Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Buried Treasure

Hadley loves her rawhide bones. When I initially got her, she would devour them. Though, since they are hard, it took a bit to finish them off. I think it had a lot to do with her teeth.

She still loves them and her tail goes nuts when I give them to her. However, she is now more apt to hide them. The go under pillows, in between couch cushions, into the dirty clothes basket . . . . Anywhere is fair game.

I laugh when I see her doing it. She takes it so seriously. And she absolutely remembers where she put them. She gets put out if I move them and a bit frantic if she didn't see me move them and cannot find them. Her bones are very important to her. But I have to wonder if she didn't get more pleasure from them when she really chewed on them as a younger pup?

And then there is the question of why she is hiding them. The cats and I really aren't interested in them at all!

It has gotten me thinking about buried treasure. What is it that I bury that I think others might want? Why do I bury things?

We all have things that we hold dear. But is burying them the answer? Probably not. Because if we bury them, we may not be enjoying them. Honestly, when God gives us good gifts, I think he intends for them to be enjoyed rather than buried.

I should do some laundry now. First, I'll make sure there aren't any of Hadley's bones hidden in the basket.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Such Thing as Too Hard -- Hope Chronicles 88

I was always a good student, but my senior year in high school, pre-calculus stumped me. It seriously stumped me. I was use to getting A's and bemoaning an occasional B. I put my nose to the grindstone the first quarter -- staying late and going in early for extra help. The result was a C. I vowed not to let it get the best of me and kept at it second quarter. Again, I got a C.

As the third quarter rolled around, I trembled. All year long, Mr. Bates had told us about the 200 point take home test he gave third quarter each year. I worked all weekend on that test, puzzling over and over the questions, searching the book, praying. When we got it back, I was crushed to find out that all of my effort resulted in 2 points out of 200!

With an eye on college (I had already been admitted to the University of Evansville), I called the admissions office and asked if I needed the class. It turns out that I only needed it if I was going to go into engineering. I dropped it -- wondering why I had been taking it in the first place.

I had Mr. Bates for a computer class as well. I hadn't talked to him about my decision, so when I showed up for the computer class, he expressed his disappointment. "Why," he asked, "after all that hard work would you quit now?" My answer, "It was just too hard." And it was hard and I couldn't stomach seeing an F on my report card after that disastrous take home test.

I don't necessarily quit easily, but there are times when I have decided that things are just too hard.

Lately, I've found myself thinking a lot about the idea of something being too hard. It's come to mind, particularly, as I've tried to sort through some personal things. I find myself wanting to avoid, bemoaning the fact that something is too hard. Is it doable? Probably. But it seems too painful. It feels crushing -- 100 times more so than contemplating an F on that report card. I quit then, so it seems logical to quit now. Maybe that is the danger of quitting. It becomes easier and easier to quit.

But should I have quit then? I don't know. F or no F, I had already been admitted to college and gotten a scholarship. While I didn't need the class for college, I may have need the growth experience from surviving an F on that all-important-to-me report card. But looking back, who cares now what was on that report card or more high school class rank?

As I've thought about it, the thought has come to mind, "What if Jesus had said it was just too hard?"

Look at Jesus as He approaches Jerusalem for the last time. Scripture makes it clear that He knows what was coming. What if he thought:

  • My friends will fall asleep when I need them the most. I should stop.
  • My friend is going to betray me with a kiss. I should turn around.
  • They will bind my hands and beat me. The pain will be too great too bear. I should run.
  • They will jam a crown of thorns upon my head, mock me, spit on me, humiliate me. I should hide.
  • The crowds who praise me as I enter Jerusalem will call for my death in mere days. Would only a fool go forward?
  • They will nail me to a cross like a criminal. I will die an agonizing death. How can I go one more step knowing that each step takes me one step closer to this pain and humiliation, the sense of being forsaken, the agony? God, it is just too hard.
And Jesus did wrestle with what was coming. In the garden, He prayed that God would take the cup from him. But then He prayed that God's will be done. His sweat came as drops of blood as He considered what was coming. But then He still prayed that God's will be done.

So easy to say, "God's will be done" when life is easy -- when friends and family are faithful, when everyone is healthy, when the job is going well, when everything is just going right. how much harder to say it in the midst of pain and suffering, illness, abandonment, sadness . . . .

