Disaster

There are few things more unsettling than hearing the sound of something dripping –  in a place where you shouldn’t be hearing the sound of something dripping.

Saturday mornings are for cleaning, so one weekend last October I decided to start in the guestroom. It’s a place I often neglect because it’s just too easy to dump stuff in there when no guests are on the calendar.  As I stood at the desk sorting through papers, I heard it.

Drip…drip…drip.

Not something you should hear in a bedroom.  I turned around, and to my horror saw a 3 foot wide stain on the ceiling in the far corner, and steady drops of water falling down onto a bookshelf, a sofa bed, and an assortment of other things I had let pile up on the floor.  As I took a step towards the corner, my foot sunk into a very soggy carpet, and I realized this had probably been going on for awhile.  I rarely go in to that room.  Now I wished I had made a regular habit of it.

drip

The next few hours were a flurry of panic and activity. Turns out the upstairs neighbors had a faulty air conditioning unit.  Calls were made to family (for moral support), the condo maintenance emergency number (because of course, it was a Saturday) and my insurance company.

After the a/c unit upstairs was turned off and the dripping stopped, I surveyed the damage. One word kept coming to mind. Disaster.  Stained and crumbling ceiling, ruined carpet, wet sofa bed, soaked bookcase.  When the insurance adjuster came, he noticed the water had leaked into the living room as well, down behind the drywall and into the carpet along the baseboard.

carpet

Yup. A disaster.

God does try to remind us that He’s still got it all under control when things like this happen, and He’ll work it all out for good.  Somehow.  But in that moment when disaster strikes, it’s hard to see, and hard to believe.

That’s why we need to wait until we can look over our shoulder to really see if it was the disaster we thought it was.  Of course I knew I’d have to replace the carpet in that room. But the insurance guy told me that it was a continuous piece out into the hallway, so they’d cover replacing the hall carpet as well.  Then when he realized it had leaked into the living room, he said they’d replace that, too.  And my living room extends into the dining area, so, you guessed it – new flooring for the dining room.  I wasn’t sad to see the old carpet go. It was in sorry and sad shape and should have been replaced years ago, but it just wasn’t in the budget.  But now, God was providing a way for me to do that.  All because of a disaster. And as long as I was replacing flooring, I was able to forego carpet altogether and get wood laminate, something I’ve wanted forever.  Makes me smile just thinking about it.

Nobody likes disasters.  They disrupt and make for anxious days and sleepless nights. They try us and bend us and sometimes almost break us.   But what if the disaster paves the way for something good? Makes me think of that song by Laura Story with the line, “What if Your blessings come through raindrops?”. I wouldn’t be sitting here admiring my new floors if that a/c unit upstairs hadn’t made “raindrops” fall into my guest room and ruin everything. Or so it seemed at the time.

It’s in the middle of chaos that we need to trust that He’s going to take care of us.  It might not happen as soon as we’d like, but in the end, when the dust settles (or the dripping stops), we’re able to see what He’s been  up to.  I know my crisis wasn’t really all that important in light of what others experience, but it still taught me an important lesson.

I might not be so quick to panic the next time disaster strikes.  It might just be the beginning of something good. Something like blessings from raindrops.

dining-room

He has made every thing beautiful in His time.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;  Isaiah 61:3

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.  Psalm 30:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five

There are some moments in time that forever remain frozen, suspended somewhere as if you could actually reach out and touch them.  Five years ago this morning, I had one of those moments.

My phone rang well before daybreak that Monday, jarring me out of a sound sleep.  When I answered it, I heard the words that changed my world.  “Dad is with the Lord”.

I wonder what goes on in the brain at that split second.  Neurons firing wildly in desperate attempts to file the information logically, to sort out words that were so unexpected and surprising that they just don’t make any sense.  Denial, panic, fear. The mind and body that were sleeping restfully just seconds before are now in full-on alert. Questions being asked, but not really hearing the answers because your thoughts are already five questions ahead.  How? Why? What happens now?  How do I get from Florida to New Jersey as soon as possible?  I thought I was going to work as usual that morning.  Now, I was having to explain to an airline representative that I needed to get on a flight to Newark. Today.

And how does one pack in a few hours for a sudden trip that will include a funeral? A funeral for your father, the strong man who was always supposed to be there, only now he’s not, because “Dad is with the Lord”.

