Notes from Life's Journey

January 2, 2014


Filed under: personal growth — dmbr622 @ 9:16 am

Yesterday morning I wrote about my word for 2014, intentional. Throughout the day, I would see some little thing that needed to be done, start to walk away from it in my ‘do it later’ mindset and the word ‘intentional’ would surface. In each instance, I did the small thing before moving on. It’s interesting to reflect on the possibility that stopping to do a little thing might be the opposite of intentional if my concept of the word were only to stay focused on the specific task at hand. In my case, it isn’t. My concept of intentional is more that of the big picture. One of my Facebook friends is apparently doing a group daily reflection type activity and she posted “Begin with the end in mind.” That’s one aspect of what I mean by intentional so that, if I want my world to have some level of organization (the end result) then I need to be intentional in making sure those little things don’t keep getting shoved aside until they become big things.

After I wrote my blog yesterday, I did a Wordle of some synonyms and antonyms I thought of to aid my sense of what it means to be intentional. This morning my emailed Word of the Day was ‘yare’ and I think it’s a word that might well fit in with my ‘big picture’ concept of intentional.  It’s a word I don’t remember ever seeing or hearing before although it is a very old word [first known recorded use was in 888]; it means “easily maneuverable; nimble; ready; prepared.”  I suspect it was often used of a sailing vessel that could be managed in rough or smooth seas, was adaptable, ready and prepared to meet the needs of the sailors, equipped with the necessary weapons to defend them and with enough capability for speed to enable them to escape if need be. At some deep level that word encompasses my reasons for choosing the word intentional. Although I want to continue to go with the flow, I also want to be prepared,  ready and fit for whatever purpose and need that arises.

So today as I live with intentionality, I also aim to be yare.


January 1, 2014

Intentional Wordle

Filed under: personal growth — dmbr622 @ 9:49 am

Shortly after I mentioned on my Facebook status that I had written a blog, my daughter commented/quipped, “My new word of the day is Wordle.” I decided I should do a Wordle of my word and began searching for synonyms and antonyms. Here is the result: Intentional WordleThinking about the synonyms and antonyms brought to mind a few books to utilize in my year-long endeavor: Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean Pierre de Caussade, Be Here Now, by Baba Ram Dass, Reflective Living by Ken Gire and one I just saw mentioned in an Amazon email: Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. I will probably spend time again with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Walking in this World. I know as the year goes on I will be adding additional books to guide me.

Intentionally 2014

Filed under: personal growth — dmbr622 @ 7:23 am

In the last few days of 2013, twoFacebook statuses caught my attention. The first was a status that asked, “What’s Your Word?” As one who loves words along with having often reflected on the life of a woman of great spiritual depth who selected a word to focus on each year, I clicked on the included link: “My One Word – change your life with just one word.  The page included a Wordle of potential words and one of them seemed to leap out at me: INTENTIONAL.

I was reminded of a quote from Lewis Carroll’s  “Alice in Wonderland:”

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

I think we all know the road we take does matter. As a rather laid back, low-key, person, I am good at “going with the flow,” “rolling with the punches,” responding to what is. Although I don’t necessarily think those are bad things, I can’t help but wonder what my life might look like if what I did was, as the dictionary defines intentional, done deliberately.

The second status that caught my attention yesterday was a quote: “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” For the past several years I have been writing on two books: “Remembering it All: A Memoir,” and “Jacob and Eva” (a fictionalized family history) as well as two blogs – Donna’s Weblog and this one, “Notes from Life’s Journey.” In 2013, I did little more than make a few editorial changes in both books, and wrote nine blogs in 365 days – not much output for one who loves words.

Some of the areas in which to be intentional in addition to writing include healthy living, business opportunities, household organization and reaching out to others. So here’s to a year of living intentionally!

March 5, 2013

Reflections on the Inner Person versus the Outer Person

Filed under: Walking — dmbr622 @ 10:25 pm

I was watching an Internet broadcast of a college class on the impact of the Renaissance of American life and politics – the eighth class out of a ten class series. I was finding this class more personally enlightening than the previous seven classes when the instructor said something about the teachings of Martin Luther being aimed at bringing the outer man into conformity with the inner man. My initial thought was, ‘Yes!’ But that agreement didn’t last long.

