Thursday, January 29, 2009

Overdue and Underdone

I forgot to post my Praise Report. I neglected to invite you to my Hallelujah Dance. In my previous post, my faith held on to a wing and a prayer that my God would prove Himself to be the Great Provider that I know Him to be. Of course He did.

I was staring down the calendar, knowing my applications had been sent out, my interviews had been completed, but the last Unemployment payment was coming on Wednesday. I knew all week - I
knew God would come through, some way, some how. I expected the phone to ring, the letter to come, the email to post. I rested on His promise to me that He's never seen the righteous forsaken or His seed go begging for bread. I told you before, He always comes through.

Every day that week, I woke up and waited in expectation. 'How was He going to do it this time,' I wondered. Monday rolled by, then Tuesday. Wednesday came, the remaining balance of my unemployment claim posted to my account and I spent the rest of the day writing. I wasn't fretting over how we were going to survive during the coming months. I spent a peaceful day with my husband just writing - continuing to do the work God has given me to do.

Then, Thursday morning arrived. For some reason, Derek decided to stay home that day. I love when Derek decides to stay home. After nearly eighteen years serving in the Big House, he needs an extra day here and there to keep his mind and soul in a good place. We were spending the morning cooking up breakfast fit for a king when I wandered to the mailbox.

A letter from the Department of Labor and Industry awaited me. I expected it to say something like, "Your UC benefits are now exhausted. Thanks for playing, now get a job." I almost didn't open it in my assumed knowledge of what it was. Curiosity got the best of me and I opened it up. "Congratulations," it read, "You are financially eligible for an extension on your UC claim for an additional 20 weeks."

I immediately called up L&I to make sure this wasn't a mistake. The woman on the phone, said, "Yes, your claim begins immediately, you can file this Sunday." I heard the joy in her voice arise as she heard the joy in mine.

I did a Hallelujah Dance. Derek came around the corner, wondering what was going on. "He came through, Derek. He always comes through." We both continued to praise God for His provision. I made sure my Facebook friends got a status update. I emailed my personal Prayer Warriors. I called my Mom. The subsequent weeks have held continuous praise. But then I remembered, I forgot to update you.

This is what brings me to why I have entitled this posting "Overdue and Underdone."

First, I left you hanging after my last post. This Praise Report was indeed, overdue. Maybe some of you out there needed the encouragement and the gentle reminder that God is Jehovah Jireh, Lord Provider. Maybe some of you needed to rejoice with me for a moment just so you could see His light in your darkness. Maybe.

But secondly, I'm going to get real personal with you right now. I am constantly being reminded of how much my praise is underdone. It's a little rare - in both meanings of the word. It doesn't reach its completion. I'm a little short on the follow-through. Maybe a lot of us have this same issue, or maybe it's just me. But not only did I fail to use this blog to give God praise, but I have gotten sucked into the lie of loneliness - again. I'm so tired of this trap, I'm ashamed to write this. But here I am, hoping that somehow my struggle will shine some light on your struggle and together, and with God's help, we will both be better for it in the end.

I believe I have intimated to you before how I've never made friends easily. My lifelong friends are strewn across the United States, but not here. This is why I love Facebook. I can keep in touch with all of my friends through my computer and it brings me great joy to be able to make someone smile across the miles.

Lately, my friends have been kind of quiet. My email inbox hasn't exactly been "dinging" too much. My husband and I are in a different place in our marriage at the moment. My one girlfriend who is here seems caught up in her own life. Nine times out of ten, if we make a date to do something together, she calls to cancel. Except for my neighbor who
always needs something from me, and of course my children who always keep me hopping, I don't get too much social interaction - not for the sake of "togetherness," anyway.

It can be a lonely place to feel like you are not important to anyone unless they need something. I have spent entire days wallowing and crying in my loneliness. Monday was the last lonely day I experienced. When I was finally tired of my own pity party and decided to cry out to God, He simply responded, "Now you know how I feel." Ouch.

Of course the next morning's email devotion fell right in line.

From "My Utmost For His Highest":
Take no thought for your life.  Matthew 6:25

"A warning which needs to be reiterated is that the cares of this world,
the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in, will
choke all that God puts in. We are never free from the recurring tides
of this encroachment. If it does not come on the line of clothes and food,
it will come on the line of money or lack of money; of friends or lack of
friends; or on the line of difficult circumstances. It is one steady
encroachment all the time, and unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise
up the standard against it, these things will come in like a flood.

"Take no thought for your life." "Be careful about one thing only," says
our Lord - "your relationship to Me."

Common sense shouts loud and says - "That is absurd, I must consider
how I am going to live, I must consider what I am going to eat and drink."
Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing the thought that this statement
is made by One Who does not understand our particular circumstances. Jesus
Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not
think about these things so as to make them the one concern of our life.
Whenever there is competition, be sure that you put your relationship to God first.

"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." How much evil has begun to threaten
you to-day? What kind of mean little imps have been looking in and saying - Now
what are you going to do next month - this summer? "Be anxious for nothing,"
Jesus says. Look again and think. Keep your mind on the "much more" of your
heavenly Father."

What an awesome reminder was that. If I'm feeling lonely, I need only to turn to
the one who loves me most. My husband can't even love me as much as God loves me.
My parents can't love me as much as I God loves me. When loneliness enters in, how
dare I refuse to throw my arms around my heavenly Father and wallow in self pity?
God, I have learned, needs our love and devotion, too.