Jesus could have said, "It's too hard" and He would have been right. It was too hard. But he didn't quit. He fixed his eyes on God and pressed forward to the joy set before Him.

Sigh. If Jesus did not quit, do I have the luxury of saying, "It's too hard. I'm not going there!"

But there is hope in knowing that when it mattered the most in all of eternity, Jesus refused to throw up His hands and utter "It's just too hard!" and quit. He walks with us in the midst of hard.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Timing of Hope -- Hope Chronicles 87

Recently, I found two adorable small leather Bibles with horses on the cover. They are geared towards kids and I knew just the two little girls they would be perfect for. Catch -- their birthdays were a couple months out. I got them, thinking I would wait to send them. I couldn't. I sent them with a note and told them this was to help stretch their birthdays out.

Patience has never been my strong suit.

I know that we are told that we need to wait on God. However, I sometimes bemoan how slow the waiting seems. I want things to happen now. In the midst of difficult situations, this lack of patience can cause me to despair. "What if ____ never happens?"

So I am utterly amazed at Abraham. God promises him a family that will out number the stars. Yet, he had to wait years and years to have the one son God promised him and the one Sarah helped along. In fact, God's promise of Abraham's descendants out numbering the stars didn't happen in Abraham's lifetime.

To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.

Erich Fromm

How do you not become desperate? I think -- and this is so hard to do -- that it is constantly reminding yourself of who God is. God cannot lie. What He says he will do, will come to pass. But we also have to remember that God's time and our time are often two different things.

In the waiting, I need to learn to rest in what I know about God.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

One of the Scariest Words & Your Thoughts

Yesterday, a woman was lamenting to me that she had gotten Taco Bell on their shirt. It seems that she had eaten in their car and the bottom of their shell was broken. I asked if she had been in a hurry. She said that she hadn't been but that she always ate in her car and read. I laughed a bit and said, "You could take your book into Taco Bell." Honestly, this thought horrified her. She said, "I couldn't eat in a restaurant alone!"

Me: "Spoken like someone who isn't single!"

Welcome to my world.

Honestly, I'm not particularly brave about the alone thing. Sometimes it does keep me from doing things I might enjoy -- particularly things where I know everyone will be paired with a significant other. But even then, sometimes I have to try and go it alone. If I wasn't willing to ever do things alone, I wouldn't ever do anything! Seriously.

This is not meant to be a poor me post. However, I do have a question. If you are married, please put aside the thought that you would do anything for a day of peace and quiet.

What do you think scares people about being alone in the true sense of the word?

I'm thinking of trying to write an article about it. I'd love to hear your thoughts about why alone might be one of the scariest words ever.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Not Always Personal

Sometimes (okay, lots of times) I struggle with taking things personally. I don't mean to. Part of it is that I assume motive when there isn't one. For example, there is work. At one of my jobs, my favorite thing is to interact with customers. Lately, I've been delegated to scanning and ordering shelves. I don't mind it some, but I've noticed that I've begun to take it personally. I assume that they don't want me working with customers.

Reality check, if I was that bad with customers, I wouldn't still be working there.

Still, I was disappointed Friday night to see that I was down for the same thing I had done the last several times I worked. I think it read on my face. My manager and I ended up talking a bit. She said, "Do you know how important that is? Because you do that, everyone can find what they need. It is so important." I admitted that customer service felt worlds more important.

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to her again. I wanted to make sure she knew I didn't mind it, but I just wanted some opportunity to work with customers. She seemed to understand that and said that she would see what they could do. But she also wanted me to know that it was really good business to have me doing the shelves -- not because I couldn't work with customers -- but because I am both highly accurate and very fast at it. I guess I get more done than most at it.

But the point is, that I took it personally. There was nothing personal about it. She actually saw it more as a compliment.

Do you ever take something personally that really isn't?


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Thought for the Day

It is never as important to God where you are on the journey, as it is that you are indeed on the journey. Where you are going is what matters to God, not where you happen to be at the moment. You may start with God no matter what mess your life may be at the present time.

Ben Patterson


Monday, July 13, 2009

A Heart for Nineveh and Maybe Your People Too


Give me a heart for Nineveh. But even more than that, give me a heart for your people too. I know you want to do this, I just wish it didn't involve riding in the belly of a great fish. Light please.

