Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lessons From the Road: the Complete Series

  1. Be Still, My Heart! Be Unclenched, White Knuckles!
  2. What's In Your Boot?
  3. "I'm Still Here." or, A Lesson From the Airwaves
  4. Streets That Talk.
  5. If Trees Could Talk...
  6. Do What's Next
  7. "Dead" Ends
  8. Stalled
  9. Speaking of Roads...
  10. Detours

Detours

At the beginning of the month, I sat down to plan a list of "Lessons from the Road" post ideas. Looking at that list now, I see 12 ideas. I only posted 2 of them. The rest of this month's actual posts were, I suppose, things the Lord wanted to remind me of or teach me, things I needed to hear much more than my meagerly listed ideas.

Here's to detours, and here's to this:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:8
Can you look back and think of times you ended up somewhere completely unplanned for, and yet completely ordained by a God who knows much better than we do? I'm not talking about simple blog posts here.

I posted a song about this yesterday-- a song that probably describes at least one experience, past or present, in each of our lives. I love the praise it gives the Lord for His Better Plan-- the plan so much more amazing than our feeble strategizing, goal-setting, and/or calculating.

Rejoicing today over His Better Plan... thankful for His ways and His thoughts.


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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Speaking of Roads...

Have you heard this song?


I'll let it speak for itself.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stalled.


I've been "stalled" this week with a case of bronchitis. I write to you now from the road to recovery... hoorah!

For the past 4 days, though, I've puttered about in a cloud of semi-coherent thought, the piling dishes and pajamas-past-the-hour-of-pajamas compounding my general feeling of ickiness. Add to that the self-directed shrug of admittance at the end of the day that nothing was accomplished in all those hours of homebound opportunity, and the result is this haunting thought: hopefully things will get back to normal soon.

Today, I see that I've been laboring under the false idea that things need to be "normal" for me to be used by the Lord, productive for Him.

Here's the thing. Just because I can't go anywhere doesn't mean I can't go anywhere. I'm still a bit under the influence of that head-cold-induced-befuddlement, but I think this paradoxical statement might have a shred of lucidity to it.

I heard on the radio once the amount of time, on average, that one spends during a lifetime sitting at red lights. I can't recall the number, but here's a little calculation of my own for you:

3 minutes, 18 seconds (on average, per stoplight, according to this helpful link). Let's round it down to 3 minutes.
3 stoplights a day (according to my feeble estimation).
59 years (or 21,535 days) if you drive every day from the time you're 16 to the time you're 75.
That's 3,230 hours and 15 minutes spent at red lights.

When I heard this idea on the radio, the context was a Bible teaching where the pastor was pointing out that if you simply pray every time you hit a red light, you will have redeemed at least 3,230 hours throughout your life...hours which may otherwise have been spent gazing aimlessly at passing cars, avoiding eye contact with frantic sign wavers for pizza parlors, or fuming in impatience at that inconsiderate red light.

Whether it's waiting at red lights or puttering about in bronchitis-induced fogs, we do find ourselves stalled in life. "Stalled," as in "not moving forward in the way we'd anticipated."

The thing is, God allows those road blocks sometimes to get us to stop moving with our feet and start moving with our hearts. Sometimes our measurable movement is aimless and lacking purpose, so He cripples that movement for a time in order to put meaning back into it.

Today I realized that I've wasted some of the past 4 days by waiting it out instead of waiting on Him.

Today I was convicted by words from a prayer that scratched from pen to paper 7 years ago:
"...When my hands move, let them be as useful and effective as when they are locked in prayer. When my knees are bent in prayer, let them work as much for you as if they had been climbing many mountains."
Praying today for beautiful feet even when they're laid up with bronchitis:
"How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
'Your God reigns!'"
Isaiah 52:7 

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Monday, February 14, 2011

"Dead" Ends.

Those quotes (see title) are intentional.


Why are those quotes intentional? Because I'm not fully on board with that phrase.

Say the phrase "dead end," and other thoughts crop up on cue, ready to torment:
Wrong turn.
                            Mistake.
                                                      Misdirection.
                                                                                   Time wasted.
                                                                                                               
But is it?
When we were travelling the adoption road, we were faced daily with the very real possibility that any adoption can fall through. Minds change, circumstances change, laws change, and there's a pretty lengthy stretch of the "road" that could turn suddenly and look like the picture above: dead end.