Those early hours of January 23, 2012 are embedded in my mind in a way that few of my life moments ever have been.  As the necessary tasks of the day began to take shape, as the phone calls were made to the important people in my life and I began to grasp the enormity of it all, the panic retreated and a peace began to creep in.  Slowly, there was the realization that this was all going to be OK, that God was very much in the picture, and we were not facing this alone or without hope.

I had often tried to envision what a moment like that would be like, that moment when the Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened To You actually happens.  I knew the Bible verse about “peace that passes understanding”, but that morning, I experienced it personally.   That peace didn’t make the news any easier to understand or believe, but it reminded me of God’s love and care.  It reminded me that He was standing next to my bed as the phone rang, and that He was never going to leave me.

Our family has seen God’s faithfulness played out in a million different ways since that morning.  Difficult times, for sure, but He has sustained us, provided for us, loved us and blessed us abundantly.  We miss Dad so much sometimes it hurts, and yet we can rejoice in hope because we know He is in the presence of the Savior he spent a lifetime telling others about.  His work was done here, but his legacy lives on in the lives of his children, and in the lives of the people he introduced to the Lord.

Today is a milestone. Five years ago I couldn’t imagine what the future would hold, and we still don’t know what lies ahead.  But we continue to walk with the One who does.  Dad would have wanted that.

Miss you, Dad!

dad

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died, so that you will not grieve like people who have no hope.  1 Thessalonians 4:13

 

Unfinished

piant by number

The box under the bed held remnants of a life I’d forgotten.

There were spelling tests and penmanship practice sheets and report cards.  There were crayon drawings and birthday cards from grandparents and even an award for 2nd place in an elementary school sack race.  More than likely, it was the last award I’d ever receive for any kind of athleticism.  I really should frame it.

My mother has kept all these items in that box under the bed for years.  And while I was home for Thanksgiving, I decided to dig through it.  I sat on the floor in that bedroom for quite awhile, reliving memories I didn’t even know I had.

At the very bottom was something unexpected.  An unfinished “paint-by-number” picture.  Do kids even do paint-by-number anymore?  Why would we have saved an unfinished painting?  Did I plan to go back and fill in those numbers?

I think that maybe God wanted us to save it so that decades later it would remind me of how He works in my life.

I could tell it was going to be a picture of a big horse and a little horse.  What little girl didn’t go through the “I want a horse” phase?  The baby horse is almost filled in with paint.  The mother horse has a way to go.  And the background has an awful lot of empty numbers where paint should go eventually.  Maybe I got bored with the leaf color.

I’m sure the finished picture would have been beautiful.  But the fact that it’s unfinished holds the lesson.

Our lives unfold gradually,too.  God fills in a spot here, a spot there.  And sometimes it seems that we can’t see the big picture.  We can’t figure out what all these little empty places will come together to be.  They seem random.  And it feels incomplete.  We want to know the end of the story.

But this painting in a box under a bed reminded me that God is going to complete my painting in His way and in His time.  He’s got a plan.  He knows what the finished picture look like.

I think I’ll hang this picture up just like it is. And remember that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

(from the archives – originally posted 11/28/12)

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Ephesians 2:10

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;  Philippians 1:6

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.  Psalm 138:8

 

 

 

Savor

(I realize I’ve been “gone” for awhile.  New blog posts are coming!  I promise. Just had to work through a few things and writing hasn’t come easily.  In the meantime, because it’s Thanksgiving week, I thought I’d slightly edit and re-post something I wrote 6 years ago.  As you start your prep work for the most amazing meal of the year, stop…and savor.)

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Julia Child would be proud.  I don’t just have “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” on my shelf.  I’ve actually cooked from it.   For my first foray into French cooking, I made Coq Au Vin , which is actually 3 recipes in one – the mushrooms, the onions and the chicken – something to keep in mind when timing the preparation.

It took me 6 hours.  But the fact that it actually involved igniting something made it so totally worth it.

My next undertaking was Steak au Poivre , a peppercorn-encrusted rib-eye gently bathed in a butter and brandy sauce that would give any cardiologist pause. But once in your life you should at least try it.

They were both amazing, memorable dishes.  Dishes I didn’t scarf down like my quick piece of toast in the morning.  Dishes I didn’t mindlessly pick at in front of the television.  They were dishes worthy of savoring, taking the time to identify the endless list of ingredients that went into them.  Dishes worthy of sinking into and lingering over.  There might even have been some sighing and rolling of the eyes. Like those chefs on TV.

