Tuesday, November 26, 2013

One more time: Pray, trust, obey, thank and praise

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

Come what may .... again

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

Income, outcome, come what may ....

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

Four years and still going ....

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.