Tuesday, December 10, 2013
It's 11 p.m. Dec. 10, and I have done nothing to prepare for Christmas. When Dec. 25 falls on a Wednesday, it's harder for the extended family to make plans to be together. Will it be the weekend before or the weekend after? No one has extended an invitation or declared intentions for a family gathering. The best I can tell, there is a sense that my siblings and our mom may not all be together at the same time this year. It will be different with my husband's family, too. In recent years, we've spent a day and sometimes overnight celebrating with his sister, but this year she is going to spend the holiday with her son in California, rather than him coming to her house in Texas. I've actually volunteered to work on Christmas Day, so those with children and families close by in Oklahoma can spend time together on the holiday. Will it even seem like Christmas? Or will it seem more like Thanksgiving, which for me in my adult life working at a daily newspaper has generally meant just having Thursday off, and sometimes not even that, which makes it hard to be with family in other cities and states. But Christmas and Thanksgiving aren't just about dates on a calendar or even about large celebrations with family. They are a spirit and a commitment and an expression of love in action. They are gratitude to God for daily blessings and the gift of His beloved Son, Whom He sent into the world as a baby, God in human flesh, to grow and live and love and provide an example, and then to die on a cross as a young man, but to rise from the grave three days later, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life in a relationship with our Heavenly Father. I may have done nothing to prepare in terms of decorating or shopping -- or even scheduling gatherings on a calendar -- but I am praying for an open heart to receive God's gifts of Christmas each day, and to respond with gifts of gratitude in loving service to others, in His name.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Below is what I posted truly as a place holder on Tuesday (under the heading: Yes, I am cheating ... To be continued) -- and probably illegally at that, because it is pulled directly from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers for the day before. Now for the Saturday update: After a last-minute decision to go to Arkansas this past Saturday morning to see my brother and his family, and to stay, one day at a time, through Tuesday morning and go straight to work three and a half hours away in Oklahoma City, I felt too tired to post anything, but had no idea when I might get back to this. And I feared just letting it go. I'm not sure why these posts are important, but something about the discipline -- even when I have to fudge a bit like this time to meet my deadline -- helps me. Or maybe it's not even the value of the discipline as much as just responding to what still feels like a call from God. So, on Tuesday, I posted this text that inspired what I likely would have written, knowing I could and would update it later. For me, it's not even about being perfect. It's about wanting to be useful, helpful, meaningful, loving, caring and have purpose in God's world and in relationships with people. What the text helped me see is that I do tend to focus on or worry about whether I am letting God use me the way He would like to. I tend to think I fall short. And this helped me again to fathom that I truly just need to focus on the love of God through Christ, and to TRUST HIM. Last weekend was one more example of how, when I do trust that part of me that is focused on God, I end up where I am supposed to be. I have no doubt that was the case then. So how can I not also trust Him to help me take care of what's in front of me now. And so I will. (Excerpts from the pilfered text follow, with emphasis added.) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect . . . —Philippians 3:12 It is a trap to presume that God wants to make us perfect specimens of what He can do — God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself. ... What shines forth and reveals God in your life is not your relative consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him whether you are well or sick. Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life. When you obey the call of Jesus Christ, the first thing that hits you is the pointlessness of the things you have to do. ... I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. ... God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
A weird pattern has emerged this month. I post something new on the blog on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, some news comes that seems to have been foreshadowed by the post. Two weeks ago, I wrote about jobs and value, and the following day, people were laid off at work. Last week, after reflecting on the layoffs of loyal co-workers and other events of the past week, I ended the post the same way I did the previous week: For today, as with everything else, it comes down to this: Pray, trust, obey, thank and praise. "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) And the next day, that again became a Scripture I could cling to as a guide amid frightening health news involving people I care deeply about. There have been days since then in which expressions of joy and gratitude were a struggle. I seemed cynical at the best and bitter at the worst, with a range of emotions including sadness, frustration, anger, hope and confusion in between. But the cloud of spiritual witnesses on earth and in heaven seems to be in full force the closer Thanksgiving gets, and I could not escape reminders that a prayer can be as simple as saying "Thank You" to God, and that in saying "thank you" in all circumstances, I am affirming my trust in God. After a day or two of half-hearted expressions of thanks, a deeper sense of gratitude and faith returned. Among those reminders along the way: Perhaps the most timely was Friday, Nov. 22, in Jesus Calling: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17–18) That same day: "God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1 amp) From The Upper Room, Monday, Nov. 25, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12, NIV) From Jesus Calling, Tuesday, Nov. 26: "This is the day The Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) Jesus Calling, Monday, Nov. 25: 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, quoted above, and Romans 15:13 -- "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." "Give thanks to The Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." (Psalm 118:1)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Last Tuesday's post was titled "Income, outcome, come what may," in which I pondered the value of a job or a salary or material gifts or possessions or how time is used or what is important. Little did I know what would come the next day. As I was walking from the parking garage to the elevator to get to my floor at work on Wednesday, I greeted someone I work with who was headed out, which I figured meant he was on his way to interview someone for a story. But shortly after I got to my desk, I learned that he and more than 30 other people had been laid off, including five others on my floor and with