Side note: This post is not just about adoption... stay tuned if you're feeling it's irrelevant. This is one lesson God taught me through adoption that he  has since guided me with in life in general.

What does one do with a "failed" adoption (<--again, quotes deliberate.)?We learned the following from a couple who spoke at an adoption seminar we attended. I value their words so much, and am thankful even still that the Lord prepared us early on through the selfless sharing of their own experences: 2 adoptions, with a "failed" adoption in the middle.

Here's what they told us (in a nutshell): God knows what He's doing. If you are praying every step of the way, He will deliberately lead you down the roads He desires. Adoption is a ministry- you are there to minister to anyone who may cross your path during the journey.

You are there to learn and grow in whatever ways the Lord desires to stretch you during the process. And if things fall through, if something changes and that adoption door is closed, it's not a failure. Not a dead end.You were following God's will, learning His lessons, growing in your trust in Him, allowing Him to use you to bless and reach others.

A "failed"adoption, by these standards, is not a failure.
The "dead" end was born in purpose. Allowed in purpose. Living purpose. It's not dead.This couple went on to say that yes, they grieved; yes, their hearts were broken, but yes! God healed, as he promises to, and in the binding up of their wounds they were drawn even nearer to Him.

Not a dead end.

In life, decisions come knocking at our doors by the thousands. Per day. We deliberate over the big ones, agonize sometimes, weigh pros and cons, make lists, juggle "what if's"... but do we pray? Do I pray?

There is nothing like being led into something, and being able to rest in the knowledge that
no matter the outcome,
no matter the opinions of others,
no matter what,
         He led you there. He called you and is faithful to complete what he's begun, even if that completion  takes on the appearance of a "dead end."

Consider Abraham and Isaac. The sacrifice that wasn't. Dead end? No. Life.
Consider Paul's call to Rome and his years-long detour. Dead end? Ask those he reached for Christ while imprisoned. Those who drank of the living water. Life.
Consider Joseph's brothers when they realized their plan for his demise had failed. Dead end? Salvation from starvation, rather, and joyful reunification. Life.
Consider Mary, unwed and with child, probably the subject of ridicule and disdain. Dead end? Again, life.
Consider Ruth, widowed and bereft of all familiar. Dead end? No. A lineage that led to King David, to Jesus. Life.

Here's that picture again:


 It's true what Emerson said- "Life is a journey, not a destination."
The Holy Spirit said it even better: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." Trust Him, and He will be faithful.


Read here for more on our circumstances in light of His strength.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Do What's Next.

Ready for another quote from Mr. George MacDonald (are you beginning to see why he's one of my favorites?)?

"It is a happy thing for us that this is really all we have to concern ourselves with- what to do next. No man can do the second thing. He can only do the first. If he omits that, the wheels of time roll over him and leave him powerless behind. If he does it, he keeps in front and finds room to do the next thing and so is sure to arrive at something in due time."  (from The Tutor's First Love)

Do what's next. I have a little story about that.

Once upon a time, my husband and I took a trip to Whidbey Island. Lovely! One day, we decided to take the ferry over to San Juan Island. Visions of airy-island-meandering pranced about in my head...

something like this...

...only erase Diana, insert awesome husband, and give us both bicycles. That's what I envisioned.

Upon disembarking from the ferry, we discovered a bicycle rental shop, inquired of the owner as to routes, and were summarily sent on our way with maps in hand.

Want to see a map?


We began in Friday Harbor, and I can't quite remember what our ultimate goal was, because I soon became lost in a profound simple revelation: this map doesn't show the HILLS.

See?

Now, there's something you should know. Although I love being outside and active, I am by no means a champion of hills when perched upon a bicycle. Especially when compared to my travelling companion, who has conquered all 5 mountain passes of the Death Ride.

Side note: The Death Ride is a one-day annual event, whose subtitle is "Tour of the California Alps." Doesn't that sound splendid? ...and yet... they (who are "they?") chose Death Ride to be the world-famous title of the event. Befuddlement abounds.