From the belly,


I feel like I'm in the belly of the fish right now. I don't much like it. It seems like everything is pointing to areas I need to work on. Like Jonah, sometimes I need it hit over my head before I listen and do what I'm told. I'm stubborn that way, even with God.

Yesterday, my pastor, Mark, spoke on Living Like Christ in a Non-Christ World. This week specifcially focused on loving others. While Mark used the story of the "Good Samaritan" (I was listening), I found the story of Jonah wiggling in the back of my mind.

I want to be like the Good Samaritan. But I'm probably more like the two who passed the wounded man by. Even worse, I may be like Jonah and have God tell me exactly what to do but still hesitate or run the other way.

Here's the deal with Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach. But the people in Nineveh had a habit of conquering Israel. Jonah wasn't afraid of the Ninevites. But He was afraid of what God would do. You see, in his mind, they weren't worthy of being saved. Saving them was exactly what God had in mind. He didn't want God to save them, so he hopped the first boat out of there.

God caused a storm and then the sailors threw in overboard. Jonah knew the storm was about his disobedience. He spent 3 days in the belly of a great fish and God had the fish spit him on dry land. Reluctantly, he did as God told him. And God moved in the hearts of men, women, and children in Nineveh and many came to know him.

But Jonah couldn't rejoice over this. In Jonah 4: 13 it is written,

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to tarshish. I knew that you are gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

But the Lord replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

He went into the desert and God caused a vine to grow up to give him shade. The next day a worm ate the vine and the sun and the wind were scorching. And again Jonah said it would be better to die than live. God replies:

"You have been concerend about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. but Nineveh has more than a hundred twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Shoul I not be concerned about that great city?"

Scripture does not record a reply. Perhaps the question is enough. Jonah, you've got your priorities all wrong.

Where do I come into it. Sometimes it is hard for me to see outside of my life. Does that make sense? I wonder first how things will impact me and worry later about people outside of my influence. But I also said I need a heart for God's people. In someways, it is easier to care for those who are remote, like my Compassion children. I love them, but I don't know them and their families. Perhaps, I that makes it easier for me to give grace and compassion.Some part of me has decided that those children are worth it.

But then there are the people I know -- some in church and some out. My mind says I need to be concerned for this or that, but sometimes my heart has a hard time catching up. A woman I know likes to read. She reads everyday at lunch. I love to read. I read all the time too. This woman drives me crazy. She hasn't done anything, but we grate against each other. I have to consciously decide to engage. She came to mind during the service yesterday. Yesterday afternoon, I sorted through books. God prompted me to bag them up to give to her. It's a small thing, but part of me wanted to argue. I could just give them to the library for their used book sale. It would still be helping. But I couldn't let go of something she had said last week about scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of books. So I sorted 3 bags of books I thought would be of interest to her. Perhaps as a way of saying, "I take care of all things," I had enough for 3 more bags of books for the library sale.

3 bags of books. A small thing, but a choice to engage instead of turn away.

God, give me a heart for all your people, give me your eyes, and stop my pride when I want to pick and choose to whom I will be kind.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fair Isn't Always Equal

Fair. Put one piece of cake on the table in between 2 kids and you'll get an immediate lesson in fair. (For those of you with kids, I've heard the way of making sure things are fair in this situation is to let one child cut the piece of cake and the other get first dibs on which half they want!) Kids are keenly aware of fair. But then, most adults I know are pretty aware too!

I came across this book last night. It had the title that went something like "Fair Isn't Always Equal." Maybe it stood out to me because "fair" was on my mind. Like most people, I like things to be fair. If they aren't fair, I prefer to be in the one up position. Honestly, (like most people, I think) I probably don't even think about fair unless I feel like I'm getting the short end of the stick.

When I was on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, our Regional staff meetings one year were on Racial Reconciliation. They had a variety of activities they put us through and then debriefed. One was a race with candy as the reward. We started out in one line. Then the facilitator said something like, "If you were raised in a two parent home, take one step forward. If you had a library card growing up, take a step forward. If you had a computer at all in your home, take a step forward." After several of those, we also heard, "If you spent time in a foster home, take a step back. If you have ever been refused service somewhere, take a step back." You get the picture.

While we all believed in equality, the game showed us an enormous amount of situations where things weren't fair. In the end, a couple staff were way out ahead and none of the rest of us had a chance. One staff member was actually behind the line where we had all begun. Most had the sensitivity to be embarrassed at being so far ahead. It was humbling.

