Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Laundry Pile

I sat on the couch this afternoon, the gray sunlight wafting through the room, a car occasionally whooshing down the street outside the window, and the thought came to me, “I’m not doing anything.” I had finished my quiet time of Bible Study, noting Beth Moore’s words that God will make his word clear to us in his timing. The room was dim, quiet, the tall vertical blinds open against the far wall, the light streaming in, as a bird or two chirped in the tree whose remaining green leaves I could see wiggling in the slight breeze outside. Not doing anything. Sitting down and waiting, waiting for what? Am I doing anything with my life, trying to figure out ways to get my toddler to sleep, trying to find new recipes that excluded sugar or pasta, trying to find a remedy for this cold that won’t go away.

A slight melancholy settled upon the room.

And then the timer began buzzing on my phone.

The timer for the laundry. I thought, “I AM doing something. I’m doing the laundry.”

The laundry is one of those works that doesn’t require a lot of attention the whole way through. Thankfully God has provided mankind with the mind to create a machine that will do most of the work for us, and the effort on my part is lugging the baskets down the stairs and across the street to the laundry room. Then lugging them back up after I’ve changed them over, and hanging or folding or airing out to finish drying. It’s an exhausting contribution, doing this with usually two or three loads, particularly after having worked out in the morning. But it’s another chance to care for my family, to care for our possessions which we have been given, and to breathe in some fresh air during the walk. But for the 25 minutes in the wash and the 45 minutes in the drier, I have a little time to sit and either clean or design or read or do my Bible Study or write or shower or wash the dishes or drink a cup of coffee or drink a smoothie or pay the bills. And isn’t it amazing that in the few minutes I have to sit, and the silence begins to settle, I begin to think, “I’m not doing anything.”

It’s a lie we allow ourselves to think, and it’s time to stop it. I’d prefer a handful of minutes with time to reflect upon the silence than a day full of busywork, where my house was clean but my mind was unsettled. I’ve been there, I’m very good at getting there, and it’s a struggle for most of us to stay away from there. Kind of like Walmart.

I’m one in a vast ocean of souls. I realize this more with each passing day. My contribution to this planet may never be realized, but as I heard the lyrics this morning, “I’ve just scratched the surface of my purpose.” There is more to the silence, there is more to realizing our purpose, there is more to Life than we can accomplish in one day. So get the laundry done. You are doing something. You’re just simmering, like a stew, until you’re ready. Then get ready, because this is just the training portion. Wait until the drier stops. Then the real work begins.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

...But Don’t Paint The Bedroom Pink

While watching NCIS and folding laundry yesterday afternoon, Tony DiNozzo informed a character that his loved one had been murdered. I thought, “I hope I never have to be told that. It would just be terrible.” Then I did a mental double-take on myself and realized, “Oh wait.” And I remembered that gray, drizzly January day in 2001. The puddles on the ground as I stepped out of my car. The school secretary saying with empathy, “We are so sorry to hear the news….”

Last night in Bible study, Beth Moore discussed courage. We all do live in such great fear, whether it’s, “What if the chicken doesn’t thaw out in time for dinner?” up to, “Could this chicken be my last meal?” Fear of not being able to pay the bills, of driving down the road, of not having a good enough budget to last for the month, of not having ink in the printer to get that paper in on time, of screwing up our children, of being rude, of losing someone or something very dear.

I’m still having trouble writing right now. I don’t know if it’s laziness, inconsistency, or just a sense of not having anything valuable to say. There are a lot of people out there saying something about something, and I don’t have many answers right now. But I did get a challenge last night and thought I would share it, because we are all affected by Fear, and we are called, especially us Christ-followers, to live outside of fear, outside of the boundaries we can see in this world.

In Esther 4 we read:
Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”
 12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

In Esther’s roundabout conversation with her uncle Mordecai, she began as a hesitant woman who said she could be put to death if she went to the King, who then gathered the courage to say, well, I need to do what I need to do, and if I die, I die.

Most of us don’t live with this as a daily factor.

Well, I’ve got to go to Walmart. And if I die, I die.
Well, it’s time to go work out. And if I die, I die.

Living with a sense that at any moment something terrible can happen to you is no way to live. That is allowing in a darkness that has no authority to be present. BUT things happen. Sin is present in the world. You get in so many car accidents and you get nervous when that car inches closer behind you or that other car runs that red light. There have been several deaths from cancer in my family and among friends that I have really started questioning what the heck we’re doing to cause such damage to ourselves. But can we live like that? Can we live in fear of car accidents, disease, a crumbling economy, global crisis, Slow People Day at Walmart? (Slow as in literally slow-moving. Gah. Lady with a potty-training toddler coming through!!) No. It will dissolve the trust in that firm foundation under our feet.