Yes, my praise has been overdue and underdone. But thank God for His faithfulness to me.
Surely, I may not be the greatest friend and my friends may not be able to fit me into their days.
But God - He is the greatest friend, Father, and Love there ever was and ever will be.

Let's continue to make our praise timely, continuous and complete.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Just what I needed

Today, I saw a sparrow.

It was quietly hopping up the trunk of the tree behind my house, foraging for food in the cracks of the tree's bark. From what I could see, it was finding plenty to eat as it made its journey up and up, like a chicken pecking at seed.

I didn't know sparrows stuck around during winter months. I wouldn't know where they might go, but just as the Great Blue Herons which majestically soared up and down the river corridor have disappeared for this season, I figured sparrows might have to go elsewhere for their own survival as well. I guess I was wrong.

You might not know the significance seeing this little bird held for me this morning. Each morning, when I wake up, even in freezing temperatures, I make my way to my back deck and stare at the river. I take a moment to give God praise, which is easy to do when I see the wonder of His creation. Directly across the river from my house is Davis Island. I've spent countless hours watching the wildlife on the island and in the river - deer, wild turkey, muskrats, Canadian geese, herons of all kinds, ducks, and even the squirrels which scamper up and down my trees. I've watched a female Cardinal struggle for days to get the attention of a male, and occasionally a great big groundhog finds his way out from under the neighbors porch and makes his way down to the river. On a clear day, I can even see countless trout, bass and muskies swimming beneath the river's surface.

But today, there was no other wildlife to be seen. Today, I saw a sparrow.

It was this little bird feasting on everything it could find which spoke directly to my soul. Indeed, His eye is on the sparrow. "Thank you Jesus, for this reminder," my soul cried out. This is just what I needed.

God has been in the business of reorganizing my life for some time now. I will admit it, it has been very painful. For an overachiever like me, the pain of finding a job, working there for ten months and being "let go" over and over again has been one of the most crushing series of events of my life. Nothing else has hurt quite so much as knowing I consider myself a "career woman," but facing the rejection of job after job. This has warped the perspective in which I see myself, which has the tendency to bring me through dark periods of depression and a lack of self-worth.

On the brighter side, because hindsight is 20/20, I have seen His hand every step of the way. God has continually guided me to places, taught me lessons and revealed His truth, while maybe not-so-gently showing me there is a certain something He wants from me, or of me, and none of these jobs were "it."

I lost my last job in June. At this last place of employment, God did some amazing things to set me on my path. He aggressively dealt with the sins and pains of my past, healed me of those memories and even birthed a book in me whereby I may be able to bring healing to others. Deep stuff. And then, like the gentleman He is, He released me. He clearly spoke to me and told me, "Be still and know that I am God." Let's just say, I've been trying really hard to do what He said.

Then, He brought me back to Milton. This town had been filled with painful memories and places of judgment from my adolescence. But through the work He did on me at my last job, I was able to no longer wince when I thought of this community where I grew up. He ordained circumstances which allowed me to move here, to be blessed with a beautiful home. I still have no idea why He brought me here, but I know His hand is in it.

My Unemployment checks run out this coming week. Although I have applications and interviews under my belt, I have still heard nothing regarding these opportunities. With winter, the utility bills mount. So do things like tension and fear and seasonal depression.

But today, I saw a sparrow.

Afer praising God for His beautiful reminder, I turned to my email for my morning Devotion. Of course, again, He spoke.

From "My Utmost for His Highest":

He went out, not knowing whither he went. Hebrews 11:8

"Have you been "out" in this way? If so, there is no logical statement possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question - "What do you expect to do?" You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder - you do not know what God is going to do next. Each morning you wake it is to be a "going out," building in confidence on God. "Take no thought for your life,...nor yet for your body" - take no thought for the things for which you did take thought before you "went out."

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?

Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him- what an impertinence worry is! Let the attitude of the life be a continual "going out" in dependence upon God, and your life will have an ineffable charm about it which is a satisfaction to Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God."

I don't know where I'm going, what I'm doing, where the next paycheck will come from, but God does. I have to learn to rest in that. I have continually spoken over myself, "Be still and know that He is God," "God is in control" and "I've never seen the righteous forsaken or His seed begging for bread" when the anxiety was rearing its ugly head. Faith. It's what we need more than anything else - Faith.

Do you have Faith? Do you know He has your back at all times? Do you know He is the greatest Father, Protector, Provider, Healer, Strong Deliverer, Peacemaker, Banner, Shepherd, Righteousness and Presence which ever was, is or is to come? Do you KNOW this? Can you search the depths of your heart and soul and erase all doubt that He always comes through? He ALWAYS comes through. I challenge you to name one time when the Lord didn't come through for you. He may not have come through in the way you wanted, but I bet He made it better in the way He wanted.

Today, I saw a sparrow. As much as I've leaned on the Lord for the past six months, this past month had me leaning on my own understanding again. Well, you know what the Bible says about that. It says "Lean NOT on your understanding." It also says, "Let not your heart be troubled, there is no reason to fear." It says a whole bunch of stuff that feels good when you read it or hear it preached, but is sometimes really hard to live out.

But today - with a little bird climbing up a tree and pecking at what I'm certain were probably bugs, the Lord spoke volumes into my life and clearly told me to share this message with you.

His eye is on the sparrow. Say it again. His eye is on the sparrow. One more time. His EYE is on the SPARROW. And so what? And so I know He watches over me (and You.)