I don't know anything about that book, so I cannot recommend it. But I do think it is true. Fair isn't always equal.

As I've thought about it, I've also come to realize that God is more concerned about my character than about fair. I don't know where that thought came from. Maybe God whispered it in my ear or tugged it out of some recess of my mind from long ago. Where ever it came from, I think it is an amazing thought and it sets my priorities on end. I am so much more likely to think about fair before my character.

How do I know God is more concerned about character than fair? Look at the cross. The cross is stands in stark contrast to fair. There was nothing fair about Jesus death on the cross. If Jesus was concerned about fair, I would have been nailed to the cross for my sins instead of Jesus.

There is no mercy in fair. There is no grace in fair. Rather fair is about what is deserved or earned. Mercy is about not getting what we deserve. Grace is mercy's kindred spirit but takes it one step further and offers what we do not deserve and can never earn.

Fair is rigid. Mercy and grace are fluid and in God's love, they wrap themselves around His children.

Fair has it's merits. Merit is it's cornerstone. But stone is cold. I'll choose mercy and grace.

The challenge now learning let go of fair in relation to those around me and offer mercy and grace instead.

While I'm praying that, it's scary. Choosing those things are hard. God used that book title to remind me. Even last night, I found the words, "That's not fair" coming quickly to mind. Mercy and grace. Mercy and grace. Pray that I remember those words before fair even creeps in.

Thank God that He cares more about my character, about me, than He does about honoring my sense of fair.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Even in the Dark

At some point in my elementary school days, my parents carpeted the basement and it became a depository of toys. Like most kids, the toys were fun, but some of the best times to be had just required an imagination. There were a couple window wells, but really, the basement was fairly dark. We discovered that playing Hide-N-Seek in the dark was better than regular Hide-N-Seek. If the cousins were visiting, this was a great pass time.

I'm posting today at the Internet Cafe. Click here to finish reading this post.


Monday, July 6, 2009


I was just paying bills and lamenting on how little stretch there is in things. But then I went out and put the bills in the mail. (I still do that sometimes!) I found a letter from my Compassion International child in Rwanda. Kayirnagwa is 11. She wrote to me about how she wants to learn to write me with her own hand. And then she went on to say that she now has to stay home because she is the eldest. She cooks most meals and takes care of her younger siblings. You see, many months ago, her mother injured her back.

How is that for perspective on bills and such? I have been so blessed. I had chores but nothing to the point of my family's welfare depending on me. I have bills, but while I "want," my wants are very different from things I need every day. It's humbling.

I just wrote her a letter on line. I hope it flies uncommonly fast to her so that she knows how proud I am of her as she helps her family.

Please join me in praying for Kayirangwa and her family. Pray that her mother would be well and that Kayirnagwa can go back to being a child a bit longer and learning to write and read and do math and all those other things. She's too young to have so much responsibility. But then, perhaps that is my western mindset speaking. Still, I do pray for her to get to be a child a little bit longer.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Today, one of my Compassion girls turns 9! Her name is Ambar and she lives in Ecuador. I've sponsored her almost a year and it has been fun to get to know her.

I think God must have known my heart would wish to make her birthday very special. Through the Compassion blog, I connected with a woman named Sara who was going to be traveling to Ecuador. I was able to send several small gifts (all inside a 1lb plastic bag). I got an email last night from Sara saying that she had dropped the package at one of the Compassion offices in Ecuador yesterday.

I was thrilled. While it may be much too hope that Ambar got it today (it would have to be passed on to her center), I love the idea of things getting to her so close to her birthday. I sent her a pretty, pink frilly top. I'm hoping it fits or is a bit big so she can grow into it. I sent lots of pretty hair things, a small purple photo album, stickers, and a small travel size Etch-a-Sketch! I wish I could have sent more, but it feels great to be able to send those items.

Life in Illinois is challenging right now for a lot of people. The economy stinks and the state is without a budget. Many social service agencies are discontinuing services. A major insurance provider is uping coverage cost. All of that is bad and hard and I do not discount any of that -- particularly the social service piece. However, when I think about how little my girls subsist on, I am more aware of the bounty we have.

I hope my few small gifts brighten your day, Ambar. May they be a tangible reminder that you are loved and cared for by me and even more loved and cared from by God.