me in line. I mean, what if a simple hug would have made all the difference in her world? Why didn’t I do that??? Unaware of my internal battle, my husband decided to share with me the verses he was meditating on this week.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-11

I felt God tell me that passing comfort to her through prayer was good enough. I realized God's comfort is kinda like my propane tank. I have a tendency to only turn it on when I need it, then I turn it off tight when the steaks are done. But... I think what He really wants me to do is just leave the valve wide open all the time so I can share it with others when I'm not needing it myself. And the super cool thing is, God's tank never runs out... it just keeps going and going.

Only thirty minutes later after this realization, I found myself complaining (or other expletives) about how the across-the-street neighbor keeps parking in front of our house instead of his own… oh boy… when will I ever learn? Sorry God… I’m trying! The phrase "The difficulty with Christianity is that it is so daily" never seemed more true... except it was a lot more moment to moment for me right then. Thankfully, God will never give up on me and His tank just keeps going and going!

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Love I Give Away

Love can be confusing. I know my original conception of love wasn’t very accurate. I confused lust with love very often. I also confused acceptance or a need for acceptance with love as well. In addition I thought anger meant hate and because of that I was afraid to ever have anyone mad at me. On the other side of that coin, I never felt the freedom to be angry at the people I was supposed to love. It was confusing.

I’ve seen the phrase, “God is love” on tons of bumper stickers. One of my favorite Christian songs says of God, “You’re the love You give to me, You’re the love I give away.” I love the thought that all real love comes from God. And if it’s real love and it’s from God, then it’s pure and selfless. But how much of the love I pass around this world is really truly selfless?

More than a year ago I met a young lady who captured my heart. It was a chance kind of meeting… she is a missionary and I was writing a story on mission work. I asked her if I could interview her and she fit me into her schedule even though she was preparing to leave for a 2 year mission abroad. That day we met, I was feeling… emotional. I was having some regret and heartache over some past decisions. When we met, I put my “I’m okay” mask on in an effort to do the interview and go on my way. But, she knew. My interview was quick and like a flash the tables turned and she asked me one very simple question. She sat listening to my answer with a servant’s heart and when I was done she spoke a prayer to me as I cried. That was the beginning of a friendship I hold very near and dear to my heart today.

She was home for a visit this month, and I got the joy of spending some good quality time with her. Today I had to say goodbye to her again as she headed off to finish her second year on her current mission, and it was difficult and joyous at the same time.

As I drove to the airport to say goodbye and send her off with a hug, I realized that I finally understood fully what the lyrics mean… “You’re the love You give to me, You’re the love I give away.” To say I love her is an understatement. I can’t even express the love I feel for her. And it’s not the kind of love that has any sort of reason behind it or selfishness. It “just is.” It’s obvious to me that God has intentionally placed her in my heart so I can assist Him in doting His true and pure love upon this woman He absolutely adores. I am willing, able and excited to help her in anyway I can… she calls me generous which makes me uncomfortable because I know the generosity she sees and feels from me is really the generosity of God… it isn’t me at all! I feel like a different person when I am around her, doing for her or communicating with her… like the sinful me has been replaced by the total graciousness of God in full. It’s strange… but it feels awesome! It’s a window into God’s own heart that produces a humbling high that words can’t possibly convey. I feel so blessed to be chosen by God to love her in this way. I cherish that and her… Yes God, You are the love You give to me and You are the love I give away.