Back to the story. I probably don't need to elaborate any further in order for you to get the mental image of my ever-patient best fella waiting at the top of (multiple. consecutive.) hills as I heaved and weaved my way towards him. I remember arriving (breathless) at the top of one such ascent and joyfully announcing my  strategy of progress:

"Instead of trying to make it to the top of the hill, I find a landmark, like a stick or a rock, on the side of the road a yard or two ahead and try to  make it there. Then I pick another landmark, and so forth, and before I know it, I'm at the top of the giant precipice!"
OK. so it probably sounded more like this:
"(gasp for breath) Made it! (inhale wildly) Rocks and sticks! (sigh and grin in incoherent triumph, resting my case)."

We didn't make it to our lofty goal across the island, wherever that may have been, but we did find a nice lavender farm where we ate lavender cookies, drank lavender tea, wandered lavender fields, and (naturally) found a giant statue of pi.

Life lesson: I am sometimes ensnared by overwhelmed helplessness when I see a giant climb ahead in life. It seems impossible. But as George MacDonald said, all we have to do is take the next step.

And as discussed in this post of a few days ago, we have a guide who shows us, if we will but ask and listen, which step that is.

A few other borrowed words on the matter and I shall conclude:

"He's bigger than insurmountable! He defines impossible, and then does it! Yup. It's Jesus." -My sister.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5


Thursday, February 10, 2011

If Trees Could Talk...

Do you think this one would be speechless?
I think so, but only if the shoes could talk, too.

How many people, places, stories, mistakes, victories, tears, peals of laughter do you think those shoes have collectively seen?

It wonders me. A lonesome tree, on "the Loneliest Highway," somehow irresistibly beckoning people to cast off and toss upward their footwear, and drive away unshod.

Phenomenon? Yes. Lesson? Not sure... but it does remind me of the body of Christ

People from all walks of life, of every personality and history, gathered in collective wonder at their Redeemer. Casting off what was, and stepping forth in new life- the promise of purpose and lifeline of forgiveness their travelling companions.


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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Streets That Talk.


Upon arrival in London many years ago, I was relieved to find that, as my clever roommate put it, "the streets came with instructions."

I did wonder, as I strolled those noisy thoroughfares, why the words were so widely sprawled upon the asphault. Consistently. On nearly every corner (and I think I counted twelve million corners).

 I tried not to dwell too much on the events surmised by my imagination that surely caused countless men in white curly wigs to come together in an echoing parliament chamber and decree that the streets be inscribed in order to protect careless foreigners such as myself (Can you tell I recently watched Amazing Grace? <--watch the trailer).

Well, 3-week-long-story-short, I surivived those perilous crosswalks by heeding the helpful words. I enjoyed my visit, learned much, fell more in love with my Jesus  (that's a subject for another post someday), and now relate this short anecdote to an even more crucial set of "street instructions":

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."   Isaiah 30:21
Glorious, isn't it? Life-saving, wouldn't you say? That we, creatures who become so overrun with "what-if's" and "yes, but's" and "what about's" in our perplexities and crossroads, can choose to let the still, small voice, so great in strength, overpower and quiet the storm of questions in our minds and say "this is the way; walk in it."

Thank you, roads of London, for pointing me to Him.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"I'm Still Here."

or, A Lesson from the Airwaves.



It struck me years ago, on a roadtrip with my mom. Somewhere in the day's travels over hill and vale, via hairpin turns, the sporadic radio signal gave me a life lesson. Our ears were greeted intermittently by alternating music and white noise. I'm pretty sure we opted for silence after a while, giving up on the spotty airwaves.

In the quiet, the thought came:

The road winds, the terrain changes, and even if we can't hear the music, the radio signal is still broadcasting somewhere. It's our position that determines whether we hear it or not-- it never just stops broadcasting.

 ...and like those airwaves...

Sometimes, we have a hard time trusting God when we can't feel Him, hear Him, or see Him working.
Sometimes, our life's terrain is blocking our view of Him...whether due to our own choices or simply due to unexpected twists and turns.
Sometimes, we believe we've been deserted because we find ourselves in the midst of white noise.
Sometimes, we're like King David, crying "How long?"
"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?


Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest my enemy say, 'I have prevailed against him';
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
 
But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation,
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me."
Psalm 13
...and sometimes, like David,  we remember truth in the midst of trial, and that truth reminds us-- He's still there.