I began to think about all the multiplicity of motives and thoughts that are within the inward person of most, if not all, of us. Although it is true that if the outer person more consistently resembled the highest ideal or standard to which most of us give assent, our world would probably be a better place. The problem is, we’re not always in agreement with what is the highest ideal or standard – even within one inner person, let alone between inner persons.

Sometimes the alternative might work better – having our inner person be fully in agreement with our outer person. The reason for that is that most often we try to put our best face forward – in other words, we tend to limit the visibility to outsiders of our temper tantrums, selfishness, greed, etc. It should be a good thing if there were some kind of checks and balances between our inner and outer person so that, over time, the negatives [by some ideal standard] are replaced by more positive aspects [also measured by some ideal standard].

I suspect that, for most of us, this will be a lifelong process and one with difficulty in balancing the difference between what I think I want or need, what is for my ultimate good, what is in the best interest of those I come in contact with including their perceived wants and needs and ultimate good, and the impact on the world around me. To add to the complexity, there may be a different ideal standard depending on which facet of those I focus on.

September 18, 2011

The Power of Words

Filed under: personal growth,Walking — dmbr622 @ 8:44 am

I’ve loved words for as long as I can remember – I read them, sing them, write them, type them, transcribe them, study them, evaluate them, rearrange them, and change my life by understanding them.  I believe we are, in fact, molded by the words we choose.

Many years ago I read a book entitled “Wishcraft” by Barbara Sher in which she said something that resonated deeply in me; it was about a language/cultural shift in which people now attempt to justify what they want by the language of need.  Have you been in a store, like Penny’s perhaps, and listened to a teenager with a parent shopping for clothing?  The parent says, “Look at the price difference here – Wranglers are on sale for $22.95 and these designer jeans are $129.95.  Can’t you be reasonable for a change?”  “Mom, I CAN’T wear those awful things –NOBODY wears those.  I NEED designer jeans!”  Or have you listened in on your own self-talk over a purchase? – “My pickup is approaching 80,000 miles and soon it’s going to cost more just to keep it running.  I really NEED a new pickup,” or after an invitation to a new social event and running through the 69 outfits in your closet, you say, “I NEED a new outfit to wear to the party – I don’t have a single thing to wear?”  The real truth is not that we NEED these things, but that we WANT them.  But wanting things like that seems a little self-centered and certainly we would prefer not to be known as self-centered, so we try to rationalize that we NEED them.

When I started thinking about those words – WISH, NEED, and WANT – and the differences in internalized meaning, I began to understand the power of words to stop me, or keep me where I’ve always been, or to propel me forward.

I told you I sing words and the song, When you Wish Upon a Star, from the movie, Pinocchio as sung by Jiminy Cricket, was a part of my childhood belief system:

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.

A part of what Barbara Sher meant to get across in her book is that a dream or wish CAN spur us on to achievement, but more often than not, wishes are merely passive – like wishcraft – causing us to hope beyond hope that something magical will happen and our dreams will materialize – without effort or cost or time.  For example, several times a year I say, “I wish I would win the Publisher’s Clearing House prize.”  You’ve probably said the same thing or updated to the now legal Oklahoma lottery, but none of us goes to a builder to order our dream house based on Publisher’s Clearinghouse or the lottery, because we know wishes don’t make it so.

The next word in our trio of words is NEED.  We’ve probably all heard the phrase, “Necessity (or need) is the mother of invention.”  So, once again, although a need CAN be the force to propel us forward, in our culture it is more likely to be a rationalization for something we DON’T need.  In addition, in our culture, if I have a NEED, it is probably because SOMEONE didn’t meet my needs.  In that scenario, NEED becomes a word of blame and expectation.  It is a word of infidelity and divorce – he or she didn’t meet my needs.  It is a word of liberal politics – if there is a need, we’d better get funding to meet it because this is the land of opportunity and equality.  So need has become a word of an outstretched palm waiting for somebody to put something in it.

The third word – WANT – is a word based on speaking the truth to yourself. To say “I want it” is to acknowledge ownership of your desire.  When you can look at that pickup or the new outfit or the attainment of a new skill, such as speaking in front a group, and say to yourself, “I WANT that,” the door is opened to evaluate how much you want it, setting goals to get it and moving step-by-step toward it; and THAT is the key to achieving YOUR desires.  When you want it enough, you’ll make a plan of action to achieve it.  When you want it enough, you’ll be willing to count the cost and invest whatever it takes in time, energy, money, a support system and commitment.