Mrs. Moore said in the video last night, “What if something happens? If _________, then _________.”

What if your husband cheats on you? What if you lose your job? What if your child dies? What if there is a tornado and we lose the house? What if……? Moore went through the stages of a hypothetical infidelity. Think about it. How would you first react? What would you do? Be mad. Be really mad. And then? Be sad. And then? She said, “Then I’d lay on the floor with my Bible over my face.” I chuckled at that. But think about the stages. She said then she’d go back to teaching Bible studies (and that she’d probably still be mad and take it out on studiers by giving a lot of homework) but then she would still eventually get back to God. That what’s left at the end of our loss, our grief, our complaining, our anger, our angst, our chocolate binges, our giving up… is God. He’s there all along, of course, but at the end of all of it, is just a shedding of layers to reach the final heart of the matter, that God is all we really have. We don’t have insurance, we don’t have a nice car, we don’t have the clothes on our backs. Even if the world crumbles underneath, God is there. Even if we don’t think we can pay for groceries, God is there. Even if we have no more ability or motivation to give, God is there. If _________, then  God .

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuteronomy 33:27a

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Psalm 90:2

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 31:8

From these few verses alone, we see concrete fact that God is, has been, and always will be there, unshakeable, almighty, and the author of our faith. And so we establish God’s persona. Now how about us? We are shaken, poor, and unable. And so often misguided, feeble, and unworthy. However, those of us who trust His Word, and hold to his hope, are this:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9

(God) who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father…
Revelation 1:6

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.
Revelation 5:9-10

The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.
Luke 17:20-21

So there you are. Even if we overspend at Kroger or buy the wrong warranty package, can’t figure out why the computer won’t turn on, or if we boil the milk over the pot, sit on a retainer, get hit in the face with another sports ball, shred the wrong document, or are overheard dispersing judgments on a sister…. We are the children of the Most High King. We are his priests, his kingdom, his bloodline.

Do we cower in fear of tomorrow or do we live “beyond the casket, all the way into the kingdom”? I think our lives may all change if we step into this reality instead of the one we can see. Sometimes we can’t see God’s love, but he is within and around us. Sometimes we can’t see his exact arms holding us, but he places people in our lives to embrace us or simply call to shake out that dark reverie. Moore also said that, “we won’t ever be in a situation where God doesn’t offer us his presence and to give courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the knowledge that there is something much more important at stake.”

We all have our challenges, our callings, our individual stories to live out. We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Quite often those “to do” lists are challenging, and sometimes we are so exhausted we don’t want to even get out of bed. But take heart. He has overcome exhaustion. He has overcome the world. He has overcome fear, loss, hurt, grief, anxiety and anger. Take heart. Take courage. If it is having another baby, if it is eating less sugar, if it is moving to a new place, if it is making new friends, if it is finding a new church, if it is seeking God’s face, if it is not tearing out your hair when the baby poops in the bathtub again, if it is getting dressed, if it is learning to rely on His Strength, then we are able to do it, because He is there.

Chatting for a moment today with my overseas sister, I recalled a quote from my doctor during that pivotal 20-week sonogram. “It looks like you will be having a girl,” he said, watching the monitor next to me, “but don’t paint the walls pink.” Sort of anti-climactic, don’t you think? There is such a big push to “know” what your baby is going to be. Everyone gets all excited as you go to the office, the suspense building that finally, finally, you can find out pink versus blue, purple versus green, and fill the room with baby dolls and lace or dinosaurs and cars. And my doc said, “But don’t paint the walls pink.” Hey, thanks. Thanks for that not-so-pivotal answer. My anticipation balloon warped and winced, flopping down on the floor as the doctor handed me a wipe to clean off my stomach.

Our faith, our existence, our calling, is based on a firm foundation. We can most definitely paint our walls pink. We can line the curtains with purple ruffles and hot glue sequins all over the picture frames because we are His. And he is there.

Fear is that burst balloon, insinuating that we just might wait to celebrate, because you never know if or when or what might come upon the next foot fall. So this is the challenge: to paint our walls as vibrantly as we can, and to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Instead of hesitating upon that impending confrontation, stand firm and to throw back our shoulders.

Then     God     .