"I'm still Here." He's embraced my soul with these words of reassurance during times of drought before, times of silence. "I'm still Here."  And with those words, he coaxes me forward, one step at a time, until those hairpin turns and mountainous stretches give way to clear airwaves, and I look back and see--  He never left me. Even in the silence, He was there. He was merciful, faithful, and dealt bountifully with me.

Praise Him today with me for these truths? And listen in on one of my all time favorite songs (ever!):



Click on the blue words ahead for related reading on where and how to lean.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's In Your Boot?

No, not that kind of boot. Think...British.




Yeah, that's the one. What's in your boot?

Here's my guess:
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight
  • Snowchains, perhaps?
  • Spare tire
  • Trusty can of Fix-a-Flat...
  • ...and if you're anything like me, artifacts from recent (or long past) road trips.

Have you ever been caught without one of these things when you needed it? I was thinking last night (a dangerous pastime, I know!). It's not enough to simply know where to obtain these items if needed. It's not enough to file the location of the nearest auto parts store safely away in your mind.

 When the tire blows, or the blizzard captures you on the windy mountain road, it won't matter that you know where Kragen is. You'll go rushing to your trunk and heave a sigh of relief when you see your beloved bullet-point list items (above), tucked away when the skies were blue and the tires were full, for such a time as this.

In life, we never know when we'll be harpooned or waylaid or or bombarded. We're beckoned to be prepared (2 Timothy 4:1-2) in and out of season. Yes, it's glorious that we know where to run when the storms hit us, and the Bible is always waiting, offering the promised direction and refuge.

We're called, though, to be prepared, to "fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds" (Deut. 11:18). Join me in loading our "boots" with words of truth for when those storms come?

Further reading and amazing resources for where, how and why to begin:


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Be Still, My Heart! Be Unclenched, White Knuckles!

Note: This is a re-run, from the archives...originally posted waaaay back in November 2010. Forgive the reprise, but I thought I'd post it again to kick off the February series, "Lessons from the Road."

Road trip yesterday. 3 am departure time, with approximately 5 hours to destination. I drove.


There’s this thing I do when I encounter windy roads or low visibility or sheer drop-offs or even steep-slopey drop-offs. I sit straight up in my seat and clench that steering wheel like you wouldn’t believe. It’s quite possible that one day my hands will have to be surgically removed from the steering wheel they have become fused to due to my sheer strength springing from… fear.

And it’s all because I forget.

I forget I have all I need and that the road is still the road, no matter the surroundings.

There are 3 moments in time I can distinctly remember learning this lesson:

1) When my Dad was patiently coaching me from the passenger’s seat during my early driving days. We were on a mountainous stretch, and in his insightful Dad-way, he knew just what to say to put things into perspective. “Just imagine that you’re on a normal road—you still have the same amount of room in your lane, and there’s still the same amount of shoulder.” I can’t remember exactly where we were, but in my brain’s rolodex file, I’ve pasted on a picture of this horrid stretch of road in our mountains where there are 2 drop-offs, one on either side of the narrow and elevated road, and each dropping down, down, down into separate alpine lakes. Lovely. In both the “breathtaking if you’re the passenger” and “terrifying if you’re the driver” senses of the word. Anyhow, my dad’s words just made so much sense, which is typical of his words, by the way. Stop focusing on the terrible terrain, and just focus on the road.

2) On an early-morning drive through a local valley infamous for High winds, heavy fogs, and the highest speed limit around. I got caught in a thick fog on a Sunday morning. I love fog, and my heart thrilled when I saw it ahead on the road. …and then as it grew exponentially thicker, my excitement dwindled just as quickly, giving way to panic. I couldn’t stop, as I wanted to, because other cars wouldn’t be able to see me on the side of the road until they were inches away—too precarious. I couldn’t go faster in order to get it over with—reckless. I couldn’t go at the crippled snail’s pace I desired, because that would be dangerous for traffic coming from behind me as well. I took comfort and also worried there was apparently no one else on the road. My eyes would surely have just fallen out if it were possible, given the strain I was subjecting them to. And then God spoke to me, right there in my cloud-shrouded prison: if I could see even an inch ahead, I could see far enough to travel an inch. And then the next inch. And so forth.