We’re all here tonight in a Toastmasters meeting because we WANT something  – more ease in speaking in front of groups; to prepare for a new phase in a career or as a professional speaker, motivator, or comedian; to practice leadership skills; or even to have contact with people who care enough to try to better themselves.  So, the question tonight for each of us is, “Why am I here and what do I want?”  Am I merely wishing for change and growth to magically occur?  Because I have a NEED to achieve, am I waiting for someone else to provide the opportunity, the motivation, or the skills?  Or am I willing to step out on a limb and say, “I WANT this enough to set goals, and make a plan of action and continue working at it until I attain it?”

When we can speak the latter with conviction, we have taken the first step toward harnessing the power of words to change our lives – to open the door to our realized future.

[from a talk given in 2009]

March 8, 2010

message from Marty

Filed under: Walking — dmbr622 @ 2:31 pm

Today I’m doing something I’ve never done before; I’m copying an article that is from the current issue of the monthly newsletter from Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City; it was written by the senior pastor , Marty Grubbs, as a part of his regular monthly column entitled ‘message from Marty.’  I decided to post it in this way because his words resonated in me, and as I read them I believed they would resonate with some members of my family as well as friends who are struggling through difficult days. I hope you find his words comforting and meaningful:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30.

Lately, there have been so many people special to me who have gone on to heaven, or who are walking through a dark valley at the moment. As most of you know, my own father-in-law is in a valiant battle with cancer. These are times when I have to reflect on what I really believe. Do I believe what the Bible says about going through difficult times? It’s one thing to preach it; it is often another to have to practice it. Let me assure you, my faith is not wavering. But finding the reality of God’s promise in the middle of the storm is often not very easy.

The Bible promises that we can “give all our worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to us” (I Peter 5:7 NLT). How do I know when I have given Him all of my worries? And if I have given all my worries to Him, is it ok to still be worried? When is it just deep concern?

Jesus has promised that He will give us His peace. He promises that His peace is very different than what is offered by the world. He even goes as far as telling us to “not let our hearts be troubled and not to be afraid” (John 14:27). I believe this with all my heart, but my heart is still heavy with concern for those I love. My mind is filled with thoughts of what I can do, what I should say, how I should act in these storm-filled moments.

Jesus was out on the water with the disciples one day when a fierce storm came along. The disciples were terrified. Jesus was asleep. The disciples woke Him up saying, “Master, we are going to drown!” Jesus calmed the storm, and questioned them about their faith. I don’t get the sense that Jesus was angry with them, but I do believe He knew this was a moment for them to decide if they really believed He had the power to not only calm the stormy waters, but the storms of life as well. And I believe He fully understood their fear.

I’d like to believe that if I had been in that boat, I would have been perfectly fine knowing Jesus was on the boat, even if asleep. But I predict I would have been the first one trying to wake Him up and get something done.

In this time of stormy days, I am remembering that Jesus is with us in the storm. I prefer smooth sailing. Don’t we all? Given a choice of lakes, I’d choose one that offered smooth sailing. I would do everything I could to avoid the storms. Unfortunately, life does not offer that option. And Jesus was so clear about these times. He reminds us in John 16:33 “I have told you all of this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” In other words, there will be stormy times, but He has it covered. There will be painful moments. He has it covered.

“Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.”  ~ John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

January 31, 2010

Upon Reaching Your Majority

Filed under: personal growth,Walking — dmbr622 @ 11:39 am

[Written to and for my grandchildren on their 18th birthday]

You could hardly wait; it seemed so important to be legal – an adult – old enough … Until January 31, 2010 you were minors (at least in Oklahoma) but today, you’ve reached your majority. Uh … what on earth does that mean?

It means that before today, the legal system assumed you didn’t have all the resources (financial, educational, maturational, etc.) to take responsibility for everything that happens in your life – well, of course, none of us has total control over everything in our life. There will always be things such as disease or earthquakes, and even the actions of other people. That’s why the legal system says you’ve reached your ‘majority’ – they believe you can be responsible for the majority of what comes your way – as I said, at least in Oklahoma. Before that, you were only able to be responsible for a minority (you were minors) of your actions or choices.

Your mom and I have been studying our heritage; just think – if some of our ancestors had remained in Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia or Wisconsin you’d have to wait until you graduated from high school, in Alabama you’d still have another year, or in Mississippi until you were 21 (to name a few of the places where we might be if our families hadn’t moved around).

