Monday, February 23, 2009

Are You Worried About the Economy?

I go in cycles trying to keep up on the news. Typically, I do a pretty poor job of it -- gravitating only to stories that intrigue me. However, it is hard to miss that the economy is suffering. If the stretch of my paycheck didn't clue me in, the headlines would.

Last night at BN, I was cashiering. I caught the gist of one of the papers. Though the person who spent $350 on books belies the struggle, the problem is of global proportions. One article talked about how Americans' new interest in saving is impacting nations like China that depend so heavily on exporting of goods to this country.

Tonight, I caught a blip on CBS news about newspapers. Apparently, some major holders of papers are filing for bankruptcy. They had already been struggling because of the wealth of free information now available at our fingertips. The sale of ads have decreased and we just don't buy the paper anymore.

I haven't a clue where the phrase comes from, but I believe it is in regards to money. I wonder how long (or if we are already there) until buyers, lenders, or whomever looks at us and says about the American dollar "It's not worth the paper it's printed on."

Between shoppers last night (long waits on a Sunday night), I got to thinking about God's economy. I can imagine Satan looking at our sin ravaged and decaying world and shaking his head, turning to God, and making a very good case that we aren't "worth the paper we're printed on." And in some respects, he might be right. How many times did I sin today? How many cross words or hurtful thoughts?

But God wouldn't buy into it. In spite of the grim economy of my soul at times, I shouldn't buy into it either. God listened to the plea of the hymn writer Robert Robinson when in Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing he wrote:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above

Jesus takes my ravaged heart from Satan's hand as Satan points out every flaw. Jesus turns it over in his nail scarred hands and points triumphantly at the seal that marks it for His courts above. He states, "Not worth the paper it's written on but so dear to me that I find it worth my very blood."

Tonight I shall strive not to give over to my worries and frets, because Jesus is in charge of the economy of my soul. It's backed by His grace and love.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Letting Your Guard Down -- Hope Chronicles 86

My cats trust me. They greet me at the door. Mali begs to have her chin scratched. Katy does a cat scratch and then rolls on her side or back for a belly rub. Both are signs of trust -- particularly the belly rub. For all practical purposes, it puts Katy in a vulnerable position. It's hard to move fast from that position, it's hard to escape. She willingly lets her guard down.

This weekend I had company. My friends brought their dog, Ike. Katy bolted as soon as he appeared and hid under the dresser. Mali stayed out but put Ike in his place with a clawed swipe at his nose and a hiss. (I think this perplexed poor Ike. He lives with a cat and just wanted to say, "Hello.")

At night both of them sleep with me. Katy goes as far as to paw at the covers around my neck until I let her under the covers and proceed to rub her belly. I worked Saturday night. My company was in bed when I came in with Ike closed in the bedroom with them. Katy finally decided to venture out when I did my soft, ritual call, "Katy, Katy love. Katy, Katy love." We commenced with the routine. But then from down the hall, both cats heard Ike rattle the tags on his collar.

Mali opted to sleep on top of the tallest dresser. Katy spent the night beneath the dresser. No amount of coaxing would convince her to come out.

I love that in general they both trust me so much. But as I've thought about their reaction that night, it showed me that they only trust me to a certain extent. After that, they decided to fend for themselves.

I would like to say that I trust God completely. But I think I am often like Katy and Mali. I'm willing to show my soft, vulnerable belly to a certain extent. Throw in an unknown element and I make for the safety beneath the dresser.

Do you have things you only trust God with so far? Relationships are a big one for me. I have a hard time handing them to God and not wanting to grab them back. My anxiety over finances at times shows a similar inclination to trust God completely with them.

But scripture tells us that we can trust God with all things -- even the deepest desires of our hearts. Proverbs 3:5 says:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart needs to take precedence over my understanding of things. Why can I trust Him? The evidence is in promises kept -- to me and throughout history.
  • He promised to make Abram/Abraham a great nation.
  • He promised to rescue His people.
  • He promised to send a redeemer.
  • He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us.
  • He promised to send a comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Hindsight is 20/20. When I look back on my life I see God's faithfulness. He brought a child of brokenness out of the darkness when He called me in the midst of the violence of my family. He has helped me find others to be family with. When I look back, I can see that He never left me.

We can have hope for all the promises kept throughout history that point to all the promises He will keep until He brings us all to be with Him in his glory.