whom I have worked for many years. I still have my job, and I am very grateful for that. I also am strongly reminded of an aspect that I didn't address last week, which is that employment and salary and material things are fleeting. Layoffs at work are stark evidence that you can be doing great work one day and be unemployed the next, through no fault of your own. It's just a matter of the economy and circumstances -- including some that sap whatever sense of security I might have ever had in the past about my own role. Even though I have much more I could write, I'm going to end this exactly how I ended last week. Two things are at play. One is that, like last week, I'm only touching the surface of what I'm thinking and feeling. The other is that, no matter what I am thinking or feeling, what I ended with last week is what I need to heed today as well: For today, as with everything else, it comes down to this: Pray, trust, obey, thank and praise. "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Sunday's sermon included a question I recently pondered here: How much is enough? Among the comments the pastor offered was this thought that resonated with me: A job is not about the income, it's about the outcome. I'm not even sure what it means to me. It's kind of like some songs: It speaks to me in ways I don't fully comprehend. It has meaning beyond the literal. But I keep coming back to the concept as I seek perspective in the job for which I get paid as well as regarding tasks on which I spend (or feel I should spend) my time and energy. The income can be the paycheck or it can be the immediate reward or result of an action or investment of time and energy. Tbe outcome goes beyond, to what is done with that paycheck or good feelings (or even the bad ones) that come from an undertaking. The outcome may also have a net component: Was the effort worth the pay? The income also can be an expenses-paid European cruise or a nice gift for 30 years of employment with a company. But what is the outcome? Right now, in both of those cases, it is a strange sense of confusion. And maybe that's OK. Maybe the outcome is continuing to evolve. I think that is true, and this is part of the process. For today, as with everything else, it comes down to this: Pray, trust, obey, thank and praise. "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
It is the anniversary of when I started trying to see where a blog might lead me. And four years later, I still have no clue. I guess it doesn't help that I haven't evolved beyond my original "simple goals": -- Post at least one thing each week. -- Feel free to go back in and edit. -- See where it leads. -- Give the glory to God. That self-criticism ("I guess it doesn't help ...") echoes one that has emerged at work. I'm feeling a need to add some skills or set higher goals to increase my job security. But I also have reasons to believe that just not falling behind will be a major challenge between now and the end of the year and possibly the first few months of 2014. In recent years, with my Dad's illness and then his death, November and December stir deeper thoughts, feelings and emotions -- including some grief, depression and confusion, but also gratitude, hope, love and joy. For instance, Central Oklahoma has been having a bunch of earthquakes lately. I haven't felt any of them, but they make me think of the one two years ago tonight, when I was with Mom at home on the family farm, the Saturday after my Dad's death and funeral. That still seems more surreal than eerie, but definitely some of both. You just don't think of houses rattling and shaking without a strong wind or a storm going on in these parts. But I guess that is just one more thing that keeps changing. Recent days have provided some good lessons to me about how life goes on. My Mom headed out on a trip with two of her brothers to see their sister last Wednesday -- the anniversary of my Dad's death. What a powerful message to me. She saw a precious opportunity to spend time with her siblings and she made the most of it, even as it meant missing three of her out-of-state children being at her house while she was gone. Again, this was so instructional for me. Before she returned home, she and her sister would go to visit their sister-in-law, whose husband, their brother, died a year ago today. Driving with Mom to his funeral in far west Texas last year was a rich experience for me, bringing more memories and blessings that are with me today. I know she, too, will feel enriched, even as it has to be emotionally draining at times. Which brings me around to an excerpt from today's devotional from the Bible Gateway, drawn from 1 Kings 17:8-24, that I wanted to end with. "Faith is the step between promise and assurance. Miracles seem so out of reach for our feeble faith. But every miracle, large or small, begins with an act of obedience based on faith. We may not see the solution until we take the first step of faith because God offers help where we least expect it. God provides 'a pathway no one knew was there!' (Psalm 77:19). When we put our faith in God for small things like a meal, we will be more ready next time to put our faith in him for big things—like life." I can only experience the richness of life if I step out in faith to trust God with whatever comes. And He never forsakes me. His Spirit stays with me. That's the Spirit I want to keep embracing and sharing.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Today (Wednesday) is the second anniversary of my Dad's death, and this daughter of the psalmist's son (Charles Davidson, get it?) is really feeling emotions this year. I told Mom it seems like it's been three years. When I did the math, I realized why. The first year without him with us physically on earth seemed like two years. What seemed like the first year was getting through the first Sunday, and then Thanksgiving and Christmas and to the end of 2011 without him. So, when the actual anniversary of his homegoing came in 2012, it seemed like two years. And now it seems like three. I am more aware of missing him than I have been in a while. I think that's because of things that have been going on that I know he would have been interested in -- and I long to hear his supportive and often surprisingly original response. The European cruise, the Barcelona adventure, my (official) 30 years of service at work and now this upcoming alumni basketball game, among so many other things -- what would his response be? Pride, for sure, but also some comment that only my Daddy would come up with. Another reason, I'm sure, that I am more emotional and aware this year is just the reality that we all are getting older and closing in on the heavenly homecoming. None of us will be on this earth forever, nor should we want to be. That's where the phrase "living a legacy" came in. If I live the legacy of my father and ancestors, I won't have to worry about leaving a legacy. God the Father and my cloud of witnesses in heaven and on earth provide loving support and guidance on the way to go. I thank God for the love and the legacy of my dad. May I live it to the honor and glory of both of them. (There's a whole other column to be written about my precious Mom during all of this, but that is for another moment.)