Since we ended up in Oklahoma, the question for a day like today thus becomes, “How do I live so as to maximize the results of such responsibility?”

I have based my whole life on the premise that God is … I read a book (many times) by Leslie Weatherhead called The Christian Agnostic. He said some things that were helpful to me in developing my Christian philosophy: “When I read something in the Bible I don’t understand, I put it in a mental box marked ‘awaiting further light’” and “Don’t judge God by what you read in the Bible; rather judge the Bible by what you know about God.” Although I believe God has absolute standards, the thing I hold to be the truest and overriding concept about Him is the scripture that says, “God is love.”

As one who loves words, I’ve also discovered some people who put thoughts into words in memorable ways. Here are a few that can aid you in taking responsibility for your majority:

  • Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. – Lou Holtz
  • One that would have the fruit must climb the tree. – Thomas Fuller
  • Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. –Johann von Goethe
  • We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes. – John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • It’s always too early to quit. – Norman Vincent Peale
  • Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt
  • I am a big believer in the ‘mirror test’. All that matters is if you can look in the mirror and honestly tell the person you see there, that you’ve done your best. – John McKay
  • Guard your integrity as a sacred thing; nothing is as important as the integrity of your own mind. – Brian Tracy
  • Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. – Joann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody is watching. – Mark Twain
  • If taking vitamins doesn’t keep you healthy enough, try more laughter: The most wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed. – Nicolas-Sebastien Chamfort
  • Good enough seldom is. Set excellence as your standard and refuse to compromise. – Brian Tracy
  • Light tomorrow with today! – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • The mass of men [and women] lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. – Henry David Thoreau

Remember back when you came to hear me speak in the serious speech competition? A large part of that speech had to do with Thoreau’s concept of each person’s song as well as the Grady Nutt book, Being Me, that talks about being fully yourself – who you were created to be. Here’s the ending of my speech and my encouragement to you to be everything you were created to be:

The concept of the River of Life is “the truth of life as a melody and not just any melody – your melody.  Every one of us, at one time or another, like the river, has allowed activities or people around us to drown out our song – so much so that at times we may not even remember our own melody.  In forgetting our melody, we may hear someone else’s song and think, ‘that’s a pretty song.’  For example, I watched David, a 17-year baritone, practicing a solo – the last note was just too low for him.  He tried and tried and it just wasn’t there.  Finally, he decided to have the choir director, a bass, sit on the front pew with a microphone and when David got to the very last note, George picked up the microphone and sang the low note.  Ah, but that just won’t do – it has to be our song.  I have my melody and you have yours.  Make your own kind of music.  As Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil said, ‘Even if nobody else sings along.’

“In this river of life, your mission is to uncover your song (not discover it, because it’s been there all along) and once you uncover it, sing it for all you’re worth.  When the river of life joins with the sea of eternity – the sea will not be complete without my melody or without yours.”

I love you – and Happy Majority!

January 16, 2010

Immanuel – God With Us

Filed under: personal growth,Walking — dmbr622 @ 11:55 am

As I read a brief study this morning of Psalm 125 out of Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, I remembered sitting in a hotel in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada in May 2008 reading that psalm while looking out at the Rocky Mountains that surrounded me. In that psalm, the psalmist noted the mountains surrounding Jerusalem and compared the protection afforded by them as being like the security offered God’s people by His presence that surrounds them for “now and forevermore.”  Today as I remember that psalm and reflect on God’s care, world news is of the devastating earthquake in Haiti where estimates of the dead are in excess of 140,000 people. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to feel God’s protection in the aftermath of such devastation.

In October (2009) my associate pastor, in welcoming everyone to the 8:00 a.m. service, said (tongue-in-cheek), “I’m glad you’re here and just want you to know God shows up for the 8:00 service too.” Everyone laughed — everyone but me, not because I don’t have a sense of humor or didn’t know that was his intent, but because I think we all need to be aware of the possible impact of the little ways in which our trust in God can be undermined. The truth is, I love language – I believe it has the ability to inspire us, motivate us, entertain us, amuse us, confuse us and that it can, subtly (when it takes up residence in our brain without clarification), lead us to flawed thinking.