When God was putting Adam together, He added taste buds.  He didn’t have to.  We could have just gathered necessary nutrition like animals or plants without regard for whether or not it actually had any taste.  We didn’t have to enjoy it.  But God wanted us to.  There’s something spiritual about tasting.

“My soul shall be satisfied with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).  Now, if that doesn’t sound like something from Julia Child, what does? Marrow and fatness. Have you ever eaten the marrow out of a veal shank? Oh my.  I made a chocolate silk pie recently that the recipe called “profoundly rich”. It was. The Psalmist says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

God reminds us about our ultimate satisfaction in Him and the sweetness of His Word… through our taste buds.

I want to remember to savor God’s words.  I don’t want to rush through my quiet time like my morning toast.  I don’t want to mindlessly pick at scripture, distracted by other things going on around me, or run through it, like I’m grabbing a donut on the way out the door.  I want to put in the effort, take the time,  and maybe even have some sighing and rolling of the eyes as I realize just how amazing and rich and wonderful those words are.

Oh yes, I want to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).   

Savor.

Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.  Isaiah 55:22

In Jerusalem, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world.  It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.  Isaiah 25:6

 

 

Change

There is a constant in my life, and for that I am grateful.

Just thinking lately about how things change, how it’s pretty much the normal ebb and flow of life.  But in spite of the normalcy of change, sometimes it still catches us off guard.  It still makes us uneasy.  We long for sameness and the security of knowing exactly what to expect.  I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that if we had a life where nothing ever changed, we wouldn’t really need to rely on God.

change

 

Ten years ago this month I started a new job, and because I stuck it out, I got a plaque and congratulations.  But more than that, I got the opportunity to look back on the past decade and see how many things changed in this job, how many different staff and leaders have come and gone.  How many different students have walked through the door, graduated, moved on to new lives and new adventures.  Three of the young women I mentored last year walked across the stage in May and away from West Palm Beach.  And I wonder who God will bring into my life in the coming days to replace them.

In other words, changes.

The elderly woman who lived in the apartment below me died this past Spring.  I finally saw people moving things out of her place last night.  I guess I’ll have new neighbors soon.

In other words, changes.

My pastor and friend resigned on Sunday from the church I’ve called home for the last 9 years.

In other words, changes.

I could go on.  I spend an awful lot of time thinking about life, thinking about my life, thinking about where I’ve been and where I am and where I’m going.  I sometimes joke that I have the spiritual gift of over-analyzation.  But through all that reflecting and pondering and thinking, I have realized the most important thing about changes.  It’s not what changes that is important.  It’s the thing that doesn’t change.  It’s the One who doesn’t change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

Revelation 1:8 reminds us, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end”, says the Lord, which is and was and is to come, the Almighty.

If He’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, it means He’s the middle, too.  These weird, awkward and sometimes uneasy middle parts of the story, where things change.  He’s right here, with His constant guidance, mercy and love for those of us who really don’t like change all that much.

I have a constant in my life. Through all the changes. And for that, I am grateful.

 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

For I am the LORD, I do not change;  Malachi 3:6

Precious

The blog post where I write about goats.  Goats that climb trees.  And eat nuts. And play a part in producing something referred to as “liquid gold”.

I figured after last week’s post, things needed to be lightened up a bit.

So  I recently saw a TV documentary about these goats in Morocco that climb trees.  The tree climbing is odd enough in itself, but what happens next is something you really couldn’t make up if you tried.

morocco-1327301_1280

They climb to get at the nuts of the Argania tree.  And nobody stops them, even though the nuts are valuable.  They actually want them to eat the nuts, because these nuts have the potential to become precious Argan oil.  Yes, the same oil – “liquid gold” –  you see now in shampoos and moisturizers and a plethora of other high-end beauty products.  But there’s a problem. The nuts are too hard to crack in their natural state, so they let the goats’ digestive tracks do the work.  Once the nuts have.. ahem.. passed “through” and been deposited on the ground, they’re gathered up (by some very brave people, might I add) and processed into oil.  Very. Expensive. Precious. Oil.

I really do think God must laugh at His creation sometimes.  Who would have thought that a goat would climb a tree, eat a nut, “refine it”, deposit it on the ground, and the end result is something people pay lots of money for?  Something precious from something, well, not so precious.

Not so far fetched, really.  God does the same thing in our lives.  Jeremiah 15:19 says, “If you return, then I will restore you.  Before Me you will stand.  And if you extract the precious from the worthless, You will become My spokesman.”  (NASB)

Extract the precious from the worthless.