3) OK, not really my experience, nor anyone REAL, for that matter, but sometimes you can learn great lessons from fiction. There’s this scene in A Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis, where Shasta, the main character, is travelling horseback on a lonely, unfamiliar and dark road in the middle of a dark, dark night. He is startled when he hears noises of a wild animal- a lion- alongside him. He’s faced with a dilemma not unlike my fog quandary- couldn’t stop, go back, slow down or speed up in a way that would evade the perceived threat. He could only carry on, albeit with a wildly beating heart and no doubt painfully sharp alertness. As the light begins to gently dawn at the end of the perilous night, he finds that the road he was blindly travelling followed a fatal and sudden drop-off into a ravine. The lion(Aslan) he had been fearing the entire night had been travelling between Shasta and the real danger in order to keep him on the road and safe.



Yesterday as I drove windy roads and found myself resuming panic posture, I was reminded of these things, and thankful. Thankful, too, that – like most lessons- the same concepts apply to life and my timid tendencies.

1. Lesson #1- When navigating territory well outside my comfort zone, places in life that are scary, I’m reminded- keep my eyes on my Savior. He’s laid the stretch of road, and I mustn’t lose sight of it while floundering in the fear of circumstances. God is still God, and God is still good.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.” –Helen H. Lemmel


Lesson #2- When I freeze during times of limited visibility on life’s roads, my savior gently coaxes me ahead, one step at a time. He shows me just what I need to know- which step to take next. I don’t need the whole itinerary, as much as I’d like it sometimes.


“It was like walking down a road after dark. If one could see to the edge of his lantern’s light, he could go on for miles.” –Lawana Blackwell, The Courtship of the Vicar’s Daughter


Lesson #3- When I think that I, in my all-knowing but little-seeing silly state, have rightfully understood a danger or injustice, don’t attack without taking the time to see the matter in the light of truth. The boundaries or presences I may balk at or fight against may have been carefully placed to keep me safe from the actual danger. Don’t misjudge my God and His plans.


“It’s a painful thing to be misjudged. But it’s no more than God puts up with every hour of the day. But He’s patient. So long as He knows He’s in the right, He lets folks think what they like- till He has time to make them know better. Lord, make my heart clean within me, and then I’ll care little for any judgement but yours!” The character of Malcom in George MacDonald’s The Marquis’ Secret


Oh. And this is what awaited us at the end of the darkness and windy roads on that early  morning road trip:
By the by, these are "quick-grab-the-camera-and-take-the-picture-from-a-moving-car" pictures that my sister snapped – looking out across the driver’s seat from the passenger’s seat. Can you believe it?



“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

Musings.

...running late...

I knew this would happen. Despite my (approximately) best efforts to confine this series to January, I've bled over into February. No matter, let us wrap it up with a few musings.

At the beginning of the month, as I mapped out the schedule of postings, certain trends jumped out at me.

"Aha!" said I (not out loud [I hope]). "Frugal things have value beyond the fiscal savings!"

I suppose that brings us right back to the quote that started it all:



"Of how many pleasures does pocket money deprive the unfortunate possessor!" ~George MacDonald


Here are the trends that snatched my attention...

  • Frugal activities (see here and here) seem to naturally require more human interaction, building more quality time into our relationships.
  • Those same activities often require more physical activity than others, improving health.
  • Due to the increased level of interaction in this lifestyle, there is less leisure time, therefore less boredom, and (one more "therefore") less temptation to do something spendy.
  • Many frugal activities require little technology... again, increasing face-to-face interaction, and decreasing power bills!
  • Frugal habits make indulging in special, saved-for outings that much more special and memorable.
  • Frugal grocery lists often eliminate unhealthy extras (soda, that impulse-buy package of cookies, etc.)
  • The word "Frugal," after typing it this many times, sounds a little too much like cave-dwelling creatures with boisterous hair-do's from my childhood.... (and I quote) "... humanoid creatures about 18 inches tall [which] come in a wide variety of colors and have tails that bear a tuft of fur on the end." Give up? Here.
...and most importantly... budgets and grocery lists and calculations aside, we have these words of wisdom and hope to ground it all in purpose:

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
'Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.'”  
 Hebrews 13:5 (in context here).

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