The dilemma with the concept of God showing up doesn’t lie in the ‘when’ of His presence, but in the inferred ‘If’ of His presence. I believe the thought process that “God shows up” sets the stage for the thinking that God might not or did not ‘show up’ when tragedy occurs. Way too often, our response to trouble is to ask, “Where was God in this?” or “Why me; I tithe … attend … serve, etc,” and, unfortunately, there  always seem to be a few judgmental people who hurtfully announce that some tragedy was inflicted by God as punishment for whatever happens to be on their personal ‘top ten sin list.’

My concern is that thinking God ‘shows up’ may rob someone of the assurance of His presence and comfort when they need it the most. Our God is named Immanuel, God With Us. By the very nature of His character, he doesn’t ‘show up.’ He is omnipresent, meaning He is there all the time; and as God With Us, He is both already present and arrives in and around each of us as we show up where ever we are.

It is difficult in the face of overwhelming tragedy, such as what is happening in Haiti, to move beyond the questions of “Why?” and “Where was God …?” However, even though those are typically our first questions, I don’t believe they are useful questions – the world is and weather is – as M. Scott Peck said in the opening sentence in his book The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult.”  Jesus gave us a picture of reality when he said (Matthew 5:45 – NASB), “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

The better and more useful questions revolve around “What can I do in this situation to help?” Paul in 2nd Corinthians 1:4  (NLT) said, “He [God]comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” Right now most of us cannot go to Haiti, but we can give dollars to support the cost of rescue and eventual rebuilding; we can also allow our tears to flow as we weep with them over their suffering and pray that God will meet their needs as only He knows them. As I reflected on this I remembered a melody and lyrics:

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home. . .

Be thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.

The promise of scripture is not that by belonging to God we will be kept safe from the difficulties, tragedies and disasters of life, but that nothing can stop God’s ultimate plan and purpose. Paul in Romans 8:35-39 said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:  ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I think we all want to worship God in singing, dancing, rejoicing and praising him in celebration; it’s just that in this world, there are many times when loving and worshiping God means praying and weeping and either giving in response to the needs around us or receiving the comfort offered by those who pray and weep and give.

October 25, 2009

Journey into Usefulness

Filed under: personal growth,Walking — dmbr622 @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , ,

This morning I read an Erma Bombeck  quote: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and I could say, ‘I used everything that you gave me.'”

Many years ago I read a book by James Mahoney called Journey Into Fullness. It was about living the Christian life in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. His book, and a good bit of the New Testament, teaches that living the Christian life isn’t about what we have talents and abilities to accomplish on our own, but is about allowing God through his Holy Spirit to guide and empower us on our walk with Him. I loved the book and was totally ready to open myself to the filling of God’s Spirit and thus to see miraculous and positive things happen for the Kingdom of God. The difficulty for me (and likely most of us) is that the concept of a journey into fullness can become an exercise in what I GET out of living a Spirit-filled life.

Mahoney wrote a follow-up book called Journey Into Usefulness. That one has been more difficult for me because usefulness isn’t about me at all, but usefulness is rather in the estimation of the recipient. Something is only useful when it benefits someone else and that is the concept I’ve struggled with ever since I read the book – back in the 1970’s.

Part of the reason this has been such a struggle for me is that God gifted me with an operatic soprano voice, which is no longer useful within the church. Choir directors ask sopranos to sing like little boys whose voices haven’t yet changed or matured (my voice was mature and operatic by the time I first heard it when I was thirteen), and the majority of church music is written to exploit the low vocal register; if the higher notes are utilized at all, they are most frequently approached after singing pages of low, loud and forced pitches, all of which are not conducive to the vocal health and longevity of a singer.

I also have a facility for language, whether written, spoken or taught. Unfortunately, I’ve always been a part of a conservative religious denomination that prefers to hear from men. So once again, my gifts from God aren’t useful in the world in which I live.

With the difficulty of living in a world that does not really want who I was created by God to be, how may I journey into usefulness? It’s interesting that one of the difficulties in many, if not most, marriages is that each partner knows what he or she would like to receive from the other in order to feel loved and, accordingly, the gesture or action they desire to receive is the gift they lovingly offer to their marriage partner. Unfortunately, it is probable that each is hoping to receive something different than what is being offered and therefore the gift of each misses the mark.