There are situations in our lives that can seem crazy and hard.  We pass through some pretty yucky stuff.  That’s where we’re tempted to question God, begin to cry out that things don’t make sense and wonder why He would choose to put us through it. But you know, it could very well be that He intends to make something absolutely precious out of the process.

The extraction process is never easy.  Even after the Argania tree nuts go through that first assault, they still have to be pounded and ground down and pressed and pressed and pressed.  And only then does the precious golden oil begin to flow out.

“But He knows where I am going.
And when He tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.”  Job 23:10

When things don’t make sense, when you’re passing through the yuck and feel pounded and pressed down until you think you’ll break, think of the goat in the tree in Morocco.  And smile.  God does some crazy things in crazy ways sometimes, but the end result could very well be something…precious.

Please

Please, my friends.  Please stop and think before you post.

I didn’t plan to get sad over social media this morning.  I was just doing my usual A.M. check of what might have happened overnight that I needed to know about. “Needed” being used loosely, of course.  But anyway, there they were.  Posts.  Ones that made me sigh.  Ones that made me wince and cringe and wish I hadn’t seen them.

I totally understand passion.  I get it.  We need passionate people who will stand by their convictions, people who want to save our country and our world from literal or spiritual demise, people who want to stop injustice and stop political candidates who don’t hold their values.   But sometimes, the passion turns mean.

woman-975339_1280

Should we defend our beliefs and hold fast to what we think is right and good? Yes!  By all means, yes.  But this morning I saw posts that trampled over the people “on the other side”.  And that goes for both “sides”.  I read things that hurt me, that pierced my heart. Things posted by those I consider friends, but who believe differently than me. Things that made me want to respond in defensive, snarky ways. Sweeping generalizations and attacks on what I consider to be subjects of vital and spiritual importance.  And  I wondered if the ones who posted them even thought of me when they chose to share whatever it was they shared.

But then, I saw people who should know better do the same thing. Angry, accusatory posts by those called by the name of Christ.  And I thought of how many times in the Bible we are given pretty clear guidelines as to what our speech should be like, especially to a listening world.

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.  Proverbs 15:1

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool blurts out foolishness.  Proverbs 15:2

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.  Proverbs 25:11

The Sovereign Lord has given me His words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary.  Isaiah 50:4

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:6

If our posts and shares and likes come across  just as angry and judging as those on the other side of our belief fence, how in the world are we showing them that we’re any different?  Are our words gentle and appealing and beautiful and wise and comforting and gracious?  Or do they allow us to posture defensively, take our sides, attack the enemy?

And what if the “enemy” is someone who is our friend?  What if the “enemy” is someone who needs to know the Lord, and we are the only one in their lives they are going to see Him through?  Sometimes we forget that not everyone on our friends lists, not every one of our “followers” know Jesus.  If the only example they have of a Jesus-follower is me, what are they seeing?  An incensed, opinionated, in-your-face kind of person?  Or will they see someone who will hold unwaveringly to her beliefs, but who will refuse to engage in arguments that serve no other purpose than to make us dig our heels in even deeper?

It’s so easy to hit that post button, so easy to get caught up in the “us vs.them” mindset.  It’s easy to scroll through all those shares and links and articles and memes and want to high-five the friend who scored the knockout punch, shout a hearty “amen” and re-share it because it makes us feel good.  But please.  Stop and think about it.  I can’t believe that I’m even saying this and part of me is cringing, but… WWJD?  Don’t judge me for that!  I don’t have the bracelet or the bumper sticker and don’t ever intend on getting one.  But really. Would Jesus share the things you share?  Would He be pleased with how vindicated you feel when someone from your side of the fence hits a home run with the snarkiest meme you’ve ever seen?  When we share our disdain for the other political party, or the person whose values and lifestyles and choices run counter to our own, are we really helping make the Gospel appealing to anyone?

I’m not standing on a soapbox.  I’m just sad.  I want us to find a way to use social media to let the Light shine through us, not win the debate through justified anger and “rightness” and fence fortification.

The next few months are going to be hard.  Part of me wants to just avoid social media altogether.  And that may not be a bad idea.  But it may be that God is calling us to make a difference instead of simply avoiding the conflict.  Maybe He’s calling us to share our values and convictions and beliefs in ways that are seasoned with salt and grace and wisdom and love.  I think it’s worth a try.  Think about it.

Please.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.  Hebrews 10:24