Next time I want to sprint under the dresser, I need to pause and choose to be vulnerable before Him and let His touch comfort my anxiety because I know Him as a keeper of promises.


Monday, February 16, 2009

The Compliment

Grace, Andrea, Elena, and Addie

This weekend I had a fun visit from some friends. Allison, Elena, and Grace moved from Illinois to Michigan where Allison remarried. It was really hard for me to see them go. Since they are in the UP, it takes a bit to get up there or down here depending on how you look at it.

A few weeks ago, Allison asked about all of them coming for a visit. I had to work at BN, Saturday night, but they made into town Saturday afternoon after visiting other friends in Chicago. We played with the cats, talked, played a game and then met up with other friends at Culvers for dinner.

The gang of kids at Culvers

I headed off to work at 7:00 and everyone else went to out to an indoor kind of arcade/pro putt in town. They bunked at my house and joined me at church on Sunday where they got to see a lot of familiar faces.

Allison shared with me about Elena's excitement over coming. She apparently told her gymnastic teacher that she was going to visit her "best friend Amy." What a high compliment to be considered any child's best friend!

It was a delightful time. It had been so many months since seeing all of them that I wondered if there would be any awkwardness. I was thrilled with "falling back into friendship" that happened.


Sunday, February 8, 2009


I got up really late for church this morning. I just kept hitting that snooze button. Apparently, after a certain point, the snooze button gives up. (I am serious about this. I've experienced it a couple of times, but I'm not sure what the magic number of snooze times is. I've been too tired catching just a few more moments to count it out.) So, I bolted awake at 8:55 and literally dashed through the shower. (I hate not getting a morning shower.) Somehow, I managed to make it downtown by 9:17. We typically start at 9:15, but I don't think we started until 9:20 or so today.

Today's sermon was on serving. If you read the previous two posts, you'll notice that is something I am struggling a bit with. It isn't a lack of desire to serve. I think I have that. But, for the moment, I feel as if I've been benched. While God is working on some things, it's not necessarily fun. Some days are better than others. I was feeling pretty up going into church even though I was rushed. I struggled as I walked out.

I can come up with a lengthy resume of service going back to my junior high days and working in the church nursery. I've taught various ages of Sunday School kids, helped as a Young Life Leader while in college, volunteered with a kid in the local residential treatment center for five years, . . . . I've served in the church and out of the church. I've helped individuals in various ways. I've watched kids so parents can go out, though some of the kids have outgrown me at this point. So, I'm not even doing that much anymore.

So, I have a resume, but I don't think I ever thought that it would save me. I still don't believe that it will or would or whatever. But today, I was painfully aware of not having some role. Perhaps that is the crux of the matter. I've too often found my identity in what I do rather than whose I am.

Whose I am is more important than what I do. Pray that the knowledge of that would sink deep in my soul and that I can find joy in serving in the little things like clearing my neighbor's drive when it snows or praying quick prayers for people based on the books they buy (ex: various illnesses, grief, and such). I think that either they must be going through that or someone they care for is.

What I do should be a reflection of whose I am -- title or resume worthy or not.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

God and GE Light Bulbs -- Hope Chronicles 85

Many years ago there was an experiment that was done by GE. Or if it wasn't done by GE they used GE light bulbs. (I studied this in college and that was many moons ago, so please forgive the fact that I don't remember every detail.) The goal was to find out if the employees worked better with more light. The employees knew about the study going on. As the light increased, the work product increased. To make sure that the light was the causative factor, the researchers decided to then try lowering the lights. To their amazement, lowering the lights also caused an increase in production. What were they to make of that?

They finally came to the conclusion. It wasn't the light that caused the increase in productivity. Rather, it was the fact that the employees were being given attention. Even the decrease in light was subconsciously perceived as attention.

Why do I share this? I think there are a couple of reasons. First, I recently moved into more of a management position at my full time job. It's been an interesting transition going from one of the gang to management. I've yet to personally need to come down really hard on people. My correction style is typically "I just wanted to point this out to you. Watch out for this in the future please." It has been well received, I think. I've also encouraged people to come ask questions whenever they have them. This is particularly crucial because we have 3 relatively new employees in a office that completely totals 7. Yet, every time I ask someone to come into my office, the first question is "What did I do?" Honestly, this perplexes me. I've actually, more times than not, asked people in to get their input on something or give a compliment. I think it is just the perception of being in management.