With the marriage analogy, it is clear each marriage partner needs to be asking, watching for signs and listening deeply to clues to what the other needs in order to feel loved, and once they have an idea to actually give what is desired. That won’t always be easy and may occasionally even be impossible, but to be useful, our gift  has to meet the needs of the recipient. Living usefully in the world will be the same as living in a marriage – ever looking for ways in which I can actually be useful – all the while being careful to not lose sight of myself and those qualities that make me be me. I read a book once with a great title, Do I Have to Give Up Me to be Loved by You? That’s the necessary balance – to remain yourself while finding ways to be useful in the world. 

A couple of months ago, I went to a Beth Moore simulcast where she quoted a scripture [Psalm 37:3]  that said, “Trust the Lord and do good.’ She clarified that by saying, “The scripture doesn’t say, ‘Trust the Lord and do right,’ but rather says, ‘Trust the Lord and do good.'” She continued by noting that most of us would much prefer to do right than to do good. There are rules and standards to rightness and once we have complied with what is right, we can feel justified in our behavior. But once again, like usefulness, good is based on achieving a beneficial result.

The call to usefulness and to do good is difficult. At some level, if that is my call and my goal, I become responsible for not only my actions, but for the outcome as well. It’s not enough to offer only what I want to give while disregarding the needs around me. It’s also true and difficult to realize that not all that is useful or beneficial will be pleasant for the recipient. Most of us long for the easy way out, someone to meet our needs or take responsibility for the consequences that result from our behavior. Doing the good thing or the useful thing may be doing the hard thing.

I expect to continue to struggle with this concept. I long to be useful as well as to honor the God who made me. How nice it would be if I could do both at once. Though I agree with Erma Bombeck and would love to slide into heaven completely used up and exhilarated by the journey, it may be that I have to stand before God at the end of my life and say, ‘I tried to use what you gave me but no one wanted it; however, since I loved You and I loved them, I found ways to use my mind and my senses to see, hear and feel the needs of others and then to meet them in whatever way was possible.’

I obviously still have a long way to go on this journey.

October 3, 2009

Without Knowing Where I’m Going

Plan Ahead

There are so many adages that tell us to plan ahead in life, such as this interchange from Alice in Wonderland: “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.'”

When I began this journey with the Genesis 17:1 verse that said, “Walk in my presence and become perfect,” the implication for me, and I would guess for most of us, is that everything in life is going to turn out great. Unfortunately, my practical experience with that is life frequently doesn’t feel like my feet are on solid ground.

I tend to sense more questions than I sense I’m living with all the answers; in fact, way too often I sense I have none of the answers. Worse, sometimes I feel like I’ve been given one of those Scantrons on which I’m supposed to color in my answers with a No. 2 pencil and, not only do I not know the answers, I don’t even know the questions.

I suppose that’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Bible so much – not because it has all the specific answers I think I need, but because of those random verses that make me realize that what feels so insecure is what the faith life is really like. For example, Exodus 13:17-18b [Jerusalem Bible] says, God did not let them take the road to the land of the Philistines, although that was the nearest way. God thought that the prospect of fighting would make the people lose heart and turn back to Egypt. Instead, God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness …

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been traveling that ’roundabout way’ rather than the superhighway I’d much prefer. Again, remember how childlike I can be as I ask God over and over on the journey, “Are we there yet?”

Most of my life hopes are that my life will be easy and filled with happiness. I did a fairly extensive study on the subject of joy a number of years ago. The study was prompted by a comment my North Carolina pastor made about how much scripture had to say about joy, implying we’d be so excited to know how much earthly joy was  in store for us in our walk with God. So with joyful anticipation, I started my study. I was surprised all right, but it wasn’t a joyful surprise; the surprise was how often scripture related our joy as being a joy in the midst of suffering – not exactly what I was hoping for. My favorite scripture of that concept is, again from the Jerusalem Bible Hebrews 12:2 Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it … [emphasis mine].

Finally, the scripture on which the title of today’s musing is based, Hebrews 11:8 [JB] It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. [again, the emphasis is mine]

I suppose what I learn from all this is that the Cheshire Cat isn’t God and if I’m getting my answers of which fork to take from the Cheshire Cat it probably doesn’t matter which one I take. But when I’m walking with God, even if it seems I’m going the roundabout way, my joy feels more like endurance than happiness, and I feel like I haven’t a clue where I’m going, I can still rest in the knowledge that He said in Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV], ‘For I know the plans I have for you,declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

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