A couple days ago I publicly asked one of the employees to come in so I could "borrow his brain" for a few minutes. He has actually been there the second longest, second only to my boss. I was working on an employee training program. Since he knows more than I do at this point in some areas, I wanted his input. What touched me was that at the end of the conversation, he thanked me three times for asking his opinion. He said sometimes he feels side-lined. To me, it felt like one of those "GE light bulb" moments for him.

I wonder what giving attention to those around us, outside of employees, does for the relationship and their self-esteem. If you have kids, do they get your attention? What about other family members? What about friends?

Lastly, I thought about what does my giving my attention to God do? I'm sure it pleases him. But, actually, it probably doesn't do much in the same sense as the GE light bulbs. I'm pretty sure God's self esteem is intact. With what I know about God, while my attention pleases Him, it doesn't make Him respond more to me or give me my every prayer and desire.

So, I realized that with God, I was asking the wrong question. It should be, what does giving God my attention do to me?

  • It makes me more aware of Him in each moment of my life
  • It helps me focus on His will.
  • It teaches me things about myself and things about Him
  • It changes my heart, my mind, and my soul.
God desires my attention, but the change happens in my soul as I realize that I fully have His attention, love, and care, every moment of each day. There is great hope in knowing that.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It has been a long time between posts. After posting something like 280 or 290 times in 2008, January saw a total of 4 posts. Four posts from the gal who posted on average 5 times a week. So, what has been going on?

I could easily blame most of it on the business of retail at the holidays. But, really, it has been more than that. God and I have been in a deep process and walk together. It's left me contemplative but not in a way that I could easily put into words.

Recently, I was talking to a manager at B&N. She asked, "Do you ever raise your voice? You are so quiet." I had to think for a moment. I sensed the deeper question about raising my voice was really about getting angry. Do I get angry? Yes. My response was, "I may not yell, but I do get intense."

Several years ago I took riding lessons. If I could afford them now, I would do it all again. Most of the horses that I was around were ones who were already trained. On occasion I saw someone working with a really young horse. They were trying to "break" him in so that he could be ridden. But the goal was to break the will but not the spirit of the horse.

Interestingly, the other term used for breaking a horse is gentling. I like this term much better. I sense that God has been using the last couple of months to gentle me.

Underneath all that quiet is a stubborn streak from here to the moon. I can be very pliable, but when someone hits the right thing at the wrong time or in the wrong way, I dig a trench and barricade myself in. I get intense but not necessarily loud.

Recently, an opportunity to volunteer as the administrative assistant with my friend and pastor presented itself. I was thrilled. He was thrilled. It lasted 2 weeks. We are run by a leadership team. The team posed some pretty hard questions about if it was a good fit for me and a pattern of damaged relationships with various people.

I was hurt and humiliated. I really wanted to lash out -- "What about __________" and how come there is a double standard. I wanted to know everything that had been said about me and I wanted answers about a number of things. I was doggedly determined to find out.

I talked to someone on the council on Sunday wanting copies of emails about me he mentioned. He said that he would talk to everyone and see. I suggested that I had a RIGHT to know.

I'm not sure how He did it, but God pressed it on my heart that I did not need to know and perhaps submission was the best route. I emailed my pastor withdrawing the request for information. He emailed me back thanking me for coming to that place.

In the mean time I have been floundering a bit. A number of things have fallen through in terms of serving. I feel like I have nothing to give or offer. And I have been tempted to want to leave and start over elsewhere. But I am convinced that God does not want me to do that. I don't really want to do that, but it is really hard.

So, I am sitting and listening and praying. And I am asking God to show me the messes God wants me to clean up.

I've met with three people so far and emailed a couple others.

Interestingly, the first person sent me an email on my birthday about some resentments she had toward me. It wasn't really an email I wanted on my birthday. Only by God's grace was I able to see it as an invitation to do the next 40 years differently. We met and talked things out.

The most recent one was a woman that I just didn't like. I am ashamed to say that I got her as a secret sister a couple years ago. I called and asked if there was anyway to switch it. There wasn't. In one of my most immature moments, I hastily decided to pull out of the program. I walked up to her recently and simply said, "I don't know how things got so bad between us (no specific instances) but would she accept my apology. I wanted, if possible to start new with her. She graciously agreed.

I keep telling God I want a clean slate. The easiest way would be to leave. But God keeps telling me that the slate I have is fine and slowly we will clean it.

And all the time He is gentling me like those who work with wild horses. He's letting me keep my spirit but curving my will towards His.

What